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How To Lock A Tent And 7 Other Ways To Keep Your Things Safe While Camping

Updated December 1st, 2023

How do you keep your things safe while camping? If you are new to camping you might be wondering what to do with your expensive gear when you leave your campsite. How do you secure your campsite and keep your gear safe? Should you lock your tent at night and when you are gone? Would you like to know how to lock a tent and should you lock a tent? Let’s discuss how to keep you and your valuables safe while camping.

How to lock a tent

You can use a tent lock to lock your tent closed. A small TSA approved cable lock works as good as anything at holding the ends of your zipper shut.

What is locking your tent going to accomplish? Almost nothing but it might make your feel a little better inside. Sometimes feeling better is enough to make you more comfortable. Tents are made of Nylon, Canvas, or other fabrics. A simple pocket knife will cut into any tent and quickly add another door making your lock useless. Animals such as Raccoons and Bears don’t need the door to get into your tent. They will just claw their way in.

If you do decide to use a tent lock, don’t put it in an obvious place. Nothing says there is something the owner is worried about losing in this tent better than a padlock on the zipper. Pull the zipper all the way down or up where it’s not visible to anyone casually walking by.

If you do use a tent lock at night while your sleeping in the tent. All your going to accomplish is making it harder to leave the tent to go to the bathroom. Most thieves want a quick snatch and grab and want as little interaction with people as possible. Making your campsite look like there is someone home is going to do far more than a lock on your tent zipper.

how to lock a tent

1 – Keep your valuables with you

The best thing to do with your valuable items is keep them with you at all times. That is if you must bring them camping. A better thing to do with anything really valuable is leave it at home when you go camping. You need things like money and identification. Keep those close to you at all times. Put them under your bed while sleeping if they aren’t on you in your sleeping bag.

2 – Keep your valuables in your vehicle

Your vehicle is a much more secure place to keep things than your campsite. Most people who are stealing things look for easy targets and opportunities. Something valuable just sitting around they can snatch while walking by. If you lock things in your car it takes more effort to break in. There is much higher risk of the thief being caught in the act.

When leaving things in your car, cover them up or put them under the seats. If something is covered up, the potential thief can’t tell what is in there. They won’t know if it is worth the risk of getting caught so they will leave it alone.

3 – Keep your valuables hidden

Theives can’t steal something they can’t find. They won’t look real hard for something they can’t see. Keep your valuable items out of sight and in non-obvious places. Don’t leave easy targets for a would be criminal to just grab while they are walking past.

4 – Camp in a campground

There are lots of people walking around in a campground. A crowded campground is a safer place to leave your things. There are always people around. Lots of eyes mean lots of chances to get caught.

There is a downside to this too because there are lots of people around. People are expecting to see lots of people they don’t know walking around. A crowded campground discourages someone from acting suspiciously snooping around in your tent. It also means no one is going to notice someone casually walking past your campground. Don’t leave valuables out in the open unattended and ripe for a snatch and grab.

Some campgrounds have gated access which adds a level of security. Only people camping and their guests can enter. This means you won’t have random cars driving through scoping things out.

All campgrounds are not created equal. If a campground looks really run down and trashy it’s probably not going to be that secure either. If it looks really well kept and clean, there is a good chance it will be more secure too.

5 – Choose a good campsite

A remote campground way far out of the way will be more secure than a campsite right along a busy road or trail. Any location where someone can walk through, grab something and keep going will be less secure than a location with only one way in and out. If you want security, choose an out of the way dead end campsite. No one will steal your stuff if they don’t ever find your campsite to being with.

The below video has some good advice for how to select a good campsite.

6 – Lock your valuables to an immovable object

If you have to leave something you value a lot at your campsite while your gone, lock it to something that can’t be moved. Look it to a big thick tree, a large bench, a sign pole, etc… If it’s something that can be locked by a big cable lock or chain, just wrap it around or through it and lock it with a padlock.

If it is something like a bag that is easily cut, you can use something like a Pacsafe Steal Bag Protector. This will prevent a snatch and grab. Someone with a set of bolt cutters with them is still going to get your stuff. Nothing says I’m worth stealing more than a duffle bag with a steel cage wrapped around it chained to a light pole.

7 – Practice Self Defense

I’m not a big fan of arming yourself just to go camping. It gives some people a much better sense of security to be carrying. Depending on where you are camping, it can be a good idea to be able to defend yourself from the local wildlife. Be sure to check the rules for where you will be camping to make sure it’s legal. You don’t want your camping trip cut short by a ride in a police car. This article by Outside Magazine has some good discussion on the topic of carrying a weapon in the outdoors.

The below video has some good general discussion on campsite security and campsite safety.

How to lock a tent FAQ

Q: How do you secure a tent from theft?

You really can’t secure a tent from theft. Any tent can easily be broken into with a cheap pocket knife. If someone wants in your tent they are going to get in your tent. You can put a lock on your tent zippers. Adding a lock to your tent is the same as putting a big flashing sign on it saying “Something worth stealing is in here”

Q: Do you lock your tent when camping?

No. I have never locked my tent shut while I have been camping. A tent is too easy to cut into. If animals such as a bear or raccoon want in your tent, they won’t bother using the doors. They will just claw their way in. Locking yourself into your tent at night isn’t a good idea either. It adds no security and it will make going to the bathroom at night much more difficult.

Q: Can you lock a tent door?

Yes, you can lock a tent door. Small TSA approved cable locks and luggage pad locks work the best. If it makes you feel better, do it. It really adds no security to your tent. If you wouldn’t leave something sitting out on a picnic table, you shouldn’t leave it in a locked tent either.

Q: How do you secure a campsite?

The best thing to do is make your campsite look like people are always there. Keep it looking used. Give the impression people will be back at any second. Don’t leave valuables at your campsite if you don’t absolutely have to. Thieves can’t steal what isn’t there. If you must leave it at your campsite it’s best to lock it in your vehicle. If you can’t lock it in your vehicle then hide it. Don’t leave an easy opportunity sitting around for someone to snatch while walking by.

Q: How can I keep my tent safe while camping?

The best way to keep your tent safe is to put it in a safe location. Choose a safe feeling campsite. Don’t camp right off a busy street or trail with lots of people passing it on their way to somewhere. Choose a campsite on an out of the way dead end. If people don’t see or find your campsite they won’t steal from it. Campgrounds are good places to camp. There are lots of other people camping who aren’t interested in stealing your things. They are all watching out for each other.

Q: How do you keep your food safe from animals while camping?

Racoons, bears, and other animals will tear right into your tent. Locking it is useless for keeping animals out. Do not store food inside of your tent during the day or at night. Keep your food in your vehicle if you can. If you can’t keep your food in a vehicle then there are other ways to keep it away from animals. A great way is using a rope and hanging it up in the air. Put your food in a bag or other container and hang it high enough off the ground that animals can’t reach it.

Q: Can someone live in a tent?

You can set up a permanent tent with a stove that is comfortable all year round. You have heat. You can cook in the tent. You have plenty of room for basic furniture. Find a nice scenic place to put it. You can make a very cozy rustic place to live out of a tent if that is the lifestyle you are interested in. See our guide to the best tents with stove jacks to learn more about 4 season camping tents.

Q: How do you lock a roof top tent?

You can use locks to keep your car top tent attached to your car top. Tents from companies like Yakima or Thule will have locking clamps available. Keep in mind you need to have a roof rack that locks to your car top as well. Locking your tent to your roof rack isn’t much good if someone can take the rack off your car, tent and all.

Q: Is it weird to camp by yourself?

It is perfectly normal to camp alone. If you are someone who enjoys solitude and being by yourself you may love camping alone. If you are a more social person, you might enjoy staying in a campground and meeting all the neighbors. Backpacking, tent camping, campers and RVing are all great activities to do alone or with other people.

Q: Is it safe to camp by yourself?

Safety is all about your comfort level. If you are by yourself you should use some extra caution while camping. Tell other people where you are going and when you will be back. Don’t disappear without anybody knowing where you went. Choose a campsite that you are comfortable with. Don’t camp by yourself in a known bad area. Camping alone does not need to be frightening or dangerous if you use some common sense.

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Doug Ryan Portrait Skiing 200x200

Doug Ryan
Co-Founder & Chief Editor

I grew up back east in Pennsylvania and learned to ski on a family trip to Killington, Vermont when I was 6. I immediately fell in love with the mountains and outdoors and have been skiing across the US and Canada ever since. I went to school for Mechanical Engineering, and have a Master’s Degree in Material Science and Reliability.

I am a total gear nerd and love learning how things work and thinking about how they could be improved. Nothing excites me more than trying out new gear. I’d rather spend 3 hours taking my bike apart and learning how to change something than go to a bike shop. These days I reside in Michigan by the Great Lakes and go skiing, biking, and boating as much as possible.