Boondocking Security Incidents

boondocking security

I’ve spent about 6 months boondocking / urban camping / free camping while working on the bus conversion. Mostly near Portland, OR. It was a challenge to transition to van life from the standard routine.  It’s been a super positive experience and I regret not relaxing a bit more earlier on. But there have been a few boondocking security incidents… I”m going to go through them so hopefully, other people can learn something from my experiences.



First incident: At the location in the picture above. I had a drug addict run onto the roof of the bus while I was working inside. All the bus doors were closed and there were drop cloth curtains over the windows. The roof vents were open for ventilation. He saw the open roof vents as a chance to steal something. Luckily I was somewhat mentally prepared for this possibility. I had watched one of The Nomadic Fanatic’s Youtube videos where he talks about a belligerent drunk climbing onto the roof of his RV.

So I quickly went out the front bus door and see that there is some delinquent drug addict on the roof of the bus. The guy would have made a good Walking Dead extra. I start insisting that he get down but he stayed up there for an extra moment out of concern I might attack him. He finally came down and proceeded to start acting like he was from the area and just curious about the bus. Then he scurried away…I called the police to report the incident but I should have made an effort to take his picture. Lesson learned.



Bus conversion paint

Incident #2: This is the parking lot where I painted the blue lines on the bus and completed the penny countertop.

Some random woman pushed open the bus door right after I had stepped inside. I heard the bus door starting to open slowly and immediately went to the door before she could fully open it. She was shocked to see me standing there and immediately went into nervous, drug addict babbling before scurrying away. I didn’t bother calling the police but I now regret that decision.

Incident #3 Same location in the picture above. One of the side tool compartments was open, but still secure with an additional latch / lock I added. Suddenly I felt the whole bus shake while I was working inside. I looked out the window to find a vehicle stopped by the bus and man making his way back to the vehicle. He had been trying to pry open the tool compartment. I yelled to him and he started a similar type of nervous drug addict babbling as the vagrants in incident #1 and #2. I went to snap a picture of his vehicle but he quickly backed away as to not expose his license plates to the camera.




Incident #4: Boondocking near a random business park. I forgot a small black air pump on the front seat of my dingy car. Someone saw it and must have thought it was valuable. They smashed the window, took the air pump, and rooted through the glove box. It was only a $10 air pump but the lesson learned is not to leave anything visible! Luckily they didn’t go to the trunk where some tools were. I did go through the motions of filing the police report.

This was the worst experience over the six months. It was also preventable on my part. It’s also important to keep these experiences in perspective. I spent about 180 days working on the bus in public spaces and only had these four security incidents. There are lessons that can be learned or reinforced from this post but it definitely doesn’t represent what the average person will experience.

There are a few more pictures below to give you a sense of the area.






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3 replies
  1. Margo
    Margo says:

    What is the point of the pictures of the white car? Why do you think they are all drug addicts verses just plain thiefs? What area are you in and have you thought about posting privacy signs?

    • Michael
      Michael says:

      What is the point of the pictures of the white car?
      The white car is the dingy vehicle for the bus.
      Why do you think they are all drug addicts verses just plain thiefs?
      I can only speculate on the three that I interacted with and they all gave me the impression they were on something. Who knows about the window break incident.
      What area are you in and have you thought about posting privacy signs?
      This all took place in the Portland/Gresham, OR area. 3 different locations. Three of the four incidents happened at spots I only stopped at for the day, so signs probably don’t apply.

      The bus project attracted good and bad attention. My experiences are kind of an outlier on the chart. I spent six months working on the bus in public spaces and still only had these four negative experiences. But I still felt that people could benefit from this post.

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