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It’s been my hiking M.V.P for 7 years — and it’s better than any backpack.
It’s 2019 and I’m crossing the cracked, Mars-like terrain of Bolivia in a Jeep en route to Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. My knees are scrunched up in the backseat, and it’s filled with other Intrepid travelers with all their adventure gear — so space is tight. At this moment, I’m so glad I didn’t pack my huge hiking backpack.
I’ve had this feeling many times over the years I’ve been a travel editor, especially on active excursions and day hikes, so I’ve learned to always pack light with my Patagonia Atom Sling Bag. It’s that perfect “Goldilocks” in-between-size hiking bag that’s not quite as bulky as a traditional backpack and not nearly as small as a belt bag. I’ve packed it for every day hike and active trip I’ve been on to four continents over the past seven years I’ve owned it, and it’s still going strong.
To buy: amazon.com, $95
At 13.5 inches by 9 inches by 3 inches, the Patagonia Atom Sling Bag is just big enough to hold everything I need for the day: keys, phone, snack, wallet, and water bottle (on the outside attached to a clip), but not bulky enough that I can’t carry it all day long. This compact size came in handy in Bolivia, yet I still had room to stuff in extras like toilet paper, travel soap, and toothpaste — a must since there’s none at most public restrooms and campsites — and it was durable enough to withstand the harsh and dusty landscape, too. Plus, the interior pocket ensured that my wallet was tucked away safely.
The Patagonia Atom Sling Bag’s sleek size and durability are exactly why I first bought the bag in 2016. I was gearing up for a summer trip to Norway with Hurtigruten, and the itinerary was filled with active adventures. Specifically, I needed a bag that would be practical and small enough to take with me while kayaking, hiking, and zooming between the fjords of the Lofoten Islands in a small RIB (aka a rigid inflatable boat). Trust me, when you’re in a high-speed boat with wind and water whipping at you, a big old backpack just won’t do. I actually fit the Patagonia Atom Sling Bag underneath my waterproof jacket to keep my belongings close — but it’s water-repellent, so I knew my belongings were doubly protected.
This bag is so trusted, it’s also been on every single one of my day hikes, too. I’ve taken it to some of the loveliest hikes in the Boston area, attaching a water bottle or my dog’s bowl to the exterior clip and sliding my cell phone into the front zip pocket for easy access. On summer days when it warms up, I shed my outer layer and slide it into the front strap so I can keep my hands free.
To buy: amazon.com, $95
And when I was hiking up the steep trails of Mount Rainier National Park, I was glad I packed this lightweight, 12-ounce bag instead of weighing myself down with more traditional hiking gear. It was on this trip I really fell in love with the padded crossbody shoulder strap that distributed the weight of the gear evenly and kept my back and shoulder comfy but still allowed me to swing my belongings to my front for access.
Everyone in my life seems to be taking note. My fiancé actually kept borrowing it so much that he bought one for himself, too. We now have two identical black bags, since mine is still in great shape and I’ll never give it up! But it also comes in navy at Amazon and seven colors at REI, including yellow, gray, and a vibrant multi-color blue and tan. Oh, and did I mention that all the fabrics are 100 percent recycled and Fair Trade Certified sewn?
To buy: amazon.com, $105
It’s worth noting that this bag is great for more than just hiking too. I’ve taken it on the New York City subway and swung it around to my front to keep an eye on my stuff — and just generally not be that person who has their backpack facing out (thus taking up double the space on crowded public transportation). And one shopper over at Amazon used it at Disney World and said, “It was the perfect size and so convenient and easy to use,” continuing to say they, “will use [it] again and again to get my money’s worth.”
Every once in a while, a product comes around that changes your travel game. Mine is the Patagonia Atom Sling Bag. It’s my go-to daypack for short hikes and adventures of all kinds, and it’s just big enough to fit all of my travel essentials in its compact crossbody style and lightweight enough to carry all day long. Trust me, this is one you’re going to want to pack for all your summer hikes, too.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, I’ve got you covered. Read on for similar styles in about the same size and shape available at Amazon, and achieve the same look starting at just $16.
More Amazon Hiking Sling Bags for Less:
Maleden Sling Bag
To buy: amazon.com, $16 (originally $19)
Waterfly Crossbody Sling Bag
To buy: amazon.com, $23 (originally $34)
Osprey Daylite Shoulder Sling Pack
To buy: amazon.com, $45
At the time of publishing, the price started at $95.
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