What is PacSafe, and Do You Need it?

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Over the last couple of years, one product that’s attracted a lot of media attention is something known as PacSafe. But what is PacSafe? What does it do? What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of using it? Is there anything else that you can use to do a similar job? And most importantly – should you buy one for your trip? On this page I’ll answer all of these questions and more…

What is PacSafe?

PacSafe is the brand name of company that makes travel security products. However, the term ‘PacSafe’ is commonly used to describe the company’s most popular product – a wire mesh made from steel that can wrap around the outside of a backpack.

Once wrapped around a bag, this mesh will prevent your backpack from being opened (except by you) and slashed and you can use it to attach your bag to permanent fixtures (such as a dorm room bed post) where you can leave your bag in the knowledge that it’ll be there when you get back.

There are several other products on the market that do a similar job, but PacSafe is by far the market leader. Because of this, for the purpose of this article I’ll refer to all steel mesh backpack protection devices as PacSafe.

The Advantages of PacSafe

It’s true that some hostels and guesthouses have will allow you to use a small locker/safe to store your valuables (i.e. phone, iPod, wallet, etc.), but what about the rest of your stuff, and what do you do if there is no locker/safe for you to use?

Pacsafe meshEven if you’re staying in a room on your own, how do you know that the cleaning staff won’t help themselves to the contents of your bag while you’re out?

This might seem like a farfetched idea, but sadly I’ve known people who have had items stolen from their bags (by the staff of hostels/guesthouses) while they left them in their room.

Perhaps the main benefit of PacSafe is that it allows you to enclose your bag in a protective mesh and then secure it in one place; meaning you can leave it somewhere, go off and have fun and be sure that it’s going to be there when you get back.

This is huge for solo travelers or for travelers staying in hostels (where lots of other people will be swimming about). Normally when traveling (especially for long periods of time) you might start to feel like your backpack is a bit like a newborn baby. You can’t leave it anywhere for too long, and when out in public you have to take constant care of it.

Note that PacSafe is not just designed for large backpacks – it can also fit onto smaller day packs, suitcases and some handbags to provide a wide range of protection.

As I outlined in this post about protecting your backpack from thieves, some thieves will take to slashing your backpack with a knife while you’re out in the streets (thus allowing them to quickly steal the contents). PacSafe prevents this from happening as the stainless steel mesh loops will prevent anyone from making a meaningful opening in your bag’s fabric.

The Disadvantages of PacSafe

While the idea of using PacSafe sounds great in theory, the logistics of having to put on and take off this huge wire mesh from your bag every time you go out is a little impractical.

Although you will get better at using it over time (once you’ve had plenty of practice), I know people that have given up using their PacSafe mesh after a couple of weeks because they didn’t want the hassle of using it.

PacsafeAs I highlighted in this post about lightweight backpacking, when traveling you’ll want to make sure your backpack is as light as possible (for a whole host of reasons).

Adding a PacSafe wire mesh to your luggage will add on around 1.3 lbs of extra weight. This might not sound like a whole lot, but it’s roughly 1/36th of the entire baggage weight allowance on most airlines (before you have to start paying fees), so it’s certainly something you could do without.

In addition to the extra weight PacSafe will add on, it’ll also take up a great deal of extra space inside your bag (when it’s not being used). As it’s almost impossible to fold it back up to the way it was when you first bought it, make sure you have enough space inside your bag (which may mean sacrificing other items).

There’s also an argument that the simple act of using PacSafe (i.e. covering your bag in a wire mesh) is going to attract more unnecessary attention than it’s worth (as thieves will naturally assume you’ve got something to steal).

While this might be true, if you’re using PacSafe your bag will still remain safe no matter what, and chances are most thieves will quickly realize they can’t get through the steel mesh and move onto something else.

Alternative Solutions to PacSafe

In much the same way that the iPad created a new market that no-one knew existed, the PacSafe fulfills a need that very few people had previously thought about.

hostelIn years gone past I was perfectly happy going about my business as a traveler – leaving my bags in rooms wherever I pleased. But now that I know PacSafe exists – now that I’ve drunk from the cup of knowledge, much like Eve biting that apple in the Garden of Eden – can I ever have peace of mind traveling and NOT using PacSafe? The jury’s still out on that one.

Are there any alternatives? What if you don’t want to carry this lumbering piece of wire mesh around with you all the time? And what if you don’t want to spend $80-100 on it? PacSafe fulfills a certain need and solves certain problems (and does it reasonably well), but can those problems be solved by anything else?

Although you won’t be able to reach the exact same level of security that PacSafe offers, it is possible to come close through other means. Here’s how:

Plan your accommodation carefully – Make sure that you only stay in hotels/hostels/guesthouses that have lockers/safes for you to use. This information (i.e. whether they do or don’t) is usually available on their website (or on sites like HostelWorld.com that you can use to book them through).

Remember that for lockers you’ll need a padlock to lock it with. Make sure to bring a sturdy one with you.

Secure your side pockets with padlocks – If you’re staying in a place where there’s no safe/locker, or if you’re on the move you might want to try putting your valuables in one of the side zip pockets of your backpack and locking it up with a padlock.

Although this won’t protect these side pockets against slashing (as PacSafe would), it will stop them from being opened by the normal means, and 99% of the time this is enough to deter a thief.

Conclusion: Do You Need PacSafe?

So do you need PacSafe? This PacSafe review has highlighted the advantages and the disadvantages, but more importantly it should have made you realize whether you’re the kind of person that requires such an item or not.

For the average traveler, I would say that PacSafe is more trouble than it’s worth. The best advice I could give a new traveler is to not take anything they don’t mind losing, so if that’s the case than PacSafe can seem a little redundant.

However, if you’re the kind of person that travels with lots of expensive and precious items (such as a laptop, and iPod, etc.) and you’ve got the space in your bag, PacSafe can be a great weapon in your arsenal.

For more advice on staying safe while traveling, check out this article on travel safety tips.

Related posts:

  1. How to Protect Your Backpack from Thieves

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  • http://www.careers-in-event-planning.com/ Sirena

    Hi! Great post. I wanted to add that an alternative to carrying the mesh is to get any one of PacSafe’s smaller products (such as their Portable Safe, which I own and SWEAR BY). Then you can put your most important items in the safe (camera, passport, etc) and lock it down just about anywhere. If someone takes your pack, then it would suck to lose your clothes; but your irreplaceable items would be safe. That’s just an alternate suggestion to having to carry the mesh and locking down your whole pack every time. (I am not employed by PacSafe; I am merely a very happy customer who wonders how I ever traveled all these years without my PacSafe gear – it’s well worth the investment!).

    • Nick

      Thanks for your input Sirena, that’s a great suggestion!