Protecting against theft while camping: ten useful tricks to guard against criminals

January, 6 2020

Whether you choose to camp in a campervan, mobile home or tent, you’re never completely safe from criminals. Campsite owners are doing their utmost to contain the problem, but eliminating it is near impossible, and the layout of many campsites doesn’t help. But there are things that you can do. It’s part trickery, part common sense.

1. Only take valuable objects along if you really need them

Your holiday is probably your favourite time of the year and you’ll no doubt want to take some of your best jewellery along, a good camera and all of its equipment and other valuable objects. But it’s always worth remembering that tents, mobile homes, etc. are quite small. If you suffer a break-in, all it takes is a few short seconds for a thief to grab a good armful of loot.
The best recommendation is to limit the number of valuable items you take on holiday. A good smartphone camera can take excellent photos, and cheaper jewellery can look just as good as expensive jewellery. This advice is particularly valuable to campers in tents, as tents offer little by way of security.

It's not a good idea to leave valuable items in your tent. They are better off in the boot of your car or in the campsite safe.

It’s not a good idea to leave valuable items in your tent. They are better off in the boot of your car or in the campsite safe.

Important: If you take your car with you, never leave valuable items in the passenger compartment. They are better stored in the boot or, better still, spare wheel well where they can’t be seen.

2. Lock up well

Opportunity makes a thief, even on a campsite. Whether you’re just popping to the kiosk, heading to the pool or anywhere else, if you’re going out of sight, even if just for a moment, lock everything up that you can, even the zip on your tent.
Any lock can be broken of course, but it’s an inconvenience to a thief, especially during the day, and far better than an open door.

3. Don’t economise on locks

That brings us to our next point. Many campers simply rely on the security equipment that their campervan or tent has as standard. We don’t advise doing this. Many are very simple locks, often encased in plastic.
For just forty pounds you can purchase a suitable replacement lock cylinder, and even the inexperienced can fit them. Fitting additional locking mechanisms can also be worthwhile – buy high-quality U-locks, and don’t be afraid to spend a little money.

4. Insure your campervan

To take you campervan on the road, it must be insured – the rules are pretty straightforward. But many owners follow the route of least resistance by selecting the lowest level – third party liability. But that really is a false economy.

Even older, presumably less valuable campervans should be adequately insured. Third-party, fire and theft insurance should be your minimum.

Even older, presumably less valuable campervans should be adequately insured. Third-party, fire and theft insurance should be your minimum.

You should read into it first, and always choose third-party, fire and theft as a minimum. Only that offers cover against break-in and theft. Make sure to clarify how much cover you have, as quotes vary considerably. Additional contents cover may also be a sensible decision.
Important: These insurance policies only pay out if there is no question of negligence. As such, tip no. 2 should be given careful consideration.

5. Don’t rely on typical hiding places

On account of their compact dimensions, mobile homes are an easy target as there just isn’t enough space to hide everything away properly. Don’t fall into the trap of hiding valuable items in typical hiding places, like under the mattress. You should assume that an intruder will know all of the common places.
The only thing that you can do is use a hiding place that is difficult to find only because of the time it would actually take to find it (an intruder wants to disappear again as quickly as possible). And that brings us to the contents of your fridge. Jars are perfect.

In a well-stocked fridge, a container without any edible contents won’t attract any attention. Especially if it doesn't feel empty.

In a well-stocked fridge, a container without any edible contents won’t attract any attention. Especially if it doesn’t feel empty.

    1. Take an empty, thoroughly cleaned screw-top jar with the label still on – the kind that would usually hold opaque contents such as tomato sauce or pesto.
    2. Tip a spirit glass-sized quantity of wall paint into the jar of the same colour as the original contents.
    3. Seal the jar and shake it, so that the paint covers the insides of the jar completely. Add more paint if you need to. Then take the lid off and let the paint dry.
    4. You should then put a small plastic bag of sand in the jar, so that the jar is filled by around a third – this will help mimic the weight of the original contents. You can then use the jar to hold your valuable items. Few intruders will actually open the jars in your fridge, the most they will do is lift them up – they don’t have time for anything else. But remember, this is not something that you can rely on.

6. Buy an alarm

If there’s one thing that intruders want to avoid, it’s attention. So the best thing you can do is deny them that wish!

There are now a range of alarm systems available that have been specially configured, primarily for use in mobile homes, usually as plug-in systems. They typically need some work doing on the vehicle electronics system, so it’s best to let a vehicle electrician take care of it.
By contrast, you can usually install universal systems yourself.

7. Never play the hero

Suppose you come back to your mobile home, you see the door is open, you go inside and find yourself face to face with an intruder. What should you do? Always follow the advice of the police – don’t play the hero, don’t use violence and don’t attempt to obstruct the thief.
If the intruder feels forced into a corner, he’s much more likely to be provoked into a knee-jerk reaction, and you really don’t want to find yourself in the accident and emergency department over a campsite TV!
Instead, get out quickly, shout loudly for help and run to the next person you see. That way, the intruder has the opportunity to stop what he’s doing. Watch the intruder, call the police immediately and give them a description.

8. Fit window film

Lots of glass makes for a bright interior, but it also lets an intruder see what’s inside. Standard curtains cannot always prevent someone from seeing in entirely.
The front and rear windscreens of a mobile home cab cannot be covered, so the only thing that you can do is fit privacy shields that can be removed before going out on the road.

Wallets, keys, etc. should be kept on your person, ideally in a belt bag, which can also be worn with swimwear.

Wallets, keys, etc. should be kept on your person, ideally in a belt bag, which can also be worn with swimwear.

For all other windows, reflective film, ideally without tinting, is the best solution. Frost glass film can also work well as an alternative.
All of these films are self-adhesive, and all that is required is a little soapy water. This can make the job of fitting them a little fiddly, but it’s by no means complex. Doing this also stops the neighbours from peering in!

9. Keep the important things on your person

A mobile home contains a lot of things that are of interest to an intruder. But, there’s a big difference between a thief making off with a DVD player and a thief making off with your credit card.
So, if losing something would really wreck your holiday, like payment cards, phones, etc., you should keep them with you at all times. A belt bag is a great way to do this – it won’t inconvenience you in your swimwear and will keep your belongings neatly together.
Important: If you take your laptop or tablet on holiday with you, i.e. internet-capable devices that are too bulky to carry around, never save any access details to online shopping and payment details where your payment information is stored. A thief who gets hold of a device like this would have instant access to things like your PayPal account. Remember not to save any PINs or similar codes to these devices either.

10. Secure where you’re staying

So far, we’ve talked about protecting the contents of your mobile home. But we shouldn’t forget the actual mobile home itself. Mobile home/campervan theft is becoming less common than theft from mobile homes and campervans, but it is still a risk.
A drawbar lock is all that it takes. But don’t opt for one of the plastic balls that are so often available these days, instead go for a steel model with a high-quality U-lock.
In modern mobile homes, immobiliser systems ensure that a thief cannot drive away without being in possession of the original key. Nevertheless, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. A steering wheel lock or similar lock on one of the four wheels should always be part of your standard security equipment.

  • Author: Felix
  • Felix is a police superintendent in northern Germany. His job is to keep the streets safe; when he’s on holiday, he may leave the uniform behind, but not his experience with intruders and other criminals. His life camping ambition is to work his way around the Baltic Sea coast going clockwise. He has already ticked Denmark off. Southern Sweden is next.


  1. Comment Dear Felix,
    your advice concerning drawbar for camper is really helpful for me. I didn’t think of it before. I would like to follow it. Thank you.
    Best regards,
    Yury Dvukraev

  2. To prevent theft of my trailer, I have a 2 meter length of very strong motorcycle security chain with 2 high quality padlocks.
    I insert the end links of the chain through the wheel slots from the inside then secured by the padlock. I have been told by many people what a secure way to prevent theft.
    Although the weight must be about 15+ kilos and the we price was over £300.
    I also fitted high spec wheel clamps so the padlocks were not visible.
    It never has been stolen, travelled extensively in eastern Europe for months with Mercedes sprinter and Motorcycle, Spent over £1750 on security and worth every penny.

  3. My only comment is that whilst burglars may not see in through the privacy windows, neither can they be seen once they have gained entry. This means they have more time in your van to steal stuff.
    Thank you for your interesting article on other safety measures.


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