The world is divided into three groups: Those who hate the Pacsafe, those who love it, and those who have never heard of it.
The Pacsafe is a very popular and clever wire mesh cage-like device that is reputed to help keep a backpack from being liberated from your immediate possession. You surround your backpack with it, put a padlock onto it or, ideally, you lock it to something sturdy, such as a stationary water pipe. (One that is attached to the building, not a hookah)
I do not own one. I have nothing against them, in fact I have a somewhat positive opinion of them.
As a known worry-wart, I worry about anything and everything. I also worry about having all my stuff stolen in some backwater little third-world dump, such as Paris.
I trust hostels, once you get into the room that is.
Before that, you invariably have to put your pack into some basement room with everyone elses pack and where some feral Aussie living on one dirham a day can steal your socks and undies.
The Pacsafe does have its share of drawbacks.
Its presence screams “Cool stuff inside this pack!”. Whether or not that is true is matter of opinion, packs rarely talk to me, let alone scream things, but I get the message. It brings attention. I certainly don’t want some scummy backpacker thinking that I have hidden treasures in my pack, even if I know that it contains nothing more valuable that last weeks socks, underwear and a partially eaten baguette.
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It is also somewhat heavy metal, as in weight, not Motorhead.
Travel packs are already sorta heavy, since they are made to survive the rigors of airplane, train and bus travel and are not lightweight mountaineering packs, nor should they be. (No one pack is everything to everybody (though that is a topic for another day).
Like with anything that involves a lot of research and money, those that have Pacsafes like them and those without do not.
Backpacks, being mostly made of some sort of woven nylon fabric (OK, I will say it: Cordura© brand nylon from DuPont) can be cut with a knife while you are looking up at the sights or while you have it locked in the hostel basement. The Pacsafe doesn’t prevent this, what it does is make your pack less desirable and send the thief off to whatever MacPac is next to it.
I am not so worried about people using a razor on my pack, I am more worried about them using one on my neck. What I am worried about is the entire pack getting swiped in the first place. That’s why I like to lock the entire pack to something.
One of the designers at The North Face (of the few that I actually respect) took the “pack swiping” problem into account when he designed a chuck of aircraft cable into body of the Galileo travel pack (long discontinued in favor of some other faintly expedition-proven hype) so that the entire pack could be padlocked to something inert. Unfortunately, the reason for this was never conveyed to the shifty offshore contractors that neglected to attach the cable to anything.
Good idea, bad execution.
I suggest that people always include a better-than-average bicycle cable lock with a decent padlock along with their travel gear. Also, zipper pulls should always be locked together whenever possible, especially on daypacks. Unless you want to give away your camera on the Metro, in which case, all power to you.