A quality backpack is a must-have whether you’re a student, a commuter, or a traveler. You need something reliable with good organization, and bonus points if it’s stylish. However, with an anti-theft backpack, you can keep your gear safe, too.
Update, 2/10/22: Verified content/links up to date.
Keep in mind, the point of these backpacks isn’t necessarily to prevent theft, it’s to make things more difficult for thieves (though the manufacturers of these bags will try to convince you otherwise). Any thief with enough resources and determination can likely get what they want; however, these bags offer a variety of protective features that’ll deter the average thief or at least frustrate them so much they’ll give up and slink away.
Typically, when thieves target backpacks, there are a variety of strategies they use. The least clever may attempt a clumsy grab-and-run tactic, while others employ a little more creativity. Maybe they’ll slash your strap before grabbing your bag and running off with it. Perhaps they’ll stand behind you and try to discreetly unzip your bag and reach in to grab whatever they can get their hands on. Or maybe they’ll quickly slice open the main compartment of your bag so they can reach in and pull out your valuables.
Thieves have plenty of creative ideas and many come up with new ones every day, so any countermeasures you can employ on your end are worth it. Thieves have a limited amount of time to spot their marks, assess their risks, and make their move. If they can see any type of countermeasures in place, they’ll most likely either decide not to bother to begin with or to give up and move on quickly if they do.
Bags that use slash-proof materials in the body and straps are a great start, as they’ll keep your bag intact and your gear from falling out in the event of a knife attack. Some bags are even reinforced with a steel wire lining woven into the fabric for further protection.
Another popular feature is upgraded zippers that are visually hidden or able to be locked. If a thief can’t see the zippers on your bag—or if they can see locks on your zippers—they’ll feel much less likely to try to make a move. Certain bags also employ hidden pockets, which have the same effect. If thieves can’t find an easy way in, they’re less likely to bother.
Other features you might see are locking cables, which offer a secure way for you to loop your bag around a signpost or chair without giving thieves a way to slash their way through the strap or by busting the lock. Some bags also offer explosion-proof locks, which, while dramatic, are self-explanatory. You might also see things like RFID blockers in these bags, which keep your credit cards and key passes from being scanned.
In contrast to your garden-variety backpack, anti-theft backpacks are constructed with security in mind. How these bags factor in security will vary by manufacturer, but typically they employ tactics like slash-proof or reinforced materials and shoulder straps, hidden pockets or zippers, lockable zippers. They’re designed to not look interesting to thieves and actually slow or stop them from accessing your valuables should they try to access them.
Otherwise, they’re no different from a standard backpack. You can still expect multiple pockets or compartments for storing laptops and other items, along with comfy padded straps and a stylish design to boot.
There isn’t a tight price range for anti-theft backpacks, but you can find plenty of solid options between about $40-125. However, generally speaking, you’ll get what you pay for with these bags. Typically, the more you can fork out, the more anti-theft countermeasures you’ll get (and the more non-theft luxuries you’ll get, like additional pockets and nicer materials).
Anti-theft backpacks are a great choice, as they look a lot like regular backpacks. They’re just as easy to use as a regular bag, and many offer the same amount of (if not more) pockets, clips, and compartments for keeping your gear organized. And with the added bonus of protecting your laptop and other valuables, why not make the switch?
If this sounds like the upgrade you need, check out our best anti-theft backpack picks below: