Sometimes in an emergency you just have to get out of town. People who live in areas regularly hit by fires and storms know this better than most of us and have found a few factors essential for a bug out vehicles. I’m using the term bug out vehicles loosely because most people don’t have dedicated vehicles for evacuation, that would be a bit extreme. Most people simply choose a day-to-day vehicle that can also serve them well in an emergency. Here’s what to look for:
You need a vehicle that has enough room for your group (family) and their stuff (bug-out bags). You should also be able to carry enough water and food for 3 to 30 days depending on your personal predictions for potential disasters.
You need a vehicle that can get you through a mess, like a storm. I personally think having 4-wheel drive is essential. It provides the clearance and traction you’d need to get through most conditions.
Range & Fuel
Your bug out vehicles needs to be able to get you to safety with the fuel it can hold. If power lines are down gas stations may stop pumping fuel. Being stuck with an empty tank during an evacuation is a serious problem. Diesel fuel, good fuel economy, and extended fuel tanks is often preferred.
When evacuation is required it tends to include the relocation of thousands of people. Even with ample cash finding a motel or safe place to stay may prove impossible. Vehicles that provide a protected place to sleep and live for your whole group may quickly become a very valuable asset.
The best protection is often the ability to go unnoticed. Vehicles that blend into the environment and don’t look like expensive temporary housing may be the safest place to stay. For example an RV looks like a place people live. A white panel truck with no windows that’s outfitted like an RV blends into the urban scenary. Less expensive vehicles are also less of a target when people begin to get out of control. For example an Escalade or Hummer would be a much higher theft target than an old pickup.
The ability to tow a small to medium size trailer gives you the flexibility to transport more stuff if time permits. Towing additional vehicles also becomes an option. Towing ATVs and motorcycles can also give you a way to bypass clogged freeways although this would require abandoning your primary bug-out vehicle.
Bug out vehicles you can work on yourself without the aid of computerized equipment is preferred. In an evacuation being able to preform a quick repair can get you back on the road fast. Modern computerized vehicles are nice when they work and when there are mechanics around to fix them. Simple vehicles that can repaired with hand tools are better in extreme situations.
I spotted this truck on craigslist the other day and imagined an extreme survivalist being it’s next owner. It’s a monster and former forest service truck. The owner is asking only $4900 for it. A truck like this wouldn’t be very useful everyday but it could be great during an evacuation. Some problems might be that it would stick out like a soar thumb and would need some kind of camper on the back for living/sleeping. It might also be hard to find truck parts. A smaller truck with more common parts would probably be better.
Here’s another example, a 1971 Suburban. Also less than $5,000. It would fulfill many of the requirements above and still be useful as a day-to-day vehicle, albeit a little expensive on fuel.
Another example of a good bug-out vehicle is an old jeep. I found this on craigslist too; its a 1962 Willys Wagon and the seller is asking for only $8,000. It’s got a fresh engine and transmission and with a more neutral paint job it might be a little more stealthy.
An older camper like this one can also serve as a very useful bug-out vehicle especially if any modern computerized components are replaced, like the fuel injection. But like the Willys and Suburban above range and fuel capacity might prove to be too limiting.
A truck like this (below) is probably the best balance between all the factors especially with a diesel engine and extended fuel tanks. The camper provides the living space, the 4-wheel drive can get you where you want to go. It’s also not an expensive camper so you wouldn’t be calling too much attention to yourself. Best of all it could serve multiple uses.