Are you looking for a great luggage lock for travel? You have come to the right place. Unfortunately, luggage theft is common all over the world. However, there are a few things we can do to protect our luggage like getting a good TSA-approved bacpack lock.
There are hundreds of models out there and it’s not easy to make the right choice. But don’t worry! You don’t have to spend hours comparing models! I’ve done it for you. I’ve created a list of the best travel locks, so you can find the one that best fits your needs.
Check other buyer’s guides to find the best passport holders, sling backpacks, travel adapters, and duffel bags.
THE 10 BEST BACKPACK LOCKS FOR TRAVEL
MASTERLOCK COMBINATION CABLE
“Versatile and inexpensive”
SIZE: 3,3 x 1,2 x 0,7 in
The Masterlock Combination is one of the most popular options on the market. It’s a great, versatile lock that you can use to secure your luggage, bags, backpacks, computer bags and briefcases.
I also recommend it if you’re staying at hostels, as you can use it to keep everything secure inside your locker. It works with a three-number combination that you can set at your own convenience.
It’s a TSA-approved lock, so it’s also great for frequent flyers. You might think that it’s too small, but don’t worry; the cable is very resistant. Overall, it’s a fantastic backpack lock.
Pros: It’s lightweight, compact, and inexpensive. I love the flexible cable that makes it easier to use with zipper holes and other elements with unusual shapes.
Cons: Might be too small for big packs.
LEWIS N CLARK TSA TRIPLE SECURITY WITH CABLE
“It includes a helpful cable”
SIZE: 2,5 x 1,1 x 0,7 in
WEIGHT: 1,76 oz
In my opinion, the Lewis N Clark stands out because it features a really helpful 48-inch cable. Thanks to this flexible cable, you’ll be able to secure your luggage and backpack to a bar or any solid, safe place.
The cable is great because you can use it through zippers and handles or even lock several bags at the same time. I always travel with two backpacks – one for my clothes and another small one for my electronic gear. Being able to lock both bags at the same time is a great advantage. If you go to a hostel with no lockers, you can always lock your backpack to your bed. It meets the TSA requirements in case you fly frequently.
Pros: I find it quite versatile thanks to its cable.
Cons: Sometimes the lock doesn’t open all the way, so it can get stuck (though this isn’t a common issue).
ELINKSMART FINGERPRINT PADLOCK
“Thumbprint luggage lock”
SIZE: 5,3 x 2,9 x 1,3 in
WEIGHT: 1,2 oz
The eLinkSmart Fingerprint Lock is a bit different. Instead of using a key or number combination, it opens with your thumbprint. It’s the same system as the one you use to unlock your smartphone. One of the advantages of this system is that you don’t have to remember any combination.
Also, you avoid carrying a tiny key that might get lost easily. This padlock can be unlocked over 3,000 times before running out of batteries. It’s durable and well-constructed and, overall, a great choice for any kind of travel.
Pros: You don’t need to use a key, which makes it really easy to use.
Cons: If it runs out of batteries, you could have some problems opening it. For me, that’s quite a dealbreaker.
TARRIS TSA LOCK SEARCH ALERT
“For frequent flyers”
SIZE: 5,9 x 5,5 x 0,5 in
WEIGHT: 2,4 oz
Unlike previous models, the Tarris TSA is built with a search alert. If a TSA agent opens and examines your bag, the search alert will let you know that the bag has been inspected. The indicator changes from green to red when the lock has been opened by an agent. That’s why this locker is recommended mainly for frequent flyers.
Of course, you can use it for other purposes, like when you’re backpacking, staying at hostels, etc. It features a three-number combination and a flexible cable that you can easily thread through zipper holes and lockers.
Pros: You can check whether your bag was opened in an airport.
Cons: I’d say that it’s not too difficult to hack.
TRAVELMORE ALERT INDICATOR
“Resistant and compact”
SIZE: 5,5 x 3,1 x 0,7 in
WEIGHT: 1,76 oz
The Travelmore lock features a high-resistance zinc body that provides maximum security. This lock is designed to be durable, lightweight and compact. It comes with an easy-to-set three-digit combination, a flexible cable to use with your backpack zippers and a search alert.
Compared to the previous Tarris TSA, this lock feels a bit more robust and secure. Both models include a search alert. If TSA agents inspect your luggage, the lock will let you know. There is a red indicator under the steel shackle that will illuminate if somebody opens it. You can use it on a backpack, laptop bag, briefcase and many other items.
Pros: It feels resistant and more difficult to “hack”. Also, it features an alert indicator.
Cons: The search-alert red dot could get stuck after TSA agents open it up… like, it doesn’t go down, and you can’t use your lock anymore.
FORGE 2 PACK
“Very tough locks”
SIZE: 2,2 x 1,2 x 0,5 in
WEIGHT: 2,4 oz
The Forge 2 Pack includes two robust and resistant travel locks that meet TSA requirements. They can be used on a wide variety of bags and backpacks and come with a search alert that lets you know if your backpack has been inspected by TSA agents. The locks are durable and well-constructed, featuring special lock alloy bodies, steel shackles and solid internal mechanisms.
These locks come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. The manufacturer says that if you can break them, it will gladly replace them or offer a refund. I’d say that this model stands out among compact locks because it has a pretty solid construction. Also, like other models on the list, it’s pretty affordable.
Pros: I love the fact that it comes with a lifetime guarantee. It’s quite resistant.
Cons: Like the previous model, the lock can get stuck after TSA agents open it.
MASTERLOCK TSA KEY
“Amazing key lock”
TYPE: Key Lock
SIZE: 6,2 x 3,3 x 0,3 in
WEIGHT: 6 oz
The Masterlock is a simple, traditional model that works with a regular key. We’ve already reviewed a few combination models, and I know some people prefer this kind of traditional key lock.
The shackle is quite small, so it’s definitely not as versatile as a cable lock, but I like the compact design of this great lock. The access keyway is placed on the front of the lock, which is very convenient when you want to open it at night. It’s much easier to find the opening and fit in the key.
If you aren’t a big fan of combination locks and are looking for a simple, solid model, this might be your best option.
Pros: I like the fact that the same key opens all four locks. It’s resistant and reliable.
Cons: Compared to other models, it feels a bit heavier when you hold it.
FORGE 4 DIGITS
“Solid and durable”
SIZE: 3,3 x 1,6 x 1,3 in
WEIGHT: 5,5 oz
The Forge 4 Digits is another popular backpack lock among travelers. One of the biggest advantages of this lock is that TSA agents can’t leave your backpack unlocked. It features a lock safe protection system, so every time your lock is opened and your bag inspected, the special TSA key gets blocked and can’t be removed until the lock is relocked.
This way, you guarantee that your personal belonging will be safe after security inspections. The body is made of high-quality materials, meant to be resistant and durable. It’s one of the toughest luggage locks on the list – a perfect companion for backpackers, hikers and all kinds of adventurers.
You can easily set your own 4-digit combination in a few seconds. If you don’t like the lock or have any problems, there’s a great warranty, so you’ll have your lock replaced or your money refunded. It’s definitely one of the best backpack locks on the market.
Pros: Unlike other models on the list, TSA agents can’t leave it unlocked.
Cons: I feel it’s a bit too heavy for my tastes (5.5 oz), but that’s the price for extra security, I guess. Keep in mind that it’s not as small as the previous models. (It’s 3.36 inches.)
FORGE TSA LOCK
“Great overall performance”
SIZE: 6,1 x 3,7 x 0,1 in
WEIGHT: 4,8 oz
The Forge TSA lock features a resistant flexible cable, a solid construction and an easy-to-set combination system. It’s pretty compact and lightweight and meets TSA requirements in case your luggage must be examined. It comes with four units in a pack, and at a very affordable price. It’s a good option for those looking for the best performance on a budget.
Pros: You get four units for a pretty good price.
Cons: It’s not the strongest lock on the list. I don’t recommend three-digit combination locks if you are traveling with expensive stuff.
BRINKS 22mm LOCK
TYPE: Key Lock
SIZE: 6,5 x 3,2 x 0,7
We’ve arrived at the end of the review. I wanted to include the Brinks lock for those who need a traditional lock that comes in a very convenient pack.
This is the classic lock that everybody knows about. I like it because it’s tough, solid and durable, but at the same time meets TSA requirements, so you don’t need to worry if you’re a frequent flyer.
For a very reasonable price, you get four locks to use on several bags, backpacks, lockers, etc. It’s not as lightweight as other models, but it’s pretty compact. You get one key for each lock, but I like that you can open any of the locks in the pack with the same key. You don’t need to worry about finding the right key.
Pros: In my experience, traditional locks offer the highest level of security.
Cons: It feels a bit too small for big backpacks.
OTHER ITEMS YOU MIGHT LIKE:
“Awesome, resistant cable”
If you already have a good lock or you liked one of the locks on the list but want to get an additional cable, I suggest that you take a look at the Ovener cable. It’s a resistant steel cable with a double-looped system that you can use to secure your backpack, sports equipment, skateboard and other gear.
You can add strength and flexibility to your lock!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE BUYING A BACKPACK LOCK
WHAT IS A TSA-APPROVED LOCK?
In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration is allowed to access and examine luggage without the passenger being present if the TSA thinks there might be any kind of risk or illegal transportation. They accept the fact that travelers will lock their luggage to avoid theft, but they recommend that you use TSA-approved locks only. This way, the authorities can open the lock, check your belongings and then relock your luggage. Otherwise, your luggage will be opened by force so that it can be inspected.
Locks using the TSA system are designed to meet the standards set by the Travel Sentry. When you see a lock with the Travel Sentry identifying mark, which is a red diamond, you’ll know that it’s approved by the TSA.
I recommend that you use this kind of lock if you fly regularly.
TYPES OF BACKPACK LOCKS
This is the traditional lock everybody knows. You have a physical key that opens the lock. The main advantage is that you don’t have to remember any combination. On the other hand, the keys tend to be tiny, so if you lose the key, you’ll need to get a saw or tongs to cut your travel lock. These locks usually come with a few keys in case you lose one.
These locks are very popular among backpackers. They usually work with a three- or four-digit combination, which shouldn’t be too difficult to remember. Some “thieves” know how to crack the combination, but it usually takes a long time. As we’ve mentioned, no lock will be 100-percent safe. If someone really wants to open it, well… It’s not a strongbox, but the idea is to always keep your backpack locked.
These locks use a flexible cable as a latching mechanism. Thanks to its flexibility, you can use it in more situations: in hostel dormitory lockers, for backpacks, suitcases, carry-on bags, etc. It’s one of the best options for backpackers looking for a versatile travel lock.
Retractable Cable Lock
The cable of this kind of lock can measure up to one meter. The main advantage is that you can lock together several backpacks, or lock your bag to a bar, or even lock a bike for a while (though I don’t recommended this if you really like the bike). On the downside, this lock is easier to break than regular locks. Not my favorite choice.
Key Card Lock
This type of travel lock doesn’t use a regular key to be opened. Rather, it uses a key card, like the ones you use in hotels. As in key locks, if you lose the card, you’ll have to cut your lock. The main advantage is that you can keep the card among your credit cards, so you shouldn’t lose it.
DO I NEED A LOCK?
If you are taking a flight, you should use a good luggage lock to prevent airport workers from opening your luggage. It’s important to remember that TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents have the right to open a bag if they think it’s suspicious. In that case, they will cut your lock right off.
This procedure happens all the time, and it’s why TSA locks were created – to avoid the necessity of cutting your lock. If you use a TSA-approved lock, the agents will open your luggage with a master key, examine your belongings, and relock your backpack. Luckily, the best locks on the market are TSA-approved.
If you’re on a backpacking trip, your chances of “losing” something along the way increase dramatically. Hostels are fun and you get to meet a lot of great people; I always stay in hostels and 90 percent of the time I have a good time and feel really safe. However, from time to time we find some pilferers among backpackers.
Most hostels have lockers, but not all of them. Sometimes, you have to leave your backpack with your camera and your laptop in the room, just like that. That’s when luggage locks come in handy. They aren’t impossible to open; if somebody really wants to open a bag, he will. However, a backpack lock will be of great help. A thief doesn’t want to get into too much trouble, so if there are four backpacks in a dormitory, three of them locked and one not, which one do you think the thief will target?
Taking local buses can also increase your risk of getting your belongings stolen. I remember that time in Thailand when we all got our backpacks in the trunk of the bus and I realized that one had been stolen. Nothing really valuable, but it still wasn’t a good feeling. It appeared that one of the bus workers had gotten into the trunk while the bus was on the move and had taken his time to open the backpacks. And you know what? I had locked my backpack! Sometimes it’s almost impossible to avoid those situations, but we have to make it difficult for thieves by using travel locks.
Try to bring your most important belongings with you, though depending on the situation (for example, if you’re going out at night or visiting a not-so-safe area), it might be better to leave them at the hostel. By using a luggage lock, you’ll reduce the chances of your luggage getting stolen because most thieves will look for an easier, unlocked target.
WHICH ARE THE BEST LUGGAGE LOCKS FOR TRAVEL?
Your choice really depends on your preferences and your needs. If you still have doubts, let me help you with some suggestions. If you want a resistant combination lock, go with the Lewis Clark Cable.
On the other hand, if you want a classic key lock, the Masterlock TSA key might be your best bet.
TIPS FOR KEEPING ALL YOUR VALUABLES SAFE WHILE TRAVELING
– Always keep your most important belongings (money, credit cards, passports, etc.) with you while sleeping on a train or bus, visiting crowded places, etc. If you don’t feel confident about the place, try to keep your belongings in a money belt.
– Try to keep your camera, laptop and other electronic devices in the same backpack. Don’t place the backpack in the trunk of the taxi or bus. I keep an eye on my backpack at all times, placing it on my lap or between my feet. I usually wear one of the straps around one of my legs in case someone tries to steal it while I’m sleeping.
– If you’re visiting “dangerous” countries or neighborhoods, hide your money in your underwear or money belt, but keep $20 or $50 dollars in your pocket. Thieves like to get something, and if you give them something, they usually leave quickly. Unfortunately, I had to do this many times when I was living in Rio de Janeiro.
– Ask the locals before you go somewhere you heard was dangerous or if you don’t have a good feeling about the place.
– If you’re flying or taking a train, bus, etc., secure your luggage with a travel lock. If you’re staying at a backpacker’s hostel, place everything in the locker if possible.
– When you’re booking a hostel, take a look at the reviews. Be sure that the hostel has good feedback in terms of security and also that it has good lockers.
– You can get travel insurance to cover your valuables if they get stolen or damaged. There’s special coverage available for electronic devices like phones, laptops and cameras.
– Don’t be paranoid! This is the most important tip. Be careful but don’t ruin your trip by being afraid of doing certain things because they might be dangerous or because something might get stolen. Enjoy!
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Have you enjoyed the Top 10 Locks for Travel? Leave a comment!
Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 12 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.
SureLock is the strongest combination lock I’ve ever used. I’ve had it for almost three years and there hasn’t been any rusting or corrosion. Its stainless steel internal lock mechanism also prevents it from freezing and hardening.