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Letter Re: Advice on Survival Retreats and Bug Out Vehicles

I have been reading your blog and I find it very useful in many ways. I have a couple of questions for you:
1) For a secure compound or retreat would a multi family area (with like-minded people of course) be something useful? And if so, how would you bring it to the attention of members that would be willing to invest in something like this? [JWR’s replies are in-line, in bold.]

Yes, a multi-family retreat can be viable, but only if there are clearly delineated rights and responsibilities. These should spelled out formally–either contractually or covenantally–lest there be any later disagreement on what was intended. Typically this is is done by taking a large farm or ranch property and subdividing it into a set of contiguous parcels that are deeded to individual families. I’ve seen these done with some areas left for common use, but that generally causes disagreements–usually about grazing rights and unintended livestock cross-breeding. (The classic European “Tragedy of the Commons” [1] is all too commonplace, even when it is just a three or four family group retreat.)

It is probably best to first try to find local buyers for your group retreat. If there are some like-minded friends at your church, that would be ideal. Failing that, you can advertise at the SurvivalistBooks.com’s “Groups” page [2]. It is a free service. If you use it be sure to place a book order , to “do your bit” to support their efforts.

2) I just built my first Bug Out Vehicle (BOV [3]). It is a one ton Chevy old body style 4×4 crew cab pickup. I have just put a multi-fuel Hummer engine in it with a very good transmission, 2 ton springs all the way around, a 2 ton rear end with a 2 speed in it. 24 volt DC system. There are 2 winches–front and back. I boxed the frame. I added A removable [fording] snorkel tube, under the hood air compressor and welder, and an [120 VAC] inverter system in the cab with an outlet also available in the back of the bed. Now the question is there anything that I have missed?

It sounds like all that you have it pretty well “dialed in”. You might add a pivoting spotlight. Don’t be complacent and plan to rely entirely on your two winches. There may be situations where you need to pull your rig sideways. I recommend also carrying at least one come-along (ratchet hoist), a shovel, an axe, a tow chain, and and two Hi-Lift jacks. If you live in a forested area, also carry a chainsaw and accessories. If you life out in the desert, carry a couple of sheets of PSP [4] (steel “runway mats”.) Depending on the range that you need to travel to your retreat, you might consider adding another fuel tank [5]. Assuming that your pickup already has dual tanks, the third tank would typically mounted in the cargo bed. If you plan to use a cargo bed tool box, then get an L-shaped tank.)

3) Next because of growing family now I need two BOVs. I have been looking into the SUV [6]s for my wife and the [Isuzu] Rodeo is looking very good. You can pick them up cheap. The parts are inexpensive, and they are a good little 4×4. You can buy a whole spare”crate” engine with everything from radiator to computer for around $600 brand new. They get around 30- to-35 mpg [7] which on a full tank is around 500-550 miles. What are your thoughts?

I consider the Isuzu Rodeo essentially an “expendable” light duty vehicle that is good for only 15 years of service, even if you switch engines past 150,000 miles. Beyond just planned obsolescence, they are built to fall apart. I suggest that you buy something more durable. Perhaps a Ford Explorer. (OBTW, some of these are also available “flex fuel” [8]–so they can burn E85 [9] ethanol ) if you shop around.) At least you have a chance of making an Explorer last 25 to 30 years. Granted, they only get 20 miles to the gallon, but they are far more durable and they can carry a load. We’ve used our Explorer to tow large livestock trailers and a 10 foot long box trailer that at times has been outrageously loaded with green firewood. That is something that I would never dream of doing with an Isuzu Rodeo.

4) I’m considering an off-grid property in an old mining district. It has some hot springs. Your thoughts? Thanks, – C.D.

Be sure to have the drinking well/spring water analyzed for both bacteria count and heavy metals before making an offer on the property!