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How to Protect Your Valuable Camera Gear When Traveling Overseas

When traveling overseas with an expensive camera, many travelers spend a little time thinking about protecting the gear from theft - especially when some photographers take thousands of dollars worth of gear with them.

First off, know that thousands of people take expensive camera gear overseas - both for vacation and for business purposes - so you will not be the only one in Berlin or Saigon with an expensive Nikon or Canon.  You will see many other folks with cameras slung around their neck.   Are their thieves in international destinations - yes - obviously, however, as long as you are not dressed like ma and pa kettle, think about why would anyone pick you.  The biggest thought should be about enjoying your trip and especially travelling light! Here are a few thoughts to consider.

Take Only the Camera Gear What You Need

Seem vague? It is pretty broad and all-encompassing.  If you are in a crowded cafe in a foreign place and you leave your bag on the back of your chair when you go to the bathroom, expect it to be gone when you get back.  Its really just a matter of being aware that you have thousands of dollars worth of gear on your person, and there are a million ways it can be lost, stolen or damaged.

  • Minimizing lens size and amount of gear carried is a good idea, though - it lessens the strain on your neck and back, as well as the worry.  If possible consider taking an "all-in-one" lens like the 18-200 or similar.  But it's also a question of how much you're willing to compromise on quality - if your best lenses are not for shooting your most exotic trips, what are they for?
  • Back up your photos every evening on some device that you don't carry with you during the day. The worst thing that can happen to you is not just to lose all your gear, but to lose all your trip photos as well.  Many photographers travel with a laptop that they can download their photos to, but if you don't want to take that much, consider some kind of a digital wallet, a netbook, or an iPad to download to.  Obviously you can also visit an Internet cafes every day or two, and copy your shots to DVD's, a USB thumb drive, or upload them to your own internet account or server.

Don't Put All of Your Eggs' in One Basket - Backup Your Camera Files and Store The Separately

  • Think about what would happen to all of the photos you took on your trip if the cards they were stored on were left in a camera bag that was stolen - It happens to photographers all the time.   You should consider taking a portable hard drive with you on your trip so you can download the photos and keep it stashed away somewhere else.  Back up your photos every evening on some device that you don't carry with you during the day. The worst thing that can happen to you is not just to lose all your gear, but to lose all your trip photos as well.  Many photographers travel with a laptop that they can download their photos to, but if you don't want to take that much, consider some kind of a digital wallet, a netbook, or an iPad to download to.  Obviously you can also visit an Internet cafes every day or two, and copy your shots to DVD's, a USB thumb drive, or upload them to your own Internet account or server.

Pay Attention to Your Camera Gear or Someone Else Will

  • Your camera bag, or rather, the bag that you use to carry your gear, should never leave your body. If you stop at a restaurant then see to it that your camera bag is close to your body and always keep an eye on it. Mostly it's just a case of people forgetting their gear at such stop-over points. When you eat in an outdoor cafe, never leave your bag where it can be easily grabbed by someone passing by. Consider using a camera security bag or strap so you can lock it down to the table or chair.  If you don't want to use a camera security bag, putt your regular camera bag under your table, away from the street side, with your leg passed through the bag strap.  This website has a variety of camera security bags and camera security straps if you wanted the additional security to safeguard your camera gear.
  • Airports are hot spots for camera gear loss. Make sure you've got your gear in your carry-on luggage and keep an eye on it at all times. It's also a good idea to have your camera bag positioned in the front of yourself, rather then over the shoulder, where skillful hands can easily slip in and steal stuff from inside your bag.
  • Know that when it comes to theft of camera gear, it will usually involve some type of petty theft or pickpocket incident.  Many thieves who work tourists locations work in teams with someone doing a diversion to distract your attention from the bag you are carrying - to the thief who is the one who removes your camera from your bag - or takes your entire bag when you are distracted by the other thief.  Most of these thefts are almost never violent but occur very quickly.  You should read up on the various pickpocket scams located on this website - especially those which may be written about the country or city you are visiting.

Avoid Getting Your Camera and Camera Gear Noticed by Thieves

  • Try not to carry your camera gear in a bag that screams "expensive camera gear inside"!  Advertising that you're carrying top-of-the-line equipment in your camera bag, such as Nikon or Canon, is a sure shot way to have your stuff stolen by "inquisitive eyes".  Avoid purchasing camera bags with noticeable name-brand labels or bags that can be easily identified as containing camera gear.  If you do like those types of bags, consider removing the logos or placing tape over them.
  • Some professionals recommend using black tape to tape over camera logos as just another security layer to help protect your gear.
  • Consider taking a monopod instead of a tripod. Others will suggest the opposite, as the tripod is better for stability, but harder to use in crowded areas.  Some museums overseas (in Spain) will not permit either tripod or monopod, just their policy, however a monopod is just that much easier to deal with through airports.

Make sure your camera gear does not get stolen at airport screening stations

Do a little searching of theft at airport screening stations and you may be surprised on the amount and type of theft that goes on at airport screening stations not just here in the United States, but around the world. Watch this video which will show you how to protect your camera bodys and lens while being hand checked. This video will out line a unique product which will provide photographers with a unique way to protect your expensive gear from theft. Here is the video. To help protect your gear from theft at these locations, consider the line of camera gear guard products found here.

What about camera gear left in hotel rooms?

  • Think about what you'll do with any gear left in your room. If you're staying in a hotel with in-room safes, use them. If not, look into getting an anti theft camera security bag like these.  Many camera security mesh bags close down to a very small size when not being used, but opens up big enough to hold all of your gear when not in use.  Lock your camera gear bag to a hotel room radiator or other secure object when you leave gear in the room.
  • Know that if your gear may be more vulnerable during the night than the day - especially if you may end up walking down a street which is not very busy or in an area that may change at night.  It might be wise to carry a smaller camera in those situations.
  • Bring a copy of all of your camera gear serial numbers when going on trips. That way, if and ever you lose your equipment, you can file an accurate police report.  Others make sure they have emailed the information to themselves so they can obtain it that way if needed.

Secure Your Camera Gear in Your Hotel Room

Depending on where you are visiting and your accommodation, your gear may or may not be safe in your room. It is always best to err on the side of caution - no matter how nice your hotel is. You have to figure that if you visit a less-developed country, your camera gear may be worth a considerable amount more than those who have access to your room make in a year (housekeeping, bellman, etc), so keep that in mind.  If there is an in-room safe, use it to store what fits. If there isn’t, you really should consider using anti theft camera security bags like these.  Many camera security mesh bags close down to a very small size when not being used, but opens up big enough to hold all of your gear when not in use.  Lock your camera gear bag to a hotel room radiator or other secure object when you leave gear in the room.

  • Know that if your gear may be more vulnerable during the night than the day - especially if you may end up walking down a street which is not very busy or in an area that may change at night.  It might be wise to carry a smaller camera in those situations.
  • Bring a copy of all of your camera gear serial numbers when going on trips. That way, if and ever you lose your equipment, you can file an accurate police report.  Others make sure they have emailed the information to themselves so they can obtain it that way if needed.

Don't Check Your Camera Gear in Your Luggage with the Airline Unless ABSOLUTELY Necessary

How many times have you or a loved one flown somewhere only to arrive to have a lost bag? If you’re traveling to shoot, the day or two it takes to get your bag back could be devastating to your plans. Secondly, if you’ve ever looked out the window as they are tossing bags onto the plane’s conveyor, they aren't using kid gloves.  Now imagine how they toss it onto the baggage claim conveyor when no one is looking.  A soft bag flying through the air onto a hard object is not the place for sensitive electronic equipment and optical glass. Thirdly, don’t think shady baggage handlers won’t get into your bag, locked or not and steal the goods. It’s happened, and it might just happen to you.  While this post is not targeted towards pro-shooters with tons of gear, if you do ever find yourself having to check some or all of your gear in, here are a couple tips:

  • Spread The Love – Try to carry-on what you can if possible, even if its just the body and a versatile lens. If your bag gets lost, you will be glad you "spread the love."  At least you’ll have some way to shoot.
  • Get Hard – Check your gear in a lockable, hard-shelled travel case with lots of foam padding.
  • Lock it up! – Don’t be lazy, either get a TSA certified lock or wait until they are done screening your bag and lock it. They generally let you.

So this will get you there. Since you are a traveling as a photo enthusiast and not a professional working in another country, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about customs.

Insure, Insure, Insure Your Camera Gear

Insurance for your camera gear is an area that many travelers don't give much thought to - and you may not have to, unless you are traveling with expensive gear.  If you are, consider this -Would you insure a $10,000 car?  Why not do the same for your camera equipment. There are reasonable plans out there - and maybe your own home insurance may cover some of it - but don't count on it.  Here are a few thoughts to consider in order to have a minimal financial impact in case your gear is stolen.

Make sure your insurance covers you and your camera against theft - especially when traveling overseas.  Many travelers have found out the hard way that their gear was not covered by insurance for many reasons, including: Homeowners insurance policies usually do not cover camera gear if you sell photos and are considered a "pro" by insurance companies.  In this case many photographers take out separate policies that cover "all causes" of loss for their gear.

To give you a little more information on the problems you may encounter with camera insurance, read a few of these articles to make you better acquainted with camera insurance information before you buy.

$6,000 Camera Insurance Loss from Weeding Photographer - Insurance Problem with Claim

Travel Insurance Questions

Camera Insurance Information

Camera Insurance Questions

A Police Officers Perspective to Camera Security

 

Camera Security Products

 CamSafe 200 Security Camera Bag
CamSafe 200 Security Camera Bag

 

 

 

The CamSafe 200-comfort, practicality, & security. Larger than the CamSafe 100. Built in slashguard panels, tamper-proof zippers, & snatch-proof strap. BLACK or OLIVE. More detail...

 

 CamSafe 100 Camera Security Bag
CamSafe 100 Camera Security Bag

 

 

 

The CamSafe Camera bag offers comfort, practicality, and security. Built in slash guard panels, tamper-proof zippers, and snatch-proof shoulder strap. BLACK or OLIVE. More detail...

 

 Pacsafe TravelSafe 100
Pacsafe TravelSafe 100

 

 

 

BEST SELLING portable safe. Steel mesh embedded cut proof bag. Locks to fixed item with heavy duty steel cable. Hotel, dorm, car, office, home. More detail...

 

 Pacsafe TravelSafe 20L Portable Safe
Pacsafe TravelSafe 20L Portable Safe

 

 

 

A portable safe with a steel flex-cage to protect your laptop, electronics, camera gear, or work files. Secure your items in the bag then lock it to a secure fixture. FOLDS FLAT More detail...

 

 Portable TravelSafe 12L
Portable TravelSafe 12L

 

 

 

Portable & packable safe protects laptop, ipad, passport, etc. Embedded slashproof steel mesh with locking cable secures to any fixture in trunk, RV, hotel, office, dorm. Packs flat. More detail...

 

 Pacsafe DuffelSafe 100
Pacsafe DuffelSafe 100

 

 

 

Our largest bag. A high-security duffel bag with 3 anti-theft features and multiple carrying options. Protect larger valuables-cameras, laptops, dive gear.More detail...

 

 PacSafe DaySafe 200
PacSafe DaySafe 200

 

 

 

Backpack and a mobile safe. A slashproof inner safe locks closed. Secure it to stationary fixture and you protect your valuables almost anywhere. Largest security pack. More detail...

 

 Camera Insert for DaySafe 200
Camera Insert for DaySafe 200

 

 

 

The CamSafe Camera Insert is a padded camera protection module. Designed as an insert option for the DaySafe 200 backpack, it can be also used in any other bag or backpack. More detail...

 

DuffelSafe Camera Insert
DuffelSafe Camera Insert

 

 

 

The DuffelSafe Camera Insert is a must-have for providing protection for camera gear inside your DuffelSafe. 11 fully-padded adjustable compartments.More detail...

 

 PacSafe DaySafe 100
PacSafe DaySafe 100

 

 

 

A pack with an inner security compartment inside which locks closed and locks to a secure fixture. Slashproof, snatchproof and tamperproof.More detail...

 

 CarrySafe 100, Camera Security Strap
CarrySafe 100, Camera Security Strap

 

 

 

A camera security neck strap that combines comfort and two anti-theft features to protect from cut and run thefts. Attach to cameras, camcorders, or binoculars. rs.More detail...

 

 CarrySafe 200, Secure Shoulder Strap
CarrySafe 200, Secure Shoulder Strap

 

 

 

Security STRAP for your camera bag or laptop bag. A comfortable non-slip, anti-theft shoulder strap with 2 security features to protect your gear bag. More detail...

 

 Carrysafe 300 lockable Shoulder Strap
Carrysafe 300 lockable Shoulder Strap

 

 

 

CarrySafe 300 is an anti-theft shoulder strap that replaces your existing strap on your bag. This strap locks your bag closed AND locks it to a secure fixture. Built-in 3-dial combination lock. More detail...

 

 AquaPac 404 Waterproof Point & Shoot Camera Case
AquaPac 404 Waterproof Point & Shoot Camera Case

 

 

 

Protect your camera from sand, water and weather. You can even take pictures underwater, case is 100% waterproof up to 15 feet. Specifically for point and shoot cameras WITHOUT a zoom lens. More detail...

 

 AquaPac 420 Waterproof Camera Case w/Hard Lens
AquaPac 420 Waterproof Camera Case w/Hard Lens

 

 

 

Protect your camera from sand, water and weather. You can even take pictures underwater, case is 100% waterproof up to 15 feet. Specifically for point and shoot cameras WITH a zoom lens. More detail...

 

 QuickPod ComPod Slim Tripod
QuickPod ComPod Slim Tripod

 

 

 

An extender and tripod. Include yourself in photos and videos. Attaches to your camera or camcorder and is also a tripod. Collapses to 9 " fits in most bags. More detail...

 

 Lock Alarm with 8 Foot Cable
Lock Alarm with 8 Foot Cable

 

 

 

Send thieves running. Lock up your valuable camera gear bags or other larger items. 8 ft steel cable has 120 decibel alarm which sounds if cable or lock is tampered with or cut. More detail...

 

 Lock Alarm Mini - 2 ft cable
Lock Alarm Mini - 2 ft cable

 

 

 

A loud alarm warns you if someone is trying to steal your camera, gear. 2 ft retractable cable with alarm sounds if cable or lock is tampered with. More detail...

 

 ProSafe 550 Combo Lock w/LED Light
ProSafe 550 Combo Lock w/LED Light

 

 

 

The PacSafe Pro Safe 550 Secure Carabiner Combo Lock with LED is perfect for securing your gear while on a backpacking trip or traveling abroad. Its carabiner design allows you lock anything you can clip to it and a fixed object. More detail...

 

 SearchAlert Heavy-Duty TSA Case Lock
SearchAlert Heavy-Duty TSA Case Lock

 

 

 

The SearchAlert TSA Heavy-Duty Case Lock secures equipment cases, like Pelican, for air travel which demand strong thicker shanks for security. More detail...

 

Waterproof Bag & Waistpack by Aloksak
Waterproof Bag & Waistpack by Aloksak

 

 

 

Keeps valuables dry and safe. Waterproof & dustproof bag with waistpack. Go swimming, boating, etc. while protecting them. Navy Tested! TWO SIZES. More detail...

 

 VentureSafe 50 Digi Pouch
VentureSafe 50 Digi Pouch

 

 

 

The VentureSafe 50 Digi Pouch is ideal for carrying your digital camera, mobile phone or mp3 player plus credit cards and cash while sightseeing and exploring.More detail...

 

 Camera/Camera Bag Security Strap,                1 1/4" wide
Camera/Camera Bag Security Strap, 1 1/4" wide

 

 

 

Versatile strap which fits on a camera or a camera bag. This steel wire reinforced strap thwarts cut n thieves and has adapters to fit both. Adjusts up to 54" long. More detail...

 

 Security Shoulder Strap Extra-Long
Security Shoulder Strap Extra-Long

 

 

 

Extra long security strap - up to 68" inches. Designed for camera bags, luggage etc. Steel wire reinforcement thwarts cut n run thieves. 2 styles of adapters included.More detail...

 

 Pacsafe MetroSafe 200
Pacsafe MetroSafe 200

 

 

 

CROSS BODY or SHOULDER BAG! The MetroSafe 200 is an urban security travel bag great for cameras or daily gear. BLACK, BROWN or FOREST GREEN. More detail...

 

 PacSafe 55-Backpack Security System
PacSafe 55-Backpack Security System

 

 

 

The smallest of the 4 pack security systems. It's a steel mesh security net which wraps smaller daypacks & luggage items. Also secures bag to a fixed item. More detail...

 

 PacSafe 85 Backpack Security System
PacSafe 85 Backpack Security System

 

 

 

The PacSafe 85, is a medium sized backpack security systems. It guards medium packs, duffel bags, and soft sided wheeled luggage with a mesh steel wrap. More detail...

 

 Pacsafe 120 Pack & Bag Security System
Pacsafe 120 Pack & Bag Security System

 

 

 

The Pacsafe 120 secures your bag/pack to stationary items AND envelops it with a steel security net. Fits most larger packs, dufflels, and soft sided wheeled luggage. More detail...

 

 PacSafe 140 Backpack Security System
PacSafe 140 Backpack Security System

 

 

 

The PacSafe 140 is the largest steel mesh security system for extra large bags, dufflels or dive bags. Adapts to soft sided and wheeled luggage. More detail...

 

Our site contains over 100 pages of travel safety tips and security tips that are useful for any traveler. You will find tips involving luggage theft, avoiding pickpockets, laptop theft, hotel burglary, and airplane, train, automobile, and boat travel crimes.