Bellroy Venture Sling 9L Review
The Bellroy Venture Sling 9L self-compresses for comfortable carry despite its large capacity. The main zipper can leave a small gap on the sides, though.
- Spacious main compartment for bulky items
- Clever self-compression improves carrying comfort
- Can carry two water bottles
- Zippers don’t fully seal at the edges
- Reverse opening zippers takes some getting used to
- Strap length lacks adjustability
14.1 oz (399.7 g)
12.6 in x 7.09 in x 4.72 in (32 x 18 x 12 cm)
Recycled Nylon, Recycled Polyester, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
When you go on an adventure, you take everything you need with you—nothing stops the fun more than an unnecessary stop at a convenience store, after all. While we are huge fans of making the most out of every square inch of space in our bag (hence why a packing list is our best friend), there are just adventures that need more space, more pockets, and more comfort.
Bellroy’s Venture Sling 9L seems to check all of those. Visually, it reminds us a lot of Bellroy’s smaller slings like the Sling and Sling Mini—no surprises since they all share the company’s design language. However, the similarities end there as the Venture separates itself with more main compartment pockets, a better key clip, and more space, all the while carrying just as comfortably, if not more. This one’s for the sling-style fan, so let’s take a look if it seals the deal.
Materials & Aesthetic
If you’ve been following Bellroy’s slings for some time now, you might recognize that the Venture doesn’t visually stray very far. Bellroy has always had their styling nailed down, yet they manage to not make them feel too cookie-cutter either. They have just enough flair that they’re not boring to look at even on a gloomy and drizzly day.
One noticeably missing feature from the Venture is Bellroy’s signature leather tab that bears their logo. Most of their bags have one, ranging from the large Flight Bag all the way down to the smaller City Pouch and Tech Kit. In lieu of this, the Venture has a rubberized logo at the center. The gray is not super noticeable against the fabric of the Ranger Green colorway we have here. That’s down to you if you dig the new approach, but we kinda miss the leather tab in a way.
The good news is that those trying to avoid leather will be pleased to know that this isn’t limited to Ranger Green. At the time of writing, there’s also Bronze, Midnight, and Basalt, the latter most features HeiQ V-Block antimicrobial technology—and all of these are leather-free. Additionally, they’re made from 100% recycled woven fabric, so they’re kind to Mother Nature to boot. Oh, and it’s not super noticeable from the pictures, but the front fabric does have a rougher look and feel versus the rest of the shell. It’s most apparent on the Bronze colorway if you’re into that slightly different shaded look.
The fabric strikes a good balance between softness and structure, which adds carrying comfort. The YKK AquaGuard zippers are tried and true when it comes to great weather resistance, but arguably more noteworthy are the pulls. These are knotted paracords with heat shrink material at the end. Now, that sounds like a step-down from the usual leather pulls Bellroy uses, but we genuinely enjoyed these beefier ones. They’re just more tactical-feeling, more grabbable, and we’re all about that, even at the cost of aesthetic appeal.
We’ve seen Bellroy employ magnetic clasps on some of their slings, like the Sling and Sling Mini we mentioned before. On the other hand, the Venture brings more metal to the table, as you’ll see in the next section.
No matter which way you slice it, the Venture is one unit of a bag in the world of slings. With a rated capacity of 9 liters, it’s closer to something like the Chrome Industries Kadet, though it’s noticeably less bulky. To achieve this, the Venture has a self-compressing system, the same kind Bellroy uses in their Sling Mini. As demonstrated below, wearing the Venture puts enough tension on the strap to tighten down the gussets at the sides.
This is a simple yet clever way to integrate compression straps, resulting in an overall cleaner look. However, the trade-off here is that, unlike typical compression straps with buckles, the compression doesn’t stay in place once the strap is no longer under tension. So, for example, once we’re sitting and have the Venture rested on a table, the sling can loosen up a bit.
Additionally, the resulting flatness and the strap being anchored at an angle make the Venture sit comfortably, at least on larger frames. The wide strap not only looks professional with its heritage styling, but its width accounts for the large size. As a daily driver, the Venture’s sling-style carry doesn’t feel mismatched with its relatively large capacity—and it can carry a lot, as we’ll show later on.
The Venture’s strap comes with a pair of metal buckles instead of a typical side-release buckle or a fancy magnetic clasp as a means of quick release. Okay, the female half is metal, whereas the male side is made out of plastic. Regardless, the buckles feel sturdy, but more to the point, they’re very low-profile.
Unlike bulky side-release buckles, we barely notice them at all; they don’t press, snag, or bulge out. On the flip side, they do work similarly to side-release buckles. Pressing the sides releases them, and plugging them back together locks them in place. We’re more used to seeing these kinds of quick-release buckles mounted at the center of the strap, but Bellroy has them near the edges. That’s something that could throw you off if you’re more used to center-mounted buckles. It’s not a huge deal for us, though, since we usually wear and take slings off over our heads.
We’re satisfied with how the Venture handles, and we think Bellroy did a good job with the ergonomics. Despite the lack of a fancy back panel with half a dozen air channels, mesh material, or a stabilizer strap, the carrying experience doesn’t feel like a burden. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your build and what you’re carrying—we can’t guarantee a smooth ride if you’re hauling bricks, for example.
In fact, those in our team who have smaller builds struggle to find a perfect fit with the strap. Even with the adjustment tightened all the way to the center, the Venture still feels a little loose. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, and unfortunately, since the strap is stitched in, you can’t replace it outright.
Inside The Sling
Similar to the Sling Mini, the Venture has two compartments: the front and the main compartment. But the genes run deeper than that; the positioning is uncannily similar as well. The front compartment is, well, at the front, while the main compartment’s opening is quite far back towards the rear.
The front compartment is obscured by fabric protruding like a pouting lower lip—it’s nothing to be upset about, though, since it’s better for security. This lip also has some underlying stiff material which helps the Venture maintain its front structure. There are bags whose pockets collapse or lose shape once you open them in weird positions. But thanks to the stiff material here, accessibility of the front compartment remains easy even in a crowded bus, for example.
As mentioned earlier, the compartments are guarded by YKK AquaGuard zippers, so the Venture can withstand some light splashes. Inside the front compartment, there are two stretchy mesh pockets: one wide enough for a passport and one that fits a compact wallet. Accessibility is good, save for a small hiccup where the zipper can get in the way of the mesh pocket. There’s some tricky maneuvering required to get our compact wallet in there, but it does fit. That said, there’s also a fair amount of room just in front of the mesh pockets for quick-grab items that are too bulky—Bellroy’s stretch mesh pockets are great, but they can’t handle everything.
Something worth noting here is that Bellroy ditches the thin ribbon they typically use and opts for a paracord. Realistically, it’s a bit overkill, but it’s more premium-feeling and in tune with Bellroy’s theme. The length is decent (we’ve definitely seen shorter ones), though we still remove our keys before unlocking doors. Although the paracord is a clear upgrade over the ribbon-style leash, the clip itself is still plastic, and it does a good enough job holding onto our keys.
For the main compartment, Bellroy’s continuing on their less conventional approach. Even though the opening is located far back, like on the Sling Mini, accessibility doesn’t really suffer as much, thanks to the gussets at the sides. One thing to watch out for, though, is that the zippers are reversed. Instead of twin zippers leaving the opening in the middle, each zipper has its own respective openings on its sides.
One use case for the reversed opening is the stretchy pockets on each side of the main compartment can be used for bottles. Most bottles will stick out when you put them inside either of these pockets, and these reverse zippers allow them to do so. We can comfortably leave our 18-ounce YETI Rambler inside with minimal fear of it falling out, but taller bottles pose a bigger risk. With a bottle fitted, we exercise a bit of caution when switching the sling from front to back and vice versa. All in all, not the most secure way to carry a bottle, but it’s an option if you’d like.
Despite the weather-resistant zippers, the sides aren’t completely sealed. In fact, we’re able to fish out small items from one of the inner liner pockets by poking through from the side. The bad news is that this means small items like our USB dongles, adapters, and memory cards have to reside in zippered pockets or separate pouches. The good news is that the main compartment has two zippered pockets: a front-side mesh pocket and a rear-side sunglasses pocket.
The zippered mesh at the front side acts as an upper tray, a great place for small items you can just throw in and take out quickly. For us, that would be our tech accessories since we’re using those more than anything else these days while working remotely. That just leaves the rear pocket for our sunglasses or anything we want a bit more secure by having it near the back, like a passport or tickets.
It’s worth noting that the sunglasses pocket and the front pocket both share the same soft liner fabric that protects against scratches. However, the color does vary depending on which colorway you choose. Our Ranger Green, for example, gets orange liner for these pockets. Fortunately, none of the colorways we mentioned earlier get hard-to-navigate pitch-black liner fabric.
In front of the sunglasses pocket are two pen silos and one wide liner pocket, which is, unfortunately, just a bit too narrow for a passport. Note that tall items in these pockets can get in the way of the sunglasses pocket, so keep that in mind. Otherwise, all three provide a good mix of organization, making the Venture a pretty well-rounded sling.
Apart from the organization, the Venture is packing a ton of space inside. We threw one of our jackets inside with minimal fuss—the gusseted main compartment is more than happy to oblige. There’s not a ton of padding for this to be an outright replacement for a camera cube or camera sling, but the space is decent enough for a modest mirrorless camera and a lens. If a laptop isn’t part of your daily carries, the Venture is a viable one-bag option for daily use.
We enjoyed our time with the Venture Sling 9L. While the large size would have one assume that it can’t be more comfortable to wear than smaller slings, this one sets a good example for comfort. It’s not perfect, though, and we think the reverse-opening zippers and bottle holders will take some getting used to. Still, it is a big sling that can fit an entire bottle sideways if needed or even a not-so-compressible jacket. So for fans of the sling-style carry that need the capacity, this is a comfortable option worth looking into.
- Easily compresses using the main strap
- Fairly large capacity fits a Nintendo Switch
- Main compartment’s opening sits close to the user
- Great sling if your use case calls for it
- Double zipper slider is nice to keep the sling slightly open for a tall water bottle in testing
- Comfortable to wear
- Metal Duraflex buckles are durable & low profile
- Improved key clip from previous Bellroy iterations