Over the last few years, the appeal of van life has permeated the internet. Tours of beautiful conversions, tales of alluring travels, and stories of changed lives have made this lifestyle a choice for many people.
Some of the reasons that people choose van life rather than a traditional home or apartment are cost and freedom.
In general, the cost of van life is a fraction of a mortgage or rent. This reason is multiplied by the increasing costs of buying and maintaining a home. Let’s not even go into how much rent has gone up in the last few years!
Freedom is probably what keeps most people in van life. Having your own personal space that is mobile is the epitome of freedom.
Is Van Life Safe?
One of the reasons that many people don’t embrace van life is the fear of being or feeling unsafe. Not having four solid walls can be a deterrent to life on the road. In addition, fear of the unknown and other people may keep van life at bay.
In general, you are probably about as safe in your van as you are in a house. People who live in homes are just as open to burglaries and personal attacks as someone who sleeps in a vehicle. In fact, a van has some benefits that a home or apartment does not.
First off, in a van, you are mobile and can quickly leave an unsafe situation quickly. Secondly, if your van is stealthy, you attract a lot less attention than a home that could have its own temptations, such as multiple entrances, large windows, and expensive personal items inside.
Safety issues also depend on where you drive and where you park. Cities have a unique set of safety issues that are different from rural areas, highways, and country roads.
Van safety is a legitimate concern, but with some precautions and a few tips, you can live your own van life dreams.
Van Life Safe Tip#1: Driving Safety
Let’s start with the basics. Having a safe driving vehicle is tantamount to having a safe place to live on the road.
Before you even begin to live out of your vehicle, be sure that your van gets regular inspections, oil changes, tire rotations, tune-ups, and all fluids are regularly replaced. If you have space, carry some spare air and cabin filters and containers of oil and radiator fluid.
To further streamline your maintenance tasks, consider using RV LIFE Maintenance, a part of RV LIFE Pro membership. This platform offers an online RV/van maintenance management system, providing preloaded schedules, tracking tools, and alerts to ensure your vehicle remains in top condition. With a membership, you can easily manage and monitor your vehicle’s maintenance needs, ensuring a smooth and safe journey.
Once your van is up to speed, it’s beneficial to practice safe driving habits. This requires that you stick to or below the speed limit and only drive on roads where you feel most comfortable. If you are fearful of large trucks or higher speeds, stay off major freeways and stick to secondary roads or smaller highways.
If you have a taller van, be sure to know your exact height and keep an eye out for low branches, bridges, freeway overpasses, and street lights. One way to do this is to utilize a good navigation app. A highly recommended solution is the RV LIFE Trip Wizard combined with the RV LIFE GPS app. This combination ensures you’re always on RV Safe Routes tailored to the specifics of your vehicle, helping you avoid potential hazards and ensuring a smoother journey.
Van Life Safety Tip#2: Personal Safety
Personal safety is probably the main reason that people stay away from van life. However, with a good sense of your surroundings and faith in yourself and your vehicle, there is no reason to be fearful of living on the road or street.
Taking a few precautions is suggested wherever you are traveling. Having good situational awareness and maintaining distance from areas that are known to have issues is the first step.
Here are a few more tips for maintaining personal safety in a van:
- No matter where you are going to park for the night (city street, Walmart parking lot, public lands, or a campground), do your research first. Look up the area and read reviews on apps such as RV Life Campground Reviews or Campendium.
- To learn more about any crime in an area, check out the Crime and Place app. The app displays crime data with a color-coded map or chart while you are on the move. It also forecasts crime and can be customized per type of crime.
- When going to sleep, keep your keys and/or car alarm within reach. It’s also a good idea to keep your phone and a flashlight near your bed as well.
- Trust your gut. If you feel unsafe or are in any doubt about a camping location, pay for a gated or private campground. It will be worth it for the peace of mind.
A Few Notes About Self Defence
Keeping a weapon in your van is a matter of personal choice. Gun laws and concealed carry laws vary from state to state and even city to city. Some states may even have laws for concealed knives or pepper spray. Many van dwellers will carry bear spray to keep on hand, just in case.
Van Life Safety Tip #3: Campsite Safety
Most vanlifers prefer to dry camp or boondock to avoid campground fees and crowds. While the peace and quiet can be amazing, being alone in the wilderness can feel a little unnerving.
While it’s nice to avoid large crowds, camping near other vans or RVs might give you a better sense of safety. When you set up camp near other people, give them a wave just to let them know that you are nearby but won’t be trespassing on their own peace and quiet.
Along with choosing a safe place to camp, it’s also a good idea to take precautions when it comes to the environment. This means being cognizant of wildlife and wildfires.
Avoid attracting animals to your campsite by keeping a clean camp and packing out your (and other) trash and food waste. The same goes for fires. Be sure to follow all local fire regulations and make sure all your campfires are completely out before leaving camp.
There are several ways to prepare for wildfires started by lightning or other people. If you happen to be in a fire-prone area, be sure to park with quick access to several escape routes. Avoid deep canyons or areas with only one road in and out.
Van Life Safety Tip #4: Protection Against Theft
Securing valuables and protecting against theft is another facet of van life safety. Many vanlifers do have a few items that could attract thieves. This includes laptops, cameras, phones, and small items such as wallets and cash.
Installing a safe in your van is a good idea, but not always necessary and may scream out, “There are valuables in here!”If you are not able to install a safe or don’t have room for one, then create some hidden compartments in your van. This will deter the more opportunistic thieves.
Some van dwellers install cameras both inside and outside their vans. This will help to prove theft but may not deter thieves. In fact, having cameras may advertise that you have even more expensive items inside the van.
Hopefully, your entire van won’t ever get stolen, but there are ways to keep this from happening. First of all, having a more low-key van without all the luxury bells and whistles will attract less attention. Second, take advantage of technology and install a vehicle GPS tracker such as the Spytec GPS GL300.
Recapping Van Life Safety
Just like any type of living situation, living in a van is all about preparation, sensibility, and organization. It’s not necessary to envision every type of possible safety scenario. However, being prepared for a wide range of scenarios is a more efficient way to live in a van.
If you are interested in additional van life safety tips, check out 20 Van Life Safety Tips.