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I leave on my trip next month, and I wanted to buy locks for my backpack since I'll certainly be passing through crowded areas of the city where it may be difficult for me to notice a pickpocket attempt. What I want to know, is whether a key or combo lock offers a higher level of security over the other. Also, would anyone know where I might be able to purchase a set of 4-5 locks that unlock with a single key?

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I would go for Don't put valuable items in your backpack. –  MeNoTalk May 19 '12 at 9:37
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This is not relevant to locks on backpacks, but before using combination locks to secure valuables generally, consider this video: youtube.com/watch?v=JtLQoz8yC2Q . The technique is handy if you've ever forgotten the combination of an old lock. –  jthetzel May 19 '12 at 17:05
    
You might want to consider also asking this question, or a related one, on security.stackexchange.com. –  Andrew Ferrier Nov 14 '12 at 21:14
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putting lock on your backpack is like putting a sticker saying "all my valuables are here, please rob me". –  vartec Nov 15 '12 at 14:34
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6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Using common sense, I would say locks with keys are more secure, most combo locks have just 3 digits and it doesn't take that long to test 1000 combinations.

I had long bus rides where the bags were on the roof of the bus along with some locals riding for cheap. They had all the time in the world to open the locks.

Having said that, I still use combo locks, because I hate to carry keys with me. They are small and I may lose them, the second copy would be in the locked bag.

If someone really wants your stuff, they just cut your bag open.

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Locks with keys that fit backpacks are small enough to be broken easily, you wouldn't even need 5 seconds to do so.. –  MeNoTalk May 19 '12 at 15:27
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Over five years of constant traveling and locking my backpack I noticed two occasions where people tried to break my combo locks. They got bent a bit and I had to replace one of them later but they didn't succeed in breaking them. I'm not saying they can't be broken, but not by every kid. –  Peter Hahndorf May 19 '12 at 15:53
    
Breaking a small lock takes far less time than trying out 500 number combinations (average for a 3-digit lock). Slicing open the bag takes even less time. Thieves don't have to play nice, and a lock is (a) a minor obstacle/deterrent and (b) a sign that something worth stealing could be inside, so you need to balance the two. –  dbkk Nov 14 '12 at 16:57
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With backpacks, The small outer pockets are the target for pickpockets. They are easy to open without you noticing it. So always leave your valuable stuff at the main pocket of the backpack even if you use locks on the outer pockets they can still steal stuff from it. In Egypt around 2001-2002 I have seen some one whose passport was stolen from his backpack while using locks, The pickpocket used a sharp blade to make a cut in the lower part of the small outer pocket where the passport was and let the contents of the pocket slide easily. So locks are not really the way here. Yes it will add extra difficult steps to the pickpocket but still they can beat it.
Regarding keys or combo locks I would go combo locks because you will not need keys so there is no way to forget them!

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I am going to put forth a suggestion that I had put forth before about the luggage.

Get wireties they are cheap to get at any hardware store and without strong scissors or wirecutters impossible to get off. For pickpocket its a difficult proposition to get something off someone moving with this obstacle in the way but one has to consider that in the past pickpockets(at least in former Soviet Union) used to use sharpened coins to cut through cloth and thin leather.

The other advantage of this is that if you have to check this backpack in. You don't risk losing the locks to someone in security deciding to check the contents.

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Probably the worst advice for preventing theft in Asia, especially when you travelling on long distance buses and trains. For instance in Thailand there have been reports of thieves (from the bus company itself!) hiding in luggage compartments of buses to rifle through luggage - wireties will be completely useless there! –  Ankur Banerjee May 22 '12 at 9:23
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@AnkurBanerjee In this scenario they have time to pick or even cut the locks off luggage anyway. Or simply cut the backpack through the fabric. –  Karlson May 22 '12 at 13:43
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Don't bother with any locks.

Always have your bag in your sight and keep more valuable items deeper in the bag, and you will be fine.

If your bag is out of sight, no lock will save you. They will just take your whole bag or they will cut it open.

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I'm throwing out a suggestion that works well in my favor: Assuming you are carrying a daypack for your excursions, I would simply wear it upfront in crowded spaces, so it is always in my control and line of sight.

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This is more suitable for a comment, as the question is "how to lock.." and not "Should I lock.." –  mithy May 22 '12 at 16:04
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This will be my first time in Asia and i have come to the conclusion:

  • Don't take anything you don't mind losing
  • Be vigilant and keep all your docs and money on your person at all times
  • I have cables and padlock purely to strap bag snatching, if they want a rummage my hot pants and toothpaste is all there is!
  • Use a body pouch and keep money to a minimum and separated, take care have fun and remember you don't need to be flash just do what they do and you won't stand out as much
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