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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Caroline Eubanks says
Thanks for sharing your story! That picture turned out great 🙂
Thanks Caroline! I am glad the photo came out well after so much effort to get it 🙂
Jade - OurOyster.com says
I think it would be worth it, but im not sure if i like the bad very much aesthetically though – I like the idea of the clip, but Im sure you could modify any zip up bag in the same way
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!!
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.
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 🙂
Mine is a little different and I haven’t had any near pickpocket experiences, but I love my bag!
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.
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.
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.