As a solo traveler, I have several safety measures and a security system in my van. I researched several van security systems before settling on SimpliSafe.
An ideal security system for any van should include the basics like intruder alerts, and additional features like video monitoring, temperature sensors and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
In addition to having a security system in my van, I also have several additional security and safety items, like a GPS locator, additional door locks and a security safe. I’ll briefly talk about those too.
In this article I’ll discuss the different types of van life security systems to keep you safe while traveling.
A GPS locator is a fairly inexpensive way to monitor your vehicles location. This accomplishes a few things – it helps you track and locate your van if it’s ever stolen, and it allows anyone with access to the GPS login to track your location.
I researched several GPS tracking devices before settling on the Trak-4 GPS system in my van. There are two options for Trak-4 tracking devices – one that hardwire to your vans electrical system and one that is battery powered.
The hardwired version needs to be permanently installed, while the battery operated device can be moved around but requires a recharge every week or so.
There are 3 monthly monitoring options and the cost ranges from $6.99 to $18.99 per month. Unfortunately, the Trak-4 GPS system does not have an app yet, so you have to login through a web browser, but I like that it’s a more affordable option that accomplishes exactly what it needs to.
I chose the battery powered device for my vehicle over the hard-wired option. While it means I have to remember to charge it, I appreciate the ability to hide it in the van. That way, if my van is ever stolen, it’s less likely the thief can find and ditch the GPS unit prior to me locating the vehicle.
Installing a lock on your sliding and rear doors can help deter break-ins, too. There are two leading options for van locks.
The Thule Van Lock is one you can install yourself. It’s meant to be installed on the exterior of your van as it needs a flat surface on both halves of the lock in order to function properly.
When it is closed the attachment screws are hidden and inaccessible, which gives you more flexibility with how you install it since no one can tamper with the screws while it’s locked. If you’d like two keyed with the same key be sure to buy the twin pack.
Another option is a Master Van Lock.
This lock can be installed on the interior or exterior of your rear van doors. It’s designed to be resistant to bolt cutting. However, the cylinder lock is removable so be careful not to lose it while it’s not in use!
Bring Your Dog
Van life with a dog has the added benefit of a furry security guard. My dog can hear better and smell better than I can, so he’s usually the first one to notice when an animal or a human is nearby.
In addition to alerting me to a potential new threat, he also deters many people from approaching me. Even though he’s the dopiest, most harmless looking golden retriever you’ve probably ever seen, bad guys aren’t willing to take the risk that he’s hyper protective of me.
In addition to protecting your van, it’s also a good idea to put highly valuable items into a security safe. I installed this Security Safe by bolting it to the floor of my van in one of my lower cabinets.
Important items, like spare cash, my passport, jewelry and even my GPS unit are secured inside of it. The GPS unit in particular means even if someone can break into my vehicle, they can’t disarm the tracking device easily. Just make sure your GPS signal can still transmit through the security safe.
SimpliSafe Security System for van
In addition to the above security for vans I also recommend having a security system installed. I researched several van security system providers before deciding on SimpliSafe. I like that it’s an easy DIY install and a modest monthly subscription price.
✅ Backup battery in case of power disruption
✅ Highly customizable system
✅ Activity log
✅ No contract
✅ Easy DIY install
✅ Affordable monthly cost
✅ Push notifications to phone
✅ Arm and disarm remotely
❌ Remote camera access requires wifi
❌ Base station operates on 120V so modification is required to use it without an inverter
❌ Cellular network access only available in pricier monitored monthly plans
Get 40% off your new SimpliSafe security system for your van AND a free indoor camera!
SimpliSafe Security System Components
There are several different device packages you can purchase, or you can build your own. Each system requires a base station and a keypad. Beyond that, you can add entry sensors, motion sensors, glassbreak sensors, an indoor or outdoor camera, a water alarm, smoke detector and a temperature sensor.
I recommend a minimum system setup to include the base station, keypad, entry sensor, motion sensor and smoke detector.
If you travel with pets I also highly recommend adding the temperature sensor and indoor camera. The temperature sensor will push notifications to your phone when the temperature exceeds a range which you set.
I love this capability because it allows me to leave my dog in the van alone and know that if it gets too hot or too cold I will immediately know.
SimpliSafe offers three monthly service packages: Interactive Monitoring, Standard Monitoring and Self Monitoring with Camera Recordings. Additionally there is an option for no monthly service where you self-monitor but there are fewer features (this is what I use).
All packages will send alerts to your phone, but only the Interactive and Standard Monitoring packages will deploy emergency response.
The Interactive Monitoring plan is around $30/month. Standard Monitoring is under $20/month and Self Monitoring with Camera Recordings is around $10/month. If you choose to self monitor without a monthly subscription your only cost is the hardware.
The catch with living in a van is that you don’t have a fixed address, so the Interactive and Standard monitoring packages don’t do much good if emergency response doesn’t know where to go.
My recommendation is to use the Self Monitoring with Camera Recordings package. This allows you to arm/disarm your system remotely from an app on your phone. In addition it will store your video recordings for 30 days. The caveat to this plan is that it does not use a cellular network (like the Interactive and Standard packages) in order to communicate, so you it must be connected to wifi. This only works if you have 24/7 wifi in your van.
If your van does not have 24/7 wifi then you’ll want to select the Standard Monitoring package. With this package you don’t need wifi, but you do need cellular signal, so in some locations your system may not communicate to your phone or dispatch, but it will still work as a self-contained system – meaning if someone breaks in the siren will sound.
I have an internet plan in my van for the 6 months a year I’m traveling in it. During these 6 months, I use the Self Monitoring with Camera Recording $10/month plan. For the other 6 months, when I am not paying for an expensive internet plan and my van is parked for the winter, I upgrade my SimpliSafe plan to the Standard Monitoring $20/month package so I can use cellular signal in the absence of having wifi.
Get 40% off your new SimpliSafe security system for your van AND a free indoor camera!
SimpliSafe Base Station Modification
The SimpliSafe base station is intended to be plugged into a 120V outlet. This isn’t ideal for most camper vans because in order to operate a 120V appliance you have to have your inverter on. While inverters can power 120V appliances, they lose about 20% of the energy required and aren’t ideal, especially for a base station which needs to be powered 24 hours a day.
With some easy modifications the base station can be converted to run on your 12V batteries, bypassing the need for an inverter. I made this modification to my base station in under an hour.
Cut the brick/wall plug end of the power cord off. Try to cut as close to the plug as possible and keep as much wire length for your base station as you can.
The base station actually runs on 6.5V DC, and the brick that plugs into the wall adjusts a typical household voltage (120V AC) into the correct voltage. You’re going to replace the AC brick with a DC voltage converter. Instead of the factory system which takes 120V AC and turns it into 6.5V DC this mod will take 12V DC power from your batteries and drop it down to 6.5V DC – then you can hardwire your base station into your van and install it anywhere.
Carefully remove the outer insulation and expose the wires inside the power cord. There is one wrapped wire and many teeny silver strands inside.
The wrapped wire is the positive wire and the teeny silver strands are the negative. You can reuse the outer insulation you removed from the power cord, or you can use electrical tape to wrap the negative wires.
Connect the power cord positive and negative wires to the converter.
These are attached to the output side of the converter – the right side.
Step 4 (optional)
Add an in-line fuse to your positive wire. This is only necessary if you are not connecting your van security system to your fuse box. If you connect to your fuse box then this step isn’t necessary and can be skipped.
I chose to connect my van security system directly to my 12V batteries. This allows my system to be powered even if I’ve shut down the electrical system in my van for any reason like winterizing or troubleshooting. Even in those scenarios, when my batteries are disconnected from the van’s electrical system, my SimpliSafe security system for my van will still operate.
Because it is directly connected to my batteries, and does not run through my fuse box, I needed to add an in-line fuse to protect the base station from power surges.
A simple in-line fuse holder is all you need. Connect one end to the positive input side of your converter. The SimpliSafe van security system pulls 1.6A so a 2A fuse is the perfect size to protect your system from power surges.
Connect the converter to your power source (directly to your batteries, or to your fuse box).
⚠️ Make sure you do NOT have your power cord plugged into your base station yet. This is very important because you have not adjusted the converter to the right voltage yet (Step 6). If your power cord is connected to your base station when you plug into your electrical system, but before you’ve programed the converter for the right voltage, you can potentially send too much voltage to the base station and damage it.
If you’re connecting to your batteries, attach a negative wire to the negative input side of your converter (the left side). Attach a ring terminal to the opposite end of the wire, then connect the wire to your batteries negative terminal.
Next, connect a ring terminal to the end of the in-line fuse wire (or, you may need to run additional wire to get this to reach your batteries, and then attach a ring terminal to that). You should already have one end of the in-line fuse holder attached to the input side (left side) of the converter. After you attach the ring terminal to the other end, connect it to the positive terminal on your battery.
Note: 12 awg wire should be more than sufficient for this if you’re only powering the base station, and chances are you have some extra 12 awg laying around from your van electrical system installation.
If you’re connecting to your fuse box, connect your negative wire to the input side (left side) of your converter, and then to the negative slot in your fuse box. Next, do the same for your positive wire. You’ll want to use a 2A fuse to protect the circuit. However, if you have additional loads on the same circuit you will want to recalculate.
Program the converter to 6.5V, which is the correct voltage for the SimpliSafe van security system base station.
The converter can seem really intimidating at first, but it’s actually very simple. The left side (input) is what connects to your power source (batteries or fuse box). The right side (output) is what connects to your base station. In order to program the converter for the right voltage for the base station (6.5A as indicated on the power brick previously cut off) you spin the “ADJ-V” brass knob located on the bottom/middle of the converter. Keep spinning it (clockwise to increase voltage or counterclockwise to decrease voltage) until the screen reads 6.5V.
That’s it! It sounds complicated but modifying your van security system base station is fairly straight forward and can be completed in less than an hour.
Conclusion – Best Van Security System
There are many things you can do to make your van more safe! Including a few safety features as well as a van security system can go a long way in deterring theft and forced entry.