It goes without saying that securing our camper against theft is an absolute must, and a certain level of physical security will often be a pre requisite of obtaining insurance with many insurance companies.
When it comes to physical security, there are, effectively, two main options; a hitch lock or a wheel lock / clamp.
Hitch locks offer two alternative forms of security. Some can be locked to the vehicle, whilst stationary, preventing it from being moved. Others simply provide a secure cover to the towing hitch, so that the unit cannot be hitched up to another vehicle and towed away.
Whichever version is used, it is important to ensure that it not only covers the hitch, itself, but, also, the securing bolts, to prevent the hitch from being removed / replaced, prior to the theft of the camper.
A wheel lock is different from a wheel clamp, insofar as it locks onto the wheel, and is fitted so that it extends through the wheel, and locks onto the chassis. Like hitch locks, they, also have a dual purpose; not only do they provide good physical security, but they, also, serve as a visual deterrent. Unlike some wheel clamps, because they are fitted through the wheel, itself, they remain effective, even when the tyres have been let down.
Wheel locks are, usually, chassis specific, and both Al-KO (from 2001 onwards) and BPW (from 2004 onwards) have their own specific locks, so it is worth making sure you are purchasing the correct one. It’s also worth noting that, because the device fits through the wheel, they are only suitable for units fitted with alloy wheels.
One of the biggest down sides with these locks is that they have to be correctly aligned with both the wheels and the chassis receiver, which can be a bit of a pain when you’ve just got your wheels in the perfect position on the levelling ramp.
Unlike wheel locks, a wheel clamp fits around, rather than through, the wheel. Wheel clamps come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, from heavy, bulky models, best suited to storage situations, to lighter alternatives, more appropriate to travelling / on site.
When choosing a wheel clamp, bear in mind that some models leave the wheel nuts exposed. This is far from ideal, as the wheel can still be removed, which, in many cases, renders the clamp ineffective. Where the clamp does leave wheel nuts exposed, it is always prudent to ensure that locking wheel nuts are fitted, for added security.
In addition to the three main types of security mentioned above, there are a number of further measures we can take, and devices we can fit. these include:
- Alarm systems. These can be very straightforward to fit, and are an effective means of notifying those nearby that the unit is being tampered with. It’s important to ensure the system is reliable, as a series of false alarms will not make you popular with your immediate neighbours, and will result in any subsequent alarms being ignored. This is where, as folding camper owners, we have to be particularly careful. Many generic caravan alarms include one or more PIR sensors to monitor the interior. This is all well and good in a caravan or motor home, but the canvas top of a folding camper is prone to movement, especially in high winds, and this renders it vulnerable to false alarms, as the sensors detect this unwanted movement. Alternate sensors, such as those detecting movement of the camper, or the winding up / down of a corner steady may, also, be worth considering.
- Security Posts. Obviously only suitable when in storage, particularly at home, these posts should be set in concrete, to avoid easy removal. It is possible to obtain these with a tow ball on top, to secure the hitch to, but they are, in the main, used as a physical barrier, to prevent removal of the unit.
- Winter wheels. Some of these are designed to replace the normal wheel, during periods of prolonged storage, such as over Winter. Many assume that, because the wheels are removed, this provides additional security, however, it’s no major issue for thieves to simply replace them with ‘proper’ wheels, again, so it’s always best to ensure you have a locking version. Also, be aware that some insurance companies insist on the fitting of a wheel clamp. Failure to do so can invalidate the insurance. Winter wheels do not, usually, qualify as a wheel lock, and, therefore, could contravene the terms of your insurance.
- Corner steady locks. These are a relatively simple device that allows the corner steady to be locked in the down position, thereby preventing the trailer from being towed away.
- Secure storage. Where folding campers really gain is in their ability to be stored within a garage, which is not an option for most caravans or motor homes. Third party storage is difficult enough to find, as it is, let alone storage under cover and within a highly secure location. A folding camper can be stored within a normal, locked, domestic garage (assuming, of course, the garage isn’t, already, filled with all manner of miscellanea)!
Unfortunately, whilst physical security may well deter many opportunistic thieves, it will only slow the determined criminal, and, given time, they will circumnavigate all security measures. If this happens, what other precautions can we take to minimise the impact of the theft?
- GPS tracking. The fitting of a GPS tracking device can be an effective way of securing your pride and joy, and may, even, help reduce insurance premiums, however, an increasing number of thieves are getting their hands on signal blockers, which can render these trackers ineffective. It is,also, important to ensure that the tracker unit has an adequate battery backup, in case the main camper battery is disconnected.
- Photographic evidence. It is always a good idea to take photographs of your camper, both internally and externally, paying particular attention to any distinguishing marks. It is also worth photographing any significant items of equipment, or optional extras, that may be subject to theft.
- Make sure you, also, have a photograph, or, at least, a note of, the unit serial number.
- Remove all valuables from the unit, when in storage, and take them with you, when going out and about, on site. A locked car boot is, always, a lot more secure than an unlocked camper. Even a fully locked camper is no barrier t entry, when the canvas can, simply, be unclipped. A small safe, secured to the floor or bulkhead, out of sight, will give an element of security, but not for long, when under attack from a particularly determined thief.
No level of security will absolutely guarantee the safety of our unit, but it isn’t designed to. Most crimes of this nature are opportunistic (especially when in a mobile situation like this) and the majority of devices are designed to both deter the opportunistic thief, and impede the more determined one. At the end of the day, they are steps worth taking, and with the added bonus that they may well have a significant impact on insurance premiums.
If you do see, or hear, anything of a suspicious nature, you can always call the free and confidential Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.