“One must Hope for the Best, but Prepare for the Worst.” - Book of English Proverbs
We’ve all rehearsed it many times. A newsflash report comes on, reporting widespread chaos what appears to be the total, spectacular collapse of society. Food stores are empty. Gas station pumps are dry. All remnants of any social order have toppled, and panic has ensued. The next-second response to survivalists is second nature. Grab the kids, the AR-15, the Bug-Out-Bags, and head for the hills! To most survivalists, the most effective bug-out is clean and simple, requiring no transportation and just the pack on your back. Yet a very large number of us live in areas that are considered urban or suburban, meaning that a true unraveling of civilization would make such a short range or prolonged bug-out dangerous given the large number of unprepared occupants.
The solution, as many see it is a Bug-Out Vehicle (BOV
), which can dramatically extend range and speed in reaching secure retreat. On a full tank of gas, a BOV can reach a destination hundreds of miles away in a matter of hours, whereas the same retreat would take days to reach on foot. Few would disagree with the logic that less time spent on the road to retreat means less danger. Natural or man-made obstacles, such as bad weather or nomadic marauders, can be better managed given the protection of an enclosed vehicle. Yet, I cannot overemphasize this: While Bug-Out vehicles dramatically increase both your mobility and chances of bugging out safely, they are absolutely no substitute for the traditional bug-out on foot. Vehicles will often be destroyed in certain disasters, and an EMP will render almost all vehicles unusable. You and your family should always be prepared to walk to your Bug-Out-Location- or a secondary one- with your Bug-Out kits. A BOV should be seen as an option and expediency in bugging-out, rather than a critical part of your plan.
I am aware that many will disagree with me as to the wisdom of prepping a vehicle. Hard-core, elemental survivalists preach the simplicity, reliability, and safety of a walking bug-out with only the supplies on your back. This breed of survivalists adheres solely to the “Prepare for the Worst” half of the prepping mantra. That is an invaluable attitude that should be instilled in every person, no doubt. But what about the other half- “Hope for the Best?” What if, by a stroke of luck, vehicles are around? There is nothing wrong with capitalizing on advantages given to you by your environment or situation. In many scenarios, your BOV will survive the initial aspects of a TEOTWAWKI situation. More importantly, circumstances can arise which make a walking bug-out not possible. What if a family member breaks both of their legs, or is badly burned by a nuclear detonation? It is undoubtedly within the spirit of contingency planning to prep a vehicle. You may have heard the saying, “A good man makes his own luck.” By investing a portion of time and money into a bug-out-vehicle, you increase the chances that your BOV will be of use to you come TEOTWAWKI. When all is said and done, we don’t know
what the conclusion of civilization will look like. Roads might be patrolled with tanks, or they could be empty. Your BOV could be incapacitated from an EMP, or it might be in showroom condition. Prudence, however, demands that a survivalist prepare for any number of scenarios, thus boosting his or her chances of surviving a TEOTWAWKI situation.
When I first thought about it, the ideal bug-out vehicle seemed to be that dream, roaring Jeep, loaded with tough accessories and modifications to make it the equivalent of a military Humvee. Big wheels, big engines, and a tank-like chassis should be combined to yield the ultimate doomsday limousine, I reasoned. Look like and become the toughest cat on the road and nothing can or will touch you. That can be true to some extent, but it’s important not to focus solely on a vehicle’s extreme capabilities. Rather, you take into consideration what the fundamental purpose of a vehicle is: to increase the speed, mobility, and range of a person. Sure, having that Wrangler with a 7-inch lift will give you more capabilities than sticking with your station wagon. But truck-like vehicles would have little advantages over normal cars should we experience a cataclysmic event- if all roads are shut down or covered in 6 feet of snow, guess what? Nobody’s going anywhere. More importantly, the fuel economy of your vehicle will be awful when compared to normal vehicles, which reduces your range and forces you to store large amounts of fuel (and, in day-to-day driving, cost you a significant amount more money at the pump, leaving you with less funds to prep with). Don’t feel like a bug-out vehicle has to be a multi-thousand dollar truck full of modifications.
Rather, remember that any car, be it a Honda Civic to a Bentley, can function as a BOV. When all is said and done, all a BOV has to do is get you from point A to point B faster than walking speed
. Try to balance efficiency and practicality with capability, based on your own personal scenario. The most important aspect of a vehicle is it can get you out fast and get out far. If you happen to be eyeing that monster truck capable of fording 5 feet of water, remember that you’re going to take a significant hit in fuel range. Plus, trying to “blend in” and navigate dangerous urban centers will be much more difficult with a large, tank-like truck. You’ll attract unwanted attention, and also increase the chances of a roll-over trying to maneuver around street corners. At the same time, if you live in the mountains of Colorado, it’s probably not advisable to put a Prius to the test of unforgiving weather and terrain. The type of vehicle you choose is dependent on your environment. Urban residents will likely want to have a quick and maneuverable vehicle with as far a range as possible to escape rioting and chaos, while many rural preppers will desire a more adaptive vehicle to combat bad conditions. There are blends of the two. Next time you go car shopping, give thought to a crossover or all-wheel drive sedan. Subaru
makes a fleet of cars each equipped with all-wheel drive, without the usual gas guzzling and impracticality that come with it- and based on my own personal experiences, their vehicles have a long lifespan. The Jeep Compass
is also designed to be a fuel-efficient SUV. I won’t spend any more time debating between the many species of BOVs, and won’t attest to any one’s success. It’s completely up to you if you want to purchase one dedicated for a bug-out, or if you just want to prepare your daily driver for TEOTWAWKI.
How does one go about preparing the selected Bug Out Vehicle? For starters, let’s take a peek at the biggest limiting factor of many vehicles: fuel range. Most cars can travel a couple hundred miles on a single tank of gas, anywhere from two to eight hundred miles between fill-ups. There is, of course, a relatively clear solution to the “Fuel Problem”, which is to store fuel in anticipation of a gas pumps running dry. I advise to do so with NATO-classified “Jerry” Cans
, often seen bolted to the rump of a Humvee or Willys Jeep. Jerry Cans can be easily installed on a roof rack or rear of a vehicle, giving them the strong prominence they have attained amongst military vehicles. They also protect fuel against permeability better than plastic cans, and give the needed durability against punctures. I have had one case in my shed with a where a rodent of some kind took a chunk out of a 2.5 gallon plastic gas jug, presumably for a nest given that he took home the detached plastic.
When storing fuel- regardless whether you opt to use a plastic container or Jerry can- be sure to follow all the necessary guidelines to prevent an explosion
. Note that older, metal cans are not designed to vent expanding fumes like newer gas cans do. Most importantly, keep vehicle fuel far from your house. When deciding on storage placement, think to yourself, “If I dropped a match in each of these cans right now, would I feel like my home is secure?” If you neglect basic flammables safety, you have already violated the Code of Prepping. Safe storage of fuel is a concept that has been drilled into our heads for years, and yet individuals still choose to ignore it. Please, think not only of yourself, but of the entire culture of Survivalists when choosing how to store your fuel. When your house blows up, killing you and your next door neighbor, the media will have a field day declaring that “thousands of so-called ‘preppers’ have infiltrated our society, storing ticking time bombs of gasoline in the midst of their paranoia.” Don’t jeopardize yourself or our reputation by doing something stupid- and that goes for not only safe storage of gas, but ammunition, firearms, et cetera, all things that some people
are salivating for an excuse to go outlaw.
You’re also going to want to ensure that the fuel quality is of good standing. Most chemists agree that using premium fuel in an engine intended for 87 octane gasoline won’t increase performance. Even so, premium fuel contains better quality detergents and additives than its regular counterpart, which can help prevent deterioration. Some trials have determined that premium fuel leaves less gum deposits behind than lower octane gasolines (See: VetteNet.org
). Personally, if I am looking to fill up on the best quality gasoline available, I go for the Sunoco Ultra-93
, 2 octane points higher than traditional Premium. Shell
has a fairly good reputation for their V-Power
, too. The gas station brand you choose for your storage fuel is extremely important! Don’t go for the no-name brand selling 20 cents cheaper unless you have reason to trust the owner. A large number of stations skimp on fuel quality, water contamination, and tank maintenance which can mean short shelf life. If you happen to live in the southern United States or a region where ethanol has not contaminated gas stations yet, try to take advantage of pure high octane gasoline. If you look at most American pumps, you’ll notice a disclaimer saying that the fuel contains 10 percent ethanol, derived from corn. There are only a handful of stations per state that don’t sell ethanol. Ethanol has two carbon bonds, but traditional gasoline has eight. It doesn’t take much science, although plenty of tests already exist, to show how engines’ durability and efficiency have been hit hard by Ethanol (EPA mileage ratings for older cars have already been lowered a few miles per gallon due to the increase in Ethanol treatments). So, if you can, try to find some gasoline without ethanol, as it enriches the quality and performance of your engine. Don’t stress out about it- it’s impossible to avoid ethanol- but if you are lucky to have the opportunity to, try to stick to pure gasoline [for your stored fuel.]
MOST IMPORTANTLY, add fuel stabilizer
to your stored fuel. Brands like STA-BIL
can be found at your local hardware store. What stabilizer does is prevent corrosion and gums from forming in the fuel. Running some through your BOV is recommended, too, to help protect injectors and fuel delivery lines against corrosion or gumming. Gas has remarkably fallen in quality over the past decade due to environmental regulating and companies cutting corners on refinement, additives, and detergents. Leave untreated gasoline sitting for a few years, especially in a vehicle, and you run a very high risk of permanently damaging your engine with the gums and moisture of old gasoline. Even if you use fuel stabilizer, rotate the gas every year into your vehicle to ensure that any bug-out gas will be safe to use.
But what if you live in area where you can’t store fuel- say, in an apartment complex in the city? Take the correct preparations, and your location won’t hinder you. Those unable to store fuel at their residence are advised to create a cache en route to a BOL. Try to make it as close to your residence as possible in a wooded or unused plot of land. As you move along your route, the chances increase of having to take a detour, separating you from your fuel. It’s best to either bury your cache inside of a metal or plastic drum, covered with a tarp or board. It is essential to ensure that water doesn’t enter the fuel can. Be sure to add plenty of extra Stabilizer, too (all stabilizers are gasoline derivations, and the makers assert that an almost unlimited amount can be added to fuel). Make a trip to your cache every 6 months to rotate the fuel, as it will likely deteriorate faster exposed to conditions. If you have any access to outside property, keep a small portion of fuel on-site. 2.5 gallon galvanized gas cans are durable and good at locking in fumes. They are usually round and can be snugly tucked into a gardening pot or bucket. This will give you at least 20 to 30 miles on most trucks or SUVs (assuming a conservative estimate of 10 mpg), and much more if your BOV is more fuel efficient. Caches are an excellent method to store fuel for everyone because they build redundancy. If for some unexpected reason you are low on fuel en route to your destination- due to an issue such as theft- then having the security of supply points is invaluable. Though not essential, storing some fuel at your BOL can be of value if you want to use your vehicle once settled in.
How much fuel is enough? That’s for you to decide. The magic number of gallons comes down to two factors: your vehicle’s gas mileage and the road range you want to have for your vehicle. For instance, I have decided to store 20 gallons of fuel for my car. This is based off my mileage and desired range. We want a range of at least 300 miles, which will get us far away from urban centers. The car gets about 17 MPG mixed driving and 22 MPG on the highway, but I have decided to be extremely conservative in my miles-per-gallon estimation and put it at 15. The extremely conservative mileage estimate gives exactly a 300 mile range assuming that fuel economy goes down the toilet. Estimate your own fuel economy very, very conservatively.
If your BOV has a roof-rack, is carrying excess weight, or faces bad conditions like snow or damaged roads, then your efficiency will be dramatically affected. Additionally, stop-and-go traffic takes a heavy toll on efficiency. Although you will make every effort to evade them, there may be areas where roadways congest with vehicles. Always plan for the unexpected and give yourself breathing room.
As a rule, always assume your tank will be empty when an emergency hits.
By being dependent
on average gas mileage and gasoline levels, you defy the entire spirit of prepping! Prepare for the worst, not the best! Even so, try to keep a watchful eye on your gas tank. Always fill it up when the needle hits ¼ full, ensuring that you’ll have a small reserve in addition to the fuel stored. You should also make sure that you have adequate gas tanks to carry in your car if your fuel tank isn’t big enough for your fuel stores- this is only necessary if you choose to purchase a stationary, high-capacity gas tank instead of the traditional red portable ones. Invest in a wide funnel, too- you’d be surprised at how difficult it is to pour a heavy, 40-pound 6 gallon tank into a car.
Before I go on, I would like to briefly discuss alternative fuels for BOVs. Diesel vehicles are more efficient than gasoline powered ones, and also pull more torque. Since diesel engines run on compression as opposed to gasoline’s combustion, the fuel is less flammable and safer to store. Use dedicated diesel fuel storage additives if you have a diesel BOV. Many preppers have also constructed gasifiers for their vehicles. The SurvivalBlog archives have a gushing trove of articles on alternative fuels
, which would ultimately allow you to burn wood or other natural fuels to power a vehicle. Additionally, diesel cars can run on vegetable oil or biodiesel, which is easy to obtain from restaurants (although I don’t know how many diners will be operating during Armageddon). There is a world of its own of fuels to replace oil-based ones, from trucks that run on used motor oil to hydrogen fuel cell hybrids. Given the complexity and time consumption associated with these alternative fuels, most preppers- myself included- choose not to use them. But, they are definitely worthy of mention and I encourage everyone willing to dedicate the time and money to give alternative fuels consideration.
If you’re serious about wanting dependable vehicle, consider the other accessories or things you’ll need on the road or at your bug-out location. The first check on the list should be safety. The chances of an accident occurring are increased if we have seen our entire civilization crash and burn. There won’t be a highway patrol or state police to try to prevent or manage accidents. Keep a fire extinguisher
in all your vehicles! It may seem unnecessary to extinguish a burning vehicle if TEOTWAWKI has occurred- a lot of us would just walk away, not wanting to loiter- but consider the possibility that a loved one could be inside. Additionally, all BOVs should contain a strong, hammer-like object
accessible to the driver. They can be used to smash windows or pick through metal should one become entrapped in an inverted, flooded, or crushed vehicle. If snow is a prevalent weather concern for your region, purchase some tire chains
for the rear/front wheels (depending on if the BOV is rear wheel drive, front wheel drive, or four wheel drive).
Stock your BOV with a complete auxiliary supply of motor oil
on hand, to either replenish or change oil. Leave the oil drain pan behind. I’ll hazard to guess that you won’t be concerned about the EPA coming after you for illegal oil disposal if society has collapsed. Be sure to have other fluids along for the ride, too, like power steering fluid, coolant, transmission fluid, and brake lubricants. You’re not going to be able to make these unless your BOL is a chemical refinery. Perhaps, however, the best way to combat a stoppage of fuel or liquid is by way of a siphon
. This will allow you to do a few things. For one, you can take fuel from abandoned vehicles (though hopefully you’ll already have the fuel needed stored). If you own other cars, you can also transfer the fuel from one tank to the other before you leave. A siphon, provided it is cleaned, will allow you to take other fluids from abandoned cars, such as motor oil. Remember that most engines on motorboats or propeller-driven planes use octane, too (100 octane aviation gas, or Avgas, is actually quite coveted given its excellent quality). You can take fuel out of abandoned boats or planes or and use it for your vehicle- just double-check and make sure the boat isn’t diesel powered. Fuel is the most restricting component of any engine. If you want to have the option of bugging out by vehicle, you might as well put up a small investment into making sure that vehicle can have fuel.
I also advise investing in a full size spare tire
for a BOV. If your BOV is a truck or SUV, this is likely already covered. But most sedans or crossovers carry only a small “donut” tire, if any at all, that is unstable and lacks the tread needed for a long road trip. Flat tires could be much more likely if there is an excessive amount of debris on roads. You can help reduce the chance of a flat by adding tire sealant
to your tires (basically just liquid goo that swishes around and plugs a hole if one develops). Be prepared for a flat tire where you can’t limp to the nearest tire shop for tire repair- this means buying another rim and tire. Because this would only be for a few hundred miles, there’s no requirement to spend a lot of money on a brand new tire- either buy a cheap, used one with at least a quarter of a tread left, or save the one with some tread left next time you get your tires changed. A tire isn’t anything without air, too, so have on hand an air compressor
for your BOV (also allowing you to deflate your tires temporarily if you need better traction, and re-fill them later on. )If indeed your vehicle is your only chance of bugging out safely given your environment, I strongly recommend you take precautions against vehicle emergencies, as it will be more of a lifeline to yourself and any companions.
Routes, too, should be altered when bugging out by vehicle in order to maximize the chances that open roads will be available. You might have planned to hike or drive 100 miles up the interstate to your location, but take into consideration the sheer number of people that will be using these routes before their last tank of fuel runs out. That’s why it’s not so much the most direct route, but rather the least populated route when using a BOV. Highways will often be the first to be shut down in a crisis, while more localized roads should survive longer. At all costs, avoid congested and populated areas!
This is a rule of thumb that must be followed for any bug-out situation. Modify your routes to make every attempt to circumvent population centers. Be sure to adjust your fuel stores accordingly.
Now, we have at last arrived at the actual execution of the bug-out. The vehicle is packed and ready to go, and awaits your call to bug-out. This is where decision making and luck mate. Depending on when you hit the road, you could either be fighting off masses of unprepared civilians or safely at your BOL. Your decision should be primarily based on consideration of being first or being last.
Keep in mind that if your vehicle is usable, so is everyone else’s. If you live in an urban center, there will be hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of cars trying to flee. It is best to be the first to get out, once you recognize that the Schumer has hit the fan. But, if you believe that roads are going to be too clogged (guaranteed after at least an hour or two), then hold out as long as you can in your own residence. Protect your vehicle and bug-out supplies, and hide your fuel
. Lay low. You will not have to wait long. Within a few days, nearly all gasoline stores will have been depleted and shipments will be non-existent. Now
is when you pull the trigger and turn the ignition. Only a few cars will be on the road by this time, as the majority of car owners will have panicked and used up any remaining gas in their tank (in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this occurred at a very rapid pace.) NEVER
gamble on the chance of getting caught in a mob of cars on a freeway! Clogged roads will quickly turn into a full-on war zone as marauders loot and plunder for fuel, food, and other supplies. When in doubt, wait it out.
Driving at TEOTWAWKI will be nothing like driving to work. It is imperative that safety is your primary concern. Anyone who has been smart enough to store food and fuel will quickly become a high-profile target on roadways. You should try to travel in groups, in as few vehicles as possible, to allow for easier defense your BOV. Instruct other occupants to scan the roadside for threats with the firearms you have chosen to take with you. An opened sunroof works great as a tactical turret for a rifleman. The rifleman has a high-up vantage point and 360 degrees of view- it also makes dealing with oncoming cars or pedestrians easier. I won’t delve into the subject of defensive weapons, but a vehicle demands certain requirements. A high-powered rifle is essential to deter or eliminate incoming threats before they are within striking distance of the vehicle. For mobs, a shotgun loaded with wide-spray shells will provide a wide spray of lead pellets to disperse a surrounding group of people. Having multiple riflemen in the vehicle is invaluable. Think of your BOV as a World War II bomber. The position analogous to a rotating turret (the sunroof or front-seat gunner) should locate potential adversaries while clearing a path ahead. The "turret" is supplemented by riflemen on each side window (like waist gunners on a bomber) to guard your flanks. Finally, a “tail gunner” is responsible for protecting the rear of the vehicle. Be extremely conscious of the feeble protection provided by glass windows, and use the bottom of a door for slightly better ballistic protection in a firefight. If you’re really serious about making a dedicated BOV, then replace side windows with metal sheets, leaving a small hole for a rifle barrel. You could supplement rear and front windshields with plexiglas.
When in high-threat urban areas, drive as fast as possible as your vehicle may become a target for others who have exhausted their own fuel. Once on the highway or less populated roads, slow down to increase fuel range. High-speeds above 65 m.p.h. require high RPM rates. Most cars will be able to shift into a low-consumption overdrive at slower speeds. This is why speed limits were reduced during the 1970s gas crisis. Each vehicle’s optimal speed is different. It’s easy to find the niche, though. All you need to do is find the the slowest speed possible for your highest gear, which should be between 40 and 60 mph. Use cruise control if possible to hold a steady speed. Avoid turning on the air conditioning. Running the heater is okay , as it does not sap engine power. More food for thought when considering your bug out: slower, constant speeds on the highway result in extended range
. Driving in panic mode at 80 miles per hour up the highway will dramatically reduce mileage. Keep this in mind if you are ever bugging out by vehicle.
Cars aren’t the only kinds of BOVs around that you should give thought to. ATVs, motorcycles, and scooters are excellent when it comes to maneuverability, storage, and fuel consumption. If you happen to live in a very congested environment- like the city, give a smaller vehicle a look. Most have a range of at least a hundred miles to get you out of town on full tank of gas. If you can devise a way to carry more fuel, them more power to you. (It’s worth mentioning that many bikers carry spare fuel in small , 1-2 liter stove fuel bottles, like the red MSR fuel bottles used by backpackers). There are also 1-gallon plastic tanks available designed to slip into a saddle bag- for ATVs, gas cans can be lashed to the front or rear of the ATV. BOVs of this nature can be bought for less than cars, and often give more capabilities to the rider off-road or on narrow streets.
Even though I’m ready to dump 20 gallons of gas into my car and head for the hills if I have the opportunity to, there’s an alternative that doesn’t need any. That’s because it’s powered by good old human strength, fueled by just food, air, and water. A bicycle, in my opinion, is one of the best transportation systems ever devised and is one of the best BOVs a prepper can choose. No need to worry about EMPs, gas mileage, or roadblocks. If a human body can walk there, chances are a bike can ride there. Plus, it costs very little to maintain and the equivalent of a few tanks of gas to buy. I strongly encourage everyone to have a bicycle on hand in the event of an EMP, allowing them a much quicker bug-out while carrying their BOB. If you can fit them in your gas-powered BOV, then take advantage of it. I advise taking off the front wheel to make packing easier, or bolting racks to the side of a truck bed or trailer. For those who have a need for speed post-EMP, bikes can offer an often overlooked solution. I have a friend who purchased a gas engine kit that he installed on his bike, for about $250. A multitude of companies make these kits that can propel a bike many times faster than a rider can (the one I rode got up to about 40 m.p.h., and the ¾ gallon fuel tank allows for about 100 miles before refilling is needed).
There’s one other thing should most certainly be said for preparing - these preparations into a bugging-out car go beyond trying to be ready for a complete collapse of society. They should translate into your every-day life, too. It’s always advisable to have certain items in your car so you can be prepared for any everyday emergency that could arise. After all, isn’t that what the culture of survivalism is all about? Being ready for everything from a flat tire to widespread rioting? You never know when your provisions or knowledge about vehicles could be useful in your daily life. If you’ve ever had to add oil to your car,then you’ve probably been thankful you had some on hand. If you want to have a car in working order for doomsday, then you may as well prepare for everyday obstacles. And helping others goes a long way! Many of us have been stimulated to prep because we’ve come in contact with serious survivalists, inspiring us to spread survivalism and try to prepare our world better for a catastrophe.
Man and machine have always had an inseparable bond. But come TEOTWAWKI, the bond will be tested, and humanity’s present-day "faithful steed" will fade away. When that day comes, when carburetors no longer breathe and tires no longer turn, there will be only one bug-out-vehicle that’s left. This remarkable, durable, reliable BOV isn’t powered by gasoline, and it doesn’t need four-wheel drive. It can’t be stopped by flat tires, or clogged filters. And it comes standard with a factory-installed fortitude that can withstand any opposition. There’s over 7 billion of these particular BOVs manufactured, but each one is unique, and only a few of them will remain when the dust settles. That bug-out vehicle is yourself. Remember that you run on good old ingenuity, resourcefulness, and willpower. You have a gas tank that seems to always have a little bit left, even when the road starts to disappear and the parts start to rattle. This drive train, this humanity, sets a survivalist miles ahead of even the scrappiest V-8. When the chips are down, it won’t matter who’s got the bigger truck. What will matter is something that has set humans apart from each other since the dawn of days, and something that will separate them at the end of days. That one thing is self-reliance, the cornerstone of survivalism! Bearing those integral principles in mind, I hope that this will invigorate thought on supplementing TEOTWAWKI plans with a vehicle. Good luck to all of you, and as always, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best!”