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Do People Steal Camping Gear?

The feeling of having something stolen is one of the worst feelings in the world. We experienced this gut wrenching feeling when our bikes were stolen from us on one of our RV adventures. Even if the thieves take something of nominal value, it can still be extremely frustrating. Unfortunately, it can happen almost anywhere, even at campsites.

So why do people steal camping gear and how can you prevent it? Today, we’ll help you take the proper steps to avoid another camper walking away with your stuff.

Do People Steal Camping Gear?

There’s no way to predict who will walk by your campsite or what might attract their attention. The reports of stolen camping gear are generally low, but they do occur. Some people will take any opportunity to take something they want, even if it belongs to someone else.

Camping gear is hard to identify because many mass-produced products look the same. An identification label won’t stop a thief who raids your tent when you leave it unattended, but it can help identify your belongings if law enforcement gets involved. 

Mulitple tents at campsite in forest.
If you’re camping amongst other people, make sure not to store your valuables inside your tent.

Can You Leave Your Tent Unattended?

You don’t want to spend all of your camping trip sitting inside of your tent. You’ll like leave your campsite for an extended time to enjoy your surroundings. Some of the best hiking trails could require hours to complete, which means you will need to leave your tent unattended for the better part of the day.

Many campers do this every day without issue. However, there’s no guarantee that others will leave your belongings alone while away from your tent. Whether it’s humans looking for a five-finger discount on camping gear or an animal that smells your food, an unattended tent is a target. The good news is, there are a few things you can do before leaving your tent to help ensure your gear is safe until you return.

camping setup with tent and guard dog

Can You Lock Your Tent When Camping? 

We don’t leave our RV without locking our front door and we view our tent similarly. You can and should lock your tent while camping with a tent lock. These locks attach to the zippers on your door flap to make it hard for someone to get inside.

Of course, these locks may provide some protection to your tent, but if a thief is trying to get into your tent, they can easily cut through the thin canvas and take what they want. Unlike a thief busting a window to get into your vehicle, cutting through canvas is relatively quiet and won’t attract much attention.

Even if you lock your tent when camping, you should limit what you can leave unattended in your tent while you’re away. Always take all valuables with you or leave them at home before you even head out to your campsite.

Pro Tip: If you overpack while camping, you might be making yourself an easy target for thieves. Make sure to avoid packing these 7 Things You Honestly Should NOT Bring Camping.

How Can I Keep My Tent Safe While Camping? 

We want your gear to go home with you at the end of a camping trip. If you want to avoid being an easy target for a thief, there are a handful of things you can do to keep your gear safe. Let’s take a look!

Stay In Safe Areas

One of the best ways to avoid having your stuff taken is to stay in safe locations while camping. We like to use resources like Campendium and iOverlander to read reviews from other campers before we pick a spot to stay at.

If other users state an area has frequent traffic from locals or other activity, it might not be a place where you can leave your tent unattended. Anytime you feel you or your gear is not safe, you should take action.

Never stay in a location where you feel unsafe. This can be a spot that is overly populate or completely isolated. While items are replaceable, your safety is more important than any piece of camping gear. If you arrive at a spot and don’t feel safe, look for a different area.

Person zipping tent closed
Safety is key when camping. Make sure to only camp in places where you feel safe and comfortable.

Don’t Take Valuables

If possible, avoid taking anything of value with you while camping. If you have to take it with you, keep it on you or secure it when you leave your campsite. This may mean locking it up in your vehicle for better protection. If you cannot take it with you, leave it out of sight and secure it as best as you can and try not to let others around you see when you do have it.

After our bikes were stolen, we started to use a lock with an alarm on it to stop thieves from grabbing our gear. These can help secure your items but are not tamper-proof. We’ve noticed many people who use generators will put it away or lock their generator and fuel up when they leave their campsite.

Hide Trackers In Your Gear

While this is not a method of preventing theft and more for if theft happens, tracking devices could help you recover your gear if stolen. These small devices can be hidden deep in pockets or put in protective cases and zip-tied to items.

AirTags, or other similar tracking devices, can potentially help prevent theft by allowing you to locate your lost or stolen items. These devices work by connecting to a network of devices through Bluetooth and can be tracked using the Find My app on an iPhone or iPad.

The effectiveness of a tracking device depends on various factors such as the device’s range and the availability of other nearby devices to connect to so it’s not foolproof, but it can help.

Couple setting up tent in forest.
Keep your valuables safe by using a security backpack while camping.

Use A Security Backpack

Security backpacks are a great option to keep your stuff safe. These backpacks often use slash-proof materials that make it very difficult for thieves to access the contents. They also may have lockable zippers and hidden pockets that can slow down or prevent a thief from taking your stuff while you leave your tent unattended. 

However, a security backpack will not do much good if the thieves take it to get into later. If you’re storing anything valuable in the pack, it might be best to take it. Still, security backpacks can do a great job of making it difficult for someone looking for an easy target.

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Familiarize Yourself With Your Surroundings

You should always be alert to what’s going on around you. Be on the lookout for suspicious behavior, and don’t be afraid to report it to authorities. If you suspect that someone has bad intentions, it’s worth reporting. Something as simple as a drive by from local law enforcement or park rangers might be all it takes to get someone up to no good to leave the scene.

Pro Tip: Going camping in an RV instead of a tent? Keep your stuff safe with these tips on How To Prevent RV Break-ins.

Solo tent set up
If you’re camping alone, make sure to check in regularly with a friend or family member to ensure you are always safe.

Is It OK to Go Camping Alone?

Many people enjoy camping alone. However, while camping alone can be a great way to relax and connect with nature, you should be aware of the dangers. Camping alone can make you an easy target if you leave your tent and gear unattended.

If you’re planning to spend much time camping alone, it’s a good idea to check in regularly with a friend or loved one to let them know you’re doing okay. If they haven’t heard from you in a while, they can come looking to ensure you’re safe. Carrying a personal locator beacon can also help others find you if you get lost or have an accident in a remote location without cell service.

ANTI-THEFT accessories to protect your camera gear while you travel

How Do You Prevent Theft While Camping?

The best way to prevent theft while camping is to avoid being an easy target for a thief. Minimize what you leave out when you leave your campsite and take any valuables with you. If someone does go through your property while you leave your tent unattended, make it so they can only take things that have little value or significance to you. There’s no 100% guarantee that theft will not occur while camping, but you can minimize the impact by taking a few precautions.

Have you ever been the victim of a theft while camping? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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Paul Gray

Friday 3rd of March 2023

We went on a 3-day backpack in a national forest years ago. The trailhead began at the end of a dead end road, and we weren't sure how secure things should be. So after I had loaded up everything for the trip I hid my car keys by a tree under a rock and we went off for the weekend. Several miles in I realized I had left my camera on the front seat of the car in plain sight, and there was nothing I could do about it at that time. When we finish the trip I went back to check for the camera and there it was still sitting exactly where I had left it. And the funny thing about this experience was I had left the car unlocked! But the keys were well protected!

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 16th of March 2023

That's pretty funny how it all worked out!