Tourist + Moron = Touron… And National Parks Have A LOT of Them

Invasion of the idiots

Ever see a video of a tourist at a National Park and all you can do is shake your head?

I mean, what is with these folks?

They go into completely wild environments and act like they know what’s going on.

No ma’am, that bull elk will kill you, the bison will hit you like a truck, and that grizzly bear is not a teddy.

It’s funny, annoying, and scary all in one when you see a tourist do some stupid crap trying to get a photo of wildlife. We all know you’re not a professional photographer so please tell me why you’re putting your life on the line for a few photos for the ‘Gram?

It just ain’t worth it, not even a little…

On a typical internet search for all things wildlife, a video surfaced on my feed. The video itself was nothing special but I came across a term I hadn’t seen or heard before, touron.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s pretty simple… Tourist + Moron = Touron!

Urban Dictionary defines it as “any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity.”

Not only does touron roll oddly smooth off the tongue but it also really is just the perfect description of all the people who ignore the painfully obvious signs of what to do and not do with the wildlife.

However, wherever there is a touron with a cell phone, there’s probably someone else close by capturing the stupidity.

These videos are living proof of the kind of idiots that walk into National Parks on a daily basis. It is not a zoo, there are no cages for a reason, and these animals have the ability to seriously harm you…

The one with a fella trying to scare a mother black bear off is insane. Rule number one is stay away from a mother and her young. You are just asking to get attacked.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can see a mother bear and her three cubs. The man walks around a vehicle to try and scare a bear. Two big no-no’s! Don’t approach a mother bear or try to scare any bear. That’s a good way to, oh, I don’t know… die?

In this case the man got off lucky. She just bluff charged and slapped at the man as he ran off.

Grade A Touron.

Here is some more helpful information on bear safety: You Come Across a Bear. Your Next Move Is Very Important. Do You Know What To Do?

Once you’re aware of the word touron, it seems to come up everywhere. There’s an entire subreddit dedicated to visitors who hike off trail, get too close to wildlife, and bathe in the hot springs at Yellowstone National Park.

The popular Instagram account @touronsofyellowstone which posts videos and photos of park visitors misbehaving has amassed 486,000 followers while @touronsofnationalparks has 176,000 and dozens more accounts have popped up (there’s @touronsofhawaii, @touronsofthepnw, and @tourons_of_joshuatree just to name a few).

Instagrammer Jackie Boesinger Meredyk (@jaboes) posted video footage of a tourist getting too close to a herd of bison that caused a road blockage near Bridal Veil Falls at Yellowstone National Park.

The video was reposted on @touronsofyellowstone and the caption describes how the person got out of their vehicle about 20 cars back and walked along the mountain road, all while holding an iPad to get a unique picture.

The park’s law enforcement was trying to get the herd moving and they were stunned to see the tourist getting unreasonably close. After calling for the man to follow the park’s rules by standing at least 25 yards away, he retreated.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The comments section was not impressed.

“Entitled seems fitting,” said one Instagrammer with another adding, “The ranger needs to fine him.”

While getting in the personal space of bison is unwise at the best of times, this bunch featured a couple of calves increasing the risk to anyone who approaches.

“They had their babies with them,” another observed. “He’s lucky he’s still alive.”

The Government of the Northwest Territories advises never to get within a herd of bison or to come between two of the mammals, especially between a mother and calf.

Bison can be unpredictable and charge at any moment and threatening behavior from humans is sure to make this more likely.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Male bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, according to Yellowstone National Park while females can be as heavy as 1,000 pounds. Being charged by either isn’t likely to end well. The park says bison have harmed more people at the park than any other animal.

There are plenty of other reasons to be respectful of wildlife. Yellowstone has noted that feeding animals in its parks can lead to them getting too familiar with humans and reliant on the food they offer meaning they can become aggressive when trying to get it.

We can observe nature from a distance and still be amazed by what we see. Getting too close can be a recipe for disaster.

These reckless actions by uninformed or careless tourons put themselves, park resources, and others at severe risk of injury or death. Responsible behavior and respecting all park rules and regulations is crucial for safety.

These accounts and numerous news stories reveal that touron activity is often found in national parks and according to the Topical Dictionary of Americanisms, the term is considered “park ranger slang.” Urban Dictionary agrees. “The term has its roots in the resort, park service, and service industries and can easily be dated back at least as far as the mid-1970s,” the entry states.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lists could go on and on…

Either way, I’m very happy to have stumbled upon the word Touron, it’s just so perfect.

Friggin’ Tourons….

Here are a few great articles to help you stay safe in national parks:

Worth Pondering…

I love the term touron. It’s a delicious portmanteau.

—Aspen Daily News

The National Parks Urge You to Keep Your Distance from Wildlife

A recent bear attack has prompted the NPS to remind visitors about its wildlife safety rules

Last year, a slew of TikToks showed visitors of Yellowstone National Park attempting to take selfies with, pet, and otherwise harass the bison in their natural habitat which prompted the National Park Service (NPS) to chime in in with a warning for all visitors thinking of getting cozy with wildlife in the parks:

Wildlife Petting Rules

1. Don’t

2. See rule number one

3. Brace for landing

Almost exactly one year later, the story isn’t much different—except now it is the relationship between bears and humans that we’re talking about. The NPS recently issued another warning after a man was seriously injured by a bear at Grand Teton National Park.

Bison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the NPS, investigation has led officials to believe the man was caught up in a surprise attack by two grizzly bears with one of the bears injuring the man. Reportedly, the man was rescued by helicopter and ambulance and despite the injury he is expected to make a full recovery. 

While this is undoubtedly wonderful news, nobody wants to risk witnessing such an encounter again—especially the NPS. In order to prevent such attacks from happening again, the NPS issued a news release with guidance on human-bear conflict prevention providing a list of tips and helpful advice. The complete alert and guidance can be found at the end of this post.

As the NPS advises, it is important that visitors never leave food unattended and that they try to keep a clean camp to the best of their abilities. That includes storing all attractants such as coolers, pet food, toiletries, and cooking gear inside proper bear boxes which are containers that are bear-proof. Eating or cooking inside your tent is also a no-no and garbage should always be disposed of in a bear-resistant dumpster.

Most importantly, you should stay away from bears as well as other dangerous wildlife. “If you see a bear, please give it space,” says the NPS advisory. “Always stay at least 100 yards away. If you choose to watch or photograph the bear, use a spotting scope, binoculars, or telephoto lens.” 

Rocky mountain goat © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In case of close encounter, make sure to slowly walk away from the bear and definitely avoid running. You should also always carry bear spray—and don’t forget to learn how to use it properly. 

This definitely isn’t the first time the NPS has had to remind visitors about important wildlife rules. Last year, after the bison petting shenanigans, the NPS took to Instagram and via a cheeky post (See Wildlife Petting Rules above) the organization gave visitors a guide to petting the wildlife in national parks with the consensus being, DON’T

The caption goes into more detail reminding visitors that “wildlife in parks are wild and like your ex, can be unpredictable when they’re disturbed or surprised.” The page has even changed their Instagram bio to address the onslaught of visitors infiltrating the bison’s space at Yellowstone; it reads “Don’t pet the fluffy cows.”

While the NPS advice and posts might seem all fun and games, they actually come from very not-fun situations. Yellowstone has previously called on visitors to maintain distance from and respect the wildlife due to a number of recent incidents.

Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In mid-May, the NPS released another warning, this time urging visitors to be extra careful when in the presence of elk. Elk calving season has reportedly just begun and as the NPS explains, “Cow elk are much more aggressive towards people during the calving season and may run towards you or kick.”

Elk attacks are unprovoked and unpredictable and they may start running towards you for no apparent reason. In this case, if you see an elk running towards you, you should also be running away. To prevent this from happening, it’s good practice to always be keeping at least 25 yards of distance from them (roughly equivalent to the length of two full sized busses).

If a sassy Instagram post and ardent pleading from the National Park Service aren’t enough to get you to give their wildlife some well-deserved space, it might be time to revisit the golden rule, “treat others as you would like to be treated.” In this case, if you have no desire to be poked and prodded at, chances are wildlife feel the same.

Bison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NPS News Release

Visitor Injured in Incident with Bear

Visitors reminded to be bear aware when visiting Grand Teton National Park

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 19, Teton Interagency Dispatch received a report of a 35-year-old male visitor from Massachusetts who was seriously injured by a bear in the area of the Signal Mountain Summit Road. Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue personnel responded to the scene to provide emergency medical care and air lifted the patient via helicopter to an awaiting ambulance where he was transported to St. John’s Hospital. The patient is in stable condition and is expected to fully recover.

Based on initial reports from the injured visitor and preliminary information conducted as part of an ongoing investigation of the site, law enforcement rangers and park biologists believe the incident was a surprise encounter with two grizzly bears with one of the bears contacting and injuring the visitor.
The Signal Mountain Summit Road and Signal Mountain Trail are currently closed to all public entry.

Rocky mountain sheep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To prevent human-bear conflicts, visitors are reminded to:

  • Never leave your food unattended unless it is properly secured.
  • Keep a clean camp and adhere to all food storage orders. Store all attractants including coolers, cooking gear, pet food, and toiletries inside a bear-resistant food locker (i.e. bear box) or a hard-sided vehicle with the windows rolled up.
  • Properly store garbage until you can deposit it into a bear-resistant dumpster.
  • Do not eat or cook in your tent and never keep food or other scented items in your tent.
  • Please respect all wildlife closure areas.
  • If you see a bear, please give it space. Always stay at least 100 yards away. If you choose to watch or photograph the bear use a spotting scope, binoculars, or telephoto lens. Park in designated areas, and never block travel lanes. Follow the directions of staff in places where bears are sighted.

If you are exploring the backcountry:

  • Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
  • Make noise, especially in areas with limited visibility or when sound is muffled (e.g., near streams or when it is windy).
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and keep it readily accessible.
  • Hike in groups of three or more people.
  • Do not run. Back away slowly if you encounter a bear.
Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are some posts to help you learn more about bear safety:

Looking for more travel tips?

Whether you need help finding low cost activities while RVing, tips for driving in windy conditions, or ways to keep your RV clean and tidy, I’ve got you covered. Keep reading for amazing places to RV and best camping this month to help you plan your next big adventure.

Also check our recent RV manufacturer’s recalls just in case your RV is on the list.

Worth Pondering…

GOD IS GREAT, BEER IS GOOD, and PEOPLE ARE CRAZY!

You Come Across a Bear. Your Next Move Is Very Important. Do You Know What To Do?

You’re out for a hike on a glorious summer or fall day. Suddenly, you spot a bear. And the bear has spotted you, too. Would you know what to do next?

A wild bear is a beautiful sight to see. It’s incredible to see them in the wild. The animal usually wants to avoid the encounters.

Bears in the news

Bear attacks are rare but they do happen.

In October 2022, a couple’s unleashed dog attracted unwanted attention from a black bear as they were picnicking on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The dog ran towards the bear, barking loudly, and park officials believe the bear was likely aggravated by the dog acting defensively toward the dog and the couple. Over the next several minutes, the bear repeatedly attacked until the couple and their dog were able to retreat to the safety of their car.

A short time later, a hunter was attacked west of Cody, Wyoming by a grizzly bear. An investigation indicated the hunter was attacked after a sudden encounter at close range with an adult female grizzly bear with two cubs.

In both cases, the people survived the attacks. But in the European country of Slovakia, a man died after being attacked by a brown bear in June.

All illustrate the point that rare does not equal never.

Keep your distance from all wildlife © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Feasts for beasts

Bears are not picky eaters. They eat everything: ants, berries, fish, flowers, nuts, roadkill, and human food not secured. Our food is very attractive to them; it’s easy calories. Combine that with the fact that national parks have been setting attendance records and turning away visitors and you have a recipe for potential trouble. If more people are using public lands and more people are in the mix, there’s more potential for encounters and conflict.

The key is being prepared.

First rule of bear encounter: Keep your distance

The best strategy is to never get in harm’s way by enticing or provoking a wild bear. Trying to give a bear food or approaching cute cubs are particularly terrible ways to start an encounter. That’s just looking for trouble.

The National Park Service (NPS) site points out each bear and each encounter is different but there are general guidelines useful in most situations.

First of all, keep your distance if you happen upon a bear. Don’t approach it and give it plenty of room to walk away from you. Yellowstone National Park tells visitors to stay at least 100 yards away; Shenandoah National Park in Virginia suggests 200 feet for its black bears.

You can run afoul of the law as well as the bears if you get too close. A 25-year-old woman was given four days in federal custody and fines for staying too close to a grizzly bear and her cubs at Yellowstone National Park. According to violation notices, the charges stemmed from an incident on May 10, 2021 at Roaring Mountain when a sow grizzly and her three cubs were sighted. Other visitors slowly backed away and got into their vehicles but she stayed and continued to take pictures as the sow charged her.

Keep your distance from all wildlife © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other tips

  • If a bear happens to surprise you, stay calm. Do not surprise the bear if it’s unaware of your presence.
  • Slowly stand up and speak to the bear in a calm, confident manner. This will distinguish your voice from the noise of a potential prey animal.
  • Walk with a group (we’re smellier and noisier in packs) and stay on designated trails.
  • If you have a small child or dog, pick it up.
  • Slowly back away from the bear and keep an eye on it. If you back away and the bear follows you or begins to act aggressively, be ready to stand your ground and fight.

Remember that every bear encounter is different: bears will exhibit different behaviors in different situations. Understanding the behavior of bears can make the difference between life and death.

Keep your distance from all wildlife © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What if a bear starts coming at you anyway?

If a bear starts making assertive moves in your direction, you have important decisions to make—and fast.

First thing is: Stand your ground with bears.

With either grizzlies (a subspecies of brown bears) or black bears, don’t run. Bears can outrun anybody. Don’t climb a tree either. They can also climb trees better than you.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife also has some tips:

  • Make loud noises by yelling, banging pots and pans, or using an airhorn to scare bears away.
  • Make yourself look as large as possible by waving your arms.

You can usually intimidate or bluff your way out of sticky bear situations depending on the bear species and the situation.

Keep your distance from all wildlife © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But what if a bear is about to attack?

You’re now in the rarest of situations—you’ve attracted a bear’s attention. It didn’t retreat. The bear has started to come at you aggressively and fast. You think you’re about to be attacked. What’s next?

One very crucial thing is to make a quick identification of the kind of bear since your strategy will be different.

If it’s a black bear, NPS have a clear message: Do NOT run. Do NOT play dead. You want to stand your ground with black bears. Look as intimidating as possible. Throw things not at it but near it. Make that black bear intimidated by you. Let it know you are a big person. Pick something up; yell at it. If it attacks, fight back.

It’s a different situation with grizzlies.  If you’re dealing with a grizzly that won’t back off and an attack is imminent, you’re advised to do the opposite. You should play dead.

Act as unthreatening as possible with a grizzly. Play dead with a grizzly if it starts to attack. Tuck and cover. Get into a fetal position. Wrap your hands around your neck. Lay on your stomach. Once you do that, 99 percent of the time the grizzly will move on.

NPS elaborates: “Remain still until the bear leaves the area. Fighting back usually increases the intensity of such attacks. However, if the attack persists, fight back vigorously.”

Fighting back a grizzly bear is the last resort—your Hail Mary pass—when all other options are out.

Keep your distance from all wildlife © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How do you tell a black bear from a grizzly?

First off, know your area and read up on the bears there.

In North America, grizzlies have a much more limited range than black bears. In the Lower 48, they are in Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming—and in Alaska, too. They also cover large parts of Western Canada.

Black bears have a much larger range. They can be found in as many as 40 U.S. states and much of Canada, the National Wildlife Federation says.

So say you’re in Quebec, the Appalachians, the Ozarks, California, or even parts of Florida, that’s going to be a black bear. But if you’re in Yellowstone or Glacier National Park or in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, for instance, that could be a black bear or a grizzly. That’s when it’s crucial to know how to make a quick visual ID.

You can’t go by the color of the fur. Black bears can be black, brown, cinnamon, blond, blue-gray or white, according to Bear.org.

One of the best ways to tell the difference is to look for a hump at the shoulders. Grizzlies have them. Black bears don’t.

The face shapes are also different. Black bear faces are a little rounder with a straight nose. A grizzly bear face looks more like a wild predator and has a dished shape.

Black bears have a prominent rump, a straight, dog-like muzzle, pointed ears, and dark claws.

Grizzly bears have a shoulder hump, dished face, rounded ears, and long, light-colored claws.

Keep your distance from all wildlife © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other tips and cautions

  • Don’t store food in tents or pop-up campers in campgrounds or in vehicles at trailheads.
  • Don’t leave food, coolers, and dirty cookware left unattended. Park rangers may confiscate them and cite you.
  • Dispose of garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters and trash cans.
  • Human-fed bears usually end up as chronic problems and need to be removed. A fed bear is a dead bear.
  • The bears are just being bears. We are way more of a threat to them. Bear attacks are rare. And fatalities are even rarer.

Worth Pondering…

Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400 pounds and is guarding her baby!

—James Rollins, Ice Hunt

Safety and Security Tips for Traveling in your RV

Traveling into the great unknown can be a lot of fun. Discovering new places adds excitement to an RV trip. Yet many people worry about RV safety. RV security is an important factor to consider and there are things you can do to increase the security of your RV, no matter where you are traveling.

RVing has become one of the most popular ways to travel. But a successful and safe RV trip takes preparation and planning to make it a good experience. Whether you are new to RVing or not, these tips can help ensure that your trip will be problem-free.

Embarking on an RV adventure brings the promise of freedom and exploration but ensuring safety as you travel in your RV is critical. In this article I delve into the realm of RV security providing key safety measures to safeguard your RV while you travel.

Cracker Barrel in Goodyear, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware of your surroundings: A critical crime-prevention tool

This rule of thumb sounds obvious but it can be easy to forget. Whether you’re parked at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or boondocking in a national forest, always be aware of what’s around you. When you stop somewhere, get out and take a look around before you commit to staying. We’ve stopped in places where we just didn’t feel safe. Rather than try to talk ourselves into it, we’ve moved on.

We’ve also learned that those uncomfortable feelings are a matter of perspective. We’re more cautious when we’re in the backcountry in areas that are unfamiliar to us. Use your best judgment and only stay in places where you are comfortable.

Leave temptation behind: Keep valuables hidden

Though it may seem obvious, you should never leave valuables in plain sight and unattended. Laptops, smartphones, cameras, and other personal belongings should be stored when they are not in use.

This one seems pretty obvious. To eliminate temptation put all your things away prior to leaving your site. This could include camping chairs, cooking equipment, and/or firewood. Don’t make it easy for them!

Don’t litter your site with valuables. Put away tablets, cell phones, and extra gadgets. Pull the blinds after dark in your rig. Don’t be a lone ranger; camp near other people. Get a safe. Each of these simple steps will keep robbers at bay.

Camping with your dog © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set up your campsite with security in mind

From the moment you park your RV, you should start thinking about security. For instance, most RVers reverse into their parking spot but this means that your rig is more accessible.

Also, take a good look at your surroundings and follow your gut feeling. If something about the spot can become a security risk, you’re better off finding a space that feels safer.

If you’re bringing your furry friends with you, you’ll also need to think about their well-being. Therefore, you’ll need to follow RV pet safety best-practices like sweeping for choking hazards and making sure you’re far from a busy road.

Lock it down: The importance of robust door and window locks

One of the first lines of defense for your RV is secure entry points. Invest in quality door and window locks to thwart potential intruders. Consider upgrading to smart locks that provide added convenience and control through mobile apps ensuring you can monitor and secure your RV even when you’re away exploring.

One of the easiest ways to deter thieves is to simply lock your doors anytime you leave, no matter how long you’re going to be gone.  Also, make sure to close and lock exterior storage compartments.

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Illuminate and deter: Motion sensor lights for enhanced security

Enhance your RV’s security by strategically placing motion sensor lights around your vehicle. These lights not only illuminate the surroundings at night but also serve as a deterrent to potential intruders. The sudden burst of light can startle and discourage unwanted visitors adding an extra layer of protection to your home on wheels.

Eyes everywhere: The benefits of a security camera system

In the digital age, technology offers advanced solutions for RV security. Consider installing a security camera system to keep a watchful eye on your RV. Modern systems provide real-time monitoring accessible from your smartphone giving you peace of mind and the ability to act promptly in case of any suspicious activity.

Conceal and protect: Disguising your RV with camouflage measures

Make your RV less enticing to potential thieves by adopting camouflage measures. This could include discreet branding, covering valuable items, or even using window coverings to conceal the interior. The goal is to avoid drawing unnecessary attention, reducing the risk of burglary when your RV is parked.

Camping at Lady Bird Johnson Park near Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

GPS tracking for recovery: Protecting your investment with GPS technology

In the unfortunate event that your RV is stolen, having a GPS tracking system can be a game-changer. These devices allow you to track the location of your RV in real-time aiding law enforcement in recovering your property quickly. It’s a worthwhile investment for both security and peace of mind.

Community vigilance: Utilizing the power of RV communities

The RV community is vast and supportive. Leverage this by staying connected with fellow travelers. Join online forums, share your location with trusted friends, and participate in local RV groups. In the world of RVing, a collective eye is often the best security measure with fellow enthusiasts looking out for each other’s well-being.

Camping at Palo Casino RV Resort, Palo, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Emergency preparedness: Security beyond theft

Security extends beyond theft prevention. Equip your RV with emergency preparedness items including a first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors. Being ready for unexpected situations helps to ensure the safety and well-being of you and your fellow travelers.

Have a way to protect yourself

Whether you’re at an RV park or out in the wilderness, there may come a time when you need to protect yourself. This can mean protection from another person, or from a wild animal like a bear or mountain lion.

There is no shortage of choices when it comes to self-defense from firearms to pepper/bear sprays to blunt objects. Pick the method that you feel most comfortable with. Then, practice using it. Whatever you choose, it’s important that you know how to use it before you ever need to (and hopefully, you won’t).

Camping in Dixie National Forest, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never post your current location on social media

I totally get that you want to share your cool adventures and amazing places you are at. But, be cautious about giving your exact location and time.

If you want to post a photo of your RV at your campsite or in a certain location, refrain from posting the campground name and town you’re currently located. In other words, keep your social media shares vague. Wait until after you leave the area to share those beautiful views online.

Here are some helpful resources on increasing the security and safety of your RV:

Effective security requires a layered approach. There is no single security measure that is guaranteed to deter and prevent crime. However, by implementing the layered approach outlined above, you can feel confident that you have a good plan in place to deter and prevent crime.

As you embark on your RV journey, remember that security is a crucial aspect of traveling. Implementing these measures can safeguard your home on wheels, allowing you to explore with confidence. By combining technology, community support, and smart practices, you’ll fortify your RV against potential risks ensuring a secure and enjoyable adventure on the open road.

Safe travels!

Worth Pondering…

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

—Okakura Kazuko

The Most Dangerous Places for Overnight RV Parking + Safety Tips

After a long day of driving, finding yourself in an unfamiliar area without any RV parks in sight means seeking a safe overnight RV parking spot. Finding overnight RV parking is a challenge most RVers face at one time or another. Many RVers are concerned about this especially regarding safety. But generally speaking, you don’t have to worry too much—if you keep a few key things in mind.

RV travel is great because you always get to sleep in your own bed. But unknowingly choosing dangerous places to sleep in your RV could put your life and property at risk. That’s why even if your interior is comfortable you need to consider your overnight parking surroundings. With that in mind, I’ll discuss the top three risky places for RV travelers to park for a night or longer.

The three most dangerous places to park your RV overnight (or longer)

Before we get started, a reminder that there are exceptions to every rule. Please use your own judgment skills as you choose overnight RV parking.

Generally, staying in a dedicated campground or RV park with amenities is your safest overnight parking choice. Some RV parks and resorts even have gated entries to stop animals or trespassers from getting too close to campsites.

You may be on your way to a national parks adventure and you want to save money with a cheap or free overnight parking. We’ve all been there! Although there are many free RV parking options you’ll have to navigate additional hazards once you arrive. 

Let’s review the top three most dangerous places to sleep in your RV from the streets to the wilderness.

Camping in Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dangerous RV parking spot #1: On the street

Overnight street parking in your rig can be risky. In many places, it’s illegal to keep your RV on the street for an entire night. You could end up with a hefty fine or even get your RV towed.

Legality aside, it’s just not a great idea to park on the street if you can avoid it.

Potential thieves might see your RV as an easy target especially if they think it’s empty.

You won’t always have the benefit of security cameras from surrounding buildings either.

Instead of parking on the street, you should head for an RV-friendly parking lot. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see travel trailers and motorhomes with tow vehicles parking overnight at Walmart parking lots. Truck stops are usually filled with truckers at night and can be noisy but are usually safer than street parking.

In 2021, Love’s Travel Stops began the process of expanding its offerings by adding dedicated RV hookups at some of its travel stops. For complete details read Love’s RV Hookups: Comfortable RV Stays at Truck Stops?

You can also try overnight parking at other places like casinos. The national restaurant chain Cracker Barrel is also very RV-friendly. And outdoorsy big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, or Camping World also have large lots that can fit your RV, too! These retail stores usually have well-lit parking lots as well as security cameras. Some even have hookups or dump stations you can use for a small fee (sometimes they’re free, too!).

Dispersed camping at Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dangerous RV parking spot #2: In the wild

Some campers want to save money by boondocking or dry camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the backcountry. The U.S. and Canada have large swathes of public land in national forests where you can park for the night, totally free of charge. But even when you find a good spot, dispersed camping comes with its own hazards.

Wild animals are one of the biggest risks of backcountry RV camping. For instance, if you set up a campsite and decide to cook after a long travel day you might attract scavengers like raccoons, possums, and skunks. Even taking the food inside doesn’t always help because they can still smell the lingering aromas.

In the worst-case RV parking scenarios, you might even attract a bear!

Most bears have trouble getting into a locked RV but that doesn’t stop them from trying. You might sustain major bear damage to your RV siding, doors, and windows. Plus, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when there’s a huge predator at your campsite.

The wild is also a dangerous place to park your RV because you tend to be isolated from other people. Dispersed wild camping can be nice if you’re looking for peace and quiet but if nobody is around things can quickly go south in the event of an emergency. Boondockers tend to camp far away from other people so you won’t be able to call for help if your RV breaks down, a natural disaster strikes, or animal predators give you problems.

Camping at Frog City RV Park, Duson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dangerous RV parking spot #3: Risky campsites

Another dangerous RV parking choice is risky campsites in geologically active terrain.

Just because RVers stay in an established campground or RV park doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re safe. Some campgrounds are poorly maintained or located in geologic hazard zones. 

Be thoughtful as you select a campground and a specific site for the night. Consider these external factors that may lead to trouble.

Dispersed camping near Scenic Highway 24, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Questions to ask before choosing a campsite

Is your site level?

An unstable campsite can lead to disaster if your vehicle starts rolling or if the ground gives way. That’s because landslides are another potential danger if your site is on a slope or located in a hilly area previously burned by wildfire. One bad rain and your RV could get wiped out.

What do your surroundings look like?

Are there many dead trees in the area? Is the foliage particularly dry or overgrown? These can be fire hazards so you should stay away from potential kindling material. In a wind storm, dead trees can drop branches on top of your RV.

Is there water nearby?

We all love a scenic lake view or the comforting white noise of a nearby river. But bodies of water can flood in heavy rainfall. If your site is too close to the water line you might get trapped in mud or several inches of water. Proper drainage is crucial. Always put some distance between yourself and nearby water sources.

Three tips for keeping your RV (and you) safe

Between the streets, wilderness animals, and geographically risky campsites there are plenty of places that could qualify as the most dangerous places to park your RV for the night.

But in this RV life, sometimes you won’t have much of a choice. For example, your itinerary plans might fall through. Or you may desperately need to save money. In these cases, you might have to spend a few nights in these dangerous locations.

In this case, it’s important for you to protect yourself and your RV from potential harm. Nobody can prepare for every eventuality but there are some things you can do to stay safer.

Camping at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV parking safety tip #1: Buy an RV security system

For starters, invest in a top rated RV security system. This is especially helpful if you spend a lot of time camping on the streets, in rest areas, or in parking lots. Urban areas tend to have higher crime rates so you need to protect your home on wheels.

Most security systems have cameras, alarms, and ways to contact the authorities if there’s a break-in. It’s also a good idea to upgrade the locking mechanisms on your windows. Switch to a keyless RV door lock too.

RV parking safety tip #2: Take precautions against wild animals

Curious animals may visit your campsite if they smell food or other strong scents. It’s hard to deter them completely but you can prevent damage and force them to keep their distance if you take a few precautions such as:

Consider storing your food away from your RV. Bear-proof containers could be a good investment if you frequently go boondocking. You could also place your food in hard-to-reach areas.

Place animal deterrents around your campsite. Most creatures will be too scared to approach you if you have motion-activated lights or foul-smelling deterrents.

Camping in Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV parking safety tip #3: Have backup communication devices

Nowadays most of us rely on our smartphones for everything. And for good reason! Our phones are more powerful than ever and are getting better all the time. But if you want to camp in remote areas, you might not always have a strong cell phone signal.

If something happens while you’re camping in a dangerous place, you’ll need a reliable way to call for help. In this case, you have a few options:

A satellite phone is a good investment. This device communicates via satellites not cell towers. It can connect you to help when no cellular connectivity is present. They’re also quite sturdy so you don’t have to worry about breaking them.

Buy a GPS tracker, satellite messenger device, and subscription. A GPS tracking device and a host of satellite messenger devices and associated subscriptions can let you send status updates with location information and an SOS/distress option that will immediately dispatch emergency crews in the event of a life-threatening emergency. 

Flares, smoke signals, and other non-electronic communication methods can also come in handy. Consider taking a wilderness survival course to learn how to use these methods.

Camping at Smokian RV Park, Soap Lake, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Final thoughts about safer RV parking

Camping in an RV is so much fun because you have endless options for overnight RV parking. But there are certain places like rest stops on highways that you may want to avoid. But if you can’t get to a campground, you always have options. Just keep an eye out for these dangerous places to sleep in your RV, so you can make smarter decisions when you choose a place to park.

For more on safety, check out:

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Hiking and Camping in Bear Country: What You Need to Know

Camping in bear country comes with gorgeous scenic views but it also comes with… bears! Here’s what you need to know to stay safe and protect yourself and your gear.

All of the authoritative books on bears seem to agree on one thing: if you’re close enough to a bear to cause it to change its activity pattern, you’re too close, and in possible danger.

―Dennis R. Blanchard

First, I want to state that bear attacks are rare; you’re much more likely to be attacked and/or killed by another human than a bear. However, your odds of not being attacked by a bear are even better if you practice bear safety.

Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be prepared, not scared

Please don’t take the information in this article as fear-mongering. Wild animals are part of every nature experience.

Just remember, it always pays to be prepared.

It’s a sad fact of life that there are camping fatalities and injuries every year because of bear attacks. During peak season, at least one bear every week is put down by game officials somewhere in North America because it strayed into a campground. Unfortunately, most incidents arise because of irresponsible humans who left food out.

This article is to help protect you and the bears whose home we are visiting!

Despite the headlines and all the warning signs, bear incidents are really rare. Hundreds of thousands of hikers and campers enjoy the wilderness in bear country without even seeing a bear.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions.

When camping in bear country, you will almost always see signs advising you that bears are in the area. Heed their warnings!

Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping in bear country with dogs

If you travel with dogs, there can be other problems. Dogs antagonize bears especially mother bears with cubs.

You need to have your dog on a leash whenever camping in bear country.

Even on a leash, dogs are prohibited on many trails in national parks that have bears. In fact, Bear Country or not! You can read about the national parks that do allow dogs and under which conditions at 12 Dog-Friendly National Parks.

Dogs are usually allowed in campgrounds and on most paved areas near stores but always check first before planning your visit and day’s activities.

Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to store food when camping in bear country

Almost all campgrounds in bear country provide bear-proof food storage canisters at each site.

We don’t want to see bears get put down. And we don’t want bears to put people in danger. So, be sure to use these bear-proof food storage containers!

National Parks Service and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department list the following rules and suggestions for RVing in bear country.

Food rules:

  • Never store food outside or near your RV. After cooking and eating, bring all food inside.
  • Keep your area clean. Be sure to wash dishes, dispose of garbage, and wipe down tables.
  • Keep all items with strong odors (i.e., toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) inside the RV and out of reach of bears or the bear-proof containers available at most campsites in bear country.
  • Hanging food in trees is the traditional method of storing food while camping in the backcountry. The better alternative is a bear canister—a portable, hard-sided food locker.
Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping in bear country safety tips

Here are some additional tips that I strongly suggest you follow if bears live in the region.

  • Keep your dog on a leash or rope at all times. Never leave your dog outside at night while you sleep in the RV.
  • Close windows and lock your vehicle and RV when you leave your campsite and at night before you go to sleep.
  • If a bear does come near your campsite and no rangers are around, get in your RV or vehicle. Yell at the bear. Honk the horn. Play loud music, bang pots, and pans. Do not try to approach it.
  • If you will be spending time in bear country, get a can of bear spray. Bear spray is a super-concentrated, highly irritating pepper spray proven to be more effective than firearms at deterring bears.

General hiking precautions in bear country

  • Most bear encounters do not happen in campgrounds. They occur in the backcountry while people are hiking.
  • Never hike alone. Two or three people are best. Bears will usually move out of the way if they hear people approaching, so make plenty of noise to make them aware of your presence.
  • Most bells are not enough to warn a bear away. Calling out and clapping hands loudly at regular intervals are better ways to make your presence known. Hiking quietly endangers you, the bear, and other hikers.
  • A bear consistently surprised by quiet hikers may become habituated to close human contact and less likely to avoid people. This sets up a dangerous situation for both visitors and bears.
Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional tips when hiking

  • Bear tracks, bear scat, and shredded logs are all signs you’re in bear country.
  • Be alert at all times and leave your headphones at home. Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk when the wind is in your face, visibility is limited, or you’re walking by a noisy stream. A firm clap or quick shout warns bears that humans are in the area.
  • In late summer and fall, bears need to forage up to 20 hours a day, so avoid trails that go through berry patches, oak brush, and other natural food sources.
  • Keep dogs leashed, exploring canines can surprise a bear. Your dog could be injured or come running back to you with an irritated bear on its heels.
  • Keep children between adults and teach them what to do if they see a bear. Don’t let them run ahead or lag behind.
  • Double bag food and never leave any trash or leftovers behind. Finding treats teaches bears to associate trails with food.
  • Never approach bears or offer food. If you see a bear, watch from a safe distance and enjoy this very special experience. If your presence causes the bear to look up or change its behavior in any way, you’re too close.
Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to do if you encounter a bear

  • Stand still, stay calm, and quietly back away and leave. Do not make aggressive eye contact. Talk in a normal tone of voice. Be sure the bear has an escape route.
  • Never run or climb a tree.
  • If you see cubs, their mother is usually close by. Leave the area immediately.
  • If a bear stands up, it is just trying to identify what you are by getting a better look and smell.
  • Wave your arms slowly overhead and talk calmly. If the bear huffs, pops its jaws or stomps a paw, it wants you to give it space.
  • Step off the trail to the downhill side, keep looking at the bear, and slowly back away until the bear is out of sight.

What to do if the bear approaches

A bear knowingly approaching a person could be a food-conditioned bear looking for a handout or, very rarely, an aggressive bear. If you are approached, do the following:

  • Stand your ground. Yell or throw small rocks in the direction of the bear.
  • Get out your bear spray and use it when the bear is about 40 feet away.
  • If the bear attacks, don’t play dead! Fight back with anything available. People have successfully defended themselves with penknives, trekking poles, and even bare hands.

Best bear spray

Chuck Bartlebaugh is perhaps the top expert in bear safety and bear/human interactions in North America and founder and director of the Be Bear Aware Campaign. Chuck says bear spray is the best choice for stopping a charging, attacking, or threatening bear. The bear spray he recommends is called Counter Assault.

He said it works because it’s powerful and able to shoot 25-30 feet—something to keep in mind considering bears can move at a speed of up to 30 miles per hour.

If hiking in a group, every person should have their own can.

Worth Pondering…

Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400 pounds and is guarding her baby!

—James Rollins, Ice Hunt