Travel tip: uglify your gear

Worried about being robbed when traveling? Well, that’s a very legitimate concern & one clever way to lower the chances of getting your precious devices robbed is to “uglify” them!


What does “uglify” mean?

Make whatever you want to protect look cheap & old (worn out): a sort of camouflage to prevent attracting too much attention.

Get creative, try to think of different ways to hide the value of your gear. Here are a couple I came across:

  1. Use a cheap-looking protective case
  2. Get a quality protective case & cover it with tape/stickers
  3. Cover your gear with a material that you can remove afterwards without damaging your device

I first came across the 3rd concept in this LifeHacker article called “Deter Thieves by Uglifying Your Camera”.


How I protected my laptop

Traveling in Southeast Asia for many months with a MacBook Air sounds like a terrible idea. But so far so good, it’s doing perfectly fine.

What I did to protect my laptop:

  1. I bought a rigid protective case (amazon.com/dp/B0077EVNY4)
  2. I covered the case with brown tape – which make the computer look very ugly when closed & when seen from behind
  3. I bought a laptop sleeve (amazon.com/dp/B00CD8AF48) – so I can put my laptop in any “non special” bag
  4. I bought waterproof bag that I used when on the road – go for the quality products such as a 10L dry bag from Sealline (amazon.com/dp/B01428OD58), or a Loksak (amazon.com/dp/B0056B1CUA), each type of product as its pros & cons

My MacBook Air did look very bad with all the tape, and I was very glad to get questions like “what happened to your laptop!?”. The alarmed tone of the person asking made me laugh a few times.


How does my uglified laptop look like?

The laptop looks as usual when open from the user’s view.

Uglified laptop opened

However, once closed the laptop looks really terrible.

The 2 pictures below shows how it looks from the top & from below.

Ugilgied laptop closed - top

Ugilgied laptop closed - bottom


Watch out ventilation when taping

As pointed out by “Traveling Pup” in the comments: make sure you allow your computer to ventilate.

In my cases, I decided to add holes to the tape in places where the cover had holes too.

For you information: I used my MacBook Air with that uglifying setup for around 1 year & it was just fine.


Other belonging protections

Of course, “uglifying” your gear does not completely prevent it to get stolen nor broken. So you should also consider:

  • getting a “personal belonging insurance“, also called “luggage insurance
  • regularly back up your data to the cloud – Dropbox, Google Drive or else

Note that personal belonging insurances often come as part of a whole travel insurance package (i.e. also including health & flight cancellation). However, insurances contract dedicated to personal belongings do exist. Further country-specific research might be needed but here is a post I wrote on that “Luggage-only insurance” topic on Travel.StackExchange.com to get you started.


Resources

LifeHacker article: “Deter Thieves by Uglifying Your Camera”

cnet.com/how-to/onedrive-dropbox-google-drive-and-box-which-cloud-storage-service-is-right-for-you/

My Travel.StackExchange post on “Luggage-only insurance”

The “toy looking” case I got for my iPhone from Amazon

2 comments

  1. You shouldn’t have covered the bottom vents like that; your computer could overheat and have its life shortened.

    1. Good point. Actually someone told me the same & I made holes in the tape in places where there was holes in the plastic cover.

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