Campsite Security: How to Be Safe Outdoors

Whether you have the best-laid plans to bug out to a secure location, one you have set up ahead of time, or you don’t have anywhere to go when you bug out, there is a good chance you’ll be camping at some point.

But unlike a building that has walls, be it a house, cabin, or another type of structure, a campsite is open and exposed and is an easy target—unless you are prepared.

campsite bugging out

In order to protect the people in your group and the food, water, and supplies you have, you need to seriously consider the security of your campsite. After things get bad, even the most decent people will do unspeakable things to survive and take care of their families.

While you might run across people with whom you can trade or strike an arrangement to help one another, chances are the majority of people who come across your camp will be a threat—and people will find your campsite at some point.

Of that you can be sure. Plus, you also have to worry about four-legged predators. With that in mind, here are some was to secure your campsite.

Choose your site carefully

Take care when choosing your site. When deciding on where to set up camp, you need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the area and decide on what threats or opportunities might present themselves. Here are a number of things to consider when choosing a site:

  • Is there cell service? If the networks are still up and running, can you get service where you are? This will help you communicate with others in your group and get intel on what is going on in the world.
  • Is there water nearby? You need water and its proximity should be a huge factor in deciding where to set up camp.
  • How easy will it be to go and get food and supplies if necessary? While you need to be off the beaten path, you do need to consider how easily you can come and go and get what you need.
  • How easy is the site to access? Is it surrounded by dense brush? Are there multiple paths leading in and out? How easy is it to set up some type of early warning system? This really comes down to how defendable your campsite is. The more you can conceal your camp, control access to it, and have a good view of what is around you, the better chance you will have of knowing when a threat is approaching and having time to deal with it.
  • Are you close enough to a city or town that undesirables, such as criminals and homeless people, might find your camp? This is a possibility that you need to seriously consider because there are many instances in which these types of people camp or set up a base of operations outside city limits.

If they can’t see you…

…or smell or hear you, then they are less likely to be a threat. Your best defense is simply not being noticeable to any of the senses.

Like I said above, chances are someone is going to find your campsite eventually, but the more concealed it is, the less likely it will be that you are discovered.

That means smells, smoke, light, noise, or anything else that could trigger the senses of passersby—be it man or beast—should not be coming from your campsite.

You should also keep camouflaged as much as possible. Choose your gear and clothing to blend in if you can. And any guards you post should be concealed so they can see what’s coming, but it’s difficult for anyone to see them.

Deterrence is the next best thing

If your campsite does get found, then your next best bet is to deter those who find it by making your campsite look unappealing. You should have more than one tent pitched, even if it’s just you or two or three people who could easily make do with one tent.

The more tents there are on your site, the less vulnerable you look. Even two tents will make a world of difference, so consider pitching a second one just for show, although you can use it to store your food, supplies, and gear. You can also make it look like there are more people in the camp than there is by putting out additional chairs.

When it comes to four-legged predators, the thing that will attract them is the smell of food, so you need to give this some major thought. How will you store your food? How will to cook it and dispose of it? The best thing is to bury your garbage and scraps or take it far away from your camp.

Dan’s tip: another thing you’ll want to do is hang your food up in a tree with Paracord.

Early warning

An early warning system can act as a deterrent and a warning. A dog is great, and if you have a furry friend, chances are you brought him along.

Dogs can catch scents and sounds you can’t, which will give you plenty of warning that something isn’t right. However, if you don’t have a dog, then you need something else

Your early warning system should be placed around 50 yards from your campfire. If you have planned ahead and have the money and resources, you can get an electric fence that runs on solar power or a motion sensor of some sort.

But even something as simple as a trip wire, such as fishing line with cans tied to it, will work. These can deter people from coming any closer, and if it sounds an alarm of some sort, it will warn you of intruders.

Guarding your turf

Is one guard enough? No. Ideally, you should have multiple guards and guard posts. While I realize it might be difficult with a small group, you should have a minimum of two guards on duty at each guard post at all times.

If someone approaches your camp, one guard can be focused on that person and the other guard can watch for any other suspicious movements in the vicinity.

Make sure that any guard posts are strategically located so that they are on higher ground (not so high as to make them visible) and can maintain a good view of the surrounding area. Also make sure these guards have the appropriate equipment, such as binoculars, night-vision goggles, and weapons.

If you only have three to four people in your camp, then it will be difficult to have multiple guards, but your camp will also be smaller and easier to conceal.

Even if it’s just you, you have a better chance of hiding your campsite on your own, which is good since you need to sleep at some point.

If you have enough people, then it is wise to have a group of two or three people patrolling, in addition to the stationary guard posts. You should also have people who might be going about their regular business, but are ready on a moment’s notice to react should a threat present itself.

Communication is key

Finally, it is critical that you have multiple methods of communication set up. If you have guards patrolling or at a post, they need to be able to tell those of you in the camp if there is a threat. A good set of walkie talkies or a two-way radio and a solar charger works for this. You can easily send intel if you have these in place.

You should also have a non-verbal system of communication. Perhaps you need to report danger and can’t use the radios or don’t have them. You can establish a system that includes sounds, symbols, and light, all of which can also be used to alert the people in camp when someone is returning.

For instance, you can use a flashlight to send an SOS or develop a system of signals that you can use in different situations. You can even get something like the Energizer LED Safety Flasher to send a signal in a hurry, one that won’t be missed.

This concept of returning to camp is important. There will be times when you leave camp, whether you choose to go for a walk or have to go on a supply run.

When you are returning to camp, especially if dusk has fallen or it is nighttime and the light is inadequate, you need to have a way of announcing yourself that everyone in the group follows.

It could be as simple as a whistle or another sound that only those in the group would know. This protocol could save someone from being accidentally shot or otherwise injured.

Remember that since your campsite is completely exposed and really offers no protection should you be attacked, you need to think ahead and be prepared so a strike on your camp cannot happen in the first place.

Simply put, being prepared minimizes your vulnerability. This means having the right knowledge, skills, and gear to ensure your safety. The more prepared you are, the better you will sleep at night.

4 thoughts on “Campsite Security: How to Be Safe Outdoors”

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    Your article is full of contradictions, such maintaining a concealed camp while discussing the topic of campfires and security trip lines, etc. Overall, this is pretty amateurish material and it would probably get someone killed in a true SHTF bug out situation.

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      Site selection. Concealment. Deception. Active guarding and deterrence. Early warning. Communication. Knowledge. Skills. Gear. All sounded correct to me. What would you do differently?

      Campfires are a necessity on a long term relocation. Dakota holes, screens, timing, and smoke dispersion can help mask the signature. Dry wood (mentioned) reduces smoke. Trip lines are an excellent idea, are covert, and will provide valuable time to assume defensive posture. Booby traps… Even better.

      I appreciate the article. Thanks.

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    My son and I often backpack and camp in parts of Mexico’s Michoacan ocean front and jungle. In the last 5 years or so these areas are no longer completely off the beaten path due to Cartel “mules” backpacking product over the mountain trails to avoid military road blocks. We use many of the points you mentioned above, plus a few we’ve learned from experience. Our camouflage jungle hammocks for sleeping add the capability of being far off trail on rugged, uneven, or even steep mountainside, as long as there are a few trees or large boulders from which to suspend the hammocks. We bring our Euro Boxer dog with us as our listener, and we’ve trained him to remain silent on command so as to not give away our position. We cook on dry wood camp fires as the evening fog settles over the area to mask the smoke. We have more than once watched from cover as a group of 4 to 6 men carrying huge bundles strapped to their backs pass through the trails far above our encampment. The fully automatic weapons one or two carry tells us we don’t want to meet and greet them. Some people make fun of camouflage gear, but we depend on it to remain veiled. Everything we wear, carry or use, is in shades of military green, charcoal gray, and or full camouflage. Maintaining reasonable silence, remaining alert, and concealment works.

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      Speaking of being camouflaged and avoiding being seen, use colors in uneven patterns, break up your outline, avoid silhouetting yourself to the sky or against a light colored background, the best thing to do if you are close to someone looking for you is to be completely-absolutely still and don’t look directly at them, use your peripheral vision. I’ve had people almost step on me and never saw me.

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