Whether you’re on an RV camping vacation or living full-time in a motorhome or camper, there are ways to help you from becoming a victim of crime. There are precautions and safety measure you can take to make it more difficult for criminals to take what’s yours or threaten your family members. Even when boondocking in a remote location, camping off the grid or even parking at a popular campground, personal safety and RV security should be your top priorities to help keep you and your family safe.
We hope these simple personal safety and RV security guidelines provide better insight before getting behind the wheel or in the passenger seat. So if you’re planning your next RV vacation or full-time RV living, we’ll show you how you don’t become a victim to crime.
RVers’ Guide to Personal Safety on the Road
This article is not an intent of frightening prospective or new RV travelers from hitting the road. However, it’s wise to be proactive about your and your family’s personal safety. From meeting strangers who give off that uneasy vibe to keeping your family safe from harm, here’s some important personal safety tips will help you recognize potential situations and mitigate certain events that may take you down the wrong road.
So, let’s get to the nitty gritty with this guide to personal protection and keeping your RV secure from criminals and malicious intent. And, some of these tips could very well save your life or the lives of others.
CRIME DETERRENTS and PERSONAL SAFETY TIPS
Alert family and friends of your plans
It’s always a good idea to let your family and/or friends know where you’re headed, the route you’re taking and ETA (estimated time of arrival). And, check in with them along the way, even so much as a simple text letting them know of your whereabouts and how your trip is going.
In our case, we always let our son know our travel plans even though he may be hundreds or thousands of miles of away from our destination. If he doesn’t hear from us, he checks to make sure we’re okay. We admit, sometimes we get so excited about our new destination that we forget to let him know.
Be Vigilant and Aware of Your Surroundings
Wherever you go, alway be aware of your surroundings; whether it’s when you’re parked at a campground, fueling at a gas station, or stopping for lunch along the road. Take note of things that don’t look normal. We have this rule that if one of us doesn’t feel comfortable, we don’t stay.
It’s a good practice to never have our faces buried in our phones, looking down or digging for things in our bags when we’re walking to and from our vehicles. I always scan the area for things that don’t look normal.
In the event that you have to park at a rest stop, always use the buddy system. Non’t walk alone in the dark. Keep your keys in your hand with your key fob alarm readily available.
If you encounter someone, always make eye contact. Try to remember at least two physical features such as facial scars, hair color, tattoos, height and weight, etc. In the event that you need to report to the authorities, giving a good description will help in the investigation in catching the perp.
If you have that gut feeling or just don’t feel comfortable, look for an out and leave immediately. Or, if something just doesn’t feel right as you’re approaching your RV or vehicle, pretend you’ve forgotten something and walk back to the store quickly. And stay near crowds because criminals and attackers don’t want attention.
Know your whereabouts
This is especially important when you park or camp. After checking into your campsite, write your exact location on a piece of paper and posted it near inside of your door or refrigerator. If there is a bonafide emergency that requires you to call 911, your address and site number of your location are readily available.
Also, it’s a good idea to check in with a close contact of where you’re staying. If you want to share your location with close family members or friends throughout your journey, take a look at these best location finding apps and GPS tracking apps.
By all means, share your travel plans and whereabouts with your closest family members but do it privately via private messaging or phone call.
Do not post your exact location on social media
I totally get that you want to share your cool adventures and amazing places you are at with the world but be cautious about giving your exact location and time. Wait until after you leave to share those beautiful views on social media. That just lets people know when you’re away from your RV, where your RV is and where you are. If you must, at least disable the the location services feature or checking in on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But keep your posts vague on exact locations.
We learned the hard way that posting exact locations and times on social media has the potential of a negative affect. A couple years ago, we shared a photo of our campsite on Facebook and Instagram with the campground name and location. Someone who saw our post decided to come for a visit at 9:30 pm. We had no idea who they were. Honestly, it was kind of unnerving. So now, we only post after we’ve left that location.
Lastly, we do not post exact itineraries and ultimate destinations on social media for all of the reasons we’ve listed above.
Always Carry Identification
Regardless if you’re boondocking in the wild or strolling the RV resort or campground, it’s smart to always have your identification on you. Should you become a victim to a crime, become unconscious or incapacitated, your ID will be your link of communication to your loved ones or your travel partner(s). As well, don’t forget to include lifesaving information such as if you’re diabetic, have a pacemaker, or other medical information.
As for your children, we recommend labeling the inside of their clothing with their name, parents’ name and telephone number.
Dress for the Run and Not for the Sun
Travel days shouldn’t be about making a fashion statement. One of our mantras when we rode motorcycles was ‘dress for the slide and not for the ride’. In other words, we dressed for potential dangers or consequences. Though we no longer ride motorcycle, we still stand by the mantra to dress appropriately to help deter ourselves from harm. I know that sounds crazy but it’s something to think about.
For example, on travel days, we wear flat-soled, closed-toe shoes instead of flip flops. First, it’s dangerous to drive in flip flops. Second, when stopping at rest stops or fuel stations, flip flops and sandals have the potential of leaving g vulnerable and hinder our ability to escape on foot quickly should we need to. In other words, dress for the run and not for the sun.
Take your cellphone everywhere you go
No matter where we go, our cellphones are always on us; whether when we are walking to the bathrooms or on a walk to go stretch our legs. As much as we may not like big brother watching our every move, in times of peril or trouble, smartphones can be your link to getting help.
And, let’s not forget that your cellphone is a communication tool. As simple as falling, getting locked in the bathroom or becoming disoriented, you’re only a phone call away to call your travel partner, authorities or emergency service should you end up in trouble. Know how to use 911 on your phone as well as security alerts.
Always keep your vehicle’s key fob near or on you
Plain and simple, criminals and attackers hate attention; whether it’s bright lights or loud sounds. Like the personal alarm I mentioned above, your key fob alarm will alert others of trouble or at least gain attention of those nearby.
But, there’s one caveat. In my opinion, it’s really a good idea NOT to click your key fob to search for your vehicle. By doing that, could let criminals know you’re on the way thus, setting yourself up for a potential abduction.
On another note, if you’re going to be away from your RV, make sure you take all of your RV keys with you. This way, should a criminal break in or access your RV, they can’t steal it and drive away while you’re away or out exploring.
And lastly, keep your key fob on your nightstand or near your bed while you’re sleeping. Should someone try to break into your RV, simply press the car alarm button to scare off perpetrators or attract attention from your neighboring campers.
Regardless if you’re in your RV or out for a jog or walk, it’s a good idea to have a personal alarm. Even if you have your smartphone on you, a personal alarm could make a difference by fending off a criminal without even throwing a punch or physical confrontation. But, there are other reasons a personal alarm could save your life. It can scare off threatening wildlife. And if you should fall and can’t get up, someone will be able to hear your alarm and come to your aid.
Big Dog Security
Though we don’t RV travel with dogs, dog-owning RVers claim that dogs are a huge crime deterrent. And honestly, I can see their point of view. I mean, who wants to contend with a dog of any size that may have a bite bigger than their bark? That said, be a responsible pet owner by not allowing your dog bark constantly, it’s just good campground etiquette.
We’ve also read that solo travelers, especially solo female RVers, should place a large water bowl with a large dog leash outside their motorhome or camper door. I’m not sure that would prevent a break-in however, it could be a deterrent; making a criminal think twice about entering your RV if they see a big dog bowl.
Now, all of those I mentioned about above are great personal safety tips to help keep attackers away from you and criminals away from your property. However, should you be the victim of physical confrontation, you should be prepared to defend yourself and/or your family.
There’s a rabid myth circling the RV community regarding wasp spray being suggested to deter or fend off attackers. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it is, a myth. There’s no verifiable evidence or real proof that it’s effective to be used as personal protection. The active ingredients in most wasp sprays contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids. This is derived from the chrysanthemum plant and affects the nervous system. It’s affect on a humans would not be rapid.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Household Products Database shows that it causes eye irritation that can be treated by flushing with water. Know that federal law prohibits the use of any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. This makes it a felony to use it on someone.
Another misconception of personal protection is, like wasp spray, using bear spray as a deterrent to attackers. Every can of bear spray displays an EPA registration number. Because of this it is not intended to be a self defense tool. As a result if you buy it and use it for self defense against humans, you open yourself up to legal ramifications.
Unlike wasp spray and bear spray, pepper spray can be used responsibly to fend off human attackers legally. However, I do suggest taking a self-defense class to learn how to properly and effectively use pepper spray. One of thing topics you’ll learn is how wind speed and direction can affect the effectiveness of pepper spray. If the wind is blowing in the users face, the spray will contaminate the user and not the attacker. In addition, if there is a cross-wind the attacker may not receive a full application of the spray.
Be aware that some states or local jurisdictions differ so it’s important to stay up to date pepper spray laws for each state.
Firearms and Deadly Weapons
First, you probably have noticed decals mounted on RV windows or doors that read: “protected by 2nd amendment” or “Don’t tread on me” flags. Though some may look at it as a deterrent, why advertise that you have expensive guns in your RV? That, in itself, may place yourself and your RV as a target of theft or worse.
Second, if you’re thinking of buying a firearm or other deadly weapon for protection, know the incredible responsibility behind firearm ownership and usage. You need to be aware of personal protection laws of each state you’re in and local jurisdictions. And, I can’t stress enough that proper training to use a firearm is of utmost importance.
Whether an RVer has any firearms or deadly weapons in their RV is up to each state you travel in or through. Each state’s legislation may differ from another. So, it’s imperative that you become familiar with each state’s laws, reciprocity laws, licensing and what kind of firearms are legal for transporting across state lines in your RV or vehicle.
We highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the laws on the federal side (ATF). But do know, neither ATF nor any other Federal agency issues such a permit or license. Carry Concealed Permits (also referred to as CCDW – Carry Concealed Deadly Weapon) are issued by a State or local government.
For individual state laws regarding firearm protection and use, we encourage you to read a few articles to get the most beneficial information:
All of that said above, if arming yourself with a firearm is what you choose to do to protect you and your family, accept that whatever the outcome may pose legal ramifications.
Also, it bears repeating to always keep all firearms out of reach of children and those not trained properly to use them. To alleviate that, a good small portable handgun safe is perfect to safely store your firearm when not being carried. We also recommend a trigger lock for an extra safety measure.
Oh, and it’s wise to store your ammunition away from, not only your firearms but, any heat-producing sources.
That wraps up this important safety write-up. We hope these personal safety tips helps not only RVers and Campers but everyone who travels. Times are different now. It bears repeating to always be vigilant and cautious but still have fun on your adventures. Please be safe and watch out for each other.