Last Updated on 02/10/2022
In this article, we share all the tent security tips we have learned over the years from backpacking around the world. You will learn the importance of picking your campsite carefully to remain inconspicuous and some proactive things you can do to protect your valuables when camping.
We are positive people here at Gear Assistant and we like to think there are way more good people in the world than bad. And so we do risk losing some things to thieves when we leave them unattended but we are happier with that than being overly worried. You may not be willing to risk and that’s fine, we’ve got you. This article is mostly for you.
Tents are not the most secure structures and if somebody wants to get into your tent there is absolutely no stopping them. Even if you take every measure to secure your tent, a would-be thief can easily slash the material with a knife or simply go underneath. But this doesn’t mean you can’t deter more opportunistic criminals from having a look inside.
12 Tent Security Tips for Unattended Tents
Here are the best tent security tips we use when trying to find a safe camping site.
Choose Your Campsite Carefully
The best thing you can do to reduce the chances of a tent break-in is to be picky about where you pitch your tent. Whether you are at a campsite or in the middle of the woods, be selective about your tent location.
At a campsite, you can do things like avoid the young group of teenagers and instead choose to camp next to an elderly couple in a caravan who rarely leaves the site. Or you can choose a pitch that is within view of the reception office.
In the woods, you should take the opposite approach and choose a spot that is well hidden and not visible from any high-traffic roads or paths. You can use features of the landscape like bushes, trees, or mounds of earth to disguise your tent. If you head into a dense forest for just 10 feet or so you will soon lose visibility of any passers-by.
Stash Your Valuables
The best way to avoid having your most expensive items stolen is to stash them somewhere secure and ideally hidden. If you have a car then you can keep them in the trunk but if you only have your tent then you will have to get creative.
The first place many people stash small valuables is inside layers of clothing or with your food and cooking apparatus but these are too obvious. A slightly better place is under your fly sheet but even this isn’t ideal. The best place to stash your valuables if you can’t carry them with you when you leave your tent is somewhere away from camp.
Find a discreet location that is perhaps difficult to get to or unlikely to be found and tuck your possessions out of sight. This way if somebody does go into your tent they will not take off with your most prized possessions.
Leave a Note
If you have considered the risks of leaving your tent unattended and decided to do it anyway then the most important thing you can do is leave a note. If you don’t and somebody comes in for a closer look then they may think the tent is abandoned and take a look inside. When somebody assumes your tent has been abandoned they may pack it away to avoid it becoming litter, or worse, contact authorities who then send out a search and rescue team.
Leaving a note on your tent when you leave it unattended in a remote location is the best way to deter any curious passers-by from entering. You can leave it on the zip, on the floor in front of the door, or taped to your door at eye level.
Get to Know Your Neighbours
This is actually my favorite tent security tip because I love meeting new people and learning about other people’s lives. The benefit of getting to know your neighbors is that you can all look out for each other when you leave your tent unattended. If you are driving to a local town you can let the people camping around you know and also ask if anybody wants you to pick something up for them. This builds trust and also a pleasant atmosphere to be around.
Don’t Be Too Long
If you do leave your tent unattended somewhere with lots of people around and are worried about the security of your tent then try not to be too long. The longer you leave your tent unattended the more chances people have to come in for a closer look.
If you are going to be gone for a significant amount of time then you might be safer packing your tent away and then putting it back up when you return. which leads us to the next tip.
Pack and Stash
The ‘pack and stash’ is where you take your tent down and stash it somewhere nearby and out of sight. The idea is that an erect tent is much more visible than a packed-away one. Also, taking most tents down and putting them back up only takes 2 – 10 minutes which isn’t a big deal to do every day.
Something I have done in the past before a day hike up a big mountain is to stash my backpack and tent together with a note so that I don’t have to carry it around all day. Shrubs and bushes are the perfect places to hide your gear and even better if they have thorns. So long as you can’t see them from any established hiking trails they will likely be much safer than leaving your tent up with your backpack inside.
Avoid Bright Colored Tents
Bright-colored tents are more visible than neutral-colored tents. Orange and red tents serve their purpose for expeditions where you might need to be found in an emergency or for hunters who need to stay visible to other hunters. But if you are trying to keep your tent hidden in the woods then bright colors are a bad idea.
Neutral dark colors and especially green tents are ideal and often what most people have anyway. Even better than that though are camouflage tents that blend into the surroundings like a chameleon.
Use a Padlock
One way to improve the security of your tent is to use a padlock on the zips. This might seem silly to some people but it does serve a purpose. Having a padlock on your tent zips will not stop a determined tent burglar but it will deter most opportunistic thieves. You don’t need anything heavy duty, just something small but strong enough that someone cant open it with their hands.
It is quite easy for an unethical person to open a tent and go inside, pretending like it’s theirs. A padlock would force them to cut a hole in the tent or climb underneath which draws way more attention from anyone close by.
Use an Alarm
One of the best ways to improve tent security is to an alarm on the inside of the zip. You can get some really nifty remote-control alarms that are triggered by movement and are incredibly loud. The one featured below can be adjusted for sensitivity and is incredibly effective.
Not only will an alarm often cause a campsite burglar to run off but it will alert any neighbors you have or even better, it can alert you if you are close by so that you can make your way back to check on the security of your tent.
Don’t Use Your Best Gear
If you have to leave some of your gear in an unattended tent and it would bother you if somebody stole them then save yourself the stress and don’t bring your most expensive equipment. If we are going to a music festival, for example, we would not take our $500 sleeping bag and $1200 tent.
Instead, we would use some older equipment that is on its last legs or buy something cheap to see you through the next couple of years but if it gets damaged then no big deal.
If you really don’t want to take your tent down but want to keep it as hidden as possible then you can use camouflage netting if you are serious. Or you can use natural camo by loosely placing some vegetation or lightweight branches around and over your tent. The more hidden your tent is the less likely someone is to find it – simple.
Create a Scarecrow
This is a bit of a silly one but if you really want to keep people away from your campsite then you can create a scarecrow or decoy to freak people out enough to stay away. This can be as simple as placing your boots sticking out of the ten as if somebody is lying down in there. Or as elaborate as creating a lifesize scarecrow out of clothes and straw to sit on your camping bench outside.
We hope you enjoyed this list of tent security tips to help keep your gear safe when you leave it unattended.