The 10 Best Men's Sling Bags
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in August of 2015. Regular, two-strap backpacks have their place, but when you’re looking for something a little more convenient for everyday use, or want to keep pack weight down on a hike, you might want to try one of these men's sling bags. Each of these not-so-mini totes will help you comfortably transport your essential gear, whether you’re fishing, cycling, or just on your way to work. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 14, 2020:
We highlighted that the Leaper Retro, whether it’s totally full or relatively empty, maintains its shape well. It appears that the design of the Arc'teryx Slingblade has changed a bit since we last updated this list, so we adjusted the listing accordingly, pointing out that it can be worn in various configurations and includes external clips for attaching things that may not fit inside the bag.
The NeatPack Versatile is no doubt a serviceable bag, but we did discover that some users weren’t thrilled with the amount of room it provides, which is the primary reason we slightly downgraded this item. If a sophisticated style is one of your top priorities, the Polare Original is worth a look — this elegant leather bag should look right at home in a boardroom or at a fancy gala.
Quality concerns led to the removal of the Keep Pursuing, which we replaced with the resourceful Chrome Citizen Satchel. Bike commuters love this model, since it’s slim but spacious and sits tight against your body. It should endure extended use out in the elements, and it will do a good job preventing any rain or snow from damaging its contents. Plus, it's easy to attach a bike light to one of its external loops.
May 31, 2019:
Whether you're using a sling bag for your daily commute, school, work, or to bring essential items on hikes and to music festivals and theme parks, this list has something for you. Above all else, we prioritized durability, functionality, and comfort. After that, we considered aesthetics and price. With this latest update, we wanted to ensure that a variety of popular styles were included, as well as rugged packs suitable for camping and similar outdoor excursions.
The Under Armour Compel 2.0 and Chrome Unisex Kadet had to be supplanted due to availability concerns. We also felt that the HBag Backpack, despite being a versatile bag with a reasonable price tag, should be scrapped in favor of a newer model. We added the Osprey Daylite, Polare Original, and Leaper Retro to fill the void. The latter two are excellent for the style-minded, while the Osprey pack is simple and rugged enough for hikes, cycling, and more.
We elevated the 5.11 Tactical RUSH Moab 10 to our number one spot as it continues to be an exceptionally versatile bag that accommodates endless customizations and is suitable to a wide array of tasks. On the other end of the spectrum, there's the budget-friendly Waterfly Packable, which, although it's not up to the task of carrying heavy loads, is foldable, lightweight, and waterproof.
Bally Fuston Bally’s artisans have been crafting shoes, accessories and other luxury gear since the middle of the 19th century — though this bag has a decidedly modern look. The shoulder strap can be adjusted to either side, and a big, bold zipper pull makes it easy to open and close the exterior pouch. bally.com
Patagonia Atom Sling 8L With a classic look and thoughtful design, the Atom Sling 8L is ideal for everyday carrying. It features a tenacious nylon body and strong polyester lining that consist mainly of recycled materials. A polyurethane coating and water-repellent finish provide ample protection from the elements, and its two compression straps help manage cumbersome loads. patagonia.com
Aer Sling Bag 2 The versatile Aer Sling Bag 2 is a durable, handsome pack made for active men. Constructed with hardwearing YKK zippers, ballistic nylon, and Duraflex plastic hardware, it boasts multiple internal pockets, a quick-access front compartment, and a spacious, padded laptop pocket. It also has a ventilated shoe compartment that makes it convenient for the gym. aersf.com
Slinging Like You Mean It
The sling bag is meant to be worn with its single strap across your chest, evenly distributing the weight of its contents across your upper body.
If you've ever traveled any distance with a backpack strapped to you correctly (the straps tight to raise the bag high on your back), you know what a pain in the neck it is to get the thing back around to the front side of you so you can rummage through it for your wallet, or your camera, or your papers if you're in a dystopian totalitarian dictatorship.
In addition to making it harder to access the things in your bag, the design of a backpack is such that it can't be repositioned; there's really only one way you can wear it since I'm ruling out the option of wearing it in front of yourself on the grounds of good fashion.
The solution to both of these problems is simple: the sling bag.
Now, sling bags are specific kinds of messenger bags in much the same way that a square is a more specific kind of rectangle. In the case of the sling bag, it's not that its edges are all the same length so much as it is that it's significantly smaller that the common messenger bag.
Messenger bags have evolved into a pure fashion accessory outside of the exclusive bicycle courier demographic, and the result is a newer wearing style that is significantly looser than the style worn by messengers. Often, you'll see urbanites casually toting their expensive laptops in messenger bags worn dangling on one shoulder.
What makes a sling bag comparatively specific here, in addition to its smaller stature, is the fact that it's more or less impossible (certainly uncomfortable and unstable) to wear it casually on one shoulder. The sling bag is meant to be worn with its single strap across your chest, evenly distributing the weight of its contents across your upper body.
Most slings have one main compartment with a few simple slots for a cell phone or a tablet, and some even have interchangeable clip positions that allow you to alternate shoulders if you get tired of carrying your sling on a particular side.
Function Or Fashion
The first sling bag I ever saw belonged to the lead singer in a band I knew growing up part of the punk scene in NJ. His name was Doug, and he was a big man, but his sling bag was unbelievably small. It wasn't a good look.
The same should be said for the depth of the bag you choose if you haul a significant amount of stuff around with you, especially books.
That's not to say sling bags are the exclusive dominion of the heroin chic, but it is to say that you ought to reckon with the fact that everything you wear outside the house – every bag, pair of sunglasses, tie clip – all are fashion choices, and all leave you open to the judgment of the masses. Hopefully, you don't take their judgement too seriously, but I also hope that you take enough pride in your appearance to pick a sling bag that will complement your quotidian wardrobe.
Take a look through the bags on our list and ask yourself how they pair with that favorite jacket you wear more than any other. If it's a good fit, then chances are it's a bag that'll serve your style for years, even after you move on to the next coat.
Another important, and slightly more practical consideration is the capacity of a given sling bag. If you have a 17-inch laptop without which you cannot physically leave the house, you're going to need a larger sling bag with a compartment that can fit it. The same should be said for the depth of the bag you choose if you haul a significant amount of stuff around with you, especially books.
At the end of the day, though, we have to return to the fashion aspect, as no bag is any good unless you're willing to take it out on the town.
Sending A Message Of Love
The birth of the messenger bag, and, by extension, the sling bag, is a little hard to trace. Basically, anyone with a large enough sheet could have wrapped his or her goods in it and tied it diagonally across his or her chest when setting out for a trip.
The first such bags we can identify in history come from foot messengers of ancient times, like the Romans, Persians, and Chinese.
The first such bags we can identify in history come from foot messengers of ancient times, like the Romans, Persians, and Chinese. We can then trace its modern incarnation to the bags worn by the Pony Express in the old west. Somehow no one thought to reinforce the bags against arrows, but we can forgive them for that oversight; the post office has always been a little on the slow side.
Later, in the 1950s, the equipment bags of utility linemen — those are the guys that climb the telephone poles to make repairs to telecommunications and electrical equipment — came to most closely resemble the messenger bags we see all over the map today.
But it was fashion designer John Peters who, in 1984, redesigned the cotton bags of the New York City Messenger Service to become an urban fashion statement among the in-crowd. His designs set the tone for the trend in which we're still living, carrying us through to the 21st century of men's bag design like a good old messenger boy himself.