Backpack Zipper Locks
There are many locks to choose from out there.
The really small luggage locks with stamped keys found in Asia or that come with cheep luggage can often be opened by a novice with a paperclip. These are lightweight and if you loose your keys, they are not to hard to remove from your pack.
A good quality keyed mini-lock is easy to find. They can be light weight, provide minimal bulk and because they can be easily found with short shackles which allow for less zipper travel than combination locks that tend to have longer shackles. When purchasing these, you many want to purchase several keyed alike so that you only need to pack a key (and one spare).
Combination locks - these are great for those who know they are likely to loose their keys on any giving trip or for those who want the luxury of going keyless. Unfortunately, combo locks suitable for backpack zippers tend to be a bit bulkier and heavier than keyed locks intended for travel.
Many combination locks can be opened by applying a little downward traction to the lock and spinning the combination keys until the correct combination is selected. Although it may seem like finding the correct combination may seem like selecting the correct lottery number, nimble fingers can sequentially spin the dial of a 3 digit lock and open it in less than a minute. Most of the low security mini locks for zippers allow for this and can be checked by locking your lock, applying downward traction and slowly spinning past your code to see if it opens. Some higher quality locks prevent you from doing this and may be preferred for packs that will be left unattended (e.g. in you room, stored on top of busses with local travelers, etc.)
Some combination locks may have shackles that are just too long to provide desirable closure of your zipper. You can easily shorten the usable length of your shackle by creating a spacer or epoxying on a backstop to create a snug fit for the zipper.
Airport Security (TSA) Locks
With today's security measures in many international airports and those within the US and Europe, you may need a specially approved TSA (US) and HMRC (UK) lock if you want to lock your gear and avoid loosing your lock. These TSA locks are also keyed so that security screeners at airports and other security checkpoints can open your lock without damaging them. This unfortunately leaves them vulnerable to many of the same people you would like to protect your bags against in the first place, as well as anyone with a set of special keys. To deter pilfering of your bags at the airport, it may we worth your while to add a zip tie to our zippers in addition to your TSA lock. This may deter the occasional corrupt screener and let you know if someone has been in your bag if you receive your bag without your zip tie.
Safe Skies and Travel Sentry icons
Locks that can be opened with a set of TSA keys should be easily identifiable by security agents so that they are not cut with bolt cutters. There are two major companies (Safe Skies and Travel Sentry) that make TSA approved locks and can be identified by there logos on the face of the lock. Combination locks should have a key hole for a TSA key in addition to the combo. Some of these locks have an indicator that marks the lock after it has been opened by a TSA key, to let the owner know if someone has been in their bags.
Unfortunately, TSA approved combination locks tend to be on the larger side and overkill for your small zippers but may be necessary if you would like to secure your bag and would like to avoid replacing broken locks on a regular basis. If you are not using these primarily to secure baggage for flight or don't mind risking the occasional broken lock then you can epoxy or superglue the keyed portion of the TSA lock. This will prevent someone with a TSA key set from unlocking your lock. But since most thieves don't carry around a set of these keys, this is generally not necessary.
Zipties, split rings (key chain rings), threaded links, etc can be used to temporarily secure zippers together. These may not be good options for bags that will be stationary and unattended but are generally sufficient enough to deter thieves that don't want to fool around with these devices while a bag is on your back.
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