Chrome Vale Sling 2.0 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Unique low-profile shape, secure, expanding compression straps accommodate many load sizes, durable
Cons: Few pockets, not very waterproof, can only be worn on one shoulder
Manufacturer: Chrome Industries
Our Analysis and Test Results
Like things that transform based on your needs? Then the Vale might be your new favorite accessory. With 14-liters of capacity and a 13" laptop sleeve, this sling is lightweight and can either lay completely flat if all you have is a computer or expand outward to fit all your bulkier items too.
It's well-known that Chrome excels at making bags for cycling, and the Vale is no different. The shoulder strap is wide and decently padded, and everything cinches down snugly and securely. With the cross-body strap clipped, this sling doesn't move at all and can feel like an extension of your own body.
When the Vale is packed super full, the elongated shape can poke into the lower back a bit, but this only happens when standing upright and walking, while cycling it's as comfortable as can be. For those that want to get crafty, you can also wear it as a fanny pack because it's so narrow, though it's not really meant for that and is only comfortable when not overpacked. The original version of the Vale sported the classic Chrome seatbelt buckle closure, which was easy to clip around the waist or shoulder. This updated version moves to a slide buckle that doesn't separate into two halves, something many people miss. One of the benefits of this slide system, though, is less hardware poking into the front of your chest and no worry of the bag dropping to the ground with the push of a button.
Packing & Organization
The Vale is decent in this department, though not spectacular. The design is relatively minimal, and the shape a bit less spacious than other models. But if you don't need an overload of pockets or have a ton of stuff, then this sling hits a happy balance between just enough and not too much.
The interior of the Vale offers the large-ish main compartment, a snug laptop sleeve, two pen/pencil/pocket knife sleeves, and one unzippered drop pocket. The drop pocket is long, loose, and rather shallow, so you can't overload it with anything too big or bulky, or the contents will fall out. We liked keeping items like a bandana or napkin in there. The front zippered pocket is also long, running the full width of the bag, and can roll under the curve of the body when the bag gets full; this can feel a little awkward, but it's still a highly useful pocket. There's a rear zip pocket perfect for a wallet or phone; the top zipper is waterproofed, and the slide buckle on the strap can double as a bottle opener. The front compression straps are useful to carry an extra jacket, and the sliding straps on the sides allow the bag to lay flat when on the empty side or expand outward if you're packed to the gills.
The Vale fits up to a 13" laptop, though it's a bit snug — a smaller computer or tablet slides in much more easily. Either way, the front of the dedicated sleeve is nicely stretchy, and once packed away, everything is quite secure. The back of the bag is generously padded for both comfort and additional protection.
The remainder of the pockets this sling offers aren't super ideal for cords unless they are small. To keep neat and organized, we liked placing our laptop cord in its own separate pouch and storing it in the main compartment. And while the top zipper is waterproof, the bag as a whole is not. When heavily doused with water during our testing, water seeped in through the bottom and into the outside back pocket. The front zipper is also not waterproof, but there's a flap covering it, which does a good job of keeping the contents protected. Bottom line, if you don't have a ton of accessories and you won't be out and about somewhere very rainy on the regular, the Vale should be just fine for daily use.
Ease of Use
The Vale is straightforward and intuitive. The front slide buckle is efficient when on the move and designed so that there isn't extra webbing hanging down into your lap. It's a shift away from the classic seatbelt buckle that Chrome is known for, but this means there is no danger of hitting the release button and having your bag fall to the floor.
The Vale's laptop sleeve is tight with a 13" Macbook — it requires an extra hand to pull the edges of the bag over the corners of the computer, but ultimately this helps everything feel nicely snug and secure. The cross-body strap is well-placed, and all the pockets are useful, though the large drop pocket on the interior is a bit baggy and far less useful than the other zippered pockets. There's a tinge of awkwardness with this sling due to its unique shape, but it's all minor things that are easy to get used to and worth it if you want a less obtrusive bag.
Wear & Tear
No surprise, this is a highly durable bag. Burly material, a waterproof top zipper, and a rugged, well-designed metal slide buckle on the strap all add up to a bag you can easily have for many years.
The Vale is less waterproof than some other bags in our review, but as long as you're not in a super wet climate, you will be fine. When we doused the bag with a garden hose, we found several weak spots, but everything dried quickly, and after months of rigorous testing, it didn't look a day past new.
Volume to Weight Ratio
The Vale does well here. It looks small but has a 14-liter capacity and only weighs 1.74 pounds.
This sling falls about in the middle of all the models in our review. It's a bit of an investment but nothing too pricey, and considering the useful design, excellent craftsmanship, and durable materials, it's well worth its price tag.
Bigger isn't always better when it comes to a bag. While having a lot of space can be helpful when you need it, if you only have a laptop or book and jacket, it can be a hassle to lug around a giant bulky bag. The Chrome Vale 2.0 is a great solution for the variable commuter; if you only have a few things, the bag will lay flat. Need to bring it all? Side compression straps move and help this sling expand outwards to its full volume. Combine all that with excellent durability and comfort, and you have a great addition for your daily commute and a Top Pick for Design in our competitive review.
— Penney Garrett