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Old 02-05-2015, 06:45 PM   #1
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Is installing a safe usefull?

So I finally bought a 2010 Ford extended E250 and plan on converting DIY style, I have been planning everything out for a while now.

This would be my first camper van.

Here's my question :

Let's say I leave on a 2 weeks long road trip in the US (I'm from Canada)
If I leave my camper van to go biking or kayaking, what do crooks look for when they see my camper van just sitting there? Do they want to break in? Do they want to steal the stuff on top or in the back? or do they simply want to steal the vehicle?

I will probably bring my laptop, SLR camera with many lens, Cel phone, passport, wallet, money etc...
Should I install a secret compartment (safe) somewhere in the vehicle? in case someone breaks in...
I'm thinking maybe "underground" like some people install at the spare tire location.

Thanks for any input guys!

DIY conversion build, extended 2010 Ford 5.4L E250 + high top, from Montreal Canada, new to all this so please be patient and clear with me (never built or camped in a van yet)
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Old 02-05-2015, 08:10 PM   #2
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

Yeah, something hidden is the way to go. I had a safe and the thieves tore it out doing more damage, then ran with the safe but ended up dropping it. Yes I got my safe back with my Glock-40 in it but it was only because the guard showed up at the dealership. Stealth is the way to go.

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Old 02-06-2015, 08:48 AM   #3
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

I would find stealthy places to stash stuff and save the expense of a safe. There are several places in a van you can stash stuff that any burglar probably wouldn't find. The bigger problem is that these vans themselves are pretty easy to break in to and steal. False bottom drawers are a good idea for a laptop or anything small and flat. I have other ideas that I'd be glad to share via PM.
As for camera, phones, and money, they usually go with us in a backpack when we're going to be away from the van for awhile. Also, this may go without saying, but simply watching your back, parking carefully (which is entirely situational of course) and not drawing attention to yourself are good ideas as well. I usually pull all of my curtains and/or throw up some Reflectix. You can tell an empty vehicle if you can see in it, but if you can't then you have no idea if someone or a dog is inside. Another idea is to leave a battery powered radio playing. None of this will protect you from a good thief of course. If they want it, they're gonna get it.
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Old 02-06-2015, 09:26 AM   #4
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

We practice out of sight out of mind. Protecting against the smash and grab has been the most prudent, a well placed unsuspected hiding hole or two provides some good piece of mind. I prefer to put everything away, cables included, to deter deductions about the quality of gear inside. Most of our vans ooze expensive but 5 apple stickers, four charging cables, gps mount, gopro crap...just confirms the possibility of easy to snatch good $hit inside. A decent alarm is a good place to start. By building your own interior you can engineer some unique stash spots.

For us, data is more important than the electronics. We have two external drives that will live in their own special spots. If you're really paranoid then a decoy inside should convince the convenience based criminal to spend their time on it instead of rummaging through everything else. Sacrificing a pelican case over high $$$ electronics is more than a fair trade.

Best thing, if you don't have a good feeling then change plans and go someplace else. Even if nothing happens your day will be spent preoccupied by the safety of your stuff instead of being entirely enjoyed.

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Old 02-06-2015, 11:13 AM   #5
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

I agree with all the above comments. Go stealth. Like JohnandMandy said, it's pretty easy to build the interior fittings with false bottoms or backs. My standard SMB build has enough hidden void spaces to make it a smugglers dream.

A safe big enough for your camera and computer gear would be as big as the fridge and weigh 1200# but you might consider a small gun safe for papers, cash or even a gun if you're so inclined.
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Old 02-07-2015, 12:26 AM   #6
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

I'd like to add a couple other ideas about stealthy parking.

When I put in my fancy-pants Kenwood head unit, I saved the factory radio and made a fake faceplate and set it up to velcro over the Kenwood when we park. Someone on the forum did a tutorial about it few years ago, which is where I got the idea. I'd post photos of mine if anyone is interested.

When these guys talk about keeping valuables out of sight so that a would-be thief can't estimate what else is in the van, I agree and go all the way.

For ex, my doghouse has slots for coins on one edge. I never keep coins in it, because these lowlifes might be tempted to break your $100 door glass to grab that $1 worth of change. Likewise, when I smoked, I wouldn't keep a pack of cigarettes in view from the outside, either. Nicotine withdrawal can be a powerful motivator. (Guess how I know.) It's amazing that small stuff like this can make a criminal do a smash-n-grab, but apparently it does.

Don't put stickers on the van that advertise what you may have in the van, like stereo, firearm or even Apple logos.

I take my money clip and credit cards with me, and my wife takes her pocketbook (her purse stays in the van, hidden away) when we leave the van, even when there no ATMs or things to buy on the trail. We also take our iPhones. My philosophy is that they can't steal what isn't there. Replacing your DL and CC's is a pain, and since the cards and cash are small and light, they aren't a pain to carry even on long hikes.

On the morbid side, since we often hike before dawn and after sunset a lot in very lonely places, we are at risk of falling in the dark. Having our DL's and insurance cards would enable rescue teams to identify us and access our health records if needed. We use the Health app in iOS for basic medical info for them if they find the phone. Plus the phones have rudimentary GPS, compass and a flashlight, which backs up our better units.

I'm kind of on the fence about putting Reflectix or sun shades in the windows because it's a signal that you are going to be away from the van for some large amount of time, but they do keep prying eyes out. When I can, I prefer to park the van so that the front of the van is facing away from the sun, and drop the curtains that are behind the tinted windows in the back to keep the heat out, plus they can't see through the curtains. Curtains down behind tinted windows is less noticeable than shiny Reflectix.

I also have a couple Bulldog boxes in crevices in the back. They aren't really safes, and can be pried open with the stuff I have in my toolbag that I leave in the van, but they are lockable, black, small, and easily hidden under the all the other junk I have in my storage areas. If a thief didn't know they were there, they wouldn't notice them easily.
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Old 02-07-2015, 07:10 AM   #7
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

A few related threads that might be of interest.



SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
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Old 03-22-2015, 10:14 AM   #8
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

Something that may demand consideration in the future... is the Law!

Some states are making it illegal to have hidden compartments in vehicles to prevent stashes of illegal drugs.

"My country, tis of thee, sweet land of liberty(?!)"
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Old 03-22-2015, 01:34 PM   #9
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

Can you list the states??

googled and found Ohio: Summary:

"The bill prohibits a person from operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment if it is known that the compartment is intended or used to conceal drugs. It also bars individuals who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to 1st or 2nd degree felony aggravated drug trafficking charges from operating, possessing, or using a vehicle with a hidden compartment. Hidden compartments that have no drugs or visible drug residue are permitted."

Ohio two years ago ( The wording of the Ohio law exempts a box, safe, container, or other item added to a vehicle for the purpose of securing valuables, electronics, or firearms provided that at the time of discovery the box, safe, container, or other item added to the vehicle does not contain a controlled substance or visible residue of a controlled substance.
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Old 03-22-2015, 03:41 PM   #10
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Re: Is installing a safe usefull?

My home state Oregon (which piqued my interest) plus California, Ohio, Illinois, and Georgia... as best I can tell.

This is justified as an effective tool to deploy in The War on Drugs.
No one seems overly concerned about The War on Privacy.

This is a link to an article addressing the issue ... ompartment

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