12 Van Life Security Mistakes That Could Put You in Danger

Although I wish living in a van meant doing whatever I wanted without a care or concern, this isn’t the reality in today’s society. I’ve…

Woman in a flannel standing in the doorway of a Sprinter van.

Although I wish living in a van meant doing whatever I wanted without a care or concern, this isn’t the reality in today’s society. I’ve lived in my van full-time for almost a year, and safety and security are always on my mind. 

By taking precautions to protect myself and my valuables on the road, it allows me to minimize my risks and enjoy peace of mind when visiting unfamiliar places.

Here are some common security mistakes that van lifers should avoid to stay safe on the road:

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1. Leave Valuables in Plain Sight

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Whenever I leave the van, I secure my valuables, including my laptop, camera, and cash, in a locked box. I never leave my valuables in the open where people can see them. Even if you choose not to lock up your valuable items, you should at least hide them somewhere in your van where they’re out of sight. 

2. Leave the Doors Unlocked

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

I always lock the doors, whether I’m inside or outside of the van. If someone sees me walking inside by myself, they might follow me and try to open the door. For this reason, I lock the doors as soon as I enter. 

Whenever I leave the van unattended, I lock the doors and double-check them before walking away.

3. Not Cover Windows

Photo Credit: RB Components

Window covers help with insulation and add a layer of privacy and security to your van. If my husband and I leave the van in a parking lot to go grocery shopping, I put up all the window covers so no one can see inside while I’m gone. I also put up the window covers at night so no one can peek inside.

4. Park in Unsafe Areas

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

I always make sure the van is parked in a safe area, especially before leaving it. If I notice people are staring in a way that gives me a bad feeling, I’ll find a new parking spot. 

I also prioritize well-lit spots in populated areas, possibly near businesses with security cameras, and avoid parking in secluded areas with high crime rates.

5. Follow a Routine

Photo Credit: Off Highway Vans

If you leave your van at the same time every day to work in a coffee shop, work out, or shower, people may pick up on this predictable schedule. For this reason, I recommend varying the places you park along with your routines. You never know who might be watching you and waiting for the right time to break in.

6. Overshare on Social Media

Image Credits: Deposit Photos

Although sharing your plans with your family, friends, and followers is fun, you never know who else could be watching, especially if your social media account is public. Don’t share your exact location, travel plans, or detailed pictures of your location in real time. Doing so can make you a vulnerable target for an attack or burglary. 

7. Not Have a Network

campervan parked on the campground
Photo Credit: Tom Zittergruen @nomadxtom and Kaylin Zittergruen @katekeepswild

If something goes wrong, it’s important to have people to turn to who can help you in your time of need. Make sure you take time to build a network of relationships with other van lifers or your campsite neighbors. You may need to ask them for support or assistance in dangerous situations. 

Even if you know no one else around, you can develop communication protocols with friends or family members to keep them updated on your location and when they should expect to hear from you.

8. Ignore Gut Feelings

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

I’ve found that your gut is almost always right. If you feel like a specific spot or nearby neighbor is unsafe, it’s better to move than to risk it. 

Trust your instincts, pay attention when things feel off, and be cautious.

9. Have No Security Devices

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Simple security measures like motion sensor lights, a security camera, or a GPS tracking device can go a long way. They can also give you added peace of mind when leaving your van.

10. Buy Weak Exterior Locks

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Many of my van life friends have had their bikes stolen off the back of their van. If you have valuable items stored on the exterior of your van, invest in high-quality locks or storage compartments to protect your gear and supplies.

11. Draw Attention to Your Van

Photo Credit: Outdoorsy

It’s best to maintain a low profile. Don’t draw unnecessary attention to your van with decorations, signage, and stickers. If you blend in with your surroundings, you can avoid unwanted attention.

12. Know Nothing About Self-Defense

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Learning self-defense is empowering. A self-defense class can teach you skills and confidence to protect yourself in a scary situation.

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