How To Lock A Tent – Securing Your Valuables While Camping


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Staying in a tent can make people feel vulnerable.  One way tent campers try to make themselves feel a bit safer is by locking their tents up.

But is it even possible to lock a tent?  You can lock a tent from both the inside and the outside and there are two easy ways to do it.

Here is how to lock a tent from the outside.

Get a small luggage lock and loop it through the two zippers on your tent.  Drag the zippers as well as the lock to the ground so that the lock is less noticeable to people walking by. This will draw less attention to the fact that your tent may have something valuable inside of it.

Here is how to lock a tent from the inside.

You can lock a tent from the inside simply by connecting the two zippers of your tent’s door together.  In this case, it’s better to skip the luggage lock and use a twist tie or small carabiner clip.  This way you’ll be able to take the lock off quickly when you need to get out of the tent.

Should You Lock Your Tent

Now that you know how to lock a tent, you really have to ask the question, should you lock a tent?

Locking a tent from the outside.

Personally, I think locking a tent from the outside is a bad idea.  When you put a lock on the outside of a tent, you advertise that there is something of value inside of your tent.  This can make a criminal opportunist curious about what’s inside your tent.

At this point, you have to remember that a tent lock really isn’t going to stop anybody from gaining access to your tent.  A person can simply take a knife and sneakily cut it open right near the zipper.  Nearby campers won’t see the knife from behind, they’ll just see that a person opened up the tent and went inside.

Locking a tent from the inside.

My take on locking a tent from the inside is a little bit different.  I think it’s a good idea, and here is why.

Locking a tent from the inside will slow an intruder down and give you some time to react to the intrusion.  First, you’ll hear the zipper go up or down but the tent won’t open.  The intruder will probably get confused and may end up raising and lowering the zipper multiple times before pulling out their knife.

Next, you’ll hear them cut through the tent.  This gives you many opportunities to wake up and prepare yourself before the intruder gets in.

You can use these extra moments to call out for help, to grab your bear spray, to get into a crouch in a small tent, or to stand up in a large tent.  In short, the extra seconds you get from locking a tent from the inside could end up saving your life.

Securing Your Valuables While Car Camping

If locking a tent from the outside won’t protect your valuables, then what will?

Sadly, nothing is ever truly safe.  This being said, you can increase the safety of your valuables simply by leaving them in your vehicle.

jeep at campsite

Put them somewhere out of sight or cover them up with a blanket or sleeping bag so thieves won’t be tempted to break in.  You can even install a safe in your car and you’ll have even more protection.

Another option might be to place your valuables in a lockbox at the campground or park you’re staying in.  Many state and national parks will have food lockers that are meant to protect you and your food from bears.  These lockers are usually locked with a padlock so they also offer protection from humans as well.

Need to lock up some expensive camera gear or a laptop while you go kayaking for the day?  Consider bringing an old cooler that you can hide your valuables in and place it in your locked bear box.

How To Secure Valuables While Camping In The Woods

Backpackers can’t put their valuables in their cars or even in bear boxes.  So what can a backpacker do to keep their valuables safe while camping in the woods?

Ideally, you’ll keep your valuables on you at all times.  However, this won’t always be possible.  If you’re taking a dip in the lake, showering, or just answering the call of nature at night, you probably don’t want to bring your expensive electronics with you.

In this case, you might want to bring a portable safe that you can lock around a tree.  Travel bags like the PacSafeOpens in a new tab. are large enough to hold laptops, digital cameras, and other electronic gear, but they will add almost two pounds to your pack weight.

Increasing Your Tent’s Security

The most valuable item in your tent isn’t your laptop, your expensive camping gear, or your new digital camera.  At the end of the day, the most valuable thing in your tent is you and your family.

Here are 5 ways to keep you and your family safe in your tent while camping.

  • Add motion-sensing lights.
  • Camp with a large group.
  • Use a motion-sensing alarm.
  • Sleep with self-defense gear.
  • Bring your dog.

Motion Sensing Lights

A motion-sensing light will often act as a deterrent to people who are trying to sneak up on your tent.  It also ruins a person’s night vision so it could make it harder for them to see you if they do decide to go into your tent anyway.  On top of all of this, it will also make it easier for you to see them, so you’ll have an easier time fighting them off.

Camp With A Large Group

Camping with friends can be more fun and it definitely decreases the chances of your tent being broken into.  On the off chance that your tent is broken into, you’ll have friends nearby who can help you out.

Motion Sensing Alarms

A motion-sensing alarm can be placed near the front of your tent to wake you up if an intruder gets too close.  This can be a good option for people who tend to sleep deeply even when camping.

Self Defense Gear

Bear spray can be a life-saver.  You can use it on animals or people who decide to break into your tent.

Your Dog

Camping with a dog can be a lot of fun and it will give you a loyal defender and an alarm system in one package.  Dogs are sensitive to noise as well as smells and they’ll wake you up before anyone can get into your tent.

Summing It All Up

I wouldn’t advise you to lock your tent up when you’re not there.  Instead, secure your valuables using one of the methods listed above.

Locking a tent while you’re inside can be a smart idea, but don’t expect it to fully protect you from intruders.

Christopher Schopf

Christopher Schopf loves camping, hiking, canoeing, and basically anything that gets him outdoors.

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