I have a bit of a bag problem. I really like sling bags and use them all the time. They are lightweight and unobtrusive; perfect for carrying compact items and extra clothing. In recent years, cycling and adjacent bag makers have put their own spins on the classic sling “musette” bag design to enhance functionality with stabilizing straps, extra pockets, and more. Since they are usually relatively affordable I’ll pick them up when I’m traveling as functional souvenirs.
While not in any way a comprehensive list (that would be difficult as there are LOTS of options out there), this roundup features bags I’ve acquired in person from Albion Cycling, Outer Shell, Swift Industries/Camp and Go Slow, Tangente Atelier, Team Dream, and Tunitas Creative.
But first, let’s take a brief look into the origins of the humble musette bag. Also known as haversacks, which means “oat sack” the word musette’s use dates back to the 17th century, in both English and French. After what were likely pastoral beginnings, haversacks were used in military applications for carrying various provisions and can be traced all the way back to the American Revolutionary War. According to our friends at wikiedia:
“…when used in the military, was generally square and about 12 inches (30 cm) per side with a button-down flap to close it. When empty, the bag could be folded in three and an extra button on the back of the bag would allow it to be refixed in this position.”
Then, in the 1950s when cyclists racing the Tour de France decided that refueling at roadside cafes was too much of a time suck, teams turned to haversacks (musettes) to hand off vital sustenance during demanding stages. As their usage grew with the sport’s professionalism, so did their popularity with fans. Often branded with sponsor logos, spectators would clamor over discarded bags on sidelines as valued souvenirs to take home for personal use. As nearly everything else about racing and cycling technology has changed since those early pro tour days, musettes have somehow stayed mostly the same. This includes their continued popularity with average cyclists and race aficionados who still collect and casually use them around town.
While out of alphabetical order, I’m starting with this one as a point of reference. It’s the most traditional musette-style bag in the group and comes from our friends at Team Dream in Los Angeles. Made in Italy along with other Team Dream apparel and accessories, the simple heavy cotton/poly rectangular bag was fashioned to hold the brand’s special edition 10th anniversary book titled, you guessed it, Nothing Special. It’s an ode to the glory days of cycling as seen through celluloid and one man’s appreciation for suntans, Danny, trains, and the European countryside.
The bag measures 15″ x 11″ with a looped strap that’s about 35″ long. Printed on both sides, the front has vintage-inspired collab logos with Team Dream and Kodak, as the photobook was made with all Kodak film stock. There’s a small snap closure at the top to keep everything tidy.
Unfortunately, these musettes sold out with the photobook. But always keep your eyes peeled, as Team Dream is known for dropping musettes along with their seasonal product launches.
- Made in Italy (the country where Ferraris are made)
- Kodak logo is not large enough
I picked up this musette at last year’s Bespoked in London. UK-based Albion was on site with a full selection of clothing samples along with sewing machines performing general repairs and spinning up these musettes for volunteers. Luckily they had a few extras after the show that needed homes.
The smallest sack in this roundup, this keepsake musette measures 13.5″ x 9.5.” It’s made of durable laminated X-Pac nylon Cordura and, though the material is waterproof, the bag itself is not because its seams are not taped. However, for such a simple bag, I’ve been impressed with how well its contents stay dry. And it has some clever features, too. First, the tight construction negates using an actual fastener at the opening; just stuff it full and the sewn top flap will fall into place. Of course, if it’s overstuffed the contents will spill out. The primary strap is two sections of narrow webbing connected with a plastic ladder buckle; one piece of webbing is sewn and the other is threaded and adjustable. Small nylon loops are sewn into each bottom corner of the pack panel which serve as attachment points for the paracord crossbody strap, depending on which shoulder you prefer to sling the bag over.
I’m not sure if Albion produced these for general sale but, regardless, they are not currently available. The brand has however made musettes of their go-to Pertex Quantum fabric that doubled as a “burner” to be worn as an insulation layer across a rider’s front. Currently, they have the Mountain Bag, which serves a similar function as the musette.
- Weather resistant
- Secure with cross-body strap
- Too small for a 13″ laptop or similar device
- Not currently in production
See more at Albion Cycling
So, two products into this roundup and you can’t easily purchase either of them. Yes, I am aware of this and did it for two reasons: it fits with the commemorative aspect of musette bags’ history and to shout out great brands doing cool stuff. That said, Outer Shell just re-upped their stock of Magic Musettes, so let’s take a look at it next.
Made in their San Fransisco studio, Outer Shell’s Magic Musette is an innovative take on the classic bag. At 15″ (at the bottom) x 12″ it’s designed to fit a 14″ laptop and comes in a variety of colors with both zippered and snap closures. Unique in the OS lineup, this one is made of 210D UltraGrid fabric, which has an internal polyurethane coating and the front is treated with DRW for water resistance.
There is an interior pocket sewn just beneath the zipper that doubles as a stuff sack and has a small key lash. When the bag is stuffed into its pocket pouch, it’ll easily fit into a jersey/jacket pocket or handlebar bag. One of the simpler approaches to a stabilizer strap on this list, this bag has a removable narrow paracord clipped to a small loop at the bottom corner that connects to the shoulder strap via small buckle. From the buckle, you can adjust chord tension. The shoulder strap also has an adjustable buckle and can be used for easy on/off.
- Easy access with two closure types
- Durable construction and materials
- Occasionally unavailable, but in stock as of publication
See more at Outer Shell
Another awesome bike show souvenir, the MADE musette was a limited-run collaboration between Swift Industries and Camp and Go Slow. Made in-house at Swift’s Seattle workshop, these bags were available in multiple colors and two material options (waxed cotton/Cordura blend and 1000D Cordura) in-person for MADE attendees and online shortly after. Beneath the full-length zippered top is a stripe of Camp and Go Slow’s rattler design. The olive-colored bag I brought home (shown here) has the matching Eastern Rattler pattern, while the orange and gold bags had the Western Rattler motif.
A similar silhouette to the Outer Shell bag listed above, this one measures 15″ x 11″ and had a removable cross-body stabilizer with an adjustable shoulder strap.
These bags sold out soon after MADE wrapped, but we can always hope Swift saw enough interest to continue making these. Their construction is simple yet superb and are the right shape for carrying a 14″ laptop, vinyl records, jacket, or other similarly sized items.
Albion wasn’t at this year’s Bespoked making custom musettes, but thankfully there were a few custom bag makers on hand with goods to sell. My first time walking by the Auguste Handmade booth (which was shared by Tangente Atelier as the bag maker for the wild retro-mod tandem that I documented) I laid eyes on the custom musette with re-purposed Thomson fabric and had to have it. I’ve long admired makers that use leftover fabric from Thomson component packaging and this one from Tangente Atelier is a genuine heater.
One of the larger bags of the group, it measures a rectangular 15″ x 12″ with a 4″ flap that closes with a thick strip of velcro. Made of diamond-patterned ripstop nylon, the Thomson fabric is stitched over front with reflective strips on the closure flap and at the very bottom. The shoulder strap is adjustable 1″ webbing with a sliding loop for a cross-body strap that connects with an open D-ring. The stabilizer strap can also slot into an adjacent webbing loop at the bottom of the bag. There is a small pocket sewn into the bag’s interior but, unlike the Outer Shell musette, this pocket doesn’t seem to be quite large enough to serve double duty as a stuff sack.
This bag was a one-off; however, Tangente Atelier is accepting custom orders and stocks a similar square-shaped musette that’s in stock now. And, stay tuned for more product news from this French maker, as they reportedly have some fun stuff on the way for the holiday season.
- 1″ webbing is comfortable for carrying heavier objects
- Velcro flap opening provides easy access
- Burly material and construction
- Thomson fabric for that custom vibe
- Flap closure doesn’t work so well for over filling
- Interior pocket could be slightly larger for double duty as stuff sack
See more at Tangente Atelier
Made just around the corner from Outer Shell in San Fransisco, the Tunitas Sling Bag occupies the opposite end of the modern musette spectrum from the OS Magic Musette. Available in ECOPAK or X-pac fabric depending on color (there are five to choose from), this sling bag is full of features. Starting with the bag itself, it consists of one primary pocket with two additional smaller pockets on the front. And inside each exterior compartment are small organizational pockets for smaller things like pens, notebooks, etc.
At 14.5″ x 13,” it’s taller than other bags on the list and a bit deeper, meaning it can carry more stuff. A front adjustable nylon strap with buckle secures the large front flap over both the primary and smaller ancillary pockets. The shoulder strap system is just as robust as the bag, made with 1″ thick (yet soft and pliable) nylon webbing. If you’re familiar with Tunitas’ camera strap, the shoulder/stabilizer uses a similar Fidlock buckle system for easy handling.
I like to think of this bag as a standalone accessory, whereas the others I often pack with me in case I need additional carrying capacity when traveling or running errands. Sling Bags are in stock and on sale (!!) now.
- Ample carrying capacity
- Comfortable and secure for hauling relatively heavy items like a mirrorless camera
- Individual pockets for organizational bliss
- Thick materials and sturdy design make it less packable than other bags on the list
See more at Tunitas Creative
It’s been fun acquiring these musettes and now that I have a healthy selection for my entire family to use, I’ll probably slow down collecting them. Until the next custom sac at a bike show jumps into my arms, that is. But, in reality, we do use the bags quite often for different reasons, though most are for short trips to the store or cycling/walking excursions around town when a backpack is too much. While smaller than tradational reusable grocery bags, they are much easier to carry. When traveling, I’ll toss in one of the smaller bags – like the Outer Shell or Albion – into my duffle for side trips or in case I need more storage space when returning home.
Do you have a favorite musette bag? Drop a photo in the comments!