Basically, if you don’t have a Hummer H1 Alpha with a Duramax Diesel and 5-speed Allison transmission, magnesium-aluminum alloy or rubber inserts tires, and chemical warfare resistant paint, your bug out vehicle (BoV) is inadequate and will not save you. Just kidding.
I live in the DC Metro area. I’m planning on moving west, but it’s not exactly the best time for job hunting. If TSHTF before I’m able to move my family far from the east coast, we’ll have to Get Out Of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) in a BoV.
If you also live in an urban or suburban area, you should consider the types of vehicles that will best suit your evacuation. How far do you need to go? What sort of terrain? What seasonal variations need to be considered? Will it all be paved? Or will you need to go off road? How many passengers and how much cargo will you need to carry? These are all primary considerations.
Even if you live at a rural retreat you should have a backup plan that includes a BoV.
My scenario remains the same; leave the DC area – northern Virginia – for my parent’s farm in Nebraska, which will serve as a retreat for my brothers and I, and potentially other family members as well.
My wife, two toddlers, and I will need to travel about 1,300-1,400 miles, depending on the route. I’m not overly optimistic about the odds of survival, especially if our departure is delayed, but the only alternative is to plan to die – unacceptable. So this is a topic I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.
An article from the Survivalist Site on Bug Out Vehicle Basics nicely sums up the three “schools of thought” when it comes to BoVs;
- A pre-1980s, electromagnetic pulse (EMP)-proof truck or SUV – less electronics, more rugged, can stand the test of time
- A late model SUV or truck – no evidence older vehicles are EMP-proof, newer vehicles get better mileage and are more comfortable
- Whatever you have – not everyone can afford a BoV, so plan to go in the vehicle you have
Option 1 – pre-1980s. My brothers and I are considering purchasing such a vehicle for our retreat, especially a 4×4 diesel. These trucks are generally only a few thousand dollars – a bit more if/when restored – and a just plain classy to boot. I would opt for this if I had only a short distance to travel. But I have ruled such a BoV out for my potential 1,300+ mile evacuation for several reasons.
First, if there is an EMP and my vehicle is operational, I’ve just made myself a primary target for both bad guys and the authorities. In the 2005 version of War of the Worlds, Tom Cruise has his family in an operational car, and attempts to drive through crowds with it. The result is predictable – it is violently taken from him and puts his family in danger. Second, in the book One Second After, local authorities confiscated working vehicles, at gunpoint if they needed to. Third, these older vehicle usually get worse mileage than modern vehicles, which is very important if you plan on carrying your fuel supply as I do.
It just seems obvious that traveling a great distance in a scarce resource – a working vehicle in a post-EMP scenario – is a very bad idea. It draws attention and makes you a target by both the bad guys and the good guys. On the other hand, if your vehicle is at your retreat, it’s highly advisable to have a one likely capable of withstanding an EMP attack.
Option 2 – a modern SUV or truck. This is my choice for a long-distance evacuation. Modern vehicles are safer (airbags, etc.), generally get better mileage, and are much more comfortable. A truck or SUV will depend on your specific circumstances – how many people, what sort of cargo, etc.
Personally, I prefer a quad-cab 4×4 truck with a V8 engine. I need the internal space for the family and gear, while the bed can be loaded with a lot more gear and is preferable for carrying fuel. This is the sort of vehicle I have, on purpose. It’s a mid-2000s model purchased used and very well maintained since then.
I happen to have a sturdy cardboard tri-wall container that fits in the back of my truck and will assist in getting more loaded securely. You might also consider a bed cover to get more in. I also recommend a hitch mount cargo carrier for either a truck or SUV, but it’s pretty much essential for an SUV for carrying fuel outside the passenger compartment.
There are two other features I find important; sitting high enough to see over other vehicles, and being able to accelerate. Having a large truck can be inconvenient in a suburban or urban environment for parking, but on the road it’s nice to be able to see over other vehicles and anticipate what you need to do.
While a V8 is less fuel efficient, being able to accelerate and outrun other vehicles could be essential in a bug out situation – running away is better than fighting when your kids are along for the ride. As always, it depends on your specific circumstances.
As a backup, we also have a mid-sized SUV – a mid-2000s Nissan Xterra. The Xterra is comparable to the Ford Escape. Gas mileage is not very good for a six-cylinder, but it is capable off-road or in snow, as we recently saw in the DC area. Unlike quad-cab trucks, the Xterra can turn on a dime.
Most SUVs in this class have cargo racks on top, and can have a two-inch hitch installed – important for the cargo carrier mentioned above. If we cannot take the truck, the Xterra will be tight but acceptable. It will carry less cargo and fuel, but get better mileage.
If you’re buying specifically with bugging out in mind and have a moderate to long distance to travel, consider having a second fuel tank installed.
Option 3 – whatever you have. If TSHTF and you have a Camry, that’s what you’ll have to go in, unless you can go with someone with a more suitable vehicle. Again, if you have a short distance to go and little to carry, this might be ideal due to mileage. For my baseline scenario, it would probably be a disaster, which is why “whatever” I have is a truck and SUV.
If you are concerned about the possibility of having to bug out and you have a significant distance to travel, I strongly suggest looking into a used truck or SUV. With modern vehicles, high miles need not mean it’s on its last legs. Have a mechanic look at if before purchasing, and keep it well maintained; oil changes, tires, tune-ups, etc.
In my experience, the item an urban or suburban vehicle needs most attention paid to is brakes. Stop and go traffic is hell on brakes. Keep spare hoses and belts, but make sure your brakes are up to par.
I’m basically for all three options depending on the situation; an older vehicle for the retreat BoV; a modern vehicle for a long-range BoV, and making sure the “whatever you have” is a truck or SUV.
Consider your situation, what you’ll need, and purchase accordingly. If your budget is tight, consider what your vehicle is capable of carrying and prioritize from there. Good luck!