So you are exploring a new city far from home, you have your big roller bag in your hotel and your about to venture out for the day. What bag do you take? Do you take your usual sized day handbag that you use at home, do you take a smaller version of your shoulder bag, do you take a backpack, or something else? After countless trips and days on end exploring cities and suburbs around the world on foot I have tried and tested the best bag to take you around any urban environment.
Firstly lets go through the bags that are a no-go. Your usual handbag. There is a number of reasons that this is a bad idea, firstly it is usually fairly large and if it's not too big I bet it's still a shoulder bag. Trust me a day of walking around with a usual shoulder bag will give you a very sore shoulder by midday. You will be changing it from side to side and be the reason you opt for sitting down more often and not exploring as much as you could. It is also very likely to contain a lot of unnecessary things which adds to caring around unwanted weight. Even if you try an empty it before you travel I bet the the culling won't be as much as you need, you will convince yourself that you need that bag within your bag of creams and that other bag with makeup and so they must stay. Lastly if you have room in a bag you will fill it. I think this is just a universal bag law! As much as you try to keep it light, if there is space you will put things in it and convince yourself they are a necessity to drag around all day! I know you know what I am talking about!
A big back pack is also a no-go (not a cute little fashion one, I am talking the going to school kind, the climbing a mountain kind!) Back packs are huge so you will have the same issues of filling it up and carting around unnecessary weight making your shoulders and back unhappy pretty early on in the day. The more important thing is that you are not in the wilderness, you are not exploring uncharted areas, so you do not need a back back filled with so much gear!! Not only will you look like the biggest tourist ever (and be more likely to get pick pocketed or scammed), you are over dramatizing your travels. I mean when you are at home just going out for the day would you pack all the things you would put in that back pack? Or better yet would you even have a back pack?! You don't need to lug around a survival kit, if you're thirsty buy a bottle of water or sit down at a cafe. If your hungry go eat, if you managed to cut your finger or whatever other situation you have cooked up if your head you can just ask for help or go back to your hotel. You are in an urban setting and everything you could possibly need will be only a block or two away.
Okay now that we have got all of that out of the way (phew!) lets get into what bag is best and what you should be taking. There a couple of must have features when selecting your bag these are;
No bigger than a A3 piece of paper
Over the shoulder strap option
A secure zip section
It should also ideally have a flap, zip or single clip opening to the main compartment. This helps with pick pockets and just generally loosing things out of it.
Size matters, if it's small you have to be strict on what goes in, this keeps the weight nice and light making it doable of all day exploring. With this size bag I promise you that you can still have all the things that you need, and here is how:
Don't take your normal wallet. It is too big and filled with so many loyalty cards that serve you not benefit away from home. I use a coin pouch that fits all the credit and debit cards I need plus the cash and coins I have. This instantly gives me so much more room in my bag.
-Pack only single item cosmetics not a small set or small bag. This doesn't mean you have to decide on just one or two things for your entire trip. Have your main set of everything in your travel bag and each day pack the lipstick/balm that you have chosen for that day and whatever else you can't live without, mine is a small tube of tinted sunscreen (foundation) and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. If it's at night I might also take a mascara for touch ups. These are all so tiny individually and easily have room.
Take your sunglasses but not the case (unless it's a soft shell one). Sunglasses are a total must have and there is always room for them!
Pack your phone, no dramas here unless you have a bulky flip case on it and its doesn't fit, then ditch the case.
Take your camera. And if you have a big lens on it then you might have to just have this over your shoulder. Some of my soft bags can fit my camera and my hard structured ones can't. It's not the end of the world to throw it separately on my shoulder.
Always take 2 tampons! (Obviously more if it's that time) Doesn't matter when your cycle is just have them! It will get you or your friends out of any sudden trouble and give you time to get to a store. Plus they take up no space.
That's it. Don't be jamming any other things in there! After all when you're out and about you might buy the odd small thing that could fit in, so leave room for that, don't max out your bag before you walk out the door!
The secure section of your bag is where you want to put your phone and/or money pouch. A place where if someone does try get their hands into your bag you will feel it before they get to these items. Also means you are less likely to have them fall out when you are grabbing other items in your bag.
The over the shoulder strap is a big one, it means you can take the weight off just being on the edge of your shoulder spread it over your chest, collarbone and upper back making it feel a lot lighter and comfortable for all day use. Over the shoulder means that you can also take your bag with you to more activities such as if you hire a bike to ride around town. It also makes it so much harder for some to run off with your bag.
Having a flap, zip top or even a clip to the main section also helps with knowing your stuff is a little more secure. A good habit to get into is when you are in places notorious for pick pocketing and steeling such as very crowded tourist land marks and on the trains/ metro is to have your bag across your shoulder and the hip that you bag is sitting at, rest that hand over the top of your bag. It just means that you are totally aware of where it is and your hand is covering the opening to your bag. This will also deter them from you being the target.
Hope these tips and thoughts help, and as always happy adventuring !