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Living on the road, whether you’re in a Van or RV, means your home is more vulnerable. Not only are you traveling with most of what you have to your name (at least the most valuable stuff), but your home is much more vulnerable to damage.
As such, investing a bit of money into protecting yourself and your home and your belongings is definitely worthwhile. A simple van camera can go a long way to keeping you, your stuff, and your home-on-wheels safe, whether you’re sleeping in a secluded parking lot, have left the dog in the back while you pop into the gym for a shower or are just hanging out.
I’ve put together a list of 4 van camera setups to consider. They are easy to use, easy to install and can mean the difference between total devastation and a happy, safe life on wheels.
Read full camera reviews below:
- The Best Van Camera Setup Overall: JOINLGO 4-CH 1080P AHD Mobile Vehicle Car DVR Video Recorder Kit
- Best Dash Cam/Security Camera Combo: Vantrue S1 4K Dual Dash Cam
- Best Cheap Van Camera: ZEROXCLUB 2022 HD Wired Backup Camera
- Best Wireless Van Camera Setup: SimpliSafe 12 Piece Wireless Security System
The Best Van Camera Setup Overall: JOINLGO 4-CH 1080P AHD Mobile Vehicle Car DVR Video Recorder Kit
JoinLgo’s Car Camera System comes with 4 cameras that can be mounted on both the interior and exterior of your van and recorded in 1080p. Each camera can be monitored through one of four different recording channels, allowing you to quickly switch back and forth between all four cameras.
The cameras are equipped with a sensitive motion detector that begins recording anytime the sensor is tripped, and the night vision capability lets you record while you sleep.
2 Li-Ion batteries
Night vision, motion sensor
- Not great as backup cameras. The cameras are good quality and have great resolution, but the field of view is likely too narrow to work well as a true backup cam.
- Doesn’t come with screws or bolts.
Still, nearly two-thirds of reviewers loved this very complete van camera setup enough to give it five stars.
Best Dash Cam/Security Camera Combo: Vantrue S1 4K Dual Dash Cam
Capable of recording in 4K 24 hours a day, the Vantrue setup comes with two wide-angle cameras (for rear and front) that give you a 170-degree field of view–enough to keep an eye on pretty much everything.
Capable of drawing power from either your vehicle’s battery or solar, these van cameras also indicate GPS coordinates, record fender-benders and accidents, and are weather/temperature resistant (from -4F to 158F without screen/recording problems).
I also really like how they automatically adjust image brightness depending on the light available.
|Recording quality: 720p-4K
1X 10ft car charger; Front and rear camera bracket and the adhesive stickers, 1 x 3ft mini USB cable
Night vision (low level), GPS, brightness auto-adjust
- The motion sensor is maybe oversensitive. Leaves, birds, and trees are liable to activate the camera, which of course, is going to require power from your battery.
Still, nearly two-thirds of reviewers gave this van camera five stars.
Best Cheap Van Camera: ZEROXCLUB 2022 HD Wired Backup Camera
If you’re on a budget, then ZEROXCLUB’s waterproof (IP69) night vision camera with 720P resolution is a great option.
A 5” screen with great color balance captures good image quality even in low light conditions making reversing into those tight spots at night easier and providing good van/personal security while in the vehicle.
This powerful little van camera is compatible with most vehicle license plates.
warranty info unavailable
just the camera
|Connection Type: 12V DC
- Doesn’t record. If you are looking for something that allows you to record video and not just see what’s behind you, then you want to look at something else on the list.
If you are just after a good backup cam and some peace of mind while you’re hanging out in the van at night (or during the day) and want to see what or who is approaching from the back, over two-thirds of reviewers loved this van camera enough to give it 5 stars.
Best Wireless Van Camera Setup: SimpliSafe 12 Piece Wireless Security System
This DIY alarm system is designed for the home but is easily convertible into a van camera setup. A great smart system that requires no contract or professional installation, it is completely wireless and simple to control and access right from your phone.
You can arm and disarm and review your alarms, errors and event log from anywhere. This is a great van camera system to have when you’ve left your vehicle in the parking lot or parked on the street to grab some groceries or on a campsite to go for a hike.
unlimited cloud storage
10 AA bateries
- The peel and stick adhesive system is not the strongest. Some reviewers have indicated that the included stickers are not the strongest. Easy fix would be to buy some third-party ones.
- A Premium subscription (which lets you arm the alarm remotely) costs money. Not advertised by the company, which is kind of annoying.
All in all, a great little smart van camera and alarm system with over 75% five-star reviews.
Main Evaluation Criteria When Buying a Van Camera
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re deciding on a camera for your van setup:
- Storage capacity vs video quality
- Connection type
- Battery-powered or vehicle-powered
- Remote monitoring
- Night vision
Storage Capacity vs video quality
Storage capacity and video quality are important van camera dynamics to pay attention to because if you’re recording in 4K, that’s going to eat up a lot of storage space pretty quickly. Depending on the frames per second, a one-minute video in 4K can use 350MB of storage.
Another storage consideration to bear in mind is whether or not a camera has any storage capacity at all. Most license-plate cams, for example, aren’t made to record video; they just show you what’s behind you while reversing. This can still be nice peace of mind while you are parked in the vehicle, though.
Connection type refers to how a van camera connects to your van’s battery. If you’re living in a van or camper van, you will either be using 110V AC (for things like laptops that require a three-pronged outlet) or 12V DC (for things like fans, Van Life Fridges, van cameras etc.).
All of the cameras on the above list are either 12V DC or have their own power source (i.e. Li-Ion or alkaline battery cells)
Battery-powered, vehicle-powered or both
You also want to consider whether or not a van camera is battery-powered only or if it can also be plugged directly into your vehicle’s power source. Ideally, you want to have both, and even more ideally, something that is Li-Ion battery-powered because they tend to have the longest lives.
If you do have your camera system plugged into your van’s battery, keep in mind that if it has a touchy motion sensor that turns on at the slightest movement, you could end up using a lot of your battery power, especially while off.
An article in Popular Mechanics titled “The Most Important Facts (and Myths) About Your Car Battery” states that:
Multiple discharge/recharge cycles shorten any battery’s life, and using electronics in the car while the engine is off is the quickest route to a dead battery.
To that end, you want to consider a van camera’s power sources and when and how you use them.
Remote monitoring refers to your ability to check in on your cameras and see what’s going on while not near the vehicle. This is typically done through an application that you can access via your phone or other electronic devices.
Remote monitoring is a great feature if you are away from your vehicle for long periods–hiking, walking the dog, grocery shopping, using the gym, or working out of a restaurant or cafe.
I’ve curated the above list with van camera options that are easy to install, requiring either only minor drilling and screwing or ones that attach via adhesive or suction.
If you think something is going to require more handyman expertise than you have to install, you might want to consider a simpler option.
Night vision is always a nice feature to have, and a lot of van cameras claim to have it. Make sure that what you are actually getting is night vision (if that is, indeed, what you want/need) and not just a camera that brightens images in low light settings.
Some van cameras are designed to be used exclusively inside or outside your vehicle, while others allow you to put multiple cameras inside, outside or a combination of both.
Anything that you install on your license plates or which wall mount to the back or side of your van is most likely going to be waterproof, but keep an eye out for a waterproof rating (IP).
Additional Security Tips for Life on the Road
Investing in a van camera is a good idea if you are taking your life on the road–the Urban Institute, a social policy think tank, contends that
“surveillance camera systems can be a cost-effective way to deter, document, and reduce crime”
and plenty of other sources back this up.
Still, there are other security measures you can and should be taking if you are rolling around with your life in a van because you are a target.
Beware of Dog Sign
A “beware of dog” sign is a good home defence tactic whether your home is a suburban duplex or a van–especially if you’re a solo female traveller.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a dog; if someone contemplating breaking into your vehicle sees both a van camera and a sign warning them there might be a 120-pound Rottweiler waiting for them on the other side, chances are they’re going to reconsider.
Know The Urban Areas You Frequent
If you are planning on spending the night or any amount of time in an urban area anywhere in the world, the last thing you want to do is roll up with no information on where crime happens.
City Protect is an interactive neighbourhood crime map that amalgamates data from over 1,000 participating law enforcement agencies.
Unfortunately, it’s only available in the U.S. and Canada.
Avoid exposing the interior of your van to a lot of people
If you are planning on staying somewhere for a few days, especially in an urban area, try not to give people a long, clear look at everything you have inside. Wait until the coast is clear before opening your door, and try to get in and out quickly.
Sleep with your keys
Sleeping with your keys handy is a good idea for two reasons. Firstly, if your van has an alarm system, you can easily activate it and draw attention if you think someone is trying to break in.
Secondly, if you should need to get out of a parking spot quickly in the middle of the night (or day) because of violence or because, again, someone is trying to break in, you can do so.
Have at least one self-defence weapon
I’m a bit hesitant to advocate violence, but if you have to defend your life or property, I think you are almost always in the right.
Obviously, you need to know the laws surrounding weapons (some places even prohibit you from driving around with a baseball bat), but I always feel safer when I know I can defend myself if need be.
Invest in a personal alarm
In addition to a camera monitoring system, it’s ideal to have a vehicle alarm as well. Some van cameras have built-in alarms, but they may not be loud enough for you.
If your vehicle doesn’t have a built-in alarm and you don’t want to pay to have an alarm system installed, consider purchasing a simple personal alarm. They can be incredibly loud and are activated at the push of a button.
Consider a lock box for your valuables
Even if you’ve got your van camera, a personal alarm, and a beware of dog sign dissuading would-be thieves, there are still going to be chancers. You might want to consider placing anything extremely valuable, such as documentation like passports, cash, jewellery etc., in a lockbox.
Why Investing in Van Camera Makes Sense
Not to sound like a broken record, but if you’re riding around with everything you own in one, easy-to-rob location and moving from place to place–not to mention, if you lose your van, you’ve lost your home–you should do whatever you can to mitigate disaster.
A van camera (along with the other recommendations above) goes a long way to keeping your vehicle, your belongings and you and your loved ones safe.
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