The LA-based company, Code of bell (COB) has been in the carry space for some time now, making small but significant splashes for its intended crowd of sling enthusiasts. They’ve managed to bag a win at the 7th annual Carryology awards in 2020, propelling their fame forward with the X-pod sling (S) at its spearhead. For years now, the team behind COB has been hard at work crafting their ideal sling, with a single purpose in mind, to create a true everyday bag that functions like a wearable extension; an additional pocket, as quoted by the team. And they have stayed true to this very idea with the slings that they’ve brought to the market.
The team, led by Shiro Suzuki, first initiated their Kickstarter campaign back in 2017, with the X-pak sling (L) as the face of their crusade. It was a well-designed, feature-packed, expandable large sling bag with a capacity of 23L (expanded). It seemed to have bridged the gap between a backpack and a sling bag. It was, in a way, the perfect alternative. And with the success of the X-pak, their fans wanted something more portable, more one-shoulder carry friendly. Then came the X-pod (pronounced cross-pod), the smaller brother, the one that seems to be more approachable. And that’ll be the one under the spotlight today.
WHO IT’S FOR
- Anyone looking for a versatile sling that packs down when not in use and expands when they need to carry more than the essentials.
- Those that don't mind the distinct look of the sling. Might be too overwhelming for some with all the hidden pockets, straps and buckles going on. Some might consider it ‘tech wear aesthetic’.
Dimension (inches / mm): 14 x 5 x 2 / 350 x 130 x 50 (when folded)
Dimension (inches / mm): 14 x 5 x 6 / 350 x 130 x 160 (when expanded)
Volume (liter): 2.3 (folded) / 7 (expanded)
Weight: 13.5 / 15.4 oz (w/ and w/o compression straps)
Outer shell: VX21 ripstop & Cordura Ballistic Nylon
The main fabric used for the outer shell is a VX21 ripstop, one of the many offerings of X-PAC fabric from USA-based company, Dimension Polyant. They have been the pioneer of this lamination technology used for sailcloth for years now and have been considered the industry standard. With all the packs being released recently using X-PAC fabrics, they have gained themselves somewhat of a cult following, and this is not without reason. It offers weight savings and water resistance that is only matched by that of Dyneema, which is a far superior, but also pricier option.
So, VX21, VX being a four-layer construction that’s rugged, flexible, waterproof, and 21 meaning that it has a 210 denier nylon face fabric. And this fabric features a patented X‑PLY® fiber reinforcement technology. The innermost layer is a lightweight 50 denier taffeta backing that provides an enhanced stitch-hold, and protects the X-PLY fibers from being exposed. So, 4 laminations of material, stacked on top of each other, its sheer level of technicality would baffle the minds of us common folks. And to add to that, this is not your typical VX21 material, this option is infused with a square grid like pattern on the surface, hence the term ripstop. It contains tears within those small grids, if any. For those who have had experience with X-PAC fabrics, stiffness and rigidity would be common words for describing them, rendering them less accommodating; less stretchable. The variant of X-PAC used here, however, is this complete opposite. It promotes a soft or silent laminate construction, making it more pliable than its siblings. Imagine the best of both worlds: enjoying the technicality of the lamination technology, while not compromising on the flexibility of the fabric. This combination provides an ideal balance of tear resistance, compressibility, weight savings and durability.
1680d Cordura Ballistic Nylon accents the high abrasion points of the sling, a pretty nice touch in terms of enhancing the durability. Some might find this combination of fabric too overwhelming, but I call it clever use of resources. It's the duality of technicality and durability.
Inner shell: 210d nylon
The inner shell sports a high-visibility, blaze orange 210 denier nylon. The lower denier count is mainly due to weight savings of the sling, providing a more comfortable and seamless experience overall. The blaze orange color selection is one of my favorite features about any COB’s slings, much like the collaboration offerings that Carryology provides. They are functional (especially in dimly lit situations), while also providing an aesthetic boost with the black and orange combination.
The X-pod is also graced with hypalon zipper pulls and grab handles at the bottom of the sling. This is also where COB differentiates themselves from other brands; while some might imprint flashy logos all over their products, COB has chosen the stealthier route. You can find their ‘Code of Bell’ branding only on the hypalon accents, when the light hits it at a certain angle. Super stealthy.
YKK zips - #8 Aquaguard YKK and self-lockable YKK
Durability was one of the main concerns when COB was crafting this particular sling. And nothing screams durability louder than the tried and tested zippers by Japanese Manufacturer, YKK. #8YKK Aquaguard zippers guard the 2 main compartments of this sling, with self-lockable #5YKK zippers for the smaller compartments. For those that are foreign to the term Aquaguard, they simply mean that the zippers are PU laminated, making it water repellent, safeguarding our belongings from the elements. A cue to identify them would be to notice the sheen that it gives off, compared to the matted, fabric appearance of the more commonly used RC zippers.
“Magnets, how do they work?”, those that have been in the carry game for a second would definitely smirk at this reference - words from renowned YouTube bag reviewer, Chase Reeves. A Fidlock patented magnetic V-buckle holds the main shoulder strap of the sling together, making getting the sling on and off a more intuitive experience. A smaller Fidlock buckle also holds the key-lesh in the main compartment. What’s so satisfying about these perfectly balanced magnets are the audible click it makes when the fastening components snap onto each other; providing secure fastening with a unique combination of function, fun and comfort. Magnets, one really can’t get enough of them.
Woojin made plastic buckles are also used alongside the Fidlock offerings. These are one of the best buckles out in the market to date, comparable to the ones made by YKK. These are custom made buckles, made specially for COB. It sports a cross (X) shape, following closely to the name of their sling (X-pod), a very nice touch indeed.
It looks badass, if put simply. But with all the straps and buckles being so evident on this sling, some would argue it being too much or too complex, especially given its small size. But I, personally, find it quite refreshing from the sling’s larger companies like Nike or Vans have to offer. It seems to fit pretty well in the high fashion tech-wear community, alongside the likes of OrbitGear, an Indonesia based company.
The comfort of this sling is on par with those of Alpaka and Bellroy. Although the main strap is not padded, it still provides an adequate level of comfort. Given the small size of this sling, it would be an overkill to have the shoulder strap padded anyways. The back-panel of the sling sports a padded compartment with a ‘X’ marking on it as well. The handle really is a feature that I’m grateful for. It has an adequate length and thickness, comfortable yet not being too over-engineered. The strap keepers do a fine job in keeping the straps in place, staying in place even when the sling is constantly being shifted from the front to back and vice versa. My only gripe with the X-pod would be the ‘wings’ of the sling. When the sling is on, the wing that is at the bottom would fold over, and more often than not, it would dig into my back, making it an annoyance after long periods of carry. The lack of air mesh also proves to be an annoyance, especially in the humid seasons in sunny Malaysia.
There are multiple modes this sling can be carried in: cross-body, hip pack, and maybe even briefcase mode, when carried by the handle.
The X-pod is redefining versatility.
The X-pod really is no slouch when it comes to organization. There are a multitude of compartments, readily available then you need them. The star of the show are the two main compartments: one being the expandable one, and the other that sports organization.
Let’s start with the expandable compartment, the feature that separates it from the crowd of conventional slings. This compartment has 2 entry points, one on at the top, that’s used for accessing the sling when it’s on-body and compressed; the other being a horizontally placed zipper at the front of the sling. This access point can only be used if the sling is off-body and placed down. It opens like a duffle bag, making it ideal for storing items of different sizes and shapes. When this compartment is filled up, it has to be folded and side compression straps have to be buckled prior to slinging it on.
There are also 2 additional removable compression straps placed vertically on this compartment, with 2 intended usage: first being to further compress this compartment, providing a more streamlined appearance; the other being to strap on external items such as a jacket or wind-breaker. These compression straps are attached via metal G-hooks, a very premium touch to a rather technical pack.
The second main compartment is where the organization of the sling begins to shine through. It comes fitted with 2 zippered compartments with some stretchable mesh to accommodate whatever knick-knacks you decide to throw in them. And the back sports an open compartment lined with the same stretch material. This is where I normally place my portable power-bank with some wires.
There is also an external back pocket that’s concealed in the back-panel, just big enough to be a secret pocket to store your valuables such as a phone, wallet, or passport. There are two small hidden compartments on the ‘wings’ of the strap, a perfect fit for airpods, car keys, or some cash.
The Fidlock magnetic key leash in the expanded compartment was a great design choice, making the whole experience of taking the keys on and off frictionless.
This sling's access and expandability are unrivaled. I haven't seen any other company provide an option such as this before. So, if you're seeking for an expandable sling with several entry points, look no further. The X-Pod is really a one-of-a-kind product on the market.
PRO vs CONS
- Thoughtful design, providing an overall intuitive experience.
- Overbuilt in areas where it counts, will probably outlive any of us.
- Amazing access and expandability, whilst providing adequate comfort.
- Well thought out organizational layout.
- The aesthetics may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
- The ‘wings’ tend to dig into your back when worn cross-body. (This has been fixed in the Pitch Black II, which has a rear pass-through sleeve to store shoulder strap when packing for trips}
- When fully expanded, it may give an unappealing silhouette.
The X-Pod is a refreshing take on slings in a market where everything is starting to look rather identical. I personally, am a fan of the tech-wear aesthetics. This sling gives the user the choice of making it what they want it to be (providing them with options), rather than forcing them to conform to what it needs them to be. The X-Pod is unlike anything I’ve seen: it’s a blend of technical materials with intuitive and unique access. It can be a compact carry on days where we only need a pocket dump; and a spacious offering on occasions where we need a bottle, jacket or even a camera!
With all that’s going for it, I don’t see a reason why the X-Pod shouldn’t deserve a place in everyone’s arsenal of carry collections. Although it took some time and patience to get used to its various features, but once I got the hang of it, it quickly became one of my favorite slings of all time. It’s going to take a lot to shake this off its rightfully deserved throne.
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Raised in the south of Malaysia, I was drawn to spending as much time as possible outdoors. While dwelling in the beauty of nature, it sparked my interest in photography as well as all things carry. My interest in bags have been solidified every since I’ve stumbled upon my first bag right here in our own backyard, Greenroom136. And I have been on the hunt for the perfect pack ever since.