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  • Jessica

Van security: protecting your Winnebago Revel

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

Whether we’re in a bigger city, like Seattle, or out in the backcountry off the grid, security is always on our mind. When you’ve dropped all of this money on a big toy, which contains so many of your favorite things inside, it’s a horror show to have that warm-fuzzy feeling violated, or even worse, risking your own safety in any fashion.

Unfortunately for us, early in our Revel ownership, we had our van “broken” into when it was at the local Mercedes Benz dealership for some warranty work. (There was no actual damage. It was either left unlocked or someone had access to our keys.) While we had some basic security systems set up, because we’d left the van in the dealer’s possession, nothing was set properly. The thief took seemingly the most random stuff, personal mementos like our collection of National Park stickers, our national parks pass and our vacuum cleaner.

But this break-in had a spotlight effect on the fact that the Winnebago Revel screams “I’m expensive!” and as such, security is not to be taken lightly. So with that, we thought we’d share some of our top tips and tricks for keeping your van, your stuff and yourself safe on and off the road.

Keeping people out of your van

When we got our Revel, we were so surprised that the baseline Sprinter cargo did not come with any enhanced security system. Something like, a Drone Mobile module can help overcome this apparent lapse in thinking, as well as offering the added benefits of a remote starter and GPS tracker (with subscription plan). We were able to get ours installed at CarToys. (But, in our experience, the module can drain the battery chassis kind of quickly, so make sure you’re driving your van enough that you don’t drain the chassis battery!)

Since Hermes is our home on wheels, we installed a SimpliSafe security system inside, and we’ve been really impressed with this set up. Because the SimpliSafe base station has its own SIM card, you can use (most aspects of) this set up without Wi-Fi. Every SimpliSafe comes with a base station and keypad, and we really liked the fact that we could customize our components to our needs. We’ve installed:

  • Extra loud siren- This bad boy is 105 dB, about the volume of a rock concert. So not only is this going to scare the pants out of someone breaking in, but it’s also going to alert anyone around us to the intrusion.

  • Motion sensor- We’ve got this well positioned to pick up motion pretty much anywhere in the car, so the moment a door opens up, the motion sensor triggers the signal to the keypad

  • Temperature sensor- This one is super helpful for two reasons. Because we have a monitoring subscription, we get a call from SimpliSafe any time Hermes’s ambient temperature goes below OR above our set limits. So we will get a call before there’s any risk of waterlines freezing in the winter AND we can get a call if temperature is getting too hot inside. And with the mobile app, we can super easily change our limits on either end to fit our needs. So when we are leaving the dogs in the car to go into exploring, we can get an alert if the A/C in the car were to ever fail, but if the van is just sitting in the sun between trips, we can spare ourselves the alert call from SimpliSafe.

  • Glassbreak sensor- fortunately, we haven’t had to test this one out yet, but the SimpliSafe glassbreak sensor is calibrated to pick up the sound of broken windows, but not other noises in the vicinity. (Admittedly we got a LOT of false alarms from our Drone Mobile set up, and we have yet to get a glass break alert from SimpliSafe)

  • Key fobs- we got a set for both of our keyrings, making it super easy to set our alarm, just like we lock the van doors. And these are also great because they include a panic button on the fob, so we can trigger the alarm in an instant from anywhere nearby, if needed. (There's also a panic button on the keypad if you're inside of the van!)

We haven’t pulled the trigger yet on these ourselves, but we’ve contemplated getting:

  • Entry sensor- just like in your house, these can easily be installed on any door or window so that as soon as a point of entry is opened, the alarm system is alerted. So on the off chance a door fails to lock, you’ve got another safety net

  • Indoor camera- for this set up, you (obviously) have to have wifi in the van. While it would be cool to be able to keep an eye on Lily and Jane, we haven’t taken the plunge mostly just based on wifi set up logistics.

And to keep add that extra layer of deterrent, we’ve also got solar-powered motion sensor lights installed around the van, attached by magnetic strip tape. These are great because they not only can alert us if we’re inside and suddenly the light goes on, we know that someone (human or animal) is lurking outside. And at the same time, the dark and privacy is lost for whomever might be out there, so if it’s a petty thief, they’ll probably just move along. (While we can say that you can drive with these attached outside, we wouldn’t recommend it. Then again, sometimes we forget!)

If on the outside chance someone were to get into our van, we’ve installed some additional locks inside of some of the cubbies where we can keep our valuables safe, and we also don’t underestimate the importance of using all of the nooks and crannies for storing equipment. If you really want to get intense, you can also look at installing a small “hotel-style” steel safe, mounting it inside of the van.

And of course, for anything that’s attached to the outside, we’ve got locks, locks and more locks. Whether it’s padlocks on our rifle case or spare tire rack, or locking nuts (and some strategically placed Loctite!), we make it at the very least super annoying to try to steal. After all, much of security is just a battle of the wills between you and the thief, and we are not gonna be the ones to back down…

Keeping yourself safe: Personal security

Whether I am inside or outside of the van, I also keep an eye on tactics to keep myself safe. As I am sure just about every woman can relate, especially when I am traveling alone, I need to make sure I am covered. That said, while I personally am not a fan of guns, it’s certainly been discussed. But here are some non-lethal deterrents that we use.

Our first line of defense, like it or not, is our super-fierce woofs, Tiger Lily and Jane. They are barkers, and by default alert us to anything strange going on outside (even if that’s just deer in camp!). And while they’re usually sweet, I am 99% sure that if I actually was in distress, Lily, in particular, would not hesitate to protect me and mess someone up. If I am out in the dark, you can bet there’s a dog with me.

Then with or without a dog, especially when I am out trail running or just walking around a city, I also carry a She’s Birdie personal alarm. With a 130 (!!) dB siren and flashing strobe light. To put that in context, that’s the equivalent of standing 50 feet away from a military jet when it takes off. IT. IS. LOUD. This is a great, compact device that will definitely stun anyone who tries to mess with me/us.

Another deterrent that we always have on us is bear spray. We of course are using this primarily as a wildlife deterrent, and as fans of the podcast Tooth and Claw, we know that there are very few animal “attacks” that can’t be stopped by bear spray. (Be sure you know how to accurately use your bear spray and consider buying a practice canister!) But if push came to shove, we could also use it on a person, just like pepper spray. So we get double duty!

And likewise, especially when we are in the backcountry, it’s important to make sure that we have a reliable connection to “the rest of the world” and that people know where we are. While cell phone carriers are doing their best to make the more remote areas connected, we outdoor enthusiasts know that you can’t count on a cell phone signal. So we always carry our Garmin inReach Mini satellite communicator. While it’s super important to carry some sort of S.O.S communicator, we like the inReach because it allows for two-way text messaging with designated phone numbers, as well as S.O.S alerts and location sharing with a low-cost satellite subscription. In our minds, money well spent, especially when the alternative could be cutting your arm off with a multi-tool (okay, perhaps a tad dramatic).

An ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure

At the end of the day, our attitude about security is making sure that we are prepared and aware. Knowing that we have a “deep bench” of precautions means we can enjoy our adventures to their fullest, and most importantly stay protected for whatever we may encounter in our adventures.

What have we forgotten? What are your recommendations? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

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