I went on a hike with my wife the other day in Norcal. This place had a creek that led into a cave that you can swim in. We both left our backpacks at the cave entrance and then swam through it to the other side to explore, trusting that no one would steal our stuff. All the while though we were worrying some about our back packs which had our money, keys and phone. But our stuff was ok and all there when we got back.

What can we do to keep our backpack safe the next time and so we don't worry as much when we have to leave it for a while?

I did a search online but wasn't completely satisfied. I was hoping there was some type of deterrent device you can set inside your backpack so when its moved a loud alarm goes off. Is there such a thing? The other thought was taking money keys and phone with us but in this particular situation even if we carry a waterproof fanny pack there is still the danger of it falling and/or getting lost, especially in a partly dark cave. Any suggestions?

We are newbies to Outdoor activities like these.

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    I hide my stuff up in a tree, higher the better.. even if your pack is a bright neon color, almost no one will see it. Generally people do not look up, like ever. So if your have a nice dark pack, green brown or black, you can leave it there for weeks.
    – anaheim
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 8:19
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    In this situation I would be more concerned about someone taking my bag to the park rangers thinking that I was lost/injured or that some animal got me and all that was left was my pack. You might want to include a note saying what your intended hike was for the day just in case the pack gets taken as an honest mistake. Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 16:26
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    @ThatBryanDavies I like the suggestion of leaving a note. I hadn't thought about the honest mistake. Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 16:54
  • @anaheim also a great suggestion and something I will most likely do: hide it on a tree. Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 16:54

5 Answers 5


Hide your pack or move it a bit off the trail. Make sure you do not overdo it and end up not being able to find it back yourself. :-) Although you are in the wood, if you are in a popular area, it is possible that other local visit the same area.

I've never heard of people bringing alarms for their bags and don't recommend it. I doubt it will be of any help if somebody decides to steal an abandoned backpack. It is also a possible unpleasant noise that does not belong in the wild. Please no car alarms backpackers :-).

Personally, I use a small wallet pouch or water proof bag that I carry at all times. In it you will find one personal identification card, one credit card or bank card and a single bill in case of emergency. Sometimes I will also have a single key (car or home). I also carry a small emergency kit on me in case an accident happens.

This has actually been proven useful once after our team separated ourselves from our bags/equipement for a side trail. One person had a head injury (a bump on the head in the small hundred rupee monk house that led to a fair amount of bleeding; lets just say that the blessing was short lived!). Having the emergency kit on me instead of my backpack helped a lot.

When you separate yourself from your bag, it is important to have something in case you don't find back your bag or cannot get back to your bag. You can usually anchor your wallet pouch to your pants to prevent accidentally dropping it. Many hiking pants have either zippers or loops that you can attach items to using a mini D-carabiner for example.

Some people enjoy money belts that goes around the neck. This is similar to a fanny pack but slightly different alternatives exist if you are interested in this option.

Happy trails!

Update: A forum thread on WhiteBlaze listed a few products that might be of interest to you.


Generally the far from the civilization you go, the safer your things are. Thiefs are operating there where people live or where there are a lot of people. Distant rocks, caves etc. are not their target.

I have not heard of something being stolen from someone's luggage in mountains, for example. If some point is at least a few km far from the place where you can go with car, you can trust people there.

However, you may consider masking your luggage with some wood or leaves, or hide at least the most valuable things under a rock, in not so obvious place. I have experience from geocaching, that even if you know exactly (with ~10m precision) that something is there, it is often very difficult to find it, especially when it's something small. You should only be sure you'll remember where you have hidden it!

  • Great suggestion on hiding it but in this case the place we went was only a mile out from the trail head and there were at least dozen or so people around. How about something like a backpack alarm? Have you ever seen anything like that? I searched online but only came up with a backpack (iSafebag)were it is built in and has to be manually triggered thus more attended for personal safety. Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 17:22
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    Not sure what would an alarm like that achieve. Any thief will just slice open the backpack, take anything that looks valuable, toss the honking rest of the pack down the nearest ravine and disappear long time before you get back. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 2:40

I use a pac safe metal mesh for my plane travel as my pack is a camping pack not a travel pack with lockable pockets.


With a simple padlock and the length of cable you should be able to link it to a tree and put the key in your pocket or around your neck.


Here is some useful advice from "How to keep your backpack safe", an article on StartBackpacking.com. It's aimed at backpacking travellers rather than hikers, but some of the advice is still relevant.

Here are some easy tips for not becoming one of the unlucky people who lose bags:

Don’t Be Too Patriotic

Consider your home country’s political relations and history with the country you are traveling before sewing your flag patch on the outside of your bag. When a thief has to choose between dozens of bags, it may make you stand out.

Use a Bicycle Lock

Carry a small bicycle combination chain lock in the top of your backpack. Attach it to support bars when it is stored on an overnight train, or to the bed frame when it is in your hotel. You can also team up with others and lock several backpacks together, making a bundle too heavy for someone to grab and run.

Secure Outside Pockets

Put small combination locks on outside pockets or don’t pack important things in the small pockets. In a crowded area it may be impossible to feel a deft hand unzipping and reaching inside while it is on your back.

Pack Important Items Deep

Consciously pack bulk items toward the back of your backpack rather than valuables. Not only will it protect stuff from abuse, if your pack is slashed by someone with a razor while you wear it, all they will get is a handful of dirty underwear.

Don’t Be a Fat Target

Carry less! It’s true: a fat rucksack is a fat target. Also, you will not be tempted to leave your bag behind so much if it is less of a burden.

Don’t Draw Attention

Don’t look like a target. Leave the Rolex, Raybans, and expensive clothes behind. If you present an image of wealth, someone could become very interested in your backpack.

Keep Your Backpack Close

Treat your travel backpack like your best mate. While you travel, it is your home and your life. I personally get the best night’s sleep when I have my bag under me as a pillow. If a thief can manage to get it then, he or she is welcome to everything inside!

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    The bike lock certainly has its uses, I'm not sure how useful it is here except to indicate that the bags are left deliberately.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 10:52

If you are in a wooded area you can always hang your pack in a tree like you would to avoid bears eating your food at night. There are two advantages to this approach.

  1. The pack won't be messed with by animals (bears, mice, racoons, etc.) who want to eat your tasty food.

  2. It will be a minor deterrent to two-legged predators if your rope is thin and an inconspicuous color like olive drab 550 cord because it is harder to see a thin rope than a pack on the ground.

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