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Personal Utility Pouch

ABOVE: The nylon PUP comes in six colors. Other materials include faux leather and microfiber.

The term "fanny pack"  has always been an eyebrow-lifter in the United Kingdom, where "fanny" is slang for "vagina" or "vulva," so maybe that's reason enough for American tourists to leave their fanny packs at home when they travel to Britain or the Continent. Even when they're called "waist packs" or "hip packs," those lumpy nylon belts with pouches look dorky and aren't very secure.

Enter PUP, a.k.a. the "Personal Utility Pouch" from Newco Enterprises, a.k.a. The flat, multi-compartment, zippable unisex pouch is designed to be less bulky and clumsy than a fanny pack, and it has four open-topped exterior pockets with two zippered pockets to hold your sunglasses, notepad, pen, cellular phone, PDA, digital point-and-shoot camera, etc.

The bag can be worn in three ways: around the waist, over one shoulder, or across the chest, using an adjustable nylon strap that resists cutting by purse-snatchers.

I took a PUP on two recent trips to Europe, figuring that it would make a useful "manpurse" in the evenings when I was wearing a sport coat instead of my usual travel vest or ScottEvest jacket. Here are my observations:

  • With the 54" strap fully extended, I was able to wear the PUP across my chest with the pouch just above my waist. The bag hung comfortably against my side.

  • The side location felt secure, since my elbow rested against the pouch when my arm was in its normal position. (Note: I wear a size 44 suit; if you're larger than I am, you might not be able to wear the PUP comfortably across your chest.)

  • The flat, rectangular shape of the PUP made it convenient for holding items like a pocket notebook, a small digital camera, and a phrasebook. However, the pouch measured only 7 by 9 inches with an 8Ĺ-inch top zipper, making it too small for most guidebooks, maps, and tourist brochures.

  • The two zippered compartments are fairly secure (which may be one reason why PUP has been approved by the National Crime Prevention Program), but for urban travel, I'd recommend using the open pockets on the front of the bag for things like notebooks and inexpensive sunglasses that aren't likely to tempt thieves.

In a nutshell: The PUP is too small to be a replacement for a full-size messenger bag, camera case, or travel tote, but it's a worthy -----and far more attractive--alternative to "fanny packs" and neck wallets.

The PUP comes in three materials (nylon, microfiber, or faux leather) and a range of colors. Mail-order prices range from US $15.00 to $24.95 plus a modest shipping fee, and for another $4.95, you can order a camera or accessory case that slides onto the PUP's strap.

2008 update: Newco's slightly larger GiZmo bag may be an even better choice for travel. The nylon bag costs a few dollars more than the equivalent PUP, but it has extra storage room, and its two zippers lock to the strap clips for added security.

For more information, or to order a PUP or a GiZmo bag, visit

Related article:
GiZmo Travel Bag