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Nail-biting stories of sketchy people while camping. What to do?

I’m not sure what it is about the nature of full-time RV travel and boondocking, but the lifestyle seems to encounter sketchy (i.e., unreliable or unsafe) people from time to time while camping. Throughout my travels, I’ve run into several people that just seemed to be “off.” I suspect that other RVers here can say the same.

While I’m used to meeting plenty of enthusiastic campers and fellow travelers on the road, there have been multiple times I’ve been peacefully at camp only to be interrupted by a shady person. These interactions always left me a bit on guard, but luckily always ended smoothly. Here are some of my most memorable situations.

Stories of encountering sketchy people while camping

“Is your camper door secure?”

This was one of the only times I was left a bit scared, and my fiancée and I promptly packed up camp and left. We were boondocking out in the National Forest just north of the Columbia River Gorge. It was early in the morning, we had just finished breakfast, and we were peacefully sipping our coffee outside.

A newer Jeep Wrangler came ripping up the dirt road, flew by our campsite, and suddenly slammed on the brakes. We watched the driver throw it in reverse and pull down the little side road that our camp was at. The individual got out of the vehicle, somewhat stumbling, and approached our camp.

He asked us if there was a trail around—a normal question—but quickly became disinterested in his hike as soon as we gave him directions. He proceeded to ask us detailed questions about all our expensive possessions, including if we have a generator, if we have batteries, and, alarmingly, if our camper door was secure or not.

The weirdest part was that the man refused to take off his black leather driving gloves the entire conversation—even though the weather was well into the 80s. We informed him we were just packing up, and fortunately he drove off, but in the opposite direction of the trailhead directions we gave him.

“Can you drive me 20 miles into the National Forest with no service?”

Outside of Mt. Rainier National Park, there’s a nice little forest road that’s sprinkled with tucked-away pullouts perfect for boondocking campers. My fiancée and I had been camping there for a few days as we explored the park. One day while driving back to camp we noticed a disheveled individual walking alongside the road. We didn’t pay much attention to him and kept driving on.

While sitting at camp about two hours later, I heard someone shouting, “Helloooo?” The individual we saw walking earlier had apparently noticed our camper from the road and came up to approach us. He seemed absolutely exhausted and asked for water. I grabbed him a gallon from inside and my partner made him some pancakes.

He informed me that he had been walking for two days from a city miles away and was trying to get to “a family friend’s house further down the road.” I found this odd, as we were on a National Forest road and there were no houses. He asked me to drive him the rest of the way—just 20 miles, according to him.

As concerned as I was for the individual, my wits reminded me that I was out in the forest with zero cell service and it probably wouldn’t be the smartest idea to drive a stranger deep into the woods. I gave him another gallon of water for his journey, more food, and wished him well on his way. Reluctantly, he kept walking down the barren forest service road.

Have any stories?

I always try to assume the best of people’s intentions, but when you live full-time on the road sometimes you must be a little bit wary. After all, most of the time you’re out in the boonies without another soul in sight. It helps to be cautious.

Have you ever dealt with a sketchy character while camping? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

##RVT1070

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Herman
9 days ago

We travel with a 105 pound (big boy) German Shepherd (GSD), and occasionally with another 60 pound GSD (she doesn’t travel well, often staying at home). It is amazing how many folks just amble on after he sticks his head out of the window or gets up out of the shade of the motorhome. By the way, both are very well trained!

Bob
11 days ago

I’m reading this while setting in a hospital emergency room. I’ll say I’ve met some sketchy folks but, also some good friends. We have an individual we occasionally meet up with. We text and if we are nearby we meet up. We met up a couple of weeks ago and are planning to head out tomorrow morning. I got a call this morning and he was not doing well. So here we are. He travels alone so I’m glad we were here when he needed us. He lives in the Northeast part of the country and we are currently in the Southwest. I cringe to think what might have happened had we not been around. Just thought I’d relate a story of someone not so sketchy

Kris
11 days ago

Camped at state park west of Denver in our tent trailer with our miniature schnauzer. A large SUV pulls up to the site next to ours. I kept waiting for them to set up a tent. They didn’t. They ate their supper. About 3 a.m. their car alarm goes off. I woke up and unzipped the canvas and peeked thru. In the distance I saw a silhouette of a figure retreating down an open glade hillside in the moonlight. In the morning we talked to them. They had left their cooler out on the table and slept in their SUV. Their cooler was ransacked. A package of raw hamburger had been opened. I thought it was a bear after I told them what I saw. A black bear walking on 2 legs down the hillside. They thought it was a human. We agreed after some laughter that it was bigfoot. I thought they were fools. The first rule of camping is do not leave your food out. They said they thought our dog would bark or protect everybody. Looked at our mini schnauzer and I really thought they were fools.

Gary Bate
12 days ago

Of all the civilized or first world countries I’ve camped in I can’t think of a more scary one than USA . I’ve camped all over the USA, at least 200 places in the past few years and traveled over 25,000 miles and will never ever boondock because of the genuine risk factor, your far from help, often alone and apparently everyone in this country seems to own a gun. I’m not willing to risk my wife’s life or my own by placing us in a remote situation in a country with such a high violent crime rate so I’ll stick to crowded RV Parks and State parks.

Sharon B
10 days ago
Reply to  Gary Bate

It is so sad to read your story, but I am not surprised. Yes, the USA has changed and is known world wide for its worsening violence.
Discarded mentally ill, poverty, true homeless, anger and hate has ballooned in the recent years. It is very scary to watch the future unfold. For those of us who want to enjoy traveling in our RVs we must be vigilant and observant so we can continue to enjoy this wonderful way of life. Unfortunately, this consciousness is necessary.
Now, on the light note, it’s time to vacuum my wonderful 5th wheel. Oh, I just love this rig!! And…what shall I cook for dinner? hmmm… spaghetti?

Ggimlick
12 days ago

We heard a lot of screaming and a dog barking late one afternoon a couple sites up from us. Turns out the husband accidentally shot himself inside the 5th wheel and bled out while the excited great dane ran around inside barking. The wife came home and opened the door to find a huge mess and her husband dead. It shook us all up pretty badly, but nothing compared to what this poor woman experienced.

Bob M
12 days ago
Reply to  Ggimlick

I had an incident a couple weeks ago when my little Bichon decided to play dentist. She somehow managed while we were sleeping to pull a tooth or two out. Our couch and all over the carpet looked like a murder scene. She’s ok, but never experienced anything like it before.

Mary
12 days ago

One morning as hubby was brewing the coffee I opened the blinds to see no less than 12 law enforcement vehicles from various agencies surrounding a campsite near us where we were hosting for Oregon State Parks. All personnel were dressed in full tactical gear. Law enforcement had just apprehended a bank robber who allegedly robbed 3 banks in the area on his bicycle! Hubby had a nice conversation with the fellow the day before and the guy even showed him inside his tent after my husband had commented on the uniqueness of the tent. He was a really nice guy!

Robin Deane
12 days ago

We had a mechanical issue with our motor home in Albequerque and we had to stay overnight in a mall parking lot. Our rig was totally disabled on a Sunday afternoon and no tow trucks could haul us out of there until the next morning. Through the night there were numerous homeless wandering about, sometimes approaching the motor home. My husband had to walk to the gas station on the corner, locking me inside. Several sketchy looking men approached the rig and asked for money, etc. They said things like, “you’ve got a motor home and we know you usually have some money with you.’ I held my ground and they eventually went away. Through the night there were dozens of low rider cars cruising around the mall, multiple times, cruising right by the rig, going at a crawl. I don’t think my husband got a wink of sleep that night as he was sitting up with his handgun hoping he didn’t have to defend us. We got out of there asap next day when mechanical help finally came.

Wolfe
12 days ago
Reply to  Robin Deane

Thank you for the casual mention of the need for personal defense hardware. “Some people” think the need “never really happens” or that every gun owner’s first response is to blindly shoot everyone in sight. 8 million times per year in the US, a need ends as peacefully as yours, and glad you’re among the safe.

I myself have used a defensive sidearm three fully “justified” times in 30 years, happily never dropping the hammer. Any of those times were heading for serious harm if I wasn’t prepared.

James
10 days ago
Reply to  Robin Deane

Albuquerque is a crime infested pit, very dangerous city

Clutch
12 days ago

We were on a cross-country trip with the kids back in 2012. We were at a KOA and I noticed a homeless looking guy messing with our fire pit. I went out and asked him if I could help him with anything, he said no just cooking some dinner. I said but that’s my fire pit. He looked confused looked around at the unit behind him and said sorry thought this was my pit and then I watched him clean up a little and then go over to the unit next to us. He went inside. Half a six pack later, I found out he was a retired surgeon who had invented a heart valve, and was living the life of royalties driving his 3 million class A around the country. You just never know.

Uncle Swags
12 days ago

Still safer than any urban area in this country now. Walk through any big city and you will see or be involved in something that you weren’t expecting.

Bassman
12 days ago

First, we will never camp in ANY state, or campground, that does not recognize our God-given right to self-defense. Don’t look for trouble, but be prepared if it finds you and you have no avenue of retreat. Most times, if you get a bad vibe from someone, you’re probably right. Situational awareness is your best friend.

Billinois
12 days ago

Our encounters with “sketchy people” have been mostly limited to encounters with bums at gas stations asking for money. One time, however, we pulled into a station near Pittsburgh and there were a group of guys hanging around. Two broke off from the group and headed over; one came over to me at the pump and the other headed for the opposite side of the RV.
I always lock the RV when I’m out pumping gas, mainly because my wife was in there. I’m sure this was a distraction attempt to get in the RV. We chatted a bit and he was friendly but the whole thing was “off” somehow.
Always lock up at gas stations!

California Travel Videos
12 days ago
Reply to  Billinois

Yes and as Bassman (next poster) said, situational awareness is your best friend and being prepared a close second! (OC pepper spray or CCW) Gas stations and convenience stores are among the favorite locations for perps so always be on the lookout and keep adequate distance from strangers – space buys you reaction time, time buys you options. And never, EVER be distracted by smart phones, etc when you are pumping gas.

Wolfe
12 days ago

Wish there were a LIKE flag on here. Definitely second this post!

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
12 days ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Hi, Wolfe. Long time no hear! When I read CTV’s comment, I thought of you and your personal safety seminars. (It sounded like a comment from you.) I hope all is well with you and yours. Take care. 😀 –Diane

Linda K
12 days ago
Reply to  Billinois

Not RV related but my son had a co-worker who was at a gas station filling up his vehicle when a bad guy pulled out a weapon and demanded his wallet. Fortunately he had not finished pumping gas and when the attacker increased his aggression he took the gas pump hose out and covered the attacker with gasoline. His quick thinking may have saved more than his wallet.

Jeff A
12 days ago

Meth head in national park modern campground 25 yards away with a direct path to our campsite . Throwing everything in his site & flipping the steel picnic table over.
Informed hosts they called ranger took 2 hours before he arrived. Ranger helped him pick up everything & flip table back upright.
Then ranger left leaving him there for the night.

M D-B
12 days ago

In January 2002 i was traveling by myself with 2 Jack Russell terriers and a Glen of Imaal Terrier in Mexico. I was in a centuries old village when
I met 2 American guys. Chatted briefly. That night in a partially empty campground they showed up at the camper knocking on my door. The Glen although only 33 lbs had the deep voice of a much larger dog. I told them through the door to leave me alone or else I’d let the dogs loose on them. They had no idea the dogs would lick them to death. Fortunately they left and the next day I was out of there on my way home to Michigan.

James
10 days ago
Reply to  M D-B

You gotta be nuts to go into Mexico

Rich
12 days ago

both stories are excellent reasons to always be armed when boondocking. especially these days.

TIM MCRAE
12 days ago
Reply to  Rich

No guns in Mexico…

Roger V
12 days ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Millions of guns in Mexico – in the hands of the cartels.

Sandy B
12 days ago

Stories like this is one is the reason we don’t like boondocking in remote areas. It’s a true shame that we can’t peacefully enjoy these places without the fear of people wishing to do you harm. Stay safe out there!

hank
12 days ago

Howdy; No matter where you find yourself, whether or not you live in an RV a stick & brick, or an apartment, there are always folks that you might consider to be ‘out of kilter’. Some folks that are referred to as ‘eccentric’ others as down right weird. They ain’t limited to the boonies.

Rich
12 days ago
Reply to  hank

and some of those folks will be dangerous.

Lisa Adcox
12 days ago

We were workamping in Gunnison, CO. I was working one afternoon at the Game center and campstore. A young couple came at sat down by the parking lot on a bench. They were arguing loudly. It started getting louder and the young man was getting physical. I was trying to get her attention to run to me but he was not allowing her to come my way. We had no phone service there but did have a walkie-talkie. I could not get our gate people to answer. She took off toward road and he knocked her down. I was so frightened for her. This game center is not close to office or other campsites. Finally a woman is walking her dog and I told her to go for help at gate. Police were there in less than 5 mins. They spoke to me and the couple separately. The girl refused to press charges. He had gotten ruff with her. Police only warned him. They were staying in one of the cabins so they left the game area. I worried that he would get her behind closed doors and get abusive.

Roger V
12 days ago
Reply to  Lisa Adcox

Tragic. So similar to the Gabby Petito, Brian L. scenario last year.

norman fears
12 days ago

we were camping in a campground in southern iowa. fairly crowded. when a guy around 50 asked us if we would charge his cell phone. very odd when every pedistal has a plug in. i agreed to charge it but would not let him in our rv. a couple of hours later a girl around 25 came and asked for the phone. she seemed very odd also. three days later we saw them on the news. they had murdered her grandfather. they were arrested in another campground about 50 miles away.

Bob M
12 days ago

Stories like this above have always made me wonder about the safety of boondocking. While I’m always armed, I pray it never comes to that. I have driven thru a state forest road in Pa. in the Pa Wilds area and came to a bunch of houses and cabins prior to coming to a paved road.

Craig Seitz
12 days ago

“Always” trying to assume people have the best of intentions is a mistake. I’m the exact opposite. After 25 years in law enforcement, if I don’t know you, I literally can’t trust you. I will gladly run the risk of offending you to keep my family safe.

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