Last month we interviewed Nigel Clifford on his plans to launch a new travel security product designed to rival money belts. He had seen or met people robbed at gun or machete point, while other friends had been victims of stealthier thievery.
In our interview with Nigel he described his idea to us:
“Adventure Underwear is the most practical solution to safeguarding your valuables anytime, anywhere without sacrificing comfort or style, a pair of 100% merino wool men’s boxer briefs with two pockets hidden behind the waistband, one quick access pocket for hiding cash and credit cards and one pocket that’s waterproof up to 60m deep and large enough for a passport or smartphone. The pockets are large enough to fit a passport or smart phone and our superfine merino wool fabric is quick drying and odour resistant, which makes it perfect for travellers.”
We decided to put a prototype of his Adventure Underwear through its paces and Nigel sent us a complimentary pair in an attempt to convince us to abandon our current method of carrying our valuables. Nigel hopes Adventure Underwear will replace money belts and I agree with him. I hate those things, last wearing one on the first day of our around the world trip ten years ago, quickly deciding it was uncomfortable and awkward, abandoning the thing before we took our first flight.
At the moment our security strategy consists of a wallet in the front pocket, loose change in the other front pocket and a few small notes in my back pocket to negate the need to pull out the wallet for every minor transaction. As a security system it is crap but we have not felt the need for anything more in Southeast Asia. Deirdre’s system is to give anything of value to me to carry.
I did also pack a money belt. This belt is thin and looks like a normal belt but running along the back is a zip where notes – usually emergency dollars – can be carried if folded small enough. This is combined with a loop wallet tucked in down my trousers. It is a little bit of a rigmarole to put on with each change of trousers but once in place is fine. After sucking my belly in a little, the loop wallet can be flipped out of my trousers with minimal obscenity and passports and credits cards and money are all easily got at by me but not by pickpockets.
It can be uncomfortable sitting in some positions but a little adjustment and all is well again. In some ways it must be like having a really, really big penis: great most of the time but a little awkward and uncomfortable on occasion.
On receiving our pair of Adventure Underwear we were settled in Chiang Mai so there wasn’t yet the opportunity to hang around bus stations looking western and wealthy, or walk down dark, dangerous alleyways. Nonetheless they could be given a smell test. I thought I had identified the main problem with Adventure Underwear in that they are just that: underwear. And underwear worn for too long will start to smell.
At $49 a pair I doubted most travellers were going to be packing a week’s supply so not wanting to lose my popularity with the citizenry of Chiang Mai I wore them around the room for a few weeks. Poor Deirdre. I also occasionally wore them in the shower to simulate washing them in the sink and also to test how waterproof the pockets really are.
Sitting around in my undies became my working week (woo hoo) and here are some of the things I discovered about Adventure Underwear.
- It can be a little awkward to get stuff in and out of the pockets and in doing so you are essentially rummaging around in your pants in public.
- They are very comfortable, though the plastic waterproof pockets can crumple and ride up a bit when empty. Sitting down with a passport in each pocket was a little more awkward but not by much. I was able to cross my legs and sit in a variety of postures with no problem at all.
- They were pretty odour resistant. Lucky Deirdre. Nevertheless underwear will need to be changed or washed more often than a money belt would.
- The waterproof feature is a good idea but the seal bit is a bit flimsy. I’m not sure I would trust an iPhone in it. The problem was not so much that it didn’t close properly but I wasn’t sure it had closed properly. At groin level touch is the only sense available to check if the seals are closed. If I was going to be taking valuables in to the sea I would want to be one hundred per cent certain by being able to see if the seal is closed properly. My concerns were well founded as the first time I wore the underwear in the shower the test items (tissues) remained dry in one pocket but got wet in the other. The second time the tissues in both pockets remained dry. The waterproof pockets clearly worked but not being able to see if I had closed the pockets properly had meant some of my pseudo valuables got wet. I believe the latest model has been improved to make the waterproof pocket removable.
- Once we started moving again, I had intended later to wear them outside to test them in battle conditions but wore them out before I was able to wear them out. One hole appeared at the back while another, at the front and to the side, ensured that had I chosen to run in a slo mo Baywatch style from the beach into the sea my passport would be concealed while my testicle was revealed. I am told that the latest pair has been upgraded to a heavier duty wool.
- Having two pockets gives balance. My loop wallet can get a little bulky at times but items are spaced out better with the Adventure Underwear.
Overall I like the concept behind the Adventure Underwear and I hope after a successful Kickstarter campaign the product gets to challenge traditional money belts. Nonetheless work needs to be done (and Nigel tells me it is) to improve the final product if it is to be successful and not consigned to the bin as my pair were.
Adventure Underwear is currently raising funds to begin full production. If you like the idea you can back the project and get a discount on a pair via their Kickstarter page.
More information on Adventure Underwear can be found at www.adventureunderwear.com.