Every time I see someone traveling with a backpack I think to myself, “It would be so easy for someone to open that backpack and remove the contents without the owner ever knowing.” I’ve also heard stories about bag slashers, pick pockets, and people who snatch bags and take off. I do not use a backpack, or purse, or a daypack for those reasons. I, instead, use a travel vest. In fact, there have been many trips when I took nothing but my travel vest on entire trips (Haiti, St. Thomas-1 night, Costa Rica-1 night). There’s enough room in it to pack travel documents, a cell phone, a small camera, minimal toiletries, something to sleep in, and a change of underwear. Why take more; especially for a one nighter?
This post contains a lot of travel tips. In addition to the utility of a travel vest, all extra tips will be italicized and bolded.
The top 12 reasons to use a travel vest over a backpack are:
1. The best thing about the travel vest is that essentially one is wearing one’s wallet. In a crowded subway, it would be really hard for a bag snatcher to make off with one’s bag. A pick pocket would have a bad day because if the vest is zipped, he would have to reach inside one’s clothing in order to get one’s wallet. I find it safe and fool proof. For an overnight bus trip, it’s the safest way to guard one’s valuables.
2. One also wears one’s luggage with the travel vest. In a restaurant, it’s best to keep it on. That way one can’t walk out and forget one’s bag. One time Freddy set his backpack down in a bar in Mexico. We walked out and about a half a mile down the road, it hit him that he had no bag. He took off running because that bag contained at least $1000 of photography equipment and a trip full of memories on his camera.
3. Another thing I like about the travel vest is if I get hot and I’m not in a crowded area and I feel safe, I can zip it together and wear it over my shoulder as a shoulder bag as shown below:
All my valuables are inside and secure. Nothing can fall out since the internal pockets are all zipped. I keep my hand on it at all times.
4. One tip I can offer is that of the use of tethers. Tethers ensure that if one forgets to close a zipper, nothing of value can fall out. This way, I never lose or forget anything; especially my cell phone. I never go on a trip without securing my cell phone via tether to my travel vest. To me, my cell phone is just as valuable as my passport and credit cards. Losing any of these items would ruin a trip. I use the upper left pocket to secure my cell phone with the tether.
I finally convinced Freddy to tether after we took a taxi to the ferry to go to Tobago. It was still dark out as the sun had not yet risen. Freddy’s phone and case were both black and they blended in just perfectly in the dark on the black upholstery of the car’s seating. After we were in line to buy our tickets, panic set in, “I left my phone in the taxi!” Freddy exclaimed, as that naked feeling overtook him. Luckily, I had implemented another travel tip-ALWAYS get your driver’s business card, name, or cab number. Thank goodness I had the driver’s business card. We quickly mooched a phone call from the nearest person to us and within 15 minutes, Freddy was reunited with his phone. Had he tethered, this never would have happened. Had I not requested the driver’s business card, Freddy would have a different phone today.
6. In the large iPad pocket I pack a travel wallet; the kind which most people wear under their clothes. That too is tethered to the inside of the pocket with a safety pin and zipped shut. I read many stories about people who were told to drop their pants in order to reveal the travel wallets to thieves. When exposed, it was cut off them with a knife and the thieves took off running. Word to the wise, don’t wear a travel wallet, if possible. While on the topic, it is a good idea to keep a copy of one’s passport and extra pictures inside one’s suitcase along with an extra credit card and some emergency cash. I take it one step farther. In case everything I own is ever stolen from me, I sent myself an email with a copy of my passport, a list of all my credit cards and toll free numbers to call, phone numbers of people who can help me, and any other information I may need should I wind up with nothing. Best to be prepared. Luckily Internet is quite easy to find these days so a quick log in could start to restore my life.
7. My day money (only carry a small amount at a time and make it a goal to acquire small bills as much as possible) is accessible and secure. In the outer, left, side pocket I have a coin purse that is tethered to the travel vest so if I drop it by mistake, my day wallet will never hit the ground. I also carry just one credit card in my day wallet.
8. The travel vest gives me a great place to store my point ‘n shoot camera in the right, outer pocket. I have it tethered to the key holder.
I use this camera to take pictures if I’m on a weekend trip, or if I’m on a trip that’s not a trip of a lifetime, or just to take a basic shot without having to dig out my DSLR. I know a lot of people these days use their cell phones for all their trip photos, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea. One reason is storage. Taking a lot of photos and videos can quickly take up a couple gig in storage; especially if one has a lot of music on one’s phone. Another reason is battery life. Nothing is more disappointing than to miss a great shot due to a dead battery (that happened to me at the Copenhagen mermaid). Making a lot of videos will drain the battery rather quickly. Lastly, flashing the newest iPhone in many places in the world immediately pegs one as a rich tourist; someone who can afford to have a few things taken from him or her. I try to show as little wealth as possible when I travel. That means I wear only a bit of inexpensive or no jewelry when I travel. I know I’m married and I don’t need to show the world my bling when I’m traveling to prove it.
9. I have a clean place to store my toilet paper-the inner right pocket.
Nothing grosses me out more than to encounter a bathroom with no toilet paper. With the travel vest I have a clean place to ensure that I always have some on hand. It is very common in many third world countries for a person to make a living as bathroom attendant who issues out toilet paper. I’ve observed them doing this by rolling it over their hands to make little packets. The future user has no idea whether their hands are even clean! One woman I observed handing out toilet paper was eating Pringles chips and licking her fingers as she made little individual tissue packs. I could not imagine putting that dirty tissue in my private area. Luckily, I had a travel vest so I knew my tissue was clean.
10. Another advantage of using a travel vest over a backpack is that it opens up wide so in the full length is can be used as a blanket, something one cannot do with a backpack.
11. The travel vest is relatively waterproof. So if it starts to rain, one can simply pull the vest up over one’s head and stay dry whereas a backpack becomes a heavy burden in the rain.
12. The sunglass pocket makes it easy to find my sunglasses in a hurry. In addition, there is a lens cleaner attached so I never have to wear dirty sunglasses.
A final note-I find the vest to run quite small. If one is going to fill the pockets, order the biggest size they have. You will need the extra space.