Safety and security are the primary concerns in van life. Since it’s a long term lifestyle, van lifers need to have the right safety essentials as they try to exemplify the deeper societal trend towards minimalism.
While many people associate van life with dangers, homelessness, and criminal activity, I can testify that living in a van is much safer than many past apartments. The trick to van life safety is to be smart.
Indeed, a little bit of common sense is all one needs to turn down the van life social stigma and create a personalized, euphoric, and safer living environment during van life adventures.
Living on four wheels while exploring takes passion and preparation. In this article, I’m giving you an extensive list of van life safety must-have items that will make your adventure remarkably safe, enjoyable, and memorable. Avoid an extra trip to the store by having the following in your arsenal.
1. Roadside assistance
Roadside assistance has saved me a number of times. Indeed, it is the best safety essential anyone can invest in if they can only afford one safety measure. From my experience living in a van, no one can afford to fix everything; therefore, road assistance is extremely important for enthusiastic van lifers like you and me.
Thankfully, roadside assists are a call away should your van break down. Comprehensive roadside assistance package from a good dealer like AAA Road Assistance includes off-road coverage and is pretty affordable.
I don’t have fear when exploring dirt roads because I know everything is well covered.
2. Jerry can for gas
What sucks more than running out of gas in the heart of desolate desserts? I always carry a jerry can of gas just in case I run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. It is an immediate solution and an essential that any van lifer must include in their checklist.
Apparently, you don’t want your van to smell like gas – it is unhealthy to breathe gas fumes. Since strapping a full jerry on a roof rack is illegal in some states, the best and safest solution is to mount it on the side. I’ve secured my 20-liter metal jerry can on the outside with a vertical jerry can holder.
3. Tire chains
Even if you are fond of exploring within tropics, the chances are that you will deal with bad winter weather at some point. I like tire chains because they offer a perfect solution if you happen to find yourself in the middle of a snowstorm.
Fortunately, you don’t need to break a bank to get premium quality titer chains. Tire chains are relatively easy to tote around, install, and remove as needed compared to snow tires. They are cheaper than repairing a van should you put it in a ditch.
4. Emergency shovel
Although it might sound miscellaneous, a foldable shovel is a must-have for any van lifer. Foldable emergency shovels are great for minimalism.
Although I quit mountain travels before the snow flows, I sometimes find myself amidst a snowstorm. My shovel is lightweight and has severally proven itself mighty as an avalanche safety shovel.
An emergency shovel is also handy in digging out tires when stuck in the sand. I have a portable toilet in my van, but I’m sure an emergency shovel can help if there is no reachable toilet.
5. Carbon monoxide detector
Better be safe than say sorry.
Is remote camping your thing? A high-end carbon monoxide meter is handy in ensuring you have adequate and quality fresh air in your space, qualifying it as an essential life-saving item for van life.
I sleep soundly knowing that this alarm will alert me when potentially lethal gases leak.
6. Hidden vehicle GPS tracker
The worst nightmare for any van lifer is having their four-wheel home stolen. Because you don’t want to lose your van, in the rare case it is stolen, when you are exploring, equipping it with a GPS tracker is a worthy investment.
Even though I have never had my van broken into, I’m always prepared for the worst because I occasionally leave my camper unattended. I have a magnetized GPS hidden underneath my rig to track my van should the worst happen.
At a small price, a magnetic GPS tracker gives peace of mind.
7. Road flares
While any van lifer will barely need road flares, they are an essential safety item in van life. If you are like me, sometimes you will find yourself in dark curvy backroads where your hazards are not strong enough to warn another driver barreling around the unlit curve, and this is when road flares are handy. They are small enough to augment minimalism yet mighty enough to warn any other driver.
I not only use my road flares to indicate my van is stuck but as an indicator that I need help. Thankfully, road flares are relatively cheap, so you can buy several to use in unique scenarios during your van life.
8. Security safe box
If you are a full-time van lifer, having a dedicated spot to store valuable items can be a great way to enhance safety. During the work-from-home era, many people use laptops and cameras to make a living while on the road, necessitating the need to install a personal safe box.
Although there are many ways to keep valuables safe, I have a hard-to-reach, impenetrable, and immovable security safe box. My pretty much indestructible steel safe box features an electronic passcode, which allows me to go and live my life with peace of mind.
9. Compact vehicle safe
While keeping your precious items in a security safe box is safe, you might want to keep some valuables totally hidden. This is when a compact vehicle safe becomes very handy. Although I don’t have one, it is one of the safest ways to lock and hide your credit cards, passport, spare keys, money, among other smaller yet precious items.
10. Alarm system and autostart
A camper van is a worthy investment that deserves a decent aftermarket alarm system. Even with the smartest magnetized vehicle GPS tracker, it is a good idea to know when your van is disturbed. Get a smart alarm that will ultimately make your van too hot to handle.
With a small financial outlay, you will get peace of mind because your home on wheels is very safe. A decent alarm system includes a smartphone app to alert you when the alarm is triggered. For enhanced safety, you can autostart your van remotely and scare away potential larcenists.
If you are like me, safety and security come first. Whether I’m sleeping in my van or exploring what nature offers, my CCTV monitors everything in the environment. It uses wifi to continuously send alerts to my smartphone, making it essential in my van life experience. I have peace of mind when I fall asleep or when I leave my camper unattended.
12. Motion sensor vehicle security lights
As reported by many van lifers, most weird encounters happen during the night; therefore, it is imperative to prepare for any possible attacks. With security lights that sense motion, you will be safe because they can warn you when someone is approaching your van. The newest motion-sensing lights allow you to adjust the sensitivity so that the lights only light up when someone is very close to your camper.
Motion-sensing lights will cause panic to people attempting to reach the van’s door handle or those intentionally trying to open windows. They are easy to install, waterproof, and emit enough light without using a lot of energy.
13. Fire extinguisher
A proper fire extinguisher is not only life-saving but also van-saving, qualifying it to be one of the items any van lifer should never miss in their packing list.
With an overworked engine, plenty of electrical equipment, and propane canisters, fires are more probable in van life; therefore, we should stay armed for the nasty happenings. To be sure, buy extinguishers rated for class B and class C fires.
On the off-chance that your van catches fire, a fire extinguisher will help you respond immediately and save your investment. Most van life fire extinguishers are compact, affordable, and. Most importantly, reliable.
14. Steering wheel lock
It is relatively hard for thieves to beat a tough steering wheel lock. Besides giving thieves a hard time to drive if they inadvertently break into your van, a steering wheel lock might deter thieves from breaking into your van if they squint through the window.
If you are new to camping, a steering wheel lock is such a mighty and essential van life safety item. Steering wheel locks come in many varieties to suit your tastes and your van.
I usually install my steering wheel lock every night or when leaving my van in a packing.
15. Mace (pepper spray)
While breathtaking mountain ranges and desolate deserts offer an intriguing view of our mother nature, they pose some dangers at any time of the day. I also like such spectacular views but when armed to face uncertainties.
Although I’m yet to use pepper spray, having it in my arsenal gives an extra sense of security during my visits to dangerous and unfamiliar territories. Mace can be handy if any situation upsurges out of control. The trick is strategically placing the mace bottle in your van so that it is highly accessible. Because of the unlimited chances of meeting the unexpected, I keep a mace bottle in my backpack when walking around in unfamiliar territories.
16. First aid kit
Even if you’re not spending significantly longer in van life, it is a no-brainer that you need a first ais kit. Basically, a first aid kit is a must-have for anyone living in a motorized home.
I love it because it has everything anyone needs to live in a van and have an enjoyable experience. It is super compact to fit in a small space but large enough to hold all the medical items I need during my tours.
With a complete first aid kit, you will live your life knowing that you can effortlessly address minor injuries and emergencies.
“Should I carry a jumpstarter?” is a common question among vehicle owners. If I was to answer the question – jumpstarter or jumper cable is a must-have accessory for van lifers and all vehicle owner. Even with a reliable car battery, badhappens when you’re not ready.
If you drive an old van, you should never start your van for a tour without this life-saving tool. It might be the only solution you need when stuck in the cold. With many options, there are incredibly versatile jumpstarters for any budget. My van is newer and has a reliable battery, but I have a jumper just in case I’m caught unaware.
18. Car emergency kit
Changing a flat tire or dealing with an overheating engine is a rite of passage in van life. Indeed, you haven’t experienced van life until you are the one to deal with such uncertainties.
Even with a reliable roadside assist membership, getting help from the middle of nowhere can be difficult. For this reason, van lifer should pack a car emergency kit for minor repairs. This essential setup is handy should unexpected things happen while exploring remote areas.
19. Hydraulic jack
A jack goes hand in hand with roadside emergency kits. The only trick is to ensure you buy a jack rated for the weight of your van. It is a good idea to account for the additional weight of belongings in your van and get a jack rated to hold significantly larger rigs.
Since flat tires happen whether you are ready or not, a jack and emergency tool kit can keep you moving when stuff caught happens. You may need robust wooden blocks on board.
20. Satellite phone
Everything is well and good, and until something weird happens. If you’re an enthusiastic explorer like me, the chances are that you have or are likely to find yourself out of cell service – it is something normal.
Getting stuck in a place with no cell service is among the most unpleasant experiences in van life. In such cases, even an awesome road assistance plan might not help you. So, what should one do?
A simple satellite communicator subscription is all you need to save yourself. It sends emergency messages when you get off-grid by turning your cellphone into a satellite communication device.
21. Portable air compressor
The road is an enormous tire trap. Because van life is sweeter when driving off-road, it is imperative to have a portable air compressor to inflate your tires from time to time. Even without getting flats, tire pressure is always fluctuating subject to several factors.
I keep my tires inflated for better resistance to the terrain and optimal gas mileage. Don’t you like it that way? Having an air compressor makes you self sufficient and can be cost-saving in addition to helping you keep riding to safer spots.
22. Van door lock
As a matter of fact, most older vans feature petty security locks, which makes your wheeled home highly susceptible. For this reason, you can do yourself a favor by installing aftermarket van security locks that will give peace of mind.
I’m using a newer van that features somewhat secure locks. If you live in an older van, it is imperative to install extra locks. You can opt for the slick and versatile van door locks or go for the bolted locks for car doors. No matter your choice, it should keep your house safe.
Slam locks make it difficult for would-be thieves to break into your van.
23. Tiny windows
Although rear van doors are the weakest entry points for thieves, windows are another frequently used option. Because no one wants their vehicle broken into, it is ideal to deliberately customize van windows and make them small for only light to penetrate.
Pairing intelligent door locks and small windows allow van lifers to enjoy life peacefully because the chances of a would-be thief smashing into the camper if minimal.
24. Magnetic lockable key case
It can be daunting with no option to enter your only home. Many of us are inclined to misplacing our car keys, which makes a magnetic lockable key case extremely important for van lifers. Thankfully, these secret cases feature code locks, so you don’t have to worry even if someone finds it.
25. Offline GPS navigation
Okay, I can’t tell how the hell I survived those days without offline GPS navigation. Besides finding safe spots to spend nights, offline GPS navigation is handy in locating dedicated destinations like police stations and gas stations when in dire need.
With this must-have at your disposal, you will sipe worries of parking in unfamiliar and unsafe spots.
If van life is your thing, you expect to encounter a lot. While it is less scary than the prospect of a thirty-year mortgage, you need to invest heavily in safety and security to ensure your four wheels home, and you are safe.
If you want any more help keeping your rig safe, feel free to check out my other articles. I publish a ton of content on van life!