The 10 Best Men's Sling Bags

Updated April 23, 2018 by Chase Brush

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Regular, two-strap backpacks have their uses, sure, but when you’re looking for something a little more convenient for everyday use or to keep weight down on a hike, you might try out a sling bag. Each of the following men's not-so-mini totes will help you transport your essential gear, whether you’re fishing, cycling, or just on your way to work. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best men's sling bag on Amazon.

10. Waterfly Packable

9. OutdoorMaster Small

8. HBag Backpack

7. 5.11 Tactical RUSH Moab 10

6. Under Armour Compel 2.0

5. Arcteryx Slingblade

4. Keep Pursuing

3. Incase Reform

2. NeatPack Versatile

1. Chrome Unisex Kadet

Slinging Like You Mean It

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 unbelievable small. It wasn't a good look.

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 compliment 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, ans 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. 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.


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Last updated on April 23, 2018 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.


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