Why You Shouldn’t Wear Your Backpack on Your Front

I see it all the time – backpackers walking around with their day packs on backwards. I get the logic behind this choice, they have been warned about pickpockets and thieves and feel that their belongings are a lot safer in front of them. However, should you wear your backpack on your front? It might make you feel a little more secure but it’s not actually such a good idea – for a number of reasons. Here are some travel security tips.

Should You Wear Your Backpack on Your Front: Backpack

Should You Wear Your Backpack on Your Front?

It Makes It Painfully Obvious You’re a Tourist

Do people carry their bags on their front in their own home town? No, of course not. By wearing your backpack the wrong way you are making it abundantly clear that you are a bewildered tourist in a new destination and totally out of your comfort zone.

This can be a bad thing, because it makes you a really obvious target for scammers. Anyone who sees you will assume that they can pull a fast one on you. Also, you’ll notice that the price for taxi rides, souvenirs and other items gets bumped up when people see you coming. It’s better to fit in and do as the locals do.

It Lets Thieves Know That You Are Carrying Something Valuable

When thieves see you they know for sure that you must have something valuable in that backpack, like a wallet, smart phone, tablet, laptop or camera. Otherwise, why would you be carrying it in that way? It’s pretty much like wearing a big sign that says, “Rob me.” If an opportunistic thief has their eye on you and you put the backpack down for a moment, they might take the opportunity to grab it and run.

Should You Wear Your Backpack on Your Front: Backpacking in Tokyo
Backpacking in Tokyo: Photo Incase / CC BY 2.0

It Makes a Bad Impression

When you wear your backpack on your front it sends a message to everyone who sees you that you think they are thieving and untrustworthy. That’s not a great impressive to give when you are travelling in another country and it can affect the way people perceive you.

So What Should You Do Instead?

A better way to avoid pickpocketing is to keep your valuables out of the backpack all-together. Try to leave most things in the safe in your hotel room and only take what you need with you. Keep your wallet and cash secured in your front pocket, which is much harder for a thief to reach into without you noticing.

pickpockets japanese tourists Colmar, France
Two girls pickpocket two Japanese Tourists in Colmar, France

If you need to carry more, use a cross-body or shoulder bag that you can tuck under your arm. Make sure that you carry it on the side of your body that is away from the road, as thieves have been known to ride by on motorbikes and swipe bags. Or, invest in one of those backpacks with a zipper lock and slash-proof material. Whenever you are crowded public transit take it off and hold it in front of you or on your lap so that you don’t bump into other people – just don’t wear it on your front when you walk around!

About Kelly Dunning

Website: http://global-goose.com/

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run Global-Goose.com, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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7 Responses

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  2. Avatar for Kelly Dunning


    Wearing my backpack in front is more accessible and honestly, gives me a better posture… makes me straighten my back while walking and feels comfortable!

  3. Avatar for Kelly Dunning


    When backpacking – I wear a day pack on the front and my main back pack on my back. To suggest that tourists leave valuables in their hotel safe (err… how are they going to pay for goods?) is a bit dim – to suggest as well that wearing a back pack in the front sends the wrong message – is even dummer. People wear backpacks in the front for all sorts of reasons – firstly its very easy to steal from a back-backpack. Second people with back problems and older persons may find it easier – as a backpacker – I always carry a small front pack – this (a) keeps my items secure (b) allows easy access to snacks and (c) lightens the load of my back. As for seeming like a tourist – you may not have noticed but the world has gone global – no one can tell where anyone comes from anymore and you’re more likely to get mugged a mile from your own stop than abroad. So lighten up everyone and think of the practicalities.

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    Joshua Zakary

    I could not agree more! From what I’ve seen it seems predominantly white women who perpetuate this practice. I first noticed it when I was in Peace Corps. These girls would lug about around a third of their body weight in two backpacks over their shoulders. It just makes no sense to me.

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    JoAnn Cooper

    I think it’s much more practical to have a small front facing back pack. A large front facing back pack would be impractical. Your load will be more evenly distributed & you won’t bump people or merchandise. Your hands will always be free to shop or drink while you walk. You can carry things you need frequent & easy access to, phone, maps, schedules, tickets, drink bottles, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip gloss, etc., without having to stop, remove your backpack and dig through it to find what you need. In my opinion, it’s a much more efficient way to go.

  6. Avatar for Kelly Dunning


    I just wear it this way to reduce strain on my shoulders

    • Avatar for Kelly Dunning


      I was working in Shanghai in 1999, just when the boom began. 80% of the people wore their backpack on the front.
      On the back they are easily accessible, if they cannot unzip them they will slash them (usually 1 person and they move on) then person #2 & 3 will pull out whatever they can. I witnessed while having a coffee at the Sofitel on Nanjing Road. I rushed over there and told the girl……the thieves vanished.


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