ABOVE: A colorful version of the Paper Wallet, designed by artist Alexander Tyapochkin of Russia. INSET BELOW: Two views of the Paper Wallet that I field-tested during a trip to Rome.
by Durant Imboden
First things first: "" is a misnomer. The wallet is actually made of DuPont's Tyvek, a nonwoven and recyclable "flashspun" sheeting made of high-density polyethylene fibers. Tyvek is used in many different applications, such as moisture-resistant weatherization barriers, shipping envelopes, "clean room" clothing, and hazmat gear.
Unlike paper, Tyvek is nearly indestructible in normal use, and it won't fall apart if it gets wet on a rainy day. Yet it matches the thinness and crispness of paper, and--like paper--it can be formed into useful shapes (such as a wallet) and printed in solid colors or graphics.
The Paper Wallet was conceived as a fashion accessory (it was shown at Fashion Week in Paris a while back), and its designer editions--as opposed to the solid-color versions--were created by artists in Moscow, New York, Portugal, and Argentina.
However, the wallet is eminently practical for travel, as I proved to my own satisfaction during a recent trip to Rome. If you aren't ready to make a fashion statement, you can stick with a basic black, brown, or beige wallet and enjoy the benefits of the Paper Wallet's minimalist design.
Product description and field report:
The Paper Wallet was created by designer Elad Burko for Paper Media Design, a small New York-based fashion firm. According to the Paperwallet.com Web site, the product is a bifold wallet with "2 credit card slots, 2 contact card slots, 2 easy access pockets & 1 cash compartment." According to the Paperwallet.com Web site, it "fits 12+ credit cards."
In actual use, I found that the Paper Wallet worked best with a modest number of banknotes in the cash compartment, two credit or debit cards in the left front pocket, and two more cards on the right front pocket. (See top inset photo.) This anti-overstuffing approach had two important benefits:
Over the course of an eight-day trip in hot weather, the Paper Wallet developed a few wrinkles from being carried between my steaming torso and a nylon photo vest, but it still feels crisp to the touch, and I'll be using it again on my next trip.
The Paper Wallet is a useful replacement for a standard wallet while traveling, and its US $14.99 price will leave you with enough money for the Paper Wallet's cash compartment (which is large enough to accommodate dollars, euros, pounds sterling, and other banknotes of similar dimensions).
Where to buy the Paper Wallet:
You can order the wallet at www.paperwallet.com, which offers free shipping worldwide.
The Paper Wallet is also sold by a number of retailers, such as the Louvre, Palais de Tokyo, Merci, Fleux, and Bubblewood in Paris.
Top photo: Paperwallet.com.
Copyright © 1996-2013 Durant Imboden and Cheryl Imboden. All rights reserved.