Bug-Out Vehicles (BOV)

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 vehicle. I’m using the term bug-out vehicle 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 vehicle 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.


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.

10 thoughts on “Bug-Out Vehicles (BOV)

  1. “Some problems might be that it would stick out like a soar thumb”. What kind of disaster are we imagining? A Chinese led invasion of USA? ‘Cause I seriously doubt a fire, tornado or earthquake can ‘see’ you and subsequently hunt you down.

    • Looters or other desperate US citizens.

      If the Chinese were to invade the US and out military was not there to stop them I’m not sure what kind of extreme prep would save your life. So a bit to extreme for reasonable consideration.

  2. “Sticking out like a sore thumb” refers to not being noticed by other less prepared people who are looking for a way out of town. While the majority of preppers would hopefully be somewhat prepared to confront a carjacker / scared desperate group of people. I would prefer that they simply ignore my modest looking vehicle rather than risk a confrontation. Excellent article sir.

  3. “Sticking out” is to be avoided for more reasons than just looters. Beggars, the desperate and just flat-out unprepared masses will flock to any vehicle that “looks” prepared, or in a size sufficient to store things for emergencies. Such vehicles will draw much attention to themselves. However, unless you have the time and money to pre-position your supplies at your BOL, then just drive out there in a daily driver, there are only a few ways to use a stick-out vehicle when the SHTF:

    1. Don’t wait for an event to move the vehicle to where you want to be. Put it at the BOL or, if it is more than two tankfuls of fuel from home (the other tankful is in the vehicle, in cans), stash fuel along your realistic routes (at least two) buried or otherwise hidden so that you will be among the few with enough range to wait out the inevitable traffic jams that await all last-minute refugees.

    2. Leave before the event, in the night. Of course this is not possible with earthquakes or nuts lighting up a dirty bomb in your nearby city. But most disasters have signs they are coming. Yes, you may feel paranoid in doing so. But which do you choose, looking paranoid to your neighbors who see you trucking it out at the first sign of trouble… or, being stuck near the city because the freeways are jammed before you even got out of your driveway?

    One easy way to avoid city freeway panic is to GET OUT OF THE CITIES. Simple. I didn’t say it was easy, but you have to admit it that doing so simplifies prep planning and magnifies your chances of successful survival of the masses and evac to your BOL.

    My current BOV is a Suburban 4×4 diesel, but as my family grows, I am tempted to buy a class C motorhome towing a cargo trailer. Ever tried sleeping on a truck seat for a week? I may buy the RV or just keep the Sub. Undecided. I sure as hell made the decision long ago to get away from the cities.

  4. [Years later -ok, minor exaggeration…? I spot this thread in the woods and wander in to comment-by writing in the dust on your 4×4 windshield with my finger …and then going “Ew!” when I look at my dustyfinger when I’m done…WARNING: Insomnia, haven’t slept in a while: odds are against anything making sense here.]

    As far as Sticking Out vs. Chinese Invasion etc? Kinda like some other folks, [if all of my kneeling on rice grains- praying and crying -asking G*d what have I done to offend thee -if any of this gets through and the setbacks stop, the smackdowns cease] and I get my small home of some sort:

    It’ll get placed out yonder in a copse of trees -oh Man I want a healthy piece of LAND so bad: some trees-boulders-river/stream/wells- parked in the trees unless I need the sun for warmth, I guess- with huge camo things flung all over it [and trip wires w/camo’d cow bells on ‘em around the solar panels that are on portable things so I can scootch ‘em around at the sun or toss ‘em inside if I have to scrumble] …

    Uhhhm- not because I’m necessarily expecting [A SPANISH INQUISITION!!] some kind of invading force from China, Canada or Idaho… I just really like the idea of ME choosing when I get bothered by folks [though I am more or less friendlier than I sound] and I live in a big city where the homicide rate is through the roof, and quite often people are really mean and angry -which I am not when I am out there-

    And yeah I guess when I watch the news … sometimes it seems things are getting a little too crazy out there (maybe just a cyclical thing, ‘normal’, exacerbated & inflated in my head by my own bad luck, hard times), too damn crowded out there- sorry, I try to not curse but every now and again I just feel the need- and I really hate crowded, see?

    Anyway: things being what they are (not ANY of our singular perceptions / OR a totality of all of our perceptions added up and blended on ‘milkshake setting’ then given back to us in little cups of ‘reality malteds’) I do have to say that the last vehicle up there is an exceptional -EXCEPTIONAL! vehicle to go camp in, Bug Out In: you name it. I love that Unicat Monster (sp?) some of you may be familiar with (and the perhaps one of a kind Japanese one with Tatami room?), but that does tend to stand out in an aggressive fashion: alarming nearly everyone along with the police, etc.

    You know how sometimes people come across a vehicle that been used so lightly, taken great care of -that it’s almost new regardless of what you see, above, being decades old? Well I’d do backflips to have one of those up there, adding in solar + a water treatment system -over a brand new RV, B-Van or a big sweet C class even -because how could I afford the gas?

    C Class etc RV Exceptions made across the board for situations such as Matthew McConaughey/ Airstream to die for, Pam Anderson/C Class WOW glitzyweirdcool- which would need a re-decorate since Hugh Hefner gave it to her… or!! Robert de Niro decided to get a new RV and said “Hey Kid, here’s de keys to the old one: Take good care of dis one heah or you’ll see me in your rear mirrors one day like Cape Fear, you unnerstan’ me?”

    Why he’d be in character -or any of them would be doing a nutty giveaway thing like this- who cares, maybe it’s an awesome raffle, right- but in the end… Bob would be wondering where his former RV went to, when… you never know: maybe he’s driving down a road and it’s in that bunch of trees over there by that rock outcropping where there’s some glass maybe glinting in the sunset?

    Just like getting LASIK for my incredibly bad eyesight: I bought my SUV back in 2007 specifically for Bug Out; for errands: a tenderly cared for small Toyota -1990- had low miles, the BEST care, loved by all who met her just like a dog can be, you know? Then 2 years ago, ironically, a guy in an SUV who just got off the freeway, still going those ‘just got off the freeway speeds’ blows right through his red light and destroys my Toyota and parts of me.

    My SUV, it’s not that great of condition… I’m torn about what to do/whether to put $ in it- it was sufficient back then, now I think not so much… or keep saving every dollar toward a tiny house or an RV. So, even though this is one long wacky comment, it’s dead-on subject wise.

    Far too many words? I usually write the long wacky-wacky stuff like this when I haven’t been able to sleep in a couple of days: yep, it’s been long.

  5. NEW RULE: no more leaving comments when I haven’t slept for -even 1 night. One!

    Wow. My apologies to the bulk of humanity.
    (But if it makes perfect sense to you? -cool.)

  6. There was a man who saved his money to buy a great generater for those times when electricty was down because of storm.He and his family were snug and cozy and warm after a bad storm knocked out all electricity for 3 week’s.However his neighbor’s who sat in dark and cold houses as they had not prepared became angry over the fact someone had it better then they. One night a gang of them shot out the guy’s generater and ended the use of it.Guy’s this is what we face. Utter contempt from those who refused to prepare and will not allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

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