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How to Hack a Locked Suitcase


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  • Added on: March 27th, 2011
I read this last month and then realized that a lot of people consider locking zippers to be a key feature in their ideal bag.

In case it needs to be mentioned, I share this in the interest of understanding how your bag may not be as safe as you think it is, rather than for the purpose of doing this to other people's bags.

Watch the video to see how a pen can be turned into a suitcase cracking tool. In the demonstration they use a ballpoint pen to exert pressure on the zipper of a suitcase. The pressure causes the teeth to separate, effectively opening the suitcase.

More info and video: http://lifehacker.com/#!5747199/open-a- ... ng-a-trace

Forewarned is forearmed.


Holds PhD in Packing
Posts: 267
Joined: September 26th, 2007
Location: San Cristobal Mexico currently

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  • Added on: March 27th, 2011
yeah, I didn't even bother looking for a pack that could lock. Unless it's a hard-sided suitcase with locking clasps (that can still be broken fairly easily) anyone who wants into a cloth or zippered bag will get in whether it's locked or not. Since my pack is one of my most expensive items (aside from my netbook) and the hardest to replace I just lock the pack itself to something so they can't take it but if they feel they need to steal they can take what's in it.
Traveling through Mexico and Central America starting in January '09. Hit me up if you want to meet!


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Began Gap Year Trip Six Years Ago
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Location: El Salvador

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  • Added on: March 27th, 2011
Never lock a bag when traveling, it just makes people think there is something valuable inside + locks only keep honest people out.

Carry a lock for hostel lockers though for netbook etc when out for the day.
"Being normal? Ugh. I can't imagine how awful that must be" unknown


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Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: April 18th, 2011

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  • Added on: April 18th, 2011
I'm a professional machinist by trade when I'm not tavelling - I have a good understanding of locks / problems related to locks...

Believe me, like busman7 said, forget about the stupid locks on packs or the even more attraction-getting pack-safe wire-mesh things...
even if the pack is sturdy, those tiny locks are picked about as fast as some people are with the proper key / combo...
The wire-mesh pack-save things are actually worse sure "cutting through the pack isn't quickly done...
unless I'm a thieve and maybe, just maybe have a wire-cutter (small size is plenty for that thing), or a lighter along... it's about as unsecured as having your hamster guard your house whilst you're gone...

and it just screams: "in this pack you will find important stuff".

And even worse are all those "TSA Friendly" locks ;) ... basically I don't even know why the come with keys....


Armchair Traveler
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Joined: October 5th, 2005

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  • Added on: May 8th, 2011
I've used locks on my zippers more to keep the zippers from unzipping (one time in Italy my old backpack unzipped and tried to spill the contents while I was running from the plane to the bus) more than to keep stuff safe, especially when I've (over)stuffed an old bag. I've also found that a less obvious method, if the zippers are looped fabric pulls, is to pull one through the other multiple times. The zippers are discouraged from unzipping, and it discourages casual unzipping, and it doesn't involve an actual lock.


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Thorn Tree Refugee
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Location: Earth

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  • Added on: July 14th, 2011
Locking zippers won't keep out a determined thief, but they don't even need to do the pen-and-zipper trick -- they can just cut the fabric with a knife. However, many acts of thievery are opportunistic. People who wouldn't normally commit such acts see an easy opportunity and, maybe just for dumb kicks, perhaps because they're drunk, decide to take advantage of it. This can be as simple as a fellow backpacker, drunk from a night out, deciding to take a look inside your bag for a laugh, just because they can.

So, while a locked zipper on your bag won't stop a serious thief (and given this, you shouldn't keep anything truly valuable inside it), it is a deterrent against opportunistic thief.

I do agree that the huge PacSafe backpack cages are not worth it. As said, they only draw attention to your bag, but more importantly for me, they're just too damned heavy. However, I do personally use and often recommend using the smaller PacSafe DaySafe bags for a laptop (see my post on how to lock a laptop) and other valuables if you don't have a safe to lock them in (or if you don't trust the safe). Again, they may not stop a determined thief, but they'll do a lot to stop anyone who's not expecting it.
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Location: Vancouver, BC.CA

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  • Added on: July 14th, 2011
kentchristopher, you are correct in that a thief can easily just slice your bag open, but sometimes the opportunistic individuals are not in the sketchy places you expect but rather in the places that you might think your belongings are most secure: TSA Agent Caught With Passenger's iPad in His Pants; Allegedly Took $50,000 in Other Goods, Cops Say

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