My Travel Unicorn: The Perfect Travel Purse

Bags, especially purses and backpacks, are one of my many weaknesses. Over the years, I have built up quite a collection, and with every new bag I buy, I am convinced that’s The One. At least for the moment.

When it comes to traveling, there are some things I really want in a purse
  • Enough room for day trip essentials, like sunnies and water bottle
  • Pockets and compartments to organize all the stuff I deem essential
  • Comfortable to carry around all day long
  • Keeping my valuables safe from sticky fingers
  • Squishable, in case I need to pack it in my carry-on

Another thing that I found to be important over the past couple of years is the ability to carry my purse more or less comfortably in combination with a backpack.

On longer trips that involve flying, I either use a backpack as my carry-on, or I travel with a small rolling carry-on and a daypack as my personal item. Using that latter combo, my purse obviously needs to be packed away either in my carry-on or my personal item, which is why “squishable” is one of the most important qualities in a travel purse for me.

When I carry a backpack as my main luggage, things get a little trickier. Oftentimes, crossbody purses and backpack straps don’t play nicely but attempt to stangle the hapless wearer. But maybe that’s just me…


Some options that have worked for me in the past

From my vast collection of purses, three have been as close to perfect for traveling as they get, so they deserve some space on the blog. And, just to get that out of the way, I have paid for each and every one with my own hard-earned money…


Sadly, I have no idea what this model is called. It doesn’t seem to be available anymore. I found it in the Santa Monica R.E.I. store in 2015, so it’s not really an old model, but it might have been discontinued since.

Pros: Meets all my criteria for a travel purse, even almost comfortable in combination with a backpack.

Cons: Not waterproof. Soft material doesn’t really withstand the wear and tear too well, especially right where the strap is sewn on. After carrying it around Berlin for two days straight, I noticed a tiny hole which continued to expand. Despite my abysmal sewing skills, I managed to patch it up quite well, but it sure put a damper on my excitement – after all, I was so convinced I had finally found my unicorn, my perfect travel purse!



Again, I have no idea what this model is called, and it also doesn’t seem to be available anymore. It’s not one of the classic Timbuk2 messenger bags, but it is built just as sturdily as any of them.

I have had this purse since 2013, and (apart from being my everyday bag for months) it has traveled with me to Edinburgh, where it did nicely in snow and rain – no leakage whatsoever!

Pros: Meets all my criteria for a travel purse. Waterproof. Expandable – which you definitely need if you want to carry around a water bottle and a sunglasses in a case.

Cons: Pretty rigid strap, which makes it not very comfortable in combination with a backpack.



Finally, there is a bag I can name! It’s sherpani’s Luna bag, but an old incarnation that isn’t available anymore. I picked it up in 2010 or 2011 at R.E.I., and it has served me well since then, both traveling and as my everyday purse at home.

Pros: Squishable. Nice compartments for small stuff, including slots for key cards or metro passes. Zippered main compartment and inner pocket. Comfortable to carry, even in combination with a backpack.

Cons: Too small to carry a water bottle and sunnies in a case. Not waterproof.


Alternatives to travel purses

One combination that I tried on my latest trip to England and Scotland was a combination of a Happy Cow Hip Bag and my Cotopaxi Luzon 18 liter daypack.

This combination worked out nicely, with my phone, wallet, keys and other small important stuff tucked away safely in the Happy Cow bag, while my water bottle, rain jacket, snacks, GoPro, sunnies and other odds and ends found more than enough room in the Luzon.

Pros: Definitely enough room to carry around everything I needed and then some, still comfortable. Valuables felt very safe in hip bag, were still easy to reach when needed.

Cons: Two bags. Backpack might not be welcome in museums or stores, though I didn’t have any trouble taking it with me into the Churchill War Rooms, the Tower of London, or even into Harrod’s.


Have I found my unicorn?

Nope. Don’t think so. What I have found are options that work nicely, even if there are a few minor faults here and there. Is it even possible to find The One, the perfect travel purse?

So the hunt continues and the collection keeps growing…





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