Best Sling Backpack of 2021 (Guide & Reviews)

by Julien Heron
Last Updated: April 18, 2021
Close-up on intermediate climber tying her shoelace

Tired of scouring the internet, trying to find the best sling backpack to meet your outdoor needs? Sling backpacks are a functional choice that makes it far easier to carry everything from your laptop on the go to essential gear when you’re traveling.

Keep reading for our comprehensive buying guide and review of the top 5 products on the market today.

The top 5 sling backpack we recommend for 2021:

The Benefits of Using a Sling Backpack

Sling backpacks are a fantastic option to leave your hands free, whether you’re climbing a steep mountain, riding a bike, or roaming on a wooded path out in nature. A sling backpack purse rests on the hip, remaining in your periphery for enhanced security and easy accessibility at all times.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the top benefits of using the best sling backpack.

Light to Carry

One of the primary benefits of using a sling backpack is the fact that they are so light to carry. In fact, the majority of sling backpacks weigh just around 1 to 3 pounds. So, you’ll have a much easier time transporting your essentials on the go without causing overt strain to your back and neck.

Keeps You Organized

The best sling backpack comes with 2 or more handy compartments for you to store everything from books to your tablet to light hiking gear in. You’ll stay more organized with a sling backpack because you can situate bulkier items in the large sections and distribute the more lightweight items in the smaller compartments.

Easy to Reach

If you’re tired of rifling through your regular backpack for your water bottle or your favorite snack, the great thing about sling backpacks is that you can simply adjust them forward and reach in to get what you need. Not only will this save you considerable strain, but it makes it far easier to keep track of all your belongings.

More Secure

Another key benefit of sling backpacks is the fact that they sit straight across your body. With a regular backpack, almost anyone can reach in behind you and snatch valuable items before you have a chance to react. The design of a sling backpack greatly reduces the likelihood of theft because you have constant access to it at all times.

Plus, some of the best sling backpacks come with special anti-theft compartments, making it easier to bring vulnerable items like your wallet on the go without any security concerns.

Things to Consider When Selecting a Sling Backpack

Before you start shopping, there are some key points you need to consider when selecting a sling backpack. Let’s take a closer look!


The first thing you need to consider before purchasing the best sling backpack is your intended usage of the bag. Will you be using the sling backpack for traveling or hiking only? Or, do you want to use the sling backpack for work as well?

For example, if you intend to use your sling backpack for work too, you would need to look for features like a laptop sleeve and a compartment to transport your lunches. On the other hand, if you intend to take your sling backpack for traveling on the road, compartments like a water pocket are critical.

You would also want to take care the backpack you select is not too bulky or weighty since the brunt of what you’re carrying would be felt by one shoulder. Bear in mind, a sling backpack purse is best suited to shorter hikes, but not overnight trips where you’ll require lots of gear.


The next thing you need to consider when purchasing a sling backpack is the size you’ll require. Sling backpacks are designed to be smaller than the traditional variety, so you’ll have less carrying options than you otherwise would. For instance, the largest sling backpacks can typically carry a water bottle, lunch, 15-inch laptop, and potentially a smaller device like a tablet or phone.

The smaller sling backpacks currently sold on the market can usually store a tablet and a few key items like your wallet and phone, but not much more. If you intend to take your sling backpack with you for travel, either domestically or abroad, you’ll need to ensure your selection is compliant with the standard airline size for carry-ons.

Key Features

There are some key features you should keep an eye out for if you are in the market for the best sling backpack. If you plan on traveling during the rainy season, choose a sling backpack with water-resistant material to protect all your belongings. You always want to select a bag that is both sturdy and highly durable so it will last you for years to come.

Another key feature to look for is a sling backpack that lets you adjust the side of the strap so you can switch it between shoulders if you like. Also, pay attention to how many pockets the bag has to make sure you have enough to carry all your essential items. Padded straps that you can adjust if need be are also a helpful feature to look for.

Sling Backpack Reviews

Now that you know the primary elements you need to look out for when purchasing your sling backpack, it’s time to delve into the top 5 products on the market currently.

Keep scrolling for our comprehensive review of each item so you can choose the one that is right for you.

Let’s get down to business!

Patagonia Atom Sling Backpack

Patagonia Atom Sling Backpack on white background
Patagonia Atom Sling Backpack
A ultra-functional choice from Patagonia
The Patagonia Atom Sling offers a durable water repellant finish that will keep all your belongings warm and dry.
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  • Highly functional with breathable fabric
  • Comfortable mesh and compression straps
  • Two separate compartments to fit all your essential items
  • You’ll only be able to carry this sling backpack on your left side
  • The bag is on the smaller side
  • Mobile device pouch could be too small for larger smartphones

The first best sling backpack pick on our list is this ultra-functional choice from Patagonia. It features a large main compartment to hold items like your clothes and lunch, plus a separate section specifically designed to store electronics like your phone and tablet.

We also like the fact that the main compartment includes a key clip to secure items such as your passport or sunglasses. Unfortunately, the bag is not ambidextrous, so you won’t be able to switch it from one side to the other if your shoulder starts to ache. The Patagonia Atom Sling Backpack is almost ergonomically designed, with mesh straps made for optimal comfort and exterior compression straps that you can adjust for weight.

Another reason we picked this product was its durable, water repellent finish that will keep all your belongings warm and dry if you come across an unexpected rainstorm. What’s more, the light and breathable fabric of this best sling backpack won’t make your skin all sweaty and irritated if you’re wearing it for long periods.
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5.11 Tactical Sling Bag Shoulder Pack

5.11 Tactical Sling Bag Shoulder Pack on white background
5.11 Tactical Sling Bag Shoulder Pack
An 18-liter capacity with multiple storage compartment
The 5.11 Tactical Sling features a main and front compartment, shoulder pocket, and even a hydration pocket.
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  • Ergonomically sound handle and compression straps
  • Adjustable strap so you can wear the bag on either shoulder
  • Concealed carry pouch
  • The strap can wear out quickly with extended use
  • Lack of cushioning mesh to protect your belongings in case the bag drops
  • Not designed to transport very heavy gear for long periods that strain the strap

The Moab 10 Tactical Bag Shoulder Pack by 5.11 has an impressive 18-liter capacity, with multiple storage compartment options. We really like the added touch of the sunglass pocket with fleece lining, plus the key fobs and lining if you need to secure extra gear.

The 5.11 Tactical Sling Shoulder Pack features a main compartment, front compartment, shoulder pocket, and even a hydration pocket within easy reach.

We really liked the fact that this sling backpack also sports webbing on the inside and outside so you can secure your gear, including name tape and flag Velcro. For survival expeditions and other outdoor adventures, you’ll have a communications pocket with a mic/earbud section too.

The sling backpack also features compression straps to distribute the weight of the bag resting against your shoulder and a concealed carry pouch to boot. While we wish this sling backpack had extra cushioning mesh to protect your belongings in case the bag gets tossed around or drops, it’s large storage capacity means you’ll be able to hold everything from essential devices to your water bottle to food.
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Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover Sling Pack

Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover Sling Pack on white background
Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover Sling Pack
An 9-liter sling backpack with 6 compartments of storage space
The Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover Sling Pack is a good choice for a concealed carry unit and shorter hikes.
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  • 6 storage compartments for maximum storage space
  • A comfortable strap that won’t irritate your neck
  • Ambidextrous design
  • The lining is not very thick
  • Not ideal to stand up against the elements like rain
  • Storage capacity is not as large as other models on the market

The next best sling backpack on our list is a classic choice for anyone looking for a concealed carry unit. We especially like the ambidextrous strap that allows you to access your important items with ease and switch the bag to either shoulder if one starts to hurt.

Plus, the large main compartment is big enough to house the majority of tablet sizes. While we wish the bag had a slightly larger storage capacity, it still has a moderate 9 liters of space, making it a good choice for shorter hikes.

The carry handle makes it a breeze to grab the Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover Sling Pack on the go, with the quick release bucket on the main strap makes for easy maneuvering. There’s a huge master compartment for devices and small gear items, a concealed carry sleeve on the back, and multiple external pockets for maximum storage space. So, you’ll have a total of 6 compartments of storage space. Not bad for a 9-liter backpack!
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Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack

Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack on white background
Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack
A lightweight, durable sling backpack for DSLR Cameras
The Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack with its padded dividers is the perfect choice for photography enthusiasts.
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  • Transports DSLR plus as many as 6 lenses at once
  • Good for carrying laptops and other devices
  • Customizable padding
  • Weather-resistant exterior
  • The interior padding is not very thick
  • The bag might be on the smaller side for larger equipment needs

For photography enthusiasts, the next best sling backpack on our list is an ideal fit. Featuring padded dividers and a side opening for easy access, it stores a DSLR with as many as 6 lenses at any one time. You can also transport a tripod and shoe mount flash inside too.

We really liked that this Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack also sports a handy, padded slip pocket to carry a laptop for 14 inches or less.

You also have the option to customize the inside as you prefer by taking out the padding, which we feel is a useful bonus feature. If you’re going to be snapping world-class photos in the great outdoors, you’re in luck because this backpack is also weather resistant with a nylon exterior and reinforced stitching.

The straps are padded for extra comfort and easily adjusted. While the interior also features interior padding, the cushioning is not particularly thick, so bear that in mind when packing sensitive devices.
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Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger

Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger on white background
Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger
An 15-liter sling backpack with multiple storage compartments
The Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger Sling Backpack is well suited to outdoor expeditions, and hiking trips.
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  • Many storage compartments, including hydration and ventilation pockets
  • Excellent 15-liter capacity
  • Nylon exterior with water-resistant material
  • Not ambidextrous so could cause strain to individuals with sensitive or injured shoulders
  • The second strap doesn’t hold up the primary strap

The final best sling backpack pick on our list is well suited to outdoor expeditions, survival adventures, and hiking trips. With extensive webbing and multiple storage compartments, we feel this could be a strong contender for outdoor enthusiasts. The exterior is not only stylish but highly durable, while the bag is still lightweight and easy to carry.

We really like that the 3-pound Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger is ergonomically designed to distribute the weight of its contents in order to avoid strain, making it a good option for frequent hikers. You’ll also enjoy plenty of storage space with a concealed weapon carrying pouch, double coated, hydration, and ventilation pockets. Plus, the bag features a 15-liter capacity and can even carry a 14.1-inch laptop.

The bag is manufactured with strong nylon polymers to help retain its shape and appearance, with water-resistant material both inside and out to avoid rain damage and a Teflon protector. The only primary area where this bag falls short is that it isn’t ambidextrous, so you won’t be able to switch shoulders.
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Final Thoughts

While all the products on our list of the best sling backpacks meet an array of user needs, after careful deliberation, we feel the clear champion of the pack is the Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger. While you won’t be able to switch the bag from one shoulder to the next as you would with products like the Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover Sling Pack, it ticks all the other key wishlist boxes.

The Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger is great for outdoor enthusiasts who need a durable, waterproof sling bag to store everything from a change of clothes and food to books and electronics. It is one of the largest sling backpacks on our list in terms of capacity, which means you’ll get more storage space for your investment.

Plus, its lightweight design won’t have you grimacing in discomfort after a few hours of trekking. For its organization options, ergonomic functionality, and flexible usage, the Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger is a definite winner in our book.

Julien Heron
I’m passionate about all things outdoors, bridging the gap between generations and sharing my passion for hiking and camping. My goal is to spread the endless benefits of being outside, always striving for better performance, new challenges, and ways to explore responsibly.
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