"Hey, has anyone seen my (traveler's checks, tourist card, passport, driver's license or other important paper)?" is a question all too frequently heard while traveling. The slight note of anxiety in the person's voice quickly turns to panic when everyone nearby casually answers, "Nope!" Nothing quite matches the gut-numbing feeling that comes from being unexpectedly penniless, without a shred of identification and thousands of miles from home.
The steps that some people take to avoid this unpleasant situation are seldom more secure than an ordinary wallet or purse: pouches that hang around the neck (these bang against your chest and chafe until the string breaks), secret compartments in luggage (not much good if the suitcase is misplaced) and so forth.
Our solution to this problem was inspired by Papillon, a French convict-turned-writer. He wrote that prisoners on Devil's Island hid jewels and large bank notes in small stainless-steel cylinders. These cylinders, called "chargers," were hidden inside a person's . . . well, it's enough to say that it was very difficult to detect and to separate a man from.
The Hidden Pocket, is much easier to use (and more comfortable) than a charger, far safer than a pouch or wallet, and more convenient than money belts or hidden compartments. It will easily hold a passport, traveler's checks and even small lumpy objects, if necessary. The greatest advantage, other than security, is that once you begin using the Pocket, you soon lose that nagging background fear of being separated from your valuables. At night it's a simple matter to take the Pocket to bed with you. Never leave it with your clothing when sleeping, showering or sunbathing; that's the first place a thief will look.
A belt, cord or stout string inserted through the top "loop" of the Pocket allows it to be worn hanging from the waist, though placed inside your pants, shorts or skirt. In a very short time the Pocket and its contents will mold against your hip and be almost indistinguishable from the natural curve of your body and clothing. Variations are also possible: with elastic straps at top and bottom, the Pocket can be worn on your leg like a knife sheath; pins or sewn-on ties will attach it to the inside of a shirt or dress. The important thing is that it be usable on all of your clothing. This not only saves the hassle of making permanent hidden pockets in every pair of pants or skirt, but increases your awareness of where your valuables are at every minute. You should be as aware of your money and documents as you are of car keys and eyeglasses.
If you're carrying more money, papers or valuables than one Pocket will conveniently hold, another Pocket can be worn on the other side.
In the many years we've used the Pocket we've never lost anything from them (knock on wood). Once you've become accustomed to it, you'll probably find that a wallet isn't necessary at all. I always carry whatever cash I need for immediate use in a buttoned shirt pocket and spare change in my pants pocket.
Sewing Instructions: The Pocket should be made of a durable but lightweight material. Plain dark colors will be the least noticeable on your belt. It is important to have something safe, sturdy and inconspicuous rather than fancily made.
The material can be cut in a long strip, 6" by 32" or in a rectangle 12" by 16".
If you start with the 32" strip, first fold it double to 6" x 16". Leave 2" at the top for the belt loop. Now sew down one side, across the bottom and back up for about 6". The remaining gap is for inserting your passport and money. Leave an opening large enough to easily insert and remove valuables but not so large that they might work their way out.
If you want to have the stitching hidden on the inside, turn the pocket inside out; now sew another seam 2" below the top to form the belt loop.
If your fabric is squarish (12" x 16"), fold it in half to 6" x 16". Now sew across the top and bottom and 6" up one side. Turn it inside out and sew the belt loop seam 2" below the top. Slice the fabric at the closed end of the belt loop.
Remember: The Pocket goes inside your clothing, not outside.
Ready-made money belts large enough to hold a passport are sold by outdoor and specialty shops and AAA offices. An excellent, inexpensive version is available by mail from Europe Through the Back Door, PO. Box C-2009, Edmonds, WA 98020, tel: 425-771-8303; fax: 425-771-0833;