Not all of us can quit our jobs and live year-round at a permanent retreat. Yet some of us may be able to afford a semi-permanent retreat (e.g. vacation home), at least partly stocked (a.k.a. main supplies), and located within reasonable ‘travel time’ to the city where we work.
As a catastrophic event would unfold, you would bug out ahead of the crowds. Otherwise you could begin by staying in your house, assess the situation, and never actually bug out. If the situation would deteriorate besides all hope, then bugging out would become a sound option.
As part of the concept of retreating you would need a vehicle to bug out. Assuming a retreat located less than half a gas tank away and fully stocked, then almost any 4×4 vehicle could do. Otherwise you need to think hard now, and select a bug out vehicle (BOV) as suggested next.
Primary Bug Out Vehicle.
A primary BOV is any form of transportation that will allow you to bug out and reach your destination/retreat while carrying your family, pets, and minimal ‘bonus’ supplies. Your bug out vehicle should be your daily driver so:
o You know how to handle it (size, breaking, passing, etc.).
o You keep it in tip top mechanical condition (reliable).
o You have the automotive repair manual for your vehicle’s make/model/year.
o You carry basic spare parts (oil, filters, spark plugs, fuel pump, serpentine belt, etc.).
o You carry winter gear (tire chains, shovel, etc.)
o You carry some off road gear (hi-lift Jack, tow chain, etc.)
In case of major crisis, roadways could quickly become jammed. People may run out of gas and abandon their vehicles in the middle of the road. Although you will likely travel on secondary roads, you might have to go around road blockades. Snow, rain, wind, and soft shoulders could compound the problem. The inability to drive off-road when needed could prove a critical failure to reach your retreat.
As part of overcoming this type of risk, you need a vehicle with powerful off-road capabilities (high ground clearance, four wheel drive, locking differentials, high/low gears, etc.), and plenty of engine power.
Secondary Bug Out Vehicle.
Even if it is a truck, your primary bug out vehicle may not offer enough storage to move your family and all your ‘bonus’ supplies at once. Likely you will need a support vehicle. Some kind of travel trailer (for instance) will provide enough storage when retreating, without the need to tow it on a daily basis (thus saving gas).
Please understand that your retreat should be at least partly stocked, and that the trailer would only contain ‘bonus’ and ‘extra’ supplies. I suggest:
o Enclosed cargo travel trailer.
o Tandem axles, 15″ tires or larger, electric brakes.
o High ground clearance, shortest possible cargo box (e.g. 14′ long).
o Around 2,000 pounds curb weight.
Load at most 3,000 pounds of equipment and supplies for a total weight of 5,000 pounds. Weigh the trailer both empty and ‘full’ so you know its real weight. Going off-road to avoid obstacles will require a vehicle capable of towing double that total weight, thus around 10,000 pounds., NOT just 5,000 pounds.
If your primary vehicle is less powerful, you could prefer a single axle trailer and load it at full capacity (e.g. 300 pounds. to 800 pounds. curb weight, 1600 pounds. of load). The advantages are better price and the need for a smaller tow vehicle (required to tow up to 5000 pounds. instead of up to 10,000 pounds.). Disadvantages are:
o Less carrying capacity.
o Trailer closer to its gross weight limit as compared to heavier trailer.
o Single axle and small size wheels (not the best for off-road).
o Trailer box rather low on the ground (bad for off-road).
o Long distance between hitch and axle (again, bad for off-road).
The best solution might be to purchase a single axle trailer (cheaper), and spend extra money to have it customized by switching from single to double axles with larger wheels and tires, electric brakes, and much higher ground clearance.
In any case, always purchase a primary BOV with a maximum towing capacity equal to twice the expected towed weight . Otherwise, off-road use will be either compromised or next to impossible.
Tertiary Bug Out Vehicle.
No primary BOV can be both fuel efficient in daily use and powerful enough when evacuating (towing a trailer, maybe driving off-road). The workaround is to combine a powerful vehicle and a two-wheeled motor vehicle for daily ‘summer’ driving. This nimble two-wheeled vehicle serves four purposes:
o Daily city driver in fair weather (e.g. at 40 to 60 plus miles per gallon, you save gas).
o Backup set of wheels while your truck is undergoing repairs (it happens).
o When retreating, low profile scout and reconnaissance vehicle .
o Once at your retreat, economical mean of transportation.
The scouting part is critical! Keep the scout vehicle a few miles ahead of your main party and he could quickly warn you (e.g. via radio) of any ‘obstacle’. Any 250cc (or up) motorcycle would do the job. Again, you need spare parts, repair manual, etc, for that third vehicle. Although electric hand warmers, windscreen, etc. would mitigate mild winter driving, for practical reasons do not use the scout vehicle (put it in the trailer) during extreme winter conditions.
Storing Backup Fuel.
In case of catastrophic event, gas stations will jack up their prices and/or will run out of gas. Consequently it is critical to store enough backup fuel to reach your retreat assuming the worst possible scenario (empty fuel tank, empty fuel stations, snow, at night, and some off-road driving). I suggest:
o Store backup fuel in 5-gallon cans.
o Store as much as possible (at least 80 to 100 gallons).
o Rotate at least once a year (fill up your gas tank with the old fuel).
o I use a funnel (cheap and easy) to fill up from the cans. It works great.
o As needed, use some kind of fuel stabilizer to refresh old fuel.
As the price of fuel goes up, storing makes sense. You do save money buying now and using later. When I started doing so, fuel cost $0.90 per gallon and a used 5-gallon metal jerry-can could be had for $5.00. The containers paid for themselves within a couple of years.
‘Bonus’ supplies are supplies not pre-positioned at your retreat because you use them daily, or because that would not be practical. A non-inclusive list could include: scout vehicle, backup fuel [JWR Adds: Buy a large underground fuel tank, if you can afford one, and conceal its filler neck and pump head!], animals (e.g. chickens, rabbits), bug out bags, all of your clothes, extra food, medical prescriptions and supplies, camping equipment and supplies, guns and ammo, all of your tools, kitchen utensils, official papers, books, games, computers, etc.)
Ditching The Trailer.
Your scout vehicle should allow you to avoid unwarranted ‘obstacles’, but in a worst case scenario you might have to ditch the trailer in order to go off-road and reach your location. If possible try to hide the trailer instead, with the option of salvaging it, and its content, at a later time.
To simplify (feel free to disagree) bug out capability is best provided by three vehicles: a towing vehicle (daily winter driver), a travel trailer, and a two-wheeled motor vehicle (daily summer driver/scout). Also you want to store 80 gallons (or more) of fuel for emergencies and for bug out purposes [,and much more at your retreat.]