Best Anti-Theft Purse For Travel: My Top 9 Travel Bag Picks

The best anti-theft purse is the one that foils pickpockets every time.

And if I’d had one of these clever items when I visited Beijing, I wouldn’t have looked like such an idiot… or worse, a criminal.

Man pickpocketing woman and stealing her wallet

That’s exactly how I felt as I tried to convince embassy officials to please let me in to get a new passport – because mine had been stolen, along with my money.

But I didn’t have a pickpocket-proof purse, and I had committed the cardinal sin of travel: I had put my passport into an unsecured daypack.

Believe me, this is the kind of mistake you only make once, and I’d love to make sure you don’t have to make it at all!

So I now have not one, but several of the best anti-theft travel bags on the market. I never travel without one. And yes, my passport is now snugly secure.

Today I want to focus on day bags designed to ward off pickpockets. I’ve been testing several of these during my travels and to paraphrase the well-known ad, I would ‘never leave home without one’.

There are two big names in anti-theft travel bags for women: PacSafe and Travelon. The last time I searched for “PacSafe” on Amazon I found 337 results, with 714 for Travelon. While the two giants dominate the market, I’ve also looked at others and have added those further down this page.

Meantime, though, here’s a comparison chart for my top 9 bags.

These travel accessories range from tiny clutches to roomy purses and every color under the sun, so try to narrow down your choices before you shop by asking yourself:

  • Are color and style important to you?
  • Do you need something ultralight because you have back issues or is heavy fine?
  • What do you plan to carry – just a wallet and phone or do you need space for your tablet, paperback book, glasses, keys, tissues, pens and a notebook for quick notes, a small camera… you get the picture!
  • Will you be heading into the rainy season? The material could be an issue.
  • Do you need oodles of pockets or do you like to have it all mixed up at the bottom of your purse?

Make sure you answer some of these questions before you shop!

Best anti-theft crossbody bag: comparison table

What should I look for in the best anti-theft bags?

Each bag will be different, but each will have specific anti-theft properties that make them attractive.

The best crossbody bags should have as many of these characteristics as possible:

  • Slash-resistant or slash-proof fabric (typically wire mesh)
  • Strong fabric (canvas, nylon)
  • Anti-slash straps (usually wire-reinforced)
  • Locking zippers or closures OR hidden zippers
  • RFID blocking pockets/compartments
  • Multiple interior pockets with separate closures (like zippers)
  • Non-flashy design or colors (to blend in rather than attract attention)
  • Compact enough to be worn under a cardigan, jacket even a large pashmina, making it hard for thieves to spot.

Daypacks are also good for use as travel purses, but under certain conditions:

  • That they are designed specifically to thwart thieves
  • That you wear them on your chest instead of your back (I do dislike that but that’s my personal bias) 
  • That you avoid putting anything of value in exterior or unlocked pockets.

Some find that the best anti-theft backpack purse is the one that is versatile enough to act as both a backpack and a handbag in different situations.

Standard Pacsafe purse features

Every Pacsafe bag (or most) shares a few features that set the brand apart from others:

  • Stainless steel wire mesh in fabric and wire-reinforced straps
  • Locking clips and zippers, turn and lock security hooks.  
  • RFID blocking pockets and compartments

My three most highly rated Pacsafe bags are described below.

Standard Travelon purse features

Most Travelon bags are made to foil pickpockets and tend to share certain characteristics:

  • Slash-resistant mesh body panels and shoulder straps
  • RFID blocking pockets
  • Locking zippers and compartments

These two are among the most highly rated Travelon handbags by women who travel with them.

Pacsafe vs Travelon: who wins?

Let’s talk Travelon vs PacSafe. Both PacSafe and Travelon offer a wide range of bag styles from compact backpacks, to wallets, to purses. Both incorporate great anti-theft features like slash-proof fabric/straps, RFID-blocking pockets and ways to lock zippers and closures. Both have highly-rated bags that people swear by.

So what are the biggest differences between PacSafe and Travelon? Price, color options, and overall style.

Pros and cons of Pacsafe

In general, PacSafe bags are more expensive than bags of similar quality (often by $20 or more, depending on the sales and bag in question), and they come with fewer color options. There are exceptions, of course, but PacSafe tends to put safety and practicality before fashion in their bag designs. In this case, safe really does equal boring, which can be great if your main priority is to transport your things securely and not be noticed. They are also sturdy and buying one means you may have to stick with it for a long time because it won’t wear out.

✔ Durable and practical
✔ Will not draw unnecessary attention
✔ Highly-rated and trusted by travelers

✖ More expensive than other bags of equal quality
✖ Fewer color choices/More “boring” designs

Pros and cons of Travelon

Travelon isn’t a designer purse but the brand does have a range of handbags with quaint stitching, stylish fasteners, and bolder color choices. 

If you’re budget-conscious, Travelon bags cost less overall. That said, the flashier colors and accessories might attract more attention, which could backfire if the point of buying an anti-theft bag was to deter thieves from snatching your things.

✔ Durable and practical
✔ Budget-conscious option
✔ Highly-rated and trusted by travelers
✔ More color choices/Fancier styles and designs

✖ Could attract unnecessary attention
✖ Sadly, the ‘plainer’ designs have the highest user ratings

It really is up to you. My own personal choice is Pacsafe, which I find the most reliable and neutral, a feature I like for traveling. They’re also well made (mine seem indestructible) and well thought through. If you’re in need of a small and a larger travel anti-theft purse, you could decide to buy one of each (I don’t need much of a nudge to buy an extra bag for travel!)

The next best anti-theft bags

If you aren’t a fan of PacSafe or Travelon, then these are the next best anti-theft bags for travel made by other reputable brands. Whether you’re looking for a stylish anti-theft purse, or a slash-proof purse, these will suit or travel bag needs.

It’s true, we are spoilt for choice. Our tremendous thirst for travel, combined with our need to keep our valuables safe, means that traveling without some kind of anti-theft bag is simply not an option anymore. Whichever bag you choose, make sure it is comfortable on your body because no matter how secure it is, if you don’t enjoy wearing it, you won’t.

— Originally published on 26 September 2018

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