10 Tips for Keeping Your Backpack Safe

(photo courtesy of www.mytravelbackpack.com)

Keep Your Backpack Safe

While traveling in Egypt this past December, I had a porter mistakenly pick up my bag as I was waiting at a security checkpoint. My heart sank when I cleared the metal detector and realized that it was gone.

This happened just before coming home for Christmas and inside the bag were both my journal and camera containing a year’s worth of travel memories.

For two agonizing hours I mourned the loss as my ferry crossed over to Sharm el Sheikh. As I was leaving the boat, the bag was returned by an honest German divemaster who had been given the bag by mistake. The close call opened my eyes to what it would feel like to suffer such a loss, and now I travel with a little more caution than before.

A little common sense goes a long way, however, thousands of budget travelers are robbed every year while on the road. Unfortunately, we travelers do draw a lot of attention to ourselves, and by local standards we are considered “rich.”

Fortunately, the trick for not becoming a victim of theft is simple: don’t present an easy target. Unless you’re unlucky enough to meet a thief just looking for a challenge, more than likely they will pass you up and move on to an easier victim.

Here are some easy tips for not becoming one of the unlucky people who lose bags:

Don’t Announce What’s Inside

Avoid carrying bags that declare what is inside. Any thief who sees “Lowepro” knows that an expensive camera probably resides inside. The same thing goes for laptop bags. “IBM” on the outside will make a thief’s mouth water. Sew a patch over the logo or put some duct tape over it to make it look less appealing.

Be Smart on Buses

When riding a bus, try to sit on the same side as your bag that is stored underneath in the cargo hold. If possible, watch out of the window at stops to make sure no one grabs your bag as they exit.

Make a Leash

While sleeping in airports, make a “leash” out of parachute cord or clothesline. Connect your wrist to the bag while it is under your seat or sitting beside you in case you fall asleep. In a pinch, you can intertwine your arms through the straps on your bag.

Don’t Be Too Patriotic

Consider your home country’s political relations and history with the country you are traveling before sewing your flag patch on the outside of your bag. When a thief has to choose between dozens of bags, it may make you stand out.

Use a Bicycle Lock

Carry a small bicycle combination chain lock in the top of your backpack. Attach it to support bars when it is stored on an overnight train, or to the bed frame when it is in your hotel. You can also team up with others and lock several backpacks together, making a bundle too heavy for someone to grab and run.

Secure Outside Pockets

Put small combination locks on outside pockets or don’t pack important things in the small pockets. In a crowded area it may be impossible to feel a deft hand unzipping and reaching inside while it is on your back.

Pack Important Items Deep

Consciously pack bulk items toward the back of your backpack rather than valuables. Not only will it protect stuff from abuse, if your pack is slashed by someone with a razor while you wear it, all they will get is a handful of dirty underwear.

Don’t Be a Fat Target

Carry less! It’s true: a fat rucksack is a fat target. Also, you will not be tempted to leave your bag behind so much if it is less of a burden.

Don’t Draw Attention

Don’t look like a target. Leave the Rolex, Raybans, and expensive clothes behind. If you present an image of wealth, someone could become very interested in your backpack.

Keep Your Backpack Close

Treat your travel backpack like your best mate. While you travel, it is your home and your life. I personally get the best night’s sleep when I have my bag under me as a pillow. If a thief can manage to get it then, he or she is welcome to everything inside!

Meet the Author:

Greg Rodgers is the editor of this fine travel site. He left Corporate America to begin traveling in 2005 and has been happily living from a rucksack since! Check out Greg’s blog: Vagabonding Life.

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