Tips and tricks for protecting your campervan against thieves
Once you’ve nabbed a new or used campervan and transformed it into your dream home on wheels, it’s time to think about on-road safety. If you’re planning an extended road trip or living in your class B motorhome for any length of time, safety is a top priority.
Here are some tips to keep your vehicle, belongings, family, pets, and friends protected throughout your travels.
Maintaining a Low Profile
If you’re planning to hang out in one place for an extended period of time, try to avoid drawing attention to your vehicle. Definitely skip the loud paint job, but also keep from parking in the same place for more than a few days. If you develop habits, you can run the risk drawing unwanted attention to yourself and making it easier for would-be thieves to keep track of your actions.
Plan your parking places in advance so you can focus on your travels instead of worrying about safety. If you’re planning to save money by not staying at an RV campground, make a list of several places where you can park and rotate throughout your stay in any given location.
Also, make sure you have a night spot scheduled for each day. Your night spot is only for sleeping – don’t draw attention to yourself by watching TV or brushing your teeth on the bumper.
Again, these rules only apply if you plan to not stay in designated campgrounds and instead choose to park in residential or urban areas.
Selecting a Safe Parking Spot
You can travel far away from the grid and still find a safe place to spend the night in your class B motorhome. Known as “boondocking” or “dry camping”, parking outside of a developed campground without hookups is legal in some circumstances. For instance, boondocking is permitted on almost all Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service (USFS) properties.
Research camping sites ahead of your trip — that way you know you’ll be spending the night at legal and safe overnight spots. In addition to checking out online forums and boondocking sites, you can call local BLM and USFS offices for more information.
When exploring urban areas, different rules apply. Choose a night spot in a place where cars are normally left overnight. Consider hotel parking lots, 24-hour grocery stores, rest stops, and Walmart parking lots. You can also find street parking in residential areas. Just make sure you choose a neighborhood where it’s normal to park in the street and obey any local parking signs and laws.
Where NOT to Park Overnight
When you’re deciding what parking spots to avoid, common sense will come in handy. A quick online search will tell you which parts of any given urban area have higher crime rates. Steer clear of these areas.
Once you narrow your scope, make sure to avoid dark, secluded streets and empty parking lots. Instead, find a well-lit, busy lot and park next to other cars. In residential areas, it’s also a good idea not to park directly in front of a house or apartment complex. You might raise suspicions or increase the risk of drawing unwanted attention to yourself.
|Read more: Where You Can (and Can’t) Park Your Motorhome|
There are a number of ways for campervan owners to guard against break-ins. Although it might seem obvious, you should always lock the doors to your camper whenever you step out, even if you don’t plan on being gone for long.
To take security a step further, consider installing deadbolts on your camper doors, making it harder for trespassers to gain access. You can also increase security with items like advanced alarm systems, GPS theft technology, or caged dividers. By installing a safe in your campervan, you can protect valuables such as your laptop, camera equipment, or passports. It’s even possible to install a safe in your vehicle floor, keeping it completely out of sight from any would-be thieves.
If you decide to stay in a hotel or at the house of a friend or family member, make sure you leave your van in a safe, well-lit area. Consider looking for a gated parking lot with nighttime security guards and cameras if the neighborhood is unsafe.
If it makes you feel more secure, you can always stash mace, pepper spray, or a taser somewhere in the van. Should you happen to hear someone trying to get in your vehicle while you’re inside, immediately let them know that you’re inside the vehicle and that you are prepared to defend yourself.
Most would-be campervan thieves are just looking to steal something and get away unnoticed. By letting them know you’re there, you’ll likely scare them away. But don’t take any risks – immediately move your camper to a new parking area if you experience an attempted break-in.
As far as carrying a concealed weapon, be sure to check the laws of each state in which you’re planning to travel to ensure you are abiding by local gun regulations. The last thing you want is to get pulled over and cited for unlawfully carrying a weapon across state lines.
How to Handle Police & Security Guards
In the rare occasion that police or security guards come knocking on your camper door, don’t panic. Instead, just be honest, open, and cooperative. If it turns out you’re parked in an area where you’re not supposed to, odds are they will just ask you to move.
Of course, there’s always the off chance that they might fine or ticket you. But if you explain that you’re just passing through town on your way to bigger and better things, they’ll most likely just send you on your way.
What to Do When You Break Down
Eventually, it happens to everyone. You’re driving along in the middle of nowhere, making great time, when smoke starts pouring out of the engine. You’re stranded.
When a breakdown occurs, it’s important to have some tools on hand for on-site repairs. For example, you can remedy a flat tire in a jiffy with a jack, jack stand, and tire iron. But, for more serious problems – like with your transmission or engine – it’s a good idea to have a membership to an auto club like AAA that allows you get help quickly.
If you do breakdown, just be sure to pull your van or motorhome safely to the side of the road, being sure to leave enough distance between you and the road as to not endanger passing motorists.
Final Words of Advice
Whether you’re parked in your driveway or hundreds of miles from home, ensuring your safety and security is always important. Some final tips to staying safe in your motorhome or campervan include:
- When at home, keep the keys to your van or motorhome in a secure place apart from everyday keys.
- Using steering/gear clamps when your van is in storage.
- Install a tracking device in your vehicle in the unfortunate event of a stolen van.
- Keep your valuable items out of view from anyone looking in the windows.
- Properly insure your van against theft.
Have a safe and fun journey!