As you begin to think about preparing your family for a survival type of scenario there are a lot of important considerations. Do you have enough food stored up to keep your family fed and healthy during the length of any disruption? Do you have adequate water stores and a plan for resupplying that water and disinfecting it? Certainly firearms are considered as well as a plan for security in your home, but what if your plans are to bug out? If you have analyzed your situation and the plan for you and your family if the SHTF is to Get out Of Dodge (G.O.O.D) then you are going to need a vehicle most likely. Today we are going to talk about all of the different options, choices and considerations for your own personal Get out Of Dodge Vehicle.
Vehicle Type Options
Most of us aren’t going to be able to swing the totally awesome Conquest Knight XV pictured above unless we win the lottery or you are independently wealthy. Actually, I don’t know how much one of these costs because the website says “Price: will be provided privately”. I assume that means the same thing as if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. There is a chance that you could stumble upon an abandoned Hummer full of weapons like Columbus and Tallahassee did in this scene below from Zombieland, but I kind of doubt that too.
For the rest of us we have to be a little more practical, so extremely expensive vehicles and found jackpots of Zombie survival booty aside, let’s look at our options.
Truck – A truck is a solid choice for a Bug Out Vehicle and offers a lot of advantages. For starters, trucks are so common you can’t help but find a truck out there and they have plenty of uses even outside of an emergency. Trucks have a bed that can be just as useful for hauling supplies to your retreat location or your survival kit as it can a new washing machine home from Lowes. An important consideration with any bug out vehicle is the best ones have 4 wheel drive so that if the need arises to go off-road, you will be prepared.
If you are considering the very real potential threat of EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) you will want to get a truck that doesn’t have an electronic ignition. 1986 and older trucks fit the bill nicely and come with a lower price tag. Of course, you will be looking at a truck that has very high mileage and mechanical issues in most cases, but the price you are going to spend for this truck is much less than a newer truck so some of your money can go to refurbishing your new Get Out Of Dodge vehicle. I would make sure to have the engine rebuilt or replaced if the mileage is really high. The transmission would be the next logical place to put your money. I wouldn’t worry about the paint job or interior trim niceties until your major mechanical systems were almost as good as new.
Along with 4 wheel drive, a quad or crew cab will give you extra room for people or storage. An older truck with a quad cab and 4 wheel drive won’t be as easy to find as an old Ford Ranger, but it is worth it to look around. Use Craigslist to find good deals and you might have to be willing to travel up to 50 miles away to find a diamond in the rough. They are out there.
SUV – SUV’s are actually easier to find used and cheaper than trucks. This is because trucks can always be used for work while SUV’s are primarily a family vehicle. Another and more obvious reason is gas mileage. With gas prices over $4 a gallon in many locations people are unloading them to downsize to more fuel efficient vehicles. SUV’s suck a lot of gas obviously, but they do have some advantages that trucks don’t without modifications.
First, the entire vehicle is already covered so there is no need to buy a camper shell. This can give you more security for your supplies; you don’t have to worry about your spare food or weapons getting stolen as easily as out of the back of a truck. You can also sleep in the back of most SUV’s if you remove the seats and have that same covering over your head. SUV’s usually have a 4 wheel drive option on the dash but their off-roading abilities are not as substantial as you might think. Your typical SUV is a lot heavier than a truck but in some cases this is an advantage. If you have to plow through a roadblock of stuck cars, an SUV would be the better option in that case.
As with trucks you want to shoot for an older model with 4 wheel drive and spend your extra money on rebuilding the engine and transmission. You may be able to get rid of any third row seating to free up storage space.
Surplus Military – This is a very interesting option but not one that your average suburbanite is going to go for. For the same amount of money you can find used military vehicles that would make excellent bug out vehicles, but would certainly be a lot more noticeable by your neighbors unless you lived in a very remote location or a military base. If OPSEC is a concern (and it should be) then a military surplus vehicle wouldn’t be the first choice but should be considered. There is a great amount of options for vehicles and other military surplus from the Government Liquidation website and you could walk away with incredible deals. Make sure you research the terms of sale first. You may win a giant tanker truck that isn’t operable yet and it would be your responsibility to take it off the lot.
There are great deals to be had if your wife is ok with you parking a 5-ton camouflaged truck in the driveway while you wait for a disaster to happen. These vehicles are already set up for off-road ability and are made to take a beating. Spare parts would be hard to come by though in a grid-down scenario. The spare parts issue alone is one strong reason to choose an older American made truck or SUV.
Motorcycle – I don’t own a motorcycle but I have ridden them before. A common thread in survival forums and literature is the horde of motorcycle gangs rolling into town and killing and raping the women. This may happen, but if I had to choose a vehicle to roll into a potentially hostile town, it would not be a motorcycle. That’s just me.
Motorcycles have advantages in that they are pretty good on gas, can be hidden easily and if equipped right, can be ridden off road. They are also able to zip between cars stopped in traffic. At least until someone opens their door. Motorcycles lack shelter though and you can’t carry a lot of people or equipment on a motorcycle. You are exposed to the elements and this means heat and cold. You are basically toast if you have a wreck and motorcycles can fall over easily in any type of snow or rain.
I will add that it may be handy to know how to ride a motorcycle though. You never know if you might need to hop on one to escape a situation. They aren’t completely useless, but as I said, they wouldn’t be my first choice.
Animals – Horses would make a good bug out “vehicle” in certain situations also. I would not want to try and get out of the city on a horse and like motorcycles; they can’t carry a lot of supplies or other people. I know two people can ride a horse, but the more you load on a horse, the slower they will go and will need more rest. Horses have to be fed also, but as long as there is grass to eat and water to drink they should be fine. The elements are another factor with the horse as with a motorcycle.
Bikes – A bike is able to carry a decent amount of weight considering what you are looking at and only requires you to power it. A touring bike with saddle bags would be able to carry you and some supplies but like motorcycles and horses you are exposed to the elements, they are unstable and aren’t recommended for heavy duty bug out scenarios. If you can get a jump on the crowd and your retreat has all of your prepping supplies, a bike with saddle bags may be a good option.
Fuel Options – The most common options are Gas and diesel. I know there are propane and hybrid technologies, but you can’t siphon propane out of anyone’s tank. Batteries aren’t good options in an end of the world scenario so between diesel and gas, which is better? It does depend on the age of the vehicle and the equipment you are running. In very general terms, in older vehicles diesel is preferred for its mileage and durability of the engine. Diesel engines typically deliver 20- to 40-percent better fuel economy than comparable gasoline engines doing the same amount of work. A diesel engine with 400000 miles is nothing odd and Diesels have extra torque and more pulling power.
Bio-diesel is another option, but must be created in a lab. OK, the lab can be your kitchen, but it isn’t as easy as the pump. The process is supposed to be simple and there are sites and plans for this as well. In a total collapse I would give this one a shot, but for now I would store up several hundred gallons of regular gas or diesel. It’s just simpler for the average bear.
Another interesting option and one I would pursue if I had a workshop, the time and a more mechanical mind would be wood gasification. Wood gasifiers can power either spark ignition engines, where 100% of the normal petrol can be replaced with little change to the carburation, or in a diesel engine, feeding the gas into the air inlet that is modified to have a throttle valve, if it didn’t have it already. All you need is wood to burn and you are all set. I have seen a lot of claims and even plans online for how to retrofit a regular engine to run on gassification. Again, this would be at the end of the world before I would try this. To simply get out of dodge I would want a simpler solution.
Post Collapse Considerations
Since we are talking about fuel we should talk about how you are going to ensure you have or can procure the fuel you need after a disaster or collapse of society. Prior to the collapse, you should have enough fuel stored at all times either in your vehicle or on your property to get you to your retreat location. I would say double this amount just to be safe because you may have to take alternate routes or be delayed in traffic. The last thing you want is to run out of gas half way between your home and your bug out location with gas stations that are either out of gas or are unable to get to the gas due to a power outage.
One simple rule of thumb is to never let your gas gauge get below half a tank. This will ensure you are never on empty when some disaster strikes. You can focus on getting back home to your family and not waiting in line at a gas station. If you remember hurricane Sandy, they started rationing gas almost immediately and there were lines of people queued up to fill their 5 gallon cans for their generators. You don’t want to be in that line. My sister in-law was visiting from out of town and we were talking one time and the subject of keeping the tank at least half-full came up. She said “well, that wouldn’t get me home if I was at your house and I only had half a tank” to which I replied, “maybe not, but you would get 200 miles closer”. I think that made her consider things differently.
There will always be the possibility that no matter how you planned, you may still need to get gas. Siphoning from another gas tank is pretty simple. Just make sure you have several feet of garden hose or plastic tubing. I prefer clear plastic tubing that you can get at any hardware store because you can see when the gas is coming out and avoid a mouthful of nastiness.
A manual hand pump and about 15 feet of hose or tubing would allow you to tap into fuel tanks buried under gas stations in an emergency. Depending on your route this may be something you want to plan for.
Modifications and Upgrades
What is the best thing about buying a bugout vehicle? Tricking it out with all sorts of modifications of course! Once you have a vehicle that is running well, free of any mechanical defects and you are confident it will get you where you are going, its time to accessorize!
Off road tires – This is a no-brainer but the tires should match your environment. If most of your driving is on the highways, I would tone this option down a little and try to strike a good balance between functionality and common sense. Giant knobby tires are perfect for the mud bog, but if you have to drive 500 miles on the highway with a short dirt road to your retreat maybe you don’t need these.
Bumper Guard – Bumper guards pull double duty as protecting the front of your vehicle, holding additional lights and equipment like winches. If money were no object I would go with a Warn Industries package.
Winches – as mentioned above, these are normally incorporated into a reinforced bumper guard and will give you the ability to pull your vehicle or another vehicle out of a stuck situation. If your buddy sinks his old jeep in the mud, you can hook up to his bumper and pull him out from the dry safety of the river bank. Don’t forget towing straps too so even if you don’t have a winch, you can potentially pull your buddy out of a ditch.
Additional Fuel Bladders – These can be as simple as throwing some additional 5-gallon tanks in the back or as complex as augmenting your entire fuel system. For a truck, I would consider an extra fuel container that also doubles as a tool box in the back for maximum fuel capacity. This could give you almost 100 gallons of capacity and a lot of range.
Trailer – When you want to carry all of your food and shelter and supplies, the easiest way to increase your capacity is to hook a trailer up to the back but make sure you know how to back that trailer up. Used trailers can be found for a few hundred dollars and there aren’t that many moving parts to go bad. Ensure the wheel bearings are in good shape and packed with grease and your tires have plenty of tread left on them. When you aren’t hauling all of your supplies to your retreat you can help your friend get a load of mulch in the spring!
Rooftop Cargo Carriers – a lot of vehicles come with a basic luggage rack, but a more substantial cargo carrier can give you storage options on the top of your truck or SUV.
Hopefully, that gives you some inspiration and ideas about your Get Out Of Dodge Vehicle. If you have anything to add, please comment below. Happy shopping!