I'll be traveling to New Zealand in a few weeks and from what I've heard things like cars being broken into happen quite often, and it also seems there is a risk of having your stuff stolen in a hostel.

Since I'd like to bring my laptop with me, I want to choose luggage that will prevent theft/damage to my stuff. Obviously, given enough time, nothing is really safe but clearly some choices are safer than others.

I have already considered that a hard-sided case is more secure than a softsided one. What else should I look at?

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    If they break into a car, they will take suitcase and worry about opening later.
    – user13044
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 12:23
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    @pnuts instead of tweaking grammar and punctuation, why not make the edits you think would make it answerable? I've done it now, but you knew it needed to be done, knew how to click edit, and could have done it. Why not? Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 13:33
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    I do not know how reliable your information 'New Zealand = Dangerous' is but I have my doubts. It is such a safe country that they still posts messages about cars broken into in the newspapers. Be careful but do not worry over much.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 17:59
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    Sapient pearwood luggage..... Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 10:27
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    Where did you hear that New Zealand is particularly bad for theft? I have never heard about that. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 13:45

5 Answers 5


No luggage is impossible to steal or steal from but anything that makes it more difficult will reduce the probability of theft.

There are generally two things you need to worry about:

  • Theft of your luggage.
  • Theft of some or all of its contents.

The best way to avoid theft of your luggage is to keep in under watch you trust. That is why, most of the time I leave luggage in a locked locker with people or cameras watching. Hotels around the world usually offer this as a service. If you are staying at a rental other property though, is is less likely that this is offered.

The other way to prevent luggage theft is to tie it securely to a fixture or other difficult to move object such as pipes, railings or furniture. There are a number of companies that sell devices purposely for this. Think of it as a bike chain and lock for your luggage.

Should the luggage not be under watch by a trusted person or service, you need to worry about getting it broken into. Anything with soft-sides - unless reinforced by Exomesh - is already vulnerable since it can be cut to bypass any lock or closing mechanism. Anything with a zipper is also easily broken into since all you need is a ballpoint pen to open it. Watch this video to see how easily it can be done and undectetable it is after the fact.

The above video makes it clear that what is really a hard-sided suitcase with built-in locking hash so that you can use your own sturdy and hard to pick lock. The video goes through many examples and shows which locks are the most difficult to break into. Incidentally, just a few days after seeing this video, I saw a man with exactly this type of case with two enormous locks going through it.

Avoid hard-suitcases with built-in locks as these are usually TSA ones and offer minimal protection since they are easy to break, quick to pick and master keys are not that hard to make. Here's a video of a guy opening them in seconds.

Pacsafe makes products designed to address both issues. The one I use is a 85L Bag & Backpack Protector which provides some security against both luggage theft and theft of the contents. This is designed to protect backpacks by encasing them into a metal mesh which makes it hard to cut into the backpack, plus a metal tether to attach the whole thing to a fixture. The metal itself is rather thin and lock is not top-grade either, so this provides far less protection getting a hard suitecase with your own sturdy lock and using a bike-chain to fix it but the whole thing is relatively light and weighs just over a pound (0.52kg). This kind of thing - I don't know if there are others actually - is a good deterent in making your luggage a little harder to steal and steal from than most.

Pacsafe also makes lugggage with Exomesh built in, so you only have to add a tether of chain in order to secure it. Again, it would not be very difficult to break into or cut the chain but it means that tools are needed to steal it.

  • This would work if your luggage is one of a big pile of cases which are less protected. But I guess OP will often be the only one leaving his luggage in a place, having very secure luggage left out will be very inviting for thieves.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 19:16
  • @Willeke - In a hostel or hotel there is usually plenty of luggage in close proximity, opportunistic thieves sneak in and attempt to grab what they can or put there hands in it so see if anything valuable can be taken out of it. They have to move fast, so when they see something that slows them down, they move on quickly.
    – Itai
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 19:35
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    Traveling by public transport I have had to leave my luggage in many places where there is no much or non other luggage. Having an old, beat up, pack felt much less dangerous than having a well locked case locked to a wall would have been.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 19:43
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    The suitcase in that video might stop someone who wants to leave no evidence that they've opened it, but I bet a determined thief with a crowbar can open it in ten seconds or less.
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 1:40
  • The premise of the question is that someone has already broken into a car to steal this bag. Are you saying that "exomesh" is significantly more secure than a car?
    – Calchas
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 23:55

(I originally wrote this as a comment, but I think it is important enough to merit an answer. It's not in any of the other answers)

For a laptop, regardless of where and how you hide/store it: make sure it is fully powered off/in sleep mode when not in use. You don't want it broadcasting Where's the Wifi? or Can we connect over Bluetooth? while it's left unattended.

Luckily, most laptops go into sleep immediately when you close the lid, and if they don't you can usually see some lights still on (or you hear the disk spinning). So check yours before taking your trip.
(And confirm that when it comes out of hibernation, it asks for your login again).

Notes: some people claim that even in sleep mode there are still detectable signals, but that's not true - e.g. there was such a claim in 2010 by security company Credant Technologies [1],[2],[3])

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    Uh? A suspended laptop will not try to connect to any sort of network. The only thing that is powered-on is RAM. Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 19:40
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    Apple laptops have a feature called PowerNap, that will cause them to wake up when suspended. support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204032 Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 11:12
  • About the sleep mode part: If we'd met, I could show you that it's very well possible. (It depends very much on the hardware, OS, the level of sleep mode, etc.etc., but just "impossible" is definitely wrong).
    – deviantfan
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 17:32

I can only speak to traveling inside the US. I don't know if it will apply to you.

You have four concerns to measure against.

  1. Theft of the luggage
  2. Theft of the stuff in the luggage
  3. Ease of use
  4. Legal requirements/needs/etc.

So the awesome thing about luggage to thieves is that it's already portable. It comes with wheels and handles and straps. Better yet, all you have to do is pick it up. You don't even have to slow down. Who cares what's in it. Maybe it's good maybe is just dirty boxers, the risk is so low it's worth rolling the dice.

  1. To combat this, your best bet is to use wearable luggage, a strap/leash to connect it to you, or a lock that keeps it in place. A backpack is a good example of wearable luggage. Keep in mind that wearable luggage only works of you wear it. The second you set down your backpack, it becomes a good target again. This works for money belts, "fanny packs" etc etc. You could alternatively use a cable lock to attach your luggage to a post or sign. Keep in mind that this has some serious legal side effects if your going to walk away and leave your luggage. (more on that later)

  2. Don't let the ads fool you, there's not going to be a lot of people walking up to your luggage, and trying to use a blow torch, or jig saw to get in. You need something that will keep out a pocket knife, and will stay closed. For example a back pack on a subway is easy to get into. Till you put those little locks on the zippers. Then it's better to just move on. Maybe while your shopping or asleep someone will try to cut through your pack to get the goodies, but honestly, if there bringing a knife it's more likely there just going to tell you to open the pack. Good knife resistant luggage is all it takes. That can be soft sided or hard, doesn't matter much. Remember, if they want to steal your luggage, there just going to walk off with it, and worry about opening it later.

  3. So I wanted to include this one because you need to make sure your choice in luggage is easy to use. For example a back pack will have to be gotten into at odd times. You don't want to be the guy in the store that needs to get into his back pack to get that one piece of paper and has to empty the entire thing on the counter top. Try to make sure that your security choices are balanced with ease of use. After all a travel safe would be best, but who wants to lug around a 2 tonne safe to the store.
  4. Lastly there are some rules/laws/etc that you need to be aware of. For example TSA approved locks for flying. Or the fact that you can't leave your luggage chained to a pole while you go into a shop. (Unless you want to see the bomb squad explode your underwear.) Make sure you look into, and account for that.

Two things are most important in all of this.

Do not leave your luggage unattended. Keep an eye on it at all times.

People that steal luggage are in for an easy score. Don't be an easy score.


A hard-sided case more secure than soft cases? In hostel? Seriously? They are literally screaming 'steal me, I have something valuable within'!

The features that will make your luggage less likely to be even considered to be stolen are:

  • cheap
  • weared off
  • dirty
  • stinky
  • full with crap

A cheap rucksack, with some holes, dirty, full with used clothes is quite likely to be the last item to be inspected by potential thief. Worn socks have even power of deter toll officers (through the dogs won't give up so easily).

  • That has always been my method. Old pack, well filled with normal everyday items, and keep the valuable items well hidden under a layer, or keep them in the locker most hostels provide.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 18:47

If you are in a poorly secured hostel and you have to leave your stuff behind there, put your laptop and other valuable items in a big hard case suitcase (say 300 liters volume) that can be very securely locked. Then put a large number of bottles of water in there, you may also put a sack filled with stones in the suitcase. Fill it until it weighs well over 150 kg. Then lock your suitcase. The huge weight of your suitcase will make it impossible for thieves to quickly sneak into your room and carry it away without catching attention. Also they can't use knives to cut it open quickly to get the access to the valuable items. When encountering your suitcase, a thieve will decide to skip your room and check out another room.

To be able to do this, you should bring the large suitcase filled with a few hundred empty water bottles with you, so this may come at the expense of having to check in one piece of luggage.

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    Do you do this a lot?
    – Calchas
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 23:46
  • @Calchas I don't stay in cheap hotels to prevent having to bother doing this. But your only option when staying in poorly secured places is to use some force that will keep your possessions fixed in your room, of the four forces of Nature only the electromagnetic force and gravity can be used. The strength of the suitcase derives from electromagnetism at the molecular level, and you can also make good use of gravity. In a poorly secured environment, that's all you got. Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 0:04
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    What I mean is this sounds preposterous. A sack of stones? 150 kg of water? You're probably going to attract enough attention that someone will conclude it's worth taking five minutes to cut through the plastic case with a pair of snips.
    – Calchas
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 0:31
  • @Calchas No one knows that the suitcase contains water bottles. You bring with you the empty bottles in the suitcase and in the hotel you just fill them with water and put them in the suitcase. All that a thieve will notice is that he can't lift the suitcase. The more effort a thieve is going to expend the more traces and clues he is going to leave behind, so the wise thing to do for the thieve is to move on to find more suitable things to steal. The thieve needs to sneak in unnoticed, quickly grab a some valuable items and get out unnoticed or looking like a hotel guest. Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 5:12
  • I do actually use a sack that I fill with stones or snow to stabilize my tripod in windy conditions. Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 5:13

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