A popular caricature of a tourist is a souvenir t-shirt donning, walking sock and sandals wearing, bum bag and camera toting cruise ship passenger caught in an on-shore photo snapping delirium. The bum bag (aka fanny belt or money belt) has copped its fair share of bullying over the years. Does it deserve its reputation as an unfashionable travel wear accessory?
What is a bum bag?
A bum bag is a utilitarian travel wear accessory. It is designed to be either a zippered, pouch-like hand bag or man bag, or literally a belt with built in secure storage. It is worn around one’s waist or hips, and hidden under a layer or two of clothing. Bum bags and money belts come in many forms and are all worn around, and close to, your body.
It is rarely a flattering accessory. A bum bag quickly pads out any sign of a trim tummy. Vanity aside, it keeps essential valuables such as passports, travel documents, emergency cash and credit cards close to your body. It also determines your travel wardrobe choices. You won’t be wearing a body hugging t-shirt or dress with a bum bag in tow. Ignoring the fashion blunder, a bum bag or money belt is a practical way to protect essentials when you’re travelling.
Its reputation as a popular security accessory for travellers does mean that a bum bag or money belt is the first target a criminal will look for. At the same time it’s not an accessory that can be discretely snatched from you. This of course is good, and not so good. A thief that doesn’t shy from using physical means will remove it from you, if you won’t.
There’s only one thief that’s going to successfully wrestle a bum bag from you unknowingly. That’s the thief that is convincing enough to be in the room with you when you remove your clothing. Beware the holiday fling when you’re travelling with a bum bag!
If bum bags or money belts are damaging your image, what’s in?
To keep pick pockets at bay, other travel wear options to protect your valuables include the following bum bag alternatives.
Bum Bag alternative #1: Jackets with secure inside pockets
While this seems like a very sensible option for cooler climates, it will be a very uncomfortable option in warmer weather. To keep your valuables secure, you may need to keep your jacket zipped or buttoned up. Using inside jacket pockets is a wardrobe limiting option but it does provide easier access to everyday items than a bum bag.
Bum Bag alternative #2: Deep pant or skirt front pockets
Accomplished pick pockets detest this security choice. It would require a magician’s prowess to silently snatch your cash from deep pockets at the front of your body. Be very aware of any stranger that tries to kiss you at the local markets! It’s likely they’ve seen that bulge in your front pocket! If you’re going for this option, choose clothing that has zippered or buttoned front pockets.
Bum Bag alternative #3: Look to sporting brand solutions such as running belts
Long distance runners need to carry essentials while keeping their body profile light and streamlined. If you like the idea of a bum bag or money belt, but want something that gives you more flexibility in clothing choices, look into what running brands offer. Running belts made from materials that are comfortable when held close to your body could be a better option than a traditional, bulkier bum bag. And, remember running accessories are designed to be comfortable across the full range of weather conditions, and for sweaty bodies.
Bum Bag alternative #4: A neck wallet
A neck wallet is worn around your neck, with storage for your valuables slung under your shirt or dress. It’s really just a bum bag worn higher! I don’t know about you, but carrying something around my neck all day – even if it was made from silk – would be irritating after the first 20 minutes. This one would really have to come down to personal preference for weight distribution and comfort.
Bum Bag alternative #5: A good quality small hiking pack with padlocks
Hiking brands have evolved backpacks into comfortable, practical little pockets of surprises. From in-built water bladders so you can fill up and hydrate by sucking through a tube throughout the day, to sturdy straps for comfort and security, a good quality hiking pack is an investment worth considering.
Yes, a back pack is a target for pick pockets. Choose a backpack that has at least one pocket large enough to secure your travel valuables, and that you can padlock. A pick pocket will see a padlock and move on to their next target.
And for opportunistic thieves that want to rip that obvious back pack from you, all come with body straps to secure around your middle – for comfort and security – with clasps at the front of your body. This has become my replacement bum bag of choice lately when heading to festivals or events with crowds of people.
I reckon it’s time to stop bullying the bum bag. Apart from investing in a hiking pack or a running belt, the most pragmatic way to secure your travel valuables is indeed, the unfashionable bum bag. According to this article – the bum bag is back in vogue anyway! Park any image issues, and enjoy some fantastic travel adventures knowing that your essential travel documents are as secure as they can be.