ATVs for Preppers, by S.K.

I am sure that there are many out there that have four wheelers or other all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) part of their prepping. These are a great addition for many reasons. First they are able to get decent fuel mileage (will vary on terrain and driving style), they can carry a lot more weight than you could carry on your back, and they can cover lots of terrain that a full size vehicle would have difficulty if even possible. They are great in carrying a Get out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) bag because they can have racks mounted on the front and back of the machine but also able to pull a small trailer.

If planning to have an ATV part of your prepping, first you must consider what features are essential. Engine size can vary but this is a matter of how much money are you willing to pour into the machine. A 300 will do just fine and from there the engines just get bigger, meaning faster, stronger, [louder, less fuel efficient,] etc. However, I recommend that you do get one with four wheel drive. With the 2 wheel drive models you may find yourself doing a lot of self recovery operations. Speaking of self recovery, I highly recommend a winch but if not able to afford one, then get a come along at the very least. Next, with all the electronic gadgets out there, a cigarette lighter plug is essential. If your machine does not have one, no problem, just visit your local auto parts store and buy a kit for this. You can install this in minutes but I recommend that you wire this through the ignition switch to prevent using up your battery when not running the four wheeler.

Now, of course this will add another list to your list of lists. ATV maintenance is essential. To start with spark plugs, belts, oil, filters, grease and spare tires. I recommend lots of spark plugs because small engine triage can be as simple as new gas and spark plugs. Many times this will get a small engine going again that has sat around a long time. If your ATV is belt or chain driven, then you need a trail spare because this can be the difference between walking and driving out of the woods. Oil is simple; a quart for the trail but a 5 gallon can for the shop. Spare tires already mounted on a second set of rims will minimize having to have a full tire shop of equipment but for the trail a good plug kit and a 12 volt air compressor. Even with the small batteries found on an ATV, it will still run 12 volt accessories, just set up that cigarette lighter plug now, so it will be there when you need it.

If you have multiple ATVs then I recommend same brands and even same years if possible. This will minimize the amount of spare parts to keep on hand as well as gives you the option of cannibalizing a machine if necessary. As you do maintenance, take note of problems with the machine as you fix them, and when you buy the parts, buy spares. Also look online at forums covering your machine and you can see what other owners typically have issues with and sometimes find some great fixes. Take a look at the types of hoses that your ATV has on it, then go buy a couple of feet of the different sizes you need. It stores well and will be irreplaceable if you ever spring a radiator leak or fuel leak. Get a small parts box with some miscellaneous bolts, nuts, washers, cotter pins, and other small parts that may be useful for a quick fix.

With the many options of racks, mounts and storage bags, outfitting a G.O.O.D. bag on an ATV is just natural. You will need a small set of tools to do trail repairs. Screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets, etc. but don’t forget about hex wrenches and star bits if your machine has these. Duct tape and zip ties are great to have on hand as well. Tow strap, bungee cords, rope, saw, axe, shovel, work gloves, and lots of extra fuel (5 gallons goes a long ways on an ATV, but the more the better). Everything you would normally throw in your BOB. However, you now have room to carry more, so have an ATV BOB, but also have your personal BOB in case you have to continue on foot. Besides having a winch and a tow strap make sure you have a solid tow point on the front and back of the ATV. I also keep a tow strap connected to each with it routed up to the storage rack and zip tied in place. This allows me to be able to have a quick recovery, without getting too muddy. No one wants to be digging in mud, trying to find the tow hook when stuck.

Most preppers probably see the information I shared as common sense. However, let’s talk tactical side of ATVs. They are not quiet. They know you are coming by sound and probably light from your headlights. Put a manual on/off switch for the lights if you have one that automatically comes on while the engine is running. As far as the sound, there is little you can do here, keep your mufflers working because it will be much louder without it, and also bad exhaust gives an odor that cannot be hidden. If you need transportation that is versatile, quick, able to carry heavy loads over less than desirable trails and roads, than this may be your answer. Best to travel in pairs, stagger and one leading slightly ahead while the second performs as an over watch looking for trouble. This is where you will have to plan ahead, an easy weakness of ATVs is that to remove a rider is as simple as running some wire across a trail at head level. That being said, you have to develop some kind of wire strike system. A pole that is welded to the front bumper at an angle with a dull edge that exceeds the rider’s height when standing on the machine will do the trick but ensure you have a takedown pin, just in case it hinders a trail movement, you can then remove the wire strike pole temporarily.

Of course there are the cool gun totes that they design for ATVs. Which they are great but there typically is one flaw, the quick draw of a rifle is normally limited by the carrying device normally has to hold the gun well enough to keep it from bouncing out. First wear a hold or shoulder harness that is useable while riding the ATV, second cut down the holding case to seat the rifle well but have a quick release strap to keep it from coming out.

Now you have your basic riding load, if you want to add the trailer, you have doubled if not tripled your carrying capacity. Keep a trailer loaded up with your G.O.O.D. load and it only takes a minute to hook it up to the ATV. However, your personal G.O.O.D. bag is on the ATV, your ATV recovery and supplemental G.O.O.D. load is on the ATV. This way your trailer will have G.O.O.D. supplies but if you have to ditch the trailer in hurry, you don’t want to have to re-pack.

If you have the traditional red ATVs then a good can of spray paint will work great. If you want a nice camouflage paint job paint the panel a green color that is common in your environment. When that dries lay a piece of fern or some other leafy plant over it and spray paint it black. This works great to give a custom camo paint job. You can use whatever colors and plants that are common in your area. I would also recommend a small camo net; the diamond-shaped net out of a military camouflage set would work great. With this, you can park your ATV, cover it with the net to minimize the silhouette of the ATV. Also have a spare diamond camo net for your trailer, in case you have to drop the trailer for whatever reason. You can hide the trailer and return for it at another time.

Last to consider for an ATV bug out plan is to consider having caches in route. However, assume that you will not have the ATV so plan these supplies accordingly. You do not want to cache more than you can carry. ATVs are great additions but ultimately you must plan to maintain them as well as these items will be highly valued, during a TEOTWAWKI event. Use them for the work horses they are but be aware that they can make you a target as well. These are invaluable for assisting with farming. You can get an assortment of tools, or just the fact that they can haul huge loads without the back breaking work.

JWR Adds: In my experience, large wheel utility ATVs (UATVs) such as a Polaris Sportsman Big Boss or a John Deere Buck with a cargo box in the back, or and one of the several models with a large rear cargo platform (such as the Honda Rancher) are the most practical and versatile. Their profiles are not much larger than a standard ATV, yet they can can conveniently carry much more gear. Their large wheels also give them better ground clearance than most standard ATVs.

I recommend assembling a pre-packed G.O.O.D. kit in a pair of whitewater rafting dry bags and a backpack that can be quickly dropped in to the utility box, or strapped on to a cargo rack. That way you don’t have to constantly pack and and un-pack your UATV for other uses. The same bags can just as easily be tossed into a larger (road0 vehicle, if you opt to bug out that way.

The author mentioned the noise created by ATVs. There are now some nearly silent electric ATVs, such as a the Bad Boy Buggy, but these have limited range between charges. This makes them impractical for G.O.O.D. purposes, but they are very practical for hauling chores on retreats of 160 or smaller.

And, needless to say, whether your are at the controls of an ATV or any other vehicle, please wear a helmet and drive safely!