“Who the hell is Marty McSorley?” you ask.
My musical tastes swing widely, but running right down the center lane of my love of music is Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards and her folk/country/rock tunes richly played and splendidly written. One of her earlier songs was “I make the dough, you get the glory” and in it she croons, “you’re the great one/ I’m Marty McSorley” Doesn’t answer your question, but it’s a start.
Marty McSorley is (now) a retired Canadian professional hockey player who was never a star but played offense and defense for 17 years in the NHL. When Edwards, (a hockey fan) needed a person who embodied the work-hard-get-no-glory ethos, she thought of McSorley, and that’s how I think of my Peak Design Everyday 10L Sling bag. Both are rugged, extremely functional and immensely dependable in many situations.
It is worth saying that McSorley ended his NHL career after a 23-game suspension which was a result of a high-sticking incident which left an opponent severely injured and McSorley facing an aggravated assault charge. My Everyday Sling, on the other hand, has been a peaceful sidekick for me for a over three years and despite how I’ve treated it, the little bag has never thrown a punch.
But it’s taken a hell of a beating. On my recent trip to Iceland and Copenhagen, the bag turned out to be a game-changer for me and now I’m ready to sing its praises. Let me begin with a little background on the bag:
When Peak Design launched its Everyday Backpack in 2016, a Kickstarter campaign that brought in $6.5 Million in pre-orders, they quietly added two bags to the campaign: the Everyday Sling and the Everyday Tote. The Everyday Backpack has become daily wear for scads of people from tech bros to hipsters and while I think it’s not a great camera bag, I do enjoy using mine as a daypack. The tote has had a much less fantastic existence and is now on clearance on the PD website. The sling? It just soldiers on not getting a lot of attention, but serving faithfully year after year for thousands of people.
When I backed the ED Backpack, I opted to add the sling not sure how I would use it, but intrigued by its design. I already had the perfectly functional Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag (in fact, I have two of them!), so I didn’t really NEED another one-strap cross-body carry bag, but the sling had a certain something that appealed to me. When the box arrived from Peak Design, I spent a lot of time with the backpack and sidelined the sling. Later, I began using the sling for daily jaunts to the coffee shop or park. I found it a perfect fit for carrying a single small camera, water bottle and iPad. The more I have used the little bag, the more I have come to love it and appreciate its design and construction. The main compartment is surprisingly capacious considering it’s only a 10-Liter bag. In it I can cram my Sony A7R3 with 24-105 lens attached, my Sony 12-24 and 100-400 lenses, my 12.9 inch iPad Pro with pencil and case attached, batteries, snacks, and other assorted chachkies. That’s a big load for a little bag. More sensibly I usually carry the iPad Pro, a water bottle, extra lens and a light jacket.
Now those of you who have the big monster iPad Pro are saying, “whoa! Slow down there Hoss! Are you trying to tell me you stuff your massive iPad into that little bag?” Yes, my friend, I am. The 10L sling will take the big iPad and more and you can still zip it shut. It can be done.
It’s the clown car of bags. And it’s the Marty McSorley of bags too. It’s a lot of things.
But it’s not EVERYTHING, and therein lies the magic. When Art Viger and the softwoods designers at Peak Design tried to sneak this amazing bag into our hands, what they did was retool what Everyday Carry can be for photographers who want to stay highly mobile and stealthy. Case in point, my trip to Copenhagen.
When I flew to Denmark this summer, I carried on my Shimoda Designs Explore 30 backpack loaded to the gills with a ton of gear. Really, it was probably over 40 pounds. (Don’t tell the airlines!). Slung quietly around my side was the PD Everyday Sling. In it I had my iPad, bluetooth headphones, water bottle, passport, wallet, snacks, DJI Osmo Pocket video camera, iPhone XS Max, Moment lenses, sunglasses and loads of lens wipes. My hulking pack was hoisted (grunt!) into the overhead bin where I hoped it would stay and not drop out and crush some poor passenger. The little sling went under the seat in front of me, with room to spare for my feet.
When I landed in Copenhagen, I cursed my choices of gear as I lugged my backpack through the airport, onto the train and over cobblestone streets ½ mile to my hotel. My checked bag, an 80-liter Mystery Ranch rolling bag, clattered along behind me with the happy little sling riding snugly on the roller’s handle.
While this summer’s legendary European heat wave turned cool and friendly Copenhagen into a muggy, sloppy steam bath I turned to my little sling in desperation to get me through long days of exploring in the drippy heat. On my first day out in the city I logged 23,000 steps with the sling deftly handing my Sony A7R3, 24-105 and 12-24 lenses, water bottle, travel book and maps, iPhone and assorted doo-dads like gum, sunglasses, DJI Osmo Pocket, passport, etc. Being able to wear the bag on the center of my lower back sling style was pretty comfortable as it let me vent heat from my upper back and shoulders. When I found myself in a crowded place like a rush-hour train car, I could swing the sling around to my front or under my right arm where it was safely under my control. In museums where backpacks were mandatory locker prisoners, my sling went unnoticed. Me and my sling took Copenhagen and kicked its ass. Well, to be honest, at the end of each long day my ass was well-kicked, but the miles of walking, train riding, and bike riding were extended by the utility of this bag. Not carrying a camera wasn’t really an option on this trip, so I can’t really overstate how much of a difference the sling made in my ability to explore, photograph and enjoy Copenhagen.
Now that I’m home, I have found myself keeping the sling closer now. It’s become an indispensable item in my life. I own a lot of bags. Really, I have a problem. But I also carry around a lot of shit on a daily basis. Yesterday it was the kids’ iPads, headphones, snacks and a water bottle. Last weekend it was my camera, some lenses and my iPad. This little Marty McSorley is getting a lot of minutes, as they say.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I have another Peak Design sling bag. The svelte Everyday 5L Sling serves as my drone bag and I have my DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone tucked in alongside the controller, extra battery, props and the battery charger. Like it’s older and larger sibling, the 5-liter sling carries more than you’d think, but it is too small for my big iPad, so it’s not my go-to for many occasions. If you have a smaller tablet and camera kit, the 5L is one seriously-useful sling.
But both are slings, and it’s time to talk about what is wrong with them.
I’m not a tiny guy, and when I carry my sling bag as a sling bag with the strap running over one shoulder and across my chest, I am conscious of my (ahem) “bewbs”. I usually place the strap over one of my (ahem) “man-ories” and things feel OK. I am very aware that my female friends do not wish to strap down their breasts just to carry around some gear, so sling bags are a no-go for some. The Peak Design straps are not as wide or over-padded as those on many sling and shoulder bags, so this cross-body encroachment isn’t as pronounced as it could be, but it’s still encroachment. For some, a backpack with shoulder straps is the only comfortable option, but unfortunately many backpack straps are male-focused designs that aren’t great for many women. Shimoda Designs has begun selling alternative female-focused straps that work a lot better, but they are one company in a crowded field of products that pretend that women don’t carry stuff, and that needs to change.
When I need to carry a lot of gear, a backpack is by far the best option. My Shimoda Designs bag is an incredible evolution on camera backpack design, but like I mentioned, I don’t always want to carry a lot of gear. Hell, I hardly every WANT to carry much at all. That said, sometimes a small backpack is just the ticket. If you add a small tripod, a puffy/rain jacket and a water bottle to the sling it gets really dicey with a single strap. In those times, I do prefer a day pack. There I have a lot of choices (because of my bag problem, you see). I often use the Peak Design Everyday Backpack, but it isn’t the most comfortable thing out there and it’s big and structured so for museums and crowded places it’s not a great choice. I have a lovely little Lowepro 18-liter Hatchback backpack which is super comfortable and holds a small camera kit in a dedicated compartment. That pack still gets time with me even though I have many newer and flashier bags. I also look to regular daypacks from time to time when I don’t need to carry a lot of camera gear, but other things like kid stuff and lunch. In those times, one of my Patagonia day packs often gets the job. Day packs are great for multi-use tasks and many have great organizational features like pockets and gear loops, but those come at a cost. Some of my daypacks are already kind of heavy when they are completely empty. Others with less padding, structure and pockets are featherweights, but a hassle to carry when fully loaded.
There is no perfect carry solution for me, or for you. There is only compromise and the less I have to give to get what I need the better. More and more I am finding the PD Everyday 10L Sling the best of the compromises.
Looking ahead, I have a big trip to Italy set for next May. I will be leading a photography workshop in Florence and Tuscany and in thinking about that trip while reflecting on my experiences in Denmark, I am obsessing about what I will bring and how I will carry it. As my camera kit has evolved, I have been able to downsize and consolidate, which opens doors for carrying solutions. Where I used to lug a 40-liter pack filled with glass and multiple DSLR cameras I now rely on one mirrorless system and my iPhone (yes!). Where I used to pack a MacBook Pro and large spinning-platter hard drives, I now carry an iPad and a tiny SSD. Evolution is always a good thing.
So as I look at my kit and bags with an eye for the long flights to and from Europe and long days on foot in ancient villages, I know that I will want less. My Shimoda backpack will likely stay home, as will the big rolling bag. If possible, I will carry on the Peak Design Travel Backpack which will be ½ full of camera gear and ½ full of clothing and toiletries. I learned in Copenhagen, (after packing for much cooler weather) that daily hand washing of clothes is an easy and kind of fun way to travel with far fewer items. Italy in May should be fairly mild, so loads of heavy clothes will not be invited. If I can cram a few changes of carefully-vetted clothes along with a padded camera cube packed with carefully-vetted lenses and accessories into the 45-liter PD Travel Pack I can slip their new travel tripod into a side pocket and Bob’s your uncle I’m ready for foot travel.
Along with the travel pack, I will turn to my McSorley as my everyday carry bag. For the flight I will pack it with the iPad Pro, a small SSD (hard drive), cables, iPhone, Sony A7R3 body and one lens, sunglasses and bluetooth headphones.
Can I pull off a 2-bag kit for two+ weeks of photography adventure in Italy? I think so.