Solo Female Van Life Safety Tips

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

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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

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.

To help you find a safe campsite, Bearfoot Theory readers can get a FREE 30-day membership to The Dyrt PRO, which is one of our favorite apps for finding campgrounds (If you’re signing up on mobile, use the code “Bearfoot”). You can read reviews, view photos, save campgrounds you’re interested in, view maps offline, use road trip planning tools, and more!

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 including the Garmin InReach Mini.

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

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  1. 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!

    1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!


  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. I see you have electricity, I was thinking exterior flood lights might be good too. If someone came near at night, you could light up the area very bright. I know this is used with motion detectors on homes to scare off people with bad intent.

  7. Two additional suggestions. 1. Get a high lumen small flashlight (1000-1100 lumens) with a strobe setting. It can be very disconcerting to an attacker. 2. Buy a pair of one pound Indian Clubs (actually are ancient war clubs of India and the Far East). They can be used as a weapon or they can be used as their present day purpose of restorative health to the shoulder once you learn a few circular moves with them. Great after having a pack on your back and a day of your shoulders being hunched forward.

  8. Great tips. I recently went on a 12 day solo trip. Off season and some of the state parks had only 1 or 2 other campers. I carry a knife to the bath house, too. Only once when I boondocked did I feel uncomfortable, trusted my gut and moved on. Every night i text a contact where i was staying and again in the morning when i was taking off. One morning i slept in and my contact called me.

  9. Walmart’s across the country often allow RV’ers to spend a safe night in their parking lots, which are always well lit and often monitored by safety personnel or cameras. If they don’t allow it, they’ll expressly state it with signs but I’ve only seen this in a few cities in the western U.S., usually some city code gets in the way.
    Another plus is they often have clean restrooms and you can reload with supplies! Of course, you do have to deal with “the people of Walmart” in their stores. lol

    1. I wouldn’t suggest “reloading with supplies” if that implies taking toilet paper etc. from the store’s restrooms. Let’s use the safety we may feel parking in the store’s parking lot, and then basically steal supplies?!? No, this is not a good tip.

      1. I think what Kreg meant was using Walmarts clean restrooms and resupplying by purchasing items from the store.

      2. You misread Kreg’s comment. He wrote that he would use Walmart’s restrooms and then implied that he would purchase items from Walmart. Crystal clear.

  10. I keep 2 baseball bats in my van for self defense as well as my 3 yappy little dogs. I’ve been living out of my van for over 2 years & plan on traveling in when my health issues are better, maybe next year.

  11. What great advice as I begin my campervan traveling as a solo and sharing my travel blog. I converted my van into a lockable campervan with a bed because I felt unsafe camping in a tent by myself. For safety I put my van key on a lanyard around my neck by day and keep it close by me at night. I also made shades for all of my windows. WeatherTech made custom shades for my Nissan van windshield and side windows up front. I also take a hunting knife, keep a small LED flashlight next to my bed, and make sure to lock my doors. I like WalMart parking lots in a well-lit area. My phone doesn’t work a lot of places in Utah and Idaho, so I appreciate your advice about satellite location detectors. Thanks again for great advice!

  12. I love these tips! Another tip I would suggest is to have extra gasoline with you! You never know if you’ll get stuck somewhere.

  13. Thanks for the tips. I also don’t usually go too far in the backcountry unless I have a friend along. I travel two months per year solo in my van. I like wasp spray for its shooting distance and I also keep a boating air horn nearby as a rudimentary alarm.

  14. Fyi, apparently REI isn’t selling the the SPOT Gen3, so your link in the article is outdated (takes you to a page on their site that says it’s no longer available.) Thanks for your work.

  15. You forgot a dog, a dog is a great protector. Even if it’s a small dog, a person is less likely to bother you if you have a animal.

  16. we have 99 working days to retirement ! just a couple old ladies & dog. thank you for posting these safety tips.
    whatever comes our way to hurt us …we need to hurt back & run (period) .
    2 old womon

  17. I used to travel with my dog, but ultimately it made me less safe because of needing to take her out to do her job when it was dark.

    1. Hi Nancy, dogs can also add a layer of security in the van but we hear you on feeling less safe taking them out at night. Having a self-protection device or alarm on you (like a Birdie) are some ideas in case you ever travel with your dog again. Thanks for reading!