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Van security: 12 ways to keep your valuables safe while living the van life

Photo by JASUR JIYANBAEV on Unsplash

Van security: 12 ways to keep your valuables safe while living the van life

Passports, cameras, laptops, and drones are some of the valuable items you might be taking with you on your van life adventure, especially if you’re going to be working on the road. And, if you’re relying on them for your income, then they hold even more value than just being a nice device.

At some stage in your journey, you will have to leave these precious items in your van while you go out. Whether it is just to pop into a shop, go out for dinner or a long hike and swim, you need to know that your valuables are safe and secure.

How do you keep valuables safe while living in a van?

1. Install a vehicle or compact safe

You could purchase safe and secure it to the floor or wall of your van. This van security option will require basic tools to install (usually you open the safe and bolt it from the inside) and there are a variety of safes available at different price points and sizes, so you can find something that meets your specific needs.

For many people, a safe provides the most peace of mind knowing that your valuables are locked and secure. There are some companies that can install vehicle safes for you, this will be a more expensive option for those who want a professionally installed safe.

Amazon Basics Steel Security Safe and Lock Box with Electronic Keypad - Secure Cash, Jewelry, ID Documents - 0.5 Cubic Feet,13.8 x 9.8 x 9.8 Inches
  • 0.5-cubic-feet security safe with electronic lock and 3 operation indicator lights; powered by (4) AA batteries (not included)
  • Includes 2 emergency override keys to protect against forgotten passcodes or dead batteries; keep keys in a well-hidden, secure location
  • Strong steel construction with carpeted floor to protect against scratches and damage; pry-resistant concealed hinges; adjustable/removable interior shelf. Safe is not fireproof or waterproof.
  • Pre-drilled mounting holes with four expansion bolts are included to mount safe to wall, floor, or shelf
  • Exterior measures 13.8 x 9.8 x 9.8 inches (LxWxH); Interior measures 13.6 x 7.2 x 9.7 inches (LxWxH); door thickness is approximately 2 inches; product weight is 17.6 pounds

Larger safes can be rather clunky and take up a lot of space. Ideally, you’d want to plan the positioning into your build and have it concealed – you don’t want it yelling, “Oi! The valuables are over here!”

2. Use a decoy device(s)

Thieves tend to be lazy. Most will grab what they see first and run. If you’ve an old or faulty device, take it with you and ‘hide’ it somewhere obvious.

Same goes with an old wallet — stick a tenner in it (even better if you can find fake ones!) and a few coins, maybe an expired card and leave it in a drawer.

There’s a good chance that if someone breaks in, they will assume these are your valuables, take them and stop looking for anything else.

3. Create hidden spaces

Many pieces of furniture can be designed or adapted to provide a concealed space. You could install a false floor or back to a cupboard, allowing you to hide valuables out of sight. These spaces work well for laptops as they tend to be flat and slim.

This is a cheaper alternative to a vehicle safe, but involves a bit more DIY.

For smaller items, a false-bottom drawer might do, however for larger items you’ll need a tall deep cupboard. Small shelving brackets can be purchased from any DIY store and then screwed into the sides of the cupboard. Measure the size of the cupboard and then cut a piece of wood to fit on top, ensuring you have a discreet ‘handle’ enabling you to remove it.

This false floor doesn’t need to be screwed down, let gravity do the work. You can do something similar with drawers, under your bed etc. Or even false floor hidden by a kickspace below your kitchen units. The more discrete the better.

Once again, if you can design this into your build, you can improve the install. For example, you could cut a hole in the floor beneath a cupboard, meaning your false floor would not look so false.

Creating a hidden space for your passport and documents should be much easier! You can even tape a pocket at the back of a drawer.

4. Get device locks

This is another deterrent that might cause a thief to give up. Cable locks and various other locks are readily available on Amazon.

I wouldn’t rely on them alone, however they can be enough to make your thief scarper if they find your device.

Ruban Security Hardware Cable Lock Kit - Universal Compatibility for Monitors, Laptops,MacBooks, Tablets,Galaxy Tab,iPad, iPhone, Android, Cell Phones
  • Tablet Cell Phone Lock kit.Adhesive plate,Universal 2 Keys Security Cable lock with 6.2 foot.
  • Includes a glue-on locking plate with a built in security slot and a strong steel cable.
  • Easy to use.Loop the cable around a fixed object and secure the locking head into the locking plate
  • Works with all tablets, smart phones, laptops, macbooks, notebooks.
  • All products come with a 18 months warranty against manufacturing defect.

5. Security-sticker or engrave your devices

Not worried about looks and planning on keeping your devices until the end of their lifespan?

Get permanent security stickers or even engrave and deface your device. Thieves steal to sell and if you’re is engraved with a name and telephone number or has security stickers, it makes the device less appealing.

This can also work really well for bikes. I had my bike stolen once, whilst locked up in town. The next bike I got (which was better than the stolen one), I spray painted bright pink and covered all the decals with duct tape. Looks ugly as sin, but has never been stolen.

6. Use jars, socks and other random items cautiously

An opaque food jar such as a coffee tin may be useful for storing some items like a few notes of cash, however be careful when using these types of items to hide your gadgets as the noise and weight distribution can be a dead giveaway.

Shoving your ipad into a box of cornflakes might seem like a great idea but if moved, the weight and wobble will make it obvious. Same goes for stuff that rattles.

7. Setup ‘Find my…’ or GPS on your devices

If you’re on a Macbook or iPhone, ensure Find My is setup via https://icloud.com/find. For Windows, something similar can be done here: https://account.microsoft.com/devicesand for Android: https://android.com/find.

If location is turned on in your Google account, there is also some basic tracking available based on login. Check it here: https://myaccount.google.com/security. However, remember that if your device gets stolen, the chances are that the thief will erase it immediately.

8. Ensure the contents on your device are secured

Set up a strong password to access your laptop and encrypt your contents. For a Mac, you can turn on FileVault. For Windows, there are a number of options including BitLocker and VeraCrypt.

By doing this, you are helping protect your files and data should the laptop be stolen and the thief be trying to find personal information.

9. Use Cloud storage for continuous backup

Again, this is for damage control if your device does get stolen. By having everything in the cloud, at least you’ll be able to easily access your files. The solution will depend on what you use your device for. For some people, Google drive might be adequate, others may prefer a full drive backup.

If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, iCloud is super-simple and for a few quid a month, everything is backed up and easy to restore. Google One is platform-agnostic and comes with Backup and Sync. Again, a few quid per month has you sorted.

10. If you’re into crypto, use a hardware wallet

I’ll do a separate post on crypto security but please for the love of God don’t save any secret phrase (aka seed or meemonic phrase) on your devices and use a hardware wallet such as a Ledger, Trezor or HyperMate if possible.

Otherwise, you will cry yer lamps out if your laptop gets stolen.

11. Get gadgets and valuables insurance

You’ll already have van insurance. Check to see what it covers in terms of valuables and gadgets. If the cover is insufficient, consider a separate policy. Again, this is more important if you rely on these devices for your income.

12. Improve your vehicle security

It goes without saying that if you leave your devices in your vehicle and it gets stolen, then it’s bye bye personal belongings.

With that in mind, watch out for another post on van security tips coming up soon!

Van valuables security roundup

So there you have it. a load of tips for keeping your personal belongings secure, and also securing them so if they do get stolen, you’re in the best position possible.

Implement as many of these tips as possible, alongside the general van security tips (coming soon!) to improve security when leaving valuables in your van.

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Disclaimer: As with everything on this site, this article is for informational purposes only and is not advice of any kind. I simply share my experiences and my opinions for information. I am not a financial adviser and I am not providing investment advice or financial or legal advice of any kind. Cryptocurrencies (and most business opportunities) are high risk. Many of the opportunities I discuss exist in new, high risk and unregulated markets. Some methods require significant investment of time and/or relevant skills. Please do your own research and due diligence; do not blindly follow anyone!

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