Securing your backpack

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Securing your backpack


What would you advise using to secure your backpack?  I saw this great mesh cage thing but it was £45, which is almost as much as the backpack itself.  I’m thinking of getting wire and combination padlocks.  Do you think this will keep my pack secure.  I’m not too worried about stuff getting stolen, since I won’t have much of value in there and it will be insured anyway.  I’m more worried about someone slipping something in there across a border.  Am I being completely paranoid?


Dear Hobo,

No you’re not being completely paranoid… people can, and do mess with bags… especially when your backpack is unattended (baggage handlers - buses and planes; left luggage places etc…wink with some pretty disasterous results for people!  8O :cry:
There are backpackers in prison all over the world, that may (or may not) be innocent. 

So, with regards having stuff planted in your bag and you becoming an unwitting ‘courier’, I’d say there is a risk and you’re right to address it.  The level of risk depends where you are travelling… I’d suggest high risk areas being Thailand, Nigeria, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Belize, Panama… I’m sure this isn’t an exhaustive list and I’m sorry if I offend anyone from those countries… but that’s my personal opinion. 

The mesh packsafe things look useful and a ‘planter’ might go for an easier option if they came across your bag with it on. 
But, it’s not infallible… and if I had any doubts about where my bag had been and what was in it etc. I would take the time to check it properly and make sure I was safe.  That might take 5 minutes, but I think it’s 5 minutes very well spent. 

The packsafe thing does have a downside in making your pack look like it’s perhaps more valuable than it is.  Oh, and they’re quite heavy and expensive. 

When I’m travelling, I use a giant sack (bought in South America, 1.5m x 1m, 400g ish, about 30p!) to cover my pack.  It stops it from getting too dirty on dusty bus journies, makes my pack look like a local piece of luggage and not a valuable backpackers luggage, AND it’s so cheap I can throw it away and get a new one if it gets damaged.  smile

If I’m wanting to secure it, I use tape to seal up the top of the sack and I suppose I could sign the tape… but generally my taping doesn’t look like anyone else could ever replicate! 
I only ususally give it the full tape-up treatment for plane journies.

You can buy (quite expensive!) bags to put your backpack in, they do the same job as my sack, but they seem quite expensive for what they are… and then you have to carry them around (about 1kg?). 

You mention buying wire and combination padlocks…
I’m not sure what you mean by wire, but combination padlocks are definately good to close zipped pockets and stop people nicking your stuff/planting anything in your bag. 
Make sure you do use the combination locks, as a lot of people just seem to hang them off their bag, forget the combination and end up just weighing themselves down! 

It’s got to be said though, if someone really wants to get into your bag, they’ll just slash it with a razor blade (or similar). 
Bag slashing can happen anywhere… crowded markets being a favoured place for bag slashers… cargo pant pockets being slashed isn’t unheard of either! 

When I first went travelling independently I had almost no luggage and a big bag, so I lined the bag with chicken wire to stop it from being slashed.  It was alright until I bought a few things and my bag got a bit fuller.  In the end I chucked the chicken wire because it was limiting the effective volume of my bag and being annoying. 

I hadn’t realised that my daypack was at greater risk of being slashed because when I was moving around with my big bag, it was generally only when I got off a bus and straight into a taxi to an address I’d been recommended/got from a guide book. 
When I had all my kit on me (and it was obvious!) I was at my most vulnerable, as it was obvious I’d also have all my money and desirable goodies with me too; hence getting into a SAFE taxi (radio taxi, reputable etc.)quick smart. 

My daypack was at greater risk because it went EVERYWHERE with me… markets, busy streets etc.  just where bag slashers tend to hang out. 

As for Travel Insurance… if something’s stollen from you, you generally have to get a police report within 24 hours to send along with your insurance claim form (when you return - though check your policy)... and that generally takes about half a day… and I’m sure it can take longer (or shorter). 
Basically, claiming for things is not convenient, and you’re far better to not get stuff nicked in the first place. 

Hmmm, I seem to have written more than I thought I would… I hope some of this is useful. 

I think you’re doing the right thing in thinking about the risks you are going to face, and doing something to minimise those risks… if you decide the best thing to do is buy kit, then buying kit is the answer. 
BUT, you CAN minimise the risks while you’re out there travelling… and in ways that kit won’t solve.  Simple things can be effective too.  You need to be alert to risks and take measures to avoid them.  This process is ongoing and never stops… it becomes second nature after a while… so don’t worry about it too much! 

I hope you have a great trip!  :D

Best regards,

Quest Overseas

  Project and Expedition Specialists
      Africa and South America

Challenging, rewarding… and fun! 


Thanks for the post.  Twas very helpful.

Avatar for Terry

Total Posts: 856

Joined 2002-10-31

I did see a few people with those pacsafes, but I didn’t seriously consider getting one, especially after finding out the price and also the weight of it!

I went away with a lock and wire thing - and locked my bags around my bunk bed in dorms (if they didn’t have lockers in the rooms), and also had padlocks for my zips.  I have combination ones, best way to go i think, i knew so many people with key locks and they lost their keys!  I think my Lock and Wire was made by LifeVenture and cost around £10 - well worth it!  Ok it doesn’t protect all your bag, people can still slash it, but hey they would have to be pretty desperate to do that, and if they do, well not much you can do about it! Just remember things are replaceable, and try not to worry about it too much

Hope that helps



I guess it depends where you’re travelling…

in Australia, Europe etc.  you can end up staying in dormatories a lot of the time, so just locking your bag to your bed, and securing the zips would be very useful.  But, yes a lot of people loose their keys!  Combination locks are the answer to that one!  smile

Bag slashing is perhaps the extreme end of travelling in South America, Africa and the other places in the developing world.  But let’s face it, there is such a difference in wealth that poor people are sometimes deperate for basic things like food, shelter and clean water!  8O
If robbery and theft is how they meets these needs, then it’s unfortunate, but I can understand why they do it (but wish they wouldn’t!/there was an alternative for them). 

Terry’s right, it is possible for you to loose everything, but you shouldn’t worry to much about it. 
If you take precautions and set things up properly for how to get out of that ‘worst case scenario’, it’ll ease your mind and prepare you for the worst. 
Though let’s hope it doesn’t happen!

Above all else… have fun!  :D

Best wishes,


  Project and Expedition Specialists
      Africa and South America

Challenging, rewarding… and fun! 


At the end of the day though you can only do so much and you can only prevent crime from the opportunist people.

When my backpack got broken into for the second time (in a bus hold) I had padlocked both zips and wrapped a cable lock with combination lock around the backpack. On top of that I had put the whole backpack inside a pac-bag (a big blue zip up bag) and had padlocked that, and then finally there was a lockable strap around that. Despite all that (including combi locks), they still got in.

The main thing is to keep all your valuables in your daypack/ on your body so that whenever you leave your backpack somewhere, if something happens, you can afford to lose/ are able to replace them.

If ever you’re leaving the country/ crossing borders, always empty your backpack and search everything (including the seams) to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with.

You can only go so far until your cautiousness turns to paranoia, so take care, but don’t let it ruin your trip. I’m sure you’ll be fine!

:D :wink:


All I can say is make sure you have travel insurance!!

I recommend

I travelled around Australia at times I did padlock the zips together but that was only during transit. When in hostles if they didn’t have lockers I didn’t bother to lock my bag up.


Avatar for paulynn

Total Posts: 1815

Joined 2004-07-30

Hey Terry Hey Matt.

Those advices were really useful! If hobo_the2nd didn’t post this up i wouldn’t have thought about it ...and i’m leaving for my island hopping trip in 4 days!!! So i’ve decided to check out that “wire” thing where terry ytou said u tied your bag around the bed.Went to this outdoor camp shop in KL but unfortunately my friend who owns the shop does not sell it as it’s not really a “popular” item and it’s rather costly about rm300 (say 50+ pounds?). So now, i’m only hoping that no one will try to break into our chalet whilst us baking under the sun!! xx