Share TSA padlock on my camera bag

Jun 12, 2007
OK what is a TSA padlock if you don't know.

It is a specially designed number combination padlock which can be opened via a key by customs officials if you forget the number code

This is what it looks like at least on my camera bag but they are all the same.

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Mine came without any instructions and a key number with 810 programed in. Damn I thought it don't work.
Tried every number in turned by dialing down from 999 still didn't work. So how the hell do you unlock it???

eventually found out the setting was 000 ,obvious now I found out, so the padlock was open.

So how do I use it and lock the camera case, again more head scratching. no good just putting the case pull tags into the lock as shown

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is not locked let alone with your dedicated number input.

More head scratching, nearly bald by this time. Had another close look and right underneath is a very very small push button

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that is it on the right of the wheels the small round thing.

so you push that in- set your number and squeeze the plunger on the side which releases that small button. Your own number is then programed in. then you forget the number you programmed in
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of course there is nothing to stop a thief taking the whole bag but it does stop the casual thief from rifling the bag for the contents

This is the case in question

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Manfrotto MB PL -RL-H55 Of course the layout card that comes with it is useless for my gear so had to rework the layout as shown above
Biggest problem getting what i wanted in it
managed a Nikon D810
Nikon 50 mm f1.4
Nikon 24-70mm f2.8
Nikon 70-200mm f2.8
Nikon sb900 flashgun
Panasonic camcorder
tabletop tripod
duel battery charger
batteries and othe bits and pieces.

Far too heavy to carry for long hence getting one with wheels (weight 11.3KG)

How i took last photo with a Nikon D300 and a Nikon 12-24 f14dx lens with a manfrotto tripod and a led light
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Mar 13, 2013
vancouver, canada
Hi Barry,

I do a lot of traveling for work and I would never let my lenses and body go in cargo, the handlers are simply too rough with the bags. I have seen them throw bags from the cargo hold to the ground about 2-3 meters without a thought. The TSA lock is good to stop the casual thief, but not the pros. if you put a non TSA lock on baggage they cut the lock off if they want to get into the bag.

To get around the weight issue make sure you have a bag that looks like it fits into their test rack for size then carry it as if it is light. except for small planes they never weigh the bags. Also take your camera body with a heavyish lens on it and use the neck trap to hang it around your neck. vola your bag is several pounds lighter. Also you are typically allowed two bags, a travel bag and a purse or laptop bag, so you can distribute the weight between the two bags. Just make sure one of the bags is of the size to fit under the seat in front of you.

If you do get to the gate and they think your bag is too heavy or big or whatever they will "gate check" the bag which means the bag is loaded on the plane from the gate (by the door of the plane) and when you get to your location your bag will be there when you get off the plane.. this gives less handling and chances for it getting on the wrong plane or going home with someone else.

Finally, NEVER put batteries in your luggage!!!! when you get to your destination your batteries will be gone and you will never see them again. The TSA is very strict about no batteries in the hold. What I do is cap them or tape over the terminals and put them in my hand luggage and all is well.

BTW, on long flights put TSA locks on your hand luggage that is stored up in the overhead rack as people have been known to go through other people's bags and steal things. That happened to someone on one of my flights back from China. There was a great racket but the people didn't get their stuff back as no one knew who it was.

Hope this helps, Have a safe flight

alexis and Georgie Beagle

" flying kennel class is never fun, that is why I stay home" - Georgie Beagle


Cafe Ambassador
Apr 8, 2008
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Agree with the above.

I use TSA lcoks by Search Alert. If the TSA (or anyone else) has opened the lock, there will be a red indicator alert clearly visible on the lock.

Also I have found that bags with wheels are usually the first to be singled out for gate check. I have a large Think Tank bag....but it fits in the overhead. It is a backpack style, which means it is relatively easily to carry since most of the weight is on my hips/legs. I have never been asked to gate check it. And I carry a large computer bag with a body and 1 or 2 lenses in it, plus the laptop computer. Batteries, external hard drives, CF/SD/XQD cards, card reader are distributed between the computer bag and my photo vest, which I always wear when flying. No fashionable, but very, very functional.
Feb 2, 2005
Maple Bay, Duncan, BC, Canada
Real Name
Andreas Berglund
I agree with Alexis, Georgie and Karen, additionally I would like to recommend this bag: Lowepro Proroller 200 AW ( )
or see this video to see the bag in a bag feature i describe below:

It is unique as you can in need unzip and take out the the inner bag that becomes a back pack while still enabling me to carry two DSLRS , a 600mm a 400mm and a few more things in it.

This means that
  • if you dont have to unzip it, it is is regulation size roller bag that is so easy to roll around in the airports with little effort and that fits in all regular planes like 737 and up
  • If you go on a regional plane like a bombardier A400 with much smaller overhead bins you can just unzip the inner bag, carry it onboard and easily fit it into the regional airline overhead bin
This is a unique bag I have had it for many years and is a super clever solutions to the travel problems with long lenses, highly recommended!
Nov 14, 2005
Winter Haven, florida
The TSA locks help a little, they pretty much guarantee the bag will not fall open on its own. They really do nothing else, especially if an experienced thief wants something in your bag.
I travel with bags that are so beat up my wife is embarrassed. My favorite is an old diaper bag with large brown stains. They are actually clean, and no one in their right mind will bother it.
Dec 3, 2012
Sandpoint, Idaho
i’ve been picking locks as a hobby since college in the late 1960’s. MIT has had an active lock picking “club” for many years and they’ve published a pretty good guide, the URL is below. it’s come in handy. a couple of winters back the 97 year old neighbor locked herself out. she called and asked if I could help before she called the locksmith, she told me she was hoping I could get in thru a window, she knew nothing about my hobby. i had her door open in under 5 minutes. In 2015 a detailed photo of the 7 tsa master keys was released by TSA and published by the Washington Post. this might not have been one of their better ideas. shortly after this the lock picking underground (TOOOL) released the 3D printer file needed to print your own TSA master key set. i’m not sure what someone would do with these things, but they’re out there. TSA doesn’t care, and issued this statement
“The reported ability to create keys for TSA-approved suitcase locks from a digital image does not create a threat to aviation security. These consumer products are ‘peace of mind’ devices, not part of TSA’s aviation security regime.”
Mar 4, 2005
Los Angeles, USA
I don't bother with TSA locks with my check-in luggage. I don't put anything valuable in those bags. With my carry-on camera luggage I use real padlocks that I put in place after I get through the security check.
Apr 28, 2010
Real Name
Years ago, my wife and I bought several "TSA Approved" locks for our luggage. It seems LAX TSA personnel had never heard of or had proper equipment for them. They may have improved lately. :ROFLMAO:(I am an optimist!) Haven't had to go through LAX again...I believe you should NOT have to descend into Hell more than once every 10 years or so!:arghh:

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