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anti-theft bags

Do anti-theft bags actually work or are they a false sense of security? Just wondering if I should spend the money on them or not.

Posted by
758 posts

Kind of hard to know if they work or not. If you carry one and a robber recognizes it then doesn't bother you it worked but you had no idea.

I have a few different ones I've used from a small single strap backpack to a sort of large wallet that can be worn cross body or as a waist pack. Have never had anyone attempt to steal. I particularly like my small one worn as a waist pack because it doesn't pull on my shoulder and I can wear it under a jacket. It also lets me enjoy a tour more because I'm not worrying about pickpockets.

If you check out Amazon you'll see plenty of options for size and price. you don't need to spend a fortune.
I like travelon.

Posted by
2 posts

Personally, I wouldn't take a major trip without my anti-theft bag. Typically they can't be cut from your body or cut into from the bottom. The zippers lock and make everything secure. However, as you say, don't get into a false sense of security by sliding it to your back, carrying it in an unsafe manner, or leave it unsecured at a coffee shop or restaurant. They are slightly more heavy, but I just consider this the price of security and peace of mind. Regards!

Posted by
898 posts

My wife and I both use anti-theft bags from Pacsafe.com, they work and I never worry about pickpockets when in Europe. Also, I wear clothes from clothingarts.com, they have special pants that have built-in pockets that are designed to prevent theft, they work very well and it's all I wear on trips.

I enjoy my time in Europe so much that I am probably over protective of my Passport and credit cards but I just don't want to have to deal with the hassle getting a new credit card or passport while in another country.

PS: My wife and I each carry a different credit card so if one is lost or stolen we can still pay for food and lodging, etc.

Posted by
3789 posts

I don't use them and feel the extra cost and weight isn't worth it. But....I do adapt my bag, or look for one with some certain features. I use bags with straps of some substance - often seatbelt webbing. Bagallini sells them. I use a hobo type bag with a 2 way top zipper. I have a tiny lockable S carabiner that I use when it feels necessary. I never remove it when I am out. It sits in my lap at meals.
I also want a bag with at least one internal zip pocket so I can put day wallet and some key items into that zipped pocket. I have been known to also pin or sew another pouch to the internal lining so by some remote chance there is a bag slash, then what falls out is very minimal. Also, I generally have some sweater, coat or shawl draped over the top of the bag making it harder to access the zip.
An anti-theft bag doesn't work if you have removed the strap from your body and it is then grabbable. I also have watched people struggle with all the little lock clips - distracting them and screaming 'tourist, I am distracted'. I don't want to look that vulnerable.
Use what you feel comfortable with - that may be your same bag as at home. Any woman knows the challenge and learning curve of moving from one purse to another :-) I recommend that being comfortable and confident with whatever you choose matters most.

For luggage, I look at other features before “anti-theft” features, like size, weight, organization.
For purses, anti-theft features are also a lower priority for me. But, anti-theft features are more relevant for a purse or other personal carry pack.

You can create your own anti-theft features by locking or clipping together the zippers, securing your bag to a chair with a cable, etc.. You can post a question about how to improve bag security for ideas.

Posted by
1530 posts

My first travel purse was a Travelon large crossbody purse. After carrying it for an hour my neck hurt a lot. I gave it to my sister-in-law. She had no complaints.

My second purse was not anti-theft but easy to add clips and locks to. It hurt my neck also so I rotated it with my backpack. It’s hanging in my closet because I might use it “someday.”

I now have an x-small anti-theft Travelon purse but have not used it on a trip yet It should work for the small daily things I need. I chose it because it was small, red and on sale. I added snaps to a couple pockets so I feel more secure.

I’m also taking a packable backpack for days I need to carry more. I added security clips to it too. Plus I wear a neck wallet or money belt.
I’m a little security anxious away from home. We had no problems in Italy because we stayed aware of our surroundings. Next trip is solo; I will need to be more aware.

So looping all the way back to your question, an anti-theft purse is not a substitute for awareness of your surroundings. Locks/snaps are a good theft deterrent plus interior zippered pockets give another level of security.

Posted by
1923 posts

I favor the Exofficio and Scottevest jackets and vests with inside zipper pockets, and don't carry a purse, just a day backpack for snacks and guidebook. My phone is in a Bandolier case with a strap, but these vests/jackets also have inside phone pockets. My hands are always free. Lots of folks here don't like these vests, but I have the light-weight styles, and they has worked quite well for me.
Safe travels!

Posted by
732 posts

I use a money belt to carry credit cards and cash to protect against pickpockets. But I don't see a need for an anti-theft bag. If someone is willing to slash your bag or cut the strap, why wouldn't they be willing to simply grab it off your shoulder?

My belief is your bag is far more likely to be stolen when you set it down, say on the ground at a restaurant or while sitting on a park bench. All of a sudden 15 feet away there is a screaming match, maybe a few shoves or looks like a fight will break out. Everyone watches, and in the meantime a few bags disappear. Anytime you hear a commotion think of it as a cue to gather your belongings.

Posted by
422 posts

We are former "anti-theft" bag travelers. On our first couple of trips to Europe we each carried Pac-Safe crossbody bag. I didn't like it because it was heavy; the strap was very cumbersome and rigid, so when sitting in a restaurant, the strap took up a lot of space. I then down-sized to a smaller Pac-safe bag, but same issue with the strap, besides being heavy.
I now wear a neck wallet, and travel with a very small lightweight cross-body wallet/purse, with just enough cash for the day, as well as one credit card. If it gets stolen, I have another in my neck wallet. When seated, I can still wear the cross-body wallet. So, all my "valuables" are always "on" me. I also use a small backpack with items essential to me, but of no real value to anyone else.
I attended a talk where a well-known "packing expert" said that she would rather lose a small sum of money rather than be injured if someone tried to grab the indestructible bag.

Posted by
166 posts

I use a very small cross-body bag and have added lockable carabiners, as MariaF mentioned above. They come in different sizes and colors and you can find them at Lowe’s, REI, outdoor stores. Here is what I am referring to: https://www.niteize.com/product/S-Biner-SlideLock-Aluminum.asp and https://www.niteize.com/product/S-Biner-MicroLock.asp
I never remove my bag when I am out so that I won’t accidentally lose sight of it or forget it. I also added a tether to the inside of the bag and my tiny wallet is attached to it. The older I get the more I am aware that in a new environment I can get distracted and forget or misplace things.

Posted by
61 posts

For travel, I use a medium sized Travelon crossbody purse and like it mostly because it’s just the right size for me and has a water bottle slot. I do find the extra weight and rigid strap a little cumbersome and I’m sure it looks pretty touristy. Even with the extra security clips and clasps, I still keep my hand on it when in crowds and on public transport. My purse only contains ‘walking around money’ for the day and one credit card (I use a money belt for extra cash and backup card).
So I don’t think you can go wrong with the extra security, but it’s no substitute for being aware of your surroundings. If you’re looking for a good deal on a Travelon, I often see them at TJ Maxx (where I got mine on clearance for $20).

Posted by
582 posts

We go to the EU every other year and only once did we take Travelon - too heavy and too much work.

We've never had an issue - I feel safer there than I do in some places here in the USA.

We do take precautions - I carry a crossbody, etc.

Posted by
3661 posts

I'm not a fan of anti-theft bags either, for all the reasons already listed, plus my daughter had 2 that quickly frayed and became useless because of the sharp metal threads poking out. And, I really don't think that there's any "one size fits all" solution to protecting your valuables.

I use a very small and lightweight cross-body purse. I have many, all Baggallinis. This is like the latest one that I got in Juniper green for my trip to Ireland last year and didn't get to use. ☹ But I will (she said, confidently) use it for the same tour next summer. 🙂

One advantage of small bags like this is that, theoretically, you can't overload them. Another is that you can slip the strap down to your waist while eating and keep the bag in your lap or even tuck it under a thigh. I never remove the whole thing from my body until I'm back in my room.

Whatever you use, I highly recommend that you have any lobster or other kind of strap clasps removed and have the straps threaded through the rings and sewn so that the straps can't be easily removed from the rings.

Of course, I always wear a money belt like this under my clothes and next trip I'll take a very light packable daypack like this for the rain jacket I expect to need to take off and put back on repeatedly in Ireland, and for the walking sticks I may need to use occasionally.

Posted by
1923 posts

My daughter also had a new bag in which the strap shredded during the first trip, and the inner wire scratched her hand and arm repeatedly. It presented more problems than it was worth.
Safe travels!

Posted by
306 posts

Ive travelled for over 30 years, often with many $1000's in cash (pre ATMs - which 2012 in Burma) . I've only ever lost a bag once and that was when I was stupid enough to hang it on the back of a chair in an outside cafe, in Bolivia!

I don't use anti-theft bags - they are too heavy - and they look like they are worth stealing. They have brand names they tell people to sell them. I usually carry an expensive laptop and camera, and they go in the grubbiest, down market cheap bag I own. My actual valuables go in secure pockets, my passport and 2nd cards go in a money belt

I do not put anything valuable in external pockets - I use them for hats/ gloves, tissues, suntan lotion - not for phones or cash. If I'm in a crowded place I keep my hand over the main zipped compartment.

I've never ever heard, met or seen anyone have a bag slashed or a strap cut. Mostly theft is from people taking items out of a bag, or stealing the whole bag because someone is as stupid as I was.

Posted by
2886 posts

I use anti theft bags mainly because I like how organized they are. However, I use them at home as well as away. I just like them. My crossbody bags are mostly small, like Lo’s, so I don’t have a problem with weight. I like being able to easily lock a zipper when in crowded situations. I have tried rigging my baggalini bags but I feel more obvious because then my bag is slower to get into and I feel like I look like I have something valuable in my bag. Also, any bag I have is always attached to me when I am out and about. I am most apt to just lose my bag than anything…so always attached.

My PI is a Sherpani that also has some safety add ons, so I guess I am in the opposite camp, pro anti theft for the organization and ease of securing.

Edit: and I travel solo a lot, so I spread my documents around. When I travel with my H it doesn’t really matter as I don’t worry about us both losing our stuff at the same time.

Posted by
6539 posts

I've had a couple over the years, but decided that it was better to keep my potential losses low, by not taking anything valuable or irreplaceable on trips. It seems to me that for your main piece of luggage (carryon in Rick-world) your potential threat is only in transit (i.e., walking in airports/rail stations/ to and from hotels) so there's not an exposure in daily touring. I don't worry about hotel room security. Same with a daypack - nothing in it I can't afford to lose. Lighter is better. I also think that in a theft situation, they'll more likely just take the whole bag than try and sneakily cut it open to rummage through your dirty underwear.

Now if I was traveling in more dodgy places, I might think different.

Posted by
222 posts

I understand this question was probably directed to women, but I (a man), use the Loctote backpack when I go to the beach. It is virtually indestructible and locks onto a chair (or other stationary object). I like it when I go to the beach alone. I can pack away my stuff (phone, ipad, etc.) while I swim.

I'm a big fan of this product, but I have no financial interest in the company.

Posted by
10984 posts

If you don't want the expensive or extra heftinest of an anti-theft bag, just make sure whatever bag you get allows you put some type of device on the zipper pulls to prevent them from easy opening.

I use either a cable key ring of a locking s-biner from Nite Ize. It takes a few seconds to open them and that is enough time to react. It saved me in Venice. I was at the train station buying a ticket from the machine for the vaporetto when I was targeted by a gang. Two distracted me on my left---I thought they were going for the change and ticket that had just been dispensed from the machine--but I quickly realized something was going on to my right where my luggage was. One of the gang was standing next to my luggage but couldn't get into my day bag because the zipper pulls were connected. Inside was all my electronics. I told them to get lost and all three walked away together. When I got to my hotel, I found a suitcase external pocket unzipped but luckily I keep it empty.

Posted by
836 posts

I once considered PacSafe bags, which are poor value for money, heavy, and ugly. Their craftsmanship is of low quality and the wires often puncture the fabric. Also, not all sides of PacSafe bags are protected by metal wires. I guess that professional pickpockets know these bags well and thus know exactly where to cut anyway. So, as you mentioned, they provide a false sense of security.

Bring a bag whose zippers can be locked by a tiny non-TSA lock. Never expose any wealth. If you want, get a money belt and wear it under your clothing.

Posted by
43 posts

I use a Pacsafe crossbody and love it (the newer ones are lighter weight), but all the pros/cons above are valid considerations. You’re no more likely to get a consensus on this topic than the endless threads on luggage. But that’s ok — it really comes down to you as a traveler. Best of luck with your choice and happy travels!!

Posted by
754 posts

Spent 26 days in France and 36 days in the UK with our packsafe purses we got at Winners (like TJMax but in canada) that we paid $16 for. We do not carry much of anything in them. We use a money belt and the purse hold extra memory cards, batteries, daily cash and tissues and lipstick. We did not find them heavy or hard to operate. We had a lady try to pickpocket us in Paris and failed miserably. We always felt safe and I didnt have to worry about my mom and her purse in crowded places. We always wore them crossbody and never had any problems. Ours are small and don't even weigh a 1/2 pound so no issue on it being heavy.

I bought an even smaller one now and I even wear it at home. Its made by travelon and I think I paid maybe $30 for it. Love it

Posted by
147 posts

My favorite solution is a Mountainsmith Tour lumbar pack. It can be used as a hip strapped hiking bag or a cross body messenger style bag. With the later config, it is usually carried in front with my arm over the top in crowded urban settings. I have never even had a second’s concern but I am also aware of my surroundings.

The only people I personally know who have had theft problems are friends and family who have been careless like walking around Rome with a large purse unzipped or leaving a bag on the floor of a ticket window at the metro station. The exact stuff that can get you in trouble here.

Posted by
1117 posts

I got an expensive anti-theft strap for my camera once, with some sort of wire in it to prevent cutting. Well, guess what broke first and left the camera dangling from my neck on one side of the strap: the metal wire.

What do I need thieves for if this strap takes care of breaking my camera! Lucky for me, the camera somehow didn't fall and survived the event. That was the end of my using anti-theft equipment.

Posted by
140 posts

I opted to get a medium pacsafe backpack and very small crossbody bag. We have two shorter trips coming up, with significantly less risk (ie, not city hopping on trains every three to four days, no museums, crowds) that I will test them out on, and decide if we (husband and I) want to invest in a second.

Like others mentioned, there is a learning curve to a new bag, and you want to get thru that before leaving on a long, intensive trip. Get used to the locks, fine tune bag organization, etc. I tend to pay attention when out and about, but recognize that now I’m older, I’m a bit less focused, tire more easily, and could benefit from a little extra security.

I do think it is great advice to limit the valuables you bring with — I have a full frame camera and lenses that I would love to take along, but between the weight, extra bag to transport it in, and additional risk of theft, I’ve opted to leave it home. In addition to trying the anti theft bag, we are also looking to downsize and minimize our luggage period, so that it is easier to manage, and allows us more focus on our surroundings when transiting between cities.