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There’s a reason the sling bag is making a comeback. Worn by pseudo-hipsters and suburban moms alike, this over-the-shoulder pack is ergonomic, compact and ideal for carrying daily essentials. Not to mention it looks good, too.
Whether you’re traveling post-pandemic or finally commuting to the office again, you need a bag that can hold your things without slowing you down. If you’re still hauling a backpack, we suggest leaving it behind (and don’t think twice about investing in a messenger bag). Instead, check out our comprehensive guide to find the sling bag that’s right for you.
Below, our recommendations.
What to Consider When Choosing a Sling Bag
Like any form of on-the-go storage, the volume of a sling bag is measured in liters. While no two bags are exactly the same size, volume is still a great benchmark to dictate which bag will meet your needs. More often than not, we recommend finding a bag between one and ten liters. Anything heavier will not only look bulky but potentially strain your back as well. Keep in mind that some models offer expandable storage when you need a little more room.
Classic sling bags feature an iconic, oblong shape that contours your body. The oblong shape is either tall or wide, and both are great options designed for different use-cases and style preferences. If you’re carrying a small laptop or tablet to work, the wide shape would better suit your needs. The tall shape, on the other hand, complements miscellaneous items like extra layers, running shoes or a water bottle. And if you’re simply looking for style points, choose whichever shape speaks to you.
Carrying your essentials is one thing, but protecting them is another. Unless you live in a city that never sees a drop of rain (Viva Las Vegas), a little weather resistance goes a long way. Keep an eye out for bags made from polyester or nylon, as these fabrics are water-resistant and easy to clean. Some brands also add a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating that causes water to roll off the fabric. If push comes to shove, you can always hide your sling bag under your shirt as a last resort.
The Best Sling Bags
Best Overall Sling Bag: Patagonia Atom
The Atom has been our go-to sling bag for quite some time. It’s compact and sleek with eight liters of space, and the two main compartments have just enough room to store daily essentials without feeling bogged down. The harness looks a little strange, but it’s actually asymmetrical in order to hug your torso, and the mesh fabric built into the harness boosts breathability. To protect your beloved devices, Patagonia adds a padded tablet sleeve (inside) and a designated phone pocket (outside). For those carrying extra layers or a yoga mat, compression straps along the back are a welcome sight. From daily commutes to distant travels, this one can do it all.
Runner Up: Ozuko Sling Bag
The Ozuko bag is a top-seller on Amazon thanks to a laundry list of features. For instance, the shell’s high-density oxford fabric is waterproof and wear-resistant, but the padding is still breathable on a warm day. While all sling bags are generally secure, this one has a locking zipper and a hidden anti-theft pocket, which makes it ideal for travel. And while we’re on the subject of pockets, they’re everywhere (we count at least six). Some, like the shoulder strap card pocket, are surprisingly clever. For those of us tethered to a phone 24/7, the bag’s external USB port connects to a power bank.
Best Travel Sling Bag: Pacsafe Venturesafe
Pacsafe already designs some of our favorite anti-theft backpacks, so it comes as no surprise that the Venturesafe is our preferred option for traveling. Though comfort and portability are notable, the bag’s anti-theft features also deserve some praise. Namely, the face fabric is protected by a mesh guard to prevent slash-and-grab theft, and the zippers lock to thwart unwanted entry. If a thief gains access to your belongings, internal attachment points for your wallet and keys are sure to slow their progress. A designated pocket blocks RFID scans, while a hidden pocket stashes valuables. The symmetrical design supports left- and right-handed wear.
Best Hiking Sling Bag: Osprey Daylite
The Daylite sling is equipped to handle short hikes in fair weather when extra layers and fluids aren’t a requirement. Its breathable mesh padding prevents overheating on steep hills, while the polyester shell is lightweight and easy to clean after a day on the trail. Three pockets may leave you wanting more options for organization, but we don’t mind the simplicity. With six liters of space, there’s just enough room for a water bottle, snacks and a long-sleeve shirt alongside a wallet and keys. If you need more room, we recommend upgrading to a small daypack.
Best High-End Sling Bag: Tumi Bozeman
A wise man once said the secret to looking good is feeling good in what you wear. If that’s the case, then you might as well pick up the Tumi Bozeman sling. Its nylon strap easily adjusts over a jacket in cool weather, and the oversized zipper pulls are detachable for those seeking low-key luxury. The main compartment is spacious enough to carry a day’s worth of essentials, but it remains small and compact to accent your apparel. Tumi’s exclusive Tracer program helps reunite missing or stolen bags using a 20-digit number affixed to the bag.
Best Value Sling Bag: Herschel Heritage Crossbody
The Heritage Crossbody adopts style and spirit from Herschel’s line of iconic backpacks. Inside you’ll find the same striped fabric that Herschel uses on all of its bags, as well as a storage sleeve and a mesh pocket. The smaller front pocket contains a key clip to secure your essentials, and the bag is finished with Herschel’s classic woven label. The Heritage Crossbody isn’t the most affordable style in our roundup, but it blends signature looks with established reliability to present the best value.
Best Laptop Sling Bag: Peak Design Everyday Sling
Like all Peak Design equipment, the Everyday sling is exceptionally minimal to provide you with every feature you need and nothing more. Though it comes in three sizes, we recommend the 10-liter bag that fits a small camera kit as well as a 13-inch laptop. From the nylon shell to the aluminum hardware, every aspect of this sling is designed for daily use. The interior features a single compartment, but Peak Design includes two flexible dividers to organize your everyday carry gadgets.
One More Great Option: Kavu Rope Sling
Some people will tell you Kavu Rope Sling is designed for women, but who’s to say men can’t rock such a classic sling bag? After all, the colorways are unlike anything we’ve seen before, and the bag itself is wildly popular among hikers, travelers and commuters alike. Polyester fabric is comfortable and easy to clean, and the rope shoulder strap adjusts quickly for hands-free carry. Pockets include two zip compartments as well as designated pockets for keys and a phone, ensuring everything you need is organized and within reach.
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