Reporting by Tony Ho Loke
Say the words "travel wallet" and one of the the last words that would come to your mind as a description is "compact." Travel wallets are meant to be the one place where you keep all your important travel documents and on a long haul journey, that can mean anything from passports to airplane boarding passes to that 3 page print out of your itinerary. In this situation, what you need is space and that's not a quality to apply the less is more concept.
Bellroy, an Australian bag company is attempting to do just this with a compact, billfold version of a carry all wallet. I had a chance to take it on the road for a weekend cross country trip to the left coast and knock it around.
The first thing you'll notice is that "compact" is a relative term. As men's wallets get smaller and smaller to accommodate a few bank cards and bills, the Bellroy Travel Wallet in comparison looks positively Mastodonian:
But the dimensions of the wallet was built around a standard passport, which slips right into a pocket when you flip the thing open:
A good design call on this feature, most customs and immigrations folks want you to hand over your papers unencumbered by a fancy case. And if you're paranoid about losing things like me and pat yourself down at least three times a day to make sure you didn't forget something, having your passport front and center means less time freaking out.
The billfold area is divided into two sections—one for money and the other for other travel documents—tickets, receipts, folding up pieces of paper. The size was just right for my boarding passes and it was good to have everything airport security people want to check in one place:
There are seven card slots to hold all your bits of plastic—be they credit, membership or fan club cards. The slots hold the cards snugly, which gives my paranoia about things falling out a rest.
The clutch feature in the Bellroy travel wallet is the built in pen. On most international flight I've been on, I've been tapped on the shoulder by someone in the next seat asking to borrow a pen for the customs form. I guess I have that look. The mini pen encased in the spine of the wallet is a great idea. Given it's size, you're not going to write the great American novel with it, but it' s perfect for filling out the little forms that pop up along the way.
There's a mystery slot die-cut into the interior of the wallet. It looks like it might hold a miniSD card or a phone chip. Or that microdot you're trying to smuggle out of the Kremlin for James Bond.
I was pleasantly surprised that fully loaded, the wallet fit comfortably into my pockets - pants and jacket. GIven it's size, I was expecting to have a giant lump sticking out. But nope. Didn't happen.
From a materials standpoint, the leather is soft to the touch and feels like quality. it's a non waxed/polished type so it can take a good beating and will probably take on a nice rich shine with use.