When disaster strikes, the last thing you want to do is to second guess your selection and equipping of a bug-out vehicle for getting you from point “A” to point “B”. Assuming that your bug-out plan has contingencies for vehicle travel in the worst of conditions, there are many things that even the best prepper may not have considered, so now is the time to think it through.
A critical component of your bug-out plan is the selection of a vehicle that will enable you to execute all travel tactics and contingencies. The selection process cannot be thorough enough, as you must consider everything from load capacity to its ability to withstand a blast from an electromagnetic pulse.
Most vehicles today run on electronics making them vulnerable to an EMP blast. Computer systems, sensors and solenoids could be rendered useless, stopping your vehicle in its tracks. Anything electronic would require sufficient hardening or a supply of replacement parts protected with an aluminum foil wrap.
Point “B”, your bug-out destination, was most likely selected for its remote location at a safe distance outside of the disaster zone. That could be a couple of hundred or even a thousand miles away. (Although any distance over a few hours’ drive should involve a temporary stop-over place so you can rest, recover, or wait until circumstances improve before continuing on.) A solid bug-out plan includes mapping of several alternative routes with some that may require an extended off-road expedition.
Careful consideration must be given to fuel requirements, calculating the mileage for all alternate routes with compensation for variable speeds and diminished fuel efficiency in cold weather. Should you be forced to traverse extreme off-road terrain at slow and sporadic speeds, your fuel efficiency will drop dramatically—even more if you need to deflate the tires for greater traction.
Using standard parts such as stock rims and tires will greatly diminish your vehicle’s chance of withstanding the pounding of uneven, hole-pocked dirt trails. The use of standard-grade tools may diminish your capacity to conduct repairs in extreme situations.
Selecting and outfitting a vehicle must be done in the context of getting your family to safety under the most extreme conditions with thoughtful consideration for the worst of scenarios.
Surviving the EMP Blast
The ideal solution for surviving an EMP blast is to find a pre-1990s, diesel-powered vehicle. Built without electronics or the need for fuel injectors (diesel powered), they can continue to ramble on after the electromagnetic pulse. Finding one that is mechanically and structurally sound enough to withstand an off-road expedition may be difficult.
Although they may be difficult to find, older models come with less electronic technology so there is less that can go wrong. As long as there is availability of spare parts and you can become proficient in the mechanics, you should be okay. Your focus then should be on its durability in off-road conditions. Obviously older Ford and Chevy trucks and SUVs would be at the top of any list with these requirements.
If you prefer more recent models, then you will need to stock up on replacement electronics as well as the knowledge it will take to replace them. Computer systems such as the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) and the Injector Drive Module need to be protected with foil wrap and placed in anti-static bags. The same with critical sensors like the camshaft sensor and solenoids. All of these parts should be stored in a heavy gauge metal box for ultimate protection.
More importantly, you should ensure that you have the wherewithal to do the work. In some vehicles, replacing the PCM requires technology and capabilities only available through the dealer. Replacing a sensor, in some vehicles, may require the removal of major engine parts which can only be done in a mechanic’s shop. You will need to review the availability and ease of replacement of all of these parts with your dealer.
Fuel requirements and storage
If your destination is less than 1000 miles, you may be able to get away with one 98-gallon auxiliary tank. While that may seem more than sufficient, assuming standard fuel mileage, the mistake that some people make is underestimating the amount of fuel needed for traveling in severe off-road conditions. If your estimation of your vehicle’s fuel mileage is based on its performance during more leisurely off-road experiences, you may want take that fuel mileage and cut it in half. The fuel mileage of a large 4X4 pickup can drop dramatically the more slowly and sporadically it is required to travel on uneven, hilly roads.
You may have found that, on a typical dirt trail, your pickup can maintain a 20 to 30 mile-an-hour speed. However, on a washed out, hillside, dirt trail incline covered with small boulders that extends for several miles, you should be prepared for your average speed to drop to 7 to 10 miles an hour. With that, your fuel efficiency drops by half or more, therefore increasing your fuel requirements. This is one more reason you should have a secondary location ready if your primary objective is a long way away.
Prepare for the elements
Many large four-wheel-drive trucks are built for off-road use. Few come off the factory floor with the kind of parts that can withstand the most extreme off-road conditions you may encounter in a crisis. If you’re ordering new, it’s possible to order your vehicle to be equipped for maximum durability or you can outfit one in your own way.
At a minimum, your vehicle should have 37-inch (or better), puncture resistant tires. You may have to retrofit the wheel wells to accommodate them though. The tires, including the two spares, should be mounted on nothing less than military grade rims, so sell those fancy ones and get yourself four workhorses.
Your vehicle should have at least a 4-inch lift support with high performance shocks. You will be sacrificing stability for clearance, but in an off-road expedition the clearance is what will matter most. Extreme conditions also require extreme tools, or, at least, professional-grade tools that can match the brawn of your vehicle and the challenges of off-road contingencies. Bigger tires require a bigger tire iron and a hydraulic jack may be your best hope in difficult situations. A torch wrench should also be considered.
A hi-lift jack is a versatile, rugged tool doesn’t make many lists of bug out tools and yet, it is the one tool that can get you through most situations that require pushing, pulling, clamping or winching humungous objects of up to 6000 pounds. They’re lightweight and don’t take up too much space.
Getting from point “A” to point “B” is the primary objective in a bug-out situation. If you’re expecting rugged terrain, one of your most important considerations has to be the vehicle you choose and whether it is fully capable of meeting the challenges of any contingency. The devil is always in the details, so it is critical that the process of selection and equipping your vehicle is thorough and deliberate.
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