Tips for Locking Up Your Backpack

I always take a few locks with me and you should too.

Hostels sometimes provide locks for sale but it’s cheaper to get them at the store.

What kind of locks do you buy? The problem with thick or short locks is that every locker is different. Therefore your lock might not fit and it’d be convenient if the lock also worked for your backpack as well as the locker. The solution is to buy long cable locks. The cable is narrow enough to swop into zippers for your backpack and long enough to use on lockers.

Purchase TSA approved locks if you’re traveling within the US at any point. TSA has a master key to open those specific locks instead of having to break it. The locks have a red and white symbol on it.

Having keys is a big responsibly while you’re traveling, purchase a cable lock that has a combination you can set and don’t forget the combination!

Most hostels don’t have a locker bigger enough for an entire backpack. I usually lock up my valuable in the locker while keeping all my clothes still in my backpack. I try to avoid hostels that don’t have lockers because I have too many electronics but it does happen. If the hostel doesn’t have any lockers, I always lock up all my electronics into the bag and stuff it with clothes. I hide the lock so it’s not obvious that I’m locking up anything important in the bag. I’ve seen some people lock up their bags to their bed poles but I always thought it was too obvious so I never did that.

If all else fails and you don’t have a lock, sleep with your day bag with your valuables. It’s super uncomfortable but it has helped on bus trips and train rides.

You can lock-up your zippers on your backpack for when it’s under the bus but many of them bring knives to cut bags anyway if they plan to steal. Don’t put anything valuable under the bus. Don’t put your electronics bag under your seat either. Just keep it on your lap the whole time. Again, it’s uncomfortable but better than losing it all.

Cable Locks

10 Comments

  1. Chad on December 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Solid article. This has been on my mind, as I’m about to start traveling in one month.
    Thanks, Michael!

  2. Chad on December 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Solid article. This has been on my mind, as I’m about to start traveling in one month.
    Thanks, Michael!

  3. Eric on December 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Informative article but just one caveat. Locking the zipper pulls together of a backpack with the usual type of zipper pulls is not effective. You can just grasp the sides of the zipper between where it is locked and pull. The zipper can be completely opened with the lock still in place. Give it a try. Only the overlapping type of zipper pulls can be locked effectively as a deterrent.

    • Michael on December 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      I see what you’re saying after looking at a few of my bags. Here’s what I have though. On my EagleCreek bag, it was designed to have a loop made for locks. It’s not on the pull and rather on the zipper itself. Smart move by EagleCreek. On my GorillaPack, I pull it through the bottom loop, not the pull. There is still a very small opening where you can take out the zipper and with enough dedication and strength can be bent to take out the zipper then the lock. At that point though, there’s serious dedication to opening the bag and a knife would open the bag up a lot quicker. I tried pulling it out and bending it but it was pretty difficult. This might not be true for all bags though so it’s good note to keep in mind.

  4. Eric on December 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Informative article but just one caveat. Locking the zipper pulls together of a backpack with the usual type of zipper pulls is not effective. You can just grasp the sides of the zipper between where it is locked and pull. The zipper can be completely opened with the lock still in place. Give it a try. Only the overlapping type of zipper pulls can be locked effectively as a deterrent.

    • Michael on December 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      I see what you’re saying after looking at a few of my bags. Here’s what I have though. On my EagleCreek bag, it was designed to have a loop made for locks. It’s not on the pull and rather on the zipper itself. Smart move by EagleCreek. On my GorillaPack, I pull it through the bottom loop, not the pull. There is still a very small opening where you can take out the zipper and with enough dedication and strength can be bent to take out the zipper then the lock. At that point though, there’s serious dedication to opening the bag and a knife would open the bag up a lot quicker. I tried pulling it out and bending it but it was pretty difficult. This might not be true for all bags though so it’s good note to keep in mind.

  5. http://ourjourneytothesea.com on December 7, 2012 at 2:53 am

    I stayed in a hostel in Phnom Penh where the “safe” was portable and given to us at check in. Yep it really felt like my valuables were secure haha.

  6. http://ourjourneytothesea.com on December 7, 2012 at 2:53 am

    I stayed in a hostel in Phnom Penh where the “safe” was portable and given to us at check in. Yep it really felt like my valuables were secure haha.

  7. Emma on December 11, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Nice article. Good advice about keeping your valuables on your lap in a bus, not under the seat. We had a bag slashed on a bus from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen. It was between our feet on the bus and we didn’t notice anything.

    A word of warning about lockers – make sure they are secure. I have come across some where the bottom panel is loose, meaning someone can access your locker from below without having to break the lock.

  8. Emma on December 11, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Nice article. Good advice about keeping your valuables on your lap in a bus, not under the seat. We had a bag slashed on a bus from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen. It was between our feet on the bus and we didn’t notice anything.

    A word of warning about lockers – make sure they are secure. I have come across some where the bottom panel is loose, meaning someone can access your locker from below without having to break the lock.

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