Traveling solo. . .safely

Kate offer's some good road wisdom for single travelers

Kate Mullen  |  02.16.2017

Traveling Solo Safety Precautions 

As a solo female full time RV’er, safety is the topic I am most often asked about. People are curious – do you feel safe, do you pack or carry a gun, what have you run into?

I’ve only had one incident where my spidey sense went off. I was in Canada in a Walmart parking lot on Canada Day, it’s like our Fourth of July. It was mainly empty, there was one other RV and a group of cars in the far corner of young kids hanging out. I started to hear yelling, then a few cars were doing donuts in the parking lot. At first I thought they were just having fun but it turned into them honking their horns for extended periods and driving around the parking lot signaling you are not welcome here.  The other RV had left and I decided to leave as well, as I departed I saw there was a car parked right next to me. I also noticed there was a car following me out of town. I was assessing whether I should call 911 when the car exited a few miles down the highway. I continued on for another 10 miles or so until I arrived at a large Pilot/Flying J gas and truck stop. They had an area for RV overnighting and there were other RVers already tucked in. I checked inside just to be sure and then settled in safely for the night.

While startling and inconvenient this was a minor incident because I made the decision not to stay and to relocate. Beyond that, my experience with traveling in the RV for the past two years has been overwhelmingly positive. I don’t take that for granted though, I take precautions and have put in place a few “just in case” measures.

Low profile, escape route and deterrents

The most important safety tool is one you have with you at all times – your eyes, ears and common sense! Be aware of your surroundings, trust your instincts, and your gut/intuition.

For me, traveling solo, an important factor in selecting my RV was the ability to be self-contained. While I like Airstreams or the cavernous floor plans in towables and 5th wheels I wanted to be able to get out of bed and get into the drivers seat inside one vehicle if I needed to leave an area. I didn’t want the added risk of exiting and entering another vehicle. There are a lot of single women who do choose to travel this way; it’s all what you’re comfortable with.

I travel with two small dogs, Cooper and Dakota, which can be both a deterrent, they are good guard dogs, but a potential signal that I’m traveling alone. If it’s late at night I try to make a separate stop to let the dogs out before I find a spot to park for the night to try to minimize exposure that I am single at my final destination. When I park  I’ll quickly pull the cab curtains and window shades to settle in for the night. I also plan an escape route pointing the RV in a direction that it is easy to maneuver out if I need to leave in a hurry and that can be either forward, back or both.

Then there’s physical deterrents. Bear spray has a longer reach than pepper spray so you don’t need to be as close for the irritant to make contact. However, be aware that you may be impacted by the spray as well depending on proximity and wind direction. There are other self-defense options depending on what your skill and comfort level is – air horn, bat, walking stick, knife, fire arm, hammer, ax, etc. Some or all of these may already be part of your hiking/camping gear.

Safety Tools

SPOT is a great tool for the RV and for hiking. It is a satellite device and service that can be used to update family and friends on your status while hiking for example or to signal the need for emergency services. It can also track your steps to revisit a favorite hike later or share with friends.

I keep my iPhone nearby at all times. I also have Siri voice activation on so I can say “hey Siri call 911”. Make a mental note of your location as you travel so you are not trying to figure it out in middle of an emergency. Life 360 is an application for your phone that allows you to add family members or friends so they can track your location on a map. It also has a check-in feature similar to SPOT. Cell phone or Wifi service connectivity is required.

I also have an emergency first aid kit easily accessible from anywhere in the RV so I’m prepared for cuts, sprains, poison ivy, etc. I also have a mini first aid kit in my back pack for when I’m away from the RV hiking. It has basic survival and first aid materials, rope, a knife, fire starter, signal whistle, a Lifestraw to filter water, and a mylar blanket if it’s cold.

As a solo traveler you might want to also consider paying for enhanced travel services. Good Sam provides an enhanced emergency roadside service with extra features such as if I’m sick someone will drive the RV home to NC for me and provide pet care if I am sick or unable to be at the RV.

Safety Guidelines

Follow the old adage there is safety in numbers. At any non-campground overnight locations try to group together with other RVers. I prefer Cracker Barrel locations because they have dedicated RV spaces, camera monitoring, and have employees late into the evening and arriving early morning. Walmart typically has on-site security and monitoring cameras. I will usually go in and shop or eat and let the manager or staff know I will be overnighting. I also send a quick text to let my family know when I arrive and depart from a location.

In a campground there is typically on-site management, some level of security, and other RVers that look out for each other.

Traveling in Winter

Winter travel adds a few more things to the list. Check the weather forecast. Carry extra water and food. I have a 12V electric blanket and a USB throw just incase I do not have access to hookups for electricity or something happens to the propane or the Travato’s heater. If you are in a emergency, use your cell phone if there is a signal or SPOT if you have one. Worst case, make note of your mile marker location and if any telephone call boxes are along your drive or how far the next exit is for help.

Propane refills for an RV can often be difficult to locate make sure you top off your tank pre-departure. Also survey your route and confirm availability for future fill ups along the way. For snowy conditions, there are snow tracks, tire grabbers, and tire socks you can purchase on Amazon. They are a good alternative to chains.

These steps quickly became second nature and provide me peace of mind while I’m traveling.   And I’m confident that if a real emergency or illness pops up on the road, I am well prepared.


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23 Comments

  1. Terry McWilliams Posted on 02.18.2017

    Great article! Just have one question: what’s a USB throw?

  2. Chrys Posted on 02.18.2017

    Thanks for the tips Kate. Your experience gives me the confidence I need along the way. I, too, have only one incidence that put me on high security alert in a year and a half of travel. I love the flexibility I have in my Travato!

  3. Larry Wilson Posted on 02.18.2017

    An excellent article. I am not an RV owner yet but do back country camping/hunting/fishing/exploring and carry many of the items referenced in her article.
    Thank you for sharing this, it just may save lives!

  4. Ken Willis Posted on 02.18.2017

    I believe a gun is essential for any RV’er. Of course, you should have some training in firearms if you carry a gun. Having a CCW permit would be advisable, especially if nation wide reciptrocity is passed. You do need to know the laws that apply in every state you visit. There are books and websites to help you.

    Most states will consider your RV the same as your home once it is parked for the night. Self defense laws in most states are heavily in your favor against an intruder into your home. “Home” includes the curtilage, i.e., the area immediately surrounding that you occupy as living space.

    If bad guys know that most RVers carry firearms and are trained in their use, then all RVers benefit, even those who do not wish to have a gun.

  5. Ken Willis Posted on 02.18.2017

    I should add one thing to my comment. Beware of California, New York and New Jersey. I’d just stay out of those states. The gun laws in those states favor the criminals. You’d think criminals wrote them, and you’d be right.

  6. Karen Mueller Posted on 02.18.2017

    Great article Kate. Love the pups.

  7. Daniel Rankin Posted on 02.18.2017

    Thank you so much for your article Kate. My wife and I are in our early 60’s
    and 70’s, still very young feeling and acting, but are much more aware of
    dangers and problems while on the road and in campgrounds than when we
    young and had the world by the tail as the saying goes. There are bad guys
    every where you go, but most of the folks you meet traveling and camping
    are the kindest/friendliest people you will ever meet anywhere.

  8. Jamie Kirkland Posted on 02.18.2017

    Great Article Kate, Wow you have really thoughts things thru. Thanks so much for sharing all of these great suggestions!!! I look forward to hearing more about your adventures on the road. Cute Dogs!!!

  9. Bill Fleming Posted on 02.18.2017

    Great story’s Kate, all good things for all travelers to know. Some day you will be in the movies.

  10. larry widdis Posted on 02.18.2017

    “The gun laws in those states favor the criminals. You’d think criminals wrote them, and you’d be right.”

    Ken, could I see the data that lead to these conclusions?

  11. Eric Eltinge Posted on 02.18.2017

    I’m in the Coast Guard and my motorhome has those decals. You would be a fool to mess with any vehicle that has Marine insignia!

  12. Gar Salzgeber Posted on 02.18.2017

    I agree. In 50 years of camping, I’ve relocated 4 times when things don’t “feel right”.
    For another article, my wife and I avoid laundromats. Too much down time.
    Instead we use a flat lid ice chest, (Also used as an extra seat or table.) fill it about 1/3 full with water. Add a squirt of Dawn laundry soap to the water. Then we put our clothes in it before traveling. 10 miles or more is enough to agitate the clothes. When we find an available water faucet (city parks, roadside rests, another campsite) we rinse out all the clothes and hand sqeeze them dry.
    At the next campsite we drag out our Coleman bungee laundry line and hang our clothes out overnight to dry, ( portable clothes lines can be bought on Amazon also.)
    Rainy or damp nights we resqueeze the clothes and hang them inside our motorhome via closet handles etc. to dry as we travel.

  13. Gar Salzgeber Posted on 02.18.2017

    Forgot to mention. If you purchase bear spray be sure it says on the container that it’s legal to use in Canada. Otherwise Canadian Customs will take it at the border.

  14. Cathie Hawley Posted on 02.18.2017

    Really enjoyed this article Kate! Great tips and advice that I think are practical and wise even for those of us traveling as a couple. Thanks for sharing and so looking forward to meeting you in PHX!

  15. Cindy Catalano Posted on 02.18.2017

    Thanks for the info Kate. I have been solo for almost 2 years with the only really scary incident being tornado warnings. I have a 5th wheel and while it is limiting because of the size, as a fulltimer, it is so comfortable that I don’t mind. I am only on the road every 3 months or so. When traveling, I plan my trip route and all my stops have reservations. I use an AllStays app, the internet and Good Sam. AllStays also has bridge and overpass height information at I am 12.5′ high. I have done pretty well as far as choosing spots – I have only had one location that I checked out and decided not to stay. My duration stays are all in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, never a smidge of concern in those locations, well…other than the tornado warning sirens!! Continued safe travels…..

  16. Suzan Posted on 02.18.2017

    Thank You , Kate great information. What Travado model do you have and why did you pick it? I am single thinking of buying a van camper, I have a smooth collie and Flemish rabbit and may include my 3 hens.
    Suzan

  17. Don Nebo Posted on 02.18.2017

    Hi Kate, enjoyed reading your article with all of its interesting information that I will need to take into consideration when I start my venture.

  18. Ralph Ridgeway Posted on 02.18.2017

    Kate,
    Your article is quite thorough and right on. Thank you.
    You sure have cute dogs!!! Safe travels.

  19. Joanie Helm Posted on 02.18.2017

    Thanks Kate! This information and mindfulness is so good to share with others. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS and listen. Your wisdom is refreshing!

  20. Irwin Gordon Posted on 02.18.2017

    Great article. You’ve figured it out. Go woman.

  21. Cindy B Posted on 02.20.2017

    I loved the article! My husband and I acquired our Travato about a year ago. We didn’t get to take it on its maiden voyage for 3 months after we got it home. We used that time to work out all the kinks, learning and yelling at each other before our trip. More fun that way. We were absolutely awed with our choice! We actually thought of almost everything you have there. We both enjoyed the people we met and camped with during our trip, while learning more from them at the same time. Any more suggestions? BTW, CA is ok in the parks, but someone better check their stats. I lived there all over the state for 40 years and have no desire to go back. Except for taking my husband to the Sierra Nevada mountains, we may never see that state again.

  22. Judy Mullen Posted on 02.23.2017

    So comforting that you have so throughly thought everything through.
    Great article that I know will be very helpful to all those RVer’s , campers
    and hikers out there. Helpful comments as well! Safe travels!

  23. Rosie Posted on 02.23.2017

    Love your commonsense advice and seeing pictures of the chiwinnies! Tell us more about the USB throw….link?