Just who was it, way back when, who decided a passport had to be just the wrong size for most pockets and containers? Ever since then, travelers and travel outfitters have been trying to deal with that larger-than-a-wallet, not-very-bendable shape. Now that Americans need those passports for any trip by air to Mexico or Canada, the annoyance has multiplied. Meanwhile, tales of clever pickpockets (foreign and domestic) abound. Hence these products, made of such mysterious substances as eXomesh and holofiber, which you wear over your clothing. Or under it. Or affixed to your ankle. Or at your belt. Or dangling from your neck. All are lightweight and relatively small. Most are designed to carry a passport, cash and/or credit cards, and the passport is always the hard part. I wore each of these for a day.
First look: Seattle-based Amphipod mostly makes products for runners, and its Micropack Explorer wallet is aimed at somebody wearing shorts or sweats -- somebody not wearing a belt. The Micropack Explorer clamps inside your waistband. The clamp is metal (so you'll take it off at the airport security line), the material is black and the compartment, roomy enough for a cellphone, closes with Velcro.
Likes and yikes: The passport slips in neatly. Even clipped to the inside of your waistband, this item, made of brushed nylon, will likely be no secret to passersby, but it is comfortable. You can attach sunglasses to the outside. To the rest of the world, it will look like an overstuffed cellphone pouch, but what cellphone comes with metal-clamp protection?
The 411: Available for $24.85 from Magellan's Travel Supplies, (800) 962-4943, www.magellans.com; or $22 from www.amphipod.com.
DISGUISED AS A SOCK
First look: Zip It Gear Inc. in San Diego makes Passport Security Pocket Socks with a breathable "holofiber" material "shown to reduce swelling." But the marquee attraction is the ankle area of the left sock. That's where the zipper and pocket are and where your passport will just barely fit.
Likes and yikes: The socks dry fast, look fine and feel fine. They come in black, tan and white (medium and large), and work for money and cards. Also, the zipper is nylon coil (whatever that is) so there's nothing here to set off metal detectors. But wedging in a passport is difficult, and all day long, the itch and pressure may remind you that it's there. Also, beware of deep puddles.
The 411: $24.75 from (800) 950-1600, www.travelsmith.com; $29.99 from (888) 494-7769, www.zipitgear.com; or $24.85 from (800) 962-4943, www.magellans.com.
THE INVISIBLE PLAN
First look: The Deluxe Secret Waist Wallet from Santa Barbara-based Magellan's goes under your pants or skirt.
Likes and yikes: Nothing complicated here. It dangles from a loop around your belt, and nobody sees it. Use the brown loop or the black one, depending on your belt. (For beltless days, a metal safety pin is enclosed.) It lies flat against the top of your thigh, and it's very easy to forget you're wearing it. Five inches by 8 inches, 1 ounce, all plastic and polyester. My favorite.
The 411: $9.85. Available from www.magellans.com, (800) 962-4943.
WEARING A WIRE
First look: The Pacsafe Pouchsafe 100 is a black- or tan-colored, rip-stop nylon pouch that can hang from your neck or over your shoulder. Either way, it goes under your clothes, with an adjustable cord.
Likes and yikes: The cord is wire-reinforced, so nobody is going to cut it easily. But that also makes it more noticeable to the wearer, and it means you'll have to take it off at airport security. Also, if you wear it at stomach level, the world will never see your washboard abs -- you'll have a little belly, just like most everyone else.
The 411: Available for $13.95 from www.pacsafe.com; $16 from TravelSmith, (800) 950-1600, www.travelsmith.com.
I SPY A CHAIN
First look: The Pacsafe Walletsafe 100 ("with eXomesh"), too small to hold a passport at 4 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches), is a ballistic-nylon travel wallet with a chain.
Likes and yikes: It's a basic wallet (black, choco brown, deep chocolate or navy blue) with zippered compartments, except that you hook the chain through a belt loop, then stick it in a front or back pocket. When you pull it out to pay, you feel just a little bit like an outlaw biker. And when you go through the airport metal detector, you'll have to take the whole rig off. Three ounces.
The 411: Available for $19.85 from Magellan's Travel Supplies, (800) 962-4943, www.magellans.com; or $19.95 from www.pacsafe.com.
YOUR SECRET (TILL YOU RIP OPEN THE VELCRO)
First look: The UnderCover Leg Stash, from Eagle Creek of Vista, Calif., goes under pants or a dress and straps around your leg with two Velcro fasteners. It's made of nylon with CoolMax backing and has room for passport, cards and cash.
Likes and yikes: Despite measuring 7 by 8 inches, it's invisible to the rest of the world, and the maker says it won't set off metal detectors. Unfortunately, those Velcro straps will likely remind you regularly that it's there. Black or tan.
The 411: Available for $15 from Eagle Creek ( www.eaglecreek.com); $13.75 from TravelSmith, (800) 950-1600, www.travelsmith.com.