[NOTE: I’ve blogged all these “how-to” posts before, but am gonna re-run them on occasion, since folks may have missed them, and many of them have been updated or expanded since they were first posted.]
Many times people ask me if I feel safe sleeping at night in Walmart parking lots, or if I keep a weapon to protect myself.
The topic of “guns” is enormously controversial among van dwellers, and whenever the subject comes up emotions always run hot on both sides—mostly because the underlying debate is based almost entirely on political ideology.
I try to base my view on hardheaded practicality. Yes, I feel safe staying in the van at night—or at least no more unsafe than I would feel in, say, an apartment. While the public’s view seems to be that van-camping is dangerous and unsafe, and we are taking our lives in our hands every night and risking being maimed or mutilated by some crazed stranger, that is simply not true. The reality is that, despite the exaggerated fear that many may have about it, the vast majority of people, whether they dwell in a van or not, will never be the target of any sort of violent crime, and will never have any need to defend themselves from attack. (And in the vast majority of violent crimes, the victim is attacked by someone he or she already knows.)
Even if your campervan happens to get broken into while you are in it (and the odds of that are enormously low), the thief will be more interested in your laptop or your camera than in you; he is not expecting anyone to be inside the van and is not looking for a confrontation. The rather irrational fear of “something happening!” is far far greater than the actual reality of it. You probably have better odds of winning the lottery. On my list of things to worry about, it is near the bottom.
The most dangerous part of living in a vehicle is … driving it. You are far more likely to be killed in a simple traffic accident driving across town than you are to be eaten by a bear or hit by a meteor or dismembered by a serial killer or whatever else people pee their pants over.
So other than my plain ole ordinary kitchen knife, packed away in a bin, I have no guns, knives, or any other weapon in the van. There’s simply no need for it. There are also a myriad of legal issues that go with keeping or using a weapon in a vehicle, which will change every time you cross a state line. (In some states, even bear spray or pepper spray is illegal to have.)
And in any case I have nothing valuable in the van that is worth defending. Somebody who has to steal my sleeping bag probably needs it more than I do anyway—and I’m not gonna shoot them over it. There’s nothing in my van that I can’t replace within an hour.