Purses get snatched, pockets get picked, and a hotel safe isn’t always in the cards. Happily, there are more and more clothing and accessory options that offer discreet storage for your passport, money, and other high-value belongings.
Protect Your Valuables with These 7 Essentials
These jackets, hats, socks, and other items are perfect, whether you’re protecting valuables or simply want to ditch the bulky bag (and the dreaded, sweaty money belt).
There’s the usual storage you’d find in a jacket, and then there’s Scottevest. The company estimates it has sold more than 10 million pockets, a high number until you find out that its products have up to 42 pockets each. The trench is no exception—with a minimum of 18 pockets, it’s a veritable fabric vault for your valuables. Since it was designed to evenly balance the weight of full pockets, it can easily and comfortably replace a day bag or purse … as long as you don’t need to take it off.
Road Test: After a lifetime wearing clothes, I thought I understood pockets. But from the moment I slipped my hand into the pocket of the women’s trench, it was clear I had entered a whole new universe of storage technology. I had to refer back to the X-ray-view pocket map dozens of times to make sure I was properly harnessing the power of the jacket. There are specially designed hidey-holes for memory cards, digital cameras, passports, phones, Bluetooths, glasses (the glasses pocket even comes with a chamois on an elastic cord), and more. There’s an elastic band in one of the pockets to secure a water bottle. There are hidden pockets, easy-access pockets, and I’m pretty sure a few pockets I have yet to find.
Great For: Cool-weather destinations and when you don’t want to carry a bag but still have a lot to tote. Also: hoarders on the go and anyone flying Spirit (which charges for carry-ons).
Tilley Endurables Hat
The Tilley Hat is a long-term relationship in a world of wardrobe one-night stands. The sizing process is elaborate, the style choices are extensive, and the owner’s manual is four (amusing) pages long. Designed for comfort and longevity, the hat was built to be a trusty travel companion. And with a Velcro pocket in the crown, it does double duty as a secret storage solution. Most hats don’t have secret compartments, so most pickpockets aren’t likely to target headwear. Two soft straps—one meant to be placed behind the head, Canadian Mountie-style, and the other used as a normal chin strap—keep the hat in place on windy days.
Road Test: I could comfortably wear the hat while it held a passport, a credit card, and a small amount of cash. But since every item reduces the depth of the hat, it’s best not to get overly ambitious. For instance, while the pocket was technically large enough to hold a cell phone, wearing it felt about as comfortable as you’d imagine storing your phone on top of your head would feel.
Great For: The beach, hiking, and when you want to minimize gear and maximize sun protection. With a UPF rating of 50-plus, it will keep you well protected.
Part scarf, part purse, the Sholdit allows you to accessorize and disguise simultaneously. The looped scarf has a zippered pocket that can be discretely tucked away so it looks like a regular scarf. It can be used as an infinity scarf or a shoulder wrap; it can also be tucked into itself and used as an evening clutch. The Sholdit comes in a variety of colors, lengths, and textures.
Road Test: The more you put in the Sholdit, the less natural drape you get, so it’s best to choose your items wisely. Carrying a passport, a bit of money, a credit card, and a single key didn’t compromise comfort or the way it hung. However, when I added my smartphone, the shape of the scarf changed, the zipper turned outward in a way that was much more difficult to disguise, and the fit was less comfortable. But as long as it wasn’t weighed down too much, the Sholdit was very comfortable. I was able to eat, read, walk, and drive without feeling like it got in the way.
Great For: When you need only a few things but don’t want to carry a purse.
Clever Travel Companion Tank Top
If kangaroos had this shirt, they wouldn’t need pouches. The pocket on Clever Travel Companion’s tank top is perfectly placed for comfort and security. As with the company’s other gear (undershirts, long underwear, and underwear), the idea is to incorporate storage into the clothes you’ll already be wearing. And since the tank top can be layered underneath your regular clothing, there’s precious little chance of forgetting it somewhere when you’re out and about.
Road Test: The tank top itself was comfortable and flattering, and the zippered pocket was substantial but not bulky. It easily held a passport, credit cards, a thin stack of money, and a key, all without too much bulge—though when filled, it looked best as a layer underneath another shirt or sweater. I found it to be much more comfortable and secure than a traditional money belt, since your valuables are squarely in the middle of your body instead of at the intersection of shirts and pants. Plus, it does double duty as an outfit layer.
Great For: Easy integration into a variety of wardrobes.
Zip It Gear Passport Security Socks
Far more hygienic and definitely safer than stuffing valuables into the cuff of a sock, Zip It Gear’s Passport Security Socks come with a zippered compartment built to hold a passport. These socks were truly made for travel: The zipper is nylon, so as not to set off metal detectors, and the socks were designed to reduce swelling and eliminate blisters and odors. They also dry overnight—a definite plus for those on-the-road sink washes.
Road Test: These socks are neither too thin nor too thick and were clearly designed with comfort in mind. They’re soft, they have a flat toe seam and a form-fitting arch, and they have a bit of extra padding in the sole. The pocket sits above the ankle and conforms to the shape of your leg, so there’s no weird rubbing. I was able to fit a passport easily, though when I removed it an hour later it was bent into the shape of my calf. I thought a credit card might be uncomfortable since it’s more rigid than a passport, but it was fine as long as it sat in the pocket lengthwise. I even managed to stash a key in the pocket without incident. The downside? Only one sock has a zippered pocket.
Great For: Zippered storage anytime you’re wearing socks.
Bison Designs T Lock Money Belt
There are money belts—the soggy, beige fanny packs worn under clothing—and then there’s the Bison Designs T Lock Money Belt, an actual belt with an interior pocket. Made of nylon webbing with a plastic buckle, this travel-friendly accessory can be left on at airport security. Along the inside, a thin zippered compartment runs most of the length of the belt. While the neutral unisex design doesn’t aspire to fashion heights, it does come in a variety of colors and patterns.
Road Test: The belt fits easily through men’s and women’s belt loops, but its slim profile means the hidden zippered pocket is quite narrow. There’s no room for passports or credit cards, though it stores money folded lengthwise into quarters quite well. What it lacks in width it makes up for in length, though; you can essentially encircle yourself in hidden cash using this belt. And since you (I hope) are unlikely to take off your belt and forget it while you’re, say, climbing Sagrada Familia or strolling the Great Wall of China, it offers a degree of security that comes from being an easily integrated accessory.
Great For: Holding your pants up, getting through airport security without stripping down, and carrying things like money that can be easily folded.
Clothing Arts Pickpocket-Proof Pants
Back pockets are common targets for thieves, which is why Clothing Arts’ Pickpocket-Proof Pants (P^cubed pants) are particularly useful to travelers. With a slimmer profile than typical cargo pants but similar functionality, P^cubed pants feature secure pockets designed to defeat opportunistic pickpockets. Layers of features like zips, buttons, and hidden pockets protect on-body storage. The men’s and women’s versions of the pants are slightly different, so what you’ll get out of a pair of P^cubed pants depends on the model you choose.
Road Test: It took me a while to locate both of the hidden zippered pockets in the women’s P^cubed pants, which I took to be a good sign. Interior pockets are a slightly more secure but still easily accessible option, while the two hard-to-find zippered subpockets tucked into buttoned pockets offer extra security for occasional-use items such as passports and larger bills. The pockets held the test items—a passport, a credit card, cash, a single key, and a phone—without a problem. In my own experience and according to reviews, the pants run slightly small, so it’s better to size up if you’re unsure.
Great For: Places where pickpocketing is a real concern. Since they’re wrinkle resistant and quick drying, they’re ideal for the rigors of travel.
More from Smartertravel:
- 10 Reasons You’re Packing Too Much
- How to Stay Organized While Traveling
- 101 Clever Travel Tricks for 2014
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.