Seagull Commuter Sling
Size Tested: Large
Stated Volume: 2065 cubic inches
- Waterproof fabric
- Floating liner construction
- Zippered Interior Organizer
- Side Pocket
- Interior Flat Back Pocket
- Hidden Pocket
- Female Buckles
- Light Loop
- Updated Strap
Test Location: Northern New Mexico
Test Duration: 20 months
Like pretty much everyone who commutes by bike, I have long been searching for the ideal carrying system. I have used a few messenger bags in the past (including some from Chrome the now defunct Caribou Mountaineering) and while I loved some things about those bags, I hated other aspects. So I was very interested to see how the Seagull Commuter Sling compared.
Designed and built in Columbus, Ohio, the Commuter Sling has been a staple in Seagull’s line for years, and is their proposed solution to bike commuters’ everyday carry dilemma. So, how’d they do?
The size Large Commuter Sling has a stated volume of 2065 cubic inches. In more subjective terms, the size Large Commuter Sling is big, and covers most of my back while riding.
It will easily accommodate a solid day’s worth of supplies if you use it for commuting, though when nearly empty, it can feel a little unwieldy (but still quite comfortable). When crammed to the max, the strap does create some very noticeable pressure points, but more on that later.
The Commuter Sling’s harness consists of a shoulder strap that is padded all the way to the buckle, and has an upper velcro adjustment that allows you to adjust the position of the sling on your back. The buckle itself is a simple, all-metal affair that uses a sliding metal bar to hold the lower strap in position, and has a sewn pull loop that I found to be quite ergonomic. I did have to take a lighter to the edges of this pull tab to keep fraying to a minimum, but this was more of a cosmetic issue than a design flaw.
The lower strap uses 2” seat belt webbing, and has shown zero fraying during 20 months of daily use. The lower strap has a metal D-ring to use as a pull tab, and the strap was easy to tighten and loosen right out of the box — and continues to be — even after prolonged use. On a few occasions, the strap has managed to twist as it feeds through the buckle, but this is easily corrected with a minute of fiddling.
The harness also features a stabilizer strap that feeds under the shoulder and attaches to the main strap. I experimented with two configurations of this strap:
The first method is to attach the female end of the stabilizer strap above the metal buckle of the main strap. This configuration allows you to integrate the velcro of both the stabilizer and main strap to create a very secure fit, and lets you really tighten down the stabilizer strap without deforming the main strap, which helps alleviate pressure points along the main strap. However, this configuration does tend to make the stabilization strap ride quite high into the armpit, which can be uncomfortable and be less stable with heavy loads.
The second method involves placing the female end of the stabilizer strap below the buckle on the lower seatbelt part of the main strap. This way the female buckle can slide down the strap when not in use, and also creates a more stable harness overall. This configuration does, however, cause the lower part of the shoulder strap to curl in on itself when you crank down the stabilizer strap, which creates a sharper set of pressure points when carrying heavy loads.
Materials, Construction, and Water Resistance
The Cordura fabric of the Commuter Sling is rigid enough for the bag to stand up on its own, which is great for access when you have the bag open sitting next to you. Despite this, the material is still reasonably supple to the hand, and I’ve detected absolutely zero wear on the outer shell material after 20 months of daily abuse. The inner waterproof side of the fabric has begun to show creases along wear lines, but I haven’t noticed any real cracks or issues with waterproofing.
In order to compare the waterproofing of the Seagull Commuter Sling and an older Chrome bag, I left them outside overnight in some moderate rain (not drizzling, but not dumping). In the morning, I found that the interior of both bags was dry, though the objects in the outer pockets of the Chrome bag were damp. Meanwhile, the Commuter Sling’s front pockets were dry, which I’d attribute to the increased coverage of the Seagull’s cover flap.
Though the extra large cover flap offers better water resistance, the tradeoff is that it does markedly impede the rider’s ability to see over the left shoulder in traffic. While this is a subtle design trade-off, it does impact my daily riding. The coated side of the flap also squeaks where it rubs together, which can be annoying, but can be fixed with a dab of bike grease.
The cover flap is held in place by a strip of velcro and two plastic buckles. The flap is plenty secure while just using the velcro, and this is the configuration I use most often. The buckles are great for securing larger loads where the tension on the velcro is higher. One minor note on the buckles — the female end is sewn onto the cover flap and the male end is attached to the strap, which makes potential replacement more complicated. My worry with this is that if I break a female end, it cannot be replaced without ripping out the stitching. This hasn’t yet been a problem, and it does seem industry standard to put the female buckle on the cover flap, but it’s worth noting
The shape of the cover flap itself also sets the Seagull Commuter Sling apart from other similar bags. It is cut quite large relative to the size of the bag, and has a unique shape that tends to better cover the upper corner of the bag to improve water resistance.
Although it makes many key improvements over other bags, the Commuter Sling suffers from an issue I’ve had with every messenger bag I’ve used — a lack of much padding in the back panel. This makes any sort of sharp object inside the main compartment pretty painful once the bag is on your back. However, you can alleviate the issue by packing something flat or soft next to the back panel.
Pockets & Organization
The Commuter Sling has two large exterior pockets under the cover flap and one tall side exterior pocket, which is perfect for a water bottle. I usually keep my U lock in one of the front exterior pockets and my pump, tire levers, bike tool, etc in the other. They close with robust velcro strips that cover the pocket’s entire aperture so that I don’t worry about things falling out of them. It’s also easy to access the front pockets without undoing both buckles.
The Commuter Sling has an internal organizer stitched to the inside of the front of the bag, and a large flat pocket on the interior of the other side (this is where I highly recommend placing soft / flat / non-pointy objects to maintain back comfort).
The organizer consists of three layers of pockets, and it runs nearly the whole 17” length of the bag. It has a 15” x 13” zippered pocket at the top that’s perfect for charging cables and other tangle-prone gear. Next, it divides equally into two zippered 7” x 9” pockets. Below those, there is a 7” x 6” drop-in pocket on the right and a set of four narrow pen pockets on the left.
The pocket organization is well-executed — you can look at it empty and immediately see where things can / should be placed. The one thing I’d like to see is at least one internal side pocket for water / coffee. The Commuter Sling’s external bottle pocket is nice in that it prevents potential spills from reaching cargo in the main compartment, but an internal water bottle pocket would be appreciated.
It should also be noted that, while I like the pocket layout, the Commuter Sling does not allow for immediate access to any compartment while on the bike.
Performance On & Off the Bike
On the bike, the Commuter Sling is quite comfortable, provided that you pack something next to the back panel. Though it initially felt large, I quickly realized that its size actually increased rider comfort as it tended to conform around my back, bending near the middle.
The Commuter Sling also shines once you’re off your bike. As long as you don’t mind the loud velcro noise when opening the cover flap, it allows for quick, easy access to everything inside.
Another (perhaps inadvertent) strength of the Commuter sling is that, when lightly loaded, it is just as comfortable to carry on the opposite shoulder like a tote bag as it is when slung over your head. As a result, I usually bike with the bag over my head on my left shoulder, but through the rest of the day I leave it comfortably draped on my right.
The Seagull Commuter Sling is an excellent bag. Compared to similar Chrome bags, I found that, while both have their quirks, the Seagull was more functional overall, and since getting the Commuter Sling, I have not switched back to a Chrome bag.
That said, the Commuter Sling is not perfect, but it’s damn close. My list of gripes is the result of 20 months of day-in, day-out abuse, and the scrutinization of the tiniest imperfections. So with all of that taken into account, the Seagull Commuter Sling is still the best messenger bag I’ve used, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a carrying solution for their bike commute.