The van life presents many risks to both yourself, your van and your property. As a resident of the open road, you must keep a wary eye on the condition of your vehicle, the safety of your property, and, most of all, yourself. If one aspect of your life is compromised in anyway, you risk falling into disarray at an alarming rate. Here are 20 ways to keep yourself safe and keep your tires forever on the road forward.
Protection From Harm
1. Inclement Weather
This can mean planning for a plethora of events. If heavy rainfall is expected, make sure you are not parked in a flood area. If there is a chance of wildfires, make sure you are not in any at risk areas, or in the path of existing fires.
2. Carry Extra Gas
Always be mindful of where the next service station is, and prepare for the worst. Never bank on rolling into the pumps with a dry tank, or no extra jerry cans on hand. If carrying extra gas outside your vehicles tank, practice safe storage methods.
3. Have and Use Your GPS
Maps and GPS will bail you out more times than you want to count. Having comprehensive and reliable access to information about your surroundings is an absolute asset. If you find yourself a few wrong turns away from who knows where, a properly functioning GPS might end up saving you.
4. Check In With Friends
As with plane and boat travel, make sure somebody other than yourself knows your location. This can mean “checking in” on Facebook, or simply letting an emergency contact knowing your whereabouts.
5. Access To Medicine/Anti-Venoms, etc.
Your specific needs will vary from location to location, but prepare for the worst. Always carry an epinephrine administrator in the case of contact with a poisonous animal. Furthermore, know your way to the nearest hospital, or location where you can contact help. If necessary, always keep a good stock of medicine pertaining to pre-existing allergies or ailments. In any case, carry a first-aid kit.
6. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Same with any house, make sure you have functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This is especially crucial if your van is on the older side. Carbon monoxide is scentless and HIGHLY deadly. Poisoning creates a feeling of sleepiness and can kill within just a few minutes. Install detectors, and check them regularly.
Protection From Other People
7. Have Sturdy Well-Functioning Locks
Make sure your van is as secure as you would want your own house to be. Make sure the locks are in good working order, and tamper proof. A lot of old-vehicles, through the passage of time, will develop “quirks” known mostly just to the owner. Maybe a certain window doesn’t quite close, or a door will open if given enough force in a certain direction. Get these fixed immediately. These are your weak spots that are most likely to be exploited.
8. Security Alarms
Make sure your vehicle is outfitted with a good security alarm mechanism. This means touch-sensitive, remote-controlled and LOUD. Most likely, a would-be burglar will be frightened off by loud noises and the risk of being exposed and caught. It’s just not worth the effort. A touch-sensitive alarm may get set off by a fallen branch, or a nocturnal critter of some sort, but it’s much better than the alternative of having yourself, or your property harmed in any way. Remote controlled alarms are incredibly useful as well. If you hear something rustling outside your van that seems suspect, just blast them. Person or animal, they’ll get the message.
9. Get Up and Go!
Remember: your home is mobile. If at any point things do not seem right, no matter how minor they might seem in hindsight, get out of there. A bruised ego a little bit down the road is infinitely better than the threat of any real harm. If you are confident that the threat was real, report the incident to the local authorities.
10. Keep Your Wits About You
Be ever vigilant. Threats to your personal safety mostly come when you are least prepared. In other words, at night time. Everyone needs to sleep, but you should always be prepared to make a move at a moment’s notice, or (worst case scenario) defend yourself physically. Have an exit plan in mind, and make your process as stream-line as possible. Do not compromise your judgement with alcohol, or any other substances if the need for flight is immediately necessary.
11. Self Defense
Self-defense is always to be considered a last and worst case scenario. You should always conduct yourself and your activity as a means to limit dangerous, confrontational situations, but it is always a risk. Arm yourself with non-lethal resources, such as pepper spray, or even a stun gun. These are to be used only if all other options fail (eg driving away, triggering alarms, etc.). I cannot, in good conscience,recommend arming yourself with a firearm. Statistically, being armed with a lethal weapon tends to exacerbate a violent situation, even when used in self-defense.
12. Know “No-Go” Areas
Many “no-go” areas will be immediately apparent on first encounter. Impoverished areas often inspire desperation, which puts you and your property at risk. However, this is not always the case. Often times seemingly safe spaces can prove to be anything but. When in doubt, get the inside scoop. Talk to locals, consult authorities and trust your gut.
Protection Of Your Property
13. Basic Upkeep
Familiarize yourself with the inner-workings of your vehicle, as well as those of the after-market appliances that you have installed, such as stoves, fridges and heaters and AC. Knowing how to administer regular checks and fixes can possibly prevent a big fix, or a crippling breakdown in your near future.
(Related: How To Prepare For And What To Do If Your Van Breaks Down)
14. Backup Camera
Driving a big van means having big blind spots, and having big blind spots in a confined, unfamiliar location could mean putting your vehicle in a ditch, damaging the body, or worse. Having an inexpensive backup camera installed can greatly improve your orientation in such situations. Plus, an external camera doubles as a security system if you suspect somebody outside your vehicle.
15. Fire Extinguisher
This might seem like a no-brainer, but having a fire extinguisher in good condition, as well as the knowledge of how to use it within a moment’s notice is of the utmost importance.
Kill-switches, or secondary engine starters are a huge asset, especially if you plan on spending a significant amount of time away from your vehicle. When your living in your van, you don’t just run the risk of having your home broken into, but also someone driving away with it!
17. Out of Sight Out of Mind
When possible, hide your belongings from the peering eyes of the outside world. This can mean anything from window tints, drapes or keeping your personal belongings with you. Give thieves no motivation to break into your stuff.
18. Keep A Safe
Store any valuables in a safe securely mounted to the body of your vehicle. This means if a thief is going to steal your safe, it means they will need to be prepared to steal a small part of your vehicle as well. This usually isn’t the case.
19. Vehicle and Property Insurance
Most countries require you to have insurance on any vehicle that enters public roadways, but inquire further about property insurance of the belongings that you keep in your van. This means your luggage, appliances, belongings, etc. With the help of a broker, figure out a package that works for you.
20. Renter’s Insurance
Renter’s insurance may be an option as well. If any part of your rig is leased or a rental, check to see what policies are available to you in the case of theft, or damage.
There is a lot to take into account when living in a van, but this list should give you a good foothold on the risks that await you. As always, the best defense is always prevention. Limit danger by avoiding it. Think sensibly, and trust your gut.