Copyright 2010 by Mario Vaden
The idea for this page came to mind after seeing broken glass at the Boy Scout Redwood Trail parking area, followed by an ad 2 weeks later. The ad was posted for the area Humboldt County, by someone who lost a camera and computer at Drury Parkway in Prairie Creek while hiking: it was a theft. A call to the Redwood Parks and Del Norte County Sheriff offices confirmed there was a late summer / early autumn rash of thefts. One park employee I talked with was a target of theft too at Fern Canyon. Apparently the time of day and locations were random. This led me to brainstorm for ideas to protect valuables.
Be Diligent to Protect Valuables
Cell Phone, GPS Devices, Cameras, Hard Drives, Cards, Money, Checkbooks, Laptop Computers
1. Avoid leaving valuables in the vehicle
The best advice is to not leave valuables in a vehicle. But that is not always feasible. And who needs this piece of advice anymore? Does D - O - H ring a bell !!
2. Motel locker or safe
My call to the the Sheriff office left me with the impression that motel room thefts were not really a problem. They suggested to ask the motel about using a locker or safe. And several provide them.
3. Engine compartment and fireproof box
How big is your engine compartment? I asked law enforcement about engine compartments, and they said the engine hood was not a target like the car interior at the redwood trailheads.
Keep in mind residual heat from your engine. But I noticed that my full size truck has room for an insulated fire box like office supply stores sell. Or, a laptop case if a non-flammable insulating wrap could be found.
4. Make a nearby valuables cache
Based on my experience hiking and working in the redwoods, I would rate this #2 to protect valuables. At least for the north redwoods, I would expect 100% success from doing this.
It may only take 3 extra minutes, but consider a valuables cache if you are 100% certain you can do it without being observed. When I helped with redwood measuring, we would stash gear to avoid carrying it the next day. Can this be applied to protecting valuables? Think outside the box. There are many ways to do this.
Suppose we arrive at Hiouchi trailhead and have a laptop. It can be put in a black plastice garbage bag, carried up the trail for 3 minutes, then stashed 200 feet off-trail at an obvious and certain-to-remember landmark. Or driving to Mill Creek Trail in Jedediah Smith redwoods. We could look for a outstanding stump well before the trail, and likewise stash valuables in a bag 200 feet off the road. There are not many people around. The odds of the cache being found are next to nil. The odometer can be set to record the distance. I suggest a note on a guage or seat prior to hiking that says "remember". Local folks or repeat hikers of the park may understand why I mention this and be comfortable with the idea. If you have not seen the parks before, it may make a lot more sense to you once your arrive and see how quiet and dense the area is.
Did this ... urban ... in San Diego too, when picking our son up from the Marine Corp MCRD after basic training, 2011. I forgot to leave something in Oregon that the Marines would not want coming in the gate ... and they did search vehicles too. Having no motel the last day to use a safe, I cached this certain item at dark (1am) where I was 100% certain nobody would watch me conceal it. And where nobody would have any reason to stumble upon it. Being cased, it would not matter retrieving in daylight the next day. So after the graduation ceremony, we went a couple of miles for a successful retrieval.
5. Have a firearm from out of state
Have a firearm from out of state, but no permit for the park? Don't quote me, but my opinion is that it's probably best kept in your pack where nobody but you will know about it. Who would ever ask in the north redwoods on the trail? Hard to argue that it would better on the body of a thief.
Don't want to pack the weight of a firearm? Ammo is lighter. Chain it to the frame of your seat and feed the lock through the trigger ... take the ammo with you. Some gun shops sell small armored boxes that can be mounted in the trunk or floor. If you drill and anchor with hex head hardware, odds are theives won't have the right tools to disassemble unless you carry those tools too.
6. Decoys !! Give them something to steal !!
Now, I would not leave these in sight to encourage broken windows, but how about putting decoys in the vehicle? Let's say that you have stashed your checkbooks, GPS, an extra camera or computer drives up in your dashboard.
So how about acquiring a broken camera and lens or defunct laptop and case, etc.. And just leave them on the seat or floor underneath a jacket? Who is going to know that they don't work? This should give satisfaction and encourage them to leave with impression you don't hide stuff.
Some folks, like one ranger, don't lock their vehicle, and may even leave a window open. If you don't have a luxury car, and open window with hidden decoys under a towel may save the windows and real valuables hidden like under the dash.
7. Buy a big enough day pack.
If you can handle the gear weight okay, a decent size day pack may be your best option for valuables. A mid-size daypack should be able to carry 2 or 3 small camera cases, GPS, water, food, checkbooks and a bunch of other stuff. Just pack it all in with you if you can.
8. Small safe in your trunk
This is probably not too off the wall. But have you seen the small safes sold at office supply stores? About $150 (2011) and maybe 70 pounds? Several have bolt holes in the bottom and ccould be mounted in a car trunk if drilling is available without punching the fuel tank. What are the odds that someone would ever break into your trunk and sit there unthreading bots from under the chassis? These fire resistant or fireproof units are as small as 12"x12"x14" tall.
Enjoy your trip !!