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Car safety is always a priority. But in recent weeks, given the latest news about Gabby Petito missing, a new conversation is emerging. Camper van life safety is a national topic now. So many Americans have been giving up their apartments for a life on the road, but how safe is it?

Traveling across the country, seeing the sights, and living in a camper van sounds fun at first. But there are serious risks involved. Here are a few van life safety tips you can follow if planning a life on the road and in a camper van.

Recent headlines are prompting questions about camper van life safety

The national headlines read, “two people went on a trip, and only one person returned.” Couple Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie ventured out like so many do, for van life on the road exploring. But as CNN recently reported, the 22-year-old Petito was reported missing on September 11, prompting an investigation into what happened. The details continue to unfold, but Laundrie’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and there is speculation about what transpired between the couple. 

Petito’s family knew she was living the van life. And her last communication with her family seems to be from the Grand Teton National Park, a popular pitstop for many van lifers. While the investigation is ongoing, the topic of van life safety tips is emerging. There are dangerous situations that can arise with life on the road.

It’s important to be equipped and prepared

Van life’s popularity is growing, especially in light of the pandemic. But before you trade in your house keys for camper van keys, it’s essential to be prepared and equipped for safe travels. Forbes interviewed Christian Schaffer, a veteran van lifer, about her experiences. And she says having a keen awareness of her surroundings is paramount. As a female solo adventurer, she’s hyper-sensitive about recognizing dangerous red flags.

She looks to avoid others who appear to be under the influence, saying signs of any drug or alcohol intoxication can lead to unsafe situations. Schaffer also says she tends to keep rural whenever possible, avoiding highly urban areas unless necessary. A healthy suspicion about a site with broken glass, unsavory characters, or poorly lit corners helps her stay safe on the road.

Tips every camper van lifer should follow


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Exploring the country and seeing the beauty of national parks, sprawling landscapes, and early morning sunrises from the driver’s seat of a camper van can be incredibly rewarding. And most van lifers will tell you that being smart about where you travel, who you travel with, and where you stay can be the best safety advice. But here are a few other van life safety tips to add to your to-do list.

Bearfoot Theory says trusting your gut is a significant factor. If something doesn’t feel right about where you are or who you’re with, move on somewhere else. Be aware of your surroundings and seek out well-lit parking areas with cameras when you can. Always keep your camper van doors locked and have an exit strategy in the event of an emergency. Lastly, most van lifers say it’s best to have some form of self-defense protection on hand, like pepper spray or even a taser. But applying some of these other van life tips will hopefully prevent you from experiencing any reason to use these self-defense weapons.

Van life isn’t for everyone. But if you’re considering a camper van life on the road, take these safety tips with you. Like any adventure, you can’t predict what experiences you’ll have. But playing it safe means you can avoid any potentially risky situations.