Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Living in the Roadtrek - Security Part I

I may have misnamed this article, as I am not really sure how to put a title on what we do to keep the Roadtrek secure from break in when we are away from it while it is parked. As far as personal security in the Roadtrek - you are as safe inside as you would be in your car, truck, or van. When inside lock your doors and it will take a bold criminal to come in while anyone is inside. That is not to say that it cannot happen - and I don't want to go off on a tangent here, but I will come back to this before the end of the article.

Anyway - when we got the Roadtrek it seemed to me - as we live in one of those parts of the country where you do not leave your house door open at night or your car unlocked when you are not inside of it - that there was a lot inside the Roadtrek to attract someone with wrong intent to break in. We often hear about GPS units being stolen from cars. In the Roadtrek you have a flat screen TV, positioned where it can be easily seen through the rear and side windows. It is also very obvious when looking through the windows to the inside that this is an RV and that there are people's belongings inside. All very and much too tempting...

Roadtrek's do come with curtains on all of the windows including for the windshield and the windows on the driver's door and the passenger's door. We closed the side windows - on the sides of the bed area and leave them closed. The curtains for the front doors and the windshield are two curtains that pull from the sides and go all around on a track and velcro closed where they meet which is just about under the rear view mirror. This is fine to do at night for privacy, but a pain to do every time you come and go. There are curtains on the rear cargo door windows, but it is necessary to have both doors open to close these windows from the outside. It is possible to close them from the inside easily, but this requires being on the bed, if the bed is made up, and when we are traveling we keep the bed made up all of the time. If you have read my article about making the bed in our Roadtrek, you will understand why. To open the right cargo door is no problem. Open the door and there is the window curtain - pull it across on the tracks that it is on and lock it in place with a button snap. The curtain on the left door works the same way, but to open that door requires dropping the arm that the spare tire sits on, as this blocks this door from opening. The spare tire and holder is very heavy. It is not something that you want to do every time you stop and park - and certainly this will call attention to what you are doing and your Roadtrek. We looked at all types of ways to reach the curtain and pull it over. Nothing that we thought of really would work. We looked at blinds and shades for the windows that might be easier to pull down with just one door open - but these would swing and make noise when driving and that did not seem like a solution. After examining the door frame, we came up with a design for a curtain that would reach across the entire back of the Roadtrek behind the bed that could be pulled up easily from the one open door, secured into place, and be done in just a few seconds. I know that many just keep their rear window curtains closed all of the time. I am not certain of the legalities of that where I live - I am sure it is fine in some places to have the rear windows blocked but with the limited visibility in the back of the Roadtrek while driving, I want the windows open to be able to see what little one is able to see through them. For me, a little can go along way when need be.

The curtain we designed is made from a flat sheet - black - from Walmart (the less expensive sheets that they sell that are not in sets). The cloth is dense enough to not allow any view inside even with light coming in from the windshield to the back and costs less than similar fabric purchased in a fabric store. In the photo to the left you can see the curtain through the open right door. All of the edges are hemmed. The top hem is larger to hold two small, button rare earth magnets at the end in each corner of the top. The magnets have to be stitched into little sections so that they do not lock together (tough to get apart) and so that they sit on the metal door frame at the top corners. The open space at the top is not visible when the door is closed and if there is any space at all there that can be seen nothing is recognizable behind it. The magnets need to be positioned just right inside the corners to make sure that the curtain hangs just as you want it as to hide what it needs to hide. Now, you ask - you still can't get to the curtain on the left - so how is this different. When you release this curtain from the right side, and leave the left side in place on the magnets, the fabric drops down and out of the way of seeing out the left rear window. To make certain of this, I carry a dowel that I can use to push the curtain where it meets the bottom of the window to the side and behind the Roadtrek's open curtain. The magnets are strong and they will not come down unless you really give a tug. To put this curtain up, I open the right door, grab the top corner of the curtain which is usually sitting at the floor right at the side of the left door, and put it in place with the magnets. Close the door and go! With the doors closed, because of the way the windows are tinted (not full tint unfortunately), all you see is black. It is so black that when I tried to take a photo of it all you could see was the reflection of what was behind the Roadtrek outside. This hid the most obvious things that needed to be hidden. And with the curtain in place, from the rear it looks like any other parked van. This was the first thing that we did to secure the Roadtrek, and we thought at first that we did not need to any more. It is not easy to see inside through the windshield and the front side windows. One night getting out of the Roadtrek in a parking lot with bright lights all around, I realized that I could see quite clearly inside and through the windshield I could see all of the cabinets - and the TV. We had more to do.

End of Part I - next week Security Part II.


  1. Hello ... Fred here ... don't the existing curtains work for that?

  2. Problem as I explained in the article is that the driver's side rear door does not open because of the Continental Spare Tire Kit (optional on all Roadtreks to hold the spare tire instead of it taking up 2/3 of the space under the bed). So with the bed made up all the time in the rear, there is no easy way to close that curtain - it would involve crawling over the bed every time you stop of being able to reach the curtain at the side of the van from the middle with the passenger rear door open. It was just not working for us, and I do not want to drive with the rear window completely closed off all of the time. The 2012 Roadtreks can get a newly designed Continental Spare Tire Kit with a spring to help drop and lift it. I tried this at the Hershey RV Show and it only helped a little in raising and lowering that tire out of the way. There is a third party spring lift that we will be looking into this year, but still - putting down the spare, opening the door, closing the curtain, and putting the spare back up just calls too much attention to what you are doing. This curtain that we made goes up and comes down in ten seconds or less.

  3. Without reading Part II, I will ask if you have ever considered some kind of alarm system. I don't have one at the moment but am looking into it. Also ... rather than using the pleated blind that I have on the front windshield I use a black cloth that I fashioned as a full length curtain that sits between the back of the front seats and the front of the rear seats (I have have 4 captains chairs in the ERA). It acts as a privacy curtain that I pull across at night and a security screen of sorts during the day to prevent prying eyes from peeking in the front windshield ... which is really quite high on the Mercedes/Sprinter chassis.

    On to Part II ... then off to bed. :)


  4. The older 190s have a different curtain arrangement. It runs on side tracks and drops down. It is held up out of the way with three fabric loops fastened with snaps. I just checked. I can reach them from the outside to release and pull down the curtain. Not to say that your solution isn't right for your situation, however another way might be to get one of those reacher grabber tools to pull the left side curtain over. Of course, you have a solution now. Ann

    1. We have thought of different ways to make the original Roadtrek curtain in the driver's rear door work so that it can be opened and closed from the side with that door closed. Pulling the curtain is possible but pushing it back without putting a strain on the tracks and the fragile clips that it rides on was not going to easily work. We have been recently looking at our security curtain in the back and looking at a way to use Velcro to hold it in place rather than the magnets. We have been also using the curtain at night to block out morning light that was coming through the the Roadtrek curtains over the bed. We added an additional fabric tab with another magnet in the middle to do this. The back curtain is a work in progress. It does exactly what it needs to do for us now. It is easy to put up and push out of the way to drive. It would be more so with Velcro as over time the magnets tear the cloth they are enclosed inside of. (We have needed to make 2 repairs in just the first season of use. While that sounds simple with the curtain's new use it needs to be able to go up just as easily from inside at night. Both Meryl and I are working on it.