Cult of Travel Hack #1: backpack cable lock.

Here’s the first of our travel hacks, a quick, easy, and inexpensive DIY projects to get ready for your next trip!

It’s often difficult to keep a constant eye on your backpack when traveling on trains or buses, especially on overnight transport. A simple steel cable, with loops on each end and a padlock can be used to secure your backpack to a luggage rack, seat leg, pipe or post. While this cable won’t stop anyone with a hefty set of clippers, it will deter most opportunistic thieves from pulling a “grab and run” with your belongings. If you’re traveling solo It’ll also give you a bit of peace of mind if you need to dash off to the toilets for a minute or two.

Other uses for this cable padlock set are:

In your hostel dorm room or a not-so-secure guest house, you can use use this cable to “chain” your backpack to a fixed object, like a bedpost or pipe.

Use the cable and padlock to strap heavy gear to the outside of your backpack, like hiking boots.

You can buy similar retractable steel cable/padlock combos, but these usually cost upwards of $12-$15 CDN and the steel cable is much thinner than the one will make below.

For this travel hack, you will need some plastic coated steel cable and some aluminum sleeves. Both can be found at your local hardware store. A length of old clothesline will also work if you have some lying around.

1/8″ aluminum sleeves and steel cable should be sufficient for most general backpacking use. Get the 3/16″ is you feel you need something bigger and stronger. Cut a length of cable using sturdy wire cutters. Length is totally up to you, but 3 feet (1 meter) should be long enough to secure most packs or bags to a luggage rack, post or pipe.

Slip one end of the cable into the aluminum sleeve. Then slip the same end back into the aluminum sleeve forming a small loop. Make sure there’s a bit of cable poking out, say 1/4″ or so. More than that, and the cable end might snag your pack or clothing. You can always wrap the exposed (and very sharp) cable ends with electrical or duct tape.

Using a vice like the one on the left, crush the aluminum sleeve around the cable. You can also use a crimper if you have access to one or even a good pair of pliers and a very strong pair of hands. Give the loop a good tug to make sure the cable is securely locked into the aluminum sleeve. Repeat with the other end of your cable.

Tadahhhhh! There you go, a homemade steel cable to secure your backpack while you travel! Most of us have a padlock or two, so the only cost is the cable and the aluminum sleeves which shouldn’t cost more than $3-4, less if you’re using left over clothesline cable.

Do you have any travel hacks you’d like to share? Let us know using the comment form below.

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