As much as holidays and adventures should be about letting go, chilling out and switching off, when you’re a proper adult with a passport, an expensive camera and a smartphone, you have to watch out for your valuables, no matter how dazzling the scenery might be. Cue the search for a secure travel bag that doesn’t make you look like a conspicuous tourist on their ‘Gap Yah’.
Firstly, this backpack isn’t marketed as ‘pickpocket-proof’ or a ‘secure’ travel bag (unlike the super-useful pickpocket-proof tank top I tested from Clever Travel Companion). Yet there are plenty of safety features, making the Harvest Label Urban Rolltop Backpack 2.0 more secure than standard backpacks.
Harvest’s product looks like a normal roll-top backpack – not a million miles from the Herschel bags that are pretty ubiquitous these days. Though it’s marketed as a man’s bag (really, Urban Outfitters?), this backpack should be marked as unisex, because the brand doesn’t define its products by gender.
The Urban Rolltop Backpack is made from PU polyester and vegetable tanned leather. As the simplistic design suggests, it’s influenced by Japan. In fact, Harvest Label is based in Osaka, so every design has a Japanese element.
Key Functions of the Harvest Label Urban Rolltop Backpack 2.0
• The main area zips are well hidden
• The hidden access point at the back is useful for quickly retrieving your laptop in the airport security queue
• One zipped external front pocket
• Two external side pockets: one with popper fastening
• One zipped internal pocket
• Two small open internal pockets
• Padded adjustable straps
• Padded rear panel with air mesh (so no sweaty back issues in the summer…)
• Can comfortably fit a laptop and a bridge camera
Best Secure Travel Features
The hidden zips on the Harvest bag are subtle, making this a secure travel bag in my book, but they’re easy to access when you need them. The main section fastens with a top zip, then you add the roll-top closure element as well, making it doubly secure. Though the material isn’t slash-proof, it’s pretty tough, and the main section is lined as well.
As I haven’t regularly worn a backpack since I was 18 (and I’m now carrying more valuable things than when I was a teenager), I still feel fundamentally vulnerable not having my belongings in sight, especially in a crowded place.
My situation isn’t unique. Comedian Sofie Hagen, who’s open about her experience of anxiety, tried to tell a saleswoman in a bag shop that she couldn’t use normal rucksacks: ‘It’s not you. It’s not the backpack. It’s a very cool backpack. But I need to have the zipper against my back, so I know that no one is opening it.’ The saleswoman didn’t understand the issue, and Hagen ended up buying a bag she’ll never use.
So, should we all do the tourist thing and just turn our backpacks around? Er, nope. I’m determined not to be the blatantly obvious tourist who wears their backpack on their front, like a pregnant belly full of maps, sun cream and tragic selfies in front of historical sites.
I avoid this by layering a small cross-body bag under the Harvest rucksack straps; it’s not overkill, because I still need to travel with a small day bag anyway, but I realise not everyone wants to double their luggage.
What I’d Improve
A tiny zipped or buttoned pocket on the front of the strap would be really useful, so you could at least keep small items (spare change, room key, debit card) where you can see them. As someone who’s experienced the stress of being robbed on holiday, I’m all for having an eyeball on my possessions.
Also, an extra horizontal strap would help to minimise movement if you need to run for a flight wearing this, or take it out jogging. The padded straps are great for your shoulders, but extra support could make all the difference.
I’d also add more UK stockists! Urban Outfitters were efficient, but they’ve now sold out. It’s so much easier to buy from this brand if you’re in the USA, where you can get loads of different colourways from the official website or from Amazon. I’ve had a few bad experiences with shipping items from across the pond, because the import taxes and handling charges can be crippling, so it’s not ideal.
Other Secure Travel Bags
• The Harvest Label Terrain Backpack is less subtle – think Bear Grylls trying to survive the daily commute to London with someone’s armpit in his face – but might appeal if you need something tougher to travel with.
• Meanwhile, Harvest’s 2-Way Commuter Tote Bag is inventive, but is sadly out of stock, even in the USA. For a similar look, try the Tate Tote Pack by hellolulu. Again, it’s a US brand, so international customers should be prepared for customs charges on top of shipping costs.
• I’m lusting after the Victorinox Altmont 3.0 Slimline Laptop Tote, in navy or grey: a great choice if you’re not carrying heavy loads. Annoyingly it’s only big enough for a 13” laptop, though it has an additional padded pocket to fit gadgets up to 10” (e-readers, tablets, etc.). Victorinox’s Altmont 3.0 Flapover Laptop Bag (£80) is another alternative, but it’s less stylish.
Would you be tempted to buy a secure travel bag, or are you always relaxed when you travel? Tweet me your views – I’m @misspallen.