As disaster prepping continues its precipitous rise in popularity it seems every conceivable gadget, defense rig or bit of advice has been done or handed out. Everything’s been thought of, right? Not so fast. When you come right down to it, that advice, those how-to’s are what works for them. “Them” are all the people out there on the internet writing blog articles and posting videos. Most of them have the best intentions. They want to impart their knowledge to others who might benefit from it. But how do you take what they offer and make it your own? How to tweak it, modify it and customize it to what works best for you? This is exactly what should be done for a bug out vehicle, or in this case a bug out trailer. It has to meet your specific needs and include those particular adaptations and improvements that will be comfortably functional for you when everything else is going down the tubes.
Where to Start
First, select a base trailer to build up into the perfect survival masterpiece trailer. Lucky, for you there are a ton of choices out there. Trailers in all shapes and sizes have been manufactured for decades to meet all kinds of utilitarian needs from the professional contractor or construction firm hauling equipment to trailers meant for moving goods to those built for transporting recreational toys. Add to those variations all the recreational camping trailers on the market and the choices seem pretty much endless.
Do your research, envision the finished trailer in your mind, go look at potential buys in person, seek out used trailers for sale to save money, and pick the one that best fits your needs. Remember the longer a trailer is, the more restricted it will be for some locations. Longer trailers, obviously, need a larger turning radius and more space, in general, to maneuver. They are also limited to predominately flat roads as they are unable to manage rolling trails with narrow troughs between steep inclines.
Consider these types as potential bases to build out from;
Box utility trailers
Compact horse trailers
Airstream trailers (compact versions)
To pull that trailer you need to first build your bug out vehicle.
These types provide solid bases from which to customize to your unique specifications offering enough variety to fall within particular budget constraints. The benefit of these trailers is they are already enclosed which is a head start, so to speak, which allows you to jump right into customizing the inside. Having said that, though, there are numerous examples of people who have built up open-topped trailers, or even homemade pickup bed trailers, into rugged, workhorse camp trailers capable of going anywhere the vehicle towing them can go. But more on those later.
Determine the type of space you want to have inside. Will the trailer be self-contained with room to sleep and move around or will it serve as a gear and supply storage and transport? Once the usage of the inside space is settled on you can set to designing the features; insulated walls, the sleeping and sitting areas, storage (gear, food, water), cooking equipment and fuel (Used inside or out? Is ventilation needed?) and windows.
The biggest decision to make (most likely made before even buying the trailer) is will it be a sleeper or a transporter. Will the environmental conditions require an insulated, indoor living area or will an expansion component like an attached tent or pop-up roof sleeper be sufficient and comfortable?
This trailer has almost every bell and whistle imaginable. Click the image for more photos and details.
If you’re starting with what is, essentially, an empty box on wheels then it would behoove you add a layer of insulation, especially if you plan to sleep inside. The typical, recreational, camp trailer will already be insulated but it’d be worth checking its condition if the unit is an older model. Insulating a cargo trailer is done in the same fashion as insulating the walls of a house. The trailer will already have ribbed, structural support throughout, just as a wall has studs. Cut and fit sections of insulation between these ribs and cover over with sheets of plywood, measured and cut to fit properly and don’t forget to do the same with the roof.
From here, the rest is a custom job, built to your standards and needs. Aftermarket interiors such as cabinetry, foldout beds, convertible seating (into sleepers), and counters are available from various travel trailer retailers or you can build them yourself. Sinks and plumbing are easily found at supply stores and counters can be built to fit a typical camp stove. Research space-saving techniques online for innovative storage areas, utilizing every empty space inside and out. Add storage fuel and propane tanks, generators and batteries outside to avoid gasses from building up creating dangerous conditions inside. For additional energy supply needs beyond fuel, with most trailers’ flat roofs, consider installing solar panels or even a roof-mounted, wind turbine.
Sleeping tents are a popular add-on to some bug out trailers.
The open utility trailer comes in a full range of forms and sizes. By the term “open” we mean what is essentially, a flatbed trailer with 1-2 foot sides all around or a shallow, open-topped box on wheels. A popular customization for these is to convert them into tent trailers. A number of companies have cropped up over the years that manufacture folding or pop up tents that collapse into a zipped up square and overlays the open trailer. The tent and its support platform are hinged on one side and raise like a hatchback and serve as a cover lid for the open-topped trailer. The inside space is used for equipment and supply storage which can be partitioned off to effectively organize supplies. Or a portion of the inside houses slide-out storage containers or even full, outdoor kitchen setups with stove, sink and counter space.
Many people who go this route with their bug-out trailer make them into truly rugged, go-anywhere contraptions. Fitted with independent suspension, off-road tires and specialized hitches with couplings that allow for extreme vertical and horizontal towing angles these trailers can go virtually everywhere the vehicle towing them can go.
Both types of trailers, open-topped and enclosed, can incorporate external storage containers mounted to the outside walls, on over-sized wheel wells and to the roofs. There is often space on the trailer’s tongue for sturdy containers, propane tanks for cooking fuel or battery banks to store power. The customization opportunities are extensive, limited only by your imagination, time and to some extent, your wallet.http://fpnws.wpengine
Trailers are really one of the most versatile, bug-out vehicle options able to carry all that’s needed for a survival situation – food, water, shelter and lots more –the essentials, all piled into a mobile home away from home.
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.
A simple hand pump is an easy way to recover fuel from abandoned vehicles.
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!