What If Someone Tries To Rob You While Camping?

by Tommy Grant
Devil's head camper shoots carjacker pike national forest

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Look at any RV message board or Facebook group and you’ll see posts about “the knock.” For some people, it’s just that they parked in the wrong place and tried to sleep against the rules or some local ordinance aimed at the homeless. For others, a stealth van life setup wasn’t stealthy enough, and someone figured out what they were doing. But, what if it’s not the police, a security guard or someone else with good (but annoying) intentions?

This happened to someone in my family once while sleeping in a slide-in truck camper. They knew for sure that the Walmart parking lot they were camping in allowed it, but around 3 AM there was a strange sound below them near the cab. Then, someone tried the doors to see if they could get inside. Fortunately, an exterior light switch was in easy reach of the bed, and the sudden illumination scared the thieves off. But, we’ve since discussed what they would have done if the people weren’t so easily startled (or had come back in greater numbers).

Let’s start with preventing an attack/robbery. Unlike your home, it’s not always as easy to fortify an RV, and it’s even harder to provide some security for a tent. But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Let’s start with an RV. I’d personally never sleep in anything soft-sided in an urban or suburban environment. You’re always one knife swipe away from trouble unless it’s something like a pop-top van where the soft sides are out of reach. But, for hard-sided campers, you can take many home security ideas along on the road. Things like hardening the doors, adding latches and applying anti-break film to the windows can make it harder for intruders to get in. Security cameras are a great option, too.

For tents, it’s a good idea to find safer places to set up. While the homeless population in many blue cities lives in tents, they’re often the victims of crime that goes unreported. So, it pays to find a place that’s secluded or secured in some fashion, like an RV park. Out on public lands, it’s best to stay away from major roads where you’d be seen and easily targeted. Finally, setting up some tripwire alarms (some of which fire a shotgun shell) can help you buy valuable time to mount a defense.

Should security and preventative measures fail, you’ll also want to be prepared to use force, and there are two things you have to consider.

First, there’s a good chance as a traveler or camper that you’re away from your home state. So, you’ll want to know what the laws are for weapon possession and use of force. Surprisingly, even California doesn’t try to disarm people who are in camp, but knowing whether it would be legal to shoot is a good idea nonetheless. Resources like Handgunlaw.us are a great place to start.

Another thing to think about are your defensive skills. It makes sense to consider taking your tent or RV out on public lands or an open-minded shooting range to practice. You’ll probably want something like a plastic “blue gun” to get used to moving around your campsite and getting familiar with what you’d be facing. Then (following all safety rules, of course), consider setting up some targets and going for some defensive drills.

Finally, read up on other people’s experiences with criminal activity during camping. Google is a great place to start, but we’d also like to hear about any experiences readers may have had with this, so be sure to share them in the comments!

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