Cabin Security: 20 Essential Tips for Preventing Break-Ins
Do you have a cabin in the middle of the woods just waiting to get robbed? There are two major reasons why cabins get broken into:
- Burglary: Your cabin might be in an isolated area. This situation drastically reduces the intruders risk of getting caught. For that reason, cabins require more security measures than homes in densely populated areas.
- Squatting: Squatters can break in for shelter. Some might also steal your stuff as they leave, instead of only using them for a while (which isn’t a pleasant thought either!).
There are 3 ways to improve cabin security:
- Make it difficult for intruders to break-in by improving the security of doors and windows with better locks, glass panels and various obstacles.
- Install security cameras and alarms which can serve three functions: monitoring, short and long-range alerts (in case of WiFi connected devices), theft deterrent
- Improve the privacy of your cabin with a fence, curtains, privacy film and similar products.
I’ve included a few other ideas that many cabin owners take for granted which can make A HUGE security difference. So let me explain how you can use these three major strategies to improve the security of your cabin affordably AND effectively:
Improve cabin door and window security
1. Door barricades
Having only a regular lock on doors and windows is not the best idea in the world. With so many lock cutting tools and lock picking tutorials online, you bet that even the petty thieves know how to crack open a regular lock. If not, they can apply force to kick in a regular door.
This is especially a problem with inward-opening doors. Doors that open outwards are obviously more difficult to kick-in. But in both cases, door barricades are useful for extra protection. They’re easy to set up, affordable and require no maintenance.
There are different barricades, depending on whether you have an inward or outward opening door. Sliding doors might also require a different type of barricade.
For inward opening doors the situation is simpler because any heavy or immovable object placed close to the door from the inside of the cabin will make it more difficult to open.
This could even be a heavy piece of furniture like a closet. But you probably don’t want to drag furniture around. So I recommend getting this affordable security bar from Amazon which is very easy to set up and is quite powerful at securing inward opening doors.
For outward opening doors you will need some barricade that goes horizontally across the door and under a door knob or some other protruding part of the door. So if an intruder tries to open the door by pulling it towards themselves, the door will pretty much be stuck in place causing massive frustration for the sucker. I wrote a really detailed article on how to secure outward opening doors along with the best barricades.
When it comes to sliding doors, the barricade needs to be placed horizontally across the sliding door panel. For this purpose, the simplest option is the security bar like the one I linked to before. These bars are quite versatile because they can be used on both inward opening and sliding doors.
In order to be usable for inward opening doors, the bar needs to have a door knob jammer on one side (again, the one mentioned before has this part as well). Essentially, you place this part under the door knob so that any pushing or kicking in of the door is blocked by the bar leaning against the door knob. Very simple and effective!
But you can’t barricade all the doors…
There is one downside to using barricades: you can’t barricade all the doors! There has to be one entry/exit point left so you can get in and out of your cabin. So I recommend setting up barricades on all doors and windows except for one door (or perhaps even window if the situation warrants it).
The most convenient solution is to not barricade the door that’s most visible, usually the front door. Because although there might only be a slim chance of catching the burglar when no one’s in the cabin, at least it somewhat raises their risk of being seen by someone. So that door is already more secure than others, even by a slim margin. And furthermore, you probably use it more often so it’s convenient in that sense as well.
Also, it’s easier to monitor with a security camera an area that’s cleaner and more open, and I’ll assume that your front door area is less congested than other other areas surrounding your cabin. If this is not the case with your cabin doors, then make some other door the main entrance/exit point instead.
2. Window barricades
A security bar can be used on sliding windows also. This security bar is highly adjustable so it can be used on almost any window and some doors as well.
But in case of double-hung windows you will need to do something different. One simple DIY project involves drilling a few holes in the lower and upper window sash. In these holes you can place a nail, through the bottom sash and into the top sash, in order to prevent them from opening. You can just as easily remove the nails when you need to open the window.
If you’re interested in this easy project, I wrote full step-by-step instructions which you can follow to do it successfully.
3. Secure door hinges
Securing door hinges will make the door more resistant to being kicked in. And it’s fairly easy – replace the short screws with 3-inch wooden screws or longer.
The situation is different with outswing doors because the hinges might be accessible from the outside. This can make your door really vulnerable if the screws can be removed.
For areas where hinges are accessible, I recommend replacing the basic ones with security hinges that have a non-removable screw (pin).
These stainless steel ball bearing door hinges from Amazon can be installed on doors that are 1 5/8 inches to 1 3/4 inches thick. For about $40 you get three of these hinges with matching wood screws.
4. Replace the latch and deadbolt plate
Any entry door can benefit from this upgrade. Especially those where you aren’t using a barricade. This is a little plate on the door jamb which allows the door latch and deadbolt to connect.
To make it more secure against lock picking and brute force, it’s best to upgrade the plate and use longer screws that go into the wall frame, not just the door jamb.
Similar to door hinge pins, the longer the screws are, the more difficult it will be to break in with force or manipulate the lock by using key-like objects.
I recommend using this plate from Amazon which combines the latch and deadbolt plate, making them considerably more resistant to break in attempts.
Creating obstacles between an intruder and the glass surface of your windows is always helpful. Since you’re securing a cabin, steel shutters might not look very attractive. But even wooden shutters of any kind are better than leaving the glass panels exposed.
6. Steel window grills
Steel grills are an excellent alternative and addition to shutters. This is the strongest obstacle you can place on the exterior or interior of the window.
In order to remove steel grills in order to enter, a thief would have to cut them with tools and produce a lot of noise. There’s also a high chance that the thieves won’t have the necessary equipment unless they’re true professionals and prepared themselves for any obstacle.
Grills will definitely keep away squatters and petty thieves wandering through the forest, at least from entering through a window.
7. Glass security film
All the effort you put into securing your doors and windows could go to waste if a thief can just smash a window or glass door to enter your cabin. Which is why I first recommended installing shutters, metal grills or some other obstacle in front of the glass surface.
But on those doors and windows where these obstacles can’t be installed for whatever reason, as well as for extra security in general, I highly recommend installing glass security film on glass surfaces. This is a relatively thin film that is placed across the glass surface (usually just from the inside). The main purpose of this film is to keep glass shards in place.
So let’s say that someone uses a hammer to smash your cabin window. Instead of the shards breaking in multiple pieces and falling on the ground, the security film will keep them in place.
So it takes way more effort to smash the glass and break in as the glass shards pose a great risk to the intruder. Not to mention that having to use more force and for longer period of time increases the intruder’s risk of getting caught.
So there’s really no downside to glass security film. If you don’t have any good obstacle like strong shutters or metal grills in place, it’s a really important piece of the security puzzle that we’re building here.
An alternative to security film is to use stronger glass panels. There are different types of tampered glass. Some are very similar to using security film, others can withstand a lot of force without cracking, and others are even bulletproof!
However, this can be a very expensive project and one that requires hiring a professional to replace the current glass panels with new ones. So I won’t go into that, because the purpose of this article is to share affordable DIY solutions.
If you are not sure which glass security film to use and how to install it, check out my full guide on this topic. It contains a video tutorial for installation and a list of best films based on thickness and price.
8. Thorny plants
Plant thorny bushes very close to ground-floor windows so that there’s no way of going around them. This is a completely natural and affordable security addition, although it might take some time to reach its full potential, depending on how long it takes for the plant to grow to a decent size. Some good choices are:
- Acacia, Fabaceae
Crown of thorns, Euphorbia
- Firethorn, Pyracantha
- Honey locust, Gleditsia
Oregon grape, Mahonia
Porcupine tomato, Solanum
Monitor your cabin, receive alerts, deter criminals
1. Motion sensor cameras that send notifications
Having surveillance cameras which can send you notifications on your mobile device when someone is at your cabin is very advantageous.
Instead of wondering if everything’s alright, you can check through the camera lens and see everything that’s happening. You can do this anytime you want, so you will never be a victim of unwelcome surprises. You can even check up on that tree or flower you planted.
There’s really no downside to having security cameras on your property. They’re effective both as a theft deterrent, monitoring device and alert device.
It’s best to monitor vulnerable entry points, especially glass doors and those that you didn’t barricade or use any extra locks on. If you have any expensive items laying outside, monitor them as well. A shed if you have one and store expensive stuff inside should also be monitored.
Overall, you can cover a huge amount of space with 2-3 cameras. And there are many affordable security cameras that have great video quality, night vision, motion sensor and WiFI connectivity so this is really a no brainer for cabin security or securing any other place. One example is the SV3C WiFI Outdoor Securiy Camera which is the most popular cam with home users at the moment.
It seems like every business, government institution and many regular homes are monitored by security cameras. So why not protect your own property with something that obviously works?
The only time when cameras may not be as valuable is when you don’t have any electric power or WiFi connectivity. For electric power you can always rely on a power generator or a solar panel. As far as WiFI is concerned, this might be more difficult if the area provides poor Internet connection. Two main things to consider before making a purchase.
2. Battery-powered alternatives for off-grid cabins
If your cabin is off-grid, there are security devices available which run on batteries, including cameras and alarms. In fact, my favorite are the ultra-thin Doberman Security alarms which run on small batteries that can last for months at a time. These are vibration-triggered alarms that cost less than $10 per unit and are very easy to handle. Their backside is sticky and can be placed on any smooth surface. That includes doors, windows, outside furniture, vehicles etc.
These are very simple alarms so they don’t provide long-range notifications of any kind. But they create 110+ dB of noise. And here’s the kicker; an intruder that triggers an alarm doesn’t know what kind of an alarm it is and whether it can send a notification or not. Chances are that they won’t stick around long enough to find out either. So this can be a very effective, low-tech substitute to more intricate and expensive alarm systems.
If you’re interested in getting a battery powered security camera, the HisEEu outdoor camera is a great choice. It’s powered by a rechargeable battery that can be recharged with solar panels. Other useful features include: night vision, motion detection and remote access through a free app (requires WiFi connection).
Another advantage of battery-powered cameras is no wires, so installing them anyplace is much easier. Perhaps hide it on a nearby tree, or put it on full display overlooking the front door as a deterrent?
3. Homemade booby traps
Surround your cabin with booby traps and you’ll scare the living crap out of anyone who wanders on your property. These are my 3 favorite traps:
The air horn & trip wire trap
You will need:
- an air horn alarm (I recommend this 115 dB bear horn alarm)
- some trip wire
The sound grenade trap
- Sound grenades (link to Amazon)
The swinging log trap
This isn’t a super effective trap, but it’s so cool that I just had to add it on this list. Especially suitable for a cabin in the woods. But you should be careful with where you set it up and how you use it, because it could do some physical damage if it catches the target, unlike the other two traps which are perfectly safe.
4. Warning stickers and fake cameras
Most thieves avoid objects that are protected by security cameras, alarms and owners who have firearms. There are many warning signs and stickers you can place in visible places around your cabin. Let the bad guys know that you didn’t forget about them.
Fake cameras are also very useful, look like the right thing and are incredibly cheap. Some even have beeping lights which make it seem really realistic, like this fake outdoor camera. Use warning stickers and fake cameras in combination with real security measures for best results.
Improve the privacy of your cabin
1. Shutters, blinds, curtains
Privacy is an important part of security. If the burglars can’t see inside your cabin, they won’t know if there’s anything worth stealing or if there’s anyone inside. This might make them reluctant to take any risks.
Shutters, blinds and curtains are all commonly used for this purpose. Sound-deadening curtains are my favorite material because they also provide thermal insulation and they’re thick enough that it’s impossible for intruders to see through them.
I have these thick curtains in my bedroom and they’re excellent for privacy and for thermal insulation. I suggest improving privacy on all ground-floor windows and those that are easy to access from the outside.
2. Privacy window film
I’ve mentioned security window film before which is used to make the glass thicker and more force resistant.
Privacy film is the most affordable product for covering glass surfaces. It’s self-adhesive, but not as much as security film, so it’s easier to install and remove.
There are many wonderful patterns, designs and colors, so you can really make the best of it from an aesthetic perspective as well.
There are also some that are transparent from one side, so you can still have that perfect view from your cabin window. In this article I’ve detailed the best security films and privacy films on the market.
3. Build a fence (cheaply)
A tall fence can do wonders for your cabin’s security. The tougher the better, but it doesn’t have to be a wall to make a difference. A wooden fence or even a chain-link fence coupled with privacy screen will keep the bad guys out and guessing whether it’s worth taking the risk by venturing inside your property. An existing fence can be made taller by:
- planting bamboo or other tall plants near the fence
- getting a trellis for climbing plants
Thorny plants can also be planted near the fence to make it harder to reach, let alone climb over.
A fence can also be made more difficult to climb over by using different extensions:
- light timber trellis on top of the fence combined with thorny climbers
- barbed wire and razor tape
- broken glass
- commercial fence spikes (even some steel bird spikes can be helpful)
- spinning fence toppings
- anti-climb paint (also known as non-drying paint)
Some of these solutions will work only with a wider/thicker fence or a wall, while others such as a light trellis or anti-climb paint will work with weaker fences as well.
Keep in mind that some of the more dangerous solutions on the list might not be legal in your state, so definitely ask around before placing razor tape or something else on top.
You can learn more details about stopping burglars from climbing a fence in this article.
1. Improve shed security
All the ideas that I mentioned before about securing your cabin can also be applied to your shed. If you’re storing expensive stuff in a nearby shed it definitely deserves some extra protection as well.
A strong padlock and adding shutters/grills/glass film on the windows, some monitoring/alert device can all be helpful. A shed can be even more vulnerable to break-ins than a cabin, due to less risk of getting caught. Something to keep in mind.
2. Take expensive items back home
If you’re worried about break ins because of some expensive items you have stored in the cabin, perhaps you could take them with you while you’re away. Computers, kitchen appliances, portable power generator are just a few things that come to mind.
3. Secure the window air conditioner
Does your cabin have an AC unit hanging from the window? AC theft is becoming a huge problem, which is why I wrote a comprehensive guide on securing a window AC unit. These units are exposed to the external environment, so it’s smart to use a few extra security measures such as:
- an air conditioner cage (also known as window guard)
- a support bracket (makes the much AC harder to remove)
- the unique Security Window Lock Wedge
4. Lock and/or store the valuables outside
During nighttime and before going away, consider storing outside furniture, grill or any other expensive items in a shed or a designated place in the cabin, rather than leaving them outside.
If you want to keep these items outside because it’s too much of a hassle to move them in or you don’t have the necessary space, it’s best to lock them using a security cable or a chain.
You can also place small battery-powered alarms on some items. If they’re locked together by using the same cable, a small vibration on one item can trigger the alarm, even if you’re using only one alarm. Which makes securing outside items quite easy and affordable.
Monitoring the area with motion sensor cameras will provide an even better effect because you’ll be able to access the live stream to see if you’re dealing with a naughty squirrel, bear or an actual human intruder.
Read more: How to secure outside patio furniture from theft
Final Word: How to Improve Cabin Security
Your cabin is probably a place where you go to relieve yourself of stress. But if it’s not secured properly, it can be an extra source of stress and anxiety, as you constantly worry about someone taking the advantage of there being no one around. It can even be dangerous while you’re there if an armed intruder decides to pay you a visit.
By using the before-mentioned tips, you can seriously improve your cabin security on a relatively low budget. You don’t have to utilize all the solutions that I mentioned either. Simply focus on those weak points that you’ve identified and slowly build up from there. Hope this helps!