I can't remember how long ago it was (maybe 3 years?) I was riding on the tube in London and I noticed another guy on his way to work with his backpack, and it was covered with sew-on patches featuring country flags of the world.

Doing a very-non London thing, I got talking to this guy and he said that when he visited a new country, he got a flag patch and just added it to the collection and that the bag had now pretty much become the main souvenir of his travels.

So cool and yet so simple, and if you are like me and don't like buying souvenirs but want at least something, i't perfect. I started on my next trip right after this.

In the years since, my collection has grown and also started conversations with strangers, and got them wanting to do something similar.

I've kept in touch quite a few of these folk - some are friends I’d known for years anyway, and some are total strangers who I have met while on the road. What started as me just copying a cool idea from a guy on the tube has now become a bit of a game, and it's a game with rules.

Kris's Backpack

Want to play? Here are the ever-changing rules (which are not really rules, more like guidelines)


You will need

  1. A sturdy backpack
    i. I have (and love) a Dakine Mission Backpack
  2. A love of travelling / seeing things

The Rules

  1. Visit a country and buy a patch of that country's flag and sew/iron it onto your backpack
  2. The patch must actually be purchased in said country
  3. You and the bag must actually be within the borders of said country
  4. You must be spending time in the country either working or doing tourist things
    i. Things like Day trips to a new country are allowed
    ii. Airport stopovers are not allowed
  5. The patch must be purchased while on the trip - no backdating!
  6. Only one patch per country - multiple visits don't mean multiple patches.
    i. Patches for different ski resorts within a country are allowed


The best places to find these things are usually in gift shops located within big tourist destinations or at airports. I've found them pretty easy to find around Europe but harder in Asia. My Thailand & India patches came from street sellers. India proved to be very difficult as I was in Hyderabad which is more of an industrial city than a tourist one.

This doesn't have to be different countries. Not everybody is in the position to be jetsetting all over the globe. You can easily do this by visiting different cities in your home country etc. Hell, it doesn't even have to be patches - you can do this with a whole range of cheap tourist merchandise.


Use your head. As we all know the world is not a magical, peaceful place where everything is sugar and rainbows.

Walking around with a backpack full of flags will instantly make you stand out as a tourist and, more seriously, may even get you into trouble if displaying certain country flags while in another is seen as offensive.

Because of rule 2, you may find that it can ruin a trip if spend most of your time hunting for a patch. As I said, these rules are guidelines - Don't let this ruin your holiday.

You in? Already do something similar and want to add to this? Answers on a postcard.