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How to choose the best sling bag for travel and beyond

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The ’90s are back, and with them, the more stylish, hipster cousin to fanny packs–slingbags (and scrunchies but that’s another guide). While sling bags are fashionable, they can also be used to transport your essentials around the globe. They are the perfect compromise between your backpack and your pockets.

This guide will help you choose the right sling bag for you. We’ll go over all aspects of the sling bags and explain what is best for different situations. Based on our extensive testing, we’ll also give you some recommendations for sling bags. You’ll be an expert on sling bags by the end of this guide.

There is no one sling that will work for everyone. You can find the perfect sling bag for your needs. We recommend that you read our entire guide to find the perfect fit. Your future favorite might not be on this list.

What is a Sling Bag?

This is not an easy question to answer. A team of six gear reviewers, all bona fide, spent over two months analyzing more than 50+ sling bags.

We settled on the following definition: A sling bag (drum roll, please ) is a bag that can be comfortably worn across the chest or back. It’s secured to the body using a cross-shoulder strap. The buckle is usually off-center and the straps connect diagonally. The body of the bag has an oblong shape. We say “tends” because there are a few exceptions.

A small clarification: While messenger bags and sling bags share a common feature with the single, crossbody strap style, they are not synonymous. Messenger bags tend to be larger, more boxy, and less contoured to the body than sling bags, but that’s not a scientific fact. You can trust your gut. We think that you will recognize a messenger bag as soon as you see it.

We have tested a lot of slings. Which one is the best?

There are many styles of sling bags available, including high-fashion slings like Gucci and tactical slings that can be used for outdoor activities. We’ll also touch on them, but we’ll be focusing on the sling bags that are best for travel.

What is the difference between a Sling Bag & a Hip Pack?

People will often confuse sling bags with hip bags (or waist bags, fanny packs or bum bags, or whatever you like to call them), but sling bag and hip pack are not the same thing. Reiterating: Sling bags and hip pack are different things.

A hip pack is a rebranded fanny bag, while a strap bag is something else (it’s the hipster cousin). Although a hip bag can almost always include a slingbag, it is not necessarily a good one. However, a slingbag is rarely a hip pack.

However, nearly every company has its own definitions of a slingbag and hip pack. Some companies use the term “crossbody bag” as a way to define what we call a slingbag. It gets messy. Our rules and definitions are not always absolute.

We won’t be talking about hip packs in this guide. It is difficult enough to get into the details of sling bags.

Sling Bags: Why?

Let’s now talk about what a slingbag is and how it can change your life.

Sling bags are perfect for your in-flight essentials

A sling bag is a great way to carry your small items while on transit, since you can’t wear one backpack on each side (yes, we are surprised too). You can simply toss your stuff into your sling, and then throw it all in a bin. This will make it easy to breeze through security at airports like a pro.

A sling bag, unlike pockets, can hold almost anything you need in flight (within reason, a masseuse will not fit). Your sling bag will be as individual as you. These are some suggestions that we have found to work for us.

  • Smartphone
  • Snacks are arguably the most important.
  • USB cables
  • Tech chargers
  • Batteries
  • Earplugs: Every plane has at most one crying baby, regardless of whether it is yours. It’s almost like a law or some other kind of physics.
  • Eye mask
  • Headphones
  • Notepad and pen (something to do with being at 35,000ft gets the creative juices flowing).
  • Tissues
  • A Kindle or book, depending on the size of your sling

You can attach your sling bag to your seat by using a carabiner once you’re in flight. You can grab something quick before you feel hungry, tissues if the movie you chose is a bit too sad, and a charger for your phone, as Tetris can drain battery life very quickly. Only the essentials, you know.

Sling Bags are perfect for your day trip essentials

A sling bag can be the perfect accessory for day trips, similar to the one mentioned above. Sometimes you only need the essentials–keys, wallet, phone, and keys–and while pockets can be useful, 1) certain clothes have no pockets, 2) some jeans have very few pockets, and 3) some clothes do not even have pockets.

Even if your pockets are full, you may need a few extra items for day trips. However, it is not enough to justify carrying around a backpack. You can bring:

  • Extra camera lenses
  • Extra camera batteries
  • Snacks are still the most important.
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Makeup

What’s the Best Sling for You?

Sling bags are the perfect compromise between your daypack and your pocket. A sling bag is a great alternative to the daypack. It forces you to be more mindful of what you are bringing. Your back will be grateful that you didn’t bring War and Peace. You’ll just be scrolling through memes on your phone anyway. If you are a person who is more concerned about your pockets than you are about what you bring, you might be able to sling all kinds of goodies in your sling bag, even if it’s not necessary.

  • Sling Bags are Lightweight and Portable

Sling bags, especially ones made for travel, are light and easy to carry around in your backpack. It can be packed and forgotten about until you need it (see the perk).

  • Sling Bags Make It Easy to Access

Sling bags can be accessed and removed in a matter of seconds. Sling bags are extremely easy to access. Be aware of T-Rex arms if the sling bag’s height is too high.

  • Sling Bags Are En Vogue

Sling bags are still “in” for the moment. They can be found in almost every high-street store, and luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton sell them. We love when fashion and convenience combine.

Find a reliable sling bag for travel and EDC

Because they are the most practical for travel, we love small slings. A smaller sling is easier to carry and to store in a larger backpack. It will also be considered personal on most airlines. A sling bag can become a bulky backpack once it reaches a certain size.

There are many styles of slings

Although a sling is usually measured in liters (liters) the actual sling bag size can differ from one company to another. Exasperating! It’s okay, folks. It’s also important to take into account the shape and organization of the sling bags, as well as the thickness of the material. All of these factors will affect the space that is available. Let’s take a look at this.

Volume and Size

Although we know that judging a bag by its volume is not the best way to do so, it can still be a good benchmark. We recommend keeping your sling bag’s volume between one and eight liters, and keeping it under four or five pounds. This weight does not include your stuff. A sling bag is worn over one shoulder so a heavy, bulky sling can make it difficult to carry and, worse, cause injury to your back. It will also look strange if it is positioned across your chest.

Expandable sling bags can be useful for traveling as they take up very little space and are easy to pack. This works well for small sling bags, but it can cause problems with larger ones that expand and become comically bulky.


The CODEOFBELL XPod has an expandable main compartment that makes it ideal for days with only the essentials or trips where you need everything except the kitchen sink. It’s also not too heavy and can be used comfortably even with all its contents, which is an impressive feat that we don’t see very often.


A sling bag’s profile has a huge impact on how it looks and feels. To better fit the chest or back, most sling bags are oval-shaped. We mentioned that hip packs can sometimes be used as sling bags. Some are successful.

Sling bags can be found in either a tall or wide orientation. Both are equally good options and can be used for different purposes.

Tall sling bags look more like a purse, or mini-backpack. They are great for carrying items that can be carried vertically, such as a bunny-ear phone case. Sling bags that are tall can be carried on the back or against your body.

  • 7.9Herschel Supply Co. Form Crossbody Large

The sling bag can be used as a small backpack or a large backpack for teddy bears. We love it! It is very organized. Its three main compartments are outfitted for a variety of items, ensuring that you’ll never lose anything to the dreaded crossbody-bag-blackhole again. It would be nice if it was closer to your chest.

  • Chrome Industries Kadet Nylon Messenger Bag

A wide sling is a great option if you don’t want to appear like you don’t know how to properly wear a fanny bag. They are closely related to the Fanny Pack in looks, but they usually fit tightly against the body.

  • 8.2Chrome Industries Kadet

Chrome Industries prides itself on its unique, recognizable designs. This sling bag is unique. Although its oblong shape reminds us of a fanny pack, its larger size and seat belt buckle are unique. Although it can be overwhelming for smaller bodies, especially when full, it will still hold all the essentials.

Weather Resistance

Your sling bag will likely contain important gear such as your passport, money, and cell phone. A little bit of weather resistance will help protect your essential items from any damage, even if you don’t have the ability to stay out of rain or snow for life. A weather-resistant sling is easy to clean, so you don’t need to carry a wet bag around your chest.

However, too much weatherproofing can be dangerous. Super weather-resistant or full-blown waterproof materials are made to resist water. They won’t hold up to daily use as well as other fabrics (more below), and may not feel as soft or comfortable on the back/chest.

If you have to protect your sling against a sudden downpour, it is usually possible to put them under a rain jacket. People may mistakenly believe you’re smuggling small animals under your jacket or that you have strangely shaped chests. This could be either a positive or negative depending on who you are.


You need a sling bag that can carry small laptops and other essentials. It should also be weather resistant. The WANDRD ROAM Sling is a high-quality, weather-resistant bag with zippers and high-quality fabric.

Sling Bag Durability

Sling bags are becoming more popular than ever. You can find them for as little as ten dollars to as much money. We don’t recommend buying a sling bag for as much as a car unless you have the funds. However, we recommend that you purchase a durable, high-quality sling that is more expensive than ten dollars.

However, the same fabric that is ideal for a backpack can sometimes be too heavy for a sling bag. It is important to balance durability and weight with interior capacity. Pay attention to these things when evaluating quality.


Broken zippers can cause heartbreak while traveling. Although it may sound dramatic, if you have ever had your zipper fail while traveling, you will know what we mean. We trust zippers made by YKK, RiRi and SAB. All of these companies have a solid track record for producing quality products. Our favorite is the Japanese manufacturer, YKK. YKK zippers are reliable and have never failed us, no matter how many times we’ve tested them over the years. They are responsible for approximately half of all zippers worldwide.

It’s important that you consider the brand as well as the size. Size is measured on a scale from one (smaller) to ten (10 larger). Although there are many sizes of zippers on sling bags, the most popular sizes are #5 and #8. We’ve tested over 50 slings, and the majority had either #5 (smaller) or #8 zippers. You’re likely to have durability problems if you go below a five.

Sling bags are lightweight and can be carried around with you. The zips can sometimes jingle if they are too large, which is annoying for us at the five-minute mark. Perhaps you are more patient than us. It can be as painful as it sounds, as larger zippers can rub against your chest and back.

To make their bags look more stylish, some companies deliberately design their sling bags to have oversized zippers and zipper teeth. This is a style that you might enjoy if you are into jingling. Fashion is all about pain.

  • Reverse Coil Zipper for the Arc’teryx Slingblade 4-Shouler Bag

A smaller size will work for zippers in internal pockets or pockets that are less frequently used. These zippers can be used to provide weather resistance. You may notice the letters RC next to the size of zippers (#5RC or #8RC). RC is an acronym for reverse coil. This refers to zippers that have internally-facing teeth rather than externally facing ones. This helps to prevent water from entering the bag. A reverse coil zipper is not water-resistant. Don’t think it will protect your phone from the rain.

Water-repellent zippers, such as the YKK Aquaguard zip, offer additional protection. They have a thin polyurethane layer to repel water. This zipper style is recommended if you plan on traveling to an area that is unusually humid with your sling bag. You’ll probably be fine with the extra water resistance.


Most sling bags have a buckle as a key component. If there is no buckle, it will have a clip. The hardware should not break, as it will render the sling useless. You can’t MacGyver a large knot to increase the usefulness, but it will make you look completely ridiculous.

  • Large Duraflex Buckle for the Incase Diamond Wire Reform Pack

Here, again, the brand is important. Duraflex and Woojin are some examples of trustworthy companies. You should stick with them as long as they are reliable. Metal buckles are also a great choice, but slings can become uncomfortable and heavy. Metal buckles are the best choice if durability is your priority.

Fabric & Material

Bag designers (engineers) are now more common than in the 1800s or the mid-1900s. There are many fabrics available to them to make their bags. Each fabric has pros and cons. You want to balance durability and weight with capacity, as we have already discussed. A sling bag will not have to be as hard as a backpack. It doesn’t need to be as hardy.

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