How to lock a tent or secure a tent from theft

By Emma
How to lock a tent or secure a tent from theft

Campgrounds are pretty safe places, but you can never be certain they’re 100% secure. There can be people with bad intentions everywhere you go.

You can lock a tent or secure your tent from theft by:

  • Securing your tent zippers together with a mini padlock
  • Securing your tent zippers together with a shoelace
  • Carrying or hiding your valuables
  • Keeping your valuables in your car
  • Locking your gear to an immovable object
  • Having someone remain your tent at all times

There are many more ways you can secure your valuables from theft, and I’ve done some research to provide you with a guide.

How to Lock a Tent With A Padlock

Unfortunately, it’s not common to lock your tent with a padlock, but it’s definitely doable. You’ll need a very small padlock for this, so consider one you might use on a suitcase. Locks like this one are around the right size.

I’ve recommended a combination lock here, because a key with a lock can stress you out as you have to remember to bring your key everywhere. However, I’d avoid using a combination lock in winter.

I’ve had several combination locks stiffen and become unusable due to cold in fall and winter, so bring a padlock with a key during these seasons. Bringing some WD40 on your trip will also ensure your lock remains easy to use.

Once you’ve selected your lock, using it couldn’t be simpler.

  1. Ensure your tent has two zippers on the main door
  2. Put the zippers next to each other inside the tent
  3. Loop the padlock through the holes in the zippers, making the tent impossible to unzip
  4. Lock your padlock; keep a key on your person at all times, or make it easy to enter the combination on your combination lock

You can also do the above on the outside of your tent when you’re away.

If you can’t find a padlock that will fit with your zippers, then you can make your own method of locking zippers. The video below will show you how: 

How to Lock Your Tent With a Shoelace

This method can be slightly tricker if you’re not great with knots, but it’s worth it, and it’s easy to get the hang of it.

  1. Draw the inside zippers together
  2. Pull a shoelace through the hole in the shoelaces until you have a piece of lace the same length in each hand
  3. Tie a simple knot like you would when tying your shoes; this is so you can leave the tent fast in an emergency

You can tie a more complex knot if you wish.

This tent-locking solution is as easy as it sounds, and it’s a great alternative to using a padlock inside when you can’t find a padlock small enough for the job. Plus, most people always have at least one shoelace they can use.

String, yarn, or anything similar to a shoelace also work for this. 

Is Locking Your Tent Worth It?

Locking your tent can give you great peace of mind, but your tent isn’t made of steel. Anyone with a knife can still break and enter—though bear in mind, people at well-equipped, non-wilderness sites are less likely to carry knives.

Plus, people want an easy target. If they can’t unzip your tent on the first try or you start screaming for help, then they’ll probably move on to someone else. 

There are a few other ways to ensure you keep your tent and your gear are secure, though.

The best way to avoid potential theft is to choose somewhere that’s likely to be safe. That’s why picking a common campground is a good idea. 

First of all, you won’t be fully in the wilderness where people can sneak up on you more easily. Plus, in the wilderness, people are likely to carry pocket knives for collecting kindling and dealing with food.

More popular campgrounds usually have more security. There may be cameras, park rangers and other authority figures around.

Make sure you research your chosen campground before you attend, and check out what security measures they have in place. Check if crime is common at the campgrounds, and make sure the facilities look high-quality and like they’d attract well-meaning campers.

A lot of gut judgment goes into the research. You know in your heart what screams “safe place!” to you. So, go with your instincts, and find somewhere you know you’ll feel safe, comfortable, and watched over.

Pick a Site Near Others

Picking a good overall campground isn’t the only important part. You need to select a safe site on the campground, too. 

Some campgrounds will be too crowded to let you pick your own site, but if you can select where you camp, select somewhere around other people. Having campers nearby in all directions means you’ll have more witnesses in case someone wants to do something malicious.

I know you may not want to be too close to some strangers, and that’s fine, but in my opinion, safety is more important than total isolation during your camping experience.

If you keep the noise levels down and don’t leave your gear or trash on their site, then you should have no problems and your site neighbors won’t bother you.

Do stuff like learning how to quiet a generator, don’t play music loudly at night, and don’t let your campfire smoke in their direction. You’re practically guaranteed a pleasant experience.

Speaking of campfire smoke—here’s why campfire smoke follows you and how to prevent it, and here’s how to make smokeless fire

Avoid Vegetation

Camping near trees and bushes can make it harder to see people coming. Lots of sites are surrounded by vegetation, though, and that’s a real bummer if you want to keep the area around you highly visible.

Camp on the edge of your site that’s furthest from trees and bushes. This will make it easy to spot anyone approaching your tent. 

Carry Your Valuables

These days, having valuables on your camping trip is unavoidable. Phones, smartwatches, chargers, and more will probably be with you on every camping trip. 

It’s tempting to leave this stuff in your tent when you head out to hike or do some other activity, but I’d highly recommend against it. Keeping your valuables on your person is a guaranteed way to keep them safe.

Put them in a waterproof bag in your pocket if you must, but keep them with you.

Utilize You Car

People are way, way, way less likely to break into a car than a tent while camping. If you can’t carry your valuables or you just don’t want to, then keep them in your car! It’s a super easy solution if your car is near your site.

Lock Your Gear To Something Immovable

If you want to be truly certain people can’t steal your gear, lock it up. Secure it to a tree, bench pole, fence, or another immovable object.

It’s simple to loop a bike lock through the handle of a backpack then around an object. However, doing this is like a sign flashing and pointing at your gear saying, “THERE’S SOMETHING WORTH STEALING IN HERE!”

Look for a Pacsafe Bag Protector to ensure nobody can steal your bag or any other item they could easily cut and run off with. Remember to lock all your bags shut with little padlocks, too.

Hide Your Valuables

You might think it’s safe to leave your valuables on your tent floor or in the accessory pockets on the wall. This is a mistake. If you have to leave your gear in your tent, hide it.

Roll tech items up in your sleeping bag when stowing it away. Hide jewelry in your rolled-up socks. And a book safe is another great way to keep all manner of small objects hidden away.

If you position the safe in your tent in a way that hides the combination lock, then thieves won’t look twice at it. 

There’s Safety In Numbers

Avoiding leaving your tent alone will help you avoid theft. Camp in a large group, and make sure there’s always at least one person in your tent while the rest of you are away. Take it in turns to keep watch!

Having an intimidating-looking person in your party can also help deter thieves. Nobody wants to steal from a group of campers that contains a burly man with a constantly-furrowed brow (even if he’s a sweetheart in reality).

Do Some Roleplay

Even if you’re not leaving someone behind in your tent, pretend you are! Call goodbye to an invisible person when you leave. Leave a device playing music or Netflix in your tent while you’re out.

If it’s nighttime, leave a night light on to make people think you’re still awake. Do whatever it takes to act like someone is awake in your tent at all times.

Be Prepared To Defend Yourself

A tiny number of thieves may be willing to hurt you to get what you want. It’s uncommon, and you’ll probably never experience it, but it’s better to be prepared anyway.

Learn some basic self-defense that’ll help you in a fight, and keep something blunt in your tent. Don’t carry weapons—it’s often illegal and against the rules on most campgrounds—but a blunt object that’ll knock someone out when needed is good to have on hand.

Defend Yourself From Wildlife

People aren’t the only thing you have to worry about. Bears and other wildlife would love to get their hands on your food. 

Now, are tents safe from bears? Usually, but make sure you store food and scented items in scent-proof bags, and always carry bear spray just in case.

Keep Things Illuminated

Keeping your campsite lit up will help you see potential thieves and deter them. It’s easier to attack in the dark.

Stay close to your tent, and consider these campsite and tent lighting ideas to illuminate the area in a fun way that keeps you happy as well as safe.


Finding ways to feel a little more secure is easy once you employ the tips in these articles. Being smart with storing your gear is the best way to ensure it stays safe.

Never leave anything lying around on your campsite, and keep your tent secure while you’re away from it. This will give you the best chances of leaving your camping trip with your gear and valuables intact.

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My name is Emma, and I’m a city dweller who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve gone on a number of car camping and backpacking trips over the past few years. I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.