At the end of 2020 I started on a journey of testing sling bags, and going back further to May of 2020, I started with the idea of carrying a purse with me most/all places I head to. We are now more than half way through 2021, and I’ve tried quite a few different slings, so I wanted to stop and evaluate this statement I made:
Because you should carry one, regardless of what you call it.
Leading up to my return to the office, I was carrying a sling essentially everywhere I went. Including a weekend trip celebrating our fully vaccinated status, to San Antonio, where I wore it all around the river walk and other places. I really find these bags handy, but the trouble I have now that I am back in the office, is that I carry a bag to work — and that bag is not my purse. I don’t want to carry two bags to the office, that seems absurd even for me.
So, my usage has dropped a lot because of this, but I still do think you need a sling, and should carry one when you don’t have another bag, or might not have chosen another bag to carry at all.
Often I bring a sling with me, but will leave it in the car if I am going to be near my car most of the time. (Say at a tennis lesson where the car is parked next to the court, or a driveway drinks party, or dashing into the post office to ship out stuff. )
That said, here’s some additional thoughts I have on slings now that I have been pushing on this more:
- Even though I have no need for a sling when I am in the office, I do find that I miss my slings when I head into the office because of the ease of access to my gear. It’s hard for backpacks, or even shoulder bags to compete here — they are too bulky to move nimbly.
- In the last few months I have found that to get my cheese on I need some Lactaid and that’s a lot of extra pills to carry. Add to that an injury I got which needed more than my emergency stash of Advil — and well yeah if you have medications you need, then a sling is really awesome.
- I like slings to be in the 2L to 3L size range. Much larger and they are very bulky and prone to being over packed by me — thus making them too heavy. Much smaller and you might find yourself in a spot carrying a sling and another small bag because your sling can’t accommodate any add ons throughout the day (like if you buy something even small). This is silly, I try to avoid both of these.
- That said the most important part is for your sling not to be a black hole. You need to be able to get to what you have/want/need in a timely fashion. No one wants to hear “oh I have a pen” and then wait what feels like an eternity for you to find said pen. So organization is crucial, and I find I prefer most packs that come with more organization than not, but for those which are black holes, you need some good organization systems inside of the slings.
- Where the buckle hits on the sling is pretty crucial. A center buckle works well to be ambidextrous, or if you want to wear the sling bag on your back. Whereas a buckle that is offset to one side or the other makes the sling much better if you want to wear it across your front, but do be aware that this can mean that if you want to wear the sling a particular way the buckle may annoyingly hit on your shoulder — which sucks. One last advantage of an offset buckle is that you can wear a backpack over the sling strap (sling in front of your body) and have no buckles digging into your back.
- I much prefer wearing the sling across the front of my body, but it feels more natural across my back. So most of the time I wear it across my back, unless I am carrying another bag (as is the case when I travel).
- I’ve given up on my idea of using much larger bags (even for travel) like the Filson Meidum Field Bag — still a great bag, but I think I would prefer using a backpack over that bag for the most part. I’ll keep my purses small, thank you.
- Unload your pockets. I know that you keep your pockets geared up, but a sling is best used when you offload some gear to it. for me I tend to offload my pen and wallet to the sling (unless I am leaving it in the car) as that frees up space without me losing access to items I like to have at the ready (hank, knife, light, phone).
- All slings look a little stupid on you, there is no avoiding this universal rule.
Versa, Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Alright, on to the section where you can spend some money…
Some of the Slings I Love
I want to highlight a few slings that are outstanding:
- Hill People Gear Belt Pack: I waffle between this being the best sling I have and the second best. Either way, it’s my most used. Fantastic organization, holds a ton, and does it all in a compact package. This is not an ideal starting place but might be an end goal. You need the 58 organizer for it though.
- Aer City Sling: The Aer City Sling is like the Hill People Gear, but less tactical looking and a a little less room. If all you want a compact thing that works well to hold a limited set of items, this is the one. It’s really nice for that while keeping everything organized.
- Code of Bell X-Pod Small: This is probably the best one, I know it is, but man the price is high. You could start here knowing you are getting a hell of a sling. It has as much organization as the last two, but can really expand out to gobble up a smaller water bottle and keep going. The whole thing is very clever. I modded the hell out of mine to make it work even better. Do note that I have one small tear on the inside mesh — I am not sure if I did something silly or if there is a QC issue to worry about.
- Aer Day Sling 2: This is like the X-Pod in some ways, but a little less bulky with less expandability while looking a lot cleaner. You won’t be stuffing water bottles in this, but if you want something a little larger but still sleek and compact, this is it.
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa: This is as simple as they get. Just a Dyneema box, with a tether string and one pocket a pouch thing inside. It’s simple, easy, and effective. The biggest selling point on this one is that you can stow the shoulder strap away, and also you can thread the pouch onto another strap (behind the padded panel) so that you can wear it on your sternum strap, or hip belt from a backpack. That’s some neat additions, it also packs down to almost nothing if you want something for when you arrive, but not are in transit.
- Bellroy Sling: really clever, but larger. This makes it pretty versatile, but also a little hard to manage. I think the strap really needs to be like 25% wider too. The big issue for me was the lack of organization, as I tend to carry smaller things not bulkier things. If you carry more bulky items, then you are going to like this one more.
Aer City Sling
Overall: If I had to pick one right now, the X-Pod would be it as it is the most versatile of the crowd. It’s what I took on my first plane flight in over a year and I had zero regrets about that choice. I do think this is a bag category best served by more than one type of bag: something compact, something versatile — one of each would be my advice. (Something versatile could even be a less expensive Sling like a Mystery Ranch Full Moon which is sub $40.)
Some Organization Things
As I mentioned above, you really need good organization inside your sling so you are not the person swearing they have something while they rustle through a bottomless pit of crap. To that end, here’s organization things which I’ve found to work well:
- Z-packs Zip Pouches: first these are Dyneema, but they are also very inexpensive ($12-$20). They are very simple, no seam seals, but with a nice aquagaurd zipper. They will keep your stuff dry enough, but really they weigh nothing and add no bulk. I have one I use for things like papers or passports when I need to store gear in a sling. I also use these for large first aid kits too. I have two, but come to think of it I could use more.
- Micro/Nano Cord: the stuff I have I cannot find anymore, but this is really close and from a good retailer. Either the Micro or Nano cord is a really good add. I use these to make little loops off of some of the really small items I have. It makes holding on to them easier, and securing them simple, all with little weight and bulk added.
- S-biners: I recommend the multi-pack and a couple size #1s. You can use the larger S-Biner as a clip for attaching your sling securely to something else (another bag, or even hanging it somewhere). The small ones are great for clipping those tiny items you added cord to above, all together, or clipping them into the bag somewhere. I do this often with smaller lights, Swiss Army knives, keys, and other odds and ends.
- Pocket Possibilities Pouch: I have three of these and I regret none of them. I use mine for a band aid and medicine kit, but they fit great in every sling I have. Extremely recommended. Extremely I say.
- 58 Pouch: I am in love with this thing. It adheres on the back to a loop panel, so if you aren’t using it for that you might need to account for covering this. The material is similar to the Pocket Possibilities Pouch — fantastic bit of gear. I run mine in the Belt Pack and it never leaves that.
Those are what I recommend right now, so enjoy.
I regret not getting into slings sooner. I’ve never had anyone comment on my slings, and I don’t even feel like I get weird looks. The hardest part for me is keeping my gear paired down, as it is easy to bloat what you carry — but this is a problem I constantly face in every bag I have, so yeah.
Go get some slings.
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