Why use an anti-theft backpack?
Anti-theft backpacks are built to keep your belongings safe and out of the hands of would-be criminals. Made with slash-proof materials, reinforced zips and RFID blocking pockets, theft-proof backpacks give peace of mind to travellers and commuters alike.
There are plenty of anti-theft bags available on the market, but a few stand out from the crowd. They’re the toughest, safest and most secure packs you can find. Whether you’re looking for a daypack to protect your essentials while sightseeing or you want a secure large backpack, we dive into the best theft-proof backpacks for travel.
- Best Eco-Friendly Option: Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 ECONYL (45-litre Backpack)
- Best Anti-Theft Daypack for Women: Sherpani Avalon (11-litre Daypack)
- Best Anti-Theft Drawstring Bag: Loctote Flak Sack 2 (13-litre Daypack)
- Most Subtle Anti-Theft Backpack: Pacsafe Metrosafe LS450 (25-litre Daypack)
- Most Stylish Anti-Theft Backpack: Travelon Heritage (22-litre Daypack)
- Best Lightweight Anti-Theft Backpack: Travelon Active Daypack (16-litre Daypack)
Best anti-theft backpacks
If you want to have all your luggage locked up and safe, these anti-theft backpacks provide the most effective way to do so.
Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 ECONYL Travel Pack – Best Eco-Friendly Option!
- Price Range: $$$$
- Best Feature: Made from recycled materials
- Feature to improve: Back padding is a bit too thin to carry heavy loads.
At 45-litres, the Venturesafe EXP45 ECONYL provides plenty of space for long term adventurers and weekend trippers. The bag fits into most airline’s hand luggage allowance — be sure to double-check before you fly as different airlines have different rules!
As it’s a full-size pack, the Venturesafe has an internal frame to distribute the weight of your gear evenly. There’s also a hip belt to lessen the load on your back and shoulders. It has a few internal pockets but the bulk of the backpack is made of one large compartment. This makes packing a breeze, especially when you combine the bag with a set of packing cubes! Once fully loaded, the internal compression straps keep all your belongings in place. The padded laptop sleeve can hold a 15-inch machine.
The Venturesafe is built using ECONYL. This durable material is made from recycled fishing nets and other waste nylon. It means the bag is not only tough but good for the planet too!
It features fully lockable zippers and Pacsafe’s Roobar locking system to ensure they remain secure. You can also lock the zips with a small padlock if you’d prefer. Either way, this stops any potential thieves getting your bag open without you noticing. The zips are puncture-resistant too.
It’s not just the zips that keep you safe. The bag is lined with Pacsafe’s eXomesh slashguard technology to prevent cut and run thefts. It also comes with a stainless steel anchor cable to secure the bag to fixed objects. The shoulder straps can be used in the same way but they are less effective. Still, they’re ideal for when you’re sitting down for a quick lunch or coffee. The straps are slash-proof too.
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Pacsafe Vibe 40
- Price Range: $$$$$
- Best Feature: Carry on size
- Feature to improve: More adjustability on the shoulder straps. Smaller users might not be able to tighten them enough.
The Vibe 40 is another fine example of a theft-proof backpack from Pacsafe. For usability, comfort and durability, the Vibe 40 stacks up well against our favourite travel backpack of all time, the Osprey Farpoint 40.
Its 40-litre capacity is enough for most travellers but some may find it’s a little tight for long term travel. It fits on most airlines as carry-on luggage and thanks to its plain, understated style, it doesn’t stand out at all.
The internal pockets and compression straps make packing and organising a breeze. The padded laptop pocket can hold a 15-inch computer and the RFID blocking pocket will keep your cards safe from skimming attacks.
There’s an internal frame to spread the weight of your gear across your body and the padded hip belt helps remove the pressure from your shoulders. There’s also an adjustable sternum strap that helps fine-tune the bag to you.
As for physical security, the Vibe 40 features eXomesh slashguard to ensure the bag remains cut proof. The straps are slash-proof too and can be used to anchor the pack to stationary objects like chairs or tables. This is done using the innovative Pop N Lock buckle which takes only a couple of seconds to secure.
The zips can be locked shut using the Roobar Sport zip locking system. You’ll need your own small padlock to make this system work but once locked, it’s more effective than using a padlock on its own. The zips are also puncture-resistant to prevent frustrated thieves slipping past your locks!
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RIUT 3 in 1 Expandable Backpack
- Price Range: $$$$$
- Best Feature: Expandable
- Feature to improve: Slash proof materials would be a really good addition
The Riut 3 In 1 Expandable Backpack is not quite as secure as the others on our list because it’s not made from slash-proof materials. However, it’ll still keep your stuff safe from all but the most determined thieves.
Being expandable, this pack ranges from a 15-litre capacity in its smallest guise to the fully expanded 35-litres. There’s a 25-litre setting too. This gives you ultimate control, allowing you to use the Riut as a travel bag or a day pack. Either way, it fits into most hand luggage specifications and is comfortable to wear no matter how much you’re carrying.
All zippers are against your body while wearing the bag. This prevents pickpockets and thieves from finding an easy way to your stuff. The base is made of a thick, abrasion-proof material. While it’s not rated as cut-proof, it will certainly provide an element of protection from slash and run thefts.
The outer material is completely water and fireproof. It’s abrasion-resistant too, so will last years on the road. The back panel is lightly padded with a secure pocket towards the base of your spine. There’s no way anyone can access it while you’re wearing the bag. It makes for an awesome spot to keep your phone, passport and wallet.
Inside, the pack has a bright green lining. It helps reflect light and makes it easier to find what you’re looking for. It also features a padded laptop sleeve, capable of holding a machine up to 15.6 inches and a ton of smaller pockets for organisation. The bulk of the bag though is the main compartment. It’s just one large pocket which makes packing a doddle!
If you want a hip belt for your backpack, you’ll need to buy it separately from Riut. It’s not expensive but when you consider the overall cost of this bag, it would be nice for the strap to be included as standard.
Best anti-theft daypacks
Whether you’re sightseeing in a major city or bumming on a quiet beach, a theft-proof daypack is the ideal way to keep your small essentials safe!
Pacsafe Metrosafe LS450 – Most subtle and won’t stand out!
- Price Range: $$$$
- Best Feature: eXomesh slashguard mesh and lockable zippers
- Feature to improve: Some women say this pack is not suited to their body shape. The straps are too thick and their placement is not right.
Pacsafe’s Metrosafe LS450 is a comfortable, lightweight anti-theft backpack. Thanks to its understated style, it looks little more than a regular backpack and blends in wherever you go. It’s built using Pacsafe’s proprietary eXomesh slashguard technology. This stainless steel wire mesh creates a cut-proof barrier and keeps your gear safe from cut and run thefts. The Carrysafe straps are also cut-proof thanks to the steel wire running through them.
By using the TurnNLock security hook on the right shoulder strap, you can secure this bag to a chair, table or immovable object for increased security when sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop. There’s no chance anyone can get through the straps without you noticing!
The 25-litre LS450 can be used as a large daypack while travelling. But it’s also well suited for commuters. It’s water-resistant and the padded sleeve fits a laptop up to 15 inches. There’s a ton of other pockets and internal storage too. Some of which use RFID blocking materials to ensure your passport, credit cards and ID remain safe. If you’re a light packer, this bag is more than sufficient for a weekend city break in Europe!
The external zips can be locked shut using a couple of methods. The main pocket features a Lockabout security clip which allows you to secure the two zippers fully closed — you’ll need your own padlock to make this as safe as possible though! Zip clips on the other pockets allow you to pin down the other zippers. Although these are not fully lockable, they’re more than enough to prevent an opportunistic pickpocket.
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Travelon Anti-theft Heritage Backpack – The stylish choice!
- Price Range: $$$
- Best Feature: Nice “old school” styling
- Feature to improve: Exterior water bottle holder needs to be tougher. The mesh portion rips easily.
The 22-litre Anti-Theft Heritage Backpack is one of Travelon’s classier designs. Its retro styling harks back to the first years of high school while still fitting in at any hipster coffee shop. It’s made of water-resistant canvas and suede but you’ll want an extra cover if there’s a lot of rain as water can leak through the zips!
The stylish backpack also features plenty of internal pockets for organisation. The laptop sleeve is capable of holding machines just over 15 inches. As it’s situated against your back when wearing the bag, it offers plenty of protection against knocks or scrapes.
To keep you and your gear safe from thieves while travelling, the Anti-Theft Heritage Backpack includes Travelon’s 5 point protection.
Hidden between the layers of fabric is a slash-resistant mesh. It’s subtle enough that you don’t notice it, yet it still provides excellent protection against cut and run thefts. Stainless steel cables also run through the straps to ensure these are also slash-proof. The straps can be undone and secured around a stationary object — ideal for relaxing while enjoying a coffee in a busy town square!
The zippers can be secured closed using the clips built onto the bag. While they can’t actually be fully locked in place, this serves to prevent opportunistic pickpockets from getting to your gear. The big RFID blocking compartment can also prevent identity theft by blocking signals to credit cards, ePassports and ID cards.
The Heritage Backpack also features an internal key clip with LED light. This makes it much easier to find what you need in a hurry — especially in a quiet dorm room or busy overnight bus!
Travelon Anti-Theft Active Daypack – Best lightweight option!
- Price Range: $$$
- Best Feature: Comfortable straps and back padding
- Feature to improve: Sternum strap is not the most durable
The Anti-Theft Daypack from Travelon is a lightweight way to keep your gear safe while out and about. The 16-litre capacity is plenty for a single day and those travelling super light might be able to squeeze a weekend’s worth of gear into it.
It features an air mesh padded back panel and shoulder straps. These offer high levels of comfort and cushioning. They allow air to flow to your skin, reducing sweat build-up and keeping you cool. There’s also a sternum strap to help take the strain off your shoulders.
On the outside of the pack are a few daisy chain loops. These allow you to attach extra gear if necessary. It means you can use the pack for short hiking or camping trips. It’s water-resistant too.
As far as security tech goes, the Active Daypack features Travelon’s 5 Point Anti-Theft Security System. The slash-resistant body prevents people from cutting their way into your bag and the zips can be clipped into their closed position — they don’t fully lock though. The shoulder straps can be used to attach the bag to any stationary object. They’re also slash-proof so can’t be cut in a hurry! Finally, the RFID blocking internal pocket will keep you safe from identity theft.
Travelon also produce an ultra-lightweight collapsible version of this bag. While I’m a big proponent of collapsible daypacks, this one lacks the security features of a classic theft-proof backpack.
There are only a couple of slash-resistant panels and the straps are not cut proof at all. However, it’s packable and weighs just over 300g. So it’s better than a basic collapsible backpack but not fully secure against thieves. If you’re happy with that trade-off, then it’s worth the money. If not, we recommend going for one of the more secure options.
XD Design Bobby XL
- Price Range: $$$
- Best Feature: No visible zips
- Feature to improve: Overall dimensions are a little strange. Some Tetris packing skills are required to make the most of this pack.
The Bobby XL is XD Design’s 15-litre everyday commuter pack. Thanks to its unique, ergonomic design, the backpack is super comfortable. It effectively distributes the weight across your body and protects your spine from injury. The downside with the design is that packing the bag is not as intuitive as with “normal” bags. It might take you a few attempts to get everything inside.
The front of the pack has no zips. Instead, the entry point to the bag is on the back panel. This protects you from pickpockets who will be unable to open the bag without giving you a back rub! There are a few hidden pockets for important items like your wallet, phone and passport. These are also on the back, so can’t be accessed while you’re wearing the bag.
The Bobby XL is made using layers of different materials. These give the bag padding and water resistance — ideal if you’re carrying expensive electronics! But the layers don’t stop there, there’s also material to add abrasion and slash resistance.
Inside, the bag features a ton of small pockets and organisation aids. Pen loops, internal dividers, mesh pockets and a padded laptop compartment ensure you always know where your gear is stored. The laptop sleeve is located against your back for maximum security and protection.
There’s also an external USB port on this pack. It allows you to connect a power bank (not included) and charge your phone or tablet while on the move.
Loctote Flak Sack 2 – Best anti-theft drawstring bag!
- Price Range: $$$$
- Best Feature: Feels impenetrable
- Feature to improve: Even when fully secure, the opening allows water in reducing the water-resistance of the entire bag.
The Loctote Flak Sack 2 is essentially a portable safe disguised as a drawstring bag. It has a single opening at the top which can be fully secured using the steel reinforced locking strap and included padlock.
It’s made using Loctote’s own FLAKnit material, which achieves the highest possible grade in slash, tear and abrasion resistance. This material initially feels very stiff and hard but softens up and becomes more pliable with use. As well as being hyper durable, the material is water-resistant. However, water can still get in from the top, no matter how tight you secure it. We recommend using a dry bag to keep all your gear protected!
The locking strap can be used to secure the bag to a fixed object. This prevents opportunistic thieves from snatching your bag on their way past. It also means you can secure the bag while at the beach so you can go for a swim without worrying too much about its contents.
If you don’t secure the locking strap while wearing the bag, it’s still impossible for potential thieves to get into it via the opening. This is because the drawcord shoulder straps tighten around the opening while you’re wearing them. They’re also cut resistant to prevent slash and run thefts. It’s worth noting that the drawstrings are quite thin. When the bag is full, they can feel like they’re cutting into your shoulders a little.
The bag only has a 13-litre capacity but this is enough for a 13-inch laptop, as well as small daily essentials. While travelling through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, I used the Flak Sack 2 on overnight buses and as my day pack. It could easily fit my MacBook as well as a day’s worth of clothes and toiletries. The RFID pocket is perfectly sized to fit your passport, phone, wallet and other important items you may need at any time.
The combination lock that’s included is durable and easy to use. However, it’s remarkably easy to change the code without realising. This can leave you in a sticky situation if you end up locked out! We suggest replacing it with a more reliable option!
Loctote also produce the Flak Sack Sport and the Cinch Pack. The Sport is a cheaper, more lightweight version of the Flak Sack 2. It’s also more water-resistant with a water-resistant lining on both the exterior and interior of the pack. The Cinch Pack is touted as the “world’s most secure backpack”. It’s got a larger capacity than either of the Flak Sack options and has a more traditional backpack look to it.
Sherpani Avalon Daypack (Women’s) – Best theft proof backpack for women!
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Made specifically to fit women
- Feature to improve: A small amount of extra padding on the shoulder straps would be appreciated — especially if you carry heavy loads.
The Avalon Daypack by Sherpani is an anti-theft backpack built for women. The shape of the straps and padding on the back panel ensure maximum comfort for the female body form. However, the minimalist styling and overall comfort mean that this bag can be used by men too.
With an 11-litre capacity, this is one of the smaller bags we’ve discussed. It’s great for use while day hiking (assuming you don’t need too much gear) and perfect for days out sightseeing!
The zipper for the main pocket is at the rear of the pack, near your back. This significantly reduces the chance of anyone getting it open while you wear the bag. It also features a clip lock so you can secure the zip closed for extra peace of mind. It’s worth noting that the clip is not an actual lock. It’s designed to deter opportunistic thieves and pickpockets but is pretty much useless if you leave the bag unattended.
Using the chair lock loop system, you can secure the bag to a chair, table or stationary object. This allows you to enjoy dinner, or a coffee without worrying about snatch and grab thefts. However, much like the zip clip, this will do very little if you leave the bag unattended as a potential thief could simply take the extra few moments to undo the lock.
Inside, the bag has a few separate pockets which make organising your gear an easy task. The laptop sleeve is padded and can hold a 13-inch machine. There are also two ‘secret’ pockets on the exterior for often-used items like your passport, wallet and phone.
The bottom of the bag is made from an anti-slash material while the entire exterior is treated with a DWR coating to repel water. It’s not completely waterproof but is more than capable of handling a light shower. The straps are soft and lightweight. As previously mentioned, they are designed to fit the female form so won’t cause uncomfortable rubbing or chaffing as many ‘unisex’ backpacks do. The only downside of the shoulder straps is the lack of padding. They’re fine most of the time, but you’ll start to feel it if you carry heavy gear for a long period.
- Price Range: $$$
- Best Feature: Made with recycled materials
- Feature to improve: The unique styling makes the bag stand out a bit too much
The Securipak is Samsonite’s latest anti-theft backpack. It’s made from recycled plastics and features an anti-cut layer across the entire body. Access to the main pocket is through the back of the pack, so it’s hidden while the bag is worn. All the zips are tidied away in small recesses to ensure they remain unseen and cannot be opened without you feeling it.
The bag has a ton of small internal pockets to help you stay organised. It’s got a 17-litre capacity, making it a solid choice for both travellers and commuters. The laptop sleeve is padded on all sides to keep your computer safe from knocks. It can hold any laptop up to 15.6 inches. There’s also an RFID blocking pocket where you can keep your ePassport, ID and credit cards safe.
Near the top of the pack is a secret access pocket. Here you can store items that you might need in a hurry. It’s well concealed and can’t be opened while you’re wearing the bag.
The outer material is water-resistant. It won’t act as a dry bag but will certainly keep your belongings safe from an errant shower. The straps are supportive and comfortable. They effectively distribute the bag’s weight across your body and don’t rub or cause chafing.
There’s also a USB charging port in the bag. When attached to a power bank, this allows you to charge your devices easily while on the move.
Samsonite produce a smaller, slightly cheaper version of this pack called the Securipak S. This 10-litre model has all the same security features but in a smaller package.
Buying Guide — What To Look For In An Anti Theft Bag
Cut resistance is arguably the most important anti-theft feature. By using strong, slash-proof material, anti-theft backpacks protect you from the cut and run crimes common in parts of South America. El Alto flea market in Bolivia is particularly notorious for these crimes which involve a thief, or team of thieves, working their way through a crowd and cutting open the bags of unsuspecting victims.
Once open, a skilled criminal can empty your bag without you even noticing, leaving you with nothing but the useless carcass of your backpack hanging between your shoulder blades. A slight variation on this crime involves a thief cutting the straps of your bag and running away with the entire thing! Look out for bags with reinforced, cut-proof straps to prevent this from happening to you.
Lockable Zips and Hidden Pockets
Pickpocketing is a common crime the world over but there are major hotspots for it across South America. Generally occurring in busy, public locations, these crimes involve an individual taking items from your pocket or bag without you being any the wiser.
Pickpockets are often highly skilled and are capable of emptying your pockets or bag in just a few minutes. The really annoying thing is, they’re usually long gone before you realise anything is missing!
To keep your gear safe, theft-proof backpacks come loaded with security features like lockable zips and hidden pockets.
Note: Some anti-theft packs have locks built in, whilst others have some sort of locking system attached which require you to use a small padlock before they are fully secure. You can always use this same lock to secure hostel lockers!
As well as tough lockable zips, some anti-theft packs will come with hidden pockets for smaller items such as your phone, wallet and passport. These are usually located on the rear side of the pack, so sit snugly against your body while the bag is worn.
Anchor straps allow you to attach your bag to a chair, table or another stationary object. On some bags, the straps can be fully locked. On others, they are just clipped into place. These prevent anyone from running off with your bag when you’re distracted in a coffee shop or restaurant!
To protect your bank cards and digital data from electronic thieves, keep an eye out for packs with RFID blocking pockets. These will prevent anyone skimming data from your ID or worse, money from your credit cards without you knowing. Click for more information on RFID.
Depending on the time of year you’re travelling, it’s worth thinking about whether you need a waterproof pack. While most anti-theft travel backpacks are water-resistant to all but the most intense downpours, only a few are completely waterproof.
I got caught in a downpour in Cusco and without me realising, water got into the top of my Loctote Flak Sack. Luckily, my laptop was in a waterproof case of its own so no damage was done! If you’re not confident about the water resistance of your chosen pack, a cheap fix is to get a dry sack liner to put inside the bag.
Along with all the expected anti-theft technology, some bags come with extra bells and whistles. USB chargers, headphone sleeves and water bladder holders are all possible additions to a theft-proof backpack.
Other bags are made from high tech materials such as Dyneema which is amazingly light, durable and water-resistant. Be aware, these materials are not cheap so significantly increase the price of your theft-proof bag.
It should go without saying but there’s no point in having an uncomfortable backpack. You’ll either end up in pain or not use it. Neither is a good option!
Look out for backpacks with padded shoulder straps and cushioned back panels. Bigger theft-proof backpacks might come with a hip belt and sternum strap to help distribute the weight across your body. Internal frames can also help with this.
Is there a cheap alternative to anti-theft travel backpacks?
Cheap, knock-off versions of the best anti-theft packs are available on sites such as eBay or Amazon but are they worth using?
In short, no.
The cheap anti-theft packs are cheap for a reason. They don’t use the same high-quality slash-proof materials, nor are the zips reinforced. There are very rarely RFID blocking pockets and although the sellers claim a level of water resistance, users report they are no better at keeping water out than an everyday backpack.
Add to this the almost non-existent padding and poor build quality and you are left with an uncomfortable bag that falls apart quickly and doesn’t prevent any type of theft.
If you want a bag you can rely on, steer clear of the cheap alternatives.
Do I actually NEED an anti-theft backpack for travel?
No. A theft-proof backpack should be your last line of defence while travelling. Common sense — eg. not leaving your bag hanging from the back of your chair while having a coffee on a busy street — should be your first.
As long as you’re sensible, aware of your surroundings and not carrying expensive gear or lots of money with you, an anti-theft backpack is not necessary. However, many travellers use them for extra peace of mind when visiting countries with a bad reputation and high levels of petty crime.
Don’t go wasting your travel budget on a brand new bag if you don’t really need it.
Do you use a theft-proof backpack? Let us know in the comments which is your theft-proof bag of choice!