For the past 6 weeks, I have been camping out of my car, from Texas to Colorado to New Mexico to Indiana to Tennessee and beyond!
With every new location comes exciting adventures, but also unique situations and challenges for finding safe places to camp and park my car.
Whether you are camping out of a backpack, tent, car, or RV, you’re most likely going to have a lot of prized possessions with you, especially if you are doing any work from the road and carrying electronics. While you’re out having fun, you want to make sure that your possessions will be safe.
Overall, I believe that the world is a pretty friendly place, but you also don’t want to be naive. A few simple precautions can be the difference between a great camping adventure or a horrible camping disaster.
Here are some easy tips to give you peace of mind and keep your car and possessions safe while camping.
Hide, Lock, and Take
Those signs you see outside of all shopping malls are really true. Hide, Lock, and Take is your best defense for preventing theft and damage to your vehicle.
This may seem common sense, but so many times I see my friends leave their purse or other valuables sitting in the passenger seat of their car.
Keep a blanket or two in your car, preferably one that is similar to the color of your car seats, to cover your possessions. A zebra striped blanket will be easily visible from outside your car and that’s not exactly the effect we are going for!
The front window of your car will be the least tinted window, so put up a sun shade to block the view into your car. I also have window covers for the driver’s and passenger side front windows. They add an extra layer, while not attracting attention.
If you’re going to do a lot of camping out of your car or carrying expensive items in your car, you might consider tinting your windows. This was the first step in my car renovation. It cost about $250 and only took a few hours. It makes me feel so much safer and it also helps to regulate the internal temperature of my car.
Side note for tent campers: Never leave anything valuable outside or in your tent. Always hide valuables in your car. If you have any fancy camping gear, like this awesome Jetboil system, don’t leave it outside unattended. Anything left outside can easily get swiped, by people or animals!
Always, always, ALWAYS lock your car. Lock your car when you go on a walk around the campground. Lock your car when you are sleeping in it (or next to it) at night. Lock your car when you go into a store. Lock your car when you go walk to the bathroom. LOCK YOUR CAR PEOPLE. I can’t stress this enough.
Just when you feel safe and think “I don’t need to lock my car”… someone will attempt to open your car door while you are inside, scaring the crap out of you before you realize it was your friend playing a joke and you vow to never camp with them again. Let’s just avoid this situation.
Whenever you can, take your most valuable possessions with you, like your laptop or camera. Keep this in consideration when you are packing for your trip. Bring a backpack that can carry your valuables.
When you can’t carry your valuables with you, hide and lock in your car (or RV).
Arm and Alarm
You can’t talk about keeping your car and possessions safe while camping without bringing up personal safety. If you are camping in or near your car, you yourself are a defense to keep your prized possessions safe.
When I first hit the road in my car, I didn’t carry really any defenses to protect myself (though I did have a rubber mallet and a panic button on my keys!). I didn’t think I’d need it where I would be staying.
Until… one night at the campground (which is fondly now referred to as “the night of the campground creeper”), when a man was looking through my car windows with his flashlight and poking around our campsite. It was the most terrifying experience that I’ve had in a long time.
I wasn’t sure the intentions of “the campground creeper”, so I didn’t know if it was a situation for using the panic button on my car keys. He had caught me right before I put the window shades in my car, so I also wasn’t sure if he could see me inside the car or not.
I slowly laid down on the bed and prayed that a face wouldn’t pop up in my window. Eventually, he went away. I shoved all the window shades in before poking out to get another look.
I saw that he was following a creature with his flashlight, which I’m pretty sure was his lost cat (that was probably hiding under my car). I’ll give “the campground creeper” the benefit of the doubt, but I was not about to let that happen again.
Now, I’ve armed and alarmed myself. I told this story to a family member I was visiting on the road. She was horrified and proceeded to gift me a taser, striking stick, pepper spray, and alarm flashlight.
Now, I’ll never camp without defense. It makes me feel more confident knowing that I have measures to protect myself.
Check out these simple defenses that we carry here at Gander:
Bonus Tips: Animals and Weather
Since you’ll be camping out in Mother Nature, it’s good to keep her conditions and creatures in mind.
Follow campground guidelines for food safety, whether you are in bear country or not. It would be quite unfortunate to get attacked by a raccoon on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night because you left a half eaten s’more on the picnic table.
Always peek out of your tent, car, or RV before blindly jumping outside in the dark. You don’t want to surprise any wildlife that might be roaming nearby.
Also, check all of your camping supplies before putting them back in your car. If you’ve been set up a few days, you might find some critters have built homes in your camp chairs or tent crevices.
When I was growing up, I started to pack up our step stool to put in the RV and discovered a black widow living inside it. Check your stuff!
Mother Nature can do a lot more than just rain on your camping trip. She can flood your campground or send a tornado down on your RV park. Don’t underestimate the power of the weather. If conditions get questionable, watch closely and get out before it gets bad.
So that’s it! You know all you need to know about keeping your car and possessions safe while camping. No need to be paranoid, just aware of basic safety precautions. Happy camping!