How to lock a tent while camping

by | Jun 30, 2023 | Backcountry camping

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Imagine this: You’re out in the wilderness, far from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The stars are your only light, the rustling leaves your only soundtrack.

It’s blissful and serene until you realize that your tent, your temporary home, is vulnerable to unwanted intruders.

A campsite number sign and a tent.

This can be a major source of anxiety, taking away the peace that comes with camping.

But what if I told you there’s a solution?

That you can secure your tent and sleep soundly without a worry?

Let’s conquer this common concern together and bring back the tranquility to your outdoor escapes.

Securing your tent: An overview

Securing your tent while camping is important for both experienced campers and first-time adventurers alike.

Locking a tent from the inside

A person inside a tent

To lock your tent from the inside, bring the two zippers on the door together and loop a small padlock or luggage lock through the zipper holes.

If you prefer a more advanced option, you can use a tent lock with a combination code that only you and your family know.

Cable locks and padlocks

A combination padlock

Cable locks and padlocks provide additional security for your tent.

Attach a cable lock through your tent’s zipper holes or loops and wrap it around a nearby tree or tent post.

Padlocks can also be used on zipper holes, just like locking your tent from the inside. Remember to keep your lock keys in a safe place and, in case of a combination lock, memorize the code.

How to choose the right padlock for your tent

Zippers on a camping tent

Padlocks for camping tents vary in terms of materials, size, weight, and locking mechanisms.

Lightweight and robust padlocks are ideal for camping, as they don’t add much weight to your gear, and they withstand harsh outdoor conditions.

When choosing a padlock for your camping tent, consider the type of lock mechanism: combination, key, or even tech-savvy options like fingerprint or Bluetooth connectivity.

Combination locks save you from carrying extra keys, but key locks may offer higher security levels.

Meanwhile, hi-tech padlocks offer added convenience and security features but require batteries or charging.

To make sure you choose the best padlock for your camping tent, consider these key factors:

Material: Opt for a padlock that’s made from durable materials like hardened steel or aluminum.

These materials are likely to withstand harsh outdoor conditions and resist cutting or sawing attempts.

Security features: High-quality padlocks offer enhanced security features.

Look for a padlock with a dual locking mechanism or a shrouded shackle, which provides added protection against picking or forced entry.

Size: Choose a padlock that is the right size for your camping tent’s zippers or loops.

Padlocks come in various sizes, and it’s important to pick one that fits your tent’s locking points without being too large or small.

Ease of use: For a hassle-free camping experience, opt for a padlock that’s easy to operate.

Combination locks eliminate the need for keys, but make sure you choose one with a smooth mechanism and easily visible numbers.

If you prefer a keyed padlock, consider one with a key cover to prevent dirt and moisture from getting into the lock.

Material Size Security features Ease of use
Hardened steel or aluminum Various sizes Dual locking mechanism, shrouded shackle Combination lock or keyed padlock with key cover

3 of the best padlocks to lock a tent

Here are our top three picks for the best padlocks to use on a camping tent:

Master lock set your own combination TSA approved luggage lock

Master Lock Set Your Own Combination TSA Approved Luggage Lock

This durable, combination lock is perfect for securing your camping tent as it’s TSA approved and provides a reliable layer of protection.


  • TSA approved, allowing easy inspection and relocking by screeners
  • Ability to set your own 3-digit combination
  • Sturdy metal body with vinyl covered flexible braided steel shackle


  • Cable may be too long for some tent zippers
  • Numbers on the combination dial may be difficult to read in low light
  • Locking mechanism may not deter determined thieves

Comemela 3-digit combination lock

Comemela 3-Digit Combination Lock

The Comemela 3-digit combination lock is a reliable choice for securing your camping tent and belongings with its customizable code and durable material.


  • Easy-to-set 3-digit code
  • Waterproof and made of zinc alloy
  • Versatile for multiple uses


  • Some users received defective products
  • May not be suitable for heavy-duty usage
  • Instructions can be slightly confusing

BV TSA approved luggage travel lock

BV TSA Approved Luggage Travel Lock

This BV padlock is perfect for securing your camping tent, offering convenient combination access and solid protection.


  • TSA accepted, avoiding damage during inspections
  • Keyless design with 3-digit combination, easy to use
  • Resettable with 1,000 possible combinations for maximum security


  • Not as durable as padlocks with solid metal shackles
  • Cable lock may require extra effort to close tightly
  • Unclear instructions for combination resetting

Alternative methods for locking a tent

A man zipping up the door of a tent

Other ways to lock and secure your tent include:

Zip ties or small ropes: A simple and cost-effective way to secure your tent is using zip ties or small ropes to tie the zipper eyelets.

Make sure to use an easily accessible cutting tool to remove the zip tie in case of an emergency or if you need to exit the tent quickly.

Alarms: Set up alarms on the entrance of your tent to notify you in case of intrusion. Some tent alarm systems can be attached to the zipper.

Keep in mind that alarms may not always prevent intruders, but they can alert you and scare away potential thieves.

Cameras: Inexpensive and compact security cameras are a great way to monitor your campsite and deter any unwanted visitors.

Look for cameras with night vision capabilities that can be easily mounted inside or outside of the tent.

The Biluocon mini spy camera, for instance, is a small wireless option that can be placed on your tent, around your campsite, or even inside your tent if you choose.

Keep in mind, however, that these cameras aren’t foolproof.

Important considerations for tent security

Don’t count on padlocks to stop intruders from going inside your tent.

Anyone who really wants to get in can easily cut through a tent’s thin nylon fabric and take what they want.

With that said, here are some additional tips to consider for minimizing your risk of theft or property damage.

Choose a safe campsite

A campsite with a tent and camp chair.

When planning your camping trip, selecting a safe campsite is the first step towards ensuring your tent’s security.

Keep these factors in mind when picking your spot:

  • Choose a campground with a good reputation for safety.
  • Opt for a well-lit area, as this can deter potential thieves.
  • Position your tent within sight of other campers but not isolated from them, which may deter theft while still maintaining your privacy.

Use lights for deterrence

String lights in trees at a campsite.

well-lit campsite can act as a deterrent to would-be thieves.

Consider these lighting options:

  • Solar-powered or battery-operated LED lights placed around your tent perimeter.
  • Motion-sensor security lights that activate when someone approaches your tent.
  • Hanging a flashlight or lantern inside your tent, as it creates a sense of occupancy.

Leave valuables at home

A woman wearing a diamond engagement ring with her hands placed on a wooden railing.

Instead of packing your valuable possessions, such as jewelry, laptops, or cameras, leave them at home.

Bring cheaper alternatives for items you like to use, such as a pair of old headphones instead of your expensive AirPods.

If you do decide to bring valuable items, know the risks associated with it, and consider insuring those items if they’re especially valuable.

Lock items in your car when you’re away

The trunk of a car filled with camping gear parked on a frontcountry campsite.

If you’ll be away from your campsite for any length of time, it’s best to store valuables in your car and lock it.

This might include your sleep system (sleeping bag, air mattress, etc.), clothing, and any other gear you don’t want to risk losing.

Avoid leaving your campsite for extended periods

A campsite in the forest.

Leaving your tent unattended for long periods of time increases the likelihood that someone could enter and take what they want.

If you plan to leave for more than an hour or so, make sure to secure all valuables in a safe place or lock them up in your car.

Simple and effective tent locking techniques

A zipper on the rainfly of a tent.

Here are a couple of easy ways to lock your tent without using a padlock:

Use shoelaces and rope

Sometimes, the most straightforward solutions are the most effective.

One way to add security to your tent is to use a rope or even your shoelace to tie the zipper holes together.

Simply thread the rope or shoelace through the zipper holes, then tie a firm knot.

This will make it more challenging for someone to unzip your tent without your knowledge.

Besides, it’s an affordable and easily accessible way to enhance your tent security while camping.

Just make sure to use a simple knot that you can easily undo in case of emergencies or when you need to leave the tent.

Secure zippers with zip ties

Another practical and budget-friendly option to secure your tent is using zip ties.

Thread a zip tie through the zipper holes, then tighten it until it securely holds the zippers together.

This method prevents the zippers from being easily separated, adding an extra layer of protection and deterring potential thieves.

If you want to combine zip ties with additional security, consider using a small padlock together with the zip tie.

This combination will not only make it more difficult to open the tent but also visibly secure, discouraging anyone from attempting to access your belongings.

Remember, safe camping involves taking proper precautions to protect yourself and your possessions.

These simple techniques can make a significant difference in ensuring that your tent remains secure and you can enjoy a worry-free camping experience.

So, grab some shoelaces, rope, or zip ties, and enjoy the great outdoors with a little extra peace of mind.

Next up: How to set up a tent on a slope or uneven ground

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Are there specific locks for tents?

Most tents don’t come with locks, and there aren’t any locks that are specifically made for camping tents that you can buy separately.

However, you can buy locks that are designed to be attached to the zippers.

These locks usually come in a combination code and pick-resistant design, making it difficult for potential intruders to pry open your tent.

What’s the best way to lock a tent?

The best way to lock a tent is to use a combination of zip ties and locks.

Attach a sturdy padlock or combination code lock to the zipper holes, then use zip ties to secure them in place.

You can also opt for motion-sensor security lights that will turn on when someone approaches your tent, scaring away potential thieves.

Are security cameras effective at deterring theft?

Security cameras can be very effective at deterring theft from your campsite.

For instance, infrared or night vision cameras with motion detection can alert you when someone is near your tent and can help you keep an eye on your belongings even when you’re away.

However, these cameras are not a substitute for vigilance.

Make sure to keep an eye out at all times while camping and take extra measures, such as locking your tent when you’re away or using motion-sensor lights, to maximize security.

Do padlocks provide good tent security?

Padlocks are typically not very effective at securing tents since it’s easy for intruders to cut through the tent’s fabric or simply break the zipper.

However, if an intruder is only looking for easy access to a tent, a padlock may be enough to discourage them from entering.

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About Us

Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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