Getting robbed, drugged, sick or stranded in the middle of nowhere can turn your dream holiday into a nightmare.
Travel insurance is the first and most obvious line of defence, but savvy travellers prefer to avoid falling prey to pickpockets, predators and pandemics. A range of high-tech and budget-friendly personal security devices is designed to protect and serve.
Created by Israeli firm Masada Armor in response to school shootings in the US, this ordinary-looking backpack converts into a bullet-proof vest in less than two seconds.
Certified by the Israeli Defense Force, the Protective Backpack comes in two varieties: an entry-level model that weighs three kilograms and protects the wearer against 9-millimetre pistol fire; an advanced model that weighs five kilograms and protects against high-powered assault rifles like the AR-15 and Kalashnikov.
A lightweight model for children is also in development. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Colonel Erran Morad would approve.
Price: From $700
Australian backpacker Magnus McGlashan had his bags stolen while traveling overseas in the 1990s and lost his passport, camera, clothes, cash … everything.
Though unsettling, the incident inspired him to create Pacsafe, a range of lightweight portable safes made from a proprietary stainless-steel mesh that is very difficult to cut or tear. But Pacsafe’s true genius is a stainless steel drawstring with locking nuts and a combination lock that allows you secure it to a fixed object.
The company’s bestseller, the 12-litre GII Portable Safe, can easily hold a laptop, tablet computer, large camera, passport, wallet, jewellery, electric cables and other bits and bobs.
How much? $120
Imagine a weapon that can disable (and worse) an assailant, but fits in your pocket, costs less than $50 and can be even be carried on a plane.
Made from hard anodised aluminium with a ‘personal protection tip’ or pointy end, tactical pens can make highly effective impact weapons in the right hands.
They can even be used to disarm an assailant armed with a knife or gun via a well-aimed strike to the knuckles.
For sheer bragging rights, we couldn’t go past Smith & Wesson Stylus Tactical Pen – this pen truly is mightier than the sword.
How much? $90
Whether you’re trekking in the Himalayas or volunteering in Africa, a portable water purifier is a must-have travel gadget for intrepid explorers.
There are thousands of products on the market, but look at brands that kill bacteria, cysts and viruses – and don’t make water taste worse than it already does, thanks to overzealous filters.
Our pick of the crop for short trips is the Grayl Ultralight Purifier Bottle. Just fill the bottom section with water, attach the top section and press down like a coffee plunger.
Thirty seconds later, you’ve got half a litre of potable water. The purifying cartridge is good for 300 presses.
How much? $80, and $35 for replacement cartridge
Drink spike card
A recent study by the University of Bath in the UK found 76 per cent of respondents knew someone who’d had their drink spiked. Nearly 90 per cent of drink-spiking victims are female, but the study revealed men are targeted, too.
To avoid it happening to you, order a Drink Spike Detector Set from Drink Safe Technologies. The size of a standard business card, it tests for both ketamine and GBH/fantasy – two of the most common drink-spiking substances.
Simply place a drop from your beverage onto both spots on the card and wait for it dry. If a dark blue colour emerges, it’s probably time to call it a night.
How much? $7.50 for three cards with two tests per card
Whether you’re sleeping in a wilderness lodge with rickety old doors, or a luxury resort where staff can access electronic keys, accommodation is not as secure as most travellers assume.
For a lot of piece of mind and just a tiny bit of coin, try a GE door-stop alarm.
With an anti-skid base that can withstand up to 135 kilograms of force, this pocket-sized device will stop a door from being opened and, when triggered, emit an ear-piercing 120-decibel alarm that’ll wake you up and scare the hell out of intruders.
How much? $26
The R&D department at American luggage manufacturer, Travelon, has spent the last 30 years trying to invent a theft-proof bag. They haven’t quite got there yet, but they have developed some pretty awesome features that defend against opportunistic criminals who target travellers.
Made from high-strength nylon, Travelon’s Anti-Theft Active Tour Bag has an adjustable cut-proof shoulder strap with a security hook you can attach to a chair; pickpocket-proof lockable compartments; slash-resistant body panels and pockets; plus RFID-blocking (radio-frequency identification) slots and pockets to protect your credit cards and passport against high-tech data skimmers.
How much? $90
First aid kit
A carefully curated first aid kit might just save your life – or someone else’s – on the road. Make sure yours has plasters, gauze, crepe bandages, surgical tape, small scissors, tweezers and antiseptic wipes, as a minimum.
Survival Emergency Solutions’ Australian-designed kits also come with gloves and a CPR kit, and loops to attach to a bag or belt. SES’s contents are stacked in a well-designed package with individual items labelled for their particular use (CPR, snake bite, etc) – which will come in handy in an emergency.
Tip: Replace items as you use them or they expire (and double-check before you hit the road), so you know you will always have what you need.
Where to buy? Survival.net.au
How much? $59.95
Travel-safe apps tend to have highly specific functions, so downloading one is never enough. Tripwhistle will automatically dial the police, ambulance or fire brigade nearest to you in one of 196 different countries.
Safety Map Worldwide helps you identify dodgy neighbourhoods or streets in particular cities via the comments and rating of other users.
TravelSafe Pro uses location technology to lead you to your nearest embassy or consulate. TripLingo provides emergency medical phrases in different languages while Sitata scans global media websites for news on disease outbreaks and other calamities.
Additional reporting by Carley Olley