Stealing from your luggage and what you can do about it.

Theft from your luggage is unfortunately a thing that can happen. Just like in daily life there are criminals that want to steal what belongs to you. This can surely happen by fellow travellers but also by people who work as luggage handlers in airports, buses or ferry boats. Thailand has seen both arrests of foreign travellers being caught for stealing as well as local employees who work as a luggage handler.

Coconuts Bangkok writes often about this problem. Its like fighting rats; no matter how much you catch of them they will come back.
Phuket airport employee caught stealing Adidas shoes from luggage.
Busted! Baggage handlers at Suvarnabhumi Airport caught stealing from passengers.
Phuket airport staff arrested for stealing from passengers’ luggage.

Most common trick is to break open a zipped backpack or suitcase. A padlock wont protect from this since the zipper can be forced to open by poking a ballpoint or screwdriver through it. The following video demonstrated how easy this is done

Also in the YouTube movie with the baggage handler who is caught stealing from luggage uses this method. The padlock that is still closed can clearly be seen. After searching through the luggage he closes the zipper again like nothing happened.

Zipper padlock

Luggage belt
the above picture appears another suitcase. That one had a extra belt around the suitcase. These are also available with a combination lock on it. Although the are easy to cut through or slip off, they still make it more difficult for the thief to open your suitcase. Most likely he will go for an easier target. Just like in the picture.


Zipperless luggage 
To avoid the easily opening of a zippered suitcase you can buy a zipperless suitcase. This means that the hard shell is closed with a locking mechanism. But sometimes there is a zipper but it is hidden. In that way a thief is also less likely to chose your bag to steal from. The website wrote a nice overview about these types of suitcases.

Another very effective prevention for breaking through zippers is to use a flight cover / flight bag. Even if they are also closed with a zipper it still creates an extra barrier. The thief needs more time to open your bag. Most likely the thief will pick another bag that he sees nearby and leaves your one alone. The company Trafelsafe sells flight bags that can be closed with a padlock through several rings. Just like a army duffel bag. Big advantage of a flight bag is that it also protects your bag against dust, dirt, water and damage.

Travelsafe flightbag compilation
A flight-bag that can be closed with a padlock gives good protection against theft. Source:

Steel protection net
Instead of a flight bag you can also use a net around it. The company PacSafe sells a net made from steel cables that you can close with a padlock. wrote a review and explanation about it.

Backpacks secured with a PacSafe backpack protector. Source:

Hide your money
When you travel it is always a good idea to keep some cash money with you in Euros or Dollars. In case of a broken credit / debit card or when you end up in areas without ATM’s you can use this to exchange in the local currency. Sometimes hotels offer this service as a side business. To minimise the risk of stealing it is a good idea to hide this. As seen in the first YouTube movie; thieves usually don’t spend much time in searching through your luggage. They grab whatever comes in sight. Some people have developed very creative ideas to hide money while travelling.


Dutch army daypack

The Dutch army daypack aka KL daypack is a small backpack but equipped with foam-padded shoulder straps like it is a full size backpack. The back has a main compartment with an internal divider and two side pockets. The weigh is about 1,15 kg and measurements are 45 x 30 x 18cm. The outside contains two attaching belts for extra equipment like a water bottle or first aid pouch. These items can be attached with alice-clips, but also the old Dutch/British webbing system hooks.  This backpack was made during the 90’s in 3 colours; Woodland (Dutch DPM), Dessert (Dutch CDU) and olive green. The olive green one was only issued to the Dutch Airforce and therefore harder to find nowadays. Big advantage of this last one is that the camouflage pattern will not fade out after years of usage. Also the colour is more neutral and suitable for urban travelling.

Rugzak KL 35L (
Olive green edition (Dutch Airforce) of the Dutch army daypack. Source:

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The (British army) Rucksack Other Arms vs The Osprey Porter

The Rucksack Other Arms from the British army and the Osprey Porter are both “single” compartment backpacks where you can hide the shoulder straps. This allows you to use it as a hand carrying bag. Both the backpacks are not very high compared to their width.

If you spend most of your time carrying your luggage at your back when hiking or going to the woods and mountains, then a real backpack is most suitable. If your backpack spends most of its time in a luggage compartment of a bus, train, air-plane, mini van, taxi etc. then a single compartment bag with no extra straps or side pockets is more suitable. This setup comes close to a suitcase that you carry on your back.

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Polish army backpack

The Polish WZ89 army backpack (aka Frog or Puma camouflage) is a cheap and simple backpack. Just a big sack with two straps on it. It was in use in the Polish army from 1989 and until 1993. The typical camouflage pattern is called the Zába Pattern, which in polish for Frog. On military surplus store websites it is also called the Polish Puma camouflage pattern. In Germany this camouflage pattern is often referred as Pumatarn.

The bottom is protected with a rubber (PVC) coating. So when you place your bag in a small puddle of water or in some wet grass not all your stuff is totally soaked. For a better protection it is wise to use a big plastic bag inside the backpack itself since the fabric is very thin and not very water resistant. In military surplus stores you can also buy special water resistant laundry bags.

The top side of the pack has two drawstrings, one on the very top and one a bit lower down the body. The lower drawstring allows for loading to regular capacity, similar to a normal rucksack. The top drawstring allows you to expand (overload) the pack to the size of a big backpack. Keep in mind that there is no padding on the shoulder straps. So if you you load up on weight it’s going to cut into your shoulders and may hurt. The big top flap can be closed in two different heights; two triglides on the bottom or two triglides half way the pack.


The rucksack is constructed of very flexible material and doesn’t have a rigid frame. This simple construction gives very little wearing comfort. However this also makes it ideal for packing and compressing your luggage down to a small package and in the same time it also allows you to expand the bag to carry a much larger load. It is also possible to fold the bag down and take it with you as an extra bag in your main luggage. Since the weight of the pack is only 0,75 Kg it is not that much extra.

Other comparable designs.
There is also an improved version of this backpack with a different camouflage pattern (WZ93 Pantera) and stronger materials. The M93 Pantera camouflage backpack. The fabric of the M93 backpack is waterproof and the name tag is stronger and equipped with a better plastic window.

The much bigger and heavier French F1 65 liter military backpack might have been the inspiration for this design. That bag is also more like a duffel bag, comes also with a rubberised bottom, and is also closable at two different heights. But that bag is made of much heavier canvas and the rubber is thicker and comes higher from the ground. This makes the weight of this pack going up to 2,15 Kg. The backside of the pack has a padded back support in a triangle form, the shoulder straps are padded and the pack has a simple belt to let the weight rest at your hips. These features makes this backpack / duffel bag quite comfortable to wear. More info in this special blog about the French army F1 backpack.

Many people regard a soft backpack without any back support or padded shoulder straps as a ridiculous idea and the worst design ever. However the famous (military) backpack company Berghaus made a similar backpack The Berghaus MMPS Grab Bag. This bag has also one main compartment without side pouches. Only the cover lid is a little more sophisticated with a pouch behind a zipper and some webbing for attaching extra gear. This bag is also meant as an extra light weight bag that you can take with you in your main luggage.


Background information: 3 Surplus European Backpacks You’ve Probably Never Used – But Should

WZ89 Polish army backpack frog (Puma) camouflage in military surplus store: German army shop British army surplus shop Polish military shop

M93 woodland camo in military surplus store: (Dutch genuine army shop) American outdoor shop Polish military shop

Tortuga Backpacks

Tortuga Backpacks are designed by two travel veterans. After a backpack journey they noticed that all backpacks and other bags and suitcases have their own advantages and their own disadvantages. They decided to develop their own backpack. Main feature is that you can open the backpack in the same way as a suitcase. This makes the backpack more suitable for travelling. Most backpacks are designed more for hiking than for travelling and open therefore from the top.

They don’t sell their products in physical shops but on-line only.

After a little research it turned out that Osprey also has a backpack what can be opened from the front instead of the top. Their backpack is called the Osprey Porter 46. The following youtube movie compares these two.