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Theft Proof Bags for Travel: Do I Need One?

Theft Proof Bags for Travel: Features, Brands & DIY

One popular item for travelers visiting destinations that are prone to pickpocketing and theft is a purse or bag that has special features to prevent it. Tourist areas in Europe and beyond are full of pickpockets, especially in crowded attractions.

I certainly considered them when planning my trip to Southeast Asia, which is known for bag slashings, even when you’re riding in a tuk tuk.

So what do you need to know about theft proof bags for travel? Are they worth the splurge and do you need one at all? What types are on the market? We’ll discuss here.

What Does a Theft Proof Bag Entail?

A theft proof bag is typically one marketed towards travelers for its ability to prevent, or at least delay, theft. For a purse, it could be a cross body with secret pockets. The straps might be metal mesh lined to prevent slashing or they have RFID pockets to prevent the scanning of your passport and credit cards.

Pacsafe Slingsafe backpack in Cambodia
Pacsafe Slingsafe backpack in Cambodia

What Are Important Features to Have?

It’s easy to get caught up in all the bells and whistles, but there are only a few features that your theft proof bag actually needs to have. The first is zippers or some sort of closure. Most crimes are crimes of convenience when travelers leave their open bags out of sight.

It’s also nice to have a carabiner or clip for your zipper so that someone can’t come up to you and pull on it. Guest blogger Kristin found this out firsthand while traveling in Portugal.

Hidden compartments are also a good idea, as someone has to really rifle through your bag to find your wallet and important documents.

And while not essential, a detachable strap that can be looped around a table leg or your train seat gives you additional peace of mind.

Are There Downsides to Theft Proof Bags?

One important thing to think about is your safety. You don’t want to be seriously hurt because you refused to give up your bag to a criminal. Is it really worth what’s inside if your life is on the line?

The other downside to theft proof bags is the cost, as they are usually more expensive than your standard purse because of the various features they offer.

bag love compilation
Brooke’s Pacsafe Slingsafe 300 GII as worn in the Forbidden City, crossing the border from K-stan to China, in Urumqi, and hiking in Cappadocia.

What Brands Make Theft Proof Bags?

The two most popular makers of theft proof bags are PacSafe and Travelon. We’ve written about many styles of them, including cross body purses, backpacks and camera bags. Here are just a few:

But with these in mind, be sure to read reviews, as some held up better than others. My sister’s Travelon React didn’t last through our trip through Thailand, but my PacSafe Slingsafe has now been to half a dozen countries with me. There’s something to be said for choosing quality over low cost.

The Lobster Claw at work
Kristin’s Travelon bag: The Lobster Claw at work

Creating Your Own Theft Proof Bag

If the price of theft proof bags has you worried (averaging $40+ minimum), fear not. You can replicate some of the features with purses or bags you already have at home.

  • First of all, make sure the bag in question is either a backpack or cross body, as one shoulder bags are easy to pull off you.
  • You can also create zippers that are difficult to open by attaching a carabiner, keyring or safety pin to keep them together or attach them to the strap.
  • Keep a fake wallet on hand in an outer pocket that you can throw at a potential thief. Fill it with those fake credit cards you’re always getting in the mail and a few small bills.
  • And if you’re worried about having your card information stolen over RFID, you can purchase an RFID blocking wallet for about $20 on Amazon!

Do you have a preferred theft-proof bag for travel? Or how do you keep your valuables safe when traveling?

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Tina Sumner says

    We leave on our year-long trip in two days. I took the plunge and purchased the PacSafe Citysafe LS75 anti-theft cross body travel bag. It was expensive but I like the features including the locking zippers, anti-slash fabric and cross body strap. I have been using it for a month now to get used to its size and compartments. I think it will work well. I can carry my iPad mini with its keyboard as well as all of the other usual purse things.

  2. Jessica Lippe says

    I use a normal backpack with caribiners attached to the zippers, and so far that has worked really well in Europe! I also wrapped my emergency credit card in aluminum foil. As apocalyptic as that sounds, it works just as well as an RFID blocking wallet for so much less!

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