The Best Sling Bags for Everyday Carry

A man wearing a black sling bag strapped across the front of his body.
Gargonia/Shutterstock

If you use a backpack, it’s easy to overload the thing and give yourself a backache. Messenger bags have similar issues, only move the pain to your shoulder. Sling bags solve those problems by limiting you to necessary items and distributing the weight across your body.

What Is a Sling Bag?

If you aren’t familiar with sling bags, you might confuse them with a one-strapped backpack or a messenger bag that hugs the body close. Although sling bags resemble backpacks and messenger bags, they’re neither of those things—but also a bit of both.

Like backpacks and messenger bags, sling bags typically feature a large pocket for storing heftier items (like a book, tablet, or laptop), and several small pockets for other essential items, like phones, wallets, keys, and power cords.

The significant departure is in how you wear a sling bag. You’ll find just one strap on a sling bag, but if you’re merely hanging it off the shoulder, you’re wearing it wrong. Instead, you should wear the strap across the body, starting from one shoulder and ending at the opposite hip. So left shoulder to right hip, or right shoulder to left hip. Then you tighten the strap for a snug fit to keep your bag sliding around as you walk.

Many sling bags have an adjustable strap, so you can choose which way to wear it across your body.

Why I Love Sling Bags

Cole, from the video game inFAMOUS 2
Cole from the inFAMOUS game series turned me onto sling bags, and it’s been love ever since. Sony

Most days, I’d rather wear a sling bag before any of my backpack or messenger bag options. If you give me space and tell me to pack it, I’ll fill it to the brim. Do I need my DSLR camera for walking around? Probably not, but better put it in just in case. And what about spare batteries? Those fit, too; better pack them in. So my backpacks and messengers get me into trouble.

Theoretically, I can control myself; in practice, I can’t. A sling bag takes care of the problem for me. I typically choose bags that will comfortably fit a MacBook, iPad, Kindle, my phone, some headphones, and power cords. If I’m honest with myself, that’s all I need for most days when I’m out and about.

And along the way, I’ve discovered I’m not just benefiting from the fact that my pack is lighter. With what I pack, it’s easier to stow away, too. You can flatten a backpack only so much, but because of their smaller pouches, sling bags start flatter and can stay that way—even after you fill it with your flat electronics, so they take up less room.

When I need quick access to the contents, I don’t have to take the bag off. I can loosen the strap and slide it around to the front of my body. The zippers are right there, so I can get to what I need. Some people even prefer to wear the bag on the front of their body.

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