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Travel Bags - Security Question

Very excited to be starting a new adventure with my wife to Europe this year.
We have ordered Convertible Carry On's, Day Packs and some essentials from the site but I have a question...
Slashing of bags : I read a lot about the slashing of bags & straps.
Rick's bags seem exceptional to me, but would love to hear from actual users regarding security.

Do they work well for you?

Any HACKS to protect my contents?
Thank you.
(Note: I have read over a number of the postings, did not see this specific question, I apologize if I missed it or replies)

Posted by
7793 posts

Don't ever put anything valuable in a bag even if it is slash proof.
Items like passports credit cards large sums of cash put that it in a money belt or neck pouch.
You might be over reading about slashing of bags. it does not happen that much as pick pocketing.

Posted by
13869 posts

Where are you traveling to? I’ve not read much on this forum about bag slashing.

In fact the only “slashing” incident I’m familiar with related to a nephew’s fellow student in a Barcelona study abroad program. They were all in a bar drinking and dancing and one kid got the pocket of his cargo shorts slashed and lost money and passport. Kids/alcohol/no situational awareness.

I don’t think you’d ever have to worry about the convertible bag being slashed.

Daypacks are not safe in crowds but thats due to pickpockets not slashing. You’d move it to the front on public transport or working thru a crowd. You’d keep your passport, extra money and cards in deep storage in a money belt under your clothes.

There are purses (PacSafe is one brand) that have metal reinforcements that want you to think this is an issue but to my mind it just makes the purse heavy. I’m old, I’m slow, I’ve been pickpocketed (they didn’t get anything but my pouch of OTC meds) but I wouldn’t carry one of the metal reinforced purses.

Posted by
3153 posts

I’ve made 18 trips to Europe and no one has ever damaged or attempted to get into my bags. I’ve been using Rick’s bags since 2005. I have been on 14 Rick Steves tours and not once has a tour member mentioned it happened to them either on tour or doing independent trips. The basic rule that I follow is if you can’t afford to loose something, don’t take with you.

I use the convertible carryon with packing cubes and the Euro flight bag. The carryon works well especially with the packing cubes. The flight bag holds a ton of stuff but I feel it’s too unstructured; it’s floppy when I don’t want it be.

Posted by
1353 posts

I have never experienced or witnessed any bag slashing. Anecdotally, I have heard that leather bags work just as well as a Pacsafe. I just keep my nylon messenger bag in front with my hand on it when I’m in a crowd.

Posted by
6781 posts

The only danger of "pack slashing" is in the imaginations and slick promotional materials of the sales and marketing divisions of the companies that want to sell you their "slash-proof" products.

The chances of this happening to you are roughly equivalent to winning the big lottery prize - essentially zero.

That said, no device -- except the brain in your head -- can or will protect you from petty theft anywhere, whether that's in your hometown of Central, Georgia, or wherever you may travel in Europe. You need common sense, awareness of where you and your belongings are, and what is happening around you. The exact same common sense you would need to engage at your local shopping mall, burger joint, or gas station. Without that basic common sense, you can buy all the "safe-packs" in the world or other nonsense, and it will do you no good at all.

Keep your head on, and leave the heavy, expensive, useless chain-link products for the suckers. Save your money for gelato.

Posted by
1194 posts

As stated, most slashing is of purses or pockets. And then only rarely.

Bury your valuables deep. Either in your money belt or deep within your bag.

I do lock my bag when in transit. It makes it just a little harder to steal from me. I do not use special slash proof bags. They are heavy and bulky.

If you want a hack then I suggest clipping the zippers of your day bag closed. I attach a small S-biner to my purse zipper and also to the side hardware. That slows down the thieves. You can also safety pin it closed.

Posted by
11123 posts

Bag slashing is more of an issue in paces like Rio, than Europe.

A couple of women on our annual meeting which was held in Rio one year had their purses slashed along the bottom, letting the contents dribble out. They discovered what happened when they stopped for a drink and found the hole in the bottom and much of the contents gone.

My wife tried a Pac safe bag but returned it because the pockets did not accommodate the stuff she wanted to pack. It also was heavier than a normal bag of the same size due to the metal mesh in the sides and wire reinforcements in the strap.

For Europe, awareness, money belt and common sense should keep you from being a pickpocket victim

Posted by
2768 posts

Don’t worry about slashings. Pickpockets are more common but still it is unlikely you will get pickpocketed.

Th best security advice is to use your brain. Don’t set the bag down and wander off. Don’t leave it on the ground street side when sitting at an outdoor cafe. Don’t leave it in the taxi! My husband was terrible about this kind of thing on our first few trips because he never carried a bag at home. Women are usually used to having purses so it comes a little more naturally to us!

In very crowded areas (like trains where you are packed like sardines, not normal city streets) don’t wear the day bag on your back. Carry it or wear on your front if needed. Personally I don’t like backpacks for daypacks and find a messenger bag more secure and discreet - easily in front of you so don’t call attention to the bag like a backpack worn on your front. But backpacks are common so you won’t be the only one turning it around in the crowd.

Nothing at all important in the outside pockets of a backpack. It’s way too easy for someone to get into that pocket. Keep tissues or something there, anything more valuable goes in the main compartment.

Silly hack - safety pins! If the bag has an inside pocket with a zipper you can safety pin that closed for a little extra barrier. Or you can safety pin a pouch to the inside bottom of the bag. That way that pouch is not getting pickpocketed or lost.

Ditto the above advice. I use a small luggage combination lock on the main compartment of my day bag. Even a twist-tie or cable ring (key chain style) - can deter theft.
Be aware of your situation. Be alert to your surroundings. Stand with your back (bag) to a wall. Try not to get stuck in the middle of a "herd." If you are trapped in a group (packed bus or rail), keep your bag in front of you.
Don't be afraid to yell - No! at solicitors who approach you.
Keep a reserved demeanor when out in public. (Clothes and behavior)

Posted by
4568 posts

The only knife situation near a purse I have had is when the local old lady wanted my Canadian flag patch I had sewn to my purse in 1978. I said she could have it and she pulled out a 10 inch blade and carefully cut each thread so no damage to purse or patch.
I don't carry a pack often, but when I do, I buy only luggage packs with no outside pockets, and lock the one zipper. Essentials are either buried deep, or in my cross body purse. Day packs are only for bird watching which is an entirely different environment all together.
For a purse, I don't do the Pac safe route but I have 2 hacks with them in mind. I have hand made some purses where I put a smaller inside lining to act as a bit of a hammock, so if they cut the outside, they would miss the 'hammock' which holds my essentials. If I don't have the hammock, I made sure everything vital is in a zipped compartment or pocket. I have been known to sew a pre purchased pocket to my bag to secure passport etc.
the other thing I use - only in certain cities - I have a small (less than 2 inch) locking s shaped caribiner for the purse top zip. Looks like this but tiny

Posted by
23223 posts

In nearly a years travel in Europe over the past 20+ years haven't had a problem with pickpockets -- maybe close a couple of times but not even sure about that -- and nothing slashed. HOWEVER -- you do need to take some precautions. I would never wear a day bag on my back or front in a super crowded situation, wall to wall people on a bus or a train, etc., If it is that tight then the bag is dropped to my feet. If you are going to get to my bag, you will have to be a very short person. If wearing it front or back, it is within each reach of someone's hands. A little situation awareness goes a long way. But being paranoid is not useful.

Posted by
3961 posts

Lot's of good tips on this thread. I echo the usual precautionary measures. After traveling throughout the world, I have felt secure. Enjoy your journey!

Posted by
11119 posts

The only time I saw it was in southern Spain when a man on a motor bike slashed the strap of a purse a woman was wearing and then stole the bag and rode away.

Posted by
4141 posts

For attaching zipper pulls together, putting tags on my dog's collar and even for keys, I use split key rings like these. You can find them in lots of online and regular stores.

It takes a bit longer to get to what they secure, but that doesn't bother me nearly so much as it might a pickpocket.

Having said that, I still put nothing I'd mind losing in a backpack or cross-body bag. All the really important stuff goes in my money belt. After trying all types, I settled on this style. Of course you step into it, pull it up and wear it inside your clothes, not like the picture.

Pickpockets have had a go at me 3 times over a total of about 4 1/2 years of living and traveling in Europe. All 3 had an element of distraction on my part.

The first time was in 1977 at Roma Termini when they tried to take a large cross-body bag I had sitting on the floor next to me while I was writing postcards. It was my first trip. I was clueless in a huge, almost totally empty room full of long tables with attached seating benches. I should've guessed that something was hinky when this large "family" sat very close to me.

All I had in that bag was a raincoat. I caught them, cussed them out and turned back to the rest of my stuff before anyone could grab anything else. The guys who had slid the bag away from my side slowly got up and casually walked away. The rest of the people stayed a minute or so, then followed them. I finished writing my postcards before I left.

The 2nd time was in Levanto in 2017. I was buying a takeaway lunch when I noticed my very tiny cross-body purse was open and a €10 was kind of sticking out. Again, I should've been suspicious when the young woman at the cash register ahead of me gave me her place in line. The shop was very small and I'm sure both the people taking orders and the few others in there noticed her actions. I think she might have gotten a one €10 and was going for another, but I'm not really sure.

Now I use a larger and deeper cross-body purse, but there's no guarantee it, or I, will be less vulnerable. In fact in incident #3 last summer, someone on the elevator at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm lived up to the pickpocket warning signs and unsuccessfully tried to unzip it.

Posted by
1406 posts

Darrell, welcome to the forum and have fun planning yr European adventure !!
You've been given a lot of great advice, but I'm going to tease one person...Sun Baked, I think I know yr intent, but I was amused by "don't be afraid to yell....Keep a reserved demeanor "

And David, not all travelers originate from places like Seattle. In my little town of 2000, I'd say 90% of people leave their car keys in the ignition when they go in to fill up their coffee and pay for their gas.... perhaps the same at the one cafe that sells burgers. I'm in the 10% because I have also lived in St Louis and Boston. On Sunday morning probably half the cars parked at church have keys in them, and those folks left their homes unlocked. I'd say its not just about "common sense ", its about thinking through new habits and routines, like the person who wrote that her husband kept going off and leaving his day pack because he wasn't in the habit of keeping track of a bag.
However, I do agree that purchasing gelato is a better choice than a "slash proof " bag

Posted by
85 posts

I've read the previous comments with interest. Here's my take. I've been traveling the entire world and have lived abroad for over 50 years. I've never been pickpocketed nor have I had a bag slashed. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I'm a petite woman and 95% of the time travel alone.

Here's my prescription for security with bags. I use Pacsafe purses (usually) and minimalist backpacks (rarely) for daily carry. The added security of metal mesh, slash proof straps, and lockable zippers make me feel more safe and I believe is an excellent deterrent to thievery. I now use a Pacsafe 28L backpack, with the sternum straps closed, as my airline personal item. It fits the sizers IF it isn't packed all the way to the vertical limit. This way, I can walk from metro or train station to my hotel and get to airports and train stations without worrying. BTW, I've tried other security purse brands and find them sorely lacking in quality. Check reviews carefully (especially negative ones) before making purchases.

I loathe money belts, recommended by Rick Steves. As a petite woman I just cannot wear one. Instead, I use a flat neck wallet which I wear CROSSBODY under my buttoned or zipped-up top layer of clothing. I tuck the wallet at my side, it's easy to access when I need money or a credit card, pretty impossible for a pickpocket to get to. I never access the wallet in crowded situations, I plan ahead.

I don't travel on public transport at crowded times, if a train or bus looks full I wait for the next one. I carry my purse in front with my hand over the top AT ALL TIMES. I walk with a purpose and am always alert, I never look like a confused and lost tourist. If I need to consult the map guidance on my phone I step into a doorway or inside a shop. I never never set my phone down on a cafe table and I choose a table far from the sidewalk or front door. If I ever feel unsafe I depart the area immediately.

A couple of years ago I was sitting at an outdoor cafe in Agen, France. A sketchy-looking guy sat down at a nearby table and seemed to be checking me out. I made a show of keeping my Pacsafe bag locked and attached to me crossbody as I sat there and gave him a good stare. He got up and left. I was his target, but he never approached me at all. I had actually had a lady approach me in the parking garage when I got out of my car, she warned me (in French) about teen thieves and to be on the lookout. I don't speak French, but I certainly got the drift of what she was saying. So I was hyper-alert in the garage and had no issues.

My travel philosophy is if a person can't take security precautions they should stay home.

Posted by
1662 posts

Hi Darrell,

Keep a big city awareness. When on a bus or train, keep your bag(s) right in front of you.

There is one travel guru (Wolter's World) who stated his mother-in-law had her bag slashed; they did not get anything because it was either a PacSafe or similar. But most PacSafe bags start out heavy because of the metal netting inside and in the strap; usually in the target areas of a bag. The strap can irritate some.

Kipling and Travelon are good travel bags. They are lightweight and have strong (webbed or similar) straps and strong outer nylon material.

What I do with my Kipling is attach the "day's wallet" to the key fob inside. I solo'd around Rome twice in the last two years with no picking incidents or attempts.

I'm a city girl. I'm very friendly, but, I would not have any qualms about telling a person to "stay in their lane." Thieves look for distracted travelers or will swarm you to distract you. Pickpockets want to tip toe in and out. It's not violent-laden like some US cities.

Carry a bag cross body and wear it more towards the front of your body. Men in Europe carry messenger style or I-pad style. If you prefer a day pack similar to a small back pack, do not put anything of great value near a zipper or near the bottom. And, don't put anything of great value in your pockets -- front or back.

Posted by
360 posts

Honestly, I've had more frustrations with the zippers on my RS bags blowing out (on every bag I've purchased) than with any bag slashers or pick pockets. I put anything valuable in the day pack in the compartment that's double-protected by a zipper and fold-over piece that's also latched. We use a light backpack for the unimportant things like water bottles, light jackets, the guide book, etc.

Security depends a lot on location. Just like in the USA, some places are more prone to theft than others. Different places, different theft methods. The only place I know personally where a lady had her purse slashed open from the bottom was in the central market of Guatemala City. She did okay though because she smartly had her cash and important stuff under her shirt.
Certain basic precautions should be used everywhere. But, learning the particulars of a certain place can sure help.
Some place like Scotland is easy. Rome - you need to be a bit more alert in tourist type places like the main bus routes and the Vatican, etc.. Other - less congested areas of Rome are just fine.

Posted by
8414 posts

Darrell942, I just don't have anything in my bags that can't be replaced. Thief wants my dirty clothes? Let him wash them. I can replace the bag too.

I dont think the RS bags are any more secure than anyone else's (except for the pacsafe kind). But they don't need to be.