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9 Safety Tips For Sleeping in A Vehicle | Trucklife/Vanlife

Living the trucklife/vanlife is an amazing experience that everyone needs to try once in their lives. Unlike dwelling in an apartment or home, sleeping in a vehicle has a few inherent dangers to be aware of. Worst case scenarios while sleeping in a vehicle albeit unlikely are something you should be prepared for. I’ve listed below the top 9 safety considerations you should be making when sleeping in your vehicle.


1. Protect Yourself From Moving Vehicles

The biggest danger when sleeping in urban areas in your vehicle isn’t crazy people attacking you or thieves at night, believe it or not, it’s other vehicles. Moving vehicles hit parked cars all the time. If you’re going to park on the street make sure to hug the curb tight, stay away from blind corners, steep hills, busy intersections and streets with higher speed limits. Being struck by a moving vehicle in the middle of the night would be a horrible way to wake up, and without a seatbelt, its likely you may sustain some serious injuries. When you’re looking for your next spot to hunker down ensure you keep safety in mind and park well off the road so you don’t have any surprises at night.

Sleeping beside a river in British Columbia in my truck
A nice gravel shoulder well off the road


2. Keep Valuables By Your Bed

Keep all valuables with you in your sleeping area or store them away inside your vehicle. Thieves won’t make an effort to smash your windows if they don’t see something valuable. And if they do, they’ll be in for one hell of a surprise when they see you in the vehicle!


3.  Keys, Pants, Phone and Flashlight

It’s important that you get into a habit of keeping your keys, pants, phone and flashlight near your bed in the same spot every night. If something happens, you will be able to act fast and at least be clothed, if you’re a buff sleeper like me. I learnt this lesson the hard way when we needed to move in the night and I spent the better part of 30 minutes scrambling for the keys in the back of the truck. We always keep a flashlight/lantern beside the bed so we have some light if needed. In our travels we had an encounter with a very boisterous character who was howling at the moon/snooping around our truck. We weren’t feeling comfortable so we decided to leave. We put clothes on and opened up the back of the truck to find him staring right at us. He was just as surprised as us. I had short and very odd conversation with the man and couldn’t  figure out why he was so close in the first place. Thankfully, we had the keys and clothes handy so we were able to leave the area quickly and find a more suitable spot in the town to rest our heads.

Sleeping in truck beside the ocean



4. Close/Remove All Cooking Fuel

This one doesn’t apply to everyone and depends on your setup. In the truck we store and cook with the propane in the tailgate beside the bed. Part of my nightly routine is to ensure the 5lb propane tank is closed, removing it from the tailgate and putting it on the floor in the front of the truck. We take this precaution because it’s not all that safe to sleep in a 6.5 foot by 4 foot enclosed box with any sort of fuel. We’ve accidentally slept with the propane tank on numerous occasions and fortunately had no issues, except maybe a few lost braincells. So whatever your setup may be, make sure to take the necessary precautions to ensure that you are going to be breathing clean air all night long.


Sleeping beside a river in British Columbia in my truck



5. Have A Window Cracked

It can get hot in a vehicle in summertime and the majority of vehicle dwelling setups are small airspaces. If for whatever reason you managed to lock yourself in the vehicle you could get in trouble fast upon waking up. Leaving a window upon also is way more comfortable providing air circulation and reducing condensation in your sleeping quarters.

Sleeping in truck beside the ocean



6.Don’t Park In The Same Spot

If you’re travelling/living in a vehicle it is always best to fly under the radar. Ideally, people shouldn’t be able to easily recognize that you are sleeping in there. If you are going to spend a significant portion of time in one town, change your parking spots up. Parking in the same spot all the time might incite curiosity among home owners and even thieves waiting for you to leave your vehicle. Switching sleeping zones keeps things new and exciting and will also keep the city off your tracks if the town you are in doesn’t like vehicle dwellers.

Sleeping in truck beside the ocean



7. Power In Numbers

Sometimes, busy is better. On the road you may find the perfect dark, quiet and secluded spot. However, if you’re the only one in the area, you are going to stick out like a sore thumb. Burglars/Weirdos tend to frequent spots where they know less eyes will be on them when they get up to whatever weird antics they might be planning. I always feel much safer when I’m in an area where there are other vehicles, and a little bit of pedestrian traffic. The city of Canmore is a great example of Power in Numbers. All of the vehicle dwellers camp out every night behind the Safeway. At any time of the day you’ll usually see 20-40 setups parked there. The city has signs up saying no overnight parking but does not enforce this since most of these people contribute working hospitality jobs in the city. Having other vehicle dwellers close by creates a community and people watch out for one another. This is very similar to most Canadian Walmart parking lots which are typically loaded with vehicle dwellers at night.

Sleeping in truck beside the ocean



8. Lock Up

Whether you are in the city or off in the backwoods always lock you vehicle at night when you are sleeping. Bears and other wildlife are clever and can fairly easily open car doors when they are hungry and want a midnight snack. If you are in the back of a pickup truck make sure you have some sort of locking mechanism and that you can get out of it. In the back of my truck I use bungee cords to secure the back window shut so I would have time to react if someone tried to break-in. Make sure you test out your locking mechanism a few times to ensure that you can exit your vehicle from the inside even if you misplaced the keys.



9. Choose The Right Neighbourhoods

Choosing the right neighbourhoods is an easy way to reduce the chances of being a car theft statistic. When arriving in a new town, do a quick google search to figure out where the ‘rougher’ and ‘better’ areas of town are. Try and camp in the ‘better’ areas of town, allowing you to have the safest possible sleeping experience.

Sleeping in truck beside the ocean


If you’re still feeling nervous you can always keep a can of bear spray by your bed In case you needed to defend yourself in a worst-case intruder situation.

Dangerous situations on the road are a reality but are unlikely. If you make sure to follow these 9 tactics and sleep in well populated and safe urban areas you aren’t ever going to run into trouble. In all of our time on the road we only had to move our vehicle 3 times because we felt a tad uncomfortable.

Let me know in the comments if there are any safety tips I missed?

Enjoy The Journey!


2 Responses

  1. Is it safe for women living in van on west coast. Interested in van living for a winter experience west coast???

    1. Hello 🙂
      In my opinion it’s quite safe!
      I’ve met loads of solo ladies on the road.
      I would always try and be strategic about sleeping in populated areas or around other Van dwellers. You never want to be a lone duck parked in a dark street or parking lot.
      Always keep your keys close when you’re sleeping and a can of bear spray beside your bed just in case!
      If you ever have a bad feeling just fire up the van and move spots.

      Personally, I think you will feel very safe and have an amazing adventure.

      Whereabouts are you planning to travel?

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