How My Travelon Bag Saved Me From Getting Pickpocketed

The main compartment looks small but can hold quite a lot more than this.

November featured blogger, Kristin Repsher.The following is a guest post by November’s featured guest blogger, Kristin Repsher.

A few years ago, I walked into the luggage warehouse across the street from my work looking for a decent handbag to take with me while traveling. My only requirement was that it be a bag that I could sling across my body so I could comfortably carry it and a backpack at the same time.

When I came across the Travelon Anti-Theft Shoulder Bag, it seemed like its features (and price) might be overkill, but since it fit with what I’d imagined I decided to give it a go.

Travelon Bag - The Lobster Claw at work
The Lobster Claw at work

The “Lobster Claw” Saves the Day

Two years later, I stood on the waterfront in Porto’s Ribeira District thanking myself for spending the extra money on an anti-theft bag. Having talked to a very helpful hotel receptionist (in English) and to a taxi driver (in a broken mix of Spanish and Portuguese), I’d been told that the waterfront area would be safe for setting up a tripod and taking night photos of the city. So that’s where I’d gone, and I happily took photos for about twenty minutes before things went awry.

First, a man came up to me and began speaking in English, trying to cajole me into giving him some money.

Then another man came up and angrily waved his camera in my face, pointing at the buttons as though he needed help. I refused to take his camera because it meant I would have to let go of my camera — tripod still attached — so I just kept shaking my head and telling him, “no, no, no.”

Travelon Bag - The photo that nearly got me pickpocketed.
The photo that nearly got me pickpocketed.

A rush of anger flooded through me as I felt a tug on my bag. “NO!” I shouted at the camera-wielding man. “GO!” Surprisingly, he did as I said, and his friend soon followed. Looking at my bag, I found that he had tried to open the main compartment but failed due to the “lobster claw clasp” locking the zipper to the bag.

I hadn’t been carrying a lot with me, but the time spent trying to cancel cards and file police reports easily would have been worth more than the cost of the bag itself.

>> Editor’s note: The same clips are the reason I love my Pacsafe Slingsafe 300.

Other Features I Like

Three Separate Compartments

I find this really handy for dividing up all of my little bits and pieces. Travel medicines get one side pocket and passports, plane tickets, and mobile phone get the other. The main compartment has four side pockets that are perfect for carrying iPods and cameras, and while it looks like a pretty small space, I’ve managed to cram my wallet, a Kindle, business cards, and my Olympus OM-D mirrorless camera in there.

Travelon Bag - The main compartment looks small but can hold quite a lot more than this.
The main compartment looks small but can hold quite a lot more than this.

Expandable Outer Pockets

These have been very handy for carrying all sorts of bits and bobs. Zipped up, they can hold small items like nail files; expanded, they can carry a drink bottle or a sunglasses case. I tend to carry both of these, and even with expanded pockets, the bag doesn’t seem too big. The tops of the pockets are elasticated to keep everything secure.

Travelon Bag - The back pocket where I keep my passport & phone
The back pocket where I keep my passport & phone.

Features I’m Not So Keen On

Cable Reinforced Anti-Cut Strap

I’m not sure on this one; it’s one thing to deal with an annoying pickpocket as I did in Porto, but it’s another altogether to deal with someone with a knife. I think that, if they have a knife, I don’t want to stop them from slashing my bag. It’s better than slashing me.

Strap Length

This bag is very long at its most extended strap length. I shorten it quite a bit so it’s not bouncing against my legs constantly; however, even partially loaded, the strap gradually lengthens until it is fully extended. I wish they had made this hold a bit better so I wasn’t constantly having to mess with it.

The Travelon Bag fully packed and fully extended. I like it a bit shorter than this.
The Travelon fully packed and fully extended. I like it a bit shorter than this.

Conclusion

Even though this bag costs $65 (or AU$74 when I bought it), to me, it’s been worth every penny. Being able to lock my bag gives me peace of mind; it certainly won’t stop all thieves but it’s at least a deterrent. It’s not a perfect bag but the anti-theft features plus the fact that it helps me keep everything organised while I’m on the road means it will be a constant travel companion for years to come.

What do you think of special bags and purses made to protect from pickpockets? Worth it, or waste of money?

Stay tuned for more featured guest posts from Kristin Repsher, but in the meantime, be sure to check out her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

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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

    • Kristin says

      I agree that the bag isn’t the best looking bag out there, but I like that it’s not too flashy either. It would be interesting to see how a self-mod of a bag would go actually!

  1. Jo says

    Hey Kristin – I have the smaller version of this bag that straps across my front and I love it – I wanted to be able to have backpack as well and this fits the bill perfectly. And as for that little lock it’s a godsend alright – I nearly got done in Barcelona.

    • Kristin says

      Hi Jo, it’s great to hear that you have a similar bag and love it too! You’re right about the locks being a godsend in Barcelona — it gave me so much more piece of mind knowing I had them after all the pickpocketing horror stories I’ve heard come out of there. So glad it saved you from all the hassle of being robbed!

  2. Kai says

    Everytime i trave i safety pin the zippers to the bags of just a regular cross body bag, Then i’ll safety pin it to myself near my jean pocket. It’s worked everytime!

  3. Tracey - Life Changing Year says

    I have this exact bag, funnily enough purchased in a luggage warehouse! It’s the best thing I could have taken travelling. Those safely locks annoy the crap out of me so there’s no way a pickpocket is getting in there without drawing attention. I’ve managed to cram mine full of junk and still get it closed! I’ll be getting a new one when we get home. I might even get the backpack version too this time. I’m hoping the clip might be stronger that adjusts the strap by then!!

  4. Sofie says

    I’ve been looking into bags made to stop pickpockets, but it their ‘special feature’ almost always is just a thing like the claw you describe here. I alays just use a normal handbag I can wear across my body and use a cord or something to tie the zipper shut.
    I admit, it does take longer to open again than the claw, but it’s a good way to use a bag I already have and that in general looks better and less ‘Hey, i’m a tourist’.

    When I have a piece of clothing with me (or something else that’s rather big) that i’m not wearing, I also always put that on top of everything that’s in my bag. That way my stuff kind of gets sealed off by the clothing item.

    • Brooke says

      Another thing I like is the exomesh (slash-protection) of the Pacsafe bags. But the bags are a lot more expensive — just depends on what you feel comfortable with 🙂

  5. elizabeth91674 says

    Mine is a little different and I haven’t had any near pickpocket experiences, but I love my bag!

  6. Dianne says

    Bags with security features by Travelon and PacSafe have metal mesh for slash prevention (a real problem and not mentioned above), safety clasps, and straps that can be secured to a pole, chair, etc. They are a MUST for travel. I own several Pacsafe purses and use them every single day. I only use other brands for dress occasions.

    This spring Travelon has a new “Anti-Theft React” line with several styles for various uses. I bought the “Tote” and it’s a great bag for every day or as an airline or train carry-on.

    Finally, I’m always very careful to carry my bag cross-body and under my arm, and NOT walk close to traffic where a motorbike thief could attempt to snatch my bag. A dangling bag is an invitation to pickpockets and thieves.

  7. Bridget says

    I found the Travel0n bag (#42242, looks like the one in the account above) overall to be well made and well designed. Other bags I looked at did not have 3 locking compartments, or it was difficult to lock the top zipper to the side claw lock. This bag did not have that problem. i agree that the strap is rather long. It can be doubled into a shorter strap, although the small slip piece that is supposed to hold the double strap style sometimes did not stay in place.
    The bag was convenient to use on my trip, and I liked the capability of separating my passport from my cash compartment, so that when the bag was opened, only the necessary compartment would need to be unlocked.

  8. Ann Burton says

    I love my Travelon Anti-theft bag. I have one that has a Security RFID pocket on one side and this bag has been amazing. The material is pretty much waterproof. The mesh water bottle holder was a God send walking around in Walt Disney World. I like the mesh that cannot be cut. The thieves like to do that in Las Vegas. This is my go to travel bag and I love mine.

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