The 10 Best Travel Vests
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in January of 2018. A quality travel vest can eliminate the need for a backpack or carry-on bag, as it will hold all the items you want to keep on-hand, like a wallet, a passport, a cell phone, a camera, memory cards, and more. Our selection includes options for warm and cool weather use, and we found choices that are so comfortable and stylish you may even want to wear them around town. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 08, 2021:
If you don't want to carry a backpack around all day on your adventures, a travel vest is the way to go. They are packed with pockets to hold all of your valuables and documents, yet most are designed not to look bulky or give away the fact that are loaded up with your important stuff.
During this update we noticed we were lacking in options for women. While we had the ScotteVest 101, that was previously our only recommendation for the ladies. We decided to remedy that by replacing a few of our men's options, and the two new additions this time around are the Carhartt El Paso and ExOfficio Sol Cool FlyQ.
We like the Carhartt El Paso because it manages to avoid an overly utilitarian look, which is partially because of its stylish print, and partially due to the streamlined design that features a drawstring to cinch the waist tight. Despite that, it still offers 11 pockets to stash your stuff. Many will also appreciate the lightweight cotton material that is highly breathable, yet still very durable.
The ExOfficio Sol Cool FlyQ is sort of the opposite of the El Paso. While it, too, has the drawstring waist, it does have more of that utilitarian appearance due to its solid color, of which it is only available in a neutral tawny or black. However, we understand some women may prefer this style. It is also notably warmer than the El Paso, despite the misleading name, and it is made from a UPF-rated fabric that is Teflon treated and antimicrobial.
June 11, 2019:
Travel vests are the ideal way to keep important items on hand, while still keeping them concealed from prying eyes. If you've ever worried about leaving your cash, travel documents, and electronics in your hotel room, but have also been hesitant about carrying them around town with you, these are the solution to your dilemma.
We realize that wearers' desire for style and pocket concealment differs based on their intended use. For example, someone going out on a safari or an extended hike will care more about utility than style, whereas somebody who plans on walking around town in their vest will want many hidden pockets and a more fashion-forward look. Because of this we won't make recommendations based on those factors, since you know your intended use better and can gather much of this information by simply looking at their photos. Instead, we will point out which vests are best suited to certain climates, and then you can combine that knowledge with the information in our reviews regarding number and types of pockets to choose the best model for you.
If you plan on adventures in very hot climates, such as Southeast Asia or the Middle East, we recommend the Weekender Air, Foxfire Thunder, and FoRapid Safari. All of these are made from lightweight material and have mesh components for airflow. If your travels will take you through temperate climates that have warm days and chilly nights, we recommend the ScotteVest RFID, ScotteVest 101, Rothco Undercover, and AyeGear V26. These options are durable and breathable, yet can help stop chilly winds and keep your core warmer. The ScotteVest RFID, ScotteVest 101, and AyeGear V26 are also water resistant, too, and can keep light rains from damaging your electronics and travel documents. For those cold weather excursions, we recommend the Columbia Silver Ridge II, ScotteVest Quest, and Gihuo Reversible. With a heavier-weight fabric, they should help keep you nice and toasty.
Lands' End Packable Though it doesn't have the plethora of pockets of many of our other recommendations, the Lands' End Packable offers the right balance of portability and warmth that makes it ideal for heading to cold climates when you want to keep your luggage light. landsend.com
Mier Women's Lightweight Softshell Vest The Mier Women's Lightweight Softshell Vest is good for those crisp spring and fall days. It is crafted from a tough polyester-spandex blend, with a soft brushed fleece lining; has robust YKK zippers; and offers eight pockets to stash your gear. miersports.com
Investing In Comfortable Travel
Greater security is, in fact, one of the strongest reasons for choosing a travel vest for your next vacation.
The bulky, many-pocketed vest has long been considered strictly for fishermen or photographers, but today's designers have abandoned the clunkier designs of yesteryear, bringing voyagers new vests with functionality and flair. Actually, some designers play it so close to the vest that you'd never guess how many benefits their models offer, but don't fret, because we've got the scoop for you here.
First, for instance, a high-quality travel vest with plenty of pockets — some have nearly 30 — can help you avoid aggravating and costly baggage fees or save you room in your suitcase for souvenirs. Simply stow your carryon items, including your snacks, electronic gadgets, and EDC necessities, and voilà: more bag space at your disposal.
Packing your carryon items into your travel vest is handy for another reason, too. When you go through security, all you have to do is slip out of the garment and place it on the conveyor. No more searching all your pockets for keys and change, and no more trying to corral your phone, wallet, passport, pens, and so on. And since everything is stowed together neatly, there's less chance you'll leave something behind.
For similar reasons, the travel vest is also a great companion on outings to museums or art galleries where bags are not allowed or must be checked. Instead of handing over your snacks, camera, and water bottle, or trying to carry them all in your hands, your vest conceals these items and lets you move freely through the space.
Greater security is, in fact, one of the strongest reasons for choosing a travel vest for your next vacation. Many offer hidden pockets as well as lanyards and clips, which help prevent theft as well as the loss of items that might tumble out unnoticed. The best travel vests also feature RFID blocking pockets for your more sensitive items.
Finally, travel vests are multipurpose and not only for traveling. Photographers do still get great use from them, as do hikers and even preppers looking for an alternative to the bulky bug out bag. And since today's travel vests have discreet styling, no one needs to know what you've got on you, no matter which activity you're pursuing.
Travel Vest Features
Although many travel vests look similar on the surface, these garments vary quite a bit in the conveniences they offer. Because these pieces are an investment that can save you hassles while traveling, you'll want to take some time to find the one with the best features for you.
Some focus more on tech, providing compartments big enough for a tablet or computer, while others are better for holding liquids, such as bug spray and beverages.
One top concern is how the vest will protect you from the elements. For warm to hot destinations, look for a vest made with ventilation and from quick-drying materials, usually synthetics. If you'll be voyaging through colder climates, opt for a vest made from heavier or insulating fabrics, and consider choosing one with a hood.
While you're looking at materials, you may want to consider the garment's washability. Are you okay with hand washing your vest? Or do you need a machine washable model? Drying time is crucial, as well; a fast-drying garment will have you out the door sooner, which can be especially critical when you have a plane or tour bus to catch.
Then there are the actual pockets. The majority of travel vests have plenty of small pockets for common items, including your keys, phone, lip balm, and more, but models vary when it comes to the larger items they'll accommodate. Some focus more on tech, providing compartments big enough for a tablet or computer, while others are better for holding liquids, such as bug spray and beverages.
Along with pockets, some vests offer organizational features to boost their comfort and accessibility. For instance, some have ports for headphone wires and charging cords, some have a waist cinching cord, and some take advantage of UV-blocking fabrics to keep you cool and safe from the sun's harmful rays.
Travel Safety Tips
Out of all the features and benefits a travel vest offers, it's perhaps the security provided by these garments that makes them most valuable. After all, traveling through a foreign country can cause feelings of vulnerability, and it's only natural to want to reduce these. Your safety is the number one priority, but being stuck without a passport or money can be intimidating, which makes precautions warranted. Along with opting for a travel vest, we've got a few extra ideas about how you can keep your stuff safe on vacation.
If you'll be in a country known for conservatism, choose pants, not shorts or tiny skirts, and shirts that cover at least your shoulders, if not your entire arms.
One thing you can do is dress to avoid drawing attention. Instead of wearing shirts with the flag of your home country or with English writing, brands, and slogans, choose nondescript pieces that will blend in with the crowd. If you'll be in a country known for conservatism, choose pants, not shorts or tiny skirts, and shirts that cover at least your shoulders, if not your entire arms. By not sticking out, you will be less easily identified as a target by those who seek to take advantage of or pickpocket tourists.
If you choose to go out without your travel vest, you'll need another way to ensure that your valuables are secure. A money belt or travel fanny pack are ever-popular choices, as they aren't as easy to grab as a purse or bag. If you must carry a small bag, wear it across the body, preferably under a jacket, and be sure not to set it on a chair or table top while you're eating, as this can make a tempting target for snatchers.
As for your passport, there is ongoing debate over whether to leave it in the place you're staying or to carry it while sightseeing, but keep in mind that some countries, such as Japan, require foreigners to carry their passports with them at all times. If you do decide that the worry of carrying it around isn't worth it, leave it in your hotel's safe and be sure to keep a copy on your person.