If you are anything like me when preparing for a trip, one of the biggest challenges is trying to decide what gear to take with you.
Personally I’ve always been a great fan of day backpacks whether carrying essentials when hiking in the Lake District Fells or pounding city pavements sightseeing. While I wouldn’t carry a handbag on a hike, I wouldn’t carry it on a day out on a city break either! I find the strap eventually gives me shoulder pain and I’m always worried about pickpockets so end up carrying it across my body in front of me. Besides a hand bag usually isn’t big enough for all the extras that I like to carry on a full day out anyway.
However I’ve found that the downside of using a day backpack when visiting cities and especially when I’m backpacking is first and foremost the issue of security. Have you ever found yourself worried about someone getting into your daypack from behind when you are in crowded areas and you’ve ended up carrying it uncomfortably on your front?
Admittedly backpacks are generally well designed so that you can padlock them. However, this then poses another problem which I personally find extremely frustrating. That is having to remove the daypack every time I want something out of it, whether simply to pay for an ice cream or coffee, take a sip of water or get my camera out. It inevitably ends up being a complicated operation, especially if padlocks are involved! Then there is putting everything back in again, sometimes precariously balancing a hot coffee or dripping ice cream, or missing that perfect photo shot because of fiddling about with the pack for too long.
Sometimes you might even end up wearing a Waist Pack as well for the smaller frequently needed items to compensate.
I also found on my recent backpacking trip to Belize that when I was on the move carrying my backpack the only way to carry my day pack was on my front, which I found incredibly uncomfortable and cumbersome.
Taking all of this into consideration when preparing for my Eastern Europe backpacking trip I knew that I wanted all my seriously important belongings to be with me at all times. But I also wanted to keep them in front of me as often as possible where I knew they would be safer. I also wanted to carry the smaller pack in front comfortably when carrying my backpack. So I did a little online research and discovered sling bag packs, which seemed like the ideal solution.
The biggest attraction for me was the ability to wear the sling bag pack on either your back or front. Most, but not all, have a hook on each bottom corner of the bag, which means the strap can be unclipped from one hook and clipped to the other one so you can switch which shoulder you carry it on, in effect giving you an option of four ways to carry it. They generally have a number of zipped pockets of varying sizes so that you can separate your items and some have an external pouch for holding a water bottle
I discovered that there are many brands available with many varying attributes and should be checked out carefully to ensure you choose the right one for you.
After further research I finally settled for theUnigearsling bag pack.
Priced very reasonably it arrived promptly with Amazon’s usual efficiency and was everything that it promised it would be with the following attributes being incredibly useful for my needs:
Reversible strap, which meant I could switch shoulders or carry it on my back or front as I wished and the strap length is also adjustable. This was especially good when I was also carrying my backpack.
The two other main pockets are extremely spacious with additional little compartments inside.
These two pockets also have double zips that meet together to close the pocket, which means you could padlock them together if you wanted to.
A little front zipped pocket was big enough for my Samsung Galaxy 6 and the bag also has an external holder for a water bottle which was extremely useful in high temperatures. There is also a little zipped pocket on the strap which could be useful for coins, lip balm or some other small item and there is a small opening feeding into the largest pocket for headphones.
I also carried a number of other articles such as a light cardigan or Trespass tp75 qikpac for rainy days, sunscreen, adapter, charger etc so the bag was always pretty well laden up!
I carried it everywhere and I mean everywhere! For two and a half months of nonstop travelling and walking it was permanently attached to me and you will see its black strap in almost every “selfie” I took in my Eastern Europe posts!
I always kept everything in specific places so I would know where they were and it was so convenient to be able to just unzip a pocket and get stuff out without having to take the bag off or rummage. Even if I was carrying it on my back I would just swing it around to my front to access it and the external water bottle holder was invaluable. Most importantly any previous concerns of security was never an issue.
I also liked that I got a follow up courtesy email from Unigear via Amazon after I purchased it which meant when I had a small problem with a broken zip I had a direct point of contact. In this case the after sales service was impeccable and once I sent photos showing the broken zip, the bag was replaced promptly without question.
In the meantime the faulty zip, on the hidden pocket, which only had one zip, was overcome by fixing the zip to open in the opposite direction until I was able to get the bag replaced. This was the only issue I had with the bag which is a robust piece of gear and was incredibly useful for my purposes.
The only suggestion I had for Unigear is that while part of the strap is padded for shoulder comfort, it is not adjustable and depending on which way I carried the bag didn’t always sit directly over my shoulder. However I suspect this was more to do with the weight I’d stuffed into the bag rather than bad design, but an adjustable shoulder pad would complete its excellent design.
I haven’t ruled out day backpacks as a useful alternative but the sling bag pack is extremely versitile and as it is so compact and light when empty there is no reason why both can’t be a valuable part of your travelling gear.
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