As RVers, we regularly stay in areas where we have no idea of the potential problems that exist locally. From high crime rates to local unrest, people traveling can easily find themselves in the middle of trouble. Common sense plays a large role in staying safe.
Here’s a different way to think about it… You are at home (in your RV) but your RV is not at home. Therefore, it’s easy to become complacent about your surroundings because you are inside (at home—in your comfort zone).
Consider Our Situation
We fulltime. We meander all over. We have been in all 50 states several times each (no, we didn’t take the RV to Hawaii) and most of the Canadian provinces several times, too.
We have a large motorhome. It looks fine. It is my home. It cost as much as a home. It is impressive to others. I am sure there are some people who think that because I have this very nice RV, I must have considerable wealth and carry it with me. I don’t, but they don’t know that.
We often boondock (dry camp) and, always with permission for any commercial location, do this at WalMart, Flying J, Rest Areas, and numerous other places. We typically do not use a campground unless we need their services. Interestingly, we have been in some campgrounds that looked pretty “seedy”—i.e., while driving through, I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay there.
What Can You Do?
Regardless of where you stay, there are some precautions you can take to make yourself and your RV a bit more safe. Consider the following…
- Lock your doors and windows. Lock your RV’s compartments. Lock your tow car.
- If you have an electric step, put it in at night and (if possible) lock it with the switch so that it will not automatically go out if the door is opened.
- On a motorhome, if you have a step cover for the inside entry step well, put it out (over the well) at night. This creates somewhat of a barrier should the door be forced opened.
- When boondocking in a commercial parking lot, park under a light with your door facing the front door of the store.
- Put your curtains down. Don’t make it easy to see in.
- Don’t leave your computer on the dash where it is visible.
- Don’t leave computer cables and wiring showing under the front curtain on the dash.
- Don’t leave your GPS attached to the windshield.
- Never open the door to a stranger. Answer any knock on the door by sliding open a kitchen or other window and talking from there.
- If it’s the police, ask them to hold up their badge, get a badge number, and then ask them to please point to the police car. Police rarely walk any more.
- Call the local police to see if it is really the police. Dial 411 on any cell phone to get local directory assistance. There is a small charge for this directory assistance. If it is truly an emergency, dial 911.
- If someone approaches your coach and asks for gas/food/shelter/car repair money or says their spouse is sick/dog just got hurt/child just fell, tell them you will be happy to call the police to ask for any type of local charitable service that provides this sort of help.
- Some automatic satellite dishes have a built-in light shining on the dish. This can look like a beacon at night. Simply turn off the power to the controller inside. The light will go off but the dish should continue working. You will have to turn the power to the controller back on to stow the dish.
- Use your rear camera monitor to see what is happening behind your RV.
- If you see or hear people messing with your tow car, hit the “Panic Button” on your car’s keyless clicker while standing inside your RV. If it won’t signal the car through the rear of your coach, reach out the bedroom window to do this.
Is All This Necessary?
Let me close by stating that I have never had a single problem in any location, in any RV, anywhere. There have been no attempted break-ins that I am aware of for any RV I have owned in the last 20 years.
I have been approached on a few occasions by individuals who were asking for money for some reason (gas, groceries, fuel, doctor, pet, etc.). However, I have been approached with the same question more often in gas stations and on the street than I have in the RV. My consistent response is that I would be happy to call the police and ask them for any type of local charitable service that provides this sort of help.
We do not seek out questionable locations or areas to park our coach— even if it is just one overnight. We have called the state police and asked for information about any potential or history of “problems” in particular rest areas. They were candid and I greatly appreciate that. We try to stop a few hours before dark. We can better judge the area in daylight and leave if we are uncomfortable.
It is rare that we drive our RV after dark. By pulling in during daylight, we can see (judge) the area, how busy it is, how old it is, and hopefully, can make a better judgment and decision about staying overnight and where to park to help ensure safety. There have been a few times over the years when we pulled out and kept going.
The only incidents (but not problems) we have had while parked was the rare vehicle or motorcycle driving by with the loud muffler or the radio blaring. Once or twice, we have had what we assumed to be high-school kids blowing their horn as they were driving by our parked coach. However, all of these incidents were rare, happening less than a handful of times during the thousands of nights we have been out.