How to Lock a Camping Tent While Tent Camping

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Camping is a wonderful pastime that is often the perfect get-away from a busy world full of screens and electronics. While camping can be a great time to get out, meet new people, and pass the time, it’s still important to many to ensure their tents are secure. At least as secure as a tent can be while out camping.

While it’s always going to be harder to secure a tent than a more solid structure, there are many easy ways to “lock” a tent to fulfill that old saying of “Enough to keep an honest man honest.” This goes for the outside when you are off for the day and inside when you want that little extra bit of assurance at night.

Many of the best options work for inside or outside the tent, so keep in mind that versatility when deciding on a lock or technique.

Locking the Tent from the Inside

There are a few options for locking the tent from the inside.

Option #1: Small Padlock

Generally very small padlocks that work with bikes or for small boxes work really well. Small padlocks can be linked between the holes in your tent door zippers and locked to make it impossible to open without the key or without damaging the tent.

You want to make sure the latch on the padlock is small enough to fit through the large holes in the tent zippers and make sure to only buy weather-resistant padlocks. Rust is a problem if you buy one that isn’t designed to take care of it.

Option #2: Shoelace Or Paracord Method

I always take paracord camping anyway since it’s versatile and can come in handy in various situations.

But extra shoelaces will work here.

Take one, string it through the holes of the zipper, and tie a decent square knot. That tent door isn’t getting pulled open without removing the shoelace, and there’s no need for a single key or a knife to cut zip ties.

Option #3: Cable Padlock

Often used by cyclists, these padlocks are often ideal because of how adjustable they are to make the fit work. This is one of the best options for locking a tent from the inside.

Locking the Tent from the Outside

Option #1: Small Padlock

Small padlocks are a great deterrent and as long as you don’t leave the key inside the tent, you’re good to go.

Option #2: Cable Padlock

Once again the cable padlock is simply one of the best options, and will keep the door secured. For large family tents, some will have a support pole by the door and using a cable padlock can allow the lock to be attached to the pole, making it less likely for the tent to be messed with in general.

Don't Use Zip Ties

While I’ve seen multiple articles talking about zip ties as an option, I strongly discourage this. While it can technically work in a pinch, there are many reasons why it’s not a good idea. Struggling to undo these can result in actual zipper or tent damage, and using a knife also puts an errant cut at risk of damaging the tent.

Add in the fact campers tend to carry knives and zip ties on the outside aren’t going to be a major deterrent. If you’re concerned about locking your tent go with the small padlock or cable padlock for maximum effect.

Do You Need To Lock Your Tent?

I have never felt the need to lock my tent. But I’m a large male, so I don’t worry about people breaking into a tent. If I decide to go for a swim, I’ll leave my phone and other valuables locked in the car.

However, I can understand if you are a solo female at a rowdy campground, having a lock on the inside of your tent would give you a sense of protection. Two inches of nylon won’t keep out a motivated attacker but locking your tent prevents the bad guys who are looking for easy targets.

Because slashing a tent open is going to cause alarm.

Also someone who is trying to mess with a locked tent is going to give you time to wake up. A large knife and a bright tactical flashlight is also going to help persuade someone to go away.