The main question we are asked when boondocking is “How do you stay safe?”
For some, the thought of spending the night alone in an unknown, off-the-grid place can make you feel frightened. So many things could go wrong. If we let our imagination run wild, it will tell us about the hundreds of situations in which we are not safe — rather than how we can stay safe.
There are a few things that we do automatically to keep ourselves safe. We’d like to share with you the basic steps we take to keep safe so you, too, can enjoy this great lifestyle. Many of these are things you can do if your doing a overnight stop while traveling but you can use versions of these while boondocking for multiple days at a remote location.
Prepare Ahead. Safety usually starts before we leave our current location. We know that many people love to fly by the seat of their pants and just drive until they find somewhere that looks good to stay. We prefer to have a plan for the day’s travel, and we research potential spots around our destination.
It is always a good idea to read past reviews for each spot where you intend to stop. If anyone has experienced issues with security or break-ins, then we will likely pass on that area and keep looking. We check Google Maps to find out as much information about the location as we can and to look around for other possibilities. Having a plan gives us peace of mind.
Listen To Your Gut. We have a rule in our RV that if one of us has a bad feeling about a spot or a concern about safety, no matter the reason, we do not question it. We move on. What is interesting is that if one of us voices a concern, quite often the other person was thinking something similar. Communication is important here, so don’t let your desire to park and sleep override the need for safety. Make sure you travel early enough in the day that you’re not too tired or it’s too late, or too dark, to move on.
Do not Level Up. Avoid using leveling blocks or put out your slides if possible, as you may need to drive away in the middle of the night. So, we make sure to park somewhere flat, so blocks are not needed while boondocking.
Hide Away. This can be one suggestion that you have to Listen To Your Gut. Many times, we park out of sight of main roads and public areas wherever we can. This prevents us from being an easy target for someone passing by and willing to take advantage of an opportunity. Hiding away also gives us the comfort of being able to peer out a window to ascertain the cause of any noises we may hear. However, if your gut is telling you something different either move on to a different location or we park directly below a light, so our RV is lit up.
Safety In Numbers. If you can’t hide, then try to park where there are other RVs nearby, as there is definitely safety in numbers. If you arrive at a reasonable hour, introduce yourself to your neighbors so they know you are friendly and that you can both look out for one another during the evening. Make sure, however, that you keep a respectful social distance from other RVs.
Have A Plan B. Once you’ve settled in for the evening, have a backup plan for where you might drive to should you have to move quickly. We’ve had to move in the night occasionally (due to bad weather), so knowing a safe second location is so important.
Park To Leave. Park your RV so it is facing forward and has a clear unobstructed exit, preferably with an open space in front of you rather than a single track. And plan for what you might do if your Plan A exit is unexpectedly blocked. Also keep in mind, if you are parking on grass of any rain in the forecast as you may get stuck in the mud.
Preparing The RV. Every night before going to bed, we make sure everything outside is put away at night: chairs, awning, doormat, and the garage doors are locked and dead-bolted. Make sure the keys and alarm fob are beside the bed for easy access. Put the computers, wallets, and valuables (passports, documents, and drivers’ licenses) in a locked safe. Most of these things tend to stay secure in any case, but if we’ve had them out for some reason, we make sure they are returned before hitting the hay. Close the curtains on all the windows. We avoid putting up the reflective/insulating screens as these take longer to remove and can cause a lot of condensation on the inside of the windscreen, especially in colder weather. Removing condensation in a hurry is not a quick task. Sleep with the door to the bedroom open to hear if anything is happening outside.
There are always going to be places where you feel 100 percent safe and other places that feel less comfortable. When we are in those places, we take some extra precautions to make it harder for anyone to break in. We lock the external deadlock on the main door. This prevents someone from breaking the external lock and entering the RV.
Tips On Leaving The RV Unattended. Here are a few tips about what we do when leaving our RV alone in a remote location. Our first tip is don’t leave your RV in a remote location. Try to move it to park somewhere more public with other people around. If for some reason you have to leave your RV unattended, then I suggest you ensure that the area feels safe to leave. Close curtains in the RV so no one can look in and see what contents are easy to get at to steal. If you have any hesitations, then simply drive to another parking lot, for example, a supermarket parking area.
Our Number One Rule For Night Time Is …Do not open the door to anyone. Period. If someone is knocking at the door and is persistent, and you want to respond, talk through a closed door or window. They will still be able to hear you. But under no circumstances should you open your door at night, and definitely do not leave your vehicle at night.
Another RVer told us a story of when he had someone bang on his door. He yelled back in his strongest, angriest voice, “why can’t everyone leave me alone!” He said this stops people immediately because they think you are angry, have already been disturbed, and might be a danger to them. If for any reason you have a need to knock on the door of another RV during the night, make sure you announce yourself and what you want.
With all this talk of safety, you might ask us how often we have had an issue. The answer is never. We have thankfully not encountered any trouble. I put this down to doing the safety measures listed above and being super prepared.