Slings backpacks have become a common trend in a lot of different places. These smaller backpacks can be used for a variety of purposes like the outdoors, school, hiking, work, and every day use. But these bags come in a lot of different varieties.
In this article I will highlight some of the best sling backpacks that come in different forms like: tactical, leather, outdoors, athletics, and a couple of other styles. I’ll also focus on bags good for specific needs like travel, laptops, hiking, etc.
Table of Contents
What are sling backpacks?
Sling backpacks are bags that only have one strap that usually goes on your shoulder or across your chest. These bags are primarily for people who don’t have massive storage needs and that don’t need or want bulky backpacks.
For example, if you are a family traveling to Disney World you don’t always need a large backpack to carry along with you and you could do good with a smaller sling bag. Or, if you are going on a long hike, maybe you don’t need a full size backpack and just need a bag that you can carry along some water and snacks with.
And finally, many sling backpacks, especially the leather ones, can be used as fashion pieces. These bags just look a lot more trendy than some sort of bulky backpack.
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What are the best sling backpacks?
Because sling backpacks come in so many different varieties the best one for you would depend on your personal preferences. In this article, I will cover a lot of different types of sling backpacks.
When you are thinking about purchasing a sling backpack there are some specific factors that you will want to consider.
- Special compartments
Most people are attracted to sling backpacks because they are smaller than standard sized backpacks. But there can be pretty large differences in the sizes of sling backpacks.
Some are big enough to hold big sized laptops that are 15 or even 17 inches long. However, many (if not most) sling bags may only be able to hold something like an 11 or 10 inch tablet.
So if you are someone who likes to transport your laptops and tablets around in your bag, pay very close attention to what the maximum size is for electronics that can fit properly in the bag.
Also, some sling backpacks don’t have compartments that are ideal for basic storage needs. For example, many sling bags are just too small to properly store full-sized reusable water bottles. For people like myself who like to carry around reusable water bottles that can be a huge negative.
The material that you choose for your sling backpack will have a huge influence on when and where you can use it. For example, you can find sling backpacks that are perfect for weathering the elements in the outdoors, while others might be made of leather and other materials that are best kept out of the rain.
Many bags advertise that they are waterproof when in reality the actual bag is just water resistant. While the cloth that makes up the bag is waterproof and would not allow water to penetrate the cloth, that does not mean that the entire bag is waterproof.
A true waterproof bag could be tossed into a lake and water would not seep inside the bag. But the bags in this article are not those types of bags.
Many sling backpacks have compartments that serve really specific needs. You might find a compartment that holds a mobile charger for your electronics, or you might find a compartment for your firearms or cameras. Always be on the lookout for features that could serve your unique needs.
As I will talk about below, the type of strap you have is super important for comfort and for relieving strain. Some backpacks allow you to alter the position of the straps so that the bag can be suited for left-handed or right-handed individuals but most will be suited for right-handed people.
Some bags are designed to be carried with the strap hanging on one shoulder while other bags are designed for you to have the strap going across the front of your chest.
Also, some of these bags can be switched to the front side. In some cases you might even be able to flip the bag upside down to your front side which can make it easier to position the bag in a comfortable way.
You also want to consider the padding that the strap has. Not every slingback will have a lot of padding. This is especially true for the fashion-oriented bags. If you are going to be wearing your bag a lot and traveling through hot or humid environments then you might also want to find the strap that has a nice mesh texture to it that can help you stay cool.
And finally, a lot of the straps have various compartments on them for things like your cell phone.
Are sling backpacks healthy?
Carrying a heavy backpack is not great for your health. The obvious consequence of carrying around a heavy backpack is that you will put a lot of strain on your back and neck. If you have ever lugged around a lot of large textbooks around a sprawling college campus you know exactly how straining it can be….
But having a heavy backpack can also put strain on your lungs and cause issues with your breathing. In fact, if your backpack load is at 13 pounds or heavier then you are at risk of preventing proper lung ventilation. If you already have the underlying issues related to your lungs this is something you definitely want to be aware of.
When it comes to a sling backpack, the need for keeping the backpack light is even more important, because you have one shoulder that is getting a lot of the strain.
You can help to mitigate this by getting a sling backpack with a wide band and also by positioning the sling backpack so that a lot of the weight is distributed on your chest. Trying to seek out a backpack band that is padded very nicely should also help to distribute that weight a bit more.
Still, a sling backpack is not designed for people who like to carry around a lot of heavy things in the backpack. So just keep that in mind whenever you are shopping for a sling BackPack.
The best sling backpacks
The Under Armour compel Sling 2.0 is one of the most highly rated Under Armour sling backpacks, perfect for many things like school, travel, Disney, etc. The bag is 18 inches high and 12 inches wide and it has a soft lined laptop sleeve that can hold up to a 15 inch MacBook Pro or similarly sized laptop. Some have even reported that they could fit a 17 inch laptop inside, so this is a very laptop friendly sling bag.
The strap is an adjustable padded strap that comes built with Under Armour signature heat gear which helps you to stay cool in hot temperatures. (The padding is not the best on this backpack so don’t expect anything super comfortable.)
This is a somewhat bulky type of sling backpack and the bag is expandable — many people rave about the amount of room that they get. You can find plenty of reviews of people who are surprised by the amount of items that they can fit in their backpack. The bag is also water resistant and reviews indicate that it does a very good job of keeping moisture out.
One reported issue with this is that the pockets are not very big for holding things like reusable water bottles so in some cases you will have to clasp a water bottle on to one of the sling webbings. So if you are looking for something that is perfect for hiking this might not be the bag for you.
I think this is one of the more sleek looking under armor sling backpacks. Some may not care for the giant Under Armour logo but others may actually like that feature.
This is a popular bag so don’t be surprised if it is sold out. And for that reason you might want to be a little bit more aggressive when shopping for it if you do find it in stock.
If you are more into fashion then you might be looking to get a leather sling backpack.
The Real Leather Cross Body Sling Bag Chest Bag is made of genuine, thick cow hide leather which gives it a nice and professional appearance (many people comment on the quality of the leather). It’s 18.9 inches long by 10.6 inches wide and the bag weighs 2.45 pounds. This product is geared towards men although women could definitely support this as well.
Since this bag is geared more towards fashion you’re not going to find as many compartments and as much utility in this type of sling bag. With that said, there is still a lot of room in this bag.
People are able to store devices at around 11.5 inches in length but it’s a tight fit and you would not be able to fit something like a 13 inch or 15 inch MacBook Pro in this bag. So I would say that this is definitely a bag for tablet people and not so much laptop people.
This being a fashion-oriented bag, the shoulder strap is very thin and is not going to provide a lot of padding and comfort like some of the other bags in this article. That’s not a major problem though because you would probably not be lugging around this backpack on some long hiking excursion or throughout the day like you would some of the other bags.
Also, keep in mind that this is not a water proof bag and you want to keep it out of the elements as much as possible. If you know anything about leather products you know that they tend to get a bit scuffed up overtime. One way that you can keep a bag like this fresh is to utilize shoe polish to keep it nice and shiny.
It is possible to wear this bag on your left or right side but it is mostly designed for the right side.
The Men Vintage PU Leather CrossBody Sling Bag is a modern looking pu leather sling bag but it is on the smaller side. The bag is 12.5 inches tall and 8.6 inches wide with 5.1 inches in depth. The shipping weight is only 2.1 pounds.
This bag is designed for someone looking for something lightweight and trendy to carry around smaller personal belongings.
This bag comes with a USB charging port that you can use for things like your cell phone and other electronics like tablets. And as you would probably expect this bag is more suited for tablets than it is for regular sized laptops. But if you don’t need to store a laptop, this could be a great bag for traveling.
Some people are not too crazy about the look of pu (polyurethane) leather and and they feel like it looks a little bit too unauthentic or cheap. That would be no surprise considering the price range for the sling bag and the fact that it is artificial leather. Still, if you were not trying to break the bank and just looking for a sling bag that is somewhat fashionable then this could be a good product for you.
If you are just going for a cheaper type of sling backpack it is hard to not go with the OutdoorMaster Sling Bag. This is one of the most highly reviewed sling bags and it is under $20 and comes in a variety of different colors, such as:
- Mocha brown
There are also some camouflage options.
This bag is 11.8″ wide and 17.7″ long and it only weighs one pound. The bag is spacious enough to hold items like iPads and can hold laptops for up to 12.5 inches. So once again, this is not the bag ideal for Apple MacBook Pros.
The OutdoorMaster gets good reviews for its water resistance. It is not fully waterproof so you would not want to take this thing out in a heavy rain shower but it seems to hold up pretty well in lighter rain.
This bag does have some issues that are common to other bags when it comes to its compartments. For example the compartment for water bottles is around 3 inches which is smaller than what you would find with a lot of reusable of water bottles. Therefore, you might need to stick to smaller water bottles if you want to this bag.
The Mouteenoo Sling Backpack is a fantastic sling backpack for school. It has a lot of space that is perfect for storing things like your laptop, wallet, notebooks, textbooks, and binders. According to the manufacturer, it can even hold laptops up to 15 inches. (The dimensions are 11 point inches by 16 inches so the fit is probably pretty tight.)
There are three outer front zipper pocket including one anti-theft pocket and a zipper pouch on the hip. The chest strap also has a removable zipper phone pocket that can fit up an iPhone 8. Inside, there is a separate sleeve for your laptop or tablet. And you can also find penholder pockets and a small pouch for accessories such as chargers. The bag also has a mesh pouch for your water bottle that can hold up to a 32 fluid ounce bottle.
This really is an all-purpose bag that it is great for travel, work, and also school. This bank is designed for right-handed people so It is not made to be put on your left shoulder.
SEEU Sling Backpack is a large sling backpack that holds 28 L. These are pretty good dimensions and you would be able to fit in a laptop that is 14 inches or under and should be able to fit in your tablets no problem. (Some people have even been able to fit 15 inch laptops in this bag.)
The sling backpack also has a number of different compartments. There are multiple accessory compartments and even a compartment on the strap that you can store something like an iPhone. So this is definitely a sling backpack that is designed for people who have real storage needs.
The drawback to this bag seems to be quality complaints. Some people feel that the material does feel a bit inexpensive and that there is not sufficient padding for laptops or other items in the bag. Also people have had issues with things like broken zippers.
Nike Sling Backpack
Nike does not make as many sling backpacks as I thought they would. However they do have a sling bag called the Nike tech Sling bag. This bag is essentially a super large fanny pack. It is 21 inches long but only 5 inches wide, so this is not a bag that is meant to be used for holding things like laptops and probably not the greatest tablets either. As you might imagine the focus is on athletics with this bag.
Jansport is one of the most recognized brands for backpacks and was ubiquitous for a lot of kids growing up over the past couple decades. So it should come as no surprise that Jansport also has sling bags. The Jansport City Sling Crossbody bag is 14.5″ by 8.3″ so it’s not one of the larger bags. For that reason, it is probably not well-suited for laptops of normal size.
One thing that is nice about this fact is that it comes with a nice big strap and straight-cut padded shoulder straps, padded air mesh back panel. Ultimately, this is a simple type of cross body bag that is for people not looking for a bunch of bells and whistles and just a nice back to store small items in.
For many people (including myself), Jansport represents durability so if you’re someone who likes to use your bags for years years upon years this might be the way to go for you.
Adidas Shermer Sling Backpack
The Adidas Shermer Sling Backpack is a large sling bag that can hold laptops up to around 13 to 15 inches. So unlike some of the other athletic brand sling backs this back could be for everyday use for a student. The problem is that this item has been out of stock and I’m not sure if it is going to return.
The KAKA Sling Bag Crossbody Backpack is a 18″ x 11.5″ sling backpack. It features six pockets that are suitable for items like water bottles, phones, and it also comes with an RFID and an anti-theft purse pocket.
The shoulder strap comes with a mobile phone back and your phone slot and a way to set up mobile USB charging. You can also find a place to put your sunglasses. This is definitely one of the more equipped bags.
The bag is made of high-quality polyester oxford cloth to sign to be waterproof and anti-scratch.
The largest compartment is designed to accommodate up to 10.5 inches of a tablet computer. Therefore, if you are trying to store a 15 inch MacBook Pro or similar laptop this is not the bag for you.
If you are looking for a tactical sling backpack then you might look for a military style bag like the 5.11 RUSH MOAB 10 Tactical Sling Bag.
This is a 100% nylon bag that comes with a customizable cushioned shoulder strap. The backpack is loaded with pockets at the shoulder, the rear, and a secondary double zip pocket. Like you would expect, this tactical backpack comes with a hydration pocket that passes through a port. There also are many different types of interior pockets.
This really is an all purpose tactical bag. You can use it for survival, military, hunting, hiking, or any kind of strenuous outdoor activities. Overall, This is a nice bag but the shoulder strap is not quite as wide as I will probably be looking for if I was trying to maximize comfort. However, the bag has excellent reviews online.
If you want to go with a cheaper tactical sling backpack consider going with the Gowara Gear Tactical Sling Bag Pack. It’s made of durable 600D polyester and is water resistant. This tactical bag has a unique sling pouch on the inside of the back that allows you to store one or two pistols. You can also store plenty of ammo.
It comes with a free patch of the United States flag that looks pretty sick on the all black backpack. This sling backpack has one of the thicker shoulder straps which I think is much more beneficial for dispersing the weight. It also has two smaller straps that can help to reduce things like sway for a more comfortable fit.
So if you were looking for a tactical backpack on the cheaper side then this might be the perfect product for you.
A lot of photographers are interested in sling bags. That is because sling bags are much more convenient to work with a lot of times when taking lenses in and out of your bag. There are quite a few good sling backpacks for cameras, but I like the CADeN Camera Bag Sling Backpack.
It goes without saying that most camera sling bags are only going to have room for your camera and lenses. You can also find inserts for tripods or other attachments and find room to store other things like filters. But for the most part you are not going to find a camera sling bag with room for something like a large laptop.
In this case the Cajun camera bag sling can hold up to four lenses including one large telephoto lens (Including 300 mm). Or, instead of one large telephoto lens you can also fit a DSLR camera along with three additional lenses.
It also has an upper compartment where you could store smaller personal electronic items or wallets, keys, or things like filters. It’s also just a very nice looking bag in my opinion.
I like the quick access side opening so you can easily take out your camera while keeping your bag around your back. And it’s also nice to have the side holder for the tripod. This is not a bag designed to go across your chest but it does have a nonslip shoulder strap that allows you to ensure that the bag will not slip off your shoulder.
The nylon fabric is waterproof and so water should not get through the bag although the bag itself is not meant to be submerged in water of course. Instead, you can probably rest assured that your camera and lenses would be protected and a regular rainstorm for a brief amount of time.
If you are looking for something more colorful and bright you might consider the MOSISO Sling Backpack, Multipurpose Crossbody Shoulder Bag. This bag comes with a medium-sized dimension of 15.3″ x 7.5.” So this bag is going to do better with tablets like iPads, iPhones, and Samsung Galaxy Notes and not really good for regular sized laptops.
This is one of those bags that you can carry on either side the right or the left,. You can also wear it as a cross body backpack with the pack in front of you or just put it on a single shoulder. So if you like to switch things up this could be a good option. The bag also comes with a breathable padded shoulder strap, which varies in length from 18 to 36 inches.
One thing about this bag is that it comes in a lot of different colors and patterns.
Patagonia Known for their high quality products that are suited for the outdoors. They also make a fantastic gear and bags. The Patagonia Atom Sling 8 Liter Bag is a perfect choice for someone looking for a simple bag that will likely last a long time.
The bag only has two main compartments so it does not have all the bells and whistles that the other bags have. But it does have a lot of space with dimensions of 17″ x 10.” There are also some compression straps on the outside that would be ideal for transporting something like a yoga mat.
The strap comes with a pocket that should be able to hold most cell phones and it also has a padded and breathable sleeve that should be good for hiking or any kind of activity calling for a lot of sweat.
If you are looking for a mini sling bag that is very easy to store and to get around with you might consider the G4Free Sling Bags.
This bag has a very light weight design and it is only 15.5″ x 8.26,” making for a pre-compact bag. Obviously, this bag is not designed for laptops but it could be a great back to bring along on a hike or a day at the theme park like Disney if you are just storing small personal items like your keys, wallet, and possibly snacks or something like that.
If you did want to store a tablet the manufacturer does state that the main pocket could fit a iPad mini or iPad air. There is also a side mesh pocket perfect for storing a water bottle or a small umbrella.
If you had small kids, this could potentially be a nice bag for your little boy or girl as well. However, at the same time if you are a pretty large adult this bag might be a little bit on the small side.
Obviously, there are a lot of different types of sling backpacks that you can choose from. It really comes down to your personal preferences and the needs for that bag.
Do you need a bag that can withstand abuse? You need to store a full size 15″ laptop or do you only need space for maybe something like a small tablet? Are you trying to get a fashionable bag? Once you can narrow down your needs for the type of sling bags then it will be quite easy to choose from a small selection of bags.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.