You’ve probably seen it too—dozens or even hundreds of pictures of the “ideal” bug-out vehicle. They are almost always heavy-duty 4×4 trucks, equipped with grille guards, extra lights, jacked-up suspensions and enough attitude to drive right over anyone else that would dare to be on the same road. While those “dream trucks” may be fun to look at and even more fun to own, that doesn’t mean that they are the ideal bug-out vehicle for everyone.
Like most things in prepping, there is no one ideal answer which works for everyone. I’m sure that there are people out there for whom those trucks are the ideal bug-out vehicle. But, I’m equally sure that there are others who are better off with something much less ostentatious.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against 4×4 trucks or even SUVs. All I’m saying is that they might not be the best answer for everyone. If you live near the ocean, your best bug-out vehicle might be a 30-foot sailboat. For those who live at the foot of the mountains, with a bug-out cabin in the high country, the best bug-out vehicle might be a horse. Don’t let your options be limited by someone else’s ideas. You need to find what will work best for your own family and your own situation.
Before even thinking of a bug-out vehicle, you have to have a bug-out plan. In other words, you need to know where you are going so that you can pick the best possible vehicle to get you there. Don’t forget to have alternate plans as well, even if those alternates ultimately take you to the same destination. Armed with that plan, you can start thinking about what sort of bug-out vehicle will best suit your needs.
The best bug-out route is something that others won’t be using. If your bug-out plan includes using a major highway to leave town, you’d better think again. There will probably be a lot of other people trying to use that same highway. Find a way to go that most won’t think about, whether it is via back roads or cutting across country.
There are a number of factors in choosing a bug-out vehicle. These are the major ones:
- What are the likely road conditions between your home and your bug-out destination? Don’t forget to think about your alternate routes or what might happen to the road and bridges in the event of a disaster. (Note: road means whatever route you take, even if it’s across a field.)
- How many people and how much survival gear and supplies do you need to take with you? If you have a large family, you’ll need a vehicle that’s big enough for everyone. If you already have supplies pre-positioned in your bug-out location, you won’t need to take as much with you.
- What type of vehicles are people driving in your area? If you live in New York City, then running around in that 4×4 truck is going to be rather suspicious. OPSEC dictates the need for blending into your surroundings. You don’t want everyone looking at your truck and saying, “Yep, he’s a prepper.”
- What kind of fuel economy does the vehicle have? There’s no two ways about it, those big 4×4 trucks are gas hogs. Remember, gas is probably going to be scarce in the aftermath of a disaster. A fuel efficient vehicle has a better chance of being useful for more than just getting you to your bug-out location.
One important factor to consider is that you want your bug-out vehicle to be as versatile as possible. In other words, you don’t want a vehicle that can only get you to your bug-out location. Ideally, your bug-out vehicle will be something people are used to seeing your drive, rather than an Army deuce-and-a-half. That way, when you load it up to take off, your neighbors wont’ see anything unusual. They’ll just think that your family is going somewhere, not that you’re bugging out.
Speaking of which, use camouflage to your advantage. When you’re picking out your bug-out vehicle, make sure that it’s something which doesn’t stand out. Yellow is the worst possible color, as everyone sees that yellow car. Having it camouflage painted could be just as bad though, because people will notice it easily too. You want a color and style that blends in, so that people don’t notice you.
This is what undercover operatives (otherwise known as spies) do. They try and make themselves blend into the area where they are operating so that nobody notices them. You need to do the same, so that nobody notices you.
If you live in a city and have a prepared bug-out location out in the country somewhere, then your best possible bug-out vehicle might just be the car you drive to work every day. If you bug out early enough, then there will be minimal risk of problems with traffic and other obstructions. While your sedan isn’t as “sexy” a bug-out vehicle as those big trucks, it can still get you there. That’s what matters.
Another important consideration is an alternate plan for use if you are unable to use your planned bug-out route. I live in a hurricane zone, so I’m plagued with visions of highways which have turned into parking lots, because of everyone trying to bug-out at the same time. What are you going to do if that should happen? You have to have an alternate plan, even if it is setting out on foot.
If there’s one important thing I’ve learned, it’s that things rarely go according to plan. So, if your plan is to drive such-and-such a route in your bug-out vehicle, to get to your bug-out cabin in the woods, something will happen to make that impossible to do. A bridge will be washed out, traffic will be backed up, or the truck will mysteriously break down as soon as you leave your driveway. The details are immaterial; the fact is that things rarely go according to plan.
With that in mind, your final option is always to abandon your vehicle and strike out on foot. While staying with your vehicle has distinct advantages, things can reach a point where that vehicle is a trap, rather than a means of escape. Be sure you can recognize when things get to that point and are ready for it. Then, when the time comes, grab your bug-out bag, lock your car doors, put on your hiking boots and strike out on foot.
That brings up one final point I want to make. If your bug-out plan includes taking a lot of equipment and supplies with you, you’re asking for trouble. You never know when you’ll have to abandon all that stuff. You are always much better off bugging-out with a light load with your equipment and supplies already pre-positioned in your bug out location.