Van life isn’t all epic sunsets and beers around the campfire. It’s essential for those who pick up van life to also focus on staying safe – especially for those flying solo. Keep reading for our top tips for smooth travel for solo van campers!
“Traveling solo is as safe as traveling with others as long as you plan for safety and follow your instincts.”Janice Waugh, author of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook
Who here hasn’t dreamed of an epic life out on the open road, living out of a converted van and exploring all that North America has to offer? In our post-pandemic world, more and more people are taking the leap. While this lifestyle has been around for years, lately, it seems more attainable.
If you’re hitting the road sans partner, it’s important to consider how you’ll stay safe. Here are our top solo van life tips.
Make Your Van Extra Secure
The first step toward making yourself safe in your home on wheels is adding some additional safety mechanisms to your van.
Secondary Lock Systems You Can Add to Your Van
- For a simple and cheap way to secure your van, use chains and padlocks to lock your doors together. This works excellently between your two front doors but also works on double back doors.
- Enhance the safety of your van by installing mechanical door locks. These locks can be used on the interior or exterior of your van, giving you an extra layer of protection.
While those options are the best way to ensure your safety while inside your van, it’s important to make sure no one thinks of stealing it while you’re out adventuring.
One easy way to do this is with a wheel lock. You can temporarily install these devices onto your steering wheel while parked. It will add an additional layer of protection from van thieves.
Technology To Keep Your Van Secure
The last thing you’ll want to consider is using technology to fortify your van’s defenses further.
- Aftermarket car alarms will likely scare intruders away if it’s triggered.
- A hidden GPS tracker can help authorities track down your vehicle if it is stolen
- Motion-activated security cameras or lights can alert you of movement outside your van.
Solo Van Life Tip: Hide the Fact You’re Alone
Possibly the most important solo van tip is to never advertise that you’re traveling alone.
For some reason, when others see people traveling alone, especially women, they ask the woman if they are alone. If someone asks you this, it’s a good idea to lie and tell them you’re waiting for a friend or partner. When you’re alone, you are more vulnerable and an easier target, so don’t let strangers know.
On top of telling people you’re with someone, there are some other steps to take to make it less obvious that you’re traveling alone.
- Solo traveler @jaceywest often puts out a second chair at her campsite to make it look like she’s not alone
- Some women may also consider leaving a pair of men’s shoes outside the van to deter unwanted visitors
When you’re headed to bed, make sure you use blinds, curtains, or window covers to prevent others from peeking into your home. This step stops dangerous people from knowing you’re alone and hides valuables you may have.
Another way to enjoy solo van life while not really being alone is by bringing your dog along! Dogs can provide a layer of protection and keep you company at the same time.
Have Some Form of Self Defense
Anyone traveling alone should consider bringing some sort of self-defense along with them in their van. Having a dog, as mentioned above, is one self-defense method. Others may prefer to take some self-defense classes, like Krav Mega or something similar.
The first line of self-defense should be to avoid dangerous situations. The next step focuses more on preparing your van to leave camp quickly, but another avoidance method should be with alarms. Have access to a panic button for your car alarm that you can press if someone tries to get inside. Easy access to a safety whistle or personal alarm gives you a backup method to deter an intruder.
There are also weapons available to protect oneself. Pepper spray is one of the most popular self-defense weapons available. Plus, pepper spray is legal as self-defense in all 50 states. However, you’ll want to be very careful with pepper spray, as using it inside the van will also hurt you.
While there are other options, such as tasers, knives, or guns, you’ll want to consider these carefully. For starters, you must know how to handle weapons like these properly. In addition, they might not be legal in every state that you want to travel to.
Be Ready To Boogie
As mentioned above, the best defense is a good offense. The ability to avoid dangerous situations by removing yourself from the area immediately is usually the best way to protect yourself. Do your best to park in safe places or with other campers. Once you’ve chosen a safe campsite, prepare yourself for a quick getaway.
Solo van lifer @emsvanlife recommends backing into your campsite and having your van facing the road. She calls it “combat parking.” Combat parking allows you to drive away as quickly as possible. In addition, make sure your keys are always handy and that you can get to the driver’s seat from the living area of your camper van.
Let Someone Know Where You Are
Lastly, always share your travel and camping plans with a loved one. Even though van lifers love the freedom it offers, simply sharing your location with someone you trust allows someone to know your whereabouts in an emergency. If something happened and you needed assistance, someone would know where to find you.
To avoid becoming like Aron Ralston in 127 Hours, if you’re camping in a remote location, it’s a good idea to let someone know your itinerary in the event that you don’t return as planned.
To take things a step further, you can use your cell phone to share your GPS location with a friend or family member. That way, they can see where you are and know where to go looking if something happens to you.
Stay Safe for Smooth Solo Van Life
While it’s a shame that solo travelers must focus so much time and energy on staying safe, that’s the world we live in. Most van lifers will tell you that all the amazing experiences and adventures are well worth it, but following these safety tips is crucial.
- Take the time to make your van extra secure.
- Hide the fact that you’re alone.
- Have self-defense options (whatever you’re comfortable with).
- Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
These tips will help you feel more secure and confident as you explore the open road and all that it has to offer. Remember, safety should always come first, but with the right preparation, you can have an epic solo van life out on the open road.