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Day bag

I am heading to Europe this summer with my family for 2 weeks. My question is, I’ve been reading lots about pickpockets and the importance of not using a backpack. What does everyone use then? I could easily use a crossbody bag, but not sure I could convince my son and husband. Assuming that there is no money or anything important in them and just snacks, water, scarf, etc. What would you recommend? We are going to Italy, Paris and London.

Posted by
27407 posts

I see lots of folks with small backpacks; I can only hope that's not where they carry their money/cell phone/tablet computer. A backpack wouldn't work at all for me (female), because I want immediate access to my water bottle, sunglasses and local maps/information.

Perhaps your guys could carry small briefcase-like objects made of something like black nylon rather than leather, so they wouldn't be too heavy. Maybe someeone here can point you to a few big-city webcams so you can take a look at what men are carrying on the street.

Posted by
6670 posts

I keep major money, passport, cards in a neck wallet under my shirt, minor money in a front pants pocket and my mini camera in the other pants pocket. Nothing in the hip pocket except a bandanna. I often wear a vest with multiple pockets for stuff like sunglasses, guidebook, map(s). I also have a waist pack from Eagle Creek, many years old, which I use mainly on transfers. The compartment isn't behind me but on my left side close to my hand. It also has a removable shoulder strap so I can wear crossbody but I don't often do that. So lots of options.

I use a light backpack as a carryon (checking my small rolling bag) because it holds a lot and leaves my hands free. I wouldn't put anything valuable in there because of possible theft behind me. It holds stuff like a jacket, reading matter, water, a hat, etc. Going through security I['ll put the waist pack into the backpack for convenience.

So I'd say go ahead and use a backpack if you want, just don't keep anything in it you couldn't afford to lose unless you're in a "safe" place like a TSA line. It keeps you hands free but you have to take it off to get at anything.

Posted by
11480 posts

The small backpack is for maps, guide books, snacks water etc.

Money, credit cards, passport, in money belt.

Daily spending money is the most secure front pocket( guys) : gals in cross body bag

If there are 3 of you traveling, then every one 'watches the other's back'

That is my $0.02

Posted by
6788 posts

Small backpacks ("day packs") are fine. Just use a money belt for the real valuables, don't put expensive baubles and bangles in your day pack, and be keenly aware of your surroundings, especially in crowds and in high risk locations.

Personally, I carry electronics (camera, iPad, etc.) in my day pack all the time, but I'm very focused on it when there are crowds around.

95% of staying safe is awareness. The other 5% is covered by your money belt.

Posted by
4174 posts

For the first time in a very long time, I plan to take and use a very light packable backpack. I got this Sea to Summit at a local outdoor store. Yes, it does really weigh only 2.5 oz and the measurements are 19.3 x 10.6 x 5.9 inches. If I feel the need to secure it, I'll use one of my favorite split key rings through the zipper pull holes. It might work for any of you.

Posted by
2713 posts

I carry the RS Civita bag daily. As other note, my money, credit cards, etc are in my money belt. My iPhone is in a internal zippered pants pocket. I have 25-50 Euros in my pocket for snacks. But, even though there only may be a guidebook, water, map and some trinkets in my pack, I don’t want to lose them. I turn it around and wear it in the front in crowds. Yes, looks geeky, but you see everyone doing it. In Barcelona, home of the worlds best pickpockets, it was standard. Pretty much the same in Paris.

Posted by
1229 posts

My husband and I wear these:

https://www.ebags.com/product/pacsafe/venturesafe-150-gii-anti-theft-cross-body-pack/250552?productid=10233504

I got it for a few reasons: that all the zippers lock, and the fabric can't be cut (has wire mesh inside). Both of these turned out to be paranoid reasons. Anytime you are in a crowd, you would turn your backpack to your front anyway, or hold your purse. I think there is a lot more paranoia around about pickpocketing than is warranted (Ive since been to Paris a few times and Rome and other places and never felt at risk of being pickpocketed).

I also got it because it is snug against my body. I don't like purses, and cross-body bags are ok but still too prone to dangling and swinging. I knew that we would be biking in some places and I wanted a pack that stayed in place while I pedaled
So I tried a few small backpacks, and ultimately, I didn't want to carry them! Even the small ones** I didn't want the extra bulk on my back or to worry about checking them at museums).

In this little bag I posted above I could carry my phone, money pouch - which clips in - (yes, I don't wear a money belt), a rain jacket (!), and miscellaneous other things. Yesterday I biked to the library and carried a book home in it! That was a tight fit, but it fit, with my wallet, cable bike lock, phone etc.

**last thing, the lightweight 2.5 oz backpack Lo mentioned above from SeatoSummit - I have one of those and carry it in that bag I use. It has a stuff sack and crunches down to the size of a small fist. That way, IF I want to buy anything (like groceries), I have a backpack to carry it in.

I think you would be fine with a backpack. Be aware of your surroundings and maybe keep your money somewhere safer

Posted by
3991 posts

The only problem I have found with backpacks is most places make you check them. A small tote over the should, rarely. They assume it is my pocketbook. I use either a money belt or fannypack for my valuables, depending on the cut of my pants (most women understand). For the tote I use a medium sized Longchamps tote, which folds up when not in use. My husband doesn't even mind carrying it, he hates backpacks cause it makes him sweat more.

Posted by
2768 posts

My husband and son use a crossbody bag. Call it a messenger bag and it’s plenty guy-ish. It’s like what many men here in the US use to carry their laptops to/from work. In my experience briefcases are reserved for very formal occupations (high end lawyers?) and the rest of commuting people use crossbody laptop bags (men and women) or purse/totes (women).

a sporty style

a more professional one

one I really like

Of course if they want a backpack, fine. Just make sure nothing very valuable is in an outer/easily accessible pocket. Wallet in front pants pocket.

Posted by
42 posts

Two questions:

If you are keeping your credit cards, etc. in your money belt, is it hard to use them to pay, in a restaurant, for example? Do you take it out at the table, or have to go to the restroom?

Also, has anyone bought one of the coats or vests like ScottE Vest? Where it has all kinds of hidden pockets? Do you think that would work?

Posted by
2768 posts

Common wisdom is that Money belt is DEEP STORAGE only. You only access it in case of emergency. You do NOT get into it every time you want to buy something. It has cash above what you need for the day, credit /debit card, and passport.

Keep cash for the day and one credit card (if you use credit cards for daily purchases, I do). somewhere you can reach easily. An inside zipped purse pocket, or front pocket wallet maybe.

That said I almost never use a money belt. I find it to be overkill. A purse with zip closure and an inside zip pocket, combined with using the hotel room safe is enough for me. Everything is a risk, I find it best to be as careful as reasonable and then just get on with it. I still advise new travelers to use a money belt because it is safest...but it’s uncomfortable and I am confident in my own ability to be careful and also to handle any issue if needed.

Posted by
2650 posts

the majority of locals in Europe use back packs, I use one every day to and from work and every day when I am on my travels in Europe. The chance of being pickpocketed in Europe is small but gets blown out of all proportion on various travel websites including this one, yes there are pickpockets about but they are not as common as some folk seem to think. Take a back pack just don't leave it open, don't leave it lying around and when you are in busy places or on public transport take it off your back and carry it in front of you.

Posted by
51 posts

Thanks everyone for all the info! I actually went to Germany and Scotland last fall and never felt threatened at all and did quite well. I just started getting scared of reading that people would slice the bottom of bags instead of even pick pocketing. As far as small backpacks go, that might still be the best choice for non important things. And, there will also be five of us in total so totally need to employ the "watch your back" attitude.