Life keeps getting more expensive. People are disillusioned with living paycheck to paycheck in order to afford small, rented accommodation in the city.
But choosing to live in a tiny home, RV or van shouldn’t be viewed with rose-tinted glasses. Like any lifestyle, it comes with its ups and downs. After all, a vehicle or tiny home is nowhere near as secure as a house.
Whether you live in an RV or mobile home as a nomad or are contemplating the lifestyle, get to grips with the security risks unique to mobile and alternative living and find out what to do about them.
RV Security & Safety Risks
Mobile homes, whether RV’s, converted vans, or other types of alternative accommodation, are prone to unique security and safety risks. Below are the most important things to be aware of when considering adopting the van life lifestyle.
1. Moving Around
For many people who choose to live in an alternative type of home, the appeal lies in the ability to go anywhere, any time.
In some ways, this has security benefits. A moving duck is a difficult target, after all. But generally it exposes the home to greater risks than those faced by a conventional one.
Particularly when traveling in another country or an unfamiliar place, there isn’t always going to be a clear idea of how safe a parking space is or how crime-ridden the area is. The more movement, the higher the chance of running into issues.
2. Vehicle Theft
What’s at stake is therefore much more than in a conventional home burglary. Leaving the vehicle in an unfamiliar space for the day without appropriate security measures puts the owner’s entire livelihood at risk.
Location research is key in finding a safe space to park.
3. Gas Leaks, Fires & Explosions
Modern mobile homes are powered by all kinds of methods, but the vast majority still use Diesel or Propane stored in canisters.
The trend towards DIY motorhomes seen in the ‘van life’ movement means that non-professionals are increasingly fitting highly flammable and dangerous objects like these.
As great as the DIY approach is for saving money, safety should be prioritized by having professional installation of gas tanks, electrical wiring, and other objects that are highly flammable and dangerous.
It’s a small space filled with a lot of flammable objects, and as the vehicle moves, objects that aren’t fitted correctly can easily cause leaks, fires, and even explosions.
If there’s a lack of confidence, don’t feel bad for foregoing DIY.
DIYers, on the other hand, should make sure to complete wiring and other installs outside insulation and other ‘hiding’ materials to enable easy access whenever needed.
‘DIYers should do wiring outside the insulation. I had to re-do so many decisions along the way… I couldn’t imagine making all the right wiring decisions before the insulation step! The pros have perfect blueprints to work from. Us DIYers need the flexibility’.Rick_R, Project Van Life Forum.
All mobile and tiny home owners come to feel a great affection for their builds, which are made with love from the ground up.
To see it defaced can be pretty demoralizing, but it’s worth being prepared for the possibility of vandalism.
Again, this is a compromise of the nomad lifestyle; it’s not always clear where nomads will end up, let alone where they’ll sleep for the night, so it isn’t always possible to scope out the area for crime beforehand.
Keep paint, brushes, and cleaning products onboard, or otherwise consider taking out an insurance policy.
‘When choosing your RV insurance, we think it’s a good idea to be sure there is coverage in such cases and that you’ll be reimbursed for hotel or Airbnb stays while your van is fixed.’Katie Diederichs, Two Wandering Soles
5. Car Crashes
In fact, for most converted home vehicles, dash cams will be necessary 100% of the time, because the cab won’t have a window in it.
Likewise, the back window of the vehicle should also be either blacked out or covered up to preserve privacy. Dash cams replace the loss of visibility.
6. Police Checks and Forced Relocation
Regular homeowners are probably pretty unfamiliar with having the police come knocking on their door at 5 in the morning (assuming they aren’t a professional bank robber…).
The same, sadly, can’t be said for those living on the road. In fact, interactions with police will become a regular part of a life moving to and fro.
Always cooperate with law enforcement–it usually isn’t worth putting up a fight, particularly when in a different country.
Be well aware of the relevant vehicle search laws to anticipate fake officers attempting burglary. If given the option to leave the area or be subject to a search, always leave.
To avoid confrontations with police, research needs to be thorough and carried out well in-advance of arriving in a new location.
Campsites, trailer parks, and 24/7 parking spaces are the best bet, but even they can arouse suspicion if staying for an extended period.
7. Tickets & Fines
Since police checks and forced removals are a part of living on the road, so too is the possibility of parking fines.
Research is once again the key ingredient to success here, and when in foreign countries, that may amount to having to learn some vocab!
In urban areas, obvious signs will be displayed to indicate whether parking is permitted for certain vehicles, as well as how long a vehicle can be parked in the space and whether it can be parked for free or not.
Security cameras can be the eyes and ears when the owner is away, and users will be notified should the camera spot an officer writing up a ticket.
RV Security Camera Features to Consider
Security cameras are essential for alternative living situations. Since alternative housing usually involves living on the road, the security camera needs to be able to handle a bunch of different features so that it is just as adept at monitoring a vehicle as it is at monitoring a home.
Here’s the features essential to a great RV security camera.
1. Wireless Connectivity (Wi-Fi, Mobile Data)
Wi-Fi cameras are common, but for those living in RV’s or vans, it’s worth considering a device that supports 4G/5G data by inserting a sim card. After all, public Wi-Fi won’t always be readily available in more remote locations.
2. Temperature (hot weather & rain, etc)
With an RV security camera, temperature needs to be considered more carefully than it would in a regular home.
The device needs to have a broader operating temperature limit, because the environment it’s in is more prone to dramatic increases and decreases of temperature.
Go with cameras with IP rating if you are considering putting them outside the van. Also, outdoor surveillance should be carried out under eaves. Many RV’s have a pull out awning.
3. Deterrence (loud siren)
It’s not entirely clear how much deterrences work, and is mostly something confirmed by anecdote rather than hard research.
But we’d recommend having a camera capable of producing a loud siren for people living on the road or in tiny houses, because there is more of a need for it.
If parked in a busy place, like a city or a campsite, loud sirens will attract a great deal of attention from the people nearby.
The more remote the location, the less useful it will be. If the attention of many people is attracted, it makes the user less likely to be targeted.
Speaking of being targeted by burglars, there’s a number of clear signs that will be used on regular and alternative homes to ‘mark’ targeted homes. Knowing what the signs are can help with being prepared: discover what they are here.
4. Ease of Installation and Maintenance
A security camera that’s difficult to install and set up is a hard sell in any context, let alone when the space is incredibly small and with unconventional or custom-made furnishings.
That’s why an RV security camera needs to be simple to set up and use quickly, with easy mounting (like through magnets, clips, or high-strength double-sided stickers), simple powering through a USB cable, and non-fussy maintenance.
Just as ease of installation and maintenance of the device is important, so, too, is how easily it can be moved around. In small living spaces, it’s wiser to get more out of your security devices by moving them around.
Particularly in vehicles, where having the camera in a permanent fixed position may not be advantageous. Users will find themselves needing to move the device around as they change locations.
If the vehicle was parked against a wall on one side, it’d be pointless having a camera pointed out the window in view of it.
Instead, it’d be more worthwhile to just move the camera to a new position while staying in that location.
5 Best RV Security Cameras and Alarms
In both mobile and immobile forms of alternative living space, there is an emphasis on being outdoors as much as possible, meaning the property or vehicle isn’t occupied nearly as much as a conventional home is.
Don’t leave the space unattended: check out our picks for motorhome camera systems and alarms that will help keep vehicles and tiny homes safe and secure.
- Best RV Security Camera – AlfredCam
- Best Motorhome Alarm System – Wsdcam Door and Window Alarm
- Best RV Security Camera without Wi-Fi – Arlo Go 2 3G/4G
- Best Solar Wireless RV Security Camera – Reolink Solar Panel for Argus, Go, Go PT
- Best Outdoor Security Camera for RV – Ring Stick Up Battery
Best RV Security Camera
Available within the AlfredCamera App. From $34.99.
Compared to other indoor budget security cameras, the livestream is much more responsive in real-time, which is important in the event of a burglary.
The wide viewing angle, excellent infrared night vision, and easy mounting (use the provided 3m sticker instead of drilling) make it well suited for indoor surveillance in mobile homes.
At $34.99, the price is hard to beat for a device of its quality.
- Super affordable
- Wide-angle lens for maximum observation
- Loud built-in siren and two-way talk for deterrence
- Sudden light shifts can falsely trigger motion detection
- Doesn’t support third party voice assistants
Wsdcam Door and Window Alarm
Best Motorhome Alarm System
Available on Amazon. From $11.99.
Although a security camera should be prioritized, it’s also worth kitting out RVs and tiny homes with door and window alarms. An alarm system for RV use will be handy, but it’s likely to be more necessary for the latter, since a tiny home will have more entry points.
Security camera sirens, while loud, rarely allow for being triggered automatically, meaning the user has to manually trigger it from their phone. So installing alarms on doors and windows is worthwhile.
Dedicated alarms are also significantly louder. Wsdcam’s super affordable alarm works a charm, with an extremely loud 105 dB alarm sound triggered when the surface (either door or window) is opened.
Arming it when leaving the vehicle or home unattended is a wise way to improve security.
- Super loud 105 dB alarm
- Extremely affordable
- Peel and stick install is fuss free and fast
- Uses a remote instead of an app, which feels a little outdated
- Batteries not included
Arlo Go 2 3G/4G
Best RV Security Camera without Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi networks won’t always be readily available, and even when they are, public networks leave devices much more vulnerable that private ones.
The Arlo Go 2 is certainly expensive, but it’s extremely versatile for alternative living situations thanks to it being 100% wireless with battery charging.
Other features include 1080p HD, a 130 degree viewing angle, and voice assistant integration. It’s also got an IP65 rating, meaning it’s suitable for outdoor use.
- Mobile Data via SIM card (not included)
- Battery-powered, so it’s super mobile
- Voice assistant integration
- 1080p HD is a low resolution given the price
Reolink Solar Panel for Argus, Go, Go PT
Best Solar Wireless RV Security Camera
Available on Amazon. From $32.99.
Even if it runs either partially or fully through solar energy, having a dedicated solar panel attached to a security camera is a more convenient way to charge it.
With enough sunshine, it won’t ever have to be taken down to charge, avoiding unnecessary ‘down time’ when the vehicle/property is especially vulnerable.
We like Reolink’s solar panel, which is among the more affordable panels. It’s designed for use with the Argus line (2, Pro, Eco, PT) and the Go line (Go, Go PT), all of which are great cameras in themselves.
It can be bought alongside the camera or as a standalone panel.
- Convenient way to avoid camera down time
- Eco friendly
- May be awkward or even impossible to mount to some vehicles, so better suited for tiny homes
Ring Stick Up Battery
Best Outdoor Security Camera for RV
While the Arlo Go 2 makes a fabulous outdoor camera, there’s no denying that it is painfully expensive. Enter Ring’s Stick Up Battery.
The base can be attached at one of two points on the camera: the bottom, for tabletop viewing, or on the back of it, for screwed wall mounting.
The rechargeable battery pops out underneath, so you don’t necessarily have to dismount it.
It’s IPX5 weather resistant, with 1080p video, 115-degree field view, and infrared night vision, but don’t expect any artificial intelligence.
· Super affordable for an outdoor and battery-powered camera
· Great quality video
· Intuitive mounting
· Charging takes between 5 to 10 hours, causing a vulnerable period
· No advanced or AI features
DIY a Free RV Security Camera with AlfredCamera
If you’ve just hit the road on a whim and are suddenly freaking out about security, don’t worry!
It’s not unusual for money to be tight on the road, but that’s of no consequence here. The AlfredCamera app is one of the best kept secrets in the vanlife community. And it’s free!
Pro Tips: How and Where to Mount Security Camera on RV
Mounting a security camera inside or outside an RV, van, or mobile home can be challenging, to say the least.
How to Mount Security Cameras on RV or Vans
The difficulty with mounting a security camera in a vehicle is that the materials used to construct the vehicle can vary widely, and are markedly different from those used in a conventional home.
Metal sliding, for example, will prove very difficult (or completely impossible) to mount a camera onto using a drill and screws in the way one can with a brick wall.
This works best for smaller devices, like those recommended in our list.
If the camera is to go inside the vehicle and a sturdy mount is imperative, try bringing some wood into the interior, even if it is solely for the sake of mounting the camera onto.
That being said, a combination of different materials can make for a more interesting and homely space.
Where to Mount Security Cameras on RV or Vans
Feasible locations for the device will be limited for most vehicles. Dash cams should take priority of the windshield and back of the vehicle, because they are crucial to being able to drive safely when visibility is much more minimized than in a conventional vehicle.
If using stickers or magnets, consider removing cameras outside or on the vehicle and store them safely inside. Without being screwed in, the camera might fall off and break if magnets have lost their strength.
Dash cams can keep the vehicle secure enough while it is on the move, and outdoor security is most necessary when it is parked up.
If attempting a ceiling mount (which is, admittedly, an ideal vantage point), it’s important to have a very accurate idea of the depth of the roof of the vehicle.
Drilling into it could cause bad structural damage, and if the drill bit goes all the way through, it will need fixing in order to avoid leaks.
How do you hook up a security camera to an RV?
Hooking up a security camera to an RV is a little more complicated than in a conventional home, because the materials used vary dramatically. For the most part, avoid drilling, because it can cause significant structural damage to surfaces that aren’t brick, plaster or wood. Instead, take advantage of metal surfaces by supergluing a strong magnet to the base of the camera.
Can you put a security system in an RV?
Yes, you can put a security system in an RV. Ideally, creating a system that incorporates dash cams, wireless security cameras with sirens, and window/door alarms will keep both the vehicle itself and the possessions inside it safer.
How can I make my RV door more secure?
- Install door alarms onto the RV door to make it more secure. These can be armed after leaving the vehicle and disarmed upon returning. While armed, they will sound a very loud alarm if the door is opened.
- Install a deadbolt. Standard cylindrical deadbolts will not fit RV doors for the most part, so a deadbolt designed especially for RV use will be necessary. A custom order from a specialist company may also be needed if unsure.
- Have a security camera with eyes on the door. This could be looking outside one of the windows of the vehicle toward the door area, or directly behind it.
- Get into the habit of locking the door whenever leaving or entering the vehicle. Think of it in the same way as a conventional home.
- Have the vehicle properly serviced by professionals prior to setting out on the road. They will be able to assess the state of the door. If the vehicle is second hand or in particularly bad shape, it may be necessary to have it replaced to remain secure.
Can you put a deadbolt on an RV door?
Yes, deadbolts for RV doors are designed and sold by companies specializing in RV equipment. A standard deadbolt won’t fit an RV door, however.
Why are there 2 locks on the RV door?
Two locks on an RV door are usually the standard handle lock and a deadbolt. A deadbolt adds much more security than a regular handle lock. A combination of the two isn’t uncommon.
Are all RV locks the same key?
Shockingly, many RV locks are in fact exactly the same. Lots of RV manufacturers simply key all their vehicles exactly the same. If unsure about this, take the vehicle to be serviced by professional mechanics or RV specialists, who can inform owners on whether the lock is a conventional, mass-produced one or not. If it is suspected to be one, waste no time in getting it replaced with a unique handle lock and deadbolt.
Swapping the dullness of regular life for one on the road or in a tiny home is a really exciting adventure. And while the grind can wear people down to the point that they just want to escape, it’s important to be well informed of all the positives and negatives about a nomadic or alternative lifestyle.
By taking some simple preparative steps, security doesn’t have to be compromised, and vanlife and other types of alternative lifestyle can be enjoyed to the max.