ALPAKA Alpha Sling Review
The ALPAKA Alpha Sling is a sleek, modern sling bag with solid organization and durable materials. Although the craftsmanship is not what we expected.
- Sleek, modern aesthetic
- Expandable main compartment
- Great size if your daily carry involves a tablet
- Craftsmanship is a bit sloppy
- Too large if you only need to carry around the essentials
- SIM card ejector pin feels gimmicky
If you’re looking for a sling large enough to hold more than the bare-minimum essentials, you’ll love to meet the ALPAKA Alpha Sling. With a capacity of 6L—and an option to expand it to 8L—this thing will hold a tablet, Nintendo Switch, and more. Yet, it still has a slim profile.
We’ve been testing the Alpha Sling for two weeks in Essex, England. So let’s jump straight into the review, shall we?
Materials & Aesthetic
We’re digging the overall aesthetic of the ALPAKA Alpha Sling, which has a modern, sleek vibe without being too technical—we think most people could pull off this sling. That said, it’s larger than your average sling, so it’s noticeably big on most bodies. This isn’t really a bad thing, just something to note.
At the time of this review, you can pick it up in black or gray. While that’s probably not great news if you like bright colorways, we think both options look sophisticated and classy (but we’re usually partial to darker colorways).
The color you choose dictates the exterior fabric. The black colorway is made from 1000D Ballistic Nylon and the gray colorway is made from 750D Nylon. We’ve been testing the latter, which ALPAKA advertises as “FauxWool.” We suppose that the gray fabric sort of looks wool, but it definitely feels like nylon (so keep that in mind).
The interior is lined with 210D Ripstop Nylon, which is a solid choice. Ripstop—as you may guess from the name—stops any rips from spreading (at least, in theory). The zippers are all from YKK, which is one of the most (if not the most) reliable zipper companies out there in our experience. You’ll also find Duraflex and Fidlock hardware (we’ll discuss the Fidlock buckle in the next section of this review, so hold tight).
Overall, all of the materials are solid. They’re also quite weather-resistant, so you don’t have to panic if you get caught in inclement weather.
So let’s start with that aforementioned Fidlock Buckle, shall we? If you haven’t heard of Fidlock buckles before then get ready. As Fidlock advertises, these buckles are both fun and functional (two words we love). Essentially, a Fidlock buckle uses magnets to lock the buckle into place (as opposed to those traditional clips). It takes a moment to get used to, but once you have the hang of it you can quickly work the buckle with one hand. It’s both handy and nearly as great as the fidget spinner for fidgeting.
In this case, the Fidlock buckle secures the front flap of the Alpha Sling. You can tighten or loosen the buckle, depending on how much you fill-up the main compartment (we’ll talk about the sling’s expandability more in a moment).
The buckle on the strap is your standard, plastic buckle. It sits off-center, which makes this sling great as a dual-carry option. By that we mean, you can wear this sling on your front with a backpack on your back and the buckle won’t dig into you. Plus, you can easily access the buckle and detach it without taking off your backpack first.
The strap itself doesn’t have anything fancy going on. It’s a soft, wide, seat belt style of strap without any extra padding or mesh—which has worked just fine so far for this sling’s size and weight. The sling also has a removable chest strap which secures the sling tighter to your back (like on a bike messenger bag) if you like to be locked in (full transparency, we didn’t use this chest strap much).
The way the strap is anchored to the bag means that this sling is just that—a sling. It can be comfortably worn tight across your chest or back or a little bit looser if that’s your thing. But it can’t be worn as a waist pack (slung around your hips).
Much like the shoulder strap, the back panel is nothing to wax poetic about. But it’s soft and wears comfortably.
The last external feature worth mentioning is the SIM card holder and removal pin, which is tucked into the back compartment’s zipper pull. We’re not so hot about this feature. Sure, it may come in handy on occasion, but it just feels gimmicky, you know?
Inside the Sling
When you pop open the Fidlock buckle and lift up the flap, you’ll be greeted with three pockets. The first pocket has two elastic pen sleeves inside of it—so you’ll never be stuck with a beautiful line of poetry in your head without a way to write it down. Since there’s nothing else inside of this pocket, it’s a great place for thin, flat items. Say a small notebook, boarding pass, etc.
Above that is a zippered pocket. Inside, there’s a key tether that’s one of the better key clips we’ve tested. It detaches, so you can easily pop your keys on and off without having to go through the whole unclipping process. This pocket is great to organize your random bits and bobs—chargers, earbuds, etc.
The third pocket is the main compartment. This is the expandable one, allowing you to increase the overall capacity by two liters. We’re digging this expandability as the sling has a slim profile when it’s not expanded, which makes it wear better. But for those instances when you need a little more room—say you want to carry a packable jacket or water bottle—you’ll be good to go.
Inside, there’s a spacious tablet sleeve that’ll fit an 11’’ tablet. It’s lined with a soft felt, which we like, but closes with velcro, which we don’t like. We’ll admit we’re being nit-picky here. The velcro is high-quality, but we simply don’t like velcro inside slings.
The rest of the main compartment is empty to do with what you will.
There is a fourth compartment on the back of the sling, which has a YKK AquaGuard Zipper that repels water. We like that it has this water-resistant zipper as it’s not protected by the front flap like the other pockets are. Inside, there’s an additional key tether. We’re not exactly sure why the folks at ALPAKA opted to include two key tethers—we don’t think it’s common for people to carry two sets of keys. That said, it does allow you to choose where you want to put your keys, which is nice.
Because this pocket is on the back of the sling and thus will always be against your body, it’s the perfect spot for stuff you want to keep secure, like a passport, wallet, or other things of that nature.
Overall, we’re digging the Alpha’s interior organization. There are enough pockets you can easily compartmentalize your stuff, but it’s not overkill. The 6L to 8L capacity is probably too large if you’re only looking for a sling to hold the everyday essentials. But if your daily carry involves larger items then you’ll love all this space the Alpha offers.
And if you’ve slowly fallen for the Alpha Sling throughout the course of this review, but wish it was a tad larger so you could carry your 13’’ laptop—then it’s your lucky day! ALPAKA offers an XL size of the Alpha Sling that expands to have a 10L capacity with a spot for a 13’’ laptop.
Durability & Testing
We’ve been testing the ALPAKA Alpha Sling for two weeks as a daily driver. For the most part, we’ve enjoyed testing this sling. It has a stylish aesthetic, comfortable carry, and simple, effective organization. But it’s a little too large for our setup. Obviously, though, this comes down to personal preference.
As far as durability is concerned, everything is holding up nicely. That said, the craftsmanship doesn’t look too great. There are numerous areas where the stitching is sloppy. To be frank, this is quite disappointing, particularly when you consider the more premium price point. We don’t believe this sling will fall apart on you anytime soon—because the materials are top-notch—but that craftsmanship doesn’t make us overly confident.
- Perfect size for carrying a tablet
- SIM card ejector pin concealed in zipper pull
- Packs flat
- It’s quite large if you’re just carrying around your everyday essentials, but the size is great if you pack a tablet or Nintendo Switch
- The expandability is useful and the front buckle works seamlessly
- Noticing a few areas on the stitching where the craftsmanship is a tad sloppy