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While wearing a backpack, what are common/known ways how someone might steal things out of your backpack (or even the whole backpack altogether)?

Which backpack security features can protect against which theft method?

{I’m asking only about features integrated in backpacks, not additional security products (like locks or Pacsafe add-ons).}

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3 Answers 3

Common sense is the best feature you can have when wearing a backpack. Always keep the valuable stuff in the inner big pocket not in the outer small pockets. Pickpockets can simply manipulate the outer small pockets when you are wearing the bag without you feeling a thing. Even if you are using locks on smaller pockets, pickpockets can use a blade to make a cut and let the contents slide easily. The same thing does not apply to the big main pocket. It is more difficult to open while wearing without you noticing. I have been doing this for years and I never had any thing stolen from me.

Anyway, if you are really worried, you can always wear the bag in the opposite way so it will be visible to you at all times. I see this a lot especially in the far east.

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Yeah, wear it on your front -- or at least over one shoulder towards the front and it'll put a lot of people off. Better get a messenger style bag that's designed to be worn on the front. I've not seen many security devices on backpacks short of locks or points for locks, but if they've got strings or webbing on the inside you can tie your stuff to them (put it in a smaller bag in necessary) -- that way even if someone gets in (or cuts the bag) it'll be much harder to get the stuff out. –  SpaceDog Oct 7 '13 at 23:45
    
Also helps if you have a decent quality bag. Cheap bags usually have crappy material, and can be cut easily. Decent bags are more like the material used in seat-belts, and are much harder to slash. –  Polynomial Oct 8 '13 at 15:30
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Here is a basic premise that was told to me before I went travelling that proved good to keep in mind:

If somebody really wants to get into your bag, you're not going to be able to stop them.

What you can do, however, is discourage them. Assuming you're not leaving your bag out in the road unattended for several hours, all you have to do is be discouraging enough that an opportunist will grab someone else's bag instead of your own. (This is true for all sorts of situations: if someone is looking for trouble on a darkened street, are they going to make it with the woman in trainers aware of her surroundings and the other people on the street, or with the one who's in heels, a bit drunk and listening to music on her mp3 player?) It's about not making yourself a target.

To that end, there are several methods you can use to stop your bag being the one targetted. Some backpacks come with a wire mesh woven into the fabric that is designed to stop someone from slashing into it with a knife. Some come with padlocks to stop people from undoing the zip. When I went travelling, I bought a cheap length of metal chain and coupled it with a basic padlock. I wound it tightly around the backpack in the aim of stopping people getting into the bag and if there was an object in the room that I could secure it to I did that as well which stopped people from running off with it.

As I said at the start, it's not going to stop people who are really determined but hopefully it will be enough of a deterrent to stop you from being targetted.

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Zipper ends on the back

  • Protection against: Pickpocketing
  • Drawback: You have to take off the backpack completely if you need something

When the zipper ends on the back-facing panel, no one can pickpocket as long as you wear the backpack.

Examples

  • "San Francisco Backpack" from Libaire

    libaire.net: San Francisco Backpack

Not the best example photo, as this is not a typical backpack you’d use while travelling, but (for reasons unknown to me) such backpacks are hard to find. Many claim to have a "back zipper", but they only mean that the zipper ends near your back, not at your back. For example the "Shrinkle" from Crumpler:

cambags.com:  Crumpler Shrinkle

I guess pickpockets still can reach the zipper here (it might be harder, though).

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The reason it's probably not so common on typical travelling backpacks is that those sorts of backpacks usually have a lot of padding on the back for comfort, since they are designed to support heavier weights. –  starsplusplus Feb 6 at 13:57
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