I am a big time rookie traveller and have questions about storing luggage. How do you keep your stuff safe in hostels? Should you carry all your luggage with you at all times or is it safe to leave it in hotels or hostels(do they all generally have lockers or places that can store baggage?) What about cameras. Should you just strap them under your shirt at all times?
Nick, you don't say where you are going, but generally hostels have lockers; you can supply your own lock or they'll rent you one; I have left my suitcase sans valuables in every hotel/pension/b & b I've ever stayed in with no worries. I am not sure why you would'nt be taking your camera out with you. If you're worried about while you sleep in a hostel, just use the lockers for everything. Also, almost every train station has a left luggage office where you can store your gear if you are only going to be there for the day or get there early and can't get into the hostel until later. Make sure you check their hours as some close earlier than others. I met a couple who couldn't leave Paris because their stuff was in the left luggage office. Relax, have a great time and take as few "valuables" as possible. Then you don't have to worry.
I backpacked for the first time by myself last May and I had the same concerns. While most hostels have lockers some don't, for that I would use small luggage locks on my backpack, and if that doesn't give you piece of mind, I brought a coil bike lock that i used to lock by bag to the luggage racks on trains and I would tie it to my pack to my bunk. I spent 5 weeks backpacking and not only had nothing stolen, never saw anyone have anything stolen! I had a small day bag that I kept my valueables in such as my camera, ipod ect.. and never left it out of my sight! My day bag came with me everywhere sometimes even to bed. Also if your worried wear a money belt, it's the safest way. Cameras can be replaced so don't worry if it gets stolen or else it may ruin your trip just keep your money and passport safe. Prepare for everything and just trust your gut. And look on the bright side if your stuff gets stolen its just less to carry! It really is safer than most books make it sound!
and don't forget no one wants to steal your dirty clothes, a luggage lock or a cable will scare off any thiefs, most are lazy they will see a lock and move on!
If you're truly backpacking and have a top-loading backpack, look up a pacsafe - they have compact wire mesh backpack covers. Can use with a panel loading backpack but in that case I would go with my friend's idea and replace the zipper pulls with small guage cable - the same stuff bike locks are made from. Read here: http://travelvice.com/archive/2007/05/lockable-backpack-zippers.php