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Different Types of Bag Locks for Travelers

bag locks for travelers

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Having partaken in several travel adventures over the years now, I have acquired quite an extensive collection of bag locks to suit my various bag-locking needs.

I have retractable locks, TSA-approved locks, and little locks with little keys. I once even owned a PacSafe bag protector before deciding I was never going to use it, thus selling it on Amazon.

The truth is, as a traveler with stuff, bag locks are an important travel security measure. They’re to prevent thieves from taking stuff out of your bag and shady characters from putting potentially incriminating items in. 

Here are some of the locks to consider adding to your packing list:

Little Locks with Keys

These tiny locks are great for when you just need to lock up the zips on your daypack.

This measure tends to keep opportune thieves and pickpockets in check.

However, considering the size of these locks, the keys tend to be tiny! You have to take good care not to lose the keys or you might have to take drastic measures just to open your bag.

You’ll also have to be careful as those tiny keys can break if you exert too much effort turning the key to open the lock!

TSA Approved Locks

These locks are perfect for locking up backpacks (if yours allows for that) and suitcases before flights.

It makes sure that zips don’t come undone mid-transport, letting your bag unfurl, and it also keeps those opportune thieves at bay!

The combination lock means there’s no key to lose when you’re traveling. Just make sure to remember your combination!

A TSA-approved lock means that if your backpack or suitcase is tagged for inspection at the airport, the officer can use their master key to open the lock. So much better than them cutting your lock to open your bags.

TSA Cable Locks

The locks are pretty much the same size as a normal lock, but their latching mechanism is a flexible cable.

This makes the lock more adaptable to more different situations. The thinner cable means you can thread it through smaller openings that other locks may be too big for. 

Cable locks usually come in with combination lock, which are great because there’s no need to mind a tiny key that you can lose or worse, break.

We highly recommend these here on Her Packing List.

Retractable Cable Locks

Retractable cable locks are a bit bulkier than your standard models, but the cable (about a meter long in many cases) gives the lock ultimate flexibility.

You can use this lock for all the above uses plus:

  • locking your bags together,
  • locking your bags to bed frames and bars,
  • locking your helmet on your bicycle, and
  • whatever creative ways you can think of!

PacSafe Locks

The PacSafe is like a lock for your entire bag. The sturdy exomesh wraps around your backpack and then has a cable that can be used to secure it to a fixed object.

This is great because you can secure ALL your belongings if you ever need to have some shut-eye at the station after missing the last bus for the day or similar situations.

However, they are a bit heavy when not in use, and they do sort of make a person stand out more in a crowd.

I bought one of these for my trip to Central America and did not use it once. Yes, that was 2 months of weight in my backpack.

Out of This List of Travel Locks

I would recommend a TSA-friendly cable lock with combination (no key) as a go-to versatile bag lock. I’ve been using mine for years now on every single trip I take. 

I also have the retractable cable lock, which is used less often, but also a true asset when needed.

What sort of locks or security measures do you have in line to protect your stuff when you travel?

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Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Anna Arketa says

    I like the little TSA lock and key I forget the name. The keys won’t break and I’ve used this lock in my travel duffels. I like Pacsafe travel bags for short stays; they have built-in zipper lock features. I’ve never been successful with combination little locks. I’ve only used combination locks with the dial knob you spin.


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