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As a New Yorker, I can attest that a backpack is essential to our daily life.
When I first moved to NYC, I did what I had always done–carrying everything I needed daily in a purse.
I quickly realized that a purse, even a large one, wouldn’t cut it.
Some days, I needed to bring 2 changes of clothes, plus gym shoes, because there wasn’t enough time to run home.
On other days, I needed to carry groceries and spoils from an after-work shopping trip, and my arms would ache from the weight.
That’s when I knew it was time to invest in a good backpack.
But finding the right backpack for NYC can be tricky.
You need something durable, comfortable, and it won’t make you look like a tourist.
Whether commuting to work, exploring the city, or running errands, a backpack makes life much easier.
Here, I’ll explore the pros and cons of using a backpack in New York City and give you some tips and tricks for keeping your belongings safe while on the go.
So, if you’re a New Yorker or planning a trip to the city, find out if your trusty backpack is a friend or foe in the Big Apple.
Benefits of using a Backpack in NYC
Using a backpack in New York City can offer numerous benefits for daily activities.
Whether you are a student, a professional, or a tourist, using a backpack in New York City is one of the most practical and convenient ways to carry your belongings around the city with all the walking, biking, and subway riding you have to do.
One of the primary benefits of using a backpack is the reduced stress it can place on your body.
Unlike shoulder bags or purses that can cause discomfort and strain on one side of your body, a backpack evenly distributes weight across both shoulders and your back.
This can alleviate pressure on your spine and reduce the likelihood of developing posture-related issues over time.
More importantly, with the fast-paced lifestyle you’ll experience roaming around NYC, a backpack can help you stay organized and prepared for whatever the day may bring.
You can easily pack your laptop, notebooks, water bottle, change of clothes, snacks, or whatever travel essentials you’d need for a day out all in one travel bag–no need to worry about multiple bags.
And since most backpacks have zippers or other closures that can keep your items secure and prevent theft, backpacks can provide security for your belongings.
If you’re worried about safety, you can find backpacks with anti-theft features like RFID-blocking pockets or slash-proof materials that offer an extra layer of protection.
How to Choose the Right Backpack for You?
Choosing the right backpack can make a big difference in your daily life, especially living in a busy city like NYC.
With so many different options on the market, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one is right for you. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a backpack:
👉 Purpose: Will you be using it for work, school, travel, or outdoor activities? Do you plan on using it as a carry-on-sized backpack?
Each of these purposes might require a different type of backpack with specific features.
👉 Size: Think about everything you need to carry with you day-to-day to decide what backpack size you might need.
You want it to be large enough to carry everything you need with room for unexpected extras but not so big that it becomes cumbersome.
👉 Comfort: Nothing is worse than finding a backpack that otherwise works for your needs but is totally uncomfortable to carry.
If you’re carrying something heavy like a laptop every day, a backpack with padded shoulder straps and a back panel can reduce pressure points and distribute weight evenly.
A chest or waist strap can also help to alleviate strain on your shoulders and back.
👉 Style: Backpacks come in many different styles, from minimalist to sporty to fashionable.
Choose a style that reflects your personal taste and complements your daily activities.
👉 Durability: Whether you want a fashionable or functional bag, look for ones made from high-quality materials, like leather, nylon, or polyester, that can withstand the wear and tear of daily use.
Check the stitching and zippers to ensure they are strong and durable.
👉 Security: And of course, you’ll need to consider the security features of the backpack.
Find a backpack with anti-theft features, such as lockable zippers, hidden pockets, and slash-proof materials.
Best Backpacks for Daily Use in NYC
When it comes to choosing the right backpack for daily use in NYC, there are a lot of factors to consider.
You want a practical and safe backpack with enough space to carry all your daily essentials without weighing you down.
And, of course, stylish without breaking the bank.
Here are some of my favorite backpacks for daily use in NYC, whether you’re visiting for a few days or living here long-term:
Samsonite Mobile Solution Deluxe Backpack
If you’re interested in both functionality and style, the Samsonite Mobile Solution Deluxe Backpack is my go-to backpack for exploring NYC.
It’s constructed with nylon fabric and vinyl trim with a water-resistant coating. It even has 2 interior padded panels, one for a laptop and the other for a tablet.
There are also exterior side pockets perfect for smaller personal items or water bottles.
Plus, the SmartSleeve™ fits over most upright luggage handles for easy traveling mobility.
Cheruty Anti-Theft Casual Backpack
Available in sizes medium and large, the Cheruty Anti-Theft Casual Backpack is made with high-quality vegan leather that’s both sturdy and vegan-friendly.
This purse backpack features a waterproof design that provides ample space for your daily essentials, with an anti-theft design that will keep all of your belongings safe while traveling on subways or crowded streets in New York City.
And since it can be worn as a tote bag, shoulder purse, or travel backpack, you can choose the best way to carry it around each day.
Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack
The Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack is an excellent choice for those needing a reliable backpack for their daily activities in NYC.
It has a signature striped liner and a padded, fleece-lined 15″ laptop sleeve to keep your device safe and secure.
The drawcord closure and magnet-fastened straps with metal pin buckles make it easy to access your items quickly.
And if you need quick access to essentials, there’s a zippered front pocket with a key clip.
Timbuk2 Authority Laptop Backpack
The Timbuk2 Authority Backpack is a sleek and functional option if you’re looking for a quality bag for work.
It has a spacious main compartment with a padded laptop sleeve and multiple pockets and compartments for organization.
The backpack also has padded backpack straps and grab handles and a comfortable air-mesh back panel that will keep you cool while you wear it.
Alternative Options for using a Backpack in NYC
While backpacks are great for carrying your belongings in NYC, some may need different choices.
Ultimately, the key is choosing a comfortable, practical, and safe bag for your daily activities in NYC.
Here are some alternative options to consider:
Crossbody purses are a great alternative to backpacks, especially if you’re traveling light.
Since they’re compact and easy to carry, they should be pretty light.
They can be worn across your body–hence, crossbody–for added security.
Look for crossbody bags with multiple pockets for organization, adjustable straps for a comfortable fit, and a strap made from anti-slash material.
Travelon Addison Crossbody Bag
While any of your preferred crossbody purses will work, the Travelon Addison Crossbody Bag is an excellent option if you’re specifically interested in one that’s anti-theft.
It features a 5-point anti-theft security system, ensuring that your belongings are safe on the go.
The roomy main compartment has an organization panel, zippered pocket, and slip pocket to keep everything organized.
And if you need even more peace of mind about your valuables, there’s even a rear-zippered compartment for added security.
Fanny packs have come back in recent years, and for a good reason.
They are compact, easy to carry, and can be worn around your waist or up high on your chest for added security.
Try to find a slim fanny pack with internal organization and an adjustable strap that doesn’t hang.
Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag 1L
If you only need your phone, keys, and wallet for a quick errand or adventure, then Lululemon’s Everywhere Belt Bag 1L is just what you need.
This belt bag is designed to keep your valuables secure with its exterior zippered pocket while still having enough interior pockets for all of your essentials.
Once you find your perfect fit, simply tuck away the excess strap into the elastic loops.
Plus, its water-repellent fabric will ensure that everything inside stays safe and dry no matter what weather conditions you encounter on the go in NYC.
If you’re going out for the day and really don’t need anything but the true essentials–phone, ID, and money–a money belt is the most practical alternative to backpacks.
Typically worn around your waist underneath your clothes, they’re slim and have multiple pockets for organization.
A money belt is also the lightest option on this list.
UA Flex Speedpocket Run Belt
Although Under Armour’s UA Flex Speedpocket Run Belt is meant for storing essentials while running, it’s a game-changer for anyone looking for a reliable and secure option when walking around New York City.
This run belt features the slim UA Speedpocket, designed to be bounce-free and water-resistant.
The adjustable elastic webbing with buckle closure provides a secure and custom fit, while the front zip compartment allows you to store keys, your ID, or your cellphone.
Alternative storage options
We women have several different unusual options for hiding valuables–hair scrunchies with hidden zippers, scarves with internal pockets, and even hidden pockets for bras.
Feel free to scope out the new backpack alternative products out there!
No matter which backpack you choose, make sure it’s comfortable, durable, and has enough space to carry all your daily essentials.
Look for safety features such as lockable zippers and RFID-blocking material for added peace of mind.
With the right backpack, you can navigate the busy streets of NYC with ease and style.
Common Safety Concerns for using a Backpack in NYC
While backpacks can offer incredible convenience for daily activities in New York City, you must be mindful of some common safety concerns.
As with any densely populated urban environment, pickpocketing and bag snatching are among NYC’s most prevalent safety concerns for backpack users.
Unfortunately, pickpocketing is fairly common in New York City, and backpacks can make you an easy target.
In a crowded environment, like standing on a packed rush-hour subway car or visiting the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center during the height of the holiday season, a thief can quickly unzip your backpack and steal your valuables without you noticing.
Bag snatching is also a concern, where thieves can grab your backpack and run away with your belongings.
You need to be extra mindful of your surroundings in crowded areas like subway stations, buses, and popular tourist spots like Times Square and the Grand Central Terminal.
Thieves can take advantage of the crowds and easily blend in after committing the crime.
There are a few tips to keep in mind to reduce your risk of being a target for an easy swipe.
Instead of displaying expensive items, like a clip-on headphones case, on the outside of your backpack, keep them in a secured compartment, ideally with a zipper or a lock.
To stay on the safe side, avoid carrying large sums of cash and important documents in your backpack.
Consider using a money belt to store your valuables while out and about, or leave these items at home or in the safe at your hotel room.
And always, always watch your surroundings and walk confidently–even if you have no idea where you’re going.
Safety Tips and Tricks for using a Backpack in NYC
Now that you know the safety concerns associated with using a backpack in NYC, let’s discuss some tips and tricks to help you safely use a backpack here.
✔️ Choose the right type of backpack for your needs: Not all packs are created equal, and some are better suited for NYC than others.
Look for a pack made of durable material with anti-theft elements like multiple compartments, zippers, hidden pockets, or a locking mechanism for added security.
Although this sounds like a tall order, backpacks with these features are out there! Just a cute, stylish bag isn’t going to cut it.
✔️ Secure your belongings: Always keep valuable items like your wallet, phone, and passport in a secure compartment or pocket.
Use a luggage lock to secure the zippers so it’s harder for pickpockets to access your belongings.
✔️ Keep your backpack in sight: When sitting in a cafe or restaurant, avoid hanging your backpack on the back of your chair, where it’s easy for someone to grab it.
Instead, keep your backpack within sight by placing it on your lap, next to your feet, or hanging from your knee.
✔️ Stay alert in high-risk areas: As we discussed earlier, crowded areas are high-risk zones for theft. When walking in busy areas, notice if you feel any unusual jostling.
You can even go so far as to move your backpack to your front, so you can keep an eye on it.
If you’re in a crowded subway station or bus, holding your backpack against your chest or down by your knees is best to prevent someone from accessing it from behind.
✔️ Consider using a luggage storage service: If you’re planning to visit a tourist spot or attraction, consider utilizing a luggage storage service.
This way, you don’t have to worry about carrying your backpack all day, and your belongings will be safe and secure.
Some massive NYC museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art have coat checks where you can check your backpack.
Or, you can use a service like Nannybag or Bounce, with locations all over the city.
Backpacks in New York City: FAQs
Do people use backpacks in NYC?
Yes, people use backpacks in NYC.
They’re as common as purses, tote bags, and other kinds of bags for tourists visiting for short visits and New Yorkers using them every day.
Is it safe to use a backpack in New York City?
Yes, it’s safe to use a backpack in NYC.
As a fellow city-dweller, I understand the struggle of balancing efficiency with safety.
One of the biggest questions I had when I first moved here was whether it was safe to use a backpack in NYC.
It seems like such a small thing, but every decision counts in a city with millions of people.
After years of using a backpack to commute to work, shows, and see friends, I’ve never been worried about the safety of valuables in my backpack because I was using a backpack.
Backpacks in NYC: Wrap-Up
If you’re interested in taking additional safety precautions when you’re out exploring NYC, using a backpack can be both a practical and safe choice.
By choosing the right type of backpack and implementing simple safety measures for you and your needs, you can significantly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of pickpocketing or bag snatching.
However, it’s also important to acknowledge that whether it’s safe to use a backpack in NYC is part of a much larger conversation about safety in urban environments.
While we can take steps to protect ourselves, we must also address the underlying social and economic factors that contribute to crime and insecurity.
So, the next time you’re walking through the streets of NYC with your trusty backpack, remember.
While your backpack may be a small part of your daily routine, the impact of your actions can be significant.
Stay safe, stay vigilant, and always strive to make the world a better place.
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