How to Lock Hiking Backpacks: A Simple Guide [2021]

When you’re using a hiking backpack for heading out on the trails, going to visit a new state park, or maybe simply adventuring through a new area, you might not realize the risk that you are putting your belongings into.

It is possible that someone may want to (or even succeed at) stealing things from your hiking backpack!

No one wants to assume that your belongings can be at risk even when in the wilderness, but the simple fact is that your items could be stolen while you sleep, eat, or even use the bathroom.

If you learn how to lock hiking backpacks, you’ll be able to protect your belongings.

What are the Benefits of Locking Your Backpack

What are the Benefits of Locking Your Backpack?

Before we talk about how to lock your backpack, let’s briefly talk about the benefits of doing so.

As we noted earlier, locking your backpack ensures that no one can sneakily take anything out of your bag when you are not looking or if you have to leave it alone for a few moments.

While they could still take the bag, you can prevent small theft by using a lock on your backpack.

Don't miss our insanely useful list of the best hiking backpacks with laptop compartment.

Another reason to lock your backpack is to keep it from opening while you hike! While your bag should stay closed on its own, what’s wrong with a little extra security?

Therefore, locking your backpack will often keep it closed while simultaneously keeping anyone with sticky fingers from lifting anything out of your bag.

How to Lock Your Hiking Backpack?

Now that you know a little bit more about why people lock their hiking backpacks, let’s talk about the various methods you can use to do just that.

Each of these methods has its unique pros and cons, so you will want to take into consideration which method will work best for your bag and situation.

Choose a Lockable Bag

Some bags come pre-fitted with lockable zippers. The zipper pulls on these bags have a hole which runs through them.

This opening is just the right size for a small security lock to be put through the holes. This lock then holds the zipper together so that the bag compartment cannot be opened without the key.

Use a Cable Lock

Are you worried about someone walking off with your precious hiking backpack while you are setting up camp or using the bathroom? In these cases, a cable lock is your best choice.

Cable locks are super sturdy metal cables which would be wrapped through your straps and around an immovable object such as a tree. This makes it impossible for someone to just walk away with your bag.

These locks aren’t foolproof though because a dedicated thief could use a knife to cut the straps of your bag and slide the lock off.

For that reason, it is better to wrap the cable lock around multiple parts of the bag to make this prospect less tempting.

Choose the Right Design of Bag

Utilize Wrap-Around Netting

Another option that some hikers like to use is a type of wrap-around netting, either rope or metal, that makes it impossible to sneak into the pockets of your bag easily.

As the name implies, this netting simply goes around the entire bag. When used, it is still possible to get into your bag, but thieves will be likely to look elsewhere.

While metal netting is the most secure type to lock up your bag, it is also the heaviest to carry around.

Choose the Right Design of Bag

While this may not be possible if you have already bought your hiking backpack, another way to avoid being robbed is to avoid top-loading bags.

These bags typically do not have more than a drawstring closure on the top compartment, and that is a super easy target.

If you want to have security for your bag while traveling, avoiding these kinds of bags is the best way to gain it.

Use Zip Ties

While not practical if you have many compartments on your bag or you will want to get into your belongings frequently throughout the day, you can use zip ties to keep the zippers closed if you don’t want to invest in so many locks.

Zip ties are very cheap and can simply be cut off from the bag once you get to your destination.

Plus, if they are bigger, you can use them to attach your sleeping bag to your pack. 

That same simplicity also presents a problem though. Thieves, too, can simply cut them off, but you’ll be more likely to feel the cutting motion.

Deter, Don’t Prevent

The main thing to remember when you’re trying to figure out how to lock hiking backpack compartments is that your goal is not to prevent theft by making your bag impenetrable. Instead, your goal is to deter thieves from marking you as an easy target.

Determined thieves will always find an inventive way to steal something. If you make your bag look like more trouble than it is worth, you’ll be a less likely target, and that should be your goal!

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Asen Stoyanchev

Founder of this website, Asen is a passionate hiker and writer who is also a gear nerd. He’s been featured on many established hiking websites where he gives hiking advice & tips. When he is not trekking with his family or friends, he is writing articles and product reviews. Asen spends most of his time in Bulgaria but he constantly travels the world in seek of more unforgettable experiences. Read more about Asen here.

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Brian Perry - February 8, 2019

I definitely believe in deter, don’t prevent. If you are an easy target the thief is looking for that. No one wants to take more time than they have to when taking something for fear of getting caught. I actually have had more expensive bags that come with a lock but I almost like using a cable. Just like when I am out with my bike, a cable is not going to stop someone stealing, but it will make it harder to execute.

    Asen - February 8, 2019

    Hey Brian,

    This is exactly my point. If someone decides to steal something from you and he knows his stuff, then nothing can stop him. The thing is that one needs to do anything possible to prevent that or at least make the work of the thief difficult. I always like to lock my hiking backpack as well.

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