It can happen to even the most seasoned traveler. You arrive at your gate, scan your passport, and the TSA agent asks you to measure what you thought was a small personal bag.
You now have to pack it away in your carry-on. Suddenly, you become that person on a plane rummaging through their bag in the overhead compartment to find their things.
Small sling bags allow you to keep all your smaller items close at hand in busy airports or train stations. The new breed of sling bag combines minimalism with function, looking stylish for town or the office but durable enough for daylong use on the trail and light enough for travel. The on the go person needs no fuss gear that pulls overtime during work and play.
And with anti-theft technology always improving, today’s sling bag should be ready to protect your cards, passport, and gear whether you’re simply commuting to work or exploring a foreign city.
Highest-Rated Sling Bags For Travel Comparison / Review
- Poctek Anti-Theft
- NIID-FINO Classic – Shoulder Bag
- Oscaurt Anti-Theft
- Keep Pursuing Everyday Adventure Bag
- NeatPack Canvas
- Waterfly Chest Sling
- Kaukko Vintage Canvas Shoulder Bag
Must-Have Features Travelers Look For:
The essential feature for all savvy travelers. Your next sling bag should be small enough to fit under seats, inside larger bags, and not bump against other people on crowded streets. Bonus points if it can fold into its own pocket for easy stowing.
Ultralightweight is also extremely important. A small pack shouldn’t cause your shoulders to ache after just an hour, especially if you’re hiking or sightseeing all day long.
Another must-have for a good sling bag is durability, particularly for a daily use bag. The weather-resistant material keeps your gear protected in those unpredictable traveling conditions. As most travelers aren’t without their phones, and most smartphones don’t like water, it is important for these essential items to be bone dry.
If you think about a lot of bags you’ve owned in the past, what were the first things to break? Tightly woven seams and reinforced zippers are also crucial for making sure your bag is durable enough to withstand daily wear and tear or any tougher adventures you put it through.
While a small, portable bag is a huge perk, it often comes with the downside of tiny pockets that are difficult to reach into. Tiny bags are also difficult to get a hold of when you’re looking to quickly rummage around in it for your wallet or passport.
Popular sling bags feature innovative designs that allow them to easily swing from back to front. These newer designs also have zippers facing upwards for quicker access to your small items. Some of the more quality slings also feature pouches on the shoulder strap so that phones are within reach to send a quick text or to keep an eye on in busy places.
In today’s world, safety is everything when on the go. Hidden pockets are the traveler’s best friend, as they not only keep your cash, credit cards, and identification cards safely in one place but also give you peace of mind on your adventures as well.
New anti-theft technology in sling bags also affects the design of the bag. Some of the highest-rated slings are designed with pesky pickpockets in mind. Zippers pointing towards the body or a design that allows you to wear your bag across your chest are just some of the ideal security features.
Safety does not only mean anti-theft, however. For many travelers or busy commuters, internal pouches with elastic trapper bands are essential for keeping items in place, preventing more expensive items like tablets or smartphones from crashing against one another while on the go.
Versatility is the name of the game for any small sling bag. What most people look for is a bag that is sleek and stylish enough for wearing around town but capable of enduring travel and outdoor activities.
One simple but important feature is the ability to hold laptops or tablets. With so many people biking or walking to work but not wanting the extra load, a quality sling bag stays slim while still keeping your tech gear in place.
Secure, adjustable shoulder straps that fit any body type is also a must-have to keep any wearer comfortable on whatever adventure they find themselves on.
Extra features make any bag all the more attractive as your next piece of travel gear. Many of the most popular sling bags also feature unique extras that fit any kind of need while still keeping the overall design minimalist and sleek.
Clips for keys, sunglasses, or reflective lights are ideal for the bicycle commuter. Water bottle pouches are a must-have for the hiking enthusiast or day tripper. If your sling has a shoulder pouch for your cell phone, a headphone cord port is perfect for keeping it hands-free when listening to your favorite music on the go.
More modern crossbody bags may also be capable of charging electronics, streamlining the battery backpack into a more portable and sleek design. This bag is perfect for the busy traveler who doesn’t want to fuss with extra battery packs or finding an outlet on their next visit to the airport.
With all this in mind, take a look at the reviews for the seven highest-rated and coolest smaller bags for travel.
Poctek Anti-Theft Sling Bag & Water Resistant
Minimalist on the outside, the Poctek bag comes with hidden security features to keep all items completely safe no matter the conditions. The water-resistant material ensures this tablet-friendly sling stays dry. Also, hidden chains on the zippers effectively ward off thieves when the sling is on your back and out of your sight.
With seven inner pouches, all your smaller items can be neatly tucked away. Two outer pouches keep credit cards, cash, and phones within easy reach. Another unique feature is a removable PVC panel that adds structure to the bag to prevent a tablet from getting damaged when thrown on the ground or in a locker.
A reflective strip on the front of the pack also keeps the wearer safe in the dark. Not only practical, the padded cotton strap makes this a comfortable option for the busy commuter.
With 100% five star reviews on Amazon, this bad boy is one of the most popular options available for anyone looking for a compact yet stylish and durable bag that can go from the coffee shop or the office to the plane for whatever journey awaits.
NIID-FINO Cross Body Sling Shoulder Bag
This minimalist bad boy stays thin and light even when completely packed, making it a popular small bag. Its small size can only hold technology up to a miniature tablet but is spacious enough to fit all your everyday items in its three zip compartments. Plus, a top pouch easily holds a phone for easy access, and the magnetic button closure keeps the phone in place while on the move.
One downside to this sling is that the strap cannot be worn on either shoulder. Make sure to be confident about which side you will wear it on before you buy, as at checkout you choose a “left side” or a “right side” option.
Unlike the other slings on this list, the NIID-FINO is not designed to strap across the back. Instead, it tucks under the shoulder or slings across the chest, deterring thieves the old-fashioned way: by keeping everything as close to the body as possible.
Oscaurt Anti-Theft Sling Bag
Coming in as one of the most affordable options, the Oscaurt pack also boasts one of the coolest innovations. The main appeal of this pack is its well-planned anti-theft technology. The zippers align with the wearer’s back and point towards the body, making any touch immediately noticeable and ideal for thwarting pick-pockets on crowded city streets.
The pack can be opened 90% of the way, meaning no more having to cram your hands into small pockets. Multi-layer pockets within the main compartment keep all your little items neat, organized, and easily within reach. An inside pocket designed with iPhones and iPads in mind can also be found in the main compartment, made of velvet to prevent scratching those expensive touchscreens.
Made of water-repellant material, this one is durable and practical for rougher travel conditions or just commuting by bicycle. The coolest feature is a USB charging port to quickly charge all your devices with minimal hassle.
Sleek, sturdy, and safe, this bag is perfect for the minimalist-minded traveler who doesn’t want to be weighed down by extra batteries or worries about pickpocketing.
Keep Pursuing Everyday Adventure Bag
This sling is small enough for the busy body looking for a small pack to grab as he or she heads out the door. Waterproof nylon and a PU leather reinforced bottom ensures this sling can withstand anything daily use can throw at it. Not only practical, the hidden zippers create a sleek, stylish design.
Not only does the cushioned strap maximize comfort, a second strap that clips around the waist means this pack stays in place during any activity. Internal mesh pockets with extra straps also keep small items from shifting around while on the go. The sling is also specifically designed to swing easily to the wearer’s front, making access to the main compartment a breeze.
One complaint about this pack is that it cannot hold any tech gear larger than a small tablet, so it may not be ideal for commuting to the office or keeping a laptop safely within reach while on the plane. Though it is one of the pricer items on the list, its practical yet cool design may be worth the investment for the city-dweller looking for a small day-to-day bag.
This practical and sleek sling is big on safety and is a top-seller on Amazon. This pack is equipped with an inner RFID anti-theft pouch to protect credit cards and keys. Plus, a reflective strip on the front of the pack is perfect for those early morning cycling commutes.
A spacious phone pouch on the front strap easily fits the ever-increasing size of today’s smartphones and includes a port for headphone cords. Made of water-resistant canvas, the sling is durable but still light enough for daylong wear.
The strap is padded for increased comfort, and the clip and hook feature allows the pack to be worn on either shoulder and adjust to fit many different body types, including children.
Waterfly Chest Sling
At only 7.2 ounces and able to fold down to the size of a small tablet, this sling is the ideal daypack to have on hand for longer trips as it can easily be tossed into a larger bag when packing. Made of rain and snow-proof nylon, the Waterfly is durable enough to withstand hikes, skiing, or mountain biking.
Despite its small size, looks can be deceiving. An awesome feature is the nine pouches that separate and organize smaller items. The main pocket has a capacity of ten liters and can hold a standard tablet, meaning this bag could be your next go-to for carrying onto an airplane. The shoulder strap also features a separate cell phone pouch equipped to hold any 2018 smartphone.
The multiple color options and small size make this a versatile for any wearer and any occasion.
Kaukko Vintage Canvas Shoulder Bag
This popular canvas and leather option is for the man or woman who is big on vintage style but still looking for a practical travel bag. The front buckles are not just for aesthetics; the bottom buckles are magnetic for hassle-free access to the internal pockets, while the top buckles lash everything down tight for added security.
The most talked about feature of this sling bag are the pockets, at times more than some people knew what to do with. Plus, unlike the other slings on this list, this one features two mesh pouches for water bottles as opposed to just one, complete with elastic trapper bands to keep bottles from flying out when hiking or cycling.
A small, hidden zip pocket for cash, passports, or identification cards is tucked within the main internal pocket. One downside to this stylish sling is that the outer button pouch is not large enough to fit a phone. One reviewer suggested using it for snacks, while the true adventurer could use this pouch for a flashlight or pocketknife.
That said, the Kaukko bag combines the look of old-school travel gear with modern durability, making it a great option for anyone who wants to look sharp while still relying on their bag to withstand whatever adventure awaits it.