Outdoor activities and tents often go hand in hand. Whether you’re on a multi-day hiking or camping excursion or in the middle of bugging out, or just a bug out practice run, your home away from home while in the middle of nature will likely be a tent of some sort.
The problem is, tents don’t offer anything in the way of security, especially compared to a legitimate structure. Whatever you store in your tent is just one pull of a zipper or flick of the wrist away from being taken by an amoral thief.
Sad to say wherever you find people you will find people that are ready, willing and able to steal. This naturally presents a problem for those who are out camping for any reason because you can never be entirely sure that your stuff will be there when you get back.
But as it turns out you do have options when it comes to securing your tent and your valuables. In this article we will talk about what you can do to protect your tent, and what is in it from the thieves and other malicious people when you are out camping.
Thieves are Always Around
It is an awful thing to contemplate, but no matter where you go, no matter what you are doing, and what the greater situation is, you’re always going to encounter thieves. People who will take whatever you have with no remorse, and even do it after looking you in the eye or sharing a meal with you.
It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of a packed campground with other like-minded people who are taking part in the great outdoors, or desperately trying to stay one step ahead of encroaching trouble during an SHTF situation. Thieves are going to steal, that’s it.
All we can do is try to thwart them. If we make our stuff too difficult to get to, they might not waste their time with it. If we make it too noisy or too obvious to gain access to they may very well not risk getting caught in the attempt, caught either by you or by someone else.
Thieves as a broad and general rule generally like an easy score, that’s why they are thieves. They don’t want to have to work for their meal.
Yeah, it’s a crying shame. You can chalk it up to sin, desperation, decay of society and culture or anything else you want, but you’ll have a much easier time dealing with the problem on the practical level if you just accept it. Anywhere you go that there are people, you could be dealing with thieves in your midst.
Lock it Up
For some folks, the simplest solution when it comes to protecting their goods and keeping honest people honest is to simply lock their tent. It’s not rocket science! Anything from a common combination lock of the kind used on luggage to specialty zipper-clamping tent locks will do the job.
These devices all work by essentially keeping the zippers on your tent’s closure or flap shut and held tightly together so that the tent cannot be entered by the normal way. You can even rely on nothing more than a short length of strong cord, properly knotted, to hold your zipper’s closed.
For “friends” who turn out not to be trustworthy or thieves who only operate with the lightest possible touch, this might be all that is required to keep your stuff safe.
But while it is true that anything you can do that increases a thief’s profile, time on target or likelihood of being caught is a deterrent and will contribute to keeping what’s yours, yours, these tent locks have obvious and major defects that you are probably already thinking of.
While these devices might keep the zippers closed, they do nothing to deter anybody who is intent on gaining access to your tent. Any tent can be opened up like a cheap wrapper using nothing more than a pointed or sharp object.
A motivated thief will simply slash his way into the tent though one of the sides and go right on pillaging your stuff. That’s a depressing thought. Is there anything else we can do about it?
There is No Such Thing as “Safe”
Just safer. It is time to start accepting that there is no such thing as truly safe when it comes to protecting your goods and gear while out camping for any reason. Your stuff is simply going to be more vulnerable, and that is all there is to it.
What’s more, you will have less access to reliable protective measures then you would at home where you could employ massive safes that can be bolted into the wall or even entire safe rooms built into the home itself. That’s the real stuff of asset protection, right there.
Your options are going to be decidedly limited, and likely less effective, while you are camping, or at least they are if you are intent on relying on typical and traditional methods of protecting your stuff. Locked doors, secured containers and all that are just not enough on their own, not most of the time.
But, preppers aren’t going to take “no” for an answer. Preppers are problem solvers, and this is just another new if novel problem to solve. Instead of fighting an uphill battle, let’s start thinking about the problem in context.
What are some other ways to deter thieves and burglars, besides the methods we have already discussed? There is more than one way to skin a cat, and definitely more than one way to protect your stuff.
In fact, you have a few methods that remain entirely viable…
They include avoiding thieves entirely, situating your possessions in such a way that thieves are not willing to risk an encounter or exposure in order to get it or hiding the presence of the erstwhile ill-gotten goods entirely so that thieves come away empty-handed in the event they do make an attempt on your tent.
Some of these methods can even be used in tandem to maximize protection no matter where you are.
In the next section, we will provide you with an assortment of tips, tricks, techniques and procedures for protecting your stuff while camping, and each of them go far beyond the wishful thinking method of simply locking your tent.
Procedural Methods for Protecting Your Stuff
Below you’ll find many methods for securing your tent from the predations of thieving scumbags. Some of these tricks rely only on clever planning and a little know-how. Others will depend on having the right tools or gear to execute.
Whatever your preferences and whatever kind of camper you are you will be bound to find at least a few methods you can employ to improve your personal security while in the field!
Camp in a Remote Location
In what has to be the most “duh” technique on our list, if you camp in a remote location where people don’t generally travel, don’t hike and typically do not camp you won’t have to worry about anyone stealing from your tent because there won’t be anyone around to do the stealing!
Assuming, of course, that everyone in your party is indeed trustworthy… At the very least it will narrow down your list of suspects considerably.
Camping in a remote and generally untrodden location comes with its own risks and challenges of course, and it is not everyone’s cup of tea, even among serious outdoor enthusiasts or dedicated preppers.
With isolation comes a certain modicum of safety but also a portion of danger, just in a different direction. That being said, if you’re the type of person who likes to camp in such a way that you are trying to get away from it all, why not go ahead and really get away from everything and everyone?
More so with this method than many others you can rest assured that your pack or other belongings will be right where you left them after you take a jaunt down to the river’s banks.
Camp with Friends or “Good Neighbors”
The polar opposite of camping in the middle of nowhere with no one around is camping where you have plenty of people, particularly trusted friends or other “good neighbor” campers who can be reasonably expected to watch over your stuff and your campsite while you aren’t around.
Now, this can be a dodgy thing if you don’t have anyone in your party who is willing and able to stay behind and watch the campsite while you are away, and are forced instead to make nice with your campsite neighbors wherever else you might be.
Yes, most people are generally good, or at least decent, and will not try to hurt you or steal from you but you never really know, do you?
At any rate, having a “guard” stationed to watch over (or at least nominally watch over) your tent and possessions is always a good idea when you are in a heavily trafficked area.
Avoid Easy Ingress/Egress Routes
Another way to help protect your possessions against theft is to set up your campsite in such a way that messing with it will make thieves very uncomfortable, either by making it harder to approach in a nonchalant way or denying them a fast and easy getaway without many witnesses.
For instance, thieves would greatly prefer it if you can’t near the edge of any given campground or ride on top of a trail, ramp, or some other location that lets them get moving at speed while blending into the mass of humanity on the same path.
I have seen this time and time again, with bags, grills, coolers and the like going missing because people thought to save themselves a few steps and camp closer to a thoroughfare.
The farther a thief has to go to access your goods, and in particular the farther he has to go off the path or trail, the less likely he is to choose your tent to burgle, all things being equal. Think like a thief! Set yourself up for success (and them for failure) by pitching your tent well away from any easy escape routes.
Make a Secret Stash
Thieves cannot steal what they don’t know is there. One of the best ways to protect your goods is to hide them, and hide them well. Obviously, this will not always apply depending on what it is you’re trying to protect.
Good luck trying to stash a full size cooler or grill or kayak in such a way that thieves will not notice it! But concerning smaller stuff it is a simple affair to make a small bolt hole or cubby to place them for safekeeping.
Make sure you use care when you are creating and accessing your secret stash, as anybody who observes you will know the jig is up. This is often easier said than done whenever you are camping in a crowded or popular area. However, clever preppers can come up with all sorts of ingenious ways to hide their stuff.
I once had a friend who created a tiny flap in his tent floor that he could peel back, and through which he could dig a small hole in the earth while inside the tent before stashing his valuables in the hole and then covering it all back up. Pretty neat trick.
Also, take care to protect whatever you are hiding in any case, however you are hiding it. Paper money, electronics and other sensitive goods should be placed in a heavy-duty zipper locking bag at the minimum.
Also, don’t forget to dig your goods back up or retrieve them from wherever you stash them before moving on!
Take Only What You Need
This is something of a more esoteric method, but consider taking only the bare minimum equipment that you need, at least if you were going out on a pleasure hike or other outing. I’m always bemused to see how many people drag so many valuables with them out of their homes when they are ostensibly leaving their homes in order to refresh, recharge and reconnect with nature.
Expensive electronics, jewelry, designer clothing, the list goes on. People spend literal fortunes, mortgage payments worth of money, on name brand coolers and other outdoor gear that may or may not do as good a job as gear that is far cheaper.
Believe me, other people know what those status symbol items are and what they are worth, and you will attract attention you don’t want the same as anywhere else.
Try heading out with a minimalist load next time and see how much lighter your burden is, physically as well as mentally! This does not guarantee you won’t have to worry about thieves, but you’ll be a lot less upset if somebody swipes something that is easily and inexpensively replaced compared to your designer “Gucci” gear.
Keep Valuables in Your Car
If you are camping or hiking in such a way that you will be departing and returning to your vehicle, consider leaving your most valuable items in your vehicle if they are not mission essential.
Most parking lots or other areas where vehicles are stashed are typically more heavily traveled and often surveilled compared to areas where you’ll actually be camping, and this means that thieves might not chance exploratory ventures breaking into vehicles compared to breaking into tents.
Note, all rules and procedures for storing goods in your vehicle must be followed, and nothing should be left in obvious sight, nor anything that would indicate what else might be hidden in your vehicle.
Also keep in mind, at the end of the day no automobile can be considered a secure storage container, as they are all easily broken into.
Technological Methods for Protecting Your Stuff
Use a Security Container
For folks who are just not willing to take “no” for an answer when it comes to securing their valuables, you can still make use of a security container to protect your goods from thieves, though you’ll have to put in a fair bit of work to do it.
After all, any security container that is actually man portable, and one small enough that you are willing to haul along on your camping trip, is by virtue going to be small and light enough that a thief can simply pick it up and carry it away to access it later at their leisure.
To counter this, your security container will need some type of hardpoint through which you can thread a bike lock, cable, chain or some other sturdy attachment system that can then be anchored to a robust tree or some other fixed point that is not easily broken away or otherwise removed.
Only then will this prevent enough of an obstacle for your typical campground raider to leave it alone.
And it must be said that the presence of any obvious security container is an immediate tell that there is something inside worth protecting, and this might actually spotlight your goods for illicit attention rather than properly protect them. I recommend you use this method only when you have no other choice.
Use Tilt / Jostle Alarm System
Depending on what you were getting up to while camping, an alarm system might be a good idea. Specifically I am referring to the type of portable alarm that functions off of a tilt switch that when activated by the slightest movement or disturbance will set off the alarm, typically a loud, screeching warble.
Alarm systems have a way of deterring most thieves because it draws attention to their deeds, attention they do not want! If you are never going to be that far from your tent, this could certainly provide you enough warning to dash back and intercept the crooks, potentially recovering your gear.
Obviously, these systems are of limited utility if you are leaving your tent behind at a great distance while on extended forays, as you might not be able to hear the alarm, but certain models can wirelessly transmit a warning.
Also, they don’t work as well in any setting or situation where they might be inadvertently disturbed. It won’t take more than a couple of false positives for you to start ignoring the alarm and talk, and that’s when you know you’ll actually get rolled for real and be none the wiser.
One great thing about the technological revolution is that personal electronics continually get more capable, more reliable and ever smaller, making them far more portable than in years past. Motion sensor technology is nothing new, but it is probably new to you in the capacity of protecting your tent or campsite.
The notion behind a small, portable motion detector is that you’ll be able to dial it in to alert you directly, either with a dedicated receiver or to an app on your phone, when it detects motion according to the metrics you have set. This can definitely provide some serious peace of mind when the system is functioning correctly.
These detectors are best implemented as part of an overall strategy, either placed inside the tent itself as a relatively foolproof sensor for intrusion or along a tightly defined and singular approach to your campsite that a crook would be likely to use.
Obviously, these systems rely on a certain amount of wiggle room when it comes to their detection radius and sensitivity, unless you want to be getting false positives left, right and center.
If every moth and every squirrel sets off the sensor you’ll be going mad while you are away from your tent. Also, this makes them an extremely poor choice for any campsite where incidental but innocent movement is likely to be a frequent occurrence.
Compared to typical motion sensor technology, infrared detectors rely on the heat emitted by living creatures or the heat differential between an object and the background environment to trigger a notification system or alarm.
This makes them very difficult to spoof so long as they are correctly tuned, and properly placed. Good examples of these systems will allow the user to carefully calibrate them in order to prevent false positives from pets or wildlife.
Compared to motion sensors, infrared detectors typically have a shorter reliable range, and this means you probably want to set them up closer to your tent. Depending on where you are camped, properly placing the sensor while keeping it hidden and correctly covering the tent or campsite could be challenging.
If there is one thing that all bad guys hate it is having their evil deeds dragged out of the darkness and into the light. Darkness is always the friend of the villain because it affords them better concealment while they work.
Have you ever noticed how cockroaches scatter when the lights pop on? It is because they know they are vulnerable and the boot is close behind. Criminals feel the same way.
A portable motion activated lighting system that illuminates your campground can provide you a lot of convenience while you are at camp and additional security while you are away.
These systems are completely self-contained and do not require any method of communication with a separate receiver or phone to function, as they are not sending you on alert signal; the light is the alert signal so long as you are close enough to your camp to notice the bloom of illumination while you are away.
Compared to typical motion lighting systems around residential structures or businesses, these can be particularly effective at remote campsites because they are so startling.
You can imagine the nerve-racking tension that a baddie must be feeling while they are creeping up to your campsite, thinking of plundering your possessions only to wind up being spot-lighted like a deer in the headlights! That alone is probably enough to send them running.
Portable Camera System
For the ultimate in assurance campers can rely on portable, remotely accessible camera systems to surveil their campsite. These systems in particular have gotten more affordable and much smaller than most competing security systems have over the years.
These devices are capable of transmitting wirelessly to your phone over their own network, meaning that even if you are in a remote part of the backcountry, so long as you are within a certain area you’ll still be able to check in on the video feed.
The most obvious limitation with these systems is battery life and range, as long-distance forays away from your campsite might see your phone or other receiver lose signal from the base station.
But so long as you are willing to put in a little bit of work ahead of time to know the ins and outs of your system (along with its range limitations) these can be a great option for the security savvy camper.
As far as “technology” goes these are pretty primitive, but you do, in fact, require a few materials for the task so on to the list they go! The tripwire alarm is one that all boys surely tinkered with when they were young, and all seasoned practitioners of fieldcraft have used before.
The tripwire alarm is as versatile and adaptable as anything else, and can range from the quintessential tin cans full of pebbles to piles of noisy stones or jangly tin plating. It might even be a series of jingle bells strung from fishing line!
All that matters is that when an unwary interloper steps on or snags a tripwire it raises a big ruckus, one that you can hopefully hear whether or not you are at your campsite.
One particularly popular variation for long distance monitoring utilizes a simple “zip gun” setup comprised of an open armature with a paddle that will press a 12 gauge blank onto a fixed firing pin once the attached tripwire is touched.
They are in no way designed to function as a firearm even if you inserted the wrong shell, but this is certainly one variation that you can hear from a very long way away. Not for nothing it will also give an intruder quite a scare!
Security Equipment Must Be Concealed
One thing you must keep in mind if you’re employing any technological methods to help secure and protect your campsite is that pains should be taken to conceal or otherwise camouflage your security solution.
First, a visible security system provides actionable information to the bad guys, allowing them to circumvent or even subvert the system for their own purposes. Bad move!
Second, a visible security device raises the profile of your camp, not the opposite. This could actually make it more appealing to thieves who might have otherwise chosen someone else’s campsite or walked on by entirely.
Not for nothing, the security system itself might be the prize, as cameras, detectors and lighting systems can easily be taken down and carted off. Talk about adding insult to injury!
You can easily conceal most of these systems by carefully painting their outer casings in low profile camo colors that are environment adaptive or environment specific.
Additionally, small, homemade “gear ghillies” can easily conceal sensors, cameras and other devices against easy observation.
You can even use local foliage and other materials, just take care that you don’t contaminate or otherwise degrade the device with dirt, leaves and other detritus.
Protect The Valuables In Your Tent…
Securing your campsite is possible through the use of correct procedures and certain pieces of gear or technology. Securing the tent flap or door alone might be adequate in certain situations where the environment is generally one of high trust, but it will only keep honest people honest,
Any enterprising thief can slash or tear straight through most tent materials to get at the goodies with it in seconds and that means you’ll need to rely on other ingenious methods if you want to provide asset protection or your gear while in the field.
Make sure you review the methods we have shared with you in this article and commit them to memory.