Festivals are a blast but the last thing you want to have to worry about is someone who’s had one too many wandering into your tent by mistake or someone going through your tent and stealing your valuable items while you're off listening to music and having fun.
I’m no stranger to tent life, and in my time as both an outdoor and festival enjoyer, I’ve picked up a few handy tricks for locking a tent and keeping it secure while both sleeping and away. This can stop your items from being stolen but can also stop drunk people wandering into your tent and sleeping in your bed (yes that happens regularly at some festivals).
Much of it comes down to psychology and ensuring that your tent doesn't become a target to potential thieves and if it does get targeted they move on quickly and don't find anything of value easily.
Most thefts at festivals tend to be thefts of opportunity. The goal here is to make your tent more difficult to get into so people don't try to get into it. A determined thief will cut your tent open, but this is much less likely.
Ways to lock a tent at a festival (and not get robbed) include:
- Using bread ties to thread the two zippers of your tent together, then twist.
- Use a keyring to link your tent’s zippers together.
- Tying a shoe lace to hold the two tent zippers together.
- Using a padlock (While padlocks can be useful for locking a tent while camping, using a padlock at a festival can be a sign for potential robbers – be sure to tuck/hide it).
While all of these tricks will make your tent slightly more secure, they also have some flaws that could potentially have downsides, whether in the case of a robber or an emergency.
Ultimately a tent is NOT a very secure place to store valuable items. All a robber needs is a simple knife and they can cut a hole in the side of your tent and gain access. Some items can draw attention to your tent and make them more likely candidates for a slash and grab.
Making it slightly harder to get into can deter robbers looking for an easy (and stealthy) steal, but you also don't want to draw too much attention to your tent either.
I’ll touch on the pros and cons of each method below as well as other ways to secure valuables at a festival, so be sure to keep reading.
1. Use Twist Ties (Bread Ties)
If you're looking to lock your tent at the festival while you're inside it (so no come can come in while you're sleeping) then twisty ties are a good option.
Using the twisty ties like the ones that come on a loaf of bread can be on of the quickest and easiest ways to lock up a tent at a festival.
It’s as simple as threading the ties through the holes of the two tent zippers (once the tent is closed), then twisting it together to secure.
This is one of my favorite methods since its both cheap and effective. While the ties are pretty simple, the wire can actually be surprisingly strong, and its still easy to undo from the inside in the case of a nighttime bathroom run.
2. Use Shoe Laces
If you’ve already arrived at your festival and didn’t plan ahead for locking the tent, shoe laces can be your hero.
Similar to other methods, you’ll need to zip up your tent to where the two zippers meet. Then just thread your shoe lace through the two holes on the zippers, and tie a knot.
If you don't have show laces then some paracord can work just as well and usually you'll have a spare zip line or two that are usually used to hold your tent down during high winds.
If you're doing this whilst inside the tent I’d recommend sticking to the good old bunny ear knot in this case, as you don’t want to be stuck fidgeting with a knot in the case of an nighttime emergency (knots can be stubborn when you have to pee).
3. Link Zippers Using a Keyring
It’s generally a smart idea to only bring along what you absolutely need at a festival, but one thing that you’re likely going to carry with you is your keys.
You can actually make use of them, or rather the keyring, to secure your tent at night.
As you can see in the video below, all you need to do is attach the keyring to your tent’s zippers, effectively locking them together.
While this method is ideal for whilst you're inside your tent you can also do it when you leave your tent. If you do this don't leave your keys behind for obvious reasons.
You'll still be able to unhook the zippers from outside the tent once you come back, but it just makes it that much harder for a thief to get in and out of your tent quickly and so they'll be more likely to move on to an easier target.
It also doesn't draw attention to your tent like an external padlock would.
While it may be a little harder to undo than other methods, it’s great since you won’t have to bring an extra item just to secure your tent, and it’s a trick you can use if you’re out of other options.
4. Use A Padlock (With Caution)
Before you start shopping for a padlock, you should know that there are a couple major downsides to using them at festival.
The most obvious con to using a padlock is that they’re basically a flashing sign telling potential crooks that your tent is a gold mine of valuable goods.
Similar to the other methods, you’ll need to thread the lock into the zippers of your tent, where it may be protruding and in vision of other festival-goers.
Most festival goers share the same sentiment that padlocks are not good for festivals for this very reason. The idea of locking a tent is to stop people from stumbling in or snatching goods easily, but at the end of the day if someone wants to steal, tents are exactly the most secure structures and can easily be slashed.
A padlock hanging from the zippers of your tent will be a clearcut sign that you’re protecting items of value.
Another downside is that, similar to zip ties, a padlock will take some time to unlock in the case of an emergency. This makes it an unfavorable choice for locking a tent at night.
For these reasons, I personally wouldn’t recommend a padlock as your first choice for locking a tent, but if you absolutely want the sense of security that an actual lock brings, there are a few workarounds to the downsides presented.
For one, you should always be sure to tuck or conceal the lock while using it. This can be done by slipping it under the zipper flaps of your tent so that the lock remains inside.
Alternatively you can fit some padlocks INSIDE your tent where they can't be seen but you can still unlocked the padlock by opening the zippers slightly and fitting the key inside or putting in the correct combination.
This can be a bit fiddly, but it does solve the problem of potential robbers seeing your padlock and targeting your tent.
Whilst inside, to speed up the unlocking process, you can leave the correct combination on the lock at night or change just one number. This way you won’t have to fidget with the numbers before exiting your tent.
If you’re sure about using a padlock to lock your tent, you’ll find it easiest to use a smaller luggage lock, such as this one from Amazon.
How to Keep Valuables Safe at a Festival
There are several ways to keep valuables safe at festivals that are, in my opinion, much more effective than simply locking your tent.
1. Hide Valuables Under Your Tent
While it may sound a bit odd, hiding your stuff under your tent can be one of the easiest and surest ways of keeping them safe.
To do this, place your stuff in a bag (ex. Ziploc) and dig a small hole under your tent to place it in. I’d recommend doing this at night as it would probably draw some attention in daylight.
Most thieves will look inside your tent for valuables, not under your tent.
However, if they do decide to look under your tent then obviously nothing is stopping them grabbing your stuff and running off with it.
2. Keep Valuables On You (Or in the Car)
A bit obvious, but the absolute best (and most recommended) way to keep your stuff safe is to keep it on your person or locked in the car.
I personally only take absolute essentials when camping out in a tent, but since your car can often times be a bit of a walk away when you’re at a festival, you’ll have to do some consideration when it comes to what you want to take with you.
I use my car for valuables I don't absolutely need day-to-day but even those I usually try to leave at home and just take the absolute essentials with me to a festival so there isn't much (if anything) for people to steal.
3. Park Near a Thoroughfare, Traffic Route or Well Lit Area
If you have an option of where to pitch your tent then pitching it in higher trafficked areas (near walkways, toilet blocks etc) can deter some thieves.
Also pitching in areas that are more well lit and harder for people to hide in the shadows can help to stop your tent becoming a target.
4. Pitch Near Friends & Get To Know The People Around You
One of the things I absolutely love about festivals is the new relationships I make and the cool people I always end up meeting.
If you're going with friends then camp together so you can all look out for each other.
If you're going solo or with a friend or small group then make friends and get to know the people around you. Then you can spot a stranger for them and help keep their stuff safe and they can spot a stranger for you and help keep your stuff safe.
5. Don't Keep Valuables Near The Tent Door
Whether it be daytime or night time thieves generally want to get in and get out and not waste much time inside your tent looking for valuables.
If your stuff is right near the door opening they can steal it without even entering your tent. This is true even if you're asleep in your tent.
It's a good idea to hide your valuables with you on your person, inside your sleeping bag or inside your pillow when you're asleep at night.
When you're out of your tent anything you can't take with you try to make it as difficult to find as possible.
6. Use a Diversion Safe
A “diversion safe” is any inconspicuous object that can be used to hide goods. One Reddit post mentioned using their food (in this case a Cheese-It Box) to hide their stuff in, which I found both funny and genius.
These stash spots can be simple yet surprisingly effective, as any intruder looking to grab and go will likely avoid anything that isn’t of value.
You can find many of these sneaky safes on Amazon, like this safe that’s disguised as a Dasani bottle. Or you can even create your own using egg cartons, cereal boxes, chip packets or anything else that a thief might ignore.
Keep your items safer from thieves when camping or out exploring by stashing them inside this diversion safe that looks convincingly like a water bottle.
7. Use a Tent Alarm
A tent alarm causes noise when your tent is opened, and it’s one of the best ways to stay alert when camping out in a tent.
While there are actual tent alarms that can be purchased online, you can actual get crafty and make one on your own by tying some beer cans together and linking them to your tent zippers.
This method is cheap and pairs well with a tent lock to keep your stuff safe at night.