Finding a good backpack for day treks can be an arduous task. To balance comfort, with enough space for necessities and durability to last the most testing of hikes is the ultimate goal.
Sling bags, with their singular strap across your chest and around, definitely offer a comfort factor as standard, with the singular strap using the strength of your core more than your shoulders and back. The other two factors come down to the individual bag.
In this review article, we analyse the values that make up a good sling backpack, and relate those values to five of the best sling backpacks currently on the market.
**Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
Okay, so it’s important to outline which precise features make up a good sling backpack and run a thorough background check before you purchase a bag you’ll regret:
What kind of material the bag you buy is made from is up there with being one of the more important values – is the backpack made from strong materials itself, canvas and heavy cottons are good for strength, but offer little in the way of waterproofing.
Water-resistant materials will give you more confidence if you’re planning to hike in terrains where the weather is either unpredictable, or downright guaranteed to rain, especially if you carry any electronics, such as a camera or laptop, or if you perhaps like to do a bit of writing or sketching once you hit particularly picturesque peaks or landscapes.
Materials also matter when it comes down to comfort. If you’ve bought a bag that chafes or scratches you, then you’re likely to be cursing the carrier the majority of the time that you’re walking, particularly towards the end of a trek.
Well-made sling bags will have been through vigorous research and development phases to ensure comfort is as much of a key characteristic as whether or not the strap breaks after 10 minutes of wear.
Vitally important for day hikes is the size of your backpack. Although not ideal for overnight hikes, due to the space that clothing and sleeping equipment take up, and despite not always looking like they’re capable of holding all the essentials for trekking, sling backpack storage capacity may actually surprise you.
Generally, you will be mainly taking necessities with you for a day trip of up to 8 hours, with food and water being the most important, and depending on temperatures and climate, a few layers also being stuffed into your bag.
Although not all sling bags are big enough for such a task, many of them are more than capable of storing these items, with space for a few non-essentials you may also wish to take along with you.
Before settling on a bag, take stock of the general itinerary you’re likely to need to bring along and work out your base capacity to determine which bags are right for you.
Another important consideration is the weight of your sling bag before you fill it with items.
Generally speaking, sling bags tend to be on the lighter side than traditional two-strap backpacks, but that doesn’t mean some can’t be also be on the heavy side.
Obviously, simply looking for the most lightweight bag may mean you’re cutting out on quality materials, so bear that in mind also. But on the whole, a lighter backpack is better for your trek than a heavier backpack.
As well as having a backpack which is large enough for all of your itinerary, it’s also important that some storage space has been considered for quick access.
Items you might need to grab on the move, particularly if you take your hikes seriously and are looking at beating and personal bests, etc., need to be stored within easy reach, in order not to slow you down (water, snacks and waterproof clothing, for example).
You might also be willing to consider compartmented backpacks as more fragile or sensitive items can be separated from the general luggage.
For comfort this is really important, and something you have to consider less with a traditional two-strap bag.
Depending on whether you are left or right handed, you will wish your strap to be on the side which you are strongest, not least because your body will be more used to carrying weight with one half, but also for reaching into your bag whilst it is still on your back.
So, this may not be going where you think it’s going! With speciality equipment like backpacks, particularly for tough tasks such as hiking, do not just go for the cheapest bag you find!
As much as your wallet might hate you for looking at anything but the option that will benefit it most, you are looking for a quality backpack which will last you in the long-run and not just fall to pieces after the first trial.
It’s also important that you do not overpay simply because there’s a shiny brand name on the front of the bag
Here is our pick of five of the best sling backpacks for trekking. We’ll outline their individual features which make them great backpacks for hiking, with a review noting which bag, in our opinion is the pick of the bunch.
Available in two hues of black on black and steel/graphite, this water-resistant sling bag is both lightweight and sturdy with pockets galore
The KAVU comes in 39 colourways to pick from, this strap backpack is certainly one for the fashionistas out there. Handy pockets and an adjustable and interchangeable straps offer advantages for easy access and comfort.
Available in four denim-look colours, the OutdoorMaster sling backpack is big on comfort and utilises its diminutive size with multiple storage options.
For the professional adventurer, the Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger offers everything you could ever need in a sling backpack. Attachment straps, water bottle storage and a large body give the most ardent trekker a wealth of options for carriage. Also made with high-end materials and fibres for extreme durability.
Waterfly’s ultra lightweight, weatherproof sling bag comes with a whopping nine storage compartments, and is by far the cheapest bag on the list.
So, now that the sling backpacks have all been showcased, and whilst all put in a heroic performance and offer multiple vital characteristics, one of them must be chosen as the winner. But which will it be?
Well, we’ve picked the winner based on the best performance for the average user. Someone who likes to hike, who perhaps doesn’t do it enough to need the best options on the market, but does it enough to require a good quality sling bag to last them a few times up and down dales and over glens, etc.
We feel that water-resistance is a very important feature of a hiking backpack, despite other strong characteristics, both the OutdoorMaster and the KAVU Rope were instantly eliminated. This left us with a choice between the Compel, the Waterfly and the Maxpedition.
The Waterfly offered many positives, and that price is really tough to ignore, but following our own advice, we didn’t let the cost dictate our choice, and we just aren’t 100% convinced of its durability in the long-run. its weather resistant features definitely show signs that it is definitely a genuine contender, however.
The problem of weakness can’t be applied to the Maxpedition, which seems as though it could withstand a nuclear holocaust.
So why the Under Armour instead? The Maxpedition is arguably, for all intents and purposes, the best sling backpack on this list. With options galore for storage, huge space, tough and thoroughly water-resistant materials, zips that won’t just fall apart on you after a hike and even straps for customisable additions. This, for the very serious trekker is the absolute holy grail of sling bags.
But, as we mentioned, our choice was based on the leisurely trekker, the not-so-novice, not-so-professional explorer, and we feel that this backpack would be just that bit too big, and a little overzealous for the average Joe or Jane. And with that whopping price tag, it’s also way out of most people’s budget.
So, the Under Armour pips it at the post, with all you’d need of a sling backpack on your treks, from a trusted brand of sports gear, at a price that’s neither too cheap or too expensive. Its water-resistance, space for more than just your bare essentials and pockets and pouches aplenty really just push it that little nose ahead of its opponents.
If you happen to disagree with the choice, or have any suggestions of your own, why not leave a comment below?