Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Backpack Review
The Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Backpack protects against pickpockets, but get to know the features, or you may find yourself locked out.
- Comfortable to carry with shoulder straps or haul handles
- Side pockets fit range of water bottle sizes
- Large zipper pull makes front pocket lock easy to use
- Bag frame and shape makes unzipping difficult
- Locking mechanisms take some getting used to
- Low visibility in main compartment due to shape and pockets
1.55 lb (0.7 kg)
15.4 in x 10.6 in x 6.3 in (39.1 x 26.9 x 16 cm)
Nylon, Recycled Polyester
Laptop Compartment Size
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While we like to feel like the world is our oyster, just waiting to be explored, the places we head to might not always be the safest. Whether it’s to protect our gear from big city pickpockets, opportunists in the TSA line, or even unsavory characters at a local watering hole, we need a way to keep our items safe and secure while on the go. That’s where the Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Backpack comes in.
This bag is loaded with locking features that will keep out most thieves—although it kept us out, too, while we got used to the mechanisms. They can be a bit tricky to undo, especially on the go. Whether the hassle is worth it is up to you. Let’s dive in and figure that out.
Materials & Aesthetic
The Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Backpack has a sleek look but a more utilitarian feel with its boxy shape. However, its neutral colors and design make this a bag we can bring to the office without being self-conscious about flashy features or overly-youthful patterns. Pacsafe calls it a women’s bag, but we don’t think the backpack has any apparent gender-identifying features and that it would be just as useful for those of any gender looking for a secure bag. Your opinion may differ, though.
Available at the time of writing in Storm Gray or Black as part of Pacsafe’s Econyl Collection, the bag is constructed with 320D Econyl, regenerated nylon made from recycled fishnets and other discarded nylon. The lining is a 150D recycled polyester, and both the exterior material and lining are PFC-free and water-resistant. We tested the black Econyl bag, but Pacsafe also offers the Citysafe CX in non-recycled materials—100D high-density nylon twill with a 75D polyester lining—available in Nightfall (navy blue), Black, Blush Tan, and Merlot (burgundy) colorways.
We like Pacsafe’s commitment to sustainable materials, though, and when there is no noticeable difference in features, price, or design, we’ll gladly opt for environmentally-friendly materials. After a few weeks of testing, we found some cracking on the straps, though, so we’re not sure if Econyl will stand the test of time. We’ll keep you updated in the usage timeline.
The bag is protected with eXomesh, a stainless steel wire mesh that resists slashing to keep the bag safe from cut and run opportunists. It makes the material feel sturdier than it might without the eXomesh sandwiched between the exterior and the liner.
There is minimal branding on the backpack, with a small Pacsafe silver grommet on the right side of the front pocket and another on the strap that snaps the carry handles together. The Roobar-style zipper lock bears the Pacsafe name, as do the metallic zipper pulls and strap keepers, but that’s it; Pacsafe seems to focus more on security and less on brand recognition with this minimalist design.
The two external zippers on the bag—for the front pocket and the main compartment—are sturdy, puncture-resistant zippers that slide easily. The front pocket features a tab to slide the zipper pull to deter pickpockets. Unlike other locking tabs we’ve used, this one functions well and is easy to lock and unlock, even while walking.
The main compartment zipper is a different story, though. The Citysafe CX features a frame opening at the top of the bag that helps it stay open while packing, but since the zipper overhangs the frame by 1.5 inches on either side, it’s hard to get it started if the backpack isn’t resting on a solid surface. It’s not impossible, but we have to hold the end of the zipper in one hand and then use our other hand to both hold the frame closed and pull the zipper. That becomes a bit unwieldy, and that’s if the zipper isn’t locked.
The main compartment zipper locks in two ways, which is great since that’s where we stash our laptop and other expensive belongings. The two zipper pulls feature a triangular protrusion that, upon closer inspection, has a slit in the top. When the two zipper pulls are closed, those slits line up and interlock. It’s impossible to pull just one zipper at a time when they are interlocked, which keeps the bag zipped tight. If that’s not enough, the bottom bar on the Roobar-style locking system slides open for the zipper pulls to slide through, then clicks shut to lock them in place. The system is not obvious by design; if a thief has to mess with our bag for too long to get inside, we will feel it, or someone will notice the impending theft.
Because of that, this isn’t a bag we’d pick up just hours before needing to use it. To make the most of the Citysafe CX’s features—and get into the bag ourselves—it helps to take time to play around with it and familiarize yourself with the mechanisms. Let’s take a look at some other unique features.
The Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Backpack can be carried as a backpack, as indicated in its name, or by hand with dual carry straps that protrude 6 inches from the top of the bag. The carry handles are thin but comfortable to use. Since the backpack itself only has a 17-liter capacity, we didn’t find it got too heavy to carry this way. The carry handles can be secured together with a snapping strap, which is a nice feature that helps bring the bag frame back together when it’s unzipped.
The shoulder straps are minimally padded, but it’s enough to make the bag comfortable to carry around throughout the day. Pacsafe includes more security features on the straps, as well. The Carrysafe slashguard straps are reinforced with wires to resist knife slashes. While one strap is permanently attached to the bag, the other strap attaches to the Citysafe CX with a locking hook. Turn the lock to unclip the strap, then attach it to a fixed feature like a chair leg or a railing to prevent a would-be thief from grabbing the bag as they pass by. It’s a design we’ve seen on other Pacsafe bags. The hook is easy to unlock by turning the black lock away from its release and simply clicking it back into place to prevent it from being easily undone.
Each strap is one continuous loop held together, adjustable with a slide. A thin metal strap keeper prevents excess strapping from flopping around. We appreciate the aesthetic, but it does mean that we can only adjust them so tightly. In most cases, that’s tight enough, but when a computer or a book is in the backpack, being able to tighten the straps a little more could help users with shorter torsos lift the bag off the small of the back. However it’s not a big deal on a smaller bag like this as it’s fairly lightweight to begin with.
The lightly padded back panel is thick enough to protect a laptop inside but not enough to prevent us from feeling the computer pressing up against our back. Carrying the bag using the top handles or just one shoulder strap alleviates this issue, but it’s something we’re aware of when using the Citysafe CX as a backpack. Pacsafe focuses on security features over excess comfort here, and your mileage may vary.
Also on the back panel is a 3.5-inch wide padded luggage pass-through strap. It’s easy to slide over the handle of a roller bag and is a great way to carry the bag through the airport or when walking to a hotel. It also adds a bit to the padding of the back panel, but not enough to blunt the feeling of hard objects in the bag.
Two side pockets round out the backpack. The 4-inch wide pockets have elasticized openings that hold a water bottle securely in place, even when the bag is laid down or upended. The pockets easily accommodate wide-mouth bottles, as well, although doing so does eat slightly into the interior capacity of the bag. We didn’t find it affected our ability to slide in our computer, though. Let’s take a look inside to find out why.
Inside The Pack
On the front of the bag is a 10-inch wide, 8-inch deep pocket that unzips in a u-shape to half of its depth. Inside are two shallow, 5-inch wide pockets, perfect for sliding a phone or wallet, or even smaller tech like AirPods. The remainder of the pocket has enough capacity for gloves, masks, small snacks, and other items we like to have within easy reach. Because the pocket is protected with the eXomesh and has the locking tab for the zipper, we feel safe stashing our phone and wallet where they’re most convenient to grab.
As we’ve mentioned, the main compartment has a rectangular frame at the opening that pops open to allow access to the bag’s interior. Inside, the lining is a bright silvery-gray, making it easy to see most of the bag’s capacity.
The compartment is divided into two sections: a padded laptop sleeve that snuggly accommodates up to a 16-inch MacBook Pro and the remainder of the section. On the laptop sleeve is a 9-inch wide by 6-inch deep RFID-protected zippered pouch to protect credit cards and passports from unwanted scans. If you’re concerned about digital security, this pocket is the best option for your essential cards and documents. On the opposite side of the bag are two 4-inch wide by 5-inch deep pockets for tossing pens, a mouse, or other small items.
Filling the zippered pouch and the pockets, adding a laptop, and water bottles in the side pockets impacts our ability to see to the bottom of the bag. We prefer to slide power cords and charging blocks into the zippered pocket to keep them from becoming lost in the abyss at the bottom of the bag. We also prefer to keep a wallet and cash in the front pocket for easier access on the go, thus somewhat negating the RFID protection of the interior zippered pouch. We find it a hassle to go into the main compartment when we need to grab our wallet or phone but depending on the circumstances, that extra level of protection provided by the RFID-protected pocket can be useful—you do you.
Overall, the Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Backpack is a bag that lives up to its name. Thieves will find it hard to get into this bag when all of its security features are deployed. With dimensions that meet major airlines’ carry-on guidelines, it’s a great addition to our travel gear.
- The shorter profile should feel great for those with smaller torsos
- The shoulder straps are relatively thin but play to the overall aesthetic
- Wide top opening with a bright interior
- Lock the shoulder strap to a fixed object for added security
- Fabric cracking into a small tear on the shoulder strap
- Econyl nylon resists stains
- Dirt and pet hair brush off easily