I’ve been a fan of Patagonia since my first multi-night hikes through the Snoqualmie forests in 2013. I would commonly see that their jackets were sought after for winter and fall treks, but I hadn’t paid attention to any of their other products. As of late I’ve been trying to find a backpack that can hold just enough for hiking, biking and general out-of-house activities. What I was looking for:
Portability - my backpacks are typically 20-30 liters, which encompass book bags and weekend travel bags. Going smaller was a test to see whether I could still move what I want.
Organization - I have always enjoyed those simple Jansport-style bags as long as they may have a laptop sleeve or some structured organization system. But as I hike more and more, the straps that lay outside of the backpack become just as important as inside.
Utility - A sling bag has the benefit of not needing to remove the bag fully from the body for access into its main compartment. This bag was completely suited for that task.
The Patagonia Stealth Atom Sling is a fisherman’s bag. All of its external and internal features are dedicated to storing some kind of fishing tool, from lines to hooks to bait. What I’ve found is that fishing gear is some of the best “tech-wear” one can purchase for the outdoors: it is typically made for higher, humid temperatures (being next to the water during fishing), water durability, and flexible storage space for the wide range of fishing needs. These features naturally extend into biking, hiking, and other trips.
Features and Uses
The common problem of sling backpacks is that the shoulder pad will cut into the shoulder as the weight can’t be distributed evenly across the body. I have not put enough weight into the bag to incur uncomfortable feelings after hours of use. However, I haven’t been able to make a long hiking trip with this bag, which will be my goal in the near-future.
As shown above, the sling backpack utilizes a second stabilizing strap that pulls the bag into the waist, similar to how a traditional waist strap will take some strain from the shoulders. This keeps the bag close to the body, prevents it from slapping around on the back, and makes the bag feel lighter than it may be.
Also, biking with a sling bag is a breeze with the stabilizer. I always had troubles with one-shoulder bags and biking, as the bag would slide around the back or with the gravity, and I’d always be shuffling it back to normal position. The feeling of security with this bag is great when already dealing with inconsistent drivers and roads.
An attachment buckle at the top, three well-stitched loops on the left side, a flexible loop right above and below, and a mesh water bottle holder at the bottom provide many options for external attachments that I will continue experimenting with, but here are some ways I’ve used them so far:
The attachment buckle has been used to hang the backpack in gym lockers - the structure of the compartments always allow me to have a direct view of the contents.
The water bottle holder has be been very helpful in holding a bike lock cable. The flexible loop right next to it is made to secure a water bottle in place by wrapping around the cap. I have used it for such a purpose but also hang other things as well.
Two loops on the side hold both my bike lock and my gym lock. I also attach my bike lights to the same loops. I have not yet used the third loop, which is larger and more geared toward specific fishing tools. But I’ll find a use for it sooner or later.
The flexible loop on the top (or bottom of the above image) allows me to hang my bike helmet so I don’t have to worry about carrying it. Potentially, this is where I can hang a travel towel as well.
The shoulder strap also has another loop and a mesh zipper compartment that allows me to stick my phone in there. These external attachments allow most of my needs to be at hand rather than in the bag.
This bag has become my de facto swimming bag for each day. The main compartment has enough space for a microfiber travel towel, my swimming goggles, my flip-flops, and a windbreaker or rain jacket (it was 40 degrees and rainy a few weeks ago, my bike ride was made easier by carrying these jackets in this bag just in case I would get rained out again).
There is a mesh divider that helps me separate my flip-flops from the goggles and towel. The divider also contains three pockets where I sometimes stick my earbuds or pens. Lastly, there’s completely sealable waterproof attachment within this compartment, which can be shown sticking out on the left. This allowed me to place my passport for protection from the rain.
The compartment is not big enough for 8.5 x 11 paper, so if you expect to carry paperwork around without folding, sorry! This is just helpful for those who wish to know what kind of EDC this is — it’s not for traditional office work.
Next is the hard shell, secondary internal compartment. Inside you’ll find a foam square that is attached to the “ceiling” of the hard shell. This is typically for placing your fishing hooks. For myself, it is a safeguard for my smartphone to flop around in there without getting into some kind of sharp or scratching-prone area. There’s a lot of height in this area since it’s not compatible. Electronics seem to have the best protection due to the shell. There is another mesh divider with another set of three pockets, where I also opt to put pens, earbuds, and other small or thin objects. I nestle my wallet on the inside of the mesh divider.
Finally, there’s another compartment near the back of the backpack, which seems to do well with thin, flat things. I haven’t really used it, but it may be helpful to put my notebooks or something in there.
This is the most comfortable bag I’ve had on my shoulders — but maybe that’s not saying much as I commonly used a military map bag as my main travel bag, which had a one-inch width strap that always tortured my shoulder if there was any weight in the bag. It is also one of the most flexible bags I’ve used, with all of its external attachments and nice and simple organization compartments.
But I am giving up sure-fire way to carry a 13” laptop or unfolded paperwork, which is trivial for a book bag. I am also unsure if I can maximize these traps to carry an ultralight tent with a sleeping pad. Perhaps I can just force it with bungie cables around the whole bag. But this also gives a strong specialization for the bag: dedicated to my outdoors activities but not a heavy-lifter like a full-on hiking bag or office work bag.
Quite well recommended for the job it’s trying to accomplish — and the other jobs that make me like it so much.