Opinions regarding the best bug out vehicle are as wide and varied as the prepper community itself. It seems that at times the only limits are the imagination and the wallet. Having dealt with this dilemma I’d like to share my thoughts and approach. Like most things this is not a one-size-fits-all decision. Factors to be evaluated include how many passengers, how much cargo, what type of terrain and what type of fuel.
How Many Passengers
I’m always amused at how The Walking Dead portray this issue. ninety percent of the population can no longer drive and you choose an old motor home, a sports car, a pickup truck and later a street bike. That’s why it’s entertainment, it isn’t grounded in reality.
As the size of your group increases your strategy should change to reflect it. If you’re solo a motorcycle offers economy and agility but at the cost of cargo carrying capability. Motorcycle trailers are available and offer an interesting option.
If your party numbers four or less a small SUV like the Subaru Outback offers reasonable fuel economy, seating for four, storage, four wheel drive and will blend in and function well as a daily driver. A step up might be a 4X4 half-ton pickup with a crew-cab. It will give you a little more ground clearance, seats five to six, significantly more cargo capacity but all at the expense of economy.
If your group has expanded beyond six it’s time to think about strategy and multiple vehicles. If you only have one vehicle and it breaks down you are 100% afoot. Multiple vehicles gives you options. If you’re fleeing Katrina you drive the remaining vehicle to a convenient stop over point, drop the cargo and passengers and return for the rest. If it’s a SHTF scenario your strategy must change. This is an example of one is none and two is one. A small motorcycle in your cargo gives you the option of scouting ahead without leaving the main party stranded.
If the scenario is WROL you should consider a convoy with scout vehicles, multiple passenger vehicles and cargo vehicles.
What you take with you is probably one of the most important decisions you make. Your choice must be tempered with the reality that this is either a full bug-out to an undetermined location or a bug-out to a prepared location.
Trying to transport everything you’ll ever need is fraught with problems. Plan ahead. I’m always amazed at families who drive two new cars, took a vacation to Disneyland last year, have a bass boat AND a Harley but can’t afford to prepare for a calamity.
My suggestion is that eighty percent of your cargo should be food and self defense as well as a seasons worth of clothing (warm/cold weather) and a well stocked tool kit. You’ll be surprised what you can fabricate from material found at hand. That four-man tent along with the cots and camping stove won’t last a year of constant use. They’re designed to be used once a year for two weeks then back in the closet.
I’ve owned four wheel drive trucks for the last twenty years. The last time mine went off road was when I had to drive in the pasture to pull my tractor out of the mud. If I go camping it’s parked at the camp ground parking lot. If I go hunting it’s driven down a dirt road to the cabin and parked. I’m not an off-roader and I don’t go rock crawling. I try to navigate around, not plow through, obstacles.
In spite of this I recommend every vehicle to be four wheel drive. The reason is simple, highway medians. I recall coverage of the evacuation for Katrina. The backup was for over fifty miles and was compounded by vehicles that broke down and were left on the roadway. Many that tried to go around through the median were stranded there because they were to low and bottomed out. Of course, the fatal flaw in the plan was that they didn’t, plan that is. They sat at home and watched events unfold and didn’t evacuate until told to do so.
The road system in this country is extensive and far reaching. The old adage that “you can’t get there from here” well…you can..from anywhere. Should we have an event such as the Yellowstone caldera erupting traffic will be heavy…for months. One of my current projects is fabricating a set of steel wheels for my truck that will allow me to drive on railroad tracks. Used railroad service trucks can be bought easily.
There aren’t many choices here. The primary options are gas and diesel. Gasoline is ubiquitous and easily found everywhere however a major catastrophe can quickly change that. Diesel is widely available but will be subject to the same limitations.
I’ve driven diesels for twenty years. I find them to be economical, my current truck getting eighteen miles per gallon on the highway and fourteen with a loaded ten thousand pound trailer. They are durable as well and are designed to last well over three hundred thousand miles and as much as a million if well maintained. The lore that they smoke and are loud is no longer true though newer generations require diesel particulate filters and diesel exhaust fluid. These can be deleted but at additional expense.
There is no right answer to this dilemma. Your choice must reflect your circumstances.