Keeping Your Car Safe at the Trailhead
Don't be the target of thieves. Leave your valuables at home. Photo courtesy of Twanda Baker on flickr commons.
A few years ago, we published a blog post about protecting your car from thieves at the trailhead, and we thought it was time to refresh everyone on good trailhead practices as we start heading to the trails in greater numbers.
At the time of the blog post, one of our staff members had left her wallet "hidden" in the car while out hiking, and the car was broken into while she was out on the hike.
It's a costly wake-up call when this happens to you. "I was reminded of just how important it is to carry your wallet with you when you hike. Somehow I had failed to do that on this trip, and, as a result, thieves now have possession of my street address, my credit card and my house keys," she reflected afterward.
Of course you usually take your valuables with you. But there are probably times when you haven't - when you've stashed a wallet under the driver's seat or left a backpack visible. Usually, everything is fine. But sometimes a hiker isn't so lucky. Since locking your doors and windows won’t keep prowlers out if there are valuables visible in your car, park rangers recommend that you stash your valuables as part of your pre-trailhead routine. Here are some tips:
- Leave all valuables at home.
- Lock any bags, extra clothing or items that look like contain valuables inside the trunk or place them well out of sight before you arrive at the trailhead. Any place in your vehicle you think is a sneaky hiding spot, thieves know about.
- Take credit cards, driver’s license, phone and anything else of value with you in your pack. Consider a ziploc sandwich bag for these items.
- Put a sign in your car’s window that says, “No Valuables in Vehicle.” Sure, it’s laughable, but it might help any shady characters decide that their chances of “getting the goods” are slim.
- Do a lap around the parking lot before taking to the trail. Are there people just sitting in their cars, appearing to be waiting for something? Use your creep-ometer scale and avoid leaving your car if the scale starts sliding upward.
And in the unfortunate event of theft, be sure to report the crime, or any suspicious behavior, to park rangers immediately.
After spending a week replacing her stolen identification, keys and other items, our colleague vowed never to leave anything valuable at the trailhead again. "I haven't had any trouble in nine years of hiking, but the consequences of just one incident of trailhead theft will serve as a good reminder not to leave my personal effects in the car again."