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28 Tips for Traveling With a Laptop and SLR Camera

Filed under: How-To / Resources / Solo Travel / Trip Planning By:

As a digital nomad I need to carry around more tech gear (SLR camera, laptop, hard drives, ipod) than most around the world backpackers. These items are invaluable to my existence and ability to run a location independent business. However, I’m often found in situations where I’m left with little or no protection for my gear. There are many times where I just don’t want to carry it around, but at the same time, I want it to be safe from theft.

In an attempt to keep my Mac Book Pro laptop and Nikon D90 SLR camera and lenses safe I had to take many precautions during my travels to over 11 countries so far.  Not all hostels have lockers and with a shared room you don’t know who could be going through your stuff. Especially, if you’ve been seen around the hostel working on your laptop or taking photos.  I need my laptop for survival as a digital nomad so I must carry it. If you can’t face losing your laptop or camera gear then don’t bring it with you. Otherwise, be prepared. I’ve developed a system to keep my stuff safe, enjoy these tips and tricks to prevent digital disasters!

Be Prepared

  1. Use a well-made padded case that is generic in design to carry your laptop in. You don’t want to attract attention to your laptop so don’t get a wild design with bright colors. Find a plain black or other neutral color case.
  2. Get a decent backpack to carry your laptop and/or camera gear in. You want support and something that is functional for your needs, but at the same time you don’t want to get something that portrays wealth.  Again, find something with neutral colors and is generic looking on the outside. If you get a bag with all the bells and whistles it sends off an expensive signal that attracts thief’s. Same goes for wild colors and outrageous designs. PacSafe makes theft deterrent backpacks that are slash proof. Check them out here: Pacsafe Daysafe 100 Anti-Theft Backpack, Pacsafe Daysafe 200 Anti-Theft Computer Backpack, and the Pacsafe MetroSafe 350 Daypack.
  3. Rip off the designer labels such as Nikon or Canon off your gear/backpack and scruff up your backpack. Do not use the camera strap that came with the camera instead buy a generic one that doesn’t advertise Canon or Nikon on it. Or you can Deter Thieves by Uglifying Your Camera. (Thanks Amy & Kieron)
  4. Get the smallest computer you need for what you’ll be doing. If you’re only updating your blog then a small netbook will suffice. If you’re doing high-end design work, then you might need that mac book pro. In that case, get the smallest screen size you can handle.
  5. Bring a small combination lock for lockers. If your hostel has a locker big enough for your backpack, use it. Never leave your laptop unattended. If you do, you’re giving someone the opportunity to take advantage of the situation and steal it.
  6. Protect your cords and chargers the same way you would protect your computer. I left my chargers on my hostel bed and they were gone within a few hours. Why someone would steal chargers is beyond me. Lock up all your electronic items, including chargers. These items can be expensive to replace depending on where you are.  At the Nikon store a replacement charger cost me $60, only to lose it 3-weeks later.
  7. Use a PacSafe backpack cover. Not all hostels have lockers which makes it difficult to lock your items up safely while you’re away. A PacSafe will cover your entire bag with a wire mesh that is impossible to cut.  It also has a feature that allows you to lock it to immovable objects (like your bed, a pole, or a seat) This ensures that nobody will be going through your bag and stealing random items while you’re away. It is also useful when you are on buses. You can latch your backpack to your seat and be able to rest without worry. The PacSafe was invaluable to me on long journeys.
  8. Be conscious of when and where you bring out your laptop and/or camera gear. If you are going down a dangerous alley, it’s best to put it away out of sight. Don’t pull it out on bus rides to type up a blog entry (who knows who’s watching you – and wants to catch you off guard). Remember the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind.” What they don’t see, they don’t know you have.
  9. Be aware of your surroundings. Be watchful of people watching you, following you, or acting suspicious. When in doubt, get to a public area or walk into a store. Get there as quick as you can! However, being in a public area does not mean nothing will happen.
  10. Bring a friend. If you are going to go on a photo walk around the city with your SLR camera gear find someone to go with you. It’s better to travel in pairs with expensive gear so that it makes it slightly more intimidating to rob you.
  11. Change your memory cards often and put them in your pocket (not your bag). When you are going on a photo walk in public places you could be robbed of your camera gear.  It happens. By placing your memory cards in your pocket (not in your tech gear backpack or bag), at the very least you still have your photographs if your bag is somehow stolen.
  12. When in transit, put your memory cards in your pocket if the photos have not been downloaded yet. Sometimes we let our guard down. If your bags are rummaged through on the bus/train/plane and your camera is stolen your photos will be safe with you. I heard over and over again from travelers that they didn’t care about the stolen camera, just the photos.
  13. Be careful on buses where you put your backpack. If you put it on the floor, sometimes thief’s get under the seats and go through your bags. If you put it in the overhead bin, the someone could grab it on their way out when you’re not looking. For these reasons always put it in your lap. This is where the PacSafe comes in handy because you can attach it to the overhead bin or under your seat and with the slash proof wire mesh to keep your tech items are safe.
  14. Never put your tech backpack under the bus or in checked luggage. When your bag is out of your sight, you have NO idea what could be done with it. Always keep your backpack with your laptop and SLR camera with you during transit.
  15. If someone strikes up a conversation with you and asks probing questions like, “Where are you staying?” lie. Do not tell them the hostel you’re staying in or any information about yourself. When you leave be sure that you are not being followed.
  16. When you buy a laptop, try to get one with international warranty. When you travel, anything can go wrong. You want to make sure that you are able to get your laptop fixed via warranty if available.
  17. If you do not have a safe place to put your laptop hide it between mattresses on your bed.
On the plane to another destination

On the plane to another destination

How to Protect Your Laptop Data

Now that we’ve covered all the great ways to keep your laptop and SLR camera safe when using them in public, let’s talk about data. The most important thing our laptops and cameras have is the data they hold. The data is invaluable to us. They may have client files, decades of photos, word documents, and other important files. If your laptop or camera is stolen, the biggest loss is the data. The actual laptop or SLR camera can be easily replaced with money, the data can’t.

  1. Download your photos daily. I know it’s a lot of extra work, but download your photos daily. Anything can happen at any time so it’s best to empty your memory cards as often as possible. I met many travelers who didn’t download their photos at all and when their camera was stolen they lost months of photos. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather lose a days worth of photos rather than a weeks, a months, or a years.
  2. Have an external hard drive with a back-up of all your important data. If your laptop is stolen, you’ve still got your data.
  3. Never store the hard drive in the same place as your laptop and/or SLR camera. If your tech backpack is stolen, you’ve lost everything. If you have the hard drive in another safe place (away from your laptop), you’ve saved your data.
  4. When in transit carry your external hard drive in your pocket on you. It’s small enough. You don’t want to place it in your checked baggage and you want it separate from your laptop and SLR camera, so keep it on you.
  5. Use a rugged external hard drive. Your hard drive will get beaten up just by being in your backpack as it’s tossed around the world. It pays to have a hard drive that can sustain a hit. I use the Lacie Rugged All-Terrain hard drive. It sustained every hit you could imagine.
  6. Secure your data. If you have sensitive data for your location independent business password protect your data or utilize Lacie’s Rugged All-Terrain SAFE hard drive. This hard drive provides multiple layers of data protection including biometric authentication (finger scanning).
  7. Every month, copy all of your new data to a USB drive or burn dvds and mail it to a safe holding place back home. You can never have enough back-up plans. Ask anyone who has lost their data from several data storage places. It will be worth it’s weight in gold, should something happen.
  8. Utilize an online back-up system. The best way to keep your data safe and easily accessible in case something happens is to upload your data to a server. The company I use is Mozy.  Mozy provides 2GB of Free Online Backup and if you need more space then it’s only $4.95/Month for Unlimited Backup.  I know that when you travel to 3rd world countries the internet is not always the fastest or most reliable especially when your dealing with large files. Upload in small batches each night as you take new photos or have new data to protect. If your files are too large then go to a major city every month. Large cities, even in 3rd world countries, usually have faster internet speeds. Get a private room (so that you can leave your laptop uploading while your sleeping or away from your room) at a hostel or hotel with wifi and upload your month’s data overnight. It’s only for one-day and likely isn’t that much more than a shared room. Worse case scenario you lose a month’s worth of data. However, if you use all of the methods above, your data will be safe somewhere.
  9. Keep your laptop clean. Do not have your internet browser save all of your passwords. This is a sure-fire way to give the thief access to information you don’t want them to have.

You may not think all this precaution is necessary, but you will regret not taking action when something happens. I do. I learned my lesson when I lost all my photos from Fiji and Machu Picchu. Implementing these very tactics will not only save your data, but give you piece of mind. It’s not out of the ordinary for something to happen to your original and a back-up.

Use a Tracking Application for your laptop, iphone, or ipod touch.

Most travel insurance will not cover laptops or have very low limits ($500) so should it get stolen, you are shit out of luck. However, there is another option. You can install a theft recovery application on your laptop, iphone, and/or ipod touch before you leave for your trip.  The small price you pay for these applications will pay for themselves should something happen.

There are several applications to choose from:

How Undercover Works:

If your laptop is stolen you log on to the designated website and report it as stolen.  Next time the machine is turned-on the software is activated. The application begins taking screenshots of your machine in use along with mug-shots of the thief using the built in camera and sends them back to you. The screenshots can help give you information about the thief especially if they log into facebook or other similar website. It will also geolocate your machine within 10 or 20 feet when it is using a wifi or internet connection.  You then take this information to the police which can help you recover your laptop. Should this plan fail the application moves to Plan B.  When you flip the switch for plan b Undercover simulates a hardware fault, gradually darkening the screen so the machine appears unusable. Hopefully, the thief will bring it in for repair and you can activate lock-down which displays a message that tells users it’s a stolen machine.

Password Protect your Laptop

Password protect your machine so that you can protect your account and data on your laptop. However, make a nonpassword guest account so that it makes it easy for the theft to use your computer. If you have a theft application, like Undercover, you want them to use the computer so it can give you the data you need for recovery. Be sure to use a strong password that does not use real words, birth dates, names, or phone numbers. In order to come up with a password I can remember I find a phrase or quote and use the first letter from each word and capitalize a random letter plus a number that has significance to that phrase. ie: (“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” = twiAbatwdntroop1884)

Buy Insurance

If you’re a professional photographer it is easy to find insurance for your camera and laptop. On my trip to South America I was given insurance for my SLR camera and laptop via an insurance company. However, that insurance went away when they realized they made a mistake with my account.  Currently, there are very few options for insurance but Brook from Brooks on Break found insurance for his gear through State Farm.

This post contains affiliate links for Mozy and Amazon
Tags: / / / / / / / / / November 10, 2010

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  • Leah G Fulford

    I had an incident in Paris where I left my camera at a cafe. When I came back, the camera was there but the memory disk was not! Because my camera was worth far less than the 8GB memory card, they took that and three weeks worth of memories with them!

    I give you this little anecdote because I think even just regular or sub-par cameras need the same attention as your professional one.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Leah, I totally agree. My small camera was stolen from me while I was sleeping on a bus. I was really upset because it was my Inca Trail and Machu Picchu photos. If I had taken out the memory card, I’d at least of had that! Most of the camera tips apply to small cameras as well.

  • http://www.fromindia--withlove.blogspot.com Kay* at from india. with love.

    some really really great tips here. that ‘undercover’ software in particular sounds brilliant! i’m moving to india for a year and most of the traveling i’ll be doing will be internal or to neighbouring countries – and it’s something i’ll definitely be looking into.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yes. I’m going to get the undercover software unless I get insurance. I’m working with an insurance company that might write a policy for us backpackers, which would be awesome!!!

  • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

    Jenny,

    You have no idea how timely and helpful this article is for me! I’m preparing for my upcoming trip (India/Southeast Asia/South Pacific) and this will be my first time taking my MacBook with me.

    I had debated for a long time whether to take it or not, but similar to you, it gives me the possibility to do web/design work while while travelling, especially if I decide to travel for longer and gives me a way to fund a longer stay.

    I’m still nervous about taking my computer with me, but your tips have at least given me a plan to keep it safe! I’ve taken my DSLR travelling before, so I’m not as nervous about that since I’ve already done it :)

    Both me and my MacBook (his name is “Bravo”) thank you for these safety tips!
    - Lily

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Lily,
      I’m SO happy that the article was helpful and timely for you! Don’t worry about taking Bravo with you, he’ll be fine! Plus, providing an income for more travel is very important and worth the hassle to take Bravo with you. So jealous your going to South East Asia and South Pacific. Where in the South Pacific are you going and when do you leave?

  • http://twitter.com/Nomad_Student Jessalyn Pinneo

    Jenny, these are tips are invaluable. Thank you so much for this post!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Your Welcome!

  • http://www.BrooksOnBreak.com Brooks

    These are really great tips Jenny! I’ve employed almost everyone of these and have never had an incident…knocking on wood :) I don’t really like the pacsafe backpacks much for comfort, but have always carried the travelsafe pouch which I just slip into my backpack. It’s invaluable and provides such piece of mind when I don’t want to carry everything. I just leave it locked to the bed, the sink, or whatever in my room. The other thing I am doing for this trip is I’ve slid my hard laptop case into a thin waterproof bag from outdoor research (adds no weight or bulk). That way if I’m out walking around for the day and the skies open up, I don’t have to fret. :) ) Thanks for the link and the mention!!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yes. I use the waterproof bags as well. Keeping my laptop safe from dust and water was definitely a priority.

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  • http://poortravelblogger.com Poor Travel Blogger

    Thank you for this wonderful post Jenny. I take care with my data by having a backup hard drive but I also don’t have too much to be worried about. I used to be a pro photographer but I knew I wouldn’t want to take my SLR + lenses with me due to the weight factor and that it draws attention. I opted for a point and shoot camera that still takes decent photos and it has video function. I can’t really complain. Yeah there are some scenes that I wish I had my expensive SLR to take photos of, but I’ll live. My netbook is used and cost me a whole $100. I won’t cry too much if it goes missing but I still keep a watchful eye on it. The pacsafe sounds like a wonderful investment. I’ll have to look into buying it (I’ll use your link ;-) ).

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks! Having my SLR camera is important to me. I use it to make money by selling them on microstock sites. Not a lot of money, but enough to make it worthwhile to me, plus I really enjoy doing it! I LOVE having candid photos from my point and shoot and I also LOVE having amazing photos to show where I’ve been… plus it’d be good to feature on the blog!
      :)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this really great article, Jenny. This is the kind of thing I was definitely wondering about– how to keep your laptop safe while abroad.. I will definitely check out the tracking software for Macs as well as the Pacsafe. If these check out, I might end up taking my Mac abroad with me. Great getting to read someone experienced like you!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Your welcome Ryan… your post got me inspired to get off my ass, finish writing it, and post it!!!

      Pac Safe was awesome. It is a little heavy, but well worth the piece of mind.

  • Anonymous

    Great tips. Traveling with expensive crap is expensive. We are wedding photographers so I’ve done my fair share of it. I always bring my camera around with me everywhere, even though my bag is really heavy with a couple of lenses and flash and all that jazz. I’m just always too scared to leave it behind. So I end up having to pay for neck massages once a week so that I can move my head because my back/neck get so stiff from carrying it all around!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I can definitely relate to how much it sucks carrying around such heavy gear. I HATED it, but after wards, the photos made it all worth wile.

  • http://twitter.com/OrdinaryTravelr Ordinary Traveler

    I never let my camera bag out of my sight and always lock it up when I’m sleeping on buses or trains. I didn’t know about the tracking applications for laptops. That’s pretty cool. I know this won’t work for long term travelers, but my rental insurance covers theft of my laptop and camera when traveling.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yeah for long-term travelers, there isn’t much insurance for camera/laptop equipment. I was very lucky when I had my policy last-time. I could get it again, but the price is much higher since I’m not a member of the photography association.

  • http://twitter.com/OverYonderlust Erica Kuschel

    Since this is Shaun and my first real backpacking trip, it seems as though I’m so behind on what I need to know. I am a tech nerd and this has provided seriously invaluable advice. Thank you so much Jenny!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Your welcome. Glad it helped.

  • http://budgettravelerssandbox.com Nancie (Ladyexpat)

    Great post. I ran out of memory on my external hard drive when I was traveling this summer and my laptop could not hold all my photos. I bought a flash drive, which wasn’t enough. Trying to keep track of photos was a bit of a nightmare. I actually lost a memory card with hundreds of shots. This has taught me to double check my electronic gear before I leave, and I am going to limit the number of memory cards I use. I figure fewer is better. I didn’t miss the memory card until long after it was gone because I had too many in my bag. I travel with a Loewpro camera/computer bag, which I like.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Data. Lots of data. I take tons of photos, so I needed a pretty big hard drive for just 5 months. Now, just 2 years later, the drives are smaller and hold more data… so that’s good news. You may need to carry around more than one, which wouldn’t be so bad given the size. It’s good to only have a few memory cards that way you are always downloading your shots, rather than being lazy and just using the ones that are still available. Have enough though so when you go on 5-day hikes you can take as many photos as you like since you’ll be without a place to download.

  • Jamiepdavy

    some great advice. another pack option is available from burton. its good because on the outside it doesnt look like a camera pack at all, but on the inside its all neatly laid out for all your lenses and whatever else.
    cheers, jamie from http://www.cloudpeopleadventures.com

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yeah many of the camera bags are made to look like regular back-packs, which is what I got. I think mine was a lower-pro and held up well through my journey.

  • http://thefrenchway.wordpress.com John in France

    Valuable advice! I’m off to buy a Tracking Application software now!! Thanks.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      :) Glad you learned something!

  • http://www.berlin.net.au Greg

    Hey Jenny… Some really good tips here, thanks for sharing. Most of them i’ve learned on my travels myself, but will definitely be checking out the pacsafe bag net thing (I’ve seen them, but never got one myself.. how heavy are they)… and the Undercover software (I often wonder about the implications of losing my laptop… its insured, but the data, even if its backed up, could be dangerous in the wrong hands). With backups i always have a full backup of my laptop on an external drive, which i keep in a separate bag from my gear bag, for the reasons you mentioned. I might try get a bit more organised next trip and get offsite backups going.. another great option is CrashPlan – sameish price as Mozy, but it can backup to both an external drive, and offsite in the same application – makes managing backups much easier.

    Next trip I’m doing is going to be tricky. Not only do I have a new (heavier) camera – Canon 5D Mark II, and bigger Macbook (15″ instead of 13″ which i destroyed by spilling apple juice all over it)… i’ll also be carrying scuba gear around with me. To be honest i’m not entirely sure if i’m going to pull it all off, but i cant imagine getting by without it all, especially for the 2-3 years i plan to be on the road.

    All the little articles like this one i come across give me more ideas on how best to prepare, so again, thanks :)

    Happy travels!
    Greg

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      The pacsafe bag net thingy is kinda heavy. I mean its a big wire mesh, however for me, it was worth the piece of mind to have my bag protected and chained to my seat while I was sleeping on the bus. I didn’t have to worry at all.

      OMG. I can’t imagine carrying all the stuff you are… I’m taking my skateboard, my camera (D90/3 lenses/flash), and my 15 macbookpro. but SCUBA gear? I did that ONCE. It was in Vanuatu and I was stuck on a ship volunteering for a good portion of the time. I liked having it, but I hate traveling with it even though I only moved around 4 or 5 times within the 2 months I was there. If I were you I would dump the SCUBA gear, it’s nothing you can’t rent! Maybe just bring your goggles.

  • Anonymous

    Really good tips Jenny. Since we travel with our office, we have become experts at backing up, backing up our back-ups and then backing all that shit up to the cloud.

    When we lived in Quito, I dropped – and shattered – our external HD. Simply put – instant diarrhea. I thought we had lost all of our music and movies (which were so plentiful as to only fit on the external HD). We found a guy in town who was able to get the data off, but we learned a valuable lesson.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yup. We all learn the hard way! ;) Glad you were able to save the data!

  • http://www.thetravellerworldguide.com @_thetraveller_

    ahhh memory card in your pocket! thats a good one!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks!!!

  • http://www.donteverlookback.com Amy & Kieron

    I’m bringing my Macbook Pro and DSLR + Lenses on our RTW so this was a great article and will definitely be following a lot of these tips. Thanks!

    I might have to ditch the Lowepro backpack and invest in something more generic! Some other advice I recently read was to cover up the expensive labels so you’re not flashing Nikon, Canon or Apple everywhere.

    Or you could always do this to your camera – http://lifehac.kr/9JavFx

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I had a lowerpro backpack and it wasn’t super flashy. It worked well for it’s purposes.

      I forgot to add the tip about taking off all the nice labels… Going to modify the article now.

      I LOVE that article! hahaha how funny.

  • Wayne

    forget mozy.com, I use adrive.com, 50 gigs of free space!! Thought I’d save you some $$ :)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks for the tip!

  • http://puttylike.com/ Emilie Wapnick

    Thanks Jenny. That’s some solid, comprehensive advice. I was also wondering just logistically, if there’s a way to travel with a laptop without having to bring a second bag? Or a way to make that second bag not become a hassle?

    I would love to just have my one monster backpack on my back and not have to hold anything else as I hop on and off of trains. One bag would be ideal, because really, carrying a monster backpack and slinging a smaller backpack with laptop over your shoulder is quite annoying.

    But then I run into the problem of day trips. What if I want to just bring my lap top to a cafe to work for a few hours? Stuffing a small backpack with lap top into a larger one doesn’t seem to work. It doesn’t fit very nicely and then you’ve got your lap top IN your big bag, which is problematic security-wise. Is there a solution to this problem?

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      You could get one of those fold-up bags that will fit inside of your backpack. For this trip I want to fit everything into one backpack too, so I’m going to downsize. It was difficult carrying two bags (one on your back, the other strapped to your chest) around, but tons of backpackers do it. I liked having two bags though so that I could put all my valuables with me on bus trips and put the rest under the bus… but for walking around town from hostel to hostel or in between places it’s easier to have just one… so you have to carry less in your big pack to make room for all those items to be stored there if needed, you could just strap the empty backpack to the back of your other pack when not in use though.

  • http://www.yTravelBlog.com/ yTravelBlog

    Wow! Great information here Jenny. So happy I have people so in the know for this stuff to help me out. :)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks guys!!!! :)

  • http://www.backpackforever.com Tran

    Had not heard of the tracking application. Great advice. Thx for posting!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Your welcome!

  • Globetrottergirls

    These tips are fantastic!! After losing an SD card with 600 pictures on it, I learned to upload my photos onto my netbook every day the very hard way. Will look into the online storage, definitely a great idea for a safe back-up.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yeah I learned the hard way as well! It sucks. Bad.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    I have a macbook Pro and a solid backpack that I carry it in. I travel to a lot of conferences.. I had a nice leather briefcase (it was damn sexy). But really, it wasn’t very effective because I couldn’t carry my camera gear, cords, etc. so I’m sticking with the backpack.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I wouldn’t want to carry with a leather briefcase… your right they don’t fit camera gear well. Nowadays there are backpacks that can hold both your laptop and camera/lenses.

  • http://www.globotreks.com Norbert

    Pretty damn good tips Jenny. I sometimes even use my Gmail as a “server” (just when necessary and with small batches of info) since it has a good capacity and it’s pretty accessible. adrive.com seems to work pretty good too.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks Norbert!

  • http://bayareamija.wordpress.com/ asalvesen

    You have all the bases covered! I had not heard of PacSafe before, but it sounds brilliant. Also, I would not have thought to set up a guest account so the thief could potentially be caught using a theft application. Two tips I’m definitely following that would not have necessarily occurred to me are keeping my memory cards on me and not leaving my charger out where – for whatever reason – someone can snatch it. Thanks, Jenny!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Glad you learned something from the article. :)

      Beware where you leave your chargers out, especially ipod chargers. Backpackers love those. Sometimes in hostels you can ask the receptionist to charge your stuff while you’re away. That way it’s not out in the open, in a free-for-all.

  • http://www.lengthytravel.com/ JB

    I haven’t used the Pacsafe personally but I do use and recommend a laptop lock, basically a secure cable with loop on one end and lock which attaches to the security slot found on almost all laptops. Usually you can find something secure to attach it to in any room. I do recommend getting a model with a combination lock rather than a key lock. Mine coils up nice and compact so I just keep it stored in my laptop sleeve pocket for ready access.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I haven’t tried a laptop lock yet. Might have to try one. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • http://www.travelingwithsweeney.com Cathy Sweeney

    Very helpful, comprehensive tips! Thanks for the information about the tracking applications. I’m definitely going to look into that.

    I like #4 “Get the smallest computer you need for what you’ll be doing” – with the last part of the sentence being very important! A couple years ago, I just went out and bought the smallest & lightest I could find with enough disk space and speed. Unfortunately, the screen was way too small to do all of the editing and formatting work I was doing. Learned the hard way….

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      There is no way I can go from a 23 inch monitor doing design work to a 13 inch. Maybe one day, but for now baby steps!!! With design and editing work, screen size is important real estate!

  • http://www.myfjordz.com/ fjordz

    Nice tips you have here. Will definitely take note of these. Thanks for sharing especially that PacSafe stuff! :)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Your welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://twitter.com/HazelCaballero Hazel Caballero

    Bookmarked! I always have a mental battle right before I travel – to bring or not to bring! :D My dSLR takes the photos I need, but catch too much attention, and bringing the MBP puts works files at risk. My dream travel solution is an iPad and maybe a micro four-thirds camera, but as that’s an additional cost, doing the stuff you talk about here is very helpful, thanks much!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I would take the risky files off the MBP or encrypt them. If it makes sense to travel with a laptop do it, if not leave it at home.

      The hassle of taking my DSLR all fades away when I come home with beautiful photographs. I wouldn’t trade what I did for the world. Those photos are priceless.

  • http://atrampabroad.com A Tramp Abroad

    Great post! I’m currently traveling around the world. So far I’ve mostly rented apartments and stayed in hotels, but as I begin my journey in SE Asia, I’ll be staying in some hostels, etc. I work on the go and carry loads of equipment with my: Mac, Nikon, etc. I’ve been quite worried about feeling confident in the safety of my stuff but you’ve put me at ease a bit. These are good tips!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks!!! Happy Travels! I’m a little jealous of your upcoming SE Asia adventure.

  • Zalopho

    “If you do not have a safe place to put your laptop hide it between mattresses on your bed” Thanks. If this ever was a good idea, the thieves just read your ruination of it. Who are you helping?

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      The point was to not leave it out in the open and find a place to hide it out of sight.

  • http://www.llworldtour.com Lisa | LLWorldtour

    Awesome list Jenny! I used a bunch of these on my RTW trip and otherwise was SUPER lucky b/c my DSLR, tiny (and trusty) Dell laptop (pre-netbooks!) and gear, all came home with me!! I too always had my gear pack with me or on my lap and backed up and did made DVDs (and sent them home) when i could.

    I didn’t do the wire mesh bag–just decided it was too heavy to deal with but did always find a way to lock up my bag.
    One thing, even when in a private room, i still put everything away and locked my bag closed. Corruption runs rampant, so it doesn’t stop at hotels!

    I have been thinking of starting to use something like Mozy–thanks for the recommendation.
    And i’m about to drop some cash on the Canon 60D so will definitely be looking into that insurance! I’m also getting a Macbook Pro, but will be leaving that at home and bringing the small beat-up Dell instead. :P

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I understand that the hotel staff isn’t always honest, but I never left my laptop out in the open… I would hide it running somewhere in the room and leave the do not disturb sign on my door. I think it would be quite noticeable IF it went missing and they would know who cleaned your room that day… it wouldn’t be hard to figure out who did it. A slight risk, I took.
      :)

  • http://www.1yearsabbatical.com Matt

    Excellent information. Many of these tips I already practice but you offered up some new ones that are fantastic. I definitely want to check out the Pacsafe as I’m always nervous about my camera gear. I had never heard of something like that before. For carrying my gear I love my LowePro CompuTrekker. Fits all my gear plus laptop and it’s not all that flashy. I’m curious how you like the Lacie drives? I’ve heard mixed reviews.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I haven’t tried the Lacie SAFE drive, but I have the Lacie Rugged. This thing sustained being thrown around in my bag, dropped from tables, stepped on, and fell down a flight of stairs. It never once glitched and still works to this day over 2 years later! I bought the drive based on a rugged hard drive test I read online that tested the durability of so-called “rough” hard drives and it outperformed the others by taking hits 3-4 times higher and harder and still remained working whereas the others broke/lost data. If I remember correctly it was ran over by a car, dropped from 15 feet and was still working whereas the others stopped working after a 5 foot drop. I swear by that Lacie Rugged drive and will purchase a larger one for my upcoming trip. I only recommended products/companies I’ve used in this article with exception of the Theft Software.

  • Bruce Levick

    I have exactly the same equipment and have followed almost all these tips last year while traveling to third world countries. Awesome tips.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks Bruce!

  • http://richardtede.livejournal.com/746.html richardtede

    great tips for every one traveling with the laptop and expensive digital cameras …. always keep memory cardds free so tht i can take pictures and made my any trip memorable …

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks Richard

  • http://twitter.com/robinschroffel Robin Schroffel

    Great tips! I’ve been lazy about switching out my Nikon strap but am gonna get on it ASAP. Also, I always carry a lens-cleaning pen; they’re tiny, affordable and invaluable if your DSLR manages to get in the way of dust or accidental splashes.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yeah, I usually carry a small cleaning kit because the camera can get dirty so easily. The camera strap is pretty important… thieves know Nikon and Canon mean expensive cameras!

  • Kerry-Ann

    Very indepth post. I often way up the cost of using my SLR vs my small digital camera when away – in South America i got good pics with the little camera, it hid in my pocket and i didn’t feel uncomfortable. It amazes me how many travellers don’t back up their work, don’t have a contingency plan and then cry when it all goes bad.

  • http://hessiess.com Hessiess

    Thanks for the tips. However I will say that simply password protecting data is not enough. OS level passwords are TRIVIAL to get around. This can be done using a Live CD which boots a different OS from a cd, COMPLETELY IGNORING any security features in the main OS.

    For security you need to encrypt the whole hard drive using a good cypher (i.e. AES256) and a strong, random password.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks for elaborating on one of my tips!!! :)

  • http://www.tantujin.com TJ

    Hi Jenny, I came to your site from some other blog, and I just want to say I’m glad your life worked out the way it did. I’ve read about a lot of other people and your story inspires me the same way. Thanks for sharing your story (and all the tips that you have)!
    TJ

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks TJ! I hope that you will be on the road soon!

  • http://www.bicycle-touring.com BillF

    I don’t travel much, but when I do it’s likely via bicycle, for months at a time. And weight’s a real issue on a bike (with some folks shortening the handle of their toothbrush to reduce weight!). For my first two bike trips, I took my big-ass SLR and zoom. And of course got fine photos. But I finally sold that beast, and my last trip (Istanbul to the Sinai) was with a $140 entry-level digital. I hate to admit it, but the small size and weight were a joy. I also feel that locals reacted less to my “tourist-type” camera, allowing me to get pictures that I might not have been able to take.

    As a bicyclist watching load-weight, I do not have the option of slice-proof bags. But I do use zippered panniers versus clips, and I carry a 4-foot long piece of very thin link-chain – just thick enough to not be able to break by yanking. I use this chain to padlock everything to everything – the panniers to the bicycle to the bed/chair/whatever. My logic here is that at least I am not the softest target in the area.

  • http://migrationology.com Migrationology

    Appreciate these security tips! I previously carried very few electronics when traveling, but I have recently upgraded and need to take some security precautions. I will especially look into Undercover, sounds like a great idea!

  • http://twitter.com/mukuba2002 zablon mukuba

    great tips, i especially like “Rip off the designer labels such as Nikon or Canon off your gear/backpack and scruff up your backpack.” i do this personally to detract thieves and unwanted attention

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  • http://priyank.com/travel/ Priyank

    Hi Jenny! This article was of tremendous help! I am going backpacking in Mexico soon and I need to take my macbook. This is just the thing. Thanks.

  • http://www.adventurebimbling.com/ Andrew Murray

    I just have to decide which one to take now. Laptop or camera… Laptop or camera…
    I just can’t make my mind up, there kinda both essential to this gig :(

  • CanCan

    Mosy is good for backing up your home computer files too. We had a computer and 2 external hard drves stolen while we were away in Vietnam. Thank goodness 2 kids worth of baby pics, 7 years in Laos, 1 year in china and other various vaycays were on mozy!!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712146043 Christopher Allen

    Great points. I’ll use some of them. I have discovered on my travels that people are very interested in my camera and my camera case.

    On another topic, the floating Twitter, FB, SU Like box on the left blocks the first couple of words of the text. It makes it really hard to read the article.

  • http://www.orlandovacationhotels.com Alice

    Wonderful tips! Practical and safe, people should really consider the luggage they use when they are carrying laptops and SLRs.

  • http://foxnomad.com Anil

    For online backup, I’d also suggest Crashplan – they let you (snail)mail them DVDs of your data if you take a lot of high res photos and want to avoid long uploads without your pictures safeguarded.

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  • http://www.TravelingGreener.com Travelinggreener

    Brilliant tips! Thanks so much for these – I’m going to send them around to adventure traveler friends.

  • http://locationvillacalpe.locationvillaespagne.com/findAllVillas.php?filter=Calpe&lang=fr location vacances calpe

    Hats off to the one who wrote this terrific post…All the tips and tricks to protect or to carry your laptop as well as the SLR camera are the fantastic ones….I have bookmark this blog so that i can come back here again..

  • http://www.colorfulplaces.com Bluegreen Kirk

    I really like the taking off the names of the makers of your stuff.  Most people don’t want something they don’t deem as valuable or re-sellable.  Taking off the straps is simply a must and a simple bag that doesnt attract attention is a must. 

  • http://www.unframedworld.com/ Lori – The Unframed World

    I loved your tip about the anti theft software. I had no idea it existed and it was really funny to read about all protection measures that the thefts would run into. Cool stuff!

  • http://www.delapuravida.com Erin in Costa Rica

    Great tips! I’m just now seeing this, thought I would add that my gear is covered under my Homeowner’s Insurance plan. I own a home and am renting it out – there is an option to tack on property coverage for the stuff I lug with me to Costa Rica and take while traveling. It’s not expensive either. Like 10 or 20 dollars more a year, can’t remember the exact amount. I’m using Traveler’s, but I bet other companies offer the same, too. 

  • http://twitter.com/fotoeins Henry Lee

    Jenny, thanks for your tips!  I found this post from Kristin’s (TBYT) blogpost about her collection of best RTW travel planning articles.  I’m reading as much as I can before I embark on my own RTW next year.  I think I’ll need some heavy-duty “cloud storage”: every time I’m out with a camera, I’ll crush 2 GB, and often easily reach 4 GB of data per shooting session.  I’m also expecting to shoot at least once per week, which would put me at 10-20 GB per month, or as much as 500 GB for the year.  I’m looking for alternatives, even though I can already carry pocket-sized 1TB-disks.  Thanks again for the wealth of tips!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Awesome. Glad you got a lot out of the article!

  • http://vimeo.com/hannanhanarbek Hannan Hanarbek

    Hi Jenny, whats up?

    I was looking for tips how to pass custom checking with electronics gadgets and it brings me here. Did you declare your gadgets upon entry?

    My last travel to Tokyo (netbook, mouse, external HD, compact camera, dslr video camera (nex-vg10), external shotgun mic, universal adapter, lots of wire and charger, even i bring along extension cord) i did not declare anything and its everything is fine.

    I just I read a book regarding traveling with electronics gadget and custom declaration and how you may get problems if you don’t declare them. 

    I’m making a short documentary about my traveling and I’m planning to do more.

    That was my first travel with those gadgets. Can you share your experience?

    Regards,
    Hannan Hanarbek

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I have never declared my gadgets upon entry because they are for personal use. I don’t see a need to declare unless you are bringing them into the country to sell.

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  • Lisa S Gleason

    I have that pillow!  And love it!

  • http://www.allornothingtraveler.com/ Jared Loftus

    Thanks a lot! I’ll be traveling through Europe this summer with an SLR and a big macbook, so I will definitely be utilizing a lot of this. 

  • http://www.camerabackpackreviews.org/ Ben – Camera Backpack Reviews

    This is an amazing post!  Came across it doing some research and I love it!  I hadn’t thought about the parts about securing your camera backpack with scruffing it up a bit and making it look as generic as possible.   Hope you don’t mind I’m including it in my list of tips (and I’ll credit this blog post and give a link).  Love your writing style too, can’t wait to read more when i get a chance :)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

       Thanks glad this post was able to help you!! : ]

  • http://www.privatejetcharterprices.com/italy/ Benn

    Hi Jenny, It’s not often you come across travel tips for those travelling with laptops. I liked your point about carrying your laptop in an unbranded and low-key case. Padding like you said is definitely a must.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fintanmcgivern Fintan Mc Givern

    Great & detailed post. I’m about to travel around South America and was keen to take my macbook pro, ipad mini & camera. I run a music blog & DJ, so think I do really need the macbook pro. Has anyone found any insurance that covers expensive items??

  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.austin44 Tom Austin

    Really useful post, thanks. I’m heading to South America next year with my GoPro, SLR and MacBook, would appreciate any tips on good insurance companies.

  • Crystal

    Hi Jenny. What is the best way to insure yourself f you asre travelling long term? I will be travelling for 3 years with a MacBook Pro, DSLR, GoPro and countless other smaller items. Would you recommend that I insure the expensive items independently and then get general travel insurance or are there travel insurers out there that will cover expensive items? Really appreciate it :)
    Crystal