How to Secure your Vehicle at Trail Head?


I thought we go to the woods to try to hide from bad elements like these! Too bad, the last thing that I need to worry about while backpacking is worrying about thieves stealing and vandalizing my vehicle.


I have heard many suggestions about secure a vehicle at trail head such as:

  1. unlock all doors, so vandals won’t break them windows
  2. totally empty the vehicle
  3. open all drawers and compartments baring that they are empty
  4. buy a fake police light strobe on the dash
  5. put packs of empty bullet boxes & beer cans
  6. take out the fuse
  7. take out the spark plugs
How to Secure your Vehicle

How to Secure your Vehicle

If you are going to an area that isn’t well used it would probably be wise to get a ride there an have a set time to be picked up for a trip home, very few trailheads provide any type of security. Some trails that have people living near them will give you a lift to the start for a ‘donation’, or allow you to leave your car at their house.

Some folks hike an have a non-hiker stay with the cars if they aren’t going to be gone for an extended time. Some people have an old wreck that they drive for the purpose of being able to leave it places where it might get messed with.

Are you trying to defend against theft, vandalism, or both?

Since you asked… Unlocking everything is a moot point, since a vandal is in it to damage stuff, not take anything. Are you trying to defend against theft, vandalism, or both? You are going camping – can you realistically empty the vehicle? I would venture to say no, but would offer this thought instead.  Thieves are opportunists. If you provide no reason for them to be in your car, they won’t go in.

How about just taking an old tarp (like from under an old tent) and kind of wadding, or tossing it into the car to cover items you are leaving in the car. If the items are large, they will cause a bulge and draw attention. If the tarp is layed out and obviously covering something, it will draw attention. How many times have you been at trail head and seen an old wagon with a tarp wadded up in the back and thought nothing of it?

Having anything denoting your car as property of a police officer – bad idea. I took my union sticker out of the window and make sure I have no uniform parts anywhere in the car. Criminals go into cops’ cars to collect trophies or to try to get restricted weapons, ammunition, body armor, etc… Worried about the car being stolen, then why not look into a fuel cutoff switch. Easy and cheap to install, and won’t be seen by the bad guy looking to reconnect the distributor or replace any removed fuses.

Just some thoughts. Personally, I try to leave very little of value in my car. What is left is left under the bunched up tarp. I then park in a place where the rangers can see my vehicle on even the most casual drive by from the road. Prior to starting out, even in places where it is not required to notify the rangers, I notify the rangers where I am going, how long I expect to be, and my vehicle information, so if something does happen, I’m taken care of.