It’s evident from watching the news, that far too many Americans rely on the government when disasters occur. Recent hurricanes, forest fires, and floods provide stark evidence of this fact. If you think the government will be there a day or two after a disaster strikes, think again. It may take as long as a month before help from state and federal agencies arrive. Because of this it’s wise to have not only a vehicle and shelter ready to evacuate in a moment’s notice, but also to have an emergency supply of food and water. A good bug out rig can help do all of these things and more.
What is a bug out vehicle? What does it mean to “bug out?” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, bug out is a slang term that means “to depart especially in a hurry.” Thus a bug out vehicle will allow you to quickly evacuate or escape from a natural or man-made disaster. If you think you’re not at risk from a disaster, think again. A review of recent American history will reveal everything from forest fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, nuclear reactor leaks, civil unrest, and terrorist attacks. The bug out vehicle gives you greater ability and peace of mind to evacuate or respond to almost any emergency, including lesser one’s like a power outage or family illness.
So what makes a good bug out vehicle? Well, a good rig should meet five basic requirements. First, it should be large enough to transport your entire family. No sense in buying a vehicle that isn’t large enough to take everyone. Second, it should get decent gas mileage and have a gas tank large enough to get you far out of harm’s way. Third, it should be large enough to store enough food, water, and shelter for at least 72 hours. Fourth, it should be a four-wheel drive and should have adequate ground clearance. And fifth, it should have the ability to tow and be towed (depending upon your rig and your own personal circumstances, the shelter and storage capacities for your family can be greatly increased by towing either a utility trailer, fifth wheel, or travel trailer. The vehicle choices and combinations are endless).
Is there a such thing as a great bug out vehicle? We think there is. In our opinion, an outstanding bug out vehicle should not only meet the five basic requirements listed above but should also be mated with a small RV. Having a small, well-stocked bug out RV (BORV) will not only will get your family out of harm’s way, but will also provide you and your family with food, water, and shelter. What’s the definition of a small RV? Anything that is less than 29 feet, like a small Class-B or Class-C motorhome, or a truck camper. In a bug out scenario you want options and having a large RV, like a 40-foot Class-A motorhome, will reduce them and may also draw unwanted attention. Having a small and maneuverable RV, on the other hand, will allow you to travel and camp practically anywhere as well as park in a single parking space or in a family member’s driveway. Let’s take a closer look at the top three:
1. Hard-Side 4×4 Truck Camper
The best bug out vehicle and RV combination. The truck camper mated with a four-wheel drive pickup truck provides the off-road capability, the maneuverability, as well as all of the comforts of home in one small, convenient package. The initial price to purchase a truck camper is much less than what you would pay for a motorhome, especially if you buy used. Not only that, maintenance for a truck camper is less than other RVs and in most states doesn’t require annual taxes and vehicle registration fees. The truck camper is also versatile. It can be unloaded to set up a base camp, thus allowing you to use the truck for hauling cargo. You can’t do that with a motorhome.
Pro’s: Small size, detachable, highly maneuverable, all-season, can tow a boat or vehicle, excellent off-road capability.
Con’s: High profile, small living space and small battery compartment.
2. Class-B 4×4 Van Conversion
Probably the stealthiest RV on the market, the Class-B van conversion, like the Sportsmobile pictured here, gets high marks for maneuverability and off-road ability, but doesn’t fare as well when it comes to comfort and livability. It’s true it doesn’t offer large holding tanks or much elbow room, and can sleep only two persons comfortably, but it’s probably the best off-road RV on the market today. In spite of its size limitations and the fact it doesn’t provide a full bathroom (most offer just a toilet), it still offers most of the features that you need to camp comfortably while off-the-grid.
Pro’s: Small size, stealth, off-road capability, highly maneuverable, can tow, low profile, and high clearance.
Con’s: Tiny living area, small holding tanks and storage areas, poor insulation.
3. Class-C 4×4 Motorhome
A terrific bug out vehicle. The Class-C 4×4 motorhome, like the EarthRoamer XV-LTS pictured here, can sleep up to four persons comfortably, and provides all the comforts of home. You won’t find lots of lots of living space in the EarthRoamer, but you’ll find everything else you need to live comfortably while off-the-grid including an impressive electrical system and large holding tanks. Unlike truck campers, you don’t have to leave your RV to move from the driving area to the living area unless you want to, an important consideration for safety and when camping in bad weather.
Pro’s: Small size (29 feet), well-insulated, very maneuverable, can tow, terrific off-road capability, inside access between driving and living areas, all-season, relatively low profile.
Con’s: High cost (about $500,000), small living space, limited storage.
Outfitting Your Bug Out RV
So what features should your bug out RV have? Assuming you already have enough food and water to last 72-hours, your rig should have an additional two-week supply of food, fuel (propane and gas), and water. We like to bring two large bags of beans and rice. Since you’ll be off-the-grid, your bug out rig should be equipped with at least two 12 volt deep cycle batteries for power and an ability to recharge them using either a solar power system (at least 180 watts) or a generator (the wattage of the generator is dependent on your needs). Your rig should also have an AM/FM or shortwave (HF) radio as a source of news. And if you have the room and inclination, a television capable of receiving either satellite or OTA digital TV signals.
When stocking up your bug out rig, start with the basics. Bring extra jugs and containers filled with fresh water and store them anywhere you can including in your vehicle. These containers may come in handy when it comes time to obtain additional water. Also bring auxiliary sources of lighting. I prefer solar powered flashlights and lanterns that can also be charged from a 12 volt power outlet. A well stocked tool box is vital. Stock it with a tow strap and all of the basic tools you may need. Include a roll of duct tape, electrical tape, butane soldering iron and solder, as well as spare fuses and light bulbs. Bring along maps and a GPS to help you reach your destination or any other place you may need to go. Also make sure you bring along a well-stocked first-aid kit. And if you take medication, ensure you have an ample supply. It may be a while before you are able to have your prescription refilled.
In conclusion, the bug out rigs I rated in this article are ideal, but may not fit your budget. If all you can afford is a Jeep and tent or a truck with a couple sleeping bags thrown in the back, then that’s better than having nothing. Sure a Sportsmobile or EarthRoamer would be nice, but not everyone can afford one. Whatever you can afford, it is hoped that this article will provide enough food for thought on not only being prepared, but also buying the right rig that will fit your own specific situation and family needs.