When Code of Bell came out, their first bag was a large cross the back sling. It looked cool, the strap setup and bad ass pictures. I don’t know any bag nerd who looked at the pictures and felt like it would be a bad bag. And yet, I loathe cross the back bags like that. One strap is not better that two, it is worse in almost every way.
But, given my obsession with finding a good sling to use as my purse, I knew I needed to get a Code of Bell bag, specifically the small Sling Pack called X-Pod. It is essentially the larger bag, shrunk down to a much more manageable size. I have had this bag for a while now, and since it is topping the price scales compared to the other slings I have reviewed thus far, I took more time putting this together.
The short of it is simply: this is probably the best sling on the market right now. It is certainly one of the best slings I own. Top two.
I have a love/hate relationship with X-PAC. I love that it is strong and light, that the fabric is not abrasive and generally looks great. I hate that it is loud and crinkly.
What is nice here is that the material is deployed in such a way that you never hear or need worry about, the crinkly nature of it. In other words it is used to perfection. This sling has a lot of materials going on, from X-PAC to nylon, to neoprene. But the thing is, it all looks cohesive and makes sense. Best not to dwell on it.
I do want to note the zippers on this bag. While they are all nice YKK zippers, the ones on the main compartments are aquaguard zippers, and in the past I have not liked this zipper type for fast access. However, what ever model these are, they open and close like butter. They are smooth and if I could not visually see that they were aquaguard, I would assume they are not. Kudos there.
Note on Color
As you might recall from my bag color guide post, I hated on Multicam Black pretty hard. For this bag, I did choose Multicam Black, in part because it was what was in stock, and in part because I figured it would be small enough on this bag to not be a big deal.
I still think Multicam Black is a bad choice for bags. But on this small bag it is so minimal in coloring that it works well, so I’ll allow it. Not my favorite, but I do not dislike it at all, and I think all black wouldn’t be as good on this bag as it would look a little too techno-ninja. Code of Bell needs more colors for sure.
This bag is unique, as it is meant to expand — similar but different to the Bellroy Sling. It has a starting size of a scant 2.3L, and can expand to a full 7L in capacity. What’s tricky is how it does this, here is the starting size:
What you can note there is that the entire sling is compact. And then when you expand it, you get this:
The front compartment blowfishes out of the bag. It looks ridiculous:
I use the term Blowfish for a reason, because it just looks silly and balloon like. The sizing of this bag is perfect, the expansion is optional, which means there is no downside to having it. It can cram a bunch of last minute stuff in the bag without worry, or it can remain nice and compact.
It looks silly expanded though, but nice to have and you don’t have to expand it all the way either.
Carry and Use
I absolutely love using this sling, it is very well arranged and makes it incredibly easy to use and carry. The bag has two main compartments, the front is large and open, and the back is slim and organized.
The organized back section has two smaller zippered pockets and one larger open top mesh pouch inside of it. There’s room in this area alone for almost everything I carry, and that is when I am carrying too much to begin with:
Along the very back of the bag is a discrete but not hidden, zippered pocket. It is ideal for small flat items, and certainly can accommodate a passport.
The Fidlock buckle on the center of the strap is a thing of beauty. It looks super cool, feels awesome, and works flawlessly. Worth calling out all on its own.
The expandable area is a bit tricky to explain. The compression straps across the front of the bag keep it collapsed in coordination with side compression straps affixed to the shoulder strap. You can access this section one of two ways. The first is by unzipping it where it affixes to the organizer section.
When collapsed to the smallest size this is the only way to get at the compartment, and it naturally forms two sections from the fold in the material. This can hold a ton and has a key tether strap too.
When expanded, you will find an additional zipper which runs along the newly expanded section at what is now the front of the bag. This allows you to shove more stuff into the section in a much easier way. This is easy to sort out when you handle it in person. But while I think the expandable area is a little weird, it is extremely well executed and very intuitive to use. It’s clear that it was intentionally made, used and tested, and not just something to check a box.
Odds and Ends
I have some more notes on this bag:
- The neoprene feeling area that sits against your back is stellar. Smooth, but yet enough friction that the bag isn’t a slip and slide on you.
- The shoulder strap is excellent. Not too smooth, but enough roughness that it helps to hold the bag put without risking pulling your shirt into unflattering positions. I am not sure what this webbing is exactly, but it is nice.
- The entire bag has excellent strap management built in, I don’t think I have ever seen another bag company do that as well as it is done where. I added nothing, it’s all perfectly setup.
- The front compression straps can be a little fiddly to get position well, as they are hard to get tight enough when the bag is empty, so the G-hooks can fall out of the loop. These straps can be removed entirely, but I found that actually detracts from the aesthetics and functionality. You’ll want these the moment you start putting a decent amount of stuff in that compartment.
- There is one central handle along the top back of the bag, and it is perfection. It is never in the way, and yet allows for easy grabbing of the bag. Nice to hang the bag from this handle too.
- The side compression buckles are a rare miss on this bag. The buckles are just too large. They don’t need to be nearly as bulky as they are, and Code of Bell would have been much better off sizing down on these, both the buckles and width of the webbing.
- Each side of the bag has wing material where the bag attaches to the shoulder strap. And each of these wings have small zippers across the top so as to let you store small items there. They are useless for anything I have tried to stow there, and I would much rather them not be there to stream line the bag a little more. I guess you could stuff cash or coins in there, but what a weird thing to add to the bag.
This is one of those bags where there is a lot going on, but if you take the time to get to know it, you’ll find it works exceedingly well and is very well thought through. It is more expensive than everything else so far, and because of that I am not sure I would say this is THE sling, but it has to be close. It is certainly worth the money, even if it is considerably more money than the other options.
The X-Pod is complex, but it is versatile and awesome too. I highly recommend it.