tomtoc Urban Sling Bag (Explorer-T21 S) Review
The tomtoc Urban Sling Bag is a joy to carry thanks to its strap design, though we wish it worked just as well for lefties, too.
- Great build quality
- Carries very comfortably crossbody-style
- Nintendo Switch fits with Joy-Cons attached
- All-black interior camouflages similarly dark items
- Non-ambidextrous strap design
- Device sleeve partly obscures compartment access
(8 in model) | 7L (11 in model)
0.62 lb (0.3 kg)
(8 in model) | 1.04 lbs (11 in model)
double strand ballistic nylon
12.2 in x 5.9 in x 2.95 in (31 x 15 x 7.5 cm)
(8 in model) | 14.17 in x 8.66 in x 3.15 in (11 in model)
CORDURA® Ballistic Nylon, Ballistic Nylon, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware, Hypalon®
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YKK, CORDURA, and Duraflex are just some of the names we often mention when it comes to quality materials in travel gear. It’s no secret that different top-tier brands widely use their fabrics and hardware, yet few put them at the core of their marketing as tomtoc does. Go to any of their product pages, and you’ll see how keenly they point out these facts.
It’s an understandable approach since tomtoc’s gear is designed around electronic devices. It’s their tagline: “Protect your digital gear.” If you’re even somewhat of a digital nomad, you’d obviously want nothing but the best for your devices, right?
In the case of this review, why not tomtoc’s Urban Sling Bag? Well, you’d want your day sling to be convenient to use in other day-to-day situations as well. The good news is that carrying comfort is really on point with the Urban Sling. Provided that you’re right-handed, it’s a very ergonomic design that sits naturally in crossbody mode. On the other hand, accessibility to anything other than your main electronic device can be tricky since pockets and spaces clash with each other. Be warned: packing smarter is advised.
Now, let’s talk about those materials and build quality. Firstly, the CORDURA Ballistic Nylon does indeed feel robust in hand. At first glance, there seem to be two different fabrics on the upper and lower halves of the bag. They don’t appear to be different deniers to us; rather it’s most likely just DWR (durable water resistant) coating that gives the lower half a more matte appearance and some abrasion resistance.
The logo does appear printed on, but not the kind that peels off after a week or so. After a few weeks of testing, the bag still feels solid and pristine, so all the hubbub about the build quality is holding up (at least for now).
All the YKK zippers on the outside have an easy-to-grab Hypalon-like zipper pull with red bartack stitching for accents. There’s not much to say since the zippers operate as smoothly as the brands’ reputation suggests—sometimes having nothing to say is the highest form of compliment, you know?
Before we dive into the harness system, there’s really only one more external feature left to see, and that’s the nylon loops at the side. You can use these as handles, though they’ll realistically only fit two or three fingers. However, these loops are more for hanging external accessories like keychains or carabiners. Unfortunately, these loops don’t adjust, so they’re nothing fancy like the side compression straps you’d seen on some of Bellroy’s or NOMATIC’s slings.
Over at the back, you’ll find a back panel with a fair amount of padding that also houses a wide pocket. It’s fairly rigid, which helps with how comfortable the Urban Sling sits against you. That said, we keep mostly flat items whenever we use a pocket that’s adjacent to a back panel so that there’s nothing to poke against us.
The Urban Sling’s strap mounts on two points on the bag itself, on the right side and the leftmost edge along the top. The strap itself is quite wide, which should enable it to distribute the 4.5 liters worth of load you can stuff inside. Its material feels soft, with a texture that’s similar to what you’d find on a car’s seatbelt.
The large buckle sounds plasticky when you give it a tap, which is a bit of a bummer given all the hype about the bag’s quality materials. We would’ve liked to see a tighter fit and better tolerances here, but it’s simple, it works, and it hasn’t broken—it’s just the sound that’s mildly distracting, and it’s more of a nitpick than anything.
Comfort is straight up the Urban Sling’s strong suit, and most of the credit should really go to tomtoc’s strap design. Since the strap comes out from the Urban Sling’s side and top, this makes it naturally sit at an angle when you wear it crossbody-style. This has the benefit of creating little to no kinks on the strap, and having no part of the bag itself poke against or away from you.
As you can see from the photos, the Urban Sling can rest behind you at an angle or in front of you when it hangs on the left shoulder. Not only is it comfortable to carry, but it’s also easy to access the pockets and main compartment when it’s in front of us where it sits horizontally.
The downside of the Urban Sling’s strap design is that it’s not ambidextrous. If you hang it on your right shoulder, the bag sits horizontally at your back, or at an angle in front of you. It’s also worth noting that the buckle can’t be moved over to the other side. So if you’re a southpaw, this may not be the Urban Sling may not be the most ergonomic choice for you.
Inside The Sling
It’s time to get into the Urban Sling’s pockets, and first up is the front. The pocket’s zippered opening is about halfway up, meaning it’s relatively shallow. There’s no overhead space underneath the zipper, by the way, so you can’t shimmy extra tall items to make them fit. For context, an iPhone 13 barely fits inside when inserted sideways.
Inside is an all-black interior. This is one of the few general gripes we have about the Urban Sling. Granted, the opening is wide, and a lot of light shines through, but we would’ve liked to see a different colored liner that contrasts against tech accessories which, more often than not, comes in black.
You get two liner pockets at the back where you can put your Apple AirPods and ChapStick. There’s no elastic, though, so anything smaller than those examples may fall out under the right circumstances. What stands out against the all-black liner is the built-in red key leash. The quality of the included clip is solid, and while the strap may be thin, the length is just right for reaching a nearby doorknob.
Keep in mind that a packed out main compartment can also make access to gear inside the front pocket rather tricky. Gear can get squeezed in, especially along the bottom.
As mentioned earlier, the back panel also houses a rear pocket that’s tuned for flat and slim gear. Think along the lines of passports, cash, cards, tickets, and a smartphone. Also, a fabric welt hides the zipper—a small detail found on other slings that prevent the zipper from catching on your clothes while you unzip it.
Dual zippers guard the Urban Sling’s main compartment, giving you the flexibility to choose where you want to place them or how big of an opening you want. The inside is, again, lined with all-black fabric, which makes finding similarly black items hard to find.
The first piece of good news is that, yes, a Nintendo Switch does indeed fit in the rear sleeve. Since it supports the full length, you won’t have to detach the Joy-Cons either. On the other hand, while the back side is padded, the front isn’t, so it’s not a completely protected sleeve. Since the Urban Sling doesn’t have a hard shell like dedicated cases for the Switch, you’ll still have to take care not to incur unnecessary bumps.
By the way, the sleeve also lacks rigidity since the front part doesn’t have padding. This means that, with a Switch inside the sleeve, the front part flops over and slightly obscures access to the rest of your gear. Interestingly, this is a phenomenon we also observe with ALPAKA’s Go Sling Mini, a sling that’s also designed to fit a Switch.
In front of the device sleeve are two stretchy mesh pockets. These are prime spots for small tech accessories like thumb drives, memory cards, game cartridges, and basically anything that’s small and needs to be held in place. The rest of the Urban Sling is open space where bulky gear can go, like a power bank and a charging adapter.
The biggest weakness of the Urban Sling is accessibility. This isn’t a sling where you can just dump your everyday carry items inside. Instead, you have to put them side by side, especially when you have a Switch inside the sleeve. That’s a bit of a letdown considering the 4.5-liter rating. On the other hand, we really dig the Urban Sling’s carrying comfort—it feels like an unexpected hug from such a sleek-looking sling.
- Solid build quality
- Pretty spacious interior
- Interested to see if it holds its shape when not completely full
- No loose threads and the material is still in great shape
- Really digging the harness system—it’s comfortable to wear and makes getting to gear easy
- Device pocket can impact packability