Solo Female Van Life Safety Tips

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Preparing for a solo road trip? Be confident & prevent yourself from getting into a vulnerable situation with these solo female van life safety tips.

Solo Female Van Life Safety Tips

Since starting my blog, I’ve spent nearly a year road tripping by myself. I’ll admit that the first trip I went on, I was very scared, particularly at night. I had visions of some weirdo knocking on my window or my car breaking down in the middle of nowhere.

Now that I have some experience under my belt, I really appreciate my solo time on the road. I’ve learned how to manage my fears with a set of practical van life safety tips that help me feel more confident and secure when I’m traveling in my Sprinter Van.

Whether you are planning your first one-week solo road trip or are preparing for full-time van life, this new blog post and YouTube video has my favorite safety tips for the solo female road tripper. These tips are focused on how to prevent being vulnerable. If you are looking for more general safety tips about solo road tripping, check out my Ultimate Guide to Planning your First Solo Road Trip.

Van Life Safety Tips YouTube Video

Van Life Safety Tips for Solo Females

  • Choose your campsites carefully

As much as I would like to camp far off the grid, when I’m in road tripping in my van, I’m not comfortable doing so. I save that for when I’m joined by a friend. When I’m solo, I feel much safer staying in an established campground where there’s a few other campers, such as state park or forest service campgrounds. Anywhere where there are families or groups of people camping together is a pretty safe bet. That way if there is a creep at the campground, they won’t go unnoticed.

Places I avoid include dark parking lots where it might just be me and one other car (or me by myself), and if I do have to stay in a parking lot, I make sure it is well lit.

Preparing for a solo road trip? Be confident & prevent yourself from getting into a vulnerable situation with these solo female van life safety tips.

  • Keep your docks locked

Get in a solid habit of keeping your doors locked when you are sleeping in your van or vehicle at your campsite.

  • Get some good privacy curtains

When I get to my campsite, especially if it’s late at night, and I’m unsure of who I’m camping near, I hang up my blackout curtains in my Sprinter Van. Unless I’m chatting with other folks at the campground, I don’t like when strangers can see me alone in my van. With those curtains, for all other people know, my van could belong to a couple of big burly dudes.

  • Have an indoor solution for peeing in the middle of the night

Not everyone will feel the need for this, but it may be helpful for some…When I got my van, I didn’t want to have to get up and pee in the middle of the night, for both safety and convenience reasons. So I decided to get a porta-potti in my van. Now not everyone is going to have room for a porta-potti, nor is it always necessary. That said, if you are feeling a little wigged out at night or you’re sleeping in a parking lot, you can always use a pee funnel to go into a bottle.

  • Have a way to communicate when you don’t have cell phone service

A lot of times when I’m traveling, I don’t have cell service. All over Idaho, Southern Utah, and Canada, I’ve found myself without reception. Before you head off the grid, you should always let a family member or friend know where you are going and when to expect your return. Then once you’re off on your adventures, it’s very important to have a way to communicate in case of an emergency, and there’s a couple of devices that allow for that.

  • The first is the SPOT Gen3, which allows you to send an OK message, two different pre-determined messages, or an SOS message to emergency responders. It’s a very simple device with a low-cost monthly plan that provides peace of mind. I have a full YouTube video and blog post talking about the SPOT Gen3 which you can check out here.
  • The other popular device which I recently upgraded to is the Garmin InReach. The Garmin InReach is a more advanced (and more expensive) option. With the Garmin InReach, I can type a custom message right on the device to any of my contacts. I like this because there’s a big difference between having a flat tire, being stalked, or breaking your leg on the trail, and each of these situations requires a different response. With the InReach, I can send a message to the appropriate contact and let them know exactly what my problem is.
  • Be prepared to defend yourself

The first step is to avoid putting yourself in a situation where you’ll need to self-defend – like choosing safe campsites and not drawing attention to yourself. But in the case that something goes awry, you need to be prepared to defend yourself.

Self-defense is personal. You have to choose what type of self-defense you are comfortable with, and in evaluating what works for you, you need to consider both the mental and physical component. I’ve been told by dozens of people when they hear I travel alone in my van, “You should get a gun.” And while that option certainly exists, you have to decide if it’s a good option for YOU. If you’ve never shot a gun and aren’t confident in your ability to use one if you were being attacked, then a gun might not be a wise choice. If you choose a gun, you also need to be aware of any local laws to make sure you aren’t breaking them just by having a gun in your vehicle.

So what are your other options?

  • Take a self-defense class. There’s a number of courses online and you can also Google courses in your local community.
  • Pepper or bear spray – When I made the above YouTube video I had bear spray in my car since I was on my way to Canada. While its usefulness against humans may or may not be as effective as mace, you better bet I’d grab for it if someone was attacking me. With pepper spray, you just want to be careful not to spray it inside your vehicle, as it could affect you too.
  • Knife – this could be a knife from the sportsman’s store or a knife from your kitchen. I sleep with a knife close to my bed so that it’s easily accessible in case someone comes up to my van in the middle of the night.
  • Hammer – If you have a hammer or mallet in your car, you can use this to bash someone in the head.

The idea is there’s a number of different tools you can use for self-defense, and the best weapon is going to be whatever you have within reach.

I’m not a self-defense expert, but no matter what method you choose, you need to remember to be bold and brave in the case that someone messes with you. You need to use your best judgement and be ready to fight back in the worst case scenario.

For some tutorials on basic self-defense moves, check out this post on lifehacker.

  • Keep your drivers seat clear and know where your keys are

Before you go to bed at night, make sure the drivers seat is clear and keep your keys handy. The last thing you want is someone sketchy coming up to your car, but you have your bags, computer, and camera in your drivers seat and your keys are nowhere to be found. When you set off on your road trip, decide on where you are going to put your keys at night, and be consistent with putting them there. If your car has an alarm, you can also use that to draw attention to your vehicle as you are trying to get away.

Preparing for a solo road trip? Be confident & prevent yourself from getting into a vulnerable situation with these solo female van life safety tips.

  • Trust your gut

If somewhere feels unsafe, don’t stay there. The luxury of having your vehicle, is you are never obligated to stay anywhere and you always have a way to move. It’s important to pay attention to your inner-instinct and if you don’t feel right, don’t ignore it. Best case, you were a little paranoid. Worst case, you were right and you made the best decision of your life to drive elsewhere. Also remember you can always go to a police station or fire station if you feel unsafe or you’re being followed.

Hope these solo female safety tips provide you ladies out there with some helpful advice when it comes to traveling in a van or other type of vehicle by yourself. Are there solo female safety tips I missed? Leave your best advice in the comments below.
There are 8 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

8 Comments on “Solo Female Van Life Safety Tips

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  1. Love this! So many great tips. Thanks for posting 🙂

    I’ve traveled a ton solo and the only time I’ve ever been directly approached is by police officers just checking on me to make sure there was no domestic abuse scenario or endangerment. Along with sleeping with keys, and pepper spray easily accessible, I also keep my headlamp easy to grab. And recently I got a big scary looking dog. He’s a timid baby and scared of his own reflection, but no one else needs to know that. But we both sleep easy at night!

      Thanks, Annie! This is great to hear. I love the idea of keeping your headlamp easily accessible. Thanks for posting, glad you enjoyed the article!

    Although not always possible, a safety precaution that I try to take to enable a quick and easy get away if ever needed is to park so that I can drive straight out without needing to reverse or manoeuvre. If you have to park somewhere that seems a little unsafe it is better to be cautious and be able to leave with the least amount of fuss if needed. You can just hop over into the drivers seat and drive away without having to worry about getting out of a tricky parking spot. I have never needed to take such a drastic action but I sleep better knowing that I have the option.

    Hey I really appreciate this post. I am just starting out on my own solo vanlife adventure and even thought I’m super pumped, I do get nervous about being along sometimes. It’s a good reminder to myself to place my safety first.

    Thanks for the great read!

    -Taryn

    Even from the perspective of someone who isn’t planning on taking a solo trip in the van, these tips are still really useful! It didn’t even cross my mind to keep the driver’s seat clear and keys in sight. Definitely worth considering these safety tips even if there is more than one of you!

      Thanks, Sarah, you are totally right! Glad you found it useful.

    Be careful crossing into Canada with the sprays. Mace is illegal…and bear spray can result in confiscation\ refused entry, if you suggest it is for personal defense against humans.

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