How to protect yourself (and your stuff) during a road trip

Road trips are the best: gas station snacks, Pandora on blast, the wind in your hair and the cash you saved on a plane ticket, all fuse together for an adventure anyone with a license and a little disposable income can have.

It's important to unwind and enjoy, but you also gotta be safe. Photo: Courtesy of Hugo Villegas/Unsplash
It’s important to unwind and enjoy, but you also gotta be safe. Photo: Courtesy of Hugo Villegas/Unsplash
Still, between choosing a playlist and packing up the cooler, there are a few things you might want to think about before you put the pedal to the metal.

While road trips are generally safe endeavors, there are always risks involved — especially when it comes to you and your gear.

Here, a few tips for staying safe and hitting the road fully prepared.

Don’t advertise your travels too widely

Sharing photos from your trip on social media? Good idea.

Pinpointing your exact location and listing the days you’ll be gone? Bad idea.

Avoid being too specific about dates and locations, just in case someone’s been thinking about breaking into your apartment or tracking down your car.

Wear sunscreen … even in the car

The sun will certainly get ya. Photo: Courtesy of Dino Reichmuth/Unsplash
The sun will certainly get ya. Photo: Courtesy of Dino Reichmuth/Unsplash
A dermatologist friend once told me she can tell if someone’s a commuter by the amount of sun damage on the left side of their upper body and face.

The sun’s rays can penetrate your windshield, so lather up with some SPF 30 before you pull out of the parking lot.

Keep the bumper stickers to a minimum

We’ve all seen the surf wagon covered in “Rip Curl” and “Sex Wax” logos or the family van plastered in mementos from the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park — while tagging your car with tokens of the places you’ve visited seems fun, it also makes you a target for thieves.

Don’t give anyone a reason to think there could be valuable gear or electronics inside your car, and hide valuables from sight whenever possible.

Be quick and discreet when hiding your valuables in case someone is watching you in the parking lot. I once had someone break into the back window of my rental van because they saw me hide my camera in the back seat.

Stay alert when getting out of the car at night

Road trip tips
Never leave valuables in your car, and if you must, make sure they’re well hidden (the blanket toss isn’t as effective as you think). Photo: Johnie Gall
While 24-hour security and the professional drivers who frequent truck stops make these roadside structures pretty safe, it’s always a good idea to stay alert and aware of your surroundings when exiting your car at night.

I carry SABRE’s RAINN Personal Alarm when I head into gas stations and truck stops for a bathroom break.

If anything happens and I need to activate its alarm function, the device will emit a high-pitched siren my road trip partners will hear (Bonus: this alarm benefits the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network to provide support to those who have become victims of sexual assault).

Have a secret storage spot

If you’re going on a hike or overnight camping trip away from your car, designate a hidden spot to store valuables like your passport or extra cash.

Make sure it’s really tough to find and access. Thieves breaking into a car are in a rush and won’t have time to search high and low for your goodies.

Your best bet? If it’s really important to you, take it with you or leave it home.

Pepper spray is not just for city dwellers

SABRE offers a few effective pepper spray and personal alarm systems you can pick up before your trip. Photo: Johnie Gall.
SABRE offers a few effective pepper spray and personal alarm systems you can pick up before your trip. Photo: Johnie Gall
No one ever thinks they’ll be attacked, but car jackings, muggings and personal attacks are very real dangers no matter where you are or what time of day it is.

I’ll admit I’ve always been in the “won’t happen to me” camp, but after hearing the pleas of family and friends, I’ve started to make my personal safety a priority.

Pepper spray is legal in every state and a highly effective way of thwarting attacks.

I now carry the Runner Pepper Spray with me while trail running or climbing, and the Kuros! Pepper Spray is usually attached to my keychain or backpack — it has a quick release function if I’m in danger.

If you camp a lot, I highly recommend SABRE’s bear spray become part of your gear kit, too.

I love knowing I’m taking my safety into my own hands.

Don’t just “hide” your key in the gas cap or hitch

When hiding your keys or valuables, make sure no one is watching! Photo: Johnie Gall.
When hiding your keys or valuables, make sure no one is watching! Photo: Johnie Gall
“Try to always keep your keys by your side” is easier said than done.

As a surfer, I know first hand there’s no great place to hide your electronic keys while out in the water — but you’ll have to get creative because hiding your key in the gas cap or in the hitch is not — I repeat, NOT — a good idea.

If someone wants to break into your car, those are the first places they’ll look.

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