Camper Safety Tips


In light of last week’s tornadoes in Watford City, ND, I think now is a good time to talk about camper safety. I know last week was a scary time for many families living in the Bakken and for many families with husbands staying there. I know I was here in Kentucky biting my nails while watching it pass on the radar just west of where our camper is located in Skunk Bay. While my husband and his coworkers, in their infinite male wisdom, stood on top of the hill and watched funnel clouds form in the sky. Not exactly safe, but thankfully they were well out of the tornado’s range.

Unfortunately, those closer to Watford City were not so lucky. Amazingly, there was no loss of life and even the young lady who was sent to the hospital in Minot with serious injuries is now recovering with a good prognosis. However, many folks in the affected camper lot had significant loss of possessions and housing. While I can’t say for sure, I know that there was a time when all of our worldly possessions were housed in a small storage unit and our camper, and I would assume that there were folks in that camper lot who were in the same boat.

While acts of nature will happen regardless of how we prepare, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your possessions in case they do. Here are a few tips to prepare and protect yourself, your camper and your possessions.

  1. Be Sure You Have Some Kind Of Weather Notification Device– Living out in the Bakken you may or may not be close enough to a city to hear a weather siren if it were to go off. Make sure you have some kind of device that will warn you when there is inclement weather. Smart phone apps are great, but not everyone has a smart phone and those that do know that they are notorious for having a short battery life. I’d recommend a weather radio, either battery powered, or even better, get one with a crank handle. Also, as much as it stinks having to have a weather radio on overnight with all it’s blips and beeps, if you think there may be bad weather headed your way overnight then leave it on!
  2. Know Where To Go In Case Of Inclement Weather -One of the first things you should do when you first arrive at a new camper lot is to scope out the terrain and determine where you would need to go in case of an emergency. There isn’t a lot of cover in the Bakken, but low lying areas are your best bet. Go for a ditch or culvert if there is one close by.Luckily, in the Bakken there tends to be a good range of vision on the horizon so you will have a little bit of time in case you need it to get to a safe place. Use that little bit of time wisely though and don’t think you can outrun these things in your truck! I’ve seen a lot talk to this effect in light of the Watford tornado and it shows a real lack of understanding of how tornadoes work. They don’t have a set path and can change course in an instant, they hop around, will skip some buildings, but not others and go where they please. You don’t want to be in a vehicle when a tornado decides to change course and head straight at you. Use the vehicle if you have to in order to get somewhere safe, but don’t think you can outrun a tornado!
  3. Check With The Person Who Is In Charge Of Your Lot And See If They Have A Plan – This is wishful thinking. I’ve yet to see a camper lot in the Bakken that has any kind of emergency plan for it’s inhabitants, but maybe some do. Check and see. If they don’t then maybe work with them to come up with one. This doesn’t have to be complicated, just identify safe places around the lot and write it up to pass out with the rental agreement. I’ve noticed in the past week a lot of chatter online to the effect that doing something like this would be an undue hardship to lot owners. This attitude is truly baffling to me. It wouldn’t take much time and could save lives.
  4. Check Your CO2 and Fire Alarms Frequently– Unfortunately, campers seem to be rather fire prone. Because of this you will want to be sure check your fire and CO2 alarms frequently. Set a date each month and write it on the calendar so you remember to do your check. When they catch on fire, campers tend to go up quickly, so it’s important that if you are in your camper when it catches on fire that you have every bit of warning possible.
  5. Use Space Heaters Responsibly– Many people in the Bakken use space heaters in addition to their camper’s propane powered heating units. This can add up to some significant savings on propane over a harsh Bakken winter. Just make sure you use them responsibly. Always be aware of their positioning in relation to anything flammable and turn them off before you leave your camper.
  6. Make Sure Your Camper Is Insured – I am embarrassed to admit that we do not carry insurance on our camper (we are getting it soon though!) and we are not the only ones. It’s seems to be a pretty common practice in the Bakken. It’s also a practice that can magnify an already devastating situation if you were to lose your camper in a fire or tornado. For many folks in the Bakken their entire existence is contained in their camper and therefore losing their camper means losing everything. By insuring your camper you can at least have some peace of mind in the middle of a crisis that you will be able to recoup at some of your possessions. It’s not that expensive, it’s just a matter of going through the process to get the insurance. Take the time to go through the process and get insurance. Hope you never need it. Be glad you got it in case you do need it.

I truly hope that if you are living in an oilfield camper you already have these things down pat and that you don’t need these tips. However, if you’re like me, you could always use a refresher and reminder. Do you have any other camper safety tips? Please share them in the comments!

About chelsea

Chelsea is mama to 4 year old Will and partner to her oilfield man and best friend of 16 years, Jacob. She splits her time between the family’s camper in the North Dakota Oil Patch and a small urban homestead in Kentucky. Chelsea writes about the family’s camper adventures at She is a batik artist and loves teaching others about the art of batik at She can also be found working on her other sites and In her moments of spare time she enjoys knitting, sewing and gardening.


  1. This happened to us and ultimately our camper was totalled, but we just got paid for our camper being totaled not any y nof our possessions. Be sure to put property damage coverage on when purchasing your insurance policy. camper was flipped on its side and into the camper next to us, luckily they had insurance on their camper which was also totalled, but had they not been insured we would of had been most likely sued for the damage on their camper. Just something to add as I did not know that property damage coverage needed to be on my policy to cover all our is sessions and the damage it caused by being flipped by Mother Nature.

  2. Chelsea Niehaus says:

    Thanks for the heads up, Sunny! It would not have even occurred to me to purchase property damage coverage as well!

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