March 10

Tent Security: 12 Tips to Stay Safe While Camping

Outdoor activities in the boondocks are fun and engaging, as they help us to escape the hustles and bustles of life while learning new, exciting things along the way.

I, for my part, like to go on an adventure every other month, be it backpacking, hiking, ultrarunning, or camping in the national parks.

While this could be a fun thing to do, particularly when you go with a loved one, I’ve seen the potential dangers that could await you in the woods if you’re a total nubcake.

If you’re embarking on an outdoor adventure for the first time, embedding basic tent security tips is a no-brainer as you’ll spend a greater part of your time in the backcountry sleeping in a tent at night.

Here, we discuss in detail the 12 security measures you can employ to keep yourself and your belongings safe in the tent. Got a few minutes? Read on below to find out!

1. Use a Tent Lock

Whenever I’m geared up to embark on the day’s adventure, I always keep in mind the security state of my tent. Given this, the first security measure to take after you pitch your tent is to use a locks like Master lock.

Tent Lock

locks are important for keeping intruders and ravaging animals at bay when you’re outdoors. Typically, a tent lock will attach to and lock your tent door and window zippers.

Tent locks also help in securing your tent zippers firmly into the ground.
Most tent thieves like to work without leaving a trace, spurring them to look for the easiest options to your tent, which are the door or window.

The locks can deter them from trying. Otherwise, they’ll spend ample time and effort, which may buy you or a passerby enough time to catch them in the act.

Whatever the case may be, you can't completely bank on locks to restrict access to your tent. They come with a few disadvantages which you need to take note of.

Tent locks are most effective against small animals that cannot tear through a tent’s fabric wall with their claws, let alone the rock-solid locks.

  • A tent lock won't prevent big animals such as a bear from gaining access to your tent since all it has to do is tear through the walls of the tent with its claws. The same can be said of a smaller animal like a raccoon. These animals are hyperosmic, and the only way to repel them from your tent is to store your food in airtight containers or boxes.
  • Fastening your tent zippers to visible locks will make prying eyes think you have valuables inside and prompt them to invade. For this reason, I like to cover my tent’s locks with a piece of clothing to make them undetectable. Otherwise, you can apply the locks from the inside of the tent if possible.

2. Familiarize with Your Camp Neighbors

There’s a popular saying amongst campers that “the best locks are your neighbors”, and this is true if you consider the fact that your neighbors will be the first responders should you face any security threats.

It's also essential to know who your neighbors are by studying them. Doing so will help you discern the easy-going ones from the potentially malicious ones, the latter of which you need to keep your guard up against.

While it's necessary to be security conscious when it comes to your neighbors on a campsite, you also need to understand that ‘it ain’t that serious. Most people are just out there to have fun like you and may not necessarily pose any threats. Live and enjoy the moment.

To ensure you have a great relationship with your neighbors, exchange pleasantries with them, speak kind words, and, above all, work collectively with them when they proffer solutions to keeping the camp safe when everyone sets out. Don’t be that lone wolf.

3. Camp in a Designated Campsite

When it comes to where and how you pitch your tent, your safety should be the paramount consideration. And where can you get that safety? On a campground specifically made for people engaging in outdoor activities.

Interestingly, depending on your state, some campgrounds in the United States have camp hosts, and they usually employ the services of security personnel to watch over the campground and safeguard people’s properties.

Unless an intruder is foolishly determined, the presence of security officers on the campground would deter them from attempting a theft.

Another added advantage of using a designated campsite is that other campers there are usually easy-going, usually due to the stipulated campground rules and the presence of security officers. The chances of anyone having malicious intent against another are considerably low in such a setting.

Another thing to consider is that tents in designated campgrounds are pitched close to one another, giving you an ample sense of security knowing that your neighbors are close and can alert you should there be any security threat. Left to you, you can’t tell of any looming danger from inside of your tent since your field of view comes only from the tent window and door.

4. Find a Secure Ground

Camping in a designated campsite is one thing, but it’s another to find a space with bare-minimum security risks.

First, scrutinize your environment and ensure it’s safe before pitching your tent. In the same vein, ensure your tent is close to that of other campers, and position the door to face others’ tent door.

"This way, your neighbors can easily see any intruder who tries gaining access to your tent."

In addition, don’t camp too close to the road as jaywalkers can leverage the closeness to try to steal from you. Likewise, don’t go adrift by staying too far from the major road commuted by other campers. That seclusion is an opportunity for a thief to attack without drawing any attention.

Lastly, ensure there are no possible dangers of an avalanche nearby, especially if you’re camping in the winter. Avalanches are dangerous; therefore you need to be cocksure that none can occur in your environment.

5. Stay Away from Wild Animals

Campers tend to be fascinated by wild animals when they see them. The careful ones try to engage the animals from a fair distance, while the foolishly daring ones go the lengths of even trying to take a selfie with them.

Also Read: How To Live In A Tent Long Term

However, the chances of being killed by an animal in the park are extremely low. Research reveals that only six persons were killed between 2007-2013 in the US national parks. While this number is considerably low, anyone could be mauled by a wild animal when camping, as per the National Park Service (NPS).

The following tips should help you stay safe when dealing with wildlife:

  • Keep accompanying pets away. Pets such as dogs and cats are susceptible to attacks from wild animals. It’s best not to bring them along for camping, but, if you must, ensure they’re always in or close to your tent.
  • Keep a distance of 100 yards from big animals and keep a minimum distance of 25 yards from small ones. While it's best not to go near them at all, use your smartphones’ zoom camera if you must take pictures.
  • As suggested earlier, keep food in air-tight containers to prevent the smell from getting out to roaming animals. Otherwise, you can keep food in your vehicle or food storage lockers provided on the campground.

6. Let Fresh Air in Your Tent

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer that you need to be wary of in your tent. This gas is odorless, and you might not know when you’re being exposed to it, which is very dangerous if you have kids inside of your tent.

As per reports from Forbes, 500 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, and the frightening thing is these numbers don't include the other 20,000-30,000 people who land in hospitals as a result of exposure to carbon monoxide.

How can this gas get into your tent? Carbon monoxide usually gets trapped inside a tent when the occupants bring in camping stoves to keep themselves warm or to process food. The chances of this happening are higher in air-tight tents.

"Carbon monoxide poisoning has caused the death of a teenage girl after she left a barbecue in her tent after use."

How do you protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning in the tent?
Although not advisable, leave the door and window to your tent open if you must use a stove inside. The better option is to Jettison any idea of using a camp gas or stove inside your tent.

If you must cook or keep yourself warm, do so outside and not inside the tent. Afterward, ensure to leave the door and window of your tent open to let in air to neutralize the atmosphere. 

7. Harness Technology

There are a ton of brilliant devices you can employ for self-preservation and safeguarding your properties. And the good news is, they’re surprisingly cheap and easy to carry in your backpack.

You need to be able to monitor and keep track of what happens in and around your tent, even if you’re not around, so you might want to consider coming with the following electronic devices:

Motion Light Sensor

I, for one, like to bring motion light sensors with me to the camp. A motion light sensor is a small electronic device that detects infrared waves radiating from a moving object. What I like about this device is that it is very sensitive to objects that radiate heat, which could be a human or an animal.

When a motion light sensor detects waves across its field of view, it will automatically trigger its LED lights on that object, thereby exposing who or whatever is roaming around your tent.

Thankfully, you won’t have to worry about getting this device charged as many of such products in the market come with solar panels. Since a motion light sensor is useless during the day, you can mount the panels onto the top of your tent for optimal charging before nightfall.

The motion lights battery will have ample time to charge during the day, after which you can power it to do its job overnight. As expected, the longevity of this device is largely dependent on its embedded battery, so ensure that you’re getting the one with a long-lasting battery.

Scrutinize the specs of the brand you’re buying to ascertain how long its battery lasts.

Tripwire Alarm

If there’s anything I love playing with due to its cleverness, it definitely is a tripwire alarm. How I love this brilliant handmade device!
A tripwire is an intrusion detection system (IDS) with wires hideously lowered to the ground between two fixed points and intended to make an intruder trip over it.

When this happens, the wires’ mechanism automatically triggers an alarm loud enough to alert anyone nearby and expose the intruder.

Tripwire alarms are DIY, so you can set up one with readily available materials from home. You can watch the video to learn how to set up a tripwire alarm below. Otherwise, you can get a ready-made one from BASU.

8. Use Anti-theft Backpacks

When it comes to tent security, no aspect should be trivialized or overlooked, which is why you can never go overboard by coming to the camp with an anti-theft backpack, rather than a conventional one. Anti-theft backpacks are made from reinforced materials, and they're unique and helpful.

An anti-theft backpack comes with extra features that ameliorate its sturdiness. One of these could be lockable zippers, which make it difficult for intruders to access what’s in your bag. Also, some anti-theft backpacks are also slash-proof, which means they cannot be easily slit open with a knife.

However, keep in mind that an anti-theft backpack is just your regular bag without the extra security features. Don’t trust the exaggeration brands use to market their products; else, you’ll end up just disappointed. Admittedly, they provide an extra layer of security, but you can’t bank on that to keep your property safe

A determined thief would still get what they want, provided they're able to buy themselves enough time. Thankfully though, the slight difficulty in opening the back means someone might nab them in the act.

If you’re a backpacker, you’ll find this type of bag more handy than anyone else, particularly when you’re out in the backcountry and someone tries to steal from you.

9. Store Valuables in Your Vehicle

Frankly speaking, I don’t subscribe to the idea of storing valuables in the car because I consider the extra walk to where I parked the car an unnecessary exercise.

If you drove to the park and don't mind the extra exercise, you can store your edibles and valuables in the vehicle. They're better off being in your vehicle, and lazy thieves would be uninspired to steal them.

10. Camp with Family/Trusted Friends

They say there is power in numbers, and this is particularly true if you consider how secure you’ll feel if you go camping alongside friends or family.

Camping with the people you trust makes you less vulnerable to attacks. Thieves like to attack tents where they’ll get little or no resistance, the ease which they won’t get in a tent occupied by two or more people.

Also, there is a chance that someone in your circle would hear the sound of an intruder. You can even take turns to guard the tent while everyone else sleeps.

11. Avoid Big Tents

Camping in a big, house-like tent heightens your security risks, as you’ll be inviting robbers into thinking you have valuables inside. 

Besides, it's easier for thieves to cart away your valuables in a big tent without being noticed since you'll most likely be sleeping in a separate room. Given this, it's best if you sleep in the same room you stored your valuables so that you can easily hear any unfamiliar sound.

On the other hand, animals like raccoons can easily tear through your tent with their claws and begin ransacking your properties in the night, the sound of which you may not hear when you’re sleeping.

While you can employ workarounds to make camping in a big tent safer, it’s best to boycott it entirely and sleep in a small tent instead, especially if you’re alone. But if you’re with a group, you can take turns to patrol the campsite watch over the others as suggested earlier.

12. Prepare for Emergencies

When it's all said and done, no one can tell what could go wrong in a campsite, which necessitates having something to fall back on in an emergency.

The following tips should help you prepare adequately:

  • Bring a first aid kit: You should have enough emergency medical supplies when coming to a campsite. Your kit should include medications such as pain relievers, allergy drugs, as well as inhalers. You never know who might need one.
  • Bring Your Smartphones: Some campers don't like the idea of bringing their phones along because they feel it drags them back to the digital world instead of letting them focus on the nature they came to experience. You can carry a feature phone at least and have all relevant emergency numbers. Also, keep in mind that you might meet to climb a higher ground to get reception to call the numbers.
  • Learn how to perform CPR: you never know whose life your knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation can save; it could be that of a friend, family, or someone you’ve connected with on the campground. You can find many tutorials on how to perform CPR online.
  • Travel with valid health insurance: ensure that you have valid health insurance, and ensure that the policies stipulated within can cover emergency medical evacuations. Typically, the evacuation coverage should stretch to the cost of evacuation to the facility, as well as the cost of treatment in the closest medical facility.
  • Take a class: other than learning how to perform CPR, you can take a class on outdoor emergencies. The class will dive deep into first responder skills, how to use a first-aid kit, and what to do in the event of a natural disaster.

Final Notes

Camping in a tent doesn't have to be life-threatening. There are millions of other people who engage in this activity monthly, and they've been able to keep themselves safe just by knowing what to do.

With the tips highlighted in this article, you can learn to be vigilant, and most importantly, stay safe in the backcountry before along with friends or family.

About the Author


Hussain is a passionate hiker and traveler that love the outdoor and enjoys what nature has to give, whenever he can he love to write and give tips & honest reviews to help others get out there and just seek more unforgettable experiences.

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