Backpackers of the 1990s and early 2000s had few items of worth to protect compared to the 2020s. Sure, they had cards and cash. But none of the laptops, smartphones, DSLR cameras, and drones that many backpackers carry today.
And why should you leave your tech at home? You need that gear to capture those awesome memories that will last long after your trip ends!
But carrying valuable possessions does mean you should consider backpack security.
You don’t need to lock up your backpack like Fort Knox to keep your belongings safe. But using a few precautions will give you peace of mind so you can spend less time worrying and more time enjoying yourself.
This is a simple guide that will tell you everything you need to know about securing your backpack.
Everyday leather backpacks and vintage backpacks only have one main compartment. But most travel backpacks have at least two or three.
Often, there is a compartment at the back for gadgets like laptops and tablets. Then, there is a middle compartment for clothes and toiletries. And at the front, there is a third compartment for small items like wallets and travel documents.
So, if you want to keep your stuff secure, you will need to have the ability to lock the zipper on every compartment.
First, check to see if your backpack has loops for a padlock on every compartment. If they don’t, you will need to invest in special thin cable padlocks. Once you know what type of padlock you need, buy the necessary amount.
Combination locks are best for backpack security because then you don’t have to worry about finding (or losing!) the keys. Plus, only you will be able to open the locks.
Give all your padlocks the same combinations. If they are all the same, you will have no clue which padlock has which combination. It will cause more headaches for not a lot of extra security.
TSA-approved locks are also best. So, if the TSA needs to open your bag at the airport for whatever reason, they will be able to open the lock with a special key and won’t destroy your padlock.
If you are backpacking, you likely aren’t splashing out on five-star hotels and all-inclusive resorts. You will be staying in low-budget hostel accommodation and sharing dorms with strangers.
Almost all hostels provide lockers for their guests. And if you care about backpack security, you should 100% use your lockers!
But the problem is, you won’t know what type of lock these hostel lockers have. Some have combinations, in which case you will be fine. But others ask guests to bring their own padlocks.
Ensure you have a versatile padlock by investing in a cable lock. It doesn’t have to be a certain length, but it will be thin enough to fit into most hostel dorms. This will allow you to keep your belongings secure while you sleep or shower.
What if your hostel dorm doesn’t have a locker? Or what if you want to sleep on an overnight train? Or go to the bathroom of a coffee shop where you want to save your seat?
You can keep your backpack safe in all these scenarios if you can secure your backpack to a stationary object. This could be a bunk bed pole, radiator, or bolted table leg that cannot move.
Invest in a long cable lock so you have the ability to thread it through your backpack (a part that no one can cut off or unhook). Then, your backpack is far less likely to go wandering in your absence.
Take backpack security one step further by buying cable netting that covers your entire backpack.
This gear might not be essential in some countries (Scandinavia, for example) where crime is low. But it is necessary if you are traveling in countries where thieves are rampant. The extra protection could save your backpack from someone slashing it open.
And if you are staying in a hostel dorm without a locker, cable netting is like carrying your own portable locker.
If you can, leave your valuables (like your passport) in your secure locker. But if you are traveling to your next destination and have all your valuables with you, hide them in your backpack using these creative methods.
Split up your credit and debit cards, so they are not in one wallet. Put one in a convenient place to use throughout the day and put another in your toiletry bag. Wrapping cash up in sanitary products is a cool trick as no one will look for valuables there.
Some women’s and men’s backpacks even have a hidden pocket at the base of the backpack’s back panel. It is often the perfect size for your passport.
Whatever you do, don’t leave your wallet and phone in your backpack’s front pocket without a lock. Yes, it is the most convenient location for them. But how inconvenient would it be for you if pickpockets stole them?
You might think simply being next to your backpack is enough of a deterrent for thieves, but that is not the case. If they know you have expensive tech, that will not phase them.
When sitting (at the airport or in a cafe, or wherever), always hook your arm or leg through one of your backpack’s straps. Never hang it on the back of your chair. If someone is taking your backpack, you will be able to feel it move and catch them in the act.
And it goes without saying, but never leave your backpack unattended. Nothing is 100% foolproof, but finding a friendly traveler to guard it for a few minutes or using a cable lock are far better options.
Even if you use only one or two of these backpack security tips, that is far better than using no precautions at all. Sometimes, one tool is all you need to deter thieves.
Many backpacks nowadays come with anti-theft and security features built-in. Check out our range of travel backpacks to find the best anti-theft backpack for your needs.
And don’t forget to have a fantastic (and safe) backpacking trip!
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