We’re in a connected world with a continual focus on features of our electronics, but what about carrying and protecting them? We’ve previously looked at a number of larger options for daily carry, but for users who just want a grab and go bag, there are some great options on the market.
A manufacturer that recently came to our attention is Alpaka Gear with a great array of bags in various sizes to offer. They were kind enough to send us their Alpha Sling XL for a bit of a look and it’s made its way into my daily use rotation for very good reason.
What is the Sling XL?
It’s a really compact and useful messenger style back, but with a bit of a difference. The difference is you really need to think carefully about what to pack because it’s not intended to be a “work” bag, it’s a grab and go bag.
When I’m out and about on the weekend this is perfect because there’s room for a small notebook (pen and paper), my Macbook, tablet, mobile battery and by that stage, it’s getting pretty full and that’s not because it’s badly designed, but by design. The bag measures a fairly small 36cm x 32cm H x 3cm empty.
The Alpha Sling XL has an internal capacity between 7 and 10 litres which isn’t massive. It is enough space though, to cover you for a lot of daily activities. The main pocket is designed for a 13” Macbook Pro in a separated area which fits perfectly, snug and held in place by a nice thick strap.
On the front face of the pack when the flap is open you’re presented with a slip pocket that has pen loops and enough space for a small mobile battery. Behind that, a zip secured pocket which has a lanyard with a detachable keychain attached, a lovely little touch and I’ve been using that to store my work and SES ID when I’m between sites.
On the back of the bag is another zip secured pocket that has another detachable keychain and is of sufficient size to store my mobile battery, a few cables and still have a bit of room if I really wanted to cram more in there.
There are a few more nice little touches that are worth looking at as well. The materials that it’s made from look great but feel sturdy enough to last the rigours of daily life. Internally there’s a slick — so your devices won’t get any odd wear marks — nylon material and on the outside, a water-resistant Faux Wool (nylon) material that looks like something that belongs in the workplace or casual environments.
If this were a full-size messenger bag, I think I’d have a couple more negative things to say around cable management and needing more pockets. For a bag this size, I feel like the design team has nailed it. Something else they have absolutely nailed is the fastener for the bags top flap. The magnetic buckle requires you to have a reasonable grasp on it to slide the two sides in opposite directions but fastens instantly by simply lining them up.
If you’ve ever carried a messenger bag for long periods of time, you’ll find the straps can make or break it. Not literally, but the experience of a great bag with terrible straps is, well… terrible!
Because the Alpha Sling XL is focussed on being a smaller and convenient bag you’re going to be carrying less weight. So it makes sense that the straps will be narrower as there is less weight to spread. I found these to be just about right, although if I were commuting with it I’d perhaps like a touch more padding for longer time carrying the bag. I did like the design of having a sturdy clip on the strap, it meant that when carrying under a jacket, I could take the bag off without exposing myself to the weather.
Is it good for daily use?
For my day job, this bag was never going to do the job because I’m always on the move and carry a lot of “just in case” gear. But for the weekend, this is a game changer and I’ve quickly fallen in love with it. The light carry capacity means I don’t carry a heap of gear that I don’t need and think about what to carry a lot more… it’s saving my aging back!
Most of the time I’m now only carrying my laptop and tablet, if I’m going to be out for a while I’ll drop my battery and a couple of cables in. If I need to be out during a meal, I’ll pack that separately and save weight generally. There’s not a lot of spare room but as I’ve mentioned already, it’s almost an oversized bum bag for daily carry gear versus a work bag.
Is it worth buying?
I’m not sure if I could honestly recommend this for anyone as a work bag if you’re transporting anything other than a laptop and perhaps a small notebook. There just isn’t any spare space for larger items as you’d have in a full-sized messenger bag or backpack. As a complimentary item just for social gatherings or short outings, it’s a winner but most users are likely to be happy carrying their normal bag.
The design of the Alpha Sling XL means it’s ideal for people on the go that need to carry their electronics, with very little else. The pockets are well designed and laid out to maximise the available space while keeping the holistic package small and manageable.
Carrying this is a joy because it is so lightweight, the strap is nicely padded and highly adjustable. If you’re going to carry this under a coat or jacket, you’re not going to strike any major issues as it’s so slim and you can remove it without needing to take your jacket off.
Purchasing one online isn’t going to break the bank at $142.00, a price I felt was pretty reasonable given the quality of the design and materials. If you compare this to some other options around for small capacity messenger bags, you can spend significantly more and not get as much for your money. Alpaka Gear has walked a fine line here with the Alpha Sling XL offering form, function and quality for a really reasonable price.
What features do you look for from a carry bag for your electronics gear?
Alpaka Gear have not requested the return of the bag following review