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Laptop Travel: Practical Tips To Protect From Theft, Damage, and Loss

by Kevin Allgood Oct 18, 2007

This is Part III of a four part series on laptop travel.

When traveling with a laptop, there’s a significant risk that it could fall victim to one of three potential disasters – lost, stolen or broken.

You don’t want to constantly clutch your laptop while exploring a new city or be afraid to let it out of your sight. But nothing can sour your day quite like having something expensive – like a laptop – get lost, stolen or broken on the road.

While even the best-laid plans may fail to prevent disaster, a few practical precautions can help safeguard your belongings – letting you keep your mind off your stuff, and on what matters most: your adventure.

I’ve divided these tips into the three categories, but of course there will be some overlap, as they tend to be interlocking parts of a general game plan to keep your laptop out of harm’s way.


For some reason I’d rather my laptop get lost or broken than stolen. There are a number of things you can do to decrease the odds of this happening to you.

First, you need to be aware of your surroundings. This is a general rule of traveling and it needs to be heightened slightly when carrying a laptop.

When selecting a case for your laptop, get something that doesn’t scream to everyone in the world that it’s for a laptop. Get a small form-fitting case and then carry it in your backpack or shoulder bag, along with your other valuables. Never let go of it when on the move.

I chose to travel with a Crumpler messenger bag, so I could easily sling the bag to my front when walking through crowds.

Whatever bag you choose, make sure you carry your laptop in a separate bag from your main pack. This way you never get separated from your most valuable possessions when jumping in buses, rickshaws, taxis, or donkey carts.

Whatever bag you choose, make sure you carry your laptop in a separate bag from your main pack.

Once you get settled into your room and are ready to go exploring, an accessory or two can keep your laptop from disappearing.

I chose to travel with a Pac-safe to protect my valuables, which is a large steel mesh net that slips over your pack, safeguarding it from slashing and keeping all but the smallest items inside.

It can also be secured to anything stationary or heavy, like a bed, table or overhead storage rack. Pac-safes are a little expensive and far from lightweight, but I enjoyed the peace of mind that came with it.

Another cheaper and lighter option if you’re only securing a laptop is a cable lock, which will fasten your laptop to a desk or table. If you bring your own padlock, you can take advantage of hostel lockers or safes.


Sometimes you are your own worst enemy. Traveling is not always a picnic, and the stress or confusion of a situation can make you forgetful.

Likewise, it’s easy to get distracted when you’re in the midst of an overwhelming experience.

At several points on our trip, both my girlfriend and I forgot bags full of goodies and walked away, unaware that they were still sitting on the chair in the restaurant, or under the table in the Internet cafe.

Fortunately, both times we got our belongings back – once because I remembered just in time and once because a nice employee chased us down; but they were close calls that happened well into our 11 month trip.

The best way to keep from losing your stuff is to be organized and develop a routine with your packing. If you know where stuff is supposed to be in your pack, then it will be harder to lose.

Also, if you always check for the same things when you get up to leave, you stand a better chance of remembering everything. Practice that heightened sense of awareness.


Unless you go with a Toughbook or some other “ruggedized” laptop, your computer is somewhat fragile.

Rough roads, rickety buses, people-swallowing potholes, sand, dust and moisture are all potential enemies of your laptop.

If your laptop is so fragile that you will be worried about it the whole time, you probably shouldn’t be taking it. But there are a few ways you can prevent it from taking too much abuse on the road.

If you keep your laptop in a separate backpack or shoulder bag, it will help you protect it from bumps and vibrations. Try keeping your bag on your lap to help dampen vibrations when traversing rough terrain.

Take a dry bag to protect your laptop from the elements. If you are in a sandy or extremely dusty environment, only use your laptop indoors, or if you must use it outside, watch for dust carefully.

Remember, don’t be so paranoid about your laptop that you let your concern detract from your adventures.

Just know that if you make the decision to bring a valuable tool with you on the road, you should take a few extra precautions to keep it safe.

Kevin Allgood and his girlfriend Valerie Marhsall are currently traveling around the world and blogging about it via Big Trip Blog. Their site also features some great vodcasts, travel tips and more.

Got any tips of your own to share? Leave a comment below!

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