Carol and Ted Anderson of Bloomington hurried across a street in St. Petersburg, Russia, trying to catch a bus. Focused on getting their ride, the two experienced international travelers let their guard down just long enough for both to have their pockets and purse picked on the bus. Their wallets, and their credit cards, were gone.
"I was in a hurry and I didn't zip my purse shut," Carol said. "It was a 15-minute bus ride. We were standing body to body. I felt nothing. I held my bag under my arm. I thought I would have felt something."
The first way to foil professional pickpockets is to make it difficult for wily thieves to access bags or clothing. Travel outfitters today offer a growing selection of travel items intended to provide increased security, including purses, bags, and personal clothing for both men and women.
The items often provide zippered or hidden pockets, secure closures, RFID (radio frequency identification) security, and even shoulder straps with embedded steel wires designed to prevent bag slashers from cutting the strap and ripping the bag away. Some bags also have an embedded wire mesh in the body fabric itself.
Travel clothing for women is available from many online retailers. In recent years, this clothing has taken on stylish designs compared to the safari or military styling of the past. In some countries, women may be required to have their shoulders covered and wear dresses or skirts with hems below the knee. Garments meeting this requirement are readily available, also with interior security pockets.
Likewise for men, a variety of travel trousers and shirts provide anti-theft designs. Often in this type of clothing, manufacturers conceal zippers under flaps or along seams. This allows designers to design attractive garments while providing increased security.
For both women and men, a variety of shoulder bags, handbags, and backpacks exists to provide security from theft. Look for slash proof straps, locking zippers, and RFID blocking material. RFID blocking shields items such as passports, bankcards, and credit cards from portable scanners used by thieves.
One really useful travel garment is the women's or men's travel vest by SCOTTEVEST (www.scottevest.com). This vest is a significant departure from the sloppy, floppy, boxy vest designs that scream, "Hey! Valuables on board!" Women will find these vests flexible, well cut, and attractive. They can be worn with dress slacks, skirts, or jeans. Men also will find relief from the bulky, photographer's-style vest with patch pockets. In particular, these vests can eliminate the need to carry a bag or purse without bulging pockets. They make passing through airport security effortless.
You can begin with these search terms: safety travel clothing, security pockets, zippered pockets, pick-pocket proof pants, bra pocket travel safe, anti-theft back packs, anti-theft shoulder bags, slash resistant, slash proof, travel security products, money belts.
Cubes, Cubes, Cubes
Once you decide what to take, use packing cubes to put your suitcase in order by organizing its contents into modules. Have you ever had to open or unpack a bag in airport security? With packing cubes, a bag can be packed and unpacked and packed again in minutes.
Several companies make them and a simple search for "packing cubes" is all you need to start shopping. They are available in a variety of shapes and colors.
Use one cube for shirts, another for socks and underwear, another for pants. Perhaps you will be packing exercise clothing; use a packing cube to keep it separate from everything else. If you need extra toiletry items, a small packing cube will work. Toss an extra cube in your bag and use it as a dirty-laundry bag. You can even load one with snacks.
The Possibles Bag
A Possibles Bag is a pouch or bag for carrying small but necessary or useful items. In today's travel world, this handy item contains the stuff that really doesn't fit with anything else and would otherwise be rattling around in a suitcase.
A Possibles Bag might contain a travel clothesline, rubber bands, adhesive bandages, length of strong string or light rope, small flashlight, small package of facial tissue, universal power adaptor, safety pins, extra set of earphones, or other items you choose.
For checked luggage, a Possibles Bag can also contain a multi-tool or pocketknife, a small box of matches or cigarette lighter, or a corkscrew. A simple mesh bag with drawstring closure works well for a Possibles Bag.
Joseph Koppi is a Mendota Heights writer currently living and traveling in China and Central Asia. He writes the travel blog BoomerTrekker (www.boomertrekker.com).