We’ve discussed backpacks at some length, but haven’t focused specifically on the messenger bag’s slimmer cousin, the sling. Sling backpacks are essentially smaller versions of messenger bags, originally used by bike messengers. The messenger bag itself is based on a lineman’s bag — the satchels powerline technicians used to carry their tools. The needs of a lineman and a bicycle messenger are actually quite similar, they both need to carry a relatively small amount of weight in a way that leaves their hands free and enables maximum mobility.
Thus, the advantages of a sling backpack are that they can carry a small amount of weight in a way that minimizes the impact on the carrier and maximizes mobility. They are not, however, ideal for carrying large amounts of weight as their single strap places the load on only one shoulder. Similarly, they aren’t ideal for carrying for prolonged periods of time.
However, for the average commuter, a sling bag may be all that you need. A cell phone, some charging cables, a flashlight and headphones are not likely to prove too much to carry on one shoulder. Additionally, they easily fit on a bus or train seat and can be stuffed in an office drawer when not in use.
Some Best Bets
This is a hardcore sling backpack. The Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover is made from 600D polyester which is shorthand for “really strong.” It has four storage compartments large enough for a small laptop or iPad, binoculars, a camera, a first aid kit and accessories. It measures 8″ x 11.5″ x 5.5″ (W x H x D).
As with most bags, it is not waterproof but is water resistant.
The Leaper Cross Body Bag is made of washed canvas and leather. It is 10.2″ x 13.6″ x 4.4″ and can accomodate a laptop up to 13″. In total it weighs 14.4 ounces empty, which is about the weight of three iPhones or half the weight of the lightest of laptops. It has seven pockets in addition to the main opening.
It isn’t waterproof but its washed canvas is water resistant.
The OutdoorMaster is much more of a barebones hiking and outdoors bag. It is made of lightweight polyester and has a main pocket large enough to fit a laptop computer up to 12″. It contains several smaller pockets for a camera and accessories or cell phone. It also contains a side pocket for a water bottle and will accommodate water bottles or thermoses up to 3″ in diameter.