Chrome Industries Mini Kadet Review
The Chrome Industries Mini Kadet is far from “mini”, but the larger size translates well into internal volume and features inherited from its bigger sibling.
- Robust build quality—as expected from Chrome Industries
- Impressive volume for a “mini” sling
- Well-padded U-lock holster feels comfortable even when occupied
- Sparse internal organization
- Center of gravity feels off
- Could possibly benefit from a stabilizer strap like the regular Kadet has
0.77 lb (0.3 kg)
6.5 in x 13.25 in x 3.13 in (16.5 x 33.7 x 8 cm)
Nylon, Polyester, Stainless Steel, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
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We’ve known Chrome Industries for their well-built gear and purposeful designs that put functionality first. One of the most memorable of these is the Kadet sling bag. Although that stood at 9 liters, it certainly felt way bigger once we had it on our backs. The squared-off practical design made quite the impression on us and left us asking, “What if it was smaller?”
Meet the Chrome Industries Mini Kadet. Well, we say “mini”—and it is indeed smaller than the regular Kadet—but it’s still a sizable sling bag. Its resemblance to its bigger sibling is uncanny, so spoiler alert: we’ll be drawing a lot of comparisons between the two. But the differences are also interesting. Let’s see what those are and more in this review.
Materials & Aesthetic
There’s no doubt about it; the Mini Kadet is indeed a Chrome Industries product, and it’s no surprise that it’s the spitting image of its larger sibling, the Kadet. The design is utilitarian from any angle. The squared-off profile, the beefy stainless steel bottle cap opener, and BLCKCHRM 22X fabric give off a vibe best described as “getting the job done.”
There are currently three colorways to choose from: Black, Olive Overdye (brown), and BLCKCHRM. By all accounts, the BLCKCHRM is almost exactly the same as the black variant in terms of looks, with the notable exception of the blacked-out Chrome Industries Griffin logo at the front. Material-wise, all come with water-resistant YKK zippers, but the BLCKCHRM upgrades you to the 22X fabric, which has a CORDURA TPX durable laminate technology built-in—sweet! But what does that mean? In layman’s terms: more water-resistant fabric.
Our first impression of the Mini Kadet was that it didn’t look particularly “mini”. It wasn’t until we had it side-by-side with the regular Kadet that we affirmed that this actually was the mini version. It still looks and feels large by our standards, but we’ll get more into that discussion later on.
Once you get it in your hands, the Mini Kadet reaffirms its strong and durable appearance. Everything feels well-built and ready to take on everyday wear and tear. Of course, we couldn’t help but want to feel the stainless steel buckle. It’s not quite as eye-catching as the full-fledged Chrome Industries quick-release seat belt buckle like the one on the regular Kadet, but it’s still a centerpiece once you have it up on your shoulder.
Starting at the bottom are two compression straps for, well, compressing the sling to minimize wobbling from the inside. They’re down to two from four compared to the regular Kadet, but we’re glad to see that they retained the bottom ones instead of the side straps since these are handy for hanging stuff off of, such as water bottles or lightweight jackets. There are also flanking loop tabs where the main compartment’s zippers end if you want to hang accessories like carabiners or collectible keychains. It’s also a great place to hang onto when operating the zippers with the other hand.
If you own a bicycle, you’ll be pleased to know that the well-received U-lock holster from the regular Kadet has made its way here as well. It sits very snuggly and securely once you have it inside. Our resident cyclist confirmed that it never felt like the U-lock would slip out when cycling with the Mini Kadet. It never felt bulging nor uncomfortable, thanks to the generous amount of foam padding on the pass-through panel.
As for the shoulder strap, it still has that seatbelt-like material on the bottom half, while the top half is well-padded and wide for good weight distribution on your shoulder. It’s non-removable, so there’s really only one orientation to carry the Mini Kadet on your back, and that’s on your left shoulder. Otherwise, you’ll end up with the non-padded half on your right shoulder and vice versa when you wear it on your front.
One key difference from the regular Kadet is that the Mini Kadet forgoes the stabilizer strap. Recalling our Kadet review, we liked that this stabilizer strap was removable because we thought it was unnecessary for a sling of that size in certain use cases. That still holds, but strangely enough, we found that the smaller Mini Kadet could benefit from a stabilizer strap due to the way it sits on the body.
We found the overall center of gravity of the Mini Kadet to be off, and we noted a lot of instances where it didn’t quite sit right. This led to constant adjustments and wiggling when we were carrying it around day to day. It could use some work, and Chrome Industries could play around with bringing back the stabilizer strap we mentioned earlier. But we’re not bag designers here, so maybe there was a specific reason this was removed.
In addition to the strap keeper, the shoulder strap also comes with a rather chunky bottle opener. It is not the signature quick-release buckle like you’d find on Chrome Industries’ other bags, but it’s still functional nonetheless. It’s almost amusing how beefy this bottle cap opener is, and we wouldn’t be surprised if bottles just magically opened themselves up at the sight of it.
Inside The Pack
First up is the front pocket, which you’d be right in saying that it’s wide. It helps to have a wide opening like this because it makes taking out long rigid objects (i.e., a smartphone) easier by letting you snatch it from the sides to prop it out. There’s not much depth, especially when the main compartment starts to bulge in, but it’s more than enough space for quick-grab items like a field notebook, a power bank, a wallet, or a few granola bars.
As mentioned earlier, you can get a sneak peek of what’s underneath the BLCKCHRM 22X fabric from this pocket if you flip over the top shroud. The majority of the pocket, including the main compartment, is lined with reflective gray liner fabric that makes things easy to see and find—always a plus when you inevitably have to find that missing earbud or hairpin.
The main compartment is very accessible as well. This time, the zippers go all the way to the sides, which is almost necessary since the Mini Kadet has a good amount of depth and space inside. At this point, we brought out the regular Kadet again to remind ourselves that this is the Mini Kadet, despite the impressive volume inside.
What can you fit inside? To be blunt, a lot. To be specific, we were able to fit, in no particular order: a small packing cube, a tech pouch, a large capacity power bank, a field notebook. Remember, this is a mini sling bag, but it feels more like a midway size between the regular Kadet and a mini.
The organization inside feels relatively sparse, with only a large liner pocket partnered with a slimmer on to the left side. They’re good for slim items (small tablets and notebooks) and pens, respectively, but it feels a little lacking relative to the Mini Kadet’s total volume. This is one area that we wish the Mini Kadet didn’t take after the regular Kadet, and it’d be great to see a zipper or mesh pocket or two in a future update. In the meantime, it’s best to have some pouches and organizers on hand to take advantage of that large space. Or, just pack larger items.
Before we end this review, we feel like we have to apologize for always bringing up the regular Kadet throughout this review. In a lot of ways, it really is a smaller version of the Kadet, so it’s hard not to draw the comparison.
A few hits and misses, though, some inherited, some new. Firstly the hits: Build quality is still excellent, and it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted. The U-lock holster works well and comfortable during use. The amount of space inside is still plenty; too much depending on who you ask.
As for the misses, the most noteworthy of which are the discomfort we felt during carrying and the lackluster internal organization. While the latter has a workaround via pouches, we hope to see Chrome Industries improve the Mini Kadet’s carrying comfort. That said, if the regular Kadet’s large size was the only thing holding you back before, the Mini Kadet might just fit you better, so be sure to consider it for your next sling.
- Nice, durable feel as we’ve come to expect from Chrome Industries
- Handy built-in bottle opener kept no bottled beverages safe from us
- Those who found the regular Kadet too big will find this more manageable
- Sort of seems like a “mini” should be smaller than 5L
- Love the materials and look of the sling
- Still think the Kadet line lacks internal organization
- We’ve found it to be comfortable, even with a U-Lock in place
- The sling sits weird on the body—the center of gravity seems off, and it’s even more pronounced since there is no stabilizer strap
- Padded strap portion may be too short for some body types