This last year has been the year of the sling in the pack world. With an abundance of new designs from almost every maker putting out their own take on the perfect sling. With a single strap, manufacturers need to balance comfort, weight, size, and style with more restrictions than a standard two strap carry system.
Last year, the San Francisco based Mission Workshop released their own version of an everyday sized sling called the Spar. Taking off of their past designs of backpacks and messenger bags, the Spar has the same unique look, functionality, and material standards that has made Mission Workshop one of the most trusted makers since 2009.
|Height||15.5 in.||39.37 cm.|
|Width||9.75 in.||24.77 cm.|
|Depth||3.25 in.||8.26 cm.|
|Weight||1.4 lbs.||.64 kg|
|Capacity||488.19 cu. in.||8 L|
Quality and Comfort
The Spar utilizes the same proven materials that Mission Workshop uses in all of its weatherproof, hard use packs. The coated nylon fabric starts out slightly stiff but has softened over the past few months that I have used it. The Aquaguard zippers are firm but snug which is welcomed since both zippers are stopped in the “up” position when closed. With a looser zipper I would worry about slowly being tugged down during a day of use, especially with a more filled out load. The metal Fidlock buckle is great to use, making getting in and out of the main compartment easy and, in a weird way, fun.
The back panel has semi-padded mesh that does a decent job of keeping moisture from building up, however having a flat panel on your back for a few hours on a hot day will get you a sweaty spot on the back. The ambidextrous shoulder strap connects to either corner with Hypalon reinforced loops. I personally love Hypalon , it ages well and is extremely reliable.
The shoulder strap is a make or break part of a sling, needing to be comfortable and secure while still maintaining the minimal design of the pack. The Spar utilizes a 2 in. seat belt material strap with a quick adjustable tri-glide making quick work of tightening and loosening the strap. One issue I had was that the thinness of the seat belt material can cut into your neck if the strap is not securely in place. This was quite annoying and I had to keep tightening the strap down so it didn’t loosen and start to drift towards my neck. Since I received the Spar, Mission Workshop has seemed to correct this by adding a removable shoulder pad included in all new orders. Another option if you aren’t the sling type is that the strap on the Spar can be removed and replaced with a backpack style harness that can be purchased separately for $45.
The Spar makes the most of its small 8L capacity with the majority of the space dedicated to the main compartment. In the main compartment is a simple raised, lightly padded sleeve perfectly sized for 10 in. tablets. A small hook and look strap secures the tablet in place. With the roll-top function you can expand the size of the main compartment another 2-3 liters giving the Spar a little extra space in a pinch. It is a useful feature, but can look awkward.
The main compartment can also be accessed via a 9 in. Aquaguard zipper on the right shoulder side. This makes slinging the bag to the front and accessing the main compartment possible. However, pack the Spar accordingly with more needed items on the zippered side. I found it very useful especially for bypassing the roll-top flap, making it easy to keep the Spar on and sling it to the front in order to access my essentials.
On the front of the main compartment is a mid-size gusseted fleece lined pocket with a key strap. Roughly 8×5.5 in. It’s perfectly sized for glasses or any other scratch prone items. The zipper pulls on the Spar are simple metal YKK pulls that are rather small for the design of the Spar. The rain flap on the front pocket especially makes it a little difficult to find the pull efficiently. Replacing them with longer pulls or adding to the existing pull is a good alternative to make it work and look how you want it to.
A unique feature of the Spar is the integration of Mission Workshop’s ARKIV system. With the addition to the ARKIV clips the spar can be added to a selection of enabled packs in Mission Workshop’s line, adding another 8 L to any pack. However, the attachment points on the Spar are placed about 3 inches too high, making the Spar hang low an awkward amount. Mission Workshops latest version of the Spar has redesigned the back panel fixing this issue.
- Versatility to be able to expand without compromising carry comfort.
- Clean and simple yet useful organisation.
- Fabrics and materials of the highest standards.
- Quick adjusting strap making wearing and on the go adjustments easy.
- Ability to add to other packs or switch it to a two strap carry if desired is unique in a sling.
- Retailing at over $200 for 8L of capacity can be a hard pill to swallow.
- Old style shoulder strap can cut into neck if not adjusted correctly – look for the updated strap with padding.
- Zipper pulls slightly too small and would do well to be replaced with a corded pull.
I’ve always steered away from slings because they tend to vary from super simple to overly complicated and uncomfortable. Mission Workshop does not overly complicate their bags. They have a knack for making 2-3 pocket designs providing all of the organisation you need. Add to that their attention to the carry and comfort of their bags, and that is what made me excited to try out their take on the sling.
That’s not to say the Spar will definitely work for you – that is all based on your carry needs. Laptops, outer layers, or admin organization are not what the Spar was designed for. However the Spar makes an exceptional option for lighter carry days or as an addition to a bigger carry system. So if the price didn’t steer you away and you can make due with the simple design, I would recommend pulling the trigger on the Spar. In my opinion it fills its carry roll perfectly for me. I’ve learned how to pack it to work for me and how to carry it to work for me. After trying literally dozens of slings over the last few years, I had all but given up on sling carry for myself but after my experience with the Spar I have hope again.
The Spar retails starting at $215 and is available directly from Mission Workshop.