Campsite theft is getting out of control. Thieves are making their way into campgrounds and RV parks to steal your stuff! But who’s responsibility is it to keep your your camping gear and belongings from becoming a target for theft? These useful campsite theft prevention tips will help protect your personal property whether camping in a campground or camping off grid.
It’s no surprise that theft is on the rise. Desperate people are taking desperate measures to score some cash. But, theft isn’t limited to just inner cities or high populous areas.
Thieves are also targeting campgrounds and RV parks where campers are trusting, more relaxed and may have become complacent. Even off-the-grid and dispersed camping areas have fallen victim to campsite theft.
So, how do we become proactive of protecting our campsite and all of our camping gear and belongings?
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty with some campsite theft prevention tips to help keep your stuff ‘yours’.
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Campsite Theft Prevention Tips
How to Keep Your Camping Gear from Getting Stolen at Campgrounds or While Boondocking
Who’s responsible for your belongings?
If you’ve noticed, 99% of campgrounds and RV parks are posting release of liability disclaimers in their campground rules and check-in information.
While the campground staff may try to practice good campground security, unfortunately, it’s not their job to keep sticky-fingered thieves from taking your stuff.
No one bears the responsibility of keeping tabs on your campsite, RV and all of your camping gear except for you. When you rent a campsite, you assume responsibility on all of your belongings.
Who’s stealing your stuff?
Now, I’m not trying to sway your decision into not going camping. But the saying goes, “times have changed”. While we all try to hold onto the greater good in people, that’s certainly not reality these days.
Thieves and criminals are everywhere. Unfortunately, some may be camping right next to you.
They are casing your every move. Quite literally, they are window shopping the minute you’re setting up your campsite.
And sadly, it’s not kids just being kids anymore. While it still happens, the days of a few local kids stealing a few beers from your cooler in the middle of the night isn’t the problem anymore. Now those sticky fingers are adults helping themselves to your whole cooler.
From your expensive coolers, grills, portable generators and bicycles, thieves know exactly what to take. Campsite theft has become a profession.
In fact, law enforcement authorities have seen a dramatic rise in campsite thefts.
So it’s important to keep tabs on your campsite while you’re present and when you step out to go exploring. Think of the information posted here, not only a warning, but also a precaution.
“Campsite today; pawn shop tomorrow”
Thieves are even getting more brave by literally stealing stuff right out in broad daylight too. We’ve even heard accounts of trailer hitches and towing gear disappearing right off of RVs and vehicles.
And while not to the extent of missing expensive camping gear, we’ve even experienced thieves helping themselves to our firewood while we were out exploring.
Reasons for campground theft stems from drug use, unemployment and anything else resulting in the desperation for money.
But here’s the thing. A lot of theft isn’t that a thief wants your stuff to keep as their own, but rather, to sell your personal property for cash.
A few of the most-reported stolen property from campgrounds and RV parks are electrical surge protectors, portable generators, grills, propane fire pits, bicycles, and of course, those pricy Yeti coolers.
If you’ve fallen victim to campsite theft, I highly recommend visit pawn shops and watch Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
So, the question remains, how could RVers and campers keep from falling victim to campsite theft at campground; regardless of where they park?
Anything that is portable, unsecured, unlocked or not tied down has the potential to disappear.
Campground and Campsite Selection
When planning your camping trip, research campgrounds and RV parks at your destination. Crowd-sourced websites like RV Life post reviews that give you perspective of whether or not you want to camp there.
Also, see if the campground or RV park has ample security measures.
Be suspicious of campgrounds that allow has an open-door policy that allows anyone and their brother to enter without checking in or out.
Research whether or not they have security cameras, roving patrols and a security gate with a code or key card.
Be leary of campgrounds and RV parks who don’t frequently change their security gate codes. Look around to see if the campground has a fenced perimeter.
Ask the Rangers, Campground Host and employees if there’s been any recent activity of vandalism and theft.
If you have the option of choosing your campsite, try to stay away from easy-access roads. Campsites closest to the entrance and exit are prone to higher theft rates unless they are near a 24-hour manned gate.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
While introverts like myself aren’t going to purposely start knocking on doors to meet folks, it is wise to meet your campsite neighbors.
Ask them if there have been any theft issues you need to be concerned about. Also, if you’re stepping away and you feel comfortable asking, see if they will just keep an eye on your campsite.
Still though, if something comes up missing, don’t place blame on anyone but yourself if something does disappear.
If you see or hear something that raises the hair on the back of your neck, ask the campground staff for a different site. And if you really feel uncomfortable, leave completely. That’s why RVs have wheels!
Stow before you go!
I briefly talked about stowing your camping gear in our campground etiquette article. While we stated that it’s to keep your campsite tidy and clean for aesthetics, there’s another reason to stow your gear and keep your campsite picked up.
The “out of sight, out of mind” mantra is about the best way you can keep your camping and RV gear safe.
So, as much as it may be a hassle to take everything apart and fold everything up, stowing is the easiest and cheapest way to deter theft of your belongings.
My best suggestion is to make your campsite look like you’re only there for an overnight.
So, stow before you go; whether it’s going to bed or going out to explore.
Don’t forget to put away your bluetooth speaker, cellphone battery bank, because anything not locked down will walk.
If you don’t have the room to stow all of your property inside your RV, consider getting a small tent (only if the campground allows it) to put your belongings in.
Though not fail-safe, it does hide your stuff to not making your gear so much of a target.
That said, we want to make clear, a tent is not a theft deterrent as it can be easily accessed. But, it does help prevent ‘advertising’ what you have.
And always be sure to lock up all of your camping gear even if it’s inside the tent.
In one of my favorite Facebook camping groups, a forum member questioned, “how one could prove identification of their personal belongings?”.
One suggestion is to permanently mark your personal property and camping gear by engraving your state abbreviation with your driver’s license number. The police may easily identify it if your property is recovered.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt to put your phone number, so in case a Good Samaritan finds it, they can call you to get it returned.
Another campsite theft prevention tip is to take photos of serial numbers on each item to prove it’s yours. And if there’s an engraving of a serial number, do a rubbing with the side of a pencil onto a piece of paper.
But until you can get a permanent engraver, consider getting your own name brand decals and sticking them in hidden or inconspicuous locations on your property.
Remove Brand Identity from your RV and Vehicles
We admit, we thought it was kind of cool when we had our Always On Liberty brand on the back of our fifth wheel and our Ram Truck tow vehicle.
However, not only did it open doors of legality and insurance issue but also our own security.
So, we decided to not put our brand information on our motorhome and Jeep. For simple reason, all it takes is someone to look up our social media channels to see where we’re headed or when we’re out for the day away from our campsite.
In other words, there is a point of putting yourself out there too much. Don’t put you and your family in negative situations that could invite crime and theft. This includes campgrounds, RV parks and even boondocking locations.
Our rule is to be vague in our exact locations until after we leave the campground or RV park. We also don’t post our travel itinerary or exact locations publicly. If we go exploring or sightseeing, we don’t share our sightseeing photos until after we’ve returned back to our campsite.
Ditch personalized campsite decor
Thieves will use any method possible to gain access to your belongings. Part of their ‘casing’ is noticing those custom garden flags or wood plaques that may have your name listed on it.
If confronted, a thief-in-action may tell another camper, “Dan told me I could borrow this”.
Don’t set yourself up to become a victim of theft before it even happens. Refrain from advertising who you are on your RV or campsite decorations.
Don’t advertise your campground location on social media
Sometimes we (collectively speaking) may be unknowingly advertising our gear simply by posting photos of our bikes, camp chairs, fire pits or even coolers at our campsite. And, that has potential of coming back to bite us in the rear.
By sharing your information on social media, you’re pretty much providing a catalog for thieves to shop before they stop at your campsite.
So, think before posting on social media of your exact location and time. If you have a high-profile social media channel and you’re in a high crime area, perhaps refrain from boast posting.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt to turn off your location or check-in services on your channels. Or, you could do what we do. We post after we leave a campground and never advertise where we currently are.
Hide your campsite hang tag
Most campgrounds and RV parks issue a campsite hang tag that has your campsite number written largely in big marker. Some may even have the campground listed and gate code as well.
Unfortunately, those can be a dead give-away telling thieves, “Hey, I’m away from my campsite!”. It’s like giving away your house key to a stranger. Thieves have latched onto using this as access to your camping gear when you’re away from your campsite.
So, if you take your tow vehicle or toad out for the day, stash your RV park or campground hang tag in your vehicle glove box while you’re out exploring.
By leaving it hang from your windshield mirror, thieves will see it and could very easily zip on down to the campground and help themselves to your site while you’re out exploring. Or, they will call their other dishonest friends to cue them to help themselves to your stuff.
Buy cheap camping gear
Thieves aren’t interested in your $5 camp chair or the $20 grill. But, if a thief sees an expensive name brand cooler, camp chair or grill, guess what? It’s good as gone if you leave it out unattended.
So, to make yourself less a target for campground theft, leave only your cheap camping gear outside. Thieves will think ‘that’s all they have?’ and pass by your campsite without any thought of taking what’s not theirs’.
A picture’s worth a thousand words
Each time you set up your campsite, take a photo or video of your campsite setup showing the surroundings and anything that associates the location such as a street sign, campground name, etc.
That way, if anything is stolen, you have photo evidence that it was there and now it’s not.
Also, take a photo and inventory of all of your belongings; or at least the high priced camping gear. But again, don’t post it on your social media until after you’ve packed up and left the campground.
Lock it or lose it
“Locks keep honest people honest”
And, as we’ve heard the saying, ‘a lock keeps honest people honest’. No lock is 100% theft proof. However, keeping your camping gear, portable generators, bicycles, kayaks, and even your RV surge protector under lock and key will at least buy time for someone to notice a thief trying to make off with your stuff.
So, anytime you leave your campsite, campground, turn in for the night or even take simple 30 minute nap, stow your gear or lock your items to the picnic table, RV, or pole.
When you stow your bicycles on your vehicle’s bike rack, still lock them to the rack. In fact, it’s best to use 2 or 3 locks for added security.
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Campsite Theft Prevention Safety Devices
We can’t stress enough that when buying theft deterrent devices, you get what you pay for. Don’t think for a moment that a small cable lock is going to keep thieves from taking what’s not theirs.
Professional or even amateur thieves will have bolt cutters or other tools that can cut through locks or dismantle alarms quickly.
That said, any campsite theft deterrent device is better than none. You can use inexpensive solar motion sensor flood lights that will turn on when the sensor picks up motion. And to keep an eye on your RV and surroundings, you can temporarily install a mini trail camera.
To alert audibly, there’s several anti-theft alarms. There’s a bicycle anti-theft wireless security alarm that detects motion or vibration.
And speaking of bicycles, there’s a plethora of bicycle locks depending on what your looking for. They range from the best Kryptonite U-Lock. Other bicycle locks that work not only for bicycles but locking up all of your camping gear safely such as a folding bicycle lock, cable lock, or a chain lock with protective sleeve.
For windows and doors, there’s a wireless entry alarm. And, if you’re wanting to really deter thieves or evil doers, there’s a solar motion sensor siren and strobe alarm system that has a warning flashing strobe.
The best take-away that I can offer you is to be observant and mind your belongings. Go with your gut instinct. If a campground appears sketchy or people in it make you or your family feel uncomfortable, don’t ignore those feelings.
Tell the campground owners or management that you want a refund because of security and safety reasons. Invest in some campsite theft deterrent devices, stow your gear and be vigilant.
But always remember this. Never place yourself or your family in a situation that deems unsafe or you or anyone in your party don’t feel comfortable. Again, go with your gut. Your belongings and camping gear is all stuff that can be replaced. Your family cannot. Be safe out there.
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2 Replies to “Campsite Theft Prevention Tips for RVs & Tent Campers”
Great ideas, love the one about the chairs. We are about to go on a decent trek to 14 different sites. I have a couple of really good chairs with foot lounges and two that swing and may just bring one of those and put two crap chairs out and leave that one visible every time from the road. We also just got a new 10 person huge pop up so that probably signals $. Its such a shame that we live in a crazy world now days when it was only a 100$ tent and will be nice to walk around and get years of use in. I am thinking about picking up a lock box for the car that has a steel cable so you can lock it underneath a seat.
Hi Brad, we agree, it’s a sad state that we live in having to lock everything up to avoid theft. Regarding the lock box, we highly recommend reading this: Protect Your Valuables from Theft & Fire with the Right RV Safe.