Last Updated on 27/08/2023
In this guide to the best tent locks for camping, we share the most secure locks for tents as well as an alarm system that costs less than $20. You will learn how thieves target a tent and which padlocks work best to deter thieves from entering your tent uninvited.
First of all, we are not oblivious to the fact that a padlock is only a minor deterrent to a determined thief. If someone really wants to get into a tent they can crawl under the outer shell or simply use a blade to slash an opening in the fabric. Nevertheless, a padlock is a visible deterrent and it will put off any opportunistic thieves who happen to pass by.
Tent locks don’t need to be big and heavy-duty, in fact, a heavy padlock could damage your tent. We share the features we do look for as well as some useful tent security tips further down the page below our reviews.
5 Best Tent Locks for Camping (Plus a Tent Alarm)
ABUS 145/20 C Aluminum Resettable Combination Padlock
- WEIGHT: 23 g / 0.8 oz
- SHACKLE: 3 mm thick
- LOCK STYLE: 3-pin combination rigid steel
- TSA APPROVED: No (harder to force open or ‘hack’)
The ABUS 145/20 C Aluminum Combination Padlock is one of only two rigid shackle tent locks in this guide because, for the most part, they are not as easy to get through multiple zip loops. The ABUS 145 combination lock series stands out though. It comes in some really bright colors which are a visible deterrence from a distance. It also comes in three small sizes that all work well with tent doors. Each size has a different diameter shackle of either 3 mm, 5 mm, or 6 mm so measure your zip loops before ordering.
Even though the shackle on this is the same thickness as other cable padlocks, it is definitely harder to cut through the solid steel than it is braided steel cables. The disadvantage of this type of D-lock for tents is that it has a smaller diameter as well as not being flexible and so it is more difficult to get through two zip loops. Still, the ABUS 145 is the best tent lock for camping for its strength, bright color, and weather resistance.
Master Lock 4697EURDNKL Combination Travel Padlock
- WEIGHT: 90 g / 3.17 oz
- SHACKLE: 3 mm thick
- LOCK STYLE: 4-pin combination steel cable
- TSA APPROVED: Yes
The Master Lock 4697EURDNKL Combination Travel Padlock is our favorite tent lock with a cable and combination opener. It has a 4-pin combination making it one of the most secure for its size and is super easy to loop through your tent zips. The shackle is 38 mm long and 38 mm wide which gives you more than enough cable to reach through 2 to 4 zips.
The fact that it is so small means it won’t weigh down your tent fabric and you can easily leave it inside your tent stuff sack for storage. Or you can use it for other things like gym lockers, food cupboards, or securing your luggage when traveling – and you don’t even have to remove it at customs as it is TSA certified. This is a great little tent padlock that will help keep your things safe without being a hassle to use.
RioRand Trigger Lock 3 Digit Combination 15 Inch Gun Cable Lock
- WEIGHT: 198 g / 7 oz
- SHACKLE: 4.5 mm thick
- LOCK STYLE: 3-pin combination steel cable
- TSA APPROVED: No
The RioRand Trigger Lock is designed to secure a gun from being loaded but it works pretty well for locking a tent too. It has a 3-digit combination code so you don’t need to worry about losing any keys. The extra pin you get with it is to reset the code to your own number while the lock is undone.
The shackle is a massive 15-inches long so you can actually feed it through an anchor inside your tent. It is also quite thick at around 4.5 mm and made from heavy-duty steel. Overall this is a little bit bigger than is needed for camping but if you have something heavy inside your tent then you can loop this through for extra security.
Master Lock 4688D Combination Padlock
- WEIGHT: 65 g / 2.3 oz
- SHACKLE: 3 mm thick
- LOCK STYLE: 3-pin combination steel cable
- TSA APPROVED: Yes
The Master Lock 4688D Combination Padlock is the smaller version of the 4697 model further up the page. It only has a 3-digit combination instead of 4 and is not as wide but because the shackle is a flexible steel wire, you still easily thread it through your tent door zips. Considering it would be easier for a thief to cut through your tent wall or even break the zips, this small padlock is all you need to deter opportunistic criminals.
At just over 2 oz this cable padlock is nice and lightweight so you can put it on any tent window as well as the door. Travel bags can be secured in the same way and because it is TSA approved you can keep your luggage safe in air transit. If you aren’t bothered about the extra cable length or extra security of a 4th digit in the combination then you can’t go wrong with the Master Lock 4688D.
Disecu 4 Digit Combination Outdoor Lock with Steel Cable
- WEIGHT: 125 g / 4.4 oz (per lock)
- SHACKLE: 4 mm
- LOCK STYLE: 4-pin combination rigid steel with steel cable
- TSA APPROVED: No
The Disecu 4 Digit Combination Outdoor Lock with Steel Cable is a great deterrent for any thieves who might want to have a quick look inside your tent when you aren’t there. It is bright red to be visible from a distance even when sitting among when grass which is enough to make most would-be thieves keep walking by. The four-digit combination code is 10 times more secure than a 3 digit code and can be reset from the open position to your own unique number.
What makes this lock one of the best for tents is the inclusion of a cable which you can use for securing almost anything inside your tent as an anchor. Every pack includes two padlocks two so you can essentially fasten one lock to the other tent and the other to the inner tent and then secure them together with the wire. If you just want to add some security to your tent without spending much money then this little set is ultra-versatile.
Wsdcam 113dB Bike Alarm Wireless Vibration Motion Sensor
- WEIGHT: 113 g / 4 oz
- FEATURES: Waterproof, Remote Control, Sensitivity Settings
- LOUDNESS: 113 dB
The Wsdcam 113dB Bike Alarm Wireless Vibration Motion Sensor is not a lock but it is perhaps more effective than one. On its own, it is very effective but when coupled with a padlock you have really done everything you can to secure your tent. The alarm works through vibration so if whatever it is fastened to is tampered with, the alarm goes off. And it, is, loud!
You lock and open your tent just like you would a car using the remote which makes a beep to let you know it is armed. You can change the sensitivity settings so that wind hitting your tent doesn’t set it off but if you rest it on the floor inside your tent, it will only ever go off if somebody opens your zip without unlocking it.
Using this in combination with a hi-visibility tent lock is the safest way to leave a tent unattended.
How To Lock a Tent From the Inside or Outside
The way to lock a tent is through the zipper toggles on the doors. If you have a double zipper then you can zip them together or if it is just a single zipper then you will need to use an eyelet on the tent to fasten it to.
- Bring the zip to a complete close and at the closest distance to the other zip or attachment point.
- If using a cable lock, thread the wire through the zip toggles and close the lock until you hear it click.
- If using a solid steel shackle lock then you will have to maneuver it through the holes while being careful not to pull too tightly.
- Give your lock a test to make sure it is secure and then position it in plain sight.
How To Lock a Tent at a Festival
At a festival, you might want to avoid leaving your lock on display and instead choose to tuck it out of sight on the inside of the tent. The reason for this is that a lock might be a signal for festival tent burglars that there is something worth stealing inside. A combination lock is much safer than losing a key if you are jumping around in crowds and rolling around on the grass all day.
How To Lock a Tent at Night
At night you can lock a tent from the inside using the 4 steps above. To reach the zips you simply put your hand underneath the door and pull them inside a little bit for access. Once the lock is secure you simply reposition the lock to be on the outside and sleep sounder knowing nobody will sneak in on you.
Benefits of Locking a Tent
The main benefit of locking a tent is the peace of mind you get knowing you did everything you could and also if you are asleep inside it can help you sleep better. The advantage of having a tent with a lock vs one without is that any opportunistic thieves will bypass yours in favor of the easier target. Just a small visible deterrent like a padlock on your tent is all you need to put most petty criminals off.
Downsides of Locking a Tent
The downside of using a tent lock is that it may draw unwanted attention from a thief who may think there is something inside worth stealing. Another downside is that if a thief does strike your tent and it is locked, they may just slash it open to avoid crawling underneath. This would leave you with a destroyed tent as well as losing your gear inside.
Cable Locks Vs Solid Shackle for Tents
If you are locking something expensive like a pushbike then a cable lock is no match against bolt cutters. But tent thieves tend to be more opportunistic than professionally organized bike thieves and so if the lock cannot be broken by hand that is good enough.
Cable locks are much more flexible and easier to thread through the zips of tents than solid shackle locks but a cable lock could potentially be cut with a multitool whereas a solid lock is much tougher.
Combination Locks Vs Key Padlocks for Tents
I much prefer combination locks vs key locks on tents when camping because keys can be so easily lost when you are out in the wilderness – and impossible to find. Combination locks can be set as a memorable number and you don’t have to worry about losing any keys. A potential downside of combination locks is that if left outside in the rain, over time they can become stiff and hard to use.
Guide to The Best Tent Locks for Camping
To find the best tent lock for camping we had to think about what is most important for securing your tent. And so I started thinking about how houses are protected by security alarms and how that could apply to tents. I figured houses have visible security like locks and alarm boxes, even cameras. Here are the main features we thought were most important for choosing a tent lock:
There are times when you may not want to advertise you are locking your tent, like at a music festival, but we believe that padlocks are one of the best visual deterrents for opportunistic thieves. If somebody is walking past and has an impulse to look inside, as soon as they see the padlock and realize it isn’t going to be so easy they will carry on walking.
A tent lock should be strong enough so that it cannot be opened by hand without a combination or key. It doesn’t need to be any stronger than that because we have to assume that if someone has a tool to cut a lock then they will also be willing to climb underneath the door or simply slash the tent open with a knife. This is why we think a 3 mm wire cable lock is sufficient for tents.
When choosing a lock for your tent, something you should look at is whether the lock can be used outside. The main indicator of if it can or not is whether it is made from rust-resistant metals like stainless steel or aluminum on the outside and brass and zinc for the internal mechanism. You should avoid any padlock that has a plastic body and instead look for a solid metal housing that again, cannot be broken by hand or even with a rock.
All of the best tent padlocks either have a stainless steel shackle or a braided steel cable wire that is covered in protective vinyl for waterproofing. Neither of these can be broken by hand however a wire is easier to cut through with a good multitool whereas a solid shackle will probably take something a bit more heavy-duty. Again, this makes it harder for opportunistic thieves.
When choosing a lock for tents you have two main types of opening mechanisms – keys and combination pins. For camping especially, it is very hard to find something as small as a key outdoors and so combination locks make the most sense. There is also a new type of lock you can use that works with a fingerprint ID or smartphone apps but I do not trust them – what if the technology malfunctions?
Weight and Size
Because tents are made of such lightweight materials, you can’t use big heavy padlocks hanging from the zips. They can damage the zips or material. Instead, you just need something small that isn’t going to stretch the fabric and will fit through the loop of a zip. The smaller the better, so long as it will reach through the tent zips and can’t be forced open by hand.
Should You Lock a Tent from The Inside or Outside?
Whether you lock your tent from the inside when you sleep or the outside when you leave it unattended, you can always reposition the lock so that it is either visible or hidden. I think that a tent lock is more effective as a visible deterrent than it is at stopping someone from getting into your tent and so it should be in view. You may have the alternative view that a padlock advertises to criminals that there are valuables inside. Ultimately the choice is yours.
How to Prevent Your Tent from Being Stolen
Preventing your tent from being stolen is just as difficult as trying to prevent someone from breaking in but there is a way. The P-Locks Theft Deterrent Anchoring System and Ground Anchor (seen above) make it all the more difficult to both get into a locked tent and also remove one without the key or combination.
You drill each spiral into the ground and then padlock them together so that they cannot be unscrewed which you can do either inside or outside your tent door. Then you loop your tent lock through the zips and through the ground anchor and the hole thing becomes very difficult to remove.
We hope this guide to the best tent locks for camping helped show some of the strongest small padlocks that will fit onto a tent. Let us know your tent security tips in the comments.