- Buyer's Guide
DEFY Insidious Jr. Sling Review
The last time I used a DEFY bag was in 2013 in the early days of the brand. Since then, Chris Tag and his Chicago shop have only grown bigger and better and have a group of loyal fans to show for it. Despite a growing roster of products and never one to shy away from experimenting with materials, the one thing that has stayed constant with DEFY is the overbuilt bombproof design and construction of their bags.
I have been admiring the company out of the Windy City for years, looking for an excuse to add one of their packs to the quiver. In August 2019, they released the Insidious Sling and later followed that up with the Insidious Jr., which as the name implies, is a smaller version. I am all about that Sling Life™ so I had my sights set on the bag. As luck would have it, that Friday there was an announcement in the DEFY newsletter that they would be releasing a limited run of the Insidious Jr. in Rogue Camo Cordura. I immediately reached out and was able to order the pack, with a small discount.
The bag measures 12.5″ wide x 9″ tall x 3.5″ deep. It can hold 6 liters. It is made of 500D Cordura on the exterior as well as 500D silver on the interior, for better visibility. It has two large AquaGuard zippers from YKK and each is double headed for bi-directional opening. The strap is padded and swappable and the pièce de résistance is the AustriAlpin Cobra buckle rated for 1000 lbs. The whole package weighs 1 lb 11.4 oz (the website lists it as 2 lbs but I think this is just a copy of the specs from the regular bag).
In the main compartment, the tech sleeve holds my iPad Pro 2018 10.5″ perfectly. It has on a pretty thick Otterbox case so I imagine it could handle a naked iPad Pro 12.5″ just fine. Opposite the tech pocket, there are three pockets plus a pen slot. The pen pocket is the best one of the bunch, perfectly sized for a typical EDC pen. The other compartments have quite a bit of slack which is meant to allow you to store large items.
For my testing, I loaded it up with what I would carry on an outing. I had a set of keys, notebook, pen, flashlight, multitool, water bottle, tablet, wireless earbuds, an extra camera battery, battery pack, and some protein bars. 6L is on the larger end of sling sizes, for me, so I still had room left to carry my mirrorless camera as well (not shown). However, if you are going to carry a camera, I would suggest a wrap or some sort of padding, especially if you are going to carry anything else with it, because it’s not a very cushy ride for your gear.
Who It Suits
The Insidious Jr. is ideal for someone who needs to carry a moderate amount of gear in an urban environment, who is not concerned about weight. It’s for someone whose priorities are a bag whose contents will be protected and that will last a lifetime.
Who It Doesn’t
This bag is not for someone who is looking for a bag for work or school. Even in the most plain finish, the black ballistic nylon, this bag would not pass in an office space. In my opinion, the material is too textured with a sheen that can’t pass in a professional capacity. Due to the volume, it would not hold a lot of books or school supplies so it probably would not be ideal for a student unless they used electronic textbooks and took notes on an iPad.
The obvious draw to DEFY bags is their overbuilt bombproof construction. Interestingly, the standard version of the bag is constructed of 1000D while the Rogue Cordura version I purchased has half the denier at 500D while maintaining the same price and weight. I am pretty sure this is just a product name and the actual color is MCB (Multicam Black) for which Cordura definitely makes a 1000D version so I am curious about the swap. It could be the colorway is more expensive to source so to keep prices similar, DEFY cut down on the nylon weight. Personally, I think the 500D is plenty stiff and strong and the way the bag is built is at my personal limit on how stiff it needs to be.
The bag is built like a tank. It’s extremely solid and has excellent structure and form, even when empty. It reminds me of a miniature Filson briefcase and while the two are worlds apart, they share commonalities when it comes to the thick and stiff materials.
The zippers are YKK AquaGuard and are large and beefy. They each have double-header zippers with paracord zipper pulls. They are functional and very smooth to operate.
You’ll find a nice sized key clip on the inside of the front compartment and I was surprised to see it was made of metal and felt sturdy. These clips tend to always be the area that companies cheap out on, even on very expensive bags.
The back is padded which I didn’t discover at first. Most slings don’t have padding so this is great to protect the tablet in the tech pocket, as well as increasing comfort on your back.
Speaking of comfort, the best part of the Insidious Jr. has to be the strap. It’s easily removable and reversible to suit both sides of shoulder carry. It is padded with a closed-cell foam and it’s secured with a Cobra quick-release buckle. The strap interface is amazing. It’s really easy to figure out how to remove it, install it, and adjust it. And the management of the slack is elegant with the use of a metal slider.
My favorite part of the strap is that the padding is in the correct location. I have tested many messenger bags and slings and all the ones that have a shoulder pad always build it in a way where only 20% of it ends up over your shoulder. Even the ones with pads that you can adjust and slide to your preferred position end up shifting or moving, so the pad ends up pressed against the front of your chest, rather than on your shoulder where there is a lot of pressure and weight. The way DEFY managed to design such a comfortable strap was by making a massive padded portion. It measures about 16″ x 3.75″ and starts at the very beginning of the attachment point. No matter how you adjust the bag, as long as you have the attachment point behind your shoulder, you’ll benefit from the padding.
Not So Good
Despite being such a well-constructed bag with an excellent strap, there are some areas where the Insidious Jr. misses the mark. Remember that key clip I was praising earlier? It might be made of metal and solid-feeling, but I found the position really annoying. It’s sewn right in the middle of the two front pockets, with the keys meant to hang directly into the main front area. This is really strange because this means if you decide to attach your keys, you won’t be able to carry anything easily scratched in this area. I tend to carry items like sunglasses, digital cameras, and action cameras in quick-access front pockets. Any dangling keys here mean this large pocket is relegated to items you are not concerned with damaging. It also means you cannot take advantage of the full width of the pocket unless, again, you don’t mind things rubbing against the dangling keys. The style of clip included means there’s not enough slack to hang the clip to one side.
With the clip in the middle, you’d think this clears up the two pockets for items. This is not quite the case. Since the pockets are right next to each other and the key clip is about an inch wide, it eats about half an inch into each pocket. This is not a huge deal but if you decide to use up the full width, you’ll likely rub against the metal clip when you take things in and out of the pocket.
The biggest issue with these two pockets is they seem ideal for a notebook but they are slightly too small. The width is fine and they have some slack to allow for thickness but they are not deep enough. I tried a Bellroy Notebook Cover and a standard Moleskine and while both fit, the tops immediately got rubbed and snagged by the zipper each time it passed by. The best I could find is a naked Field Notes which is a shame because that barely utilizes the full volume. Even then, I have to be mindful to pull the zipper away from the body to clear the notebook. I really don’t know what these pockets are supposed to be used for. Perhaps thin and short items like business cards? Or tall and thick items could be fine if you don’t care about them being scratched.
I thought the pockets could be saved if they were only sewn lower, but I realized they extended down as far as they could go and the limitations are due to the height of the compartment. There is also no flap or room above the zippers; they define the top limit of the compartment.
In the main compartment, there were some minor frustrations. For my use, I’d prefer to have slim single-use pockets, for dedicated use. The way this bag is designed, it feels like it’s encouraging the user to stuff multiple items into the same pocket. Or to leave a lot of room for smaller items to shift around in the pockets. This is not something unusual for this style of bag and I understand that it keeps the brand story and construction consistent but it’s at the cost of usability, in my opinion. Lastly, as part of its rugged construction, the top of all the pockets have a thick lining. This is great for durability, but it makes using any sort of clip (pocket tools, knives, pens) slightly inconvenient. You have to usually help it along by pulling up on the clip to release the tension. Once it’s clipped on, though, it’s fine.
Lastly, a very minor quibble that is not unique to the Insidious Jr. only, but there were a few threads not cleaned up. Not a big deal and I was able to easily snip them off but I think it would have made for a better impression if this was taken care of at the point of manufacture.
The Insidious Jr. is a sling that has piqued the interest of many people since it debuted last year. The introduction of the Jr. size brings a slightly better price point and a much more approachable footprint. The DEFY ethos and DNA is strong in the Insidious Jr. which means you are going to get that iconic Cobra buckle, thick comfortable straps, and strong rigid construction. However, that rigidity extends itself into the use of the bag. Due to the construction and design choices, you cannot make the bag conform to your preferred use. It literally is not flexible. If you have a compatible loadout and use case or are able to work around the minor shortcomings, the DEFY Insidious Jr. might be the last sling you’ll ever need to buy.