Note: this bag was provided by Bellroy for review at no cost.
Continuing on my search for a great sling, we have the Bellroy Sling — which is an apt name. This is easily the best looking sling of all I have so far, so I really want to focus on more than just how great it looks. But, to be clear, it looks fantastic.
(One note about Sling testing, given the world right now, I did a different kind of testing here. I alternated between 6 different slings throughout my testing to get a sense of how different Slings measure up. And I also mostly used this running the odd errand, or long walks with the family.)
I don’t know what this material is. I mean, what is this: paper, nylon, waxed-paper-nylon? This is crazy, but they call it Baida Nylon. It looks crinkly like a paper bag, feels soft and strong like nylon, but has a texture like a smooth waxed canvas. I don’t know what this black magic is, but I absolutely love it.
Aces. Just aces. The entire bag isn’t made out of it, but you’d never notice it by looking at it, and I think Bellroy pulled the execution of these materials off perfectly. The sides, and top are a different more standard feeling nylon, but the front, bottom, and back are all the magic fabric.
Next, the strap is a half nylon webbing strap and half ‘seat belt’ smooth nylon. It offers a little more grip than pure seat belt nylon straps, without ever feeling rough or abrasive like standard nylon webbing. It’s a nice touch and really works well here.
My notes, when putting together this review, for this entire section was: “ideal”. Come time to write this review, I strongly agree. This is actually a deceivingly large sling, at 7L. But the way the bag compresses back down to itself, it easily moves closer to a 3L (or so) bag without any extra thought.
There’s plenty of room to carry everything you could need and a little extra to spare. It’s not overly big by any means, but will accommodate last minute additions.
Carry and Use
The first thing you’ll notice about this sling is how sparse the organization is. There’s not really any to speak of, just a couple pockets inside the main compartment and an outer stash pouch which is very slim. The big selling point on organization here is the dedicated microfiber eyeglasses pocket, which is a nice touch. Oddly this pocket is positioned against your back where glasses are likely to be compressed against whatever is in the bag and your back.
There’s padding along the back of the bag via a dense foam, and no mesh. This creates a rigid enough structure when the bag is empty, while not being overly rigid as to be uncomfortable to carry. It sets up a sturdy platform which can easily be swung around to the front of your body for easy access to whatever is inside the bag.
The struggle I ran into with this bag was attempting to carry a water bottle was a challenge. The lack of organization inside, meant the water bottle never sat well in the bag, and generally crushed everything in the bag. To be clear, I was able to carry a water bottle in it just fine, but it made the sling feel stuffed and really felt ill advised overall. Good in a pinch, not something to count on.
And the main reason for the water bottle carrying issue is also one of the most clever features of the bag: it has built in, ‘automatic’ (my word) compression. The moment you pick up the bag by the strap, and further when you sling it over your body, the bags begins to compress down at either side.
The straps for the bag are sewn in to the outer piece of the storage area on the bag, and then passed through another slide ring which is attached to the back of the sling. Thus pulling on the strap causes that mechanism to tighten, and the bag to flatten as much as it can. This is absolutely ideal for this type of bag, and while it does have some trade offs, they are well worth it for keeping the bag low profile, and your goods from rattling around.
Bellroy also uses a magnetic clasp at one end of the strap so you can quickly remove the bag. The placement of this is good, and the magnet is very strong. No worries about it coming undone — a great touch.
Because of how the bag works and organizes gear, I would say it carries less like a 7L sling, and more like a 5.5L sling. For me, that’s excellent, for others it could be a deal breaker.
I really like this bag. This is going to be hard to beat for people who want more of a blank canvas approach. At $99 retail it seems expensive compared to some, but the materials are so top notch that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it at full price.
If you carry a limited amount, or larger items over smaller items, then this is going to be a great sling for you to work with. I found that even though it is a larger bag, I benefited from pairing down what I carried, and also not carrying a water bottle.