The 14 Best Sling Backpacks for Travel in 2021 [Men & Women]

Travel Backpack Sling Bag

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Sling backpacks are well-suited for trendy travelers, surf dudes, sun worshipers, and mountain climbers alike. Slinging your stuff over your shoulder has never been easier, and there are plenty of crossbody bags out there for you to choose from.

The Benefits of a Sling Backpack

Though a sling backpack will dramatically reduce the amount of useable storage space available compared to a standard backpack, it will still offer you a sleek, chic, and useful way to carry your belongings.

Sling packs allow you to keep your hands free and give you the option to wear it either across your body or close to your chest. You can adjust the shoulder strap to find your perfect setting, and padded and breathable back panels will prevent you from getting hot and sweaty.

These types of bags also offer super fast access to your belongings, and the lightweight design makes it easy to carry on long journeys and daily adventures. Some are even large enough to carry your laptop and other items with you, while others are only suitable for essentials.

Hot Tip: Sling backpacks are particularly useful as camera bags since they make it so quick and easy to access your camera. However, if you’d prefer to travel with a specific bag for your camera, here’s a great guide on the best travel camera bags.

Things To Consider With Sling Backpacks

Every sling-style backpack is different from the next. Available in a wide range of colors, styles, and sizes, the right sling is as stylish and practical as you are. Consider the following before making your decision:

Size and Capacity

Crossbody Bag Size and Capacity
Sling bags come in lots of shapes and sizes. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

Sling backpacks are more compact than a big backpack and have a much slimmer silhouette. With anywhere from 5- to 30-liter capacity options, the average sling backpack can hold around 8 to 10 liters of your most personal belongings on the move.

Crossbody Bag Pockets
Sling bags can have useful pockets for quick access. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

Part of the beauty of a sling is their streamlined look and sleek shape. The downside of the sling is that it will never hold as much as a regular backpack — so you shouldn’t expect it to. Designed to be much more minimalist, your sling backpack is there to carry essential items like your cash, coins, wallet, phone, noise-canceling headphones, and sometimes an e-reader or tablet.

Material and Durability

Crossbody Bag Material
Sling bags are usually made from durable and water-resistant materials. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

Sling bags need to look great and be built to last. For durability, choose a bag that is made from a strong, hard-wearing material such as canvas or heavy cotton.

If you are planning on heading out into unpredictable weather or considering a water-based adventure, you may want to look at nylon or PVC bags to help protect against water damage.

Bottom Line: Because of the way you wear the bag, the fabric will need to be smooth enough not to chafe and breathable enough to prevent sweat patches from forming on your upper body.


Crossbody Bag Comfort
Sling bags should have a padded strap for comfort. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

The key to comfort when wearing your sling backpack is to keep it light. Carry just a few of your most essential belongings, and you’ll have a load far lighter than over-stuffed backpacks.

But pack too much and you will soon know about it! Unlike traditional backpacks, with a sling, the weight is not evenly distributed across both shoulders. This can lead to a sore shoulder on 1 side of your body if the load is too heavy.

Sling backpacks are designed to offer flexibility when wearing, but this means you lose some of the additional stability and support features that traditional backpacks offer. Waist belts, sternum straps, and other load relieving elements are not present on a sling backpack.

The Best Sling Backpacks for Travel

A Bargain Backpack Perfect for Everyday Use

Waterfly Chest Sling Backpack

With a sleek and straightforward design, this ultra-lightweight sling backpack looks great and will handle all your daily commuting or vacationing essentials. Made from soft, water-resistant nylon, this sling has a 10-liter capacity and plenty of extra pockets.

The main compartment is large enough to comfortably transport your iPad or a magazine, while the extra key rack, card pouch, wallet pouch, notebook pouch, and 2 pen pouches will keep all your gear safe and organized on the move. For super-easy hydration on packed trains, long walks, or anywhere else, the side mesh pockets will keep your water bottle close at hand.

Your shoulder strap can be adjusted to fit any size or shape, and can be moved from 23.6 inches to 43.3 inches. On the strap itself, there is a useful little pouch that will keep your phone safe and accessible.

All in all, this is a nice little sling backpack that you can take anywhere.

What We Like

  • Handy pouch on the sling strap for quick access to items

What We Don’t Like

  • Water bottle holder is a bit small

Big Brand Quality for a Compact Carry Bag

Osprey Packs Daylite Shoulder Sling

Made by one of the world’s most reputable luggage brands, the Daylite Sling from Osprey is perfect for your daily commute, days out, or a trip to the beach. Small enough to be easy to carry, yet roomy enough to hold everything you need, this is an outstanding quality sling pack.

This pack is made from high-quality, ripstop nylon and features Osprey’s soft and breathable NeoSpacer mesh material on the shoulder strap for superior comfort. The Daylite promises to be water-resistant and extremely comfortable to carry, including a key clip and front zippered mesh pocket for storing smaller items.

The Daylite comes in a choice of 4 funky colors, and it’s an excellent choice for anyone looking for a good quality sling backpack from a leading luggage brand.

What We Like

  • Padded and breathable sling strap

What We Don’t Like

  • Designed to be worn on the right shoulder only

Retro Looks and Modern-Day Convenience

Leaper Retro Sling Bag

Made from soft and washable canvas with accents of elegant-looking PU leather, this messenger sling bag has a retro look that’s perfect for festivals, vacations, and those who like to stand out from the crowd.

Big enough to comfortably hold a slim laptop up to 13 inches, this may not be the largest bag on the market, but it is still a funky, practical alternative to a traditional backpack or tote. It also has additional straps so you can carry this bag by either the handle or the adjustable shoulder strap.

There is plenty of space in this medium-sized slingback: you get a zipper pocket in the front flap, 2 side pockets, and a main compartment with further inner pockets. You’ll find enough room to keep your laptop, iPhone, wallet, snacks, drinks, and other essentials all in 1 place.

Available in a variety of colors, this retro sling backpack is an excellent choice.

What We Like

  • Sling strap is adjustable

What We Don’t Like

  • Laptop pocket is not padded

Get Festival-Ready With a Rope Bag

KAVU Rope Bag

Sitting somewhere between a practical backpack and a fashionable travel purse, the KAVU Rope Bag is a firm favorite with many overseas adventurers and festival-goers. Perfect for use in urban environments where space is limited and security is tight, the Rope Pack comes in a variety of designs.

There is a single wide strap to help distribute weight evenly, while the bag itself can be slung right- or left-facing so you can switch shoulders if you need. You can also adjust the length of the strap to find your perfect fit.

The 2 main zippered pockets have plenty of space to hold an iPad, travel camera, wallet, water bottle, and other everyday essentials, while the smaller exterior pockets are just right for your phone, keys, or lip balm.

Made from stain- and water-resistant canvas, the compact size of this particular sling bag makes it an excellent alternative for times when a traditional backpack isn’t an option. Plus, it looks supercool!

What We Like

  • Can be worn on both shoulders

What We Don’t Like

  • No water bottle holder

Excellent Organization and RFID-Blocking Protection

NeatPack Canvas Sling Bag and Urban Travel Backpack

With a ton of compartments to stow your stuff, this sling backpack also comes with an RFID-blocking anti-theft pocket for your most vulnerable valuables. Made of water-resistant polyester canvas and constructed using top-quality zippers and durable straps, this budget backpack offers a lot of bang for your buck.

Ergonomically designed for comfort, the NeatPack bag can be slung over either shoulder or worn across your chest to keep it safe from thieves. With a convenient front cell phone pocket and separate headphone access, you can easily get to everything you need while on the go. The padded, breathable strap helps keep the bag comfortable and lightweight wherever you are.

Available in a choice of colors, this little bag would work well for school, travel, or even your daily commute. The sling design allows you to keep your hands free to cycle, walk, or run to your next destination.

What We Like

  • Spacious main compartment and lots of pockets

What We Don’t Like

  • Zippers can break easily

Hot Tip: For more options, check out these anti-theft travel backpacks.

Military Styling for Modern Day Ops of All Kinds

5.11 RUSH MOAB 10 Tactical Sling Bag Shoulder Pack

Get your gear in order with this fully customizable tactical bag made from water-resistant and incredibly lightweight 1050D nylon. The fully-cushioned adjustable shoulder strap makes it easy to find your customized fit, and the grenade design makes this a must for anyone with a penchant for military styling.

With a coms pockets at the shoulder, a covert tactical pocket at the rear, and a secondary double zip pocket, this sling pack offers plenty of organized storage areas. An interior stash pocket paired with a hydration pocket and a pass-through port makes it easy to stay hydrated, too.

Equipped with the patented 5.11 Tier System to integrate with other 5.11 RUSH tactical bags, plus YKK self-healing zippers and a fleece-lined sunglasses pocket, this is a superb backpack perfect for any adventure.

What We Like

  • Has a hydration pocket and pass-through port

What We Don’t Like

  • Can chafe your neck if packed heavy

Cool, Compact, and Incredibly Useful Sling Bag

Maleden Sling Bag

Available in a choice of 6 bright colors, the small but surprisingly spacious Maleden sling bag is perfect for keeping your gear close by on the go. Just big enough to comfortably house an iPad Mini or other tablet up to 8 inches in the main compartment, this bag offers more space than you’d think.

Made from padded nylon, the strap has a breathable mesh to keep you cool, while the water-resistant and anti-scratch construction will protect your belongings from damage whatever the weather.

Perfect for hiking, kayaking, walking, commuting, or school, this casual sling backpack can be worn across your shoulder or kept in front of your chest to protect valuables.

Cool, compact, and incredibly useful, this is a great little addition to your existing luggage inventory.

What We Like

  • Lots of compartments and pockets to stay organized

What We Don’t Like

  • Strap is a little short for tall people

Bright, Bold, and Beautiful: Funky Sling Bags Suitable for All Occasions

MOSISO Sling Backpack

Choose from pretty florals or bright solid colors with these youthful sling backpacks that would be great for students, adventurers, and commuters alike. Big enough to carry an iPad Air or smaller tablet in the large main compartment, this bag looks and feels much more expensive than it actually is.

With a ton of multi-functional storage areas, you can fill up the accessory compartment and pockets with your charging cables, power cords, books, papers, personal items, and snacks, while the mesh bottle holder will keep your liquid refreshment safe.

The shoulder strap can be adjusted to reach between 18 and 36 inches, and you can carry this bag on either shoulder as well as across your chest.

Padded and breathable straps help ease discomfort and eliminate excess moisture, while the water-repellent polyester will keep wet weather at bay. This is a nice-looking sling bag that won’t break the bank.

What We Like

  • Stylish floral designs

What We Don’t Like

  • Mesh external pocket is a bit weak

A Rugged, Water-Resistant Sling Backpack

Nicgid Sling Bag Chest Shoulder Backpack

Made from high-quality nylon that resists water and rips, this is a compact carry bag that can be worn across your shoulder to keep your hands free and your load light. This design is perfect for days out, trips abroad, and even on your regular commute.

With multiple storage areas, the large main compartment holds your iPad Mini, e-reader, or notebooks, while the inner pouch will keep your cell phone safe. The front of the bag has 4 zippered pockets that are super convenient for accessing items you need on the go. Your keys, passports, pens, and money will all be within easy reach.

The shoulder strap is padded and can be adjusted, and this bag is available in a variety of colors. We think this pack is sleek and practical.

What We Like

  • Durable and comfortable to wear

What We Don’t Like

  • Strap is not reversible to wear on both shoulders

Super-Secure With Integrated Combination Lock

Anti Theft Sling Bag Shoulder Crossbody Backpack

With great-looking, water-resistant oxford fabric, this is a minimalist shoulder bag that is sleek on the outside and spacious on the inside.

In the large main compartment, you can easily carry your iPad, notebooks, documents, wallet, money, cell phone, and other everyday essentials. The 2-way zipper gives easy access to the main compartment, and the built-in USB port allows you to charge easily on the go.

The side and back zip pockets are perfect to keep your important items within easy reach and you can rest assured knowing your valuables are safe in the combination locked main compartment. With an adjustable satchel strap, you can let this bag swing as high or as low as you want, and it can be worn on either shoulder.

Breathable, comfortable, and incredibly lightweight, this is a great little sling backpack for any adventure.

What We Like

  • Combination lock on the main compartment

What We Don’t Like

  • External pockets are a little small

Locking Zippers and Slash-Resistant Fabrics

Travelon AT Classic Sling Bag

With locking compartments and durable construction, this bag is an excellent choice for anyone embarking on extreme adventures. The slash-resistant sling strap can be attached to a post or a chair, and the RFID-blocking card slots will protect you from identity fraud.

Designed with security in mind, this bag also features a stainless-steel mesh lining that prevents would-be criminals from slashing or ripping your pack to get at your valuables. There are also locking compartments to keep your personal belongings safe on the move.

Look great and keep your stuff safe as you travel with one of the most protective sling backpacks on the market. A good buy for anyone heading out into crowds.

What We Like

  • RFID-blocking pockets

What We Don’t Like

  • Main compartment zipper is not easily accessible when wearing on 1 shoulder

Large Enough To Cope, Yet Light Enough To Carry

Oversized Sling Backpack

Bigger is definitely better when it comes to this oversized sling backpack that has enough room for all your essentials (and then some). Offering a spacious 28 liters of carrying space, this bag can carry everything you need for work or weekend getaways, and its slimline design prevents it from becoming too bulky.

Additional features including a headphone hole, a mesh pocket strap, an oversized bottle holder, extra layers for laptop protection, and a 2-direction zipper. The stress-bearable mechanics design allows the bag’s weight to distribute evenly across your back, and the shoulder strap is padded and adjustable.

Made from a double layer of hard-wearing polyester material, this is a scratch-proof, dirt-proof, and water-resistant backpack with plenty of space for all of your essentials.

What We Like

  • Double zippers on the main compartment for easy access

What We Don’t Like

  • Main compartment could be larger

Vintage Cool for the Man About Town

Mens Vintage PU Leather Sling Bag

Made from premium leather, this is a stylish sling bag with a timeless feel. With waterproof properties and an ergonomic design, it is as comfortable to wear as it is good-looking. And this bag has a hidden secret: its very own charging port for topping up your cell phone battery using your power bank.

Spacious enough to hold your laptop, iPad, tablet, phone, books, and much more, this bag will keep your gear safe and organized. Multiple pockets add extra hiding holes for smaller items, and the main compartment opens wide for easy access.

Fashionable and spacious, this leather bag is perfect for serious travelers and daily commuters alike.

What We Like

  • Has an external USB port and a headphone jack

What We Don’t Like

  • Sling strap could be longer

Security Conscious Sling Bag With Locking Zippers

Pacsafe Vibe 325 10 Liter Anti Theft Sling Bag

Brought to you by the travel experts at Pacsafe, this little sling bag is built to last. Offering enough space to keep all your essentials close at hand yet light enough to wear for hours at a time, this is one of the best sling backpacks your money can buy — but it does come at a price.

Made from high-quality nylon with a wipeable polyester lining, the Pacsafe Vibe offers incredible protection against would-be thieves. Individual compartments can be secured with locking zippers, while the fabric of the bag is cut-resistant and features a lightweight steel mesh inlay to keep your gear safe.

The shoulder strap is padded for comfort and reinforced with wire to prevent it from being slashed or cut in crowded places. The strap can also be used to securely fix your bag to tables or chairs to keep your possessions safe from theft.

Sizable, attractive, and one of the most protective bags on the market, this is an excellent choice for anyone traveling overseas.

What We Like

  • Sling strap is reinforced with wire to be slash-proof

What We Don’t Like

  • Quite a narrow bag, so not good for bulky items

Final Thoughts

Sling backpacks are a great alternative to traditional backpacks when you don’t need to carry too much stuff with you. Filling the void somewhere between fashion and practicality, you can carry them on either shoulder to keep your most valued possessions within easy reach at all times.

Cheaper, lighter, and smaller than a regular daypack, a sling bag will have its limitations. But if you want to remain hands-free and can travel a bit lighter, these are a good option for all types of adventures.

If you’re looking for a little more room and deciding on the best travel backpack, check out this great article on the best travel backpacks for men and women.

Frequently asked questions

Are sling backpacks bad for your back?

As sling backpacks cause 1-sided strain, they can cause back pain if they are too heavy. Sling backpacks should only be used for lightweight essentials and are not designed for carrying heavy loads for long periods. You will be better off with a backpack for these occasions.

What is a sling backpack?

A sling backpack is quite similar to a regular backpack but with the major difference being that it only has 1 strap and it is worn crossbody. A lot of sling backpacks tend to be triangular in shape or slimmer. Given they are worn on 1 shoulder only, they also have smaller capacities to avoid shoulder pain.

Are sling backpacks good for hiking?

We wouldn’t recommend a sling backpack for hiking as they don’t provide the same back support and features regular hiking backpacks would. Sling bags are best left for short urban adventures or when you need quick access to your belongings. Stick to regular backpacks for hiking.

What is the best sling bag?

These are some of the best sling bags that we recommend:

  • KAVU Rope Bag
  • Leaper Retro Sling Bag
  • NeatPack Canvas Sling Bag and Urban Travel Backpack
  • Osprey Packs Daylite Shoulder Sling
  • Waterfly Chest Sling Backpack

Are sling bags good for travel?

Sling bags offer superfast access to your belongings, and the lightweight design makes them easy to carry on long journeys and daily adventures. Some are even large enough to carry your laptop and other items with you, while others are only suitable for essentials.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

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