To bring or not to bring a backpack

Old Jun 5th, 2008, 03:19 PM
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To bring or not to bring a backpack

First time trip to Italy is coming up, y'all.

Have read quite a bit of the horror stories associated with theft, and cringing more and more with each post that I read. The recent post about the Barcelona incident worries me so.

Having said all that, what in your opinion will be the the ideal thing to bring - backpack or purse? Am travelling with husband and two teenagers. Have been looking at those slashproof models at the and websites. We don't mind looking like tourists - yeah, like we can pretend to blend right in when in Italy..... Or can I get away with letting the three family members lug those steel-reinforced backpacks while I get off easy with a nice, comfortable purse?

Trip is coming up in 3 weeks - so any input will be much appreciated.

vegasrookie is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 03:25 PM
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I used a soft, smallish backpack on the last couple of trips to Europe without incident, but most recently used a bag from that more resembled a purse. It worked quite well, carried a lot and I felt secure with all the interior compartments, zippers and the like. It may be found at their website under luggage, "Touring Travel Bag," item No. TA55736
flsd is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 03:26 PM
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I should add that I know no such bag can be completely thief-proof, but this one worked quite well on our trip.
flsd is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 03:27 PM
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Concerns about theft in Europe are WAY overblown, in my opinion. The only financial loss you are likely to incur is the bill from Magellan's for some steel-reinforced backpack.I would just use whatever bag you have and that is comfortable.

Perhaps it might be wise to take some generic precautions, like leaving a credit card in the hotel safe, splitting cards and cash amongst the party, and being relatively vigilant. Beyond that is a waste of time and energy, IMHO.
travelgourmet is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 03:46 PM
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I would not take a backpack for several reasons. Too big and bulky, not fashionable, can't access your stuff without taking it off. Why would you want to lug that much stuff around all day with you anyway? Annoys other travelers when you bump into them with it!

I used to take a medium sized "healthy" (kidney-shaped) backpack that is shown in Magellans. It is a great size (medium one) and holds a bottle of water, map, day essentials, small camera, etc. Several handy pockets and a zipper located up against your back so harder to get to for pickpockets.

However, last trip the thing just wouldn't stay on my shoulder and I've decided to go with a cross-body stap bag next trip.

Carry your valuables in some sort of security belt, your preference. I like the kind that attaches to your belt and hangs inside the pants or skirt. If no belt, no problem, just attach to the inside waistband with a saftey pin. Much more comfortable than a waist belt style which gets sweaty and itchy. Doesn't show like a neck pouch does.

Divide things up between the group, be observant, not oblivious, have common sense. Don't hang your bag on the back of a restaurant chair. Keep it on your lap or between your feet with the strap looped under the chair legs.

Relax, enjoy. I've never felt the least bit worried.

Buon viaggio
Dayle is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 03:46 PM
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Please don't bring a backpack. On a recent trip to Italy I was battered over and over by backpack wearers who, when turning, forgot they had a huge humps on their backs and they were oblivious to the damage they were causing.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 03:50 PM
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Why would you need steel-enforced backpacks?
yk is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 04:02 PM
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I'm with happytrails. I HATE backpacks.

Or more accurately, I hate the MORONS who wear backpacks and are constantly hitting others with them. It's annoying, and I don't think they even notice.

If you're going to wear a backpack, at least be aware of it and considerate. But a large purse/messenger bag holds plenty and has always been sufficient for me.
cheryllj is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 04:09 PM
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yk asked: "Why would you need steel-enforced backpacks?"

To inflict more pain on the innocent.
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Old Jun 5th, 2008, 04:10 PM
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Okay, I confess, I am one of those dorks who takes a backpack--but I use the one from LLbean, that I wear on one shoulder. For my family it is really helpful, as I can carry bottled water, aspirin, etc in it. My DH carries the money and cards, so I don't worry too much about theft, I just keep my hand on the strap. I have also used a purse at times, just depends on who I'm travelling with, and what I need to carry with me. pp
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Old Jun 5th, 2008, 04:20 PM
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Dear Vegasrookie: I am a belt-and-suspenders person. My valuables are usually divided up between some deep pockets (rubber bands around any money or credit card to create "drag"), and/or a money belt, and a small purse with inside zippered pockets and wide straps crossed over my body.

But I DO put my guidebooks, maps, bottle of water, rain or polertec jacket, collapsible umbrella, etc. in an amazing collapsible daypack. This waterproof things folds up to the size of a paperback book and can actually be carried in the large pocket of my purse or my coat. It's always folded at the ready on my dresser to be dumped last minute into the suitcase.

I like this thing so much, especially that when I get to a museum, I can consolidate my "junk" and check the backpack, leaving me rather weightless as I roam the galleries.

I have severe arthritis, and must make sure I don't carry heavy things that make me "lopsided," so this even distribution method has worked so much better for me than the so-called "back safe" purse that nearly killed my neck and quite nearly ruined my vacation.

I have the backpack zipper closed with a bread bag tie, but if a thief wants my Cadogans guide THAT badly, he can have it.
josephina is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 06:51 PM
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In twenty trips to Europe, we've never had our pockets picked. So, I also think the fear factor in Europe is way overblown. Just be aware of your surroundings and use the same comon sense you would in a big city at home. Be alert, but not paranoid.

If you wouldn't use a steel re-inforced backpack at home, you won't need it in Europe. Is your family actually backpacking through Europe? If not, what would your kids carry around all day to need such a backpack? It would get really tiring.

The bag you use depends on what you are going to carry. I like to have: small map, guide book, unbrella, drink, pen & paper, sunblock, lip gloss, tissues and hand wipes, small brush, sunglasses, small candy like lifesavors, etc. It all fits into a very small, soft, nearly weightless daypack or small, light weight, crushable, backpack. I don't worry about theft because (except for my camera sometimes), I don't carry any real valuables in it. Most money and passports go inside clothing. That way, you don't have to worry.

My husband loves the small Rick Steves day bag. It is squarish like a messenger bag and very soft fabric. It is super strong and has held up really well. My best backpack for Europe was a really cheap, small, flimsy feeling thing, I got for $5.00 at a drug store. It lasted for years. For something nicer, check out the small AmeriBag Classic if you like kidney shaped bags. I just got one. It is the best organized bag I've seen and comes in fabulous colors as well as a varity of fabrics. Other great purse type bags are some of the LeSacs, really light and lots of styles.

Go light and relax.
Sassafrass is online now  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 07:30 PM
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Well over a hundred trips to Europe and never been pickpocketed, slashed, mugged, or otherwise troubled in any way unless you count the Roma women who stole my breakfast off my plate one morning in Bordeaux.

I DID use a backpack back when I was traveling with two young kids and did not have an adult travel companion with me - better to have both hands free in that circumstance, was my reasoning, though I admit swinging backpacks are a real annoyance.

But other than that I carry a mid-sized purse, same as I do at home, usually a messenger-type bag I can sling across my shoulders and keep close to my body.
StCirq is online now  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 09:19 PM
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I use a Libaire leather backpack (leather because I travel primarily in the fall) that is not steel-reinforced, not huge and bulky. Whether it's fashionable or not is of no interest to me. I like having my hands free and the ability to carry a few small items. If someone is wearing a backpack so full that it knocks into people, then they're carrying around too much stuff.

Jean is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2008, 09:43 PM
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Thanks for the heads up about the LL Bean bag. I liked all those interior pockets, but felt that I needed a slightly larger purse. Here's what I'm looking at now:

It's kind of bulky, but here's a list of what I need to bring:

guide book(s), language book, a small wallet with minimal euros needed for the day, assorted medicines, hand wipes, mini-umbrella, poncho, light cardigan, flashlight, small make-up pouch, another book that doesn't belong to the guide book/language book category, flash drive (with scanned images of my family's passport pages, itinerary, tour papers, airline e-tickets, insurance info, etc.), a small digital camera, tissues, sunglasses, candy, some cookies, small bottled water.

Am planning to use one of those security waist wallets that you loop/pin into your belt and hang inside pants or skirt for passport, credit card, cash.

I've never owned a backpack and don't want to start now, if I can get away with not having to use one. If I have to reduce the load that I'm carrying, I have been known to move stuff into backpacks owned by the three other family members.

The two teenagers and husband will have their own medium-sized backpacks with their own ponchos, umbrellas, epipen injections, ipods, cell phones, camcorder, cameras, etc. Their list isn't as lengthy as mine. Those three have pretty much been using backpacks for all our family trips and most of the time seem to possess good backpack etiquette. They will also have the option of using the security waist belt or the one that loops around the belt and dangles inside the pants. My husband has the honor of bringing the passports using the dangly thing, and the money in the waist belt, poor thing.

I agree with you about backpacks not being too fashionable. I am secretly harboring this plan to bring this Gucci bag that we bought in Las Vegas last week. When in Rome, wear Gucci? (Sorry, I couldn't resist saying that). When my husband finds out about this though, I'm pretty sure he will talk me into getting that purse from Magellan's.

I have read way too many posts here about backpacks and purses that have been slashed, hence the fixation on slash-proof packs.

Any more tips?
vegasrookie is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2008, 01:08 AM
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Sounds like you are carrying a lot of stuff if all 3 of your family members have a backpack!

My family used to start each day with the "honey, could you carry..." My handbag would get pretty heavy with the ipods, sun lotion etc. as I always carry the guidebook, although sometimes I just photocopy the relevant pages.

Last year my husband bought a very small fold-up type backpack from Victorinox. It fits the guide book, a couple bottles of water, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. He is not the "manbag" type but this is his new manbag and we all love it.

How liberating for me!! Now I carry a very small shoulder bag with my lipstick, some handwipes, a bag of nuts, and my glasses. He is in charge of the rest. I love the free hands and the light feeling!

We leave our passports in the hotel safe.

I was traveling alone to Morocco and bought one of those money belts - so uncomfortable and bulky esp if it is hot. I never used it. Used a small shoulder satchel and had no problems. I love the bags by Bogner - nice looking, light weight, and come in lots of convenient sizes.
gruezi is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2008, 01:44 AM
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I have read way too many posts here about backpacks and purses that have been slashed, hence the fixation on slash-proof packs.

But the point is that it still isn't a big risk. Indeed, most of the stories seem to be of "a friend of a friend" or "I read a story" variety, rather than confirmable stories.
travelgourmet is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2008, 02:38 AM
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A bag with a strap that goes over your head (ie courier style) will be less susceptible than one on your shoulder. I've used backpacks, small courier style bags and a larger camera bag on various trips and not had a problem with any of them. Just be sensible and aware of your surroundings.

This year I'm off to the US and decided to take a small backpack (ie the Camelbak style with 9L of space) so a lot smaller than the usual size. However, I don't carry the amount of stuff you do. I preplan so I don't need a guide book and I never have an interest in reading another book while out in the daytime - too much to take in and books are heavy.
speckles is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2008, 05:25 AM
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Just back from a trip with 3 teens...they took backpacks as a carryon for travel only. Sight seeing they put their passports in front jean pocket and we had no problems.

My daughter and I took the Keeper style Kavu purses. They have lots of compartments and were easy on the back.
joebear is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2008, 05:29 AM
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I'm going to Italy this summer and this thread piqued my interest.

"Have read quite a bit of the horror stories associated with theft, and cringing more and more with each post that I read."

Please post links to some of those first hand accounts from Italy so I can become better informed.

ipod_robbie is offline  

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