12 TIPS & TOOLS TO RV SAFELY
As a solo female full time RVer, safety is the topic I am most often asked about. People are curious – do you feel safe, do you pack or carry a firearm, what have you run into?
I’ve only had one incident where my gut told me something was off. I was in Canada in a Walmart parking lot. It was mainly empty, just one other RV and a group of cars in the far corner with young kids hanging out. I started to hear yelling followed by honking as the people in the cars wanted to make the RVers unwelcome. I followed the example of the other RV and left. I continued on until I reached a truck stop that had an area for RV overnighting. I checked inside just to be sure and then settled in safely for the night.
While startling and inconvenient this was a minor incident because I made the decision to relocate and not to stay. Beyond that, my experience with traveling in the RV for the past two and half years has been overwhelmingly positive. I don’t take that for granted though, I take precautions and have put in place a few “just in case” measures.
Safety Tips & Tools
- Trust Your Gut – The most important safety tools are ones you have with you at all times – your eyes, ears and common sense! Be aware of your surroundings, trust your instincts, and your gut/intuition. I remember on the Oprah Show years ago when she had the author of “The Gift of Fear” on and spoke about how important it is to listen to that inner voice. I believe most people are good, but that does not preclude taking precautions.
- RV Type– As a solo traveler, an important factor in selecting my RV was the ability to be self-contained. While I like the cavernous floor plans in towables and 5th wheels I wanted to be able to get out of bed and get into the driver’s seat inside if I needed to leave an area. I didn’t want the added risk of exiting and entering another vehicle. There are a lot of single women who do choose to travel this way; it’s all what you’re comfortable with.
- Dogs – I travel with two small but loud and mighty dogs, Cooper and Dakota. They are good guard dogs, but also a potential signal that I’m traveling alone. If it’s late at night I try to make a separate stop to let the dogs out before I find a spot to park for the night to try to minimize exposure that I am alone at my final destination.
- Emergency Exit Plan – When I park overnight outside of a campground I’ll pull the cab curtains and window shades at night so that it isn’t obvious that I’m alone. Similar to knowing an emergency exit in a theater or airplane, I plan an exit route pointing the RV in a direction that it is easy to maneuver if I need to leave in a hurry.
- Self Defense Tools – Bear spray has a longer reach than pepper spray so you don’t need to be as close for the irritant to make contact. It is wise to bring bear spray when camping in territory populated by bears, but it can be just as effective on other unwelcome intruders. Be aware that you may be impacted by the spray as well depending on proximity and wind direction. There are other options you can bring to make you feel safe – air horn, bat, walking stick, knife, firearm, hammer, ax, etc. Some or all of these may already be part of your hiking/camping gear. Firearms are also a personal choice depends on skill and comfort level. Gun laws vary by state so be sure to check prior to crossing state lines.
- Emergency Satellite Devices – SPOTis a great tool for the RV and for hiking. It is a satellite device and service that can be used to update family and friends on your status while hiking for example or to signal the need for emergency services. It can also track your steps to revisit a favorite hike later or share with friends. Another option that provides better visual confirmation if your message was received is the ACR Aretx Resqulink emergency beacon.
- Smartphones – I keep my iPhone nearby at all times. I also have Siri voice activation on so I can say “hey Siri call 911.” Make a mental note of your location as you travel so you are not trying to figure it out in middle of an emergency. Life 360is an application for your phone that allows you to add family members or friends so they can track your location on a map. It also has a check-in feature similar to SPOT. Cell phone or Wifi service connectivity is required.
- Be Prepared– Keep your RV maintained and serviced regularly. Have spare parts, fuses, etc., and tire kits ready for an emergency. Keep call numbers handy or programmed in your phone and be prepared to advocate for the level of service you feel is required. If you do not have a tow vehicle consider an eBike as a back-up or Lyft/Uber car services (depending on availability in the area) that could transport you to a safer location.
- First Aid Readiness – I have an emergency first aid kit easily accessible from anywhere in the RV so I’m prepared for cuts, sprains, poison ivy, etc. I also have a mini first aid kit in my back pack for when I’m away from the RV hiking. It has basic survival and first aid materials: rope, a knife, fire starter, signal whistle, a Lifestraw to filter water, and a mylar blanket if it’s cold.
- Emergency Support Services – If you are a solo traveler you might want to also consider paying for enhanced travel services. Good Sam provides an enhanced emergency roadside service with extra features such as if I’m sick someone will drive the RV home to North Carolina for me and provide pet care if I am sick or unable to be at the RV.
- Safety In Numbers – Follow the old adage, at any non-campground overnight locations try to group together with other RVers. I prefer Cracker Barrel locations because they have dedicated RV spaces, camera monitoring, and have employees late into the evening and arriving early morning. Walmart typically has on-site security and monitoring cameras. I will usually go in and shop or eat and let the manager or staff know I will be overnighting. I also send a quick text to let my family know when I arrive and depart from a location. In a campground there is typically on-site management, some level of security, and other RVers that look out for each other. There are also travel groups you can join to caravan with other RVers or people with similar interests.
- Winter travel –This adds a few more things to the list. Check the weather forecast. Carry extra water and food. I have a 12V electric blanket and a USB throw just in case I do not have access to hookups for electricity or something happens to the propane or the RV’s heater. If you are in an emergency, use your cell phone if there is a signal or SPOT if you have one. Worst case, make note of your mile marker location and if any telephone call boxes are along your drive or how far the next exit is for help. Propane refills for an RV can often be difficult to locate so make sure you top off your tank pre-departure. Also survey your route and confirm availability for future fill ups along the way. For snowy conditions, there are snow tracks, tire grabbers, and tire socks you can purchase on Amazon. They are a good alternative to chains.
These steps quickly became second nature and provide me peace of mind while I’m traveling. I have confidence that if a real emergency or illness pops up on the road, I am well prepared. What are your top tips?