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Travelling With Your Camera: Tips on How to Prevent Theft

written by: Balachandar Radhakrishnan•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 12/11/2008

Travelling with your camera can be a troublesome experience. You do want to have fun, but then you don't want to lose all your camera gear! So here are some tips to help you prevent camera theft and enjoy your travel.

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    Photography gear is precious: Not only to the photographer!

    Digital photography has been the rage for a while now. Not so long ago, there weren't so many passionate souls carrying around bags full of expensive equipment all over the world. But this surge in digital creativity comes with a price tag which makes the amateur, as well as the professional photographer a favourite target for thieves.

    I still remember when my friend lost his photography gear bag (containing a 400D/Rebel XTi, 18-200 Sigma lens as well as a 50mm Canon 1.8) at the Barcelona airport. It definitely left a bad feeling in the pit of both our stomachs. It just happened as we were at the airport check-in counter and our luggage was too much too handle, we had put down a few bags while waiting in the line and when it was our turn to move... the bag was gone! I'm sure that you have your own horror stories, or have heard similar stories from fellow photographers who have lost their camera's and/or equipment to thieves. Here are some tips that will help you be more cautious about your gear, and hopefully prevent your expensive equipment from falling into the hands of thieves.

    (Click on images to enlarge)

    Photo Credit

    camera stolen note 

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    Avoid getting noticed

    1. Do not carry your gear in a bag that screams "pricey 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. I generally prefer a very normal looking bag (but a spacious one with sufficient padding inside to protect my gear, of course!).

    2. Most camera thieves know gear well, so totting around a massive zoom is inviting trouble. Try to keep a low profile lens on your camera. Those white L lenses...ya, they are just thief magnets! Besides, if you're travelling then ideally you shouldn't be carrying your entire lens collection with you. Choose your favorite walk around lens and if you're worried you'll miss your zoom, use your legs to zoom in to get your shot.

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    Pay attention to your gear

    3. 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.

    4. 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 skilful hands can easily slip in and steal stuff from inside your bag.

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    Choose safe locations to leave your camera

    window smashed 

    5. Do not leave your camera gear unattended inside your vehicle, especially if it's within eyeshot from outside, like on the dashboard or seat. For thieves, it isn't that difficult to break the glass and quickly grab your camera gear.

    6. Always have your memory cards backed up. I typically recommend carrying 2 or more storage cards rather than 1 high capacity card. By splitting your image collection into multiple memory cards, you reduce the risk of losing all your images should something go wrong.

    (To read the story behind this photo, please click here)

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    Some investment may save you a lot!

    While carrying the camera in your hand, ensure that the camera strap is fastened at least twice over your arm. This prevents grab and run incidents.

    pacsafe strap 

    Special camera straps are available with a lining of metal that runs along the camera strap that prevents slash and grab thievery.

    pacsafe 

    If you can afford it, I recommend investing in special travel gear like the collection from Pacsafe, which provide rugged and practical travel packs which might just help you safe guard your camera gear, as well as most of the other stuff that you carry around.

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    Have fun, but do not disregard safety

    Remember that travel is for having fun and for creating wonderful memories. So don't worry too much about unfortunate circumstances that you might come across and enjoy your travel. However, I do suggest that you visit the following links to help you better understand how to avoid theft and what to do if the worst does happen and your camera gear is stolen.

    Ethan Meleg's tips on preventing camera theft

    Pacsafe Straps review by Lighting Mods

    TripNeeds.com Luggage Straps and Protectors