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Campground Crime: Are Creeps Coming to Your Campout?

by Rene Agredano

From break-ins to shootings to RV park bomb scares, almost every day another campground crime story garners headlines. At first glance one might conclude that criminals are rampant in the great outdoors. Ask other RVers about their campground crime experiences and new insights are likely to occur.

Real Tales of Campground Crime: Shooters, Robbers and Vandals

campground crime

Is campground crime on the rise? Image: Geralt,

While camping gets people back to nature, it seems that even good campgrounds are ground zero for violent, illicit activity. The national campground crime blotter looked like this during summer:

September 14, Northern California:

As reported in the Napa Valley Register, a couple goes camping near Napa at Lake Berryessa. At about 1:30 am they awake to the sound of smashing glass. They later learned what happened: their brand new smart car was demolished by campground thugs.

September 7, South Carolina:

The Independent Mail reported that two men carjacked a camper’s pickup truck at gunpoint and stole his cell phone. The man wasn’t even done setting up his campsite when the crime occurred.

August 23, Ontario, Canada:

Also, Canadians aren’t immune to crime in the outdoors either. An armed camper barricaded himself inside his trailer at a campground in Ontario’s Bay of Quinte region. The Quinte News learned the Ontario SWAT team rushed to the campground, broke into the trailer and disarmed the potential shooter.

August 20, Illinois:

According to, a group of courageous campers in Rockton, IL. stopped a shooter at a campground by tackling him and grabbing his gun. The alleged gunman began firing when a site fee collector asked for money.

July 2, Massachusetts:

At a Salisbury, MA, campground the Eagle Tribune reported a drunk man assaulted a female RVer. According to news reports, the woman was in her trailer when a stranger barged inside without permission. Reporters say he “told her that he found her attractive and then asked if she had any cocaine. The victim told him to leave several times but he refused.”

How Many RVers are Really Crime Victims?

The list of campground crimes goes on into infinity. In an age of instantaneous reporting, acts of violence are reported almost as quickly as they occur. However, when RVers examine camping crime in community settings like the iRV2 Discussion Forums, the vast majority of respondents say they have never been a campground crime victim.

Just curious? Has anyone experienced a face to face robbery, late night break-in ( while in residence), or any major crime, personally, while RVing . . . Have you been mugged, robbed, broken into while in your MH?” — jamesvinton

Out of 51 responses for this discussion, only two people stated they were directly touched by crime while RVing. One couple was “indirectly” held up for $40 at a gas station. The other almost happened in an Oregon campground:

Late that night after going to sleep the dog started to growl and awoke my wife. She raised the blind and saw someone attempting to steal gas from our rig. She yelled loudly for me to get my gun and the thief jumped in a car and took off. — bdpreece

Furthermore, in both cases, nobody was physically harmed. A random iRV2 Forums search for “Campground and RV Park Crime” reveals many more similar discussions with little anecdotal evidence that campers are increasingly at risk in the great outdoors. What these conversations also reveal are RVers who know how to balance crime prevention strategies while still having fun RVing. Here’s how one camper plays it safe:

I lock my bikes (expensive) and put away valuables (to include tools, electronic gadgets, and my favorite insulated beverage container). I do have locks on my tow bar and Jeep gas cap (need to get locking caps for the coach). — JFNM

If You See Something, Call Authorities

Additionally, removing temptations from your campsite when you’re away from the RV is a must. In addition, crime experts say it’s equally urgent to remain vigilant wherever you roam. Among other crime reporting recommendations the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says if you see anything suspicious, call authorities and provide:

  • Brief description of the activity
  • Date, time and location of the activity
  • Physical identifiers of anyone you observed
  • Descriptions of vehicles
  • Information about where people involved in suspicious activities may have gone
  • Your name and contact information (optional)
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In an upcoming post watch for crime prevention tips from the experts and other RVers.

Have you ever been a victim of campground crime? Let us know in the comments area below.

Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at

Reader Interactions


Suzanne and Jim NC USA says

My husband and I have been camping for 40 years. We have never had anything stollen or been confronted by vandals . For years we tent camped then pop up camped then about 15 years ago we got an RV. We have camped in every state except Hawaii and most of Canada .
We have had other campers ( strangers) trench our tent during a hurricane when we where unable to return to our campground. Other campers have come over when we had to do repairs and offer tools,help and materials to help us out. Help a kid who fell off his bike back to our campsite. Offer left over wood and food when they were pulling out. We even had someone bring over fried chicken late one night when we were setting up when we had had trouble getting to the campground because of bad weather. We also do the same for other campers. I traveled cross country from Texas to North Carolina to bring back “a new to us “camper when my husband could not get time off to make the trip without incident .
Bad things can happen anywhere but we are 1/2 timers and the only bad thing that has ever happened was noise from drunk campers a couple of times.
Bad things can happen anywhere but camping is safer than going to the mall.

Thank You “Suzanne” and “Jim” for such a great comment, and the insite to the lack of crime when camping or RVing. You are right, the majority of campers and RV’ers are very friendly and helpful people, and will go out of their way to help make other’s feel at home when camping or RVing.

We live on five acres in TN. My husband & I. We just bought a small camper.
Kudos to you both for being able to stay safe.
We are so scared of camp ground crime we are building a camp site in our woods.
Our neighbors are spread out & we never see people.
We went to a camp ground an we just didn’t buy that sell! Paying $80.00 for 2 trees & a slab of concrete?
Then some creep walks up to me ! We have a prettier place at home with many more trees & camping rules suck!

The Appalachian Trail: America’s Most Deadly Hike

The famous trail can also be deadly | © Michael Stokes / Flickr

When you think of America’s Appalachian Trail, the 2,160-mile (3,476-kilometer) path that stretches from Georgia to Maine, you may be more likely to think of happy family bonding moments and endorphin highs that come along with getting active in the great American outdoors.

But did you know that there is a darker side to the famed trail? The Appalachian Trail has actually been the site of numerous murders and other gruesome deaths over the years. Although you are still more likely to run into problems on the trail because of inclement weather or slipping and falling, violent crime on the trails is not an uncommon occurrence.

Since 1974, there have been 11 Appalachian Trail murders. The most recent occurred in 2011 when a hiker from Indiana named Scott Lilly died from “asphyxia by suffocation”—in an apparent homicide. The murder remains unsolved to this day.

Three years earlier, a terrifying repeat of an earlier hiking homicide was attempted by Randall Lee Smith, who had served 15 years in prison for the attempted murder of two hikers in 1981. In 2008, Smith shot two fishermen on the trail with the intent to kill them. Luckily, the pair survived.

Smith’s earlier victims, Robert Mountford Jr. and Laura Susan Ramsay, were both 27 and social workers from Maine. Mountford was shot, and Ramsay was beaten and stabbed. Due to “lack of evidence,” Smith only served half of his 30-year sentence, and tragically went on to strike against hikers again.

Being an experienced hiker is no bulwark against confronting your mortality on the trail. In 2001, an extremely seasoned hiker named Louise Chaput was found stabbed to death in the White Mountains section of the trail in New Hampshire.

Nor is traveling with a friend or partner a surefire way to stay safe. In 1996, hikers Julie Williams and Lollie Winans were found with their throats cut in the Shenandoah National Park area of the trail in Virginia.

One of the most tragic cases on the trail involved the case of Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner. The couple was having sex on the trail in 1988 when a man named Stephen Roy Carr shot at them. Carr later said at his trial that he had been enraged at the sight of two women having sex. Wight died from her injuries, and Carr was sentenced to life without parole.

So, before you start planning your next trip to hike the great Appalachian Trail, make sure you have a way to communicate with the authorities at all times, and take care to keep your wits about you.

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10 things that could potentially kill you on your next camping trip and how to protect yourself

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hiking outdoors nature colorado

  • When going hiking or taking a camping trip, it’s important to be careful and to be aware of the potential dangers and hazards you may face.
  • Fortunately, your chance of dying in a national park , at least those in the US, is quite low. T hat being said, many things that cause fatalities during camping trips and hikes are probably not what you’d expect.
  • Staying hydrated to avoid heat-related illnesses and storing your grill outside of your tent to prevent potential carbon-monoxide poisoning is important.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of death for those who visit US national parks, so be careful when swimming or standing near bodies of water and keep an eye on children and those who are not strong swimmers.

As warm weather approaches, many people are starting to get outside for hiking and camping trips. But it’s important to be aware of the possible hazards you could face while enjoying nature and to prepare for them.

Fortunately, camping and hiking may not be as dangerous as you think. Per The Washington Post and data from the US National Park Service , 120 to 140 people typically die at national parks each year, not counting suicides. It sounds like a lot, but when you take into consideration that these parks have about 280 million visitors each year, your odds of dying in a national park are really low.

That being said, it’s still important to be cautious when venturing into nature, especially since many of the biggest dangers are things you might not normally think about.

Here are some potential dangers to keep an eye out for as well as some tips for keeping yourself safe during your next venture into nature.

Drowning is the leading cause of death at US National Parks

For visitors in US National Parks, the leading cause of death is drowning. Many prime locations for hiking and camping include bodies of water for swimming, canoeing, and other recreation, so it’s important to take safety precautions when planning to visit these areas.

The currents, temperature, and depth of natural bodies of water can be unpredictable, so it’s important to always wear a life jacket . When swimming at parks , try to stay in lifeguard-protected areas and keep an eye on children and those who are not strong swimmers.

In addition, you’ll want to be very careful whenever you’re crossing a stream or small body of water that doesn’t have a bridge. To avoid being washed downstream or injured, the American Hiking Society said you should always keep some kind of footwear on in the water to better maintain your footing. You should also avoid wearing long pants that can throw you off balance in moving water.

Hikers should always be aware of their surroundings to prevent fatal falls

Although venturing cliffside to snap the perfect photo is tempting, it comes with risks and should be done carefully or from a distance.

“The number of fatalities from falls while people try to get the perfect Instagram shot has increased in recent years. Standing on the edge of a canyon or cliff to get a few extra likes isn’t worth the risk,” Wesley Trimble, program outreach manager for the American Hiking Society. told INSIDER.

To avoid fatal falls, stay on marked trails and take careful steps when near cliffs or slippery rocks. Remember, you can never be sure how sturdy certain rocks or cliff edges are so when in doubt, take a different route.

Fatal vehicle accidents can be common near parks and the areas leading up to trails

“Anecdotally, hikers are much more likely to be killed while driving to the trailhead than on the trail,” said Trimble. Per The Washington Post and data from the US National Park Service, from 2003 to 2007, over 250 people died from a vehicle accident while visiting a national park.

Drivers should always be careful while behind the wheel, but narrow roads, uneven pavement, and pedestrians hiking in the area can cause driving conditions to be more hazardous than usual.

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration , simple steps like watching for pedestrians, following the speed limit, and taking extra caution in hard-to-see situations can help prevent car accidents.

Hikers caught in an avalanche aren’t super likely to survive after being buried for over 45 minutes

When hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing through the snow, there’s a chance that an avalanche could occur and be fatal. According to National Geographic , in the case of avalanche incidents, 90% of avalanches are triggered by the victim or someone in the victim’s party and over 150 people are killed by them each year, worldwide.

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Avalanches commonly occur within 24 hours of a storm releasing 12 inches or more of snow. I f you get caught up in an avalanche, try to move to the side of its icy path and grab onto something sturdy like a tree. But if you weren’t able to get out of the way , try to swim through the snow to create a pocket of air for breathing and then punch through the cold surface so you can be rescued.

Hikers who are found and dug out within 15 minutes of an avalanche are very likely to survive (National Geographic reported a 93% survival rate). After 45 minutes of being buried, only between 20% and 30% of avalanche victims are found alive.

Taking precautions can prevent heat-related deaths

Many people are inspired to get outside during warm weather, but extreme temperatures can be dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , in the US alone, over 650 people die from heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, each year. Hikers and campers can be especially at risk if they are traveling in high temperatures.

As you prepare for warm-weather hiking trips, be sure to check that the trails or camping sites have ample access to fresh drinking water . If there isn’t access to potable water, you should bring enough to last for the entire trip (and then some) or invest in a purification system to bring with you.

It’s also smart to hike early or late in the day so you’re not exposed to the more extreme heat of the afternoon. And, be sure to protect yourself with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and light-colored clothing.

In some situations, deadly carbon monoxide can get trapped inside of sealed tents

Carbon-monoxide poisoning is considered to be a silent killer because it’s completely odorless and without a detector, there’s no immediate way to know you’re being exposed to it.

Per Forbes, in the US each year about 500 people die from carbon-monoxide poisoning in places such as their homes, cars, or garages. This doesn’t include the 20,000 to 30,000 people who become ill from this gas each year in the US alone.

Notably, campers can also be at risk of being exposed to this deadly gas. Some watertight tents are excellent at keeping rain out but they can also trap carbon-monoxide fumes in. Per the CDC, entire families have been found dead inside their tents after bringing their camping stoves inside for warmth overnight.

After just 20 minutes , some camping stoves emit unsafe levels of carbon monoxide, which can become trapped in certain types of tents. The easiest way to prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning while camping is to always keep stoves and grills outside of your tent and away from your shelter.

It’s unlikely you’ll be killed by a wild animal if you keep a safe distance

Although wild animals may seem like an obvious danger, it’s not very likely that you’ll be killed by them. From 2007 to 2013, only six people were killed by wild animals in US national parks, but creatures can be unpredictable and it’s important to respect their personal space and keep your distance.

Per the US National Park Service, if hikers or campers spot a large animal nearby, they should stay at least 100 yards away to avoid startling the creature. If visitors see a small creature, they’ll want to stay at least 25 yards away from it. It’s also important to keep a close eye on your pets if they’re accompanying you on your trip because wild animals might view them as prey and attack.

In addition, campers should ensure all their food is stored in airtight containers , so animals aren’t attracted to it. It’s also important to store food out of reach from animals by keeping it in your car or in food-storage lockers provided by a campsite .

Dry climates are most susceptible to deadly flash floods

Flash floods happen when areas that are typically dry experience a bunch of rain. People hiking in canyons or other dry areas should keep an eye out for sudden changes in the forecast during their trip.

If you’re hiking or camping in a location where flooding is common, stay informed about the changing forecast and be cautious if there’s any chance of heavy rain. According to the National Weather Service , if you haven’t completely evacuated the area, be sure to get to higher ground and stay out of the flood waters.

It’s crucial to stay hydrated while hiking, especially if it’s hot out

Staying hydrated is critical while on all hiking and camping trips, but especially in high temperatures. Some hikers and campers don’t bring enough water with them to keep up with the water loss happening in their bodies and dehydration can sometimes be fatal.

Your body can lose up to 2 liters of water every hour while hiking and only replace about a 1/2 liter in that same time frame, so it’s important to continue replenishing your body’s water supply throughout your trip.

To avoid dehydration , slowly drink small amounts of water both prior to hiking and during your trek. When you sweat, you’re also losing important salts in your body, so be sure to eat salty snacks like trail mix or drink sports drinks beverages that contain electrolytes.

Hypothermia can start to set in when your body temperature dips to 95 degrees Fahrenheit

Campers can experience extremely cold temperatures in lush forests and high altitudes, so it’s important to be prepared. Without additional layers, hypothermia can set in when your body temperature dips to 95 degrees Fahrenheit — a human’s average body temperature is usually around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some common symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, clumsiness, or lack of consciousness. If someone has begun experiencing any of these, you’ll want to remove their wet clothing (if they’re wearing any), bundle them up as much as possible, avoid moving them in any jarring, vigorous way (so you do not trigger cardiac arrest), and immediately seek help.

To be cautious on your next trip, especially if you’re camping in locations where temperatures dip at night or hiking in a potentially chilly location, be sure to bring lots of layers, a hat, and other protective accessories to stay warm. Campers can also use a liner in their sleeping bags to help insulate it and make it warmer.




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