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When staying in hostel dorms I usually place my valuables in a locker provided by the hostel and lock it, typically with my own key-padlock. When I go out I take the key with me and I'm perfectly fine with that.

However when I am sleeping at night, what is the best practice to storing the key to my locker/padlock? (While I am asking about the key only, I typically also have my cell-phone out to charge at night and as it serves me as an alarm clock in the morning, so a ideally a solution would be valid also for that.)
I am a deep sleeper at times and I am concerned someone might take the key from me, open the locker and make off with my valuables while I'm snoring away in a worst case scenario.

  • I mean I could wear boxers with a sewn-in secret pocket for my key, but I don't have that and it might still end up uncomfortable.
  • I guess many would place their key (and stuff) under their pillow but I typically move around and don't necessarily sleep with my head on the pillow so that would not work for me either.
  • What I typically currently do is to leave my key (and cell) in the pockets of my pants, roll them up into a packet when I go to sleep and place them on the wall side of my bed, near to my head. I've never had any problems with that, but I guess that is more due to luck than fool-proofness of my method.
  • Finally I know there are combination padlocks out there but they can be opened by trial and error or easier and have other deficits.

So ideally I am looking for something that outperforms the above practices in the given scenario, but I am of course all in for other useful hints.

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    If they really want to steal your stuff, they will. But at least you can prevent the opportunity thieves by keeping stuff on the wall side of your bed, under or behind your pillow/blanket etc. – Jan Aug 31 '16 at 9:09
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    Why not safety pin it inside your boxers or whatever else you might wear. – user13044 Aug 31 '16 at 10:18
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    @Tom why not make that comment an answer? I like the idea even at the risk of it getting uncomfortable. – mts Aug 31 '16 at 10:26
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    What's POB? I see somebody's voted to close it as "unclear what you're asking", which I find a bit baffling. – hippietrail Aug 31 '16 at 15:37
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    @hippietrail Primarily opinion-based. I was on my phone and too lazy to spell the whole thing out. What, someone's voted this as unclear? lol. This is like a textbook example of a straight-forward, clear, practical travel question. – Revetahw Aug 31 '16 at 17:16

11 Answers 11

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In places that I've felt to be a bit dodgier than usual I have done a few things:

  1. Sleep in shorts with a pocket and keep the key in my pocket.

  2. Thread the key onto a string and wear it around my neck.

  3. Put the key and other valuables inside my pillowcase / pillowslip.

A good way to not forget your valuables are in your pillowcase is to also stash your underpants in there! Well unless of course it's too hot to sleep covered.

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    Thread the key onto a string and wear it around my neck, +1\ – Yu Zhang Aug 31 '16 at 21:08
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    Threading the key onto a string and wearing it around your neck seems a bit risky...? What if you poke your eyes out while sleeping? – Mehrdad Sep 1 '16 at 6:08
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    @Mehrdad Have you ever woken up with your finger mid-poking your eyes out? If not, you'll probably be okay with a key that will remain on your chest under a shirt. – JakeSteam Sep 1 '16 at 10:22
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    Stephan: if someone is willing to break or cut a string around my neck, I'd rather they do just that - that same kind of person is probably equally willing to take it by force. – Konerak Sep 1 '16 at 11:58
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    If you are supersuspicious you can use suppository-shaped, well-sealed case and use it as the name suggests. I grant you there will be no one who will try to steal this case from you. – Crowley Sep 1 '16 at 16:46
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Personally I use the pillowcase method. Small torch, asthma inhaler, old phone I use as an alarm/music player (vibrate wakes me, doesn't wake anyone else, best ever), and locker key, all fit into a corner leaving the rest for me to use. Anyone wants in and they're going to need to physically move me and I'm not going to sleep through that.

A quick trick, you know how on your pillowcase there's generally a folded side to stop the pillow sliding out? Put that on the bottom and now even in your worst sleep where you move around a lot your stuff is only going to slide down into that pocket and stay in the case. And my head is in the middle of the case, so things also need to get past my head.

It's not 100%, deep sleeper and someone could theoretically cut the case, but nothing is guaranteed and this hasn't yet failed me in around nine months ish of hostel usage over a year or so; from party mad 32 bed dorms to dingy 6 bed cash only hovels to saner 3 - 4 bed rooms with 24/hr staffed receptions. Traveling is personal though so if you usually wear a chain or necklace while sleeping then sliding a key onto that is simpler. Others have a bag with them on the bed, works great on bunk beds placed around the centre next to a wall as someone's going to need to climb onto the bed to get to it, but I hate that method as it takes away valuable stretch room and pillowcases are a bit more versatile.

You can also use an ankle pouch, I dislike that method though as after a day of walking I don't want anything on my feet/ankles. Or a waist pouch if that feels better, I use that as a backup for when I'm away from a pillow, though if you move around at night on a bed then it can twist and be annoying.

As for phones, I cheat a little. Get a cheap USB battery pack and charge that while you sleep. Get up, attach it to your phone, and you have a charged phone with negligible risk. You can even leave it at the hostel during the day and throw it in the pillowcase as well if it's small enough. And if that gets stolen then 1) it's cheap enough to not matter and 2) you know to only charge things while you're physically there.

And a little niggle from someone who worked as a locksmith for a while: Not all combination padlocks are bad and they have their own advantages. No keyway makes it impossible to pick for instance (epoxy in the front if there is one), and with a three digit code on a twenty or more digit lock there's enough combinations there to deter most people. Get a decent lock, Sargent and Greenleaf 8077 for instance (my favourite convenience lock), and shimming is going to be ridiculously hard as well. With shrouds so is using a bolt cutter so don't forget your combination. From a usability point of view combination locks excel since there's no key to take care of. Swimming pool? Junk in locker, combo lock on, nothing to carry with you. Ditto for a beach or the like.

Even if you prefer locks with keys, and they make up for the lack of convenience with daunting security, approach your lock purchase like you approached the purchase of the most expensive item you're securing. If you'll spend weeks comparing laptop specs and then drop a few K, a few hours looking at lock features or chatting to a decent locksmith and then spending a hundred dollars on a decent lock securing that laptop is absolutely worth it.

And you know how that page you linked had Master locks as an example of how to beat combination locks? Don't. Buy. Master. Locks.

Like, ever. Just no. They make far too many shoddy products to chance your security to. The only exception is if you want to learn picking, having a Master around is a great confidence booster.

Finally, a little something to start your lock research: Choosing a High Security Lock (YouTube).

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    Great account and valid points, +1 and thank you! I once had a small lock that was too tiny to be lockpicked which was great, only that of course it would not have withstood much cutting. – mts Aug 31 '16 at 13:52
  • Yep I also often have a little bag or my hat on the bed with me too. In that case I prefer the top bunk but I don't trust it if there's a gap between the bed and the wall. Plus for me this is more of a convenience thing than a security thing but there is a touch of the latter. – hippietrail Aug 31 '16 at 15:52
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    Fun fact: Technically 'combination' locks actually rely on permutations, so really we ought to call them 'permutation locks' and the 'combinations' for them should be 'permutations'. – Pharap Sep 3 '16 at 6:37
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How about using a motion alarm app such as this Android one. Then you either put the key inside the back cover if it will fit, or just tape it to the phone if it won't. If anyone tries to move or take your phone, the alarm will go off and hopefully wake you up.

If you're scared of accidentally waking lots of people up, you could perhaps put a similar alarm inside your locker instead.

Alternatively, how about a Bluetooth lock controlled by your phone. Someone would have to get your phone password in order to open your locker.

  • Now I would never had come up with that idea! Nice! Given that I move a fair bit, I'd likely trigger the alarm mostly myself but I can also see one could use unplugging from the charger as a trigger for the alarm. – mts Aug 31 '16 at 10:47
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    Interesting app - but I really hope I never share a hostel dorm with someone who uses this app on motion mode then forgets and early in the morning, checks the time, responds to a message or picks the phone up to turn off a regular alarm... – user568458 Aug 31 '16 at 10:47
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    @user568458 Put a postit next to your phone saying "DON'T MOVE THE PHONE!" – Berwyn Aug 31 '16 at 10:48
  • @mts I'm always someone who attempts to find a techie solution to a problem. I used to use a vibrating pillow alarm to wake me up so that I wouldn't wake the missus up at the same time – Berwyn Aug 31 '16 at 14:50
  • @mts What if you put your phone under the "packet" of clothes and put it all to the side of the bed instead of in the bed? You would be able to (carefully) move your clothes and enter the unlock code without disturbing the phone. – Doktor J Aug 31 '16 at 15:35
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While I was Hostel hopping through Europe, I obtained an mp3 player arm band that was silly large (free too). It was big enough for me to put around my upper leg and hold on to my key and phone while not being too uncomfortable...kept everything safe and unless someone was willing to go under my blanket in search of it, it wasn't being found.

I also purchased a USB battery pack/flashlight. Let me be a bit more flexible with charging the phone so I didn't need to leave it plugged in at night. In the morning during breakfast, I'd have both the phone and battery pack charging for the next day.

Should add a side note. I left the phone on the inside of my leg so I wouldn't roll onto it at night and crush anything.

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Put the key under your bed's leg, it will keep it safe, unless you're such a deep sleeper that someone could steal your bed without you noticing.

That's what I do whenever I have to stay in an hotel room or places alike, obviously I'm talking about a regular key, just lift the bed and put the key under one of the bed's leg, it's safer if you use one of the legs on the wall side.

Perhaps you can hide the key under some other furniture available too.

Do I have to draw a sketch?

  • Can you please add some more to this answer so it is less 'just a comment' and more a proper answer. – Willeke Sep 1 '16 at 19:37
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    I still like it, it's a short but good answer :) – mts Sep 1 '16 at 19:42
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    Yeah this may work sometimes. I see that this is nominated for deletion in the review queue. Definitely not worthy of deletion. But could indeed do with some additions and reasoning. – Revetahw Sep 1 '16 at 20:01
  • One strong person could lift the bed and you for another to pull the key, and you might not notice. But what if you put it right under the center of the mattress before you lie down? – WGroleau Sep 2 '16 at 0:27
  • Putting it under the mattress is a bad idea in a hostel dorm if you are in the top bunk. It also depends a lot on how the bed is constructed. There are widely varying ratios of solid material to holes. – hippietrail Sep 2 '16 at 17:21
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The best practice is not to store the key in the first place. EG use a combination lock!

You can't lose a key you don't have. And as has been previously mentioned a lock will only keep out honest people.

And for peoples edification .. Opening a key pad lock by tapping it with a small hammer

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    Thanks but I have explicitly named combination locks in my question and why I wish to avoid them. Also I don't see how the comment about honest people is helpful? – mts Aug 31 '16 at 21:41
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    @mts The comment about honest people is that any lock can be easily opened if the person doing it is motivated. So it is irrational to exclude combination locks. – Peter M Aug 31 '16 at 21:46
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    @mts Combination "can" be bruteforced - but a keyed lock "can" be picked as well. The real problem with combination locks is someone peeking over your shoulder as you open it. But key is just an information as well, and it can be easily recreated from a photo or security camera footage. Dangers of peeking over the shoulder applies to keys as well. If you don't feel qualified to choose a decent mechanic one, look up noke or speedial. – Agent_L Sep 1 '16 at 11:33
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    Actualy keys are like numbers, if your key is of known type all i need to do is see the key to make a copy of it @mts .So if you are indeed concerned of this then the key definitely needs to be hidden. Whatabout a combination lock and key? (Though that would invite people to break the locker) – joojaa Sep 1 '16 at 19:14
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    @Agent_L And some key locks can be very easily opened youtube.com/watch?v=pU9MB5XPsp4 no picking needed. – Peter M Sep 1 '16 at 19:38
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If the key doesn't have a keyring, you could place it in a moneybelt, and wear the belt at night. You might want two belts, one for night and one for other valuables during the day.

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Another possibility would be to leave the key at the hostels reception desk (and ask them to give you a voucher). This way the key is stored in a different area than your room, and in the case that someone does steal your items, you yourself will not be responsible and may be able to get the hostel to reimburse your losses.

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    That is an interesting thought but it does imply that I trust the hostel (and honestly this is the kind of stuff you only wish to do at the more shady ones), when I get my doubts I usually would not trust the hostel (or hostel staff) as much either. +1 in any case, cheers :) – mts Sep 1 '16 at 8:55
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In the scenario where you are only worried about a key you can tape the key to you foot or arm with plasters or surgical tape.

Taped to your foot while you are in a sleeping bag would be a very tricky place for a thief to get to without you noticing.

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My sleeping bag has a small pocket on the inside, precisely for this kind of thing. But a chain round your neck (or a wristband) works fine too.

Beyond this point you are getting to the level of someone who is prepared to rob you even if you wake up, so your answer here is the same as ever: be prepared to lose it, and get travel insurance.

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    Sleeping bag pocket is a good idea but many hostels discourage or forbid their use. – mts Sep 2 '16 at 6:36
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    Yep sleeping bags are the #1 vector for our arch enemy Cimex lectularius. – hippietrail Sep 2 '16 at 17:22
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You could wear socks while sleeping and put the key in one of them. If someone really wanted to get the key they could probably do so by cutting around the key with a razor blade, but it would be a slow, delicate and rather risky manoeuvre to pull off in the dark.

protected by Mark Mayo Sep 6 '16 at 4:10

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