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As a newbie to the RVing world, I’ve had family and friends express concerns about the safety of RVing. But I wondered what they were basing these fears on. So I did some research to understand what I was getting myself into with full-time RVing.
So, is RVing Safe? In general, RVing is a safe and fun way to explore and travel. You still need to use common sense and by following the same safety practices you do at home you’ll reduce the already small chance of having a safety issue.
Now there are several different branches to this question:
- Is it safe to boondock?
- Are RV parks safe?
- Are my valuables safe in my RV?
- How proper maintenance keeps you safe?
- Do I need to worry about wildlife?
- Are RVs safe to drive?
These are all part of the bigger question and I will cover them in this article
As with anything, there is always the risk that something bad could happen but life is all about using common sense to mitigate the risks.
Risks of RVing
For better or for worse, statistically, you are more likely to be involved in some sort of crime at your bricks and mortar home than you are in your RV. But I don’t want that to scare you into full-time RVing either.
Generally, RVer’s are less likely to have valuables in their RV. There is only so much space for valuables which makes RVs a less likely target.
Petty crimes do happen whether you are boondocking or at a campground. We’ve been advised at a small town campground to not leave coolers out at night since local kids have been known to steal them in hopes of them containing beer.
We personally have been a victim of petty theft but that was really our own naive fault. We were staying at some overnight parking spots in a small town on Vancouver Island. We had our bicycles on our bike rack but did not have them locked up (face palm). The next morning when we woke up Beau’s bike was missing in spite of it not having the seat installed.
Most thefts will be crimes of convenience. The more difficult you make it for a thief to make off with something the less likely you will have your bike or cooler stolen.
Many RVers are on the move a lot making it much harder for a thief to scope out your rig and see what goods you have. Also, keeping your blinds drawn makes it much harder for passers-by to get eyes on the inside.
Thieves tend to be sneaky and prefer to avoid confrontation so you are unlikely to be involved in a break-in while you are occupying your RV. Making sure all your windows, outside hatches, roof vents (uncovered ones at least) and doors are closed and locked makes your RV a much less enticing target than if you left a window open.
Finding Safe Campsites
Talking with other RVers is hands down the best way to find great places to stay, whether boondocking or campgrounds. Talking face to face with other RVers lets you ask questions, swap stories, and find out what they recommend.
Other RVers will give be able to give you first-hand information on the area you are visiting and let you know where they recommend staying and equally important, where they don’t recommend.
You also get the chance to see what sort of setup and style of RV the other person has. Getting advise on places to stay from someone with a similar rig size and style really helps customize the advice you receive.
An older retired couple with a 40′ Class A is likely looking for different types of places to stay than a couple in their 20’s with a 24′ Class C. While both are RVers they have different personal wants and their rigs can navigate different areas.
Is it Safe to Boondock?
Boondocking is an amazing way to stay in some beautiful and pristine places for free. It can also mean staying in a parking lot for a night when you just need a place to crash. Both are great assets to an RVer but many are held back from using these free places due to fear.
Boondocking is a safe way to explore as long as you keep your wits about you and trust your instincts. If you find a place to stop and somehow it doesn’t “feel” right then it might be worth finding somewhere else for the night.
But if everywhere you go feels like this then you maybe aren’t cut out for boondocking or you need to assess the places you’re going better.
We have found some beautiful spots to boondock. We have used a site called freecampsites.net to find great spots as well as just talking with other RVers. What’s nice about sites like freecampsites.net is users leave reviews of the place and let you know if it felt sketchy or not.
While dispersed camping, there may or may not be other travelers around. If there are, its a common courtesy to leave ample space between RVs but this will be dependent on the size of boondock site you are at.
Some people might feel that the further you are from civilization the more likely you are to be a target, i.e. the principle no one can hear you scream. But really the opposite is true. The closer you are to a city the higher your risk of a break-in.
The other type of boondocking is your standard parking lot stop. This is when there is safety in numbers. The more RVs you see stopped for the night the less likely there is to be mischief afoot.
Are RV Parks Safe?
RV parks are usually very safe places to stay. Many have their own safety features such as cameras and gates. Even speed bumps are deterrent for would-be thieves since it makes a quick getaway more difficult.
Within the park itself, there may be a few unscrupulous individuals looking to snag a new camp chair. But by cleaning up around your site at night or if you will be away from your RV you remove temptation from those with light fingers.
Kids are another possible culprit for minor mischief. You never know when some preteen boys are going to double dog dare their friend to pinch your firewood.
One of the easiest ways to prevent becoming a target is to meet your neighbors. By getting friendly with the other RVers you will have another set of eyes on your rig.
If anyone that is not part of your party happens to be skulking around your RV your neighbors will likely call them out or at least report back to you what they saw. They don’t want to become targets either.
Now not all RV parks are created equal and price isn’t necessarily an indicator of safety. You’ll want to pay attention to the area the RV park is in the start with.
If it’s somewhere that you wouldn’t be comfortable walking at night then you probably don’t want to stay there. But sometimes you are SOL and just need a place to stay.
This happened to us once back in our camper van days and before we had a smartphone. We were hard up for somewhere to stay and found a campground after dark.
The next morning we were looking around and it was a low-end place to put it nicely. There were two guys in suits walking around and Beau and I started making jokes on what they were doing there.
Beau guessed they were making a new version of Trailer Park Boys, I guessed they were someone’s parole officer. Turns out they were detectives investigating a shooting that happened there the month before. We got out of dodge pretty fast after that.
Are my valuables safe in my RV?
If you are away from your RV, whether it’s parked at the campground or at a parking lot while you explore the local sites, you will want to stow any valuables or tempting items out of sight,
Some RVs are equipped with an onboard safe. If yours is not it is a relatively inexpensive aftermarket purchase. Picking up a small safe for important documents will keep passports and extra cash safely locked away, just make sure the safe itself is tied down somehow.
One option we found was a small dorm safe that fits both our laptops. It tucks away neatly and locks down easily too.
I’ve already mentioned the importance of locking up when you leave your RV but there are a few extra steps you can take if you want your RV to be super secure.
If the locks on your exterior storage bays are from the original manufacturer, chances are everyone and their brother has a key to open it. Unfortunately, most RV manufacturers use the same locks on all their RVs. Upgrading your locks to either a combination or tubular cam lock will make your storage bays much more secure.
Adding a deadbolt to your door is another way to improve security if you don’t already have one. And using wooden dowels in your windows to keep them closed is a simple and effective way to keep would-be thieves out.
No place is 100% thief proof but by looking up and using common sense you will greatly reduce your risk of becoming a target.
How Proper Maintenance Keeps You Safe
Now, I’ve talked a lot about safety from other humans but that is just one facet of safe RVing. Proper maintenance is one of the easiest ways to keep you safe in your RV.
Just like your house, there are several vital systems you want to stay on top. These systems make your life so much easier but when not properly maintained can cause some serious safety issues.
Most RV’s have built in propane tanks to run the fridge, heater, stove, and generator. Propane is overall a relatively safe fuel but it is still a flammable fuel.
Taking the time to inspect your propane tank and lines for any wear, rust, kinks or other damage may just save your life. If you come across anything that looks a little suspect, turn your tank off immediately and get it checked by a professional.
If you ever smell rotten eggs then you need to get out of your RV immediately and turn off your propane tank. There is an additive in propane to make it detectable to users and can smell like rotten eggs, skunk spray or a dead animal.
Before panicking, it’s also worth checking there isn’t a skunk or a dead animal around, or you didn’t just crack a bad egg and you aren’t parked next to a hot spring.
Your RV should be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector and a smoke detector. You should test these on a regular basis.
If you are a full timer then test them once a month like you would (or should) at home. If you are a weekender then every time you leave for a trip or once a month if you camp frequently.
You should also change the batteries every year unless they are hardwired.
Electricity is another important and dangerous part of your RV. A simple inspection of your batteries, inverter and main power cable are easy ways to reduce safety hazards.
Your shore power line can easily be damaged if you aren’t careful since it’s exposed to the elements. Using a dog bone surge protector is one way to check the health of the RV parks power before you plug in and it will protect your RV incase of a power surge.
Also, try not to run too many things at once. Your electrical system is much smaller than in a brick and mortar house and can’t handle high loads. You might pop a breaker if you run your A/C and microwave at the same time.
If a breaker does pop or a fuse is blown and there isn’t an obvious reason, then have a really close look at that part of the system. There may be a wire shorting somewhere which could cause a fire if not dealt with.
Inspecting your water line another way of improving safety in your RV. While the water on its own isn’t specifically a safety issue, though it can cause major damage, water mixed with electricity is a huge safety issue.
When you are hooked up to water at a campground you should always use a pressure regulator between your freshwater hose and the spout. This will protect your RV from excessively high water pressure that some RV parks have.
Do I need to worry about wildlife?
I think worry is too strong of a word, you should be aware of wildlife more than you should be worried about it. Depending on where you are traveling will affect the type of wildlife you may run into.
The easiest way to prevent run ins with animals is to keep your food and garbage contained. Never leave food or garbage outside of your RV.
Food and garbage is the biggest attractor for animals. While squirrels, raccoons, and skunks are nuisances, larger animals like bears and coyotes can be dangerous.
The best way to reduce your possible unwanted wildlife interaction is to research the area you are going to first. Being aware of possible creatures you might run into will help you prepare and prevent these from occurring.
In desert areas, you may need to watch for snakes so wearing high ankle boots can protect you from accidental snake bits. In the south, ticks can be quite prevalent so using bug spray and doing tick checks are important.
Are RVs Safe to Drive?
Driving in an RV is a huge part of the adventure and really the biggest safety issue since driving is probably one of the most dangerous things we do on a daily basis.
How safe an RV is to drive greatly depends on the driver and the type of RV you drive. Generally, a Class B or Class C will be safer to drive than a Class A and any passenger vehicle will be safer than a motorhome.
Another important part of driving safely with an RV is speed. For optimum control and fuel efficiency, most RVers keep their rigs around 55-60 mph or 85-95 km/h on the highway. To find out more about RVs and speed, check out my article on How Fast Should an RV Drive?
Since this is quite an in-depth topic I have dedicated an entire article to RV driving safety, The Top 15 Tips for Driving an RV.