How to protect your SLR camera while traveling

For those who are serious about taking photos of their travels, a simple point and shoot pocket camera simply won’t do. A serious piece of kit – an SLR – is the only way to go.

One problem, though, is that, unlike a compact camera, an SLR makes a terrible travel companion. Large, heavy, fragile, and invariably expensive, they can be a real drag to haul around and keep safe.

Here are a few tips for protecting your SLR camera from damage and theft on the road.


We say get it. Why take the risk? As always, this is a case of shopping around and finding the kind of coverage and premium that suits you best. Always check the small print and make sure your policy covers theft, loss and accidental damage. Some companies offer multi-gadget deals, so bundling your laptop, smartphone and mp3 player under one cover could save you money.

Two bags, or not two bags…

There are two schools of thought here. You can either lump all your kit in with the rest of your stuff in one backpack, or get an additional bag for carrying your camera kit (and laptop). When deciding which way to go it’s worth remembering one or two things. First, it’s a real pain lugging more than one bag – the second bag, whether worn on your front or over your shoulder, is destined to get in the way during day-to-day stuff like walking around shops and getting on buses. On the flipside, there’ll be times when it’s beneficial to easily separate your camera gear from the rest of your stuff – e.g. long distance journeys where the storage and treatment of luggage is haphazard at best (we’ve also heard stories of members of bus driving ‘teams’ going through bags during the journey).

“No valuables here…”

You don’t want your camera bag to be drawing attention to itself and screaming “Hey, hey you, thief over there. I contain loads of expensive stuff…come steal me!” So bright and stylish touches are out. Neutral colors (blacks, grays, beiges) and simple designs are the way to go. Bags like Pacsafe, for example, are specifically designed to protect gadgets from opportunistic theft. Trouble is the seriously tough materials (“ballistic nylon”??) they’re made of also advertise the fact that their contents are worth stealing. Using one of these specifically designed bags or a generic, non-descript one is a tough judgment call. If your bag has any logos, take them off or cover them up. You can also try ‘scuffing’ it up too – if it’s dirty and bashed-up, it’s less likely to draw the eye of a thief.

False advertising?

Removing all brand names from your equipment (e.g. replacing straps with non-branded ones) can be a deterrent, although some say thieves still know when a camera is worth big money. Admittedly thieves tend to deploy a ‘steal now, identify later policy’. One option might be to ‘uglify’ your camera. It certainly worked for this photographer.

Back up. Back up. BACK UP.

Theft and damage happens. You can take all the precautions in the world, but there will always be someone who falls fowl of bad luck. Backing up is the first rule of digital photography, but it’s remarkable how many people don’t do it. If you’re in a country with great internet service, upload your pictures to a cloud. If not, back up on multiple cards or discs, or if you’re really hard up, send copies home by post.

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

(Image: Claudio Matsuoka)

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