15 Camper Van Tools and Tips for Safer Adventures

Overland Van Project Camper Van 6 photos
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Overland Van Project
Stealthy Ram ProMaster Camper Van ConversionOpen Layout in Overland Van Project Camper VanSatellite GPSCamper Van by Mothership VansSliding Door Lock
Van life isn't all rainbows and sunshine. Besides the challenges of living in a mobile home, adventurers must also deal with two critical issues: safety and security. Today, I'm discussing the best practices and measures you can adopt to ensure you'll be safe and sound on your adventures.
Van life offers an unmatched sense of exploration and freedom. You can connect with nature and like-minded adventurers, explore new spots, and spend each night in a new location if you wish to. However, like everything else in life, it has some drawbacks, one of them being the risk of ill-intended people messing with you and your home.

By definition, safety and security are two different things. Safety refers to being safe and protected from harm and danger, while security refers to protective measures against threats and danger, typically physical in nature. Today, I'll be talking about both.

Even though there's a high chance of a break-in never happening to you, you must take all the necessary precautions. But don't take it from me – experienced van lifers will probably tell you the same thing, especially the unfortunate ones who experienced a security or safety-related situation.

I have split the article into two parts: tips and tools. Tips are very helpful, but they can only take you so far – sure, it's ideal to have some good practices, but at the end of the day, you need some proper tools to keep you safe.

Stealth vs Non-Stealth

Stealthy Ram ProMaster Camper Van Conversion
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Tiny Home Tours
Before we delve into these subjects, I'd like to discuss stealthy vs. non-stealthy campers shortly. The opinions are split on this topic. Some people prefer having a stealthy rig to avoid curious looks and people from trying to break in – however, many thieves, especially in industrial areas, target cargo vans in order to steal expensive tools.

So, by having your mobile home look like a run-of-the-mill cargo van, you might just end up attracting the very people you're trying to get away from. At the same time, some thieves will be attracted to a camper van since they'll probably find something valuable inside to steal. There's no right option here - I just wanted to lay this info out for you to keep in mind when designing your rig.


Some of these might sound like common sense, but I'll still include them. First off, almost needless to say, keep your doors locked. If you're the kind of person who often forgets the little stuff, make notes somewhere near your van doors to make sure you'll remember to lock them. Of course, this tip applies both when you're camping remotely and when you're spending time in towns.

Time your Arrival

If you're changing campsites, an excellent tip is getting to your new destination before it gets dark. This way, you can inspect your surroundings, observe who's camping nearby, and ensure the location is safe. If getting there before night sets in is impossible, you should find a well-lit area to camp.

Keep in Touch

When traveling by yourself, van life can sometimes get lonely. Luckily, there's a high chance you'll meet like-minded adventurers in your adventurers who will help ease the feeling of loneliness. However, you should also keep in touch with your friends and family – it's not only a nice feeling to stay connected, but when you regularly communicate with them, you can create a check-in system. So, if worse comes to worst, your loved one might figure out something is wrong and respond appropriately.


Apps like Find My Friends and Google Maps can also be handy, as your friends and family can monitor your exact movements. Other useful camping apps are iOverlander, park4night, and The Dyrt. This brings me to my next point.


Keep your phone charged. In many emergencies, your phone can and will be a lifesaver. From calling emergency services to finding your way when you get lost, there are countless situations where your phone will make a difference. So, make sure to charge it regularly.

Quick Access

Open Layout in Overland Van Project Camper Van
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Overland Van Project
Most van builders opt for an open layout, meaning the driver's cabin isn't separated from the living space. Even if you opt for a closed one, make sure you have a door or pass-through to quickly hop behind the wheel and drive away in case something happens.

It's essential that you're not only prepared to get behind the wheel quickly but also to have a well-defined exit plan. By exit plan, I mean knowing the route you'll take to leave the place you're camping: to see whether you'll have to back up and what obstacles to avoid, for example.


Okay, I know many of you will find this too much of a hassle, but a good idea would be to learn some self-defense techniques. This doesn't apply to just van life, but life in general – knowing how to defend yourself is always good. Sure, if an ill-intended person threatens you with any weapon, starting a fight is typically not worth it. However, you never know when self-defense skills will come in useful. These days, you don't necessarily have to go to a class physically – you can find plenty of online courses to do during your van travels.


This next tip is related more to safety than security: make sure your van's living space is properly ventilated. This is especially important if you have pulmonary diseases like asthma.

Humidity creates a thriving environment for mold and mildew, which can pose a hazard. You can fight this by ventilating your van, which also eliminates pollutants and odors. Many van dwellers choose to install extra ventilation points besides windows, such as skylights or roof vents.

There are some rules and laws you should adhere to. I won't go into specifics, as regulations differ depending on where you're from and where you're traveling, but make sure you're aware of them and respect them.

Trust Your Gut

Last but not least, trust your gut. Our human instincts have formed themselves over a long time, and they often turn out to be correct. So, if something feels wrong or sketchy, you shouldn't take any chances. Better safe than sorry, right?


Enough about theoretical stuff – let's move on to the real thing you can buy and install on your camper van to ensure you're safe. Many van dwellers don't place that much emphasis on safety and security, and that's a big mistake. By the way, here's one of the most secure camper vans I've ever seen.


Satellite GPS
Photo: unsplash / Chris Cordes
Sure, your phone's GPS does a great job. But when you venture deeper into the wilderness, consider getting a GPS that doesn't rely on traditional cellular networks. Instead, these devices utilize satellite technology to help you navigate and even call for help if needed.

In case of an emergency, you can also rely on using the satellite function of some newer phones. One example is the iPhone 14, which can attempt to connect to satellites to contact emergency services.


It's best to prepare for the worst in your camper van adventures. So, let's say a thief were to break into your mobile home when you're away. Don't make it easy for them to grab your stuff quickly. Instead, buy a safe and store your most valuable items in there. Or, if a safe seems too much, at least devise a creative hiding place.

Window Covers

In one of my recent articles, I discussed the best interior upgrades for your camper van. One of the items on the list was window covers. With them installed, you get more privacy, and you don't have to worry about curious passersby or thieves scouting for valuable items in your tiny home on wheels. You also get the added bonus of better insulation and even soundproofing.

Self-defense Tools

If you're not familiar with self-defense techniques, worry not. You can get your hands on a self-defense tool, which offers additional security, leading to more peace of mind. There are various choices, such as a pepper spray, a taser, or a knife.

Another option is an actual weapon. Never get or use one without proper training – it's essential you know how to utilize it responsibly. What's more, make sure to respect local gun laws, which can vary significantly from state to state.

Emergency Kit

Camper Van by Mothership Vans
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Tiny Home Tours
Let's leave security issues aside for a bit and think about another issue that's way more likely to happen: your vehicle breaking down. It sucks to have your car break down, but it's even worse when that vehicle is your entire home.

One preventive measure worth taking is making sure your insurance policy includes roadside assistance. Even knowing you're covered will offer some extra peace of mind.

That being said, you should also have a breakdown kit with essentials in case you can't reach roadside assistance services. Some must-have items are a spare tire, a tool kit, a portable air compressor, jumper cables, and road flares.


Domestic hazards like fire or gas leakage are just as likely to occur in a camper van as in a conventional home. If you plan on adding propane-powered systems inside your rig, it's best to add a propane sensor.

The risk of poisoning by carbon monoxide is very real. It's especially dangerous because it's colorless, odorless, and non-irritating, making it very hard to detect. Luckily, a sensor can instantly detect it.

Many incidents can lead to a fire, including an electrical malfunction, cooking gone wrong, and even a wildfire reaching your vehicle. Sure, you can smell and see smoke, but it's best to have a sensor that can sound an alarm, just in case.

Of course, as the law dictates in many places around the world, it's critical to have a fire extinguisher onboard. It's better to have one and never use it than not have one at all. Moreover, ensure it's easily accessible - most people prefer having it in the garage at the rear or near the front seats.

GPS Tracker

If all the security measures fail and somehow your camper van ends up stolen, a tiny device might just save the day – of course, I'm talking about a GPS tracker. Before your vehicle disappears, probably stripped for parts, you can track its location and maximize the chances of recovery. Like many of the equipment in this article, there are numerous options available – make sure to do your research and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Security Tools

Sliding Door Lock
Photo: YouTube Screenshot / Nate Murphy
Now, let's look at the best tools/gadgets that improve your camper van's security, starting with the most obvious: locks. The standard door lock on your camper van typically isn't enough to ensure optimum protection.

You can choose from various locks – from straightforward bolt-on locks to deadlocks and advanced electronic locks. Moreover, these locks can be installed both inside and outside your vehicle's doors. You can go even further and install steering wheel locks, gear shift locks, secure pedal boxes, and immobilizers.

I mentioned earlier that you should be aware of your surroundings. And what better way to be mindful of your surroundings than to install a camera system? There are many options available. Moreover, it makes you more comfortable leaving your van, as most systems allow you to access them via a smartphone.

Sometimes, you just need to scare ill-intended people away from your rig. One way to do that is by installing a motion sensor connected to lights. This gadget will turn on the exterior lights when it detects movement, thus also letting you know about what's going on outside your vehicle.

A loud alarm system will also do the job. Furthermore, an alarm system can also come with door and window sensors, letting you know if anyone is trying to break into your home. Furthermore, some systems offer remote control access to arm and disarm the alarm from a distance.


All in all, safety and security are important considerations when building or buying a camper van. You don't need to go overboard and add countless safety measures, but make sure you're prepared for the worst. Regarding best practices, the sooner you integrate them into your van life routine, the better.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Mircea Mazuru
Mircea Mazuru profile photo

Starting out with a motorcycle permit just because he could get one two years earlier than a driver's license, Mircea keeps his passion for bikes (motor or no motor) alive to this day. His lifelong dream is to build his own custom camper van.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories