Solo RVer Safety

The top item on my parent’s list of concerns when I told them I was going to go full-time RVing by myself was personal safety. This past week, I received an e-mail from a reader who also brought up the subject, so I figured it was worth a post.

So far, I have found the RVing community to be a wonderful and very helpful group of people. In fact, I like to believe the best about humanity in general, but I know that sadly there are exceptions to the rule. I have already given some thought over how to stay safe on my travels, here are my conclusions thus far.

First, issues others than personal safety, the kind of stuff that is important to all RVers whether they’re on the road by themselves or traveling with others.

As I’ve brought up before, I have very limited technical know how. I have given some thought to taking a mechanic class at the local technical college, but that would require money and time that I don’t really feel like spending right now. So instead, I’m going to make sure I have a roadside assistance plan, for the breakdown that will inevitably occur if I’m RVing long enough. One class I will be investing in however is how to drive my RV safely. I’m thinking I’ll be attending one of the RV Boot Camps put on by the Escapees RV clubΒ  to learn the basics about safely operating an RV, since that is definitely stuff I’ll have to learn how to do on my own.

Of course I’ll also have a list of things to check when hitching and unhitching the RV between traveling, as being on the road has a tendency to loosen bolts, and forgetting even once to reattach the safety chains before driving off could have disastrous consequences.

When it comes to the common belief that living on the road must surely be more dangerous than staying at home, Technomadia has a wonderful article on safety that explains that it really just isn’t so.

On the subject of personal safety though, here is the plan. I already own a can of pepper spray, and it will be coming with me. It’s been brought to my attention that hornet spray has much the same effect as pepper spray, but has a longer range, so that is something I will have to think about. I also have plans to buy an air horn, and my truck came equipped with anti-theft device with a panic button on the key chain.

Another suggestion I have found from surfing around on RVing forums was bringing a gun with. For the people who feel comfortable with them, okay, I understand it. But I would not feel comfortable owning one myself, and couldn’t see myself using it which would defeat the whole purpose.

My parents told me I should get a little dog, but I’d really like not having to worry about a pet when I first hit the road. This is a good suggestion for soloers who like dogs or already have one however. At some point down the road I do want to have a dog, but I’m a fan of larger breeds (sighthounds being my favorites) and I’d feel bad keeping a larger dog like that in a RV as small as a Casita, plus that would limit how long I’m able to be gone from the RV, and the kind of places I can stay. Instead it’s much more likely that I’ll adopt a cat while I’m on the road, and the dog will come later.

But in the end, I feel my best safety practices will come down to common sense. When arriving at a campground, I’ll be letting the people at the check in desk know that I’m alone. If I get to my planned stopping point for the night, or a rest stop, and it doesn’t look or feel right, I’ll simply move on. Situational awareness is what I’m talking about here, being aware of your surroundings is key.

Again, this plan is a work in progress. Do you have any other suggestions for staying safe while RVing?

Image courtesy of abulic monkey

* * *

Thank you for doing your usual shopping using my affiliate link.

It's good to share:

, ,

27 Responses to Solo RVer Safety

  1. Nancy December 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Well, my parents didn’t worry, but my kids were horrified that I was setting off by myself. (When did the roles switch?) I do have a big dog in a small trailer, but we’re out most of the time, anyway. Here’s a thought, though. Get a thick dog tie out and put a bowl of water outside of your trailer. My daugher-in-law suggested that I put a pair of man’s boots outside the door (I never did do that-just forgot,but it isn’t a bad idea). I carry really good bear spray, a taser gun, and I have a can of wasp spray right by the driver seat door of my truck. The biggest safety feature I think I have, though, is a personal locator-not only for myself, but for Jack. I keep my keys by my bed at all times so I can press the panic button. When I pull into a place, I save the coordinates in my GPS. Aside from the bear spray and the locator, I got the rest so my kids wouldn’t worry. I was never afraid on the road, but being alone on trails I thought it more likely that I could fall-thus the reason for the locator. I got mine at REI, but I’m sure you can get them many places. The taser and the locator are small enough to fit in my cargo pants’ pockets, and I have a holster for the bear spray when it’s necessary to carry. Geez, writing this it sounds like I had an armory! This from someone who is never really afraid no matter where I am! On, one more thought. At night, I keep the taser and locator on the table next to my bed, too.
    Nancy recently posted..We RememberMy Profile

  2. Becky December 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Wow, all sorts of helpful suggestions, thanks Nancy. πŸ˜€ I guess that’s one more vote for hornet spray.

    I was just talking to my roommate a day or two ago and commiserating on how much we missed REI, hehe. Guess this gives me one more reason to get to our nearest one, too bad it’s a good couple hours away.

    • Nancy December 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

      You can order from REI online, Becky. I have one about 2 miles from me so lazy me…I order online an pick up at the store–no shipping.
      Nancy recently posted..We RememberMy Profile

      • Becky December 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

        Yeah that is true. But I also like the experience of window shopping and seeing all the nifty things they have there. Things I’d never buy of course, but I have fun just looking around. πŸ˜›

        I guess it’ll come down to if I can find the time or not.

  3. Ross December 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    Sounds like you’re already equipped with the most useful safety measures of all: common sense and intuition. Not that there’s anything wrong with a TASER. πŸ˜‰

    P.S. There were 2 Casitas in the campground this week. Very cool accommodations.
    Ross recently posted..Live Your Passion – Make Me MoneyMy Profile

    • Becky December 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

      Hello Ross. Taser is just such a fun word to say πŸ˜› I liked the molded fiberglass trailers better than stick built travel trailers because they just seemed more durable, and if I’m going to be living in it durability is a factor.

    • Nancy December 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm #
      I have the C2
      Nancy recently posted..We RememberMy Profile

  4. Sam December 9, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    Hi Becky…

    Being both a parent and a grandfather, I can fully understand and appreciate your parent’s concern for your safety, From the moment we learn you’re on the way, it becomes our life’s quest… we’re wired for it… it comes with the badge. And just as we followed a path to independence, so have you. But, your parents will always hold you first and foremost in their hearts and minds. **Although, that was hard to wrap my mind around when I was 16.** LOL.

    About 7 years ago, I was working from my RV along US Hwy 219, south of Elkins, WV. HWY 219 roughly parallels the WV/MD&VA lines winding through the mountains and is dotted with little towns… essentially, a road that time forgot. I pulled into a Passport America park that bordered a wildlife reserve and setup my camper. The campground was owned and operated by an older couple well into their 80s and had long ago seen better days. It was about 1/4 full with permanent 50/60s vintage travel trailers which served hunters during hunting season. Being off-season, there were no campers. .About dusk, a standard cargo van pulled into the park and took a spot several sites down and across the dirt road from me. Being a good neighbor, I waved and said “Hi”.

    The camper was a vibrant German lady, about 67 years young, 10 years my senior. She was on a 6 month tourist visa and traveling the eastern US. A retired executive secretary, it had been her and her husband’s dream to travel this country in retirement and together. they had toured the western States the previous year. He didn’t live to accompany her on this trip.

    We shared a campfire and a glass of wine along with fascinating conversation. I introduced her to ‘smores’ with which she was so enamored, I left her with all the fixin’s for further enjoyment on her journey. The next morning as she was pulling out, she stopped by to say, “good bye”. I was surprised to see that she was accompanied by a male sitting in the passenger seat. From my position at the driver’s door, I could see her air mattress in the back on the floor, her bike and cooler against the inside metal walls of the van. Then, she introduced me to her traveling companion, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. You are more familiar with his pen name…Mark Twain. Yes, and he was a spitting image too. LOL The full hair and bushy ‘stach’, dressed in blue jeans & boots, a red and white (tablecloth) checked shirt, accessorized with a red neck-kerchief and a straw hat…. a mannequin with an amazing likeness… HOV lanes, no problemo!

    Mark may have been her security blanket, but Fraulein had a fine sense of situational awareness which is your best defense. There’s not much difference between living in a sticks & bricks and an RV. With a four year degree in criminology and 10 years of law enforcement experience, I unequivocally can say, when there is a combination of people, intent, and opportunity, there can be crime. Based on personal experience…, no empirical evidence mind you, petty theft in campgrounds is pretty rare. Assault by a stranger is almost unheard of. The safest I have ever felt was in the middle of a national forest miles from anyone else. Freddy Krueger is NOT roaming the woods looking for boondockers. There are more opportunities in town.

    My ‘Spidey’ sense really tingles while I’m in transit from one destination to another. When dry-camping at a rest area, a box store,a public boat ramp, a scenic overlook, a park and ride lot, wherever…I want to arrive well before dark to scope out the surrounding area. Neighborhoods change complexion after dark. Often, I’ll have an alternative night spot picked out just in case I feel the need to move from the original one. And never, never, ever open your RV to a person without proper identification. But, that’s sound advice whether you living in a house or apartment. No?

    Be well and travel safe.

    • Becky December 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      Thank you for the story Sam, it was a good read. Fraulein sounds like quite the character, and I giggled when I imagined the mannequin there in the van.

      Also, having a back up spot for dry-camping sounds like another great idea. Shortly after I got the truck, my roommate and I took it on a weekend trip out of state and stayed overnight twice in parking lots. The first night it was a truck-stop, the second night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We got permission to overnight at both places, the Wal-Mart felt a little sketchier since there were less people around, but we had no issues either time.

      But that does remind me of my first time spending the night in the back of a vehicle at a truck stop. I was still in college at the time. It was just outside of Shakopee, Minnesota. Again, it was the same roommate, but we were sleeping in the back of her Pontiac Vibe (not really a whole lot of room). There were a lot of other vehicles parked around, and at some point early in the morning she shook me awake and said something to the effect of “There’s a man with an axe outside.” To which I replied: “That’s nice. Go back to sleep.” and I proceeded to do just that.

      The next morning we awoke and I looked at her, very confused, and asked her if indeed she had seen a man with an axe outside the vehicle, or if I had just dreamed it. Apparently she’d been half asleep at the time too and couldn’t really remember. But we got out and sure enough, 3 or so vehicles down from us was a car with the front windshield and headlights smashed in. It was clear nobody had been sleeping in the car, so we deduced that it belonged to one of the employees at the truck stop and that the vandalism had likely been a personal vendetta, since all the other vehicles were fine and some of them were nicer looking than the car.

  5. Les December 13, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    Hi Becky,

    I saw your post over on To Simplify and you mentioned you quick trip to the Gulf and a Casita so I was curious and popped over here. Still getting to know the place.

    I would say the biggest thing in traveling alone, especially as a female, is where you’re going to stay park. You have to look at the budget and your own personal needs and decide if a “regular” campground is a viable situation for every night you’re on the road. If it is and you can stay among other campers I doubt you’ll run into many issues and/or situations where campground neighbors won’t want to help.

    If you want to be a bit more independent and visit more remote areas (or just hang out like Glenn does) I have two thoughts about that (having been on the road a lot and living full time in my rig). First (especially as a female) re-think having a tow vehicle and trailer. If you pull into a truck stop or rest area (or similar) and start to feel uncomfortable you don’t want to have to step outside your trailer to make it to the driver’s seat of your tow vehicle in order to move from the area. That’s precisely why I live in a motorhome (and that could be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C). I’ve been in situations (especially in rest areas) where I was very thankful that I could just mosey up to the driver’s seat and drive away. [To say nothing about how nice it is not to have to deal with the trailer setup and hook up in rotten weather.] In addition to my larger motorhome I also have a Roadtrek (1992) that’s just a bit smaller than Glenn’s Chinook and that would give you at least as much room as a Casita; and you can drive it anywhere and remain inside when things just aren’t “right”. And you don’t have to wait for it to heat up or cool down when you stop.

    The second thought is: take a self-defense gun course. You can’t know ahead of time whether or not you’re making the right choice about carrying a weapon unless you understand the ramifications both ways. I’m not a proponent of telling folks to carry; I am a proponent of telling folks to get educated and make a decision from a point of knowledge rather than from emotion. I never want to shoot anything other than a target…ever. But no one has the right to take your life or harm you physically either. Even after a self-defense course you may still decide not to have a weapon aboard but at least then you’ll absolutely know. And you’ll pick up great information even if you do decide against having a weapon.

    Visit Kernut the Blond ( and maybe send her an email; she’s a single female traveling alone.

    And when you make your decision…keep it to yourself…period. No one needs to know whether you have a weapon aboard or not. I suppose there is some argument that letting readers know you do carry could be a potential safety asset (ask Kernut about this) but I think just doing your thing and leaving at that is the best course (personally).

    I’m likely old enough to be your dad too so I’m just passing along what I’d tell my own daughter: I wouldn’t insist that she carry but I would ask her to get the training and make her own choice based on her new knowledge. And she’d be safer anyway just because of the new knowledge regardless of whether or not she carried.

    All the best,

    Les recently posted..Tell me it isn’t so…My Profile

    • Becky December 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

      Hello Les! Welcome to IO, and thanks for the well-wishes.

      First things first, yes I will be boondocking at times, both to save money and because the concept appeals to me. Believe me, I did give a lot of thought to a small Class C (which you probably already know since you commented on that post too) but for a couple reasons it just wasn’t going to work out. I would not have had the money to buy a class C without first selling my main vehicle – and then I’d be forced to drive the Class C to work to continue saving up until I went full-timing, no thanks. Plus there is the fact that I’m expecting to still have to take odd jobs while traveling to support myself (I’m going to be a stay in one place for a few weeks-months kind of traveler vs. a stay in one place for 1-2 days kind of traveler) and again, don’t want to be hauling my house too and from work every day. I do appreciate your concern though and I understand being in a truck + TT will be a bit less safe than a motorhome, I weighed all my options and that’s just how it turned out.

      I’m pondering the suggestion about at least taking a self defense course, I’ll consider it. I took hunter’s safety when I was 12 or 13, that was a long time ago though. πŸ˜›

      Thanks for the link to Kernut. I’ve got a collection of solo RVer blogs that I follow but I didn’t have hers.

      Safe travels and happy trails to you πŸ™‚

  6. Carolyn December 23, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    I will be a solo female travler. Thanks for ideas for keeping safe. I do think common sense and being aware is the best defense.

  7. OhhWell January 5, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    An empty shotgun with no ammo whatsoever in your rig is also a consideration. The sound of a shotgun being pumped is unmistakable and will send most would be intruders running. With no ammo around, it cannot be used against you. If you do encounter the rare intruder who is not detered, you will always have a full can of wasp spray.

    It’s probably very unlikely that you will encounter a dangerious situation to the level of an invasion but if you are in a spot for a while, you could be cased and found to be a single young female living alone in a small trailer. You just never know and it’s best to be prepared for the worst.

    Of course my top recomendation would be a large dog but that has already been mentioned. A great Pyrenees would not be a bad match believe it or not. When mature, they are very sedate and have a slow metabolism. They do not require alot of excercise and will sit around during the day. They will however love very long walks when you get home. They are natural guardians and if raised from a puppy will put their life down to save you knowingly. A large dog in the trailer will also pretty much assure you will not be targeted for an invasion.

    • Becky January 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks for the tips OhhWell. Fortunately I still got a bit of time to figure out exactly what mix of things is going to work best for my situation. Welcome to IO. πŸ™‚

  8. Wayne January 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    It sounds like a fun adventure. Something I wouldn’t mind doing in a few years when I retire. As far as personal safety goes, situational awareness is probably the key factor in staying safe as well as using gut instincts in any given situation. Most criminals go after easy targets so don’t make yourself one. Taking some self defense classes geared more toward street confrontations would probably be a good idea, more so than some type of martial art.

    Firearms are another option even though you say you are not comfortable around them and could not use one if you had one. Remember one thing, a firearm is a tool. It can help or hurt you like any other tool. To be comfortable with one, you need to use one and understand what it does. A firearm is not a magic solution but is just another option. Training in the use of firearms is highly suggested if you go that route.

    I have worked as a Correctional Officer in a prison for over 20 years so I know what kind of people we have in society and what they do to other people. A lot of it is not pretty. Even though most people will never be a victim of a serious crime, you don’t want to be one of those people who are the unfortunate ones who don’t have the tools to put yourself on a more even playing field.

    I look forward to seeing how your preparations unfold for this adventure.


    • Becky January 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Martial arts is something I have considered, I just have so little time and so much to do right now. Thank you for reading Wayne, and welcome aboard. πŸ™‚

  9. Ross Macintosh January 14, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Hi Becky,
    I too am planning for a rv lifestyle in the future. Regarding security, I’ve read the suggestion at other blogs that it can greatly add to ones piece of mind to make the point of talking to locals and seek their advice for a safe location to park for a night. Rather than ask random folks, scout out approachable friendly people – every town has them – and strike up a conversation. Their advice can direct you to wonderful scenic, safe, locations. Frequently they’ll make a call for you and get permission so you can rest comfortably knowing there won’t be a late-night knock on the door.

    One thing I’ve thought about is that if & when you meet your camping neighbors consider exchanging cell phone numbers with them. If either of you have any problem late at night you can call for assistance (or just comforting reassurance) rather than knocking on their door. I’ve read that upwards of 70% of American RV’rs have a handgun so unfortunately you at are probably at higher risk of being mistakenly shot by some scared RV’r than by a criminal!

    Regards, Ross (from PEI, Canada)

    • Becky January 15, 2012 at 12:33 am #

      Hello Ross, nice to meet you and thanks for commenting. This seems like solid advice to me. I can be kind of shy in person so I think the biggest hurdle would be getting the courage to walk up to strangers and start asking these kind of questions. It’s something I’m working on though.

      I’m glad to hear from another future RVer, welcome aboard. πŸ™‚ Do you have a general year and/or date set yet or still in the early stages? Good luck on your adventures either way and keep me posted on your progress. The way I see it, we can all help each other to stay motivated during the rough spots. πŸ˜‰

    • Nancy January 15, 2012 at 9:06 am #

      Another poster, anweek or so ago, asked a police officer and was directed to a not only safe place for the night.
      Nancy recently posted..WoesMy Profile

  10. Shirley April 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Thank you for this post. Safety issues are one of my biggest hurdles when thinking about full-time RVing. This is a pretty ironic fear given that I lived in Afghanistan last year and am considering going back there for another year.
    Shirley recently posted..Weaving the threads; cutting the threadsMy Profile

    • Becky April 23, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

      Your very welcome. Safety is one of those very base but real concerns when it comes to full-timing and if your going to be going it alone it is that much more important to think about.

      There is a lot of useful advice in the comments section of this post as well to think over.

  11. Eric July 2, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    Hi Becky, Wow, what an awesome blog. Just what i needed to get me kick-started in the right direction. I’m only into the second month of archives but just finished reading your Solo RV’er Safety post.

    There is a product similar to pepper spray that is actually bear repellent ( It has the best reviews of all manufactures and worth every penny. If it will stop a 1000 lb. bear it will definitely stop a human or any other animal you may happen to run across in your adventures.

    Hope everything is going well for you. I’m going back to reading more of your blog :-).

    • Becky July 4, 2015 at 10:06 am #

      Eric, welcome to IO and I’m glad you’re finding it helpful. πŸ™‚

      I own bear spray (it’s not a repellent, it’s a deterrent) because I’m working at Yellowstone National Park this summer and bears can be a problem here. The stuff I have you can’t legally use it on people, because it’s 10x stronger than pepper spray and can kill a human. Maybe the one you linked is less strong and you could, I don’t know, but every brand I’ve seen sold here around Yellowstone has a little notice on the back saying don’t use it on people.

      Best of luck to you, and I hope to hear from you on the road some day. πŸ™‚

    • diane August 28, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

      There are 3 different types of pepper spray to use on humans.
      1) Pepper spray in gel form. This is my top choice. It works the best in outside conditions, the stream is pretty far, and it sticks to the perpitrator. Some also have a UV dye that does not wasn off very easy.

      2) Foam spray. My second choice as it has similar characteristics as the gel.

      3) Fine spray form, which might be good for inside, but outside you need to be upwind! My least favorate and honestly would not buy it.

      Like the wasp spray idea as I have never heard of that. Thanks.

      • Becky August 28, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

        Interesting, thanks for the info Diane. πŸ™‚

  12. Kit February 13, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    My boyfriend bought us each a can of bear spray a couple years back for our trip to Teton and Glacier NPs. The stuff is dangerous, but I don’t think it’s lethal unless you have asthma (although it can, according to the warning, cause blindness if sprayed directly in the eye).

    The first time he test-sprayed it, some of it blew back in his eyes and a little of it blew on my hair. I grabbed a bottle of water for him to wash out his eyes, and he was ok. The wind was blowing my hair in my eyes, and I could feel the sting in my eyes when my hair touched them.

    When we were in Teton NP, we were hiking and he took the safety off the can. I always yell at him for that, and try to explain that if there is a threat you can slide the safety off in one smooth motion as you press the trigger, but he thinks that would take too much time. So anyway, it was raining really hard, and he was holding the umbrella and the bear spray and I heard the hiss of the bear spray. From incident #1 described above, I had learned to instantly shut my eyes, hold my breath, turn and move away when I heard that sound. I escaped any effect of the bear spray, which then covered the inside of my umbrella. I washed the umbrella out in the rainstorm and it was fine.

    Another time, he was at a friend’s house and he accidentally sprayed it. They both had a major coughing attack, and he said the smell lingered for a week or two even though he cleaned everything he could.

    The last incident I had with the bear spray, it was in the trunk of my car. My car trunk is packed full so sometimes it’s hard to open or close, and the hinge of the trunk caught the trigger of the bear spray and the safety fell off and it sprayed as I was opening the trunk. I did not recognize the sound, and did not hold my breath as I should have, and went ahead looking for whatever I was looking for. In a few seconds I had a major coughing attack that lasted about ten minutes. I was fine though after a while. After thoroughly cleaning out the trunk, it was perfectly useful again too.

    Anyway, don’t spray the bear spray unless you have to. It will make a closed space uninhabitable until thoroughly cleaned and aired out. It will incapacitate you if the wind blows it back on you, so shut your eyes and hold your breath. It’s definitely something I still carry with me regularly, and would not refrain from using it on a person if they were trying to hurt me or kill me just because it says don’t use it on people.

    • Becky February 13, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

      Hi Kit,

      Working at Yellowstone last summer I learned everything I needed to know about bear spray and then some (I sold it, so I had to teach customers how to use and store it properly). All of us employees had it for hiking excursions, and a coworker of mine used it once to try to turn back an elk that was charging his dog in the employee campground. The wind blew it back into his face and RV and it was a bit of fiasco but the dog was saved. πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

CommentLuv badge

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes