Who are we and why do we think it’s important to secure your personal belongings?
We’re Leon and Tash, lovers of frequent travel and adventure. Between us we’ve racked up eight countries in six contents and planning on much more.
Our experiences on the road has taught us a few things. One of the biggest is, making sure our personal belongings are secure while travelling.
The world is changing fast and we found that it’s not necessarily in favor of good either. While there is still plenty of good left to find, modern travelers need to be more security savvy.
What do we mean by that?
Think for a minute on how you travel when you’re on holiday? Do you use public transport, tour buses, trains, sleeper buses, etc.? Where do you stay? Is it in low or high rated hotels? Maybe hostels or home stays or privately advertised accommodation? Do you even get to decide if it’s part of a pre-organized tour?
Where do you go while you’re on holiday? Restaurants, attractions or sightseeing perhaps? Do your belongings go with you or stay behind?
Do you behave differently on holiday then when you’re at home? Seem a little less concerned and bit more carefree? Nothing wrong with that, and we’re here to help you keep it that way.
Backpacking for example is a different creature to what it was, even 10 years ago. The general presumption is that backpackers don’t have much in the way of valuables.
They also seem to be the least security aware. Is that the impression you get when you see them on your travels?
Your average backpacker today will have a plethora of digital accessories with them. And well, why not? Everybody loves to document their experiences in different ways and that is great!
Laptops, tablets, smartphones, you name it. Almost every backpacker today has at least one or more of these items on them.
Where does that backpack go when it’s not on their back? Is it secure where it is?
Setting off on the dream trip
Imagine this for a moment. After months of planning, saving and sacrifice you finally arrive at your bucket list destination.
Everything is as picture perfect as you expect. First leg of your journey is a three hour bus ride. You get there and the backpack slides off your back and straight into the cargo bin in the bowels of the bus.
Giving it and the attendant loading the precious cargo a decent eyeball because you want to make sure it will make it to the destination with you, right?
What do you mean ‘this is how we do it here’?
Then you reach said destination and your hit with the first ‘peculiar’ custom of this new country. The luggage gets unloaded but you have to stay on the bus until after it’s all done. Huh?
Fair call you think, it avoids chaos on an already packed sidewalk. Everybody goes straight for their bag once they get off the bus, no fuss.
HA! Not so! You sit on the bus watching a hoard of taxi drivers descend on the growing pile of luggage! They grab what they can carry and start walking away. Meanwhile you’re still stuck on the bus.
Before you start panicking, you realize that he’s just standing there. Odd you think, but then it dawns on you that he’s waiting for the owner to turn up and get a possible fare out of it.
You breathe a sigh of relief, because you are either happy to use his services or you’re ready to wrestle your backpack to freedom if need be. No stress there.
Once that situation is out of the way, you happily set off towards your accommodation.
This is where the fun starts.
You’ve got to be kidding me right?
You greet the receptionist who asks for a passport, deposit or payment and you happily oblige. Everything is still fine at this point everybody is happy.
You unlock your backpack (if it even has the option), to find that the content is not in the same condition it was in before you left. Curious, you think.
You then head for that secret spot where you keep you cash stash and that’s where alarm bells go off. Because your stash is no longer there. But, you stay calm and rationalize that it may have fallen out or moved during the trip. You proceed to unpack the whole thing with cautious optimism.
That’s when reality dawns and you find that not only is the cash gone but your tablet, portable hard drive, etc. is gone too!
How can this be? The betrayal is real and it hurts.
Somewhere during the three-hour trip, your backpack got cleaned out. And done in a very elegant and inconspicuous way. Would you have noticed a difference if it weren’t for the luggage chaos on arrival? Probably not.
You contact the bus company looking for an answer. All you find is that suddenly nobody speaks English, nor can they assist you. They don’t understand what the issue is. They got you and your bag to your destination. If something is missing it isn’t their fault.
Now the fun and games of insurance (if you have any), replacement, etc. starts. If that doesn’t sound like fun, it’s because it isn’t!
You can be on the most luxurious trip or a budget backpacking trip when disaster strikes. Security is not guaranteed, no matter what.
But we are here to tell you that there are measures you can take to make your belongings more secure. And they are not hard or too expensive (in the scheme of things).
We’ve done a fair bit of backpacking in the last two years. Hence why we can relay the example we did above.
The situation didn’t happen to us directly as we were fully aware of the scam before we set out. But we did meet someone who was unfortunate enough to get caught up in it.
Simple way to secure your personal belongings
Tash’s backpack is a smaller 40 L Kathmandu Altai with zero ability to secure it with locks or much else for that matter. For domestic travel in our native New Zealand, we use anti tamper seals to combat this problem. We’ve never had an issue so far (touch wood).
We even use the security tags on our luggage for international flights as a deterrent. To date, we’ve never had our bags opened. But make sure you get the ones with the double tags. That way can tear one off and keep as a physical record.
So how is Tash still able to use her unlockable backpack six years later?
How did we make the backpacks more secure?
We invested in a small PacSafe® arsenal. Initially we purchased two of the backpack and bag protectors and the Venturesafe™ 150 GII Anti-theft cross body pack.
We got the backpack and bag protectors specifically after reading and watching videos on various scams throughout Southeast Asia. It was to try and avoid people getting into our bags when we couldn’t be with them. Be it on tour or in our hotel room while we’re out or the cargo hold of a bus (wink-wink).
Backpack and bag protectors
The PacSafe backpack protectors come in three sizes, 55 L (small), 85 L (Medium) and 120 L (large). We got the 55 L for Tash’s backpack and the 85 L for Leon’s 70 L Kathmandu Interloper and both fit more than comfortable around the backpacks.
These nifty cages are easy to use and great to travel with as they come in their own travel pouch when not in use. The best part about them is the extension cable at the bottom.
We’ve had a few occasions where we weren’t comfortable leaving valuables in an unsecured room. Thing is there were no hidy-holes or a safe to use either. That’s where these protectors came in really handy.
Once the cage is tight and secure around the backpack, you can wind the cable around a permanent fixture like plumbing or a decent wardrobe rack.
That way nobody can get into the pack, nor can they carry it away easily. If it looks too hard, they will leave it alone.
We also used the PacSafe® Prosafe combination locks with the bag protectors. All PacSafe® locks are TSA accepted too!
How do we know all this?
This we can attest to this thanks to a five week trip through Cambodia and Vietnam two years ago.
We never once had an issue. In fact, our bags were the only ones left on the side walk once we got off the bus. That was because nobody had seen the cages before, nor would they touch them. Also, luggage tampering is a problem in this part of the world and we can safely say our protected backpacks have never been tampered with.
We are also confident in leaving valuables in the backpacks, caged and fastened to secure moorings in our accommodation. Not saying this is fool proof but we found taking these precautions made our belongings less venerable.
Other backpackers were constantly asking us where we’d got them from as they had never heard of the concept. We were happy to share the info and experience using the products.
The Venturesafe™ 150 GII Anti-theft Cross Body Pack
We got the Venturesafe™ cross body pack as it houses our compact camera and various other small essentials easily. It’s perfect for day trips or going to places with large crowds.
Compact, comfortable and generously equipped with all the security features you would expect from a PacSafe® product. (It also features on our vlogs if you want to see it in action).
The best part is they are not that expensive either.
The things we love most about this pack? First off, it’s slash and cut proof. The shell incorporates eXomesh® which is similar to the pack protector. The eXomesh® hidden under the shell makes it invisible for added protection. (eXomesh® features in many PacSafe® products, which is why we invested in some more pieces later on.)
Secondly, are the cut and slash proof straps, designed not to fail or rip either. BONUS!
Another great feature is the secure zipper system. This means nobody can sneak up behind you, open the bag and run of with your stuff. They could get it if they worked hard enough for it, but it won’t go unnoticed by you.
A new trend here in Vietnam is when locals riding scooters, stop on the side of the road to buy wares from street vendors. Once they paid for the goods and put their money back in their hidy hole (under keen supervision of the vendor), they will get ready to re-enter traffic. In that short space of time, the crafty vendor has figured out how to get in the bag and get the wallet or purse. By the time the person on the scooter realizes their bag is open and money gone, there is no telling where it happened.
One lady even caught her thief red handed and after a lengthy argument, managed to get her purse back. Even then it had been stripped of its contents.
The scary thing here is that they are targeting their own, and not just tourists who normally seem to be their victim of choice.
Investing in more security
Once we invested in better travel gear like our DSLR camera, phones, laptops, tablets, etc., it was time to up our game in keeping them secure.
Leon purchased the Venturesafe™ 15 L GII Pack.
It’s pretty much the big brother to the crossbody pack and sports the same features but on a bigger scale.
Despite its long list of features, this pack is light and comfortable to wear and it can house a fair bit of gear. Do note that it’s not a dedicated camera bag. It has some padding but not as much as a proper camera bag.
Another thing that sets this one apart from the cross body is the Turn and Lock security hook. This allows you to secure the bag to something fixed while you are not using it.
For example, you can secure it to the chair next to you at a cafe or seating on a train ride. That way if someone tries to grab it, they will have an almighty time trying to keep it. Again, not fool proof, but certainly a good deterrent. And peace of mind while you enjoy your beverage or ride.
Trying new generation PacSafe® products
That last purchase made in 2018 took the kit to six items in total. (The previous purchases were made between 2104 and 2016.) The older pieces are all still in use and in great condition for many more travels to come.
They really are quality products.
Trying the new Slingsafe™ LX300 Anti-theft Backpack
This year Tash decided to upgrade her trusty day pack to a Slingsafe™ LX300 Anti-theft Backpack. It’s slightly smaller than an average 15L backpack but light and comfortable to wear (especially in hot climates). It fits her 14″ laptop, charger, headphones and a few smaller items comfortably.
This is more of an everyday pack so the features are more relaxed compared to their other packs.
For example, the Slingsafe™ has a simpler version of the Smart Zipper security system. The difference is they are still lockable but not hidden like the Venturesafe™.
An added feature on the Slingsafe™ too is the RFID blocking inner pocket. It’s big enough to house a passport (cabin luggage) or a standard wallet (small purse) to protect your biometrics and moolah.
Using the ProSafe® 750 luggage locks
We like to upgrade our locks after a couple of years for two simple reasons. One, they take a pounding or eventually stop working; and two, technology improves quickly in this industry. Which is a good thing!
When Tash bought the Slingsafe™ backpack she saw the new ProSafe® 750 TSA accepted key-card locks and had to try them out.
Not only do they look awesome, but instead of a combination (easily forgotten), or a key (easily lost), these locks open with key-cards. It’s the same size as a credit card, and has a pattern punched into it which opens the lock mechanism.
Yup, you read it right. A key that looks like a credit card with holes in it.
Tash loves this because she’s forever victim to losing keys or forgetting combinations. Also, Leon had demonstrated how easy some combination locks are to crack. Not cool.
With this lock all you have to do is pop the key into your purse like a credit card, easy peasy! Plus, they look so different to a normal lock, it seems like a great deterrent for lock picks. We’ll let you know how we go with them.
Why TSA accepted? Under certain circumstances, they have the right to open your bag. We don’t know about you guys, but we prefer it if they could open and close the lock again properly. That way we know our belongings remain secure after they’ve done their thing.
Not cool, we know but an inevitable part of travelling. All the more reason to make sure your personal belongings are secure.
Well, there you have it, our small arsenal of PacSafe® products in all their awesomness. How much you ask?
Our kit (across the last four years) cost us AUD 539.00 (USD 398.00) and it was well worth the investment.
We will admit that we are deal hunters and bought the two bag protectors second hand on E-bay. We got them for a bargain price of AUD 80.00 and they are more if you buy them new, but well worth it.
Everything else, we purchased new and we didn’t hesitate because we knew it was a worthy investment.
So, we hope the insight has given you enough to think about on how to secure your belongings on the road using PacSafe® products. (This is in no way a paid or endorsed piece, we just love the heck out of these products and wanted to share them with you!)
If you have a story you want to share with us or you have any questions, feel free to drop us a comment.
Thank you for reading and see you in the next one….