One of my regular readers contacted me recently about a car break-in they experienced at a trailhead parking lot in the White Mountains. Unfortunately, it happens, despite the efforts of the park service to patrol these lots.
Your best protection to prevent a break-in is to not leave anything in view in your car. Seriously, no yoga mats, hats, clothes, garbage, CD cases, cell phone holders, loose change, child seats, or anything that might indicate that you use your car for anything except transportation.
Beyond that, try to park at a trailhead that this is visible from the road or that will have a lot of come and go foot traffic while you’ll be hiking. If that’s not possible and you can’t catch a ride to the trailhead from someone else, make sure you leave your fancy BMW or Mercedes at home and drive your beat up car (or your partner’s) instead. If you’re a fanatical hiker, chances are it is already pretty grungy.
If you’re hiking on the Appalachian Trail, you can find out if the trailhead you plan to park in has had a history of break-ins by consulting the AT Parking Guide.
Some hikers think that leaving a note on taped to the inside of your window telling thieves that there are no valuables in their car can deter a felony. Others leave their car doors unlocked to prevent a smashed window. Be forewarned however, that bears know how to open unlocked car doors and have been known to trash cars that are inedible.