Outer Shell Hip Slinger Review
Outer Shell’s Hip Slinger is a distinctive take on the perennially popular hip pack. Think roll-top meets cinch cords, in an assortment of colours and materials. Cass (and Mildred, his pet rhinoceros beetle) try one out for day rides, campouts, and street photography alike. Find the review here…
The bikepacking world is awash with hip packs from every manufacturer under the sun. And why not, they’re super useful! Most are variations on a time-tested theme, be it a zipper or central closed roll. But Outer Shell’s Hip Slinger – seen here in an appealing shade of olive – is notably different. It features a roll-top style closure, except that it uses side clips and cords to adjust and hold it in place, which is both strangely satisfying to use and once practised, speedy to access, too.
But more on that later. First, let’s talk comfort. I’m a fussy hip pack wearer. Some press on my belly. Others create tension in my back. For reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, the Hip Slinger felt as good as it gets, both when I was hunched over in the saddle and ambling around town. There’s wide Hypalon webbing to the sides and a waist strap that’s neither too narrow nor too wide. Both ends of the clips feature ‘locks’ to help dial in the fit, which caters to waist sizes between 23” and 43”. And whilst there is no additional side webbing to cinch stabilise the pack, as you often see, I didn’t actually feel it needed them at all. It simply worked really well for me.
The bag expands from 1.5L to 3L in capacity. See below for how much you can stuff in there, though for the most part, I kept loads lighter – my gloves, sunglasses, snacks, a wind shell – for a day out on the bike. Later, I also used the bag to carry a new camera – a Fuji X100V – adding just a strip of foam padding (a piece of an old Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite) to line the base of the bag and protect my camera when I put the Hip Slinger. I bet it would be easy to make a lightweight camera insert, too.
Aside from the camera, there was plenty of room for my wallet at the back, my Patagonia Houdini to one side, and my Moleskin and a waterproof roll bag at the bottom, in case it rained. This proved to be a great setup for day rides on trails, or explorations down the back streets of Oaxaca. I could swing the bag round in front of me, grab the camera, and snap away.
But first… how do you get in there? As unconventional as the closure system may seem, it proved both novel and clever, and I think it may well add to the overall stability of the bag too. But there’s a caveat: it needs some finger dexterity and practise. As you can see below, there’s a main roll, with two clip-in cinches to either side, which serve to baton it down tight when pulled down. From a day-to-day perspective, you don’t actually need to keep clipping and unclipping them. Instead, it’s simply a case of loosening the cords, reaching in, grabbing contents, rolling it back down a couple of times, and pulling down on the cords to compress everything in. It’s actually a relatively quick process that sounds more complicated than it is. Sure, it’s not as quick as a zipper, but it creates a much tighter shape to the bag, however full it is, which ensures contents are less likely to jostle around. Unlike a zipoer, the roll-cord system is also lower maintenance. There is some wear ‘n tear – after several months, the cords are showing slight evidence of fraying – but they’re replaceable.
Not that this bag doesn’t have zips. There are two, in fact, though it’s likely you’ll use them less often, which should extend their lifespan. One allows access to the front of the bag without the need to unroll it from the top. The other affords a quick grab of contents from behind. Both include dividers from the main compartment. In practice, I found the rear access useful for stowing a wallet or passport, but I felt the front divider was largely superfluous. This is mainly because the divider can’t actually be sealed shut, so I worried I’d lose stuff when I opened the bag from the zipper (and I speak as someone who tends to lose stuff).
I’d welcome a completely independent pocket at the back, separate from the main compartment. I’d likely use it to stow coins or keys without the risk of losing them into the main bag if it was turned upside down. Similarly, I’d also prefer to have seen a velcro tab on the front divider, to make it more useful. Because the roll itself doesn’t have any velcro either – presumably so layers don’t catch as you pull them in and out – I wonder if an extra couple centimetres of material would provide a more secure closure when the bag is packed full. All this said, I’ve never actually lost anything. Rather, the lack of closed compartments made me conscious of what I packed in there.
Given that I don’t live in California and rain is common in Mexico – look how lush and green it is, after all – I quickly adopted the habit of stashing a small drybag at the bottom of the Hip Slinger, as I don’t imagine it’s designed to handle a prolonged deluge. Still, the zippers are water-resistant and the Cordura is PU coated, so I expect modest weather will be shrugged off. Speaking of California, the bag also comes with a San Francisco price tag. Just bear in mind it’s made by a small group of cyclists in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s no thrift store score, but it’s priced similarly to other proven US-made packs – like the ones found in our Index of Handmade Hip Packs. We’ll be adding it into that list shortly.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed using this pack and feel its size strikes a good balance between practicality and stability. I appreciate its good looks when I’m not riding and particularly like how comfortable it is, on and off the saddle. It weighs 340g – which sounds a lot – but it’s all but unnoticeable when packed minimally. And when you do load it up, there’s enough padding to ensure nothing prods into your lower back – after many months of use, the real panel is still in great shape, with no pilling. The rest of the bag has held up really well too, softening up nicely but keeping its colour, despite the high elevation sun I’ve subjected it to.
*No bugs were harmed for the making of this review. Sadly, I found my prop, a female rhinoceros beetle that’s common in Mexico, dead by the roadside. She stayed with me, tenaciously clinging to the Cordura, for much of the day. Interestingly, the male rhinoceros beetle can grow up to 15cm (6in) in length and wage battle on each other with their horns! They’re sometimes known as Hercules beetles, as adults of some species can lift objects 850 times their weight.
- Weight: 340 grams (12oz)
- Place of Manufacture: California, USA
- Price: $90
- Manufacturer’s Details: Outer Shell
I consider myself sensitive to the pressure hip bags can place on my belly and the tension they sometimes create in my back. For one reason or another, I found Outer Shell’s Hip Slinger amongst the most comfortable of its kind. It’s a practical size too – there’s plenty of space for everything you’d need on a day ride and it compacts down discreetly when mostly empty.
Granted, the roll system is very unconventional and took some time to get used to. But the Hip Slinger is quick to access once the technique is honed, it cinches down very securely, and it passed my litmus test: how quickly I can get to my camera vs. how stable the bag feels behind me when riding burly trails. I also really like the general aesthetic of the bag. It’s low key, ‘non-techy’, and it’s available in an appealing array of colours and a couple of materials (X-Pac incurs an extra $10 fee). If you’re going to invest in a hip bag for off-the-saddle use, this may well be important.
My gripes are levelled at the two inner compartments. I’d much prefer at least one of them to be sealable, be it with a velcro strip or a zip. Without either, coins and keys and other small metal objects have the potential to fall out into the main compartment if the bag is upside down, or even fall out entirely if the main flap isn’t rolled down enough, given that there’s no velcro there either. I like this bag a lot and use it almost daily. But with some tweaks, I’d like it even more!
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