Bug Out Vehicle Gear and Setup: The Ultimate SHTF Vehicles Guide

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In the process of preparing everything for an eventual bug out, one of the most important pieces of equipment will be your bug out vehicle. We all need SHTF vehicles to get from our current residence to the bug out location as fast as possible. 

While most of us won’t end up using the vehicle for very long, it’s a pivotal piece of the puzzle that will help get you and your family out of harm’s way. 

When you look at your current situation, is your bug out vehicle ready in the event of a scenario right now? Do you even have a bug out vehicle? Is it maintained, stocked, and ready to go? 

Keep in mind that it’s not as simple as throwing everything in the trunk and moving out. You need to make sure the vehicle is well-maintained, stocked with the essentials, and prepared to get you where you’re going in a hurry. 

This guide will ensure that you’re ready when the time comes. We’re covering vehicle types, maintenance, gear to have with you, accessories, and driving to the bug out location.  

Choosing The Best Bug Out Vehicle

Let’s be real for a second, very few of us have the money to go out and purchase a bug out vehicle built specifically for the purpose. Most of us will need to customize a current vehicle, upgrade it, or build out our own. 

We’re going to focus on reality in this guide and discuss how to turn your current mode of transportation into something that will work for a bug out. For now, let’s talk about the different types of vehicles you can use. 

Bug Out Van

If you have a large van or camper, you’re in pretty good shape. You’ll be able to fit a large number of items in here such as food, water, ammunition, and whatever else it is you’re bringing. It will also serve as a much more effective home away from home if you don’t have a bug out location and need to live on the road. 

We need to keep in mind the obvious shortcomings though. You’re very limited on the terrain that you can travel. If you’re bugging out in a location that gets a lot of snow or you need to “off-road” you might be in trouble. 

Bug Out Jeep

The Jeep might be the ultimate bug out vehicle because it’ll get decent gas mileage, you can cover rugged terrain, and you’ll have enough room to store your gear. The Jeep Wrangler is suggested by a lot of experts as the bug out vehicle of choice but keep in mind that you won’t have as much room for storage. 

What you will get is enough towing capacity to pull a trailer though. Just remember that you don’t want to put a target on your back when the SHTF. If you’re stuck in your vehicle and people see you pulling around a trailer with a Jeep full of supplies, you might be in for it. 

Bug Out Truck

Trucks have a lot of room for gear and the best bug out truck should have no problem traversing any terrain. You won’t likely have as much room in the cabin as you would in some of the other vehicle types so it may make sleeping a challenge if you’re stuck in the truck overnight. 

What you have here is a nice multi-purpose option because you can prepare the truck and ensure that it’s always ready in the event of a bug out but also use it on a regular basis for everyday activities. 

ATV

While an ATV may not serve as a long-term bug out option, everyone prepping should have one. If you’re on your own, it’s the perfect low-key vehicle to get you out of harm’s way and to a safe location.

If you’re traveling in a group, an ATV is a nice scout vehicle that you can use to scope out large areas of land to determine if they’re safe. 

Motorcycle

Motorcycles and scooters are a nice option for urban survival. If you’re bugging out in the city and you don’t have a lot of gear, a motorcycle will make it a heck of a lot easier to get out while everyone else is stuck in traffic. 

Keep in mind that when everyone is fleeing the city, this might be your only ticket out. The number one suggestion I have is to bring as much fuel as you can carry because the tank is much smaller. 

Boat 

A bug out boat is a great option if you live near an ocean or canal. I suggest going with a smaller boat because it will allow you to travel almost anywhere. A boat is a great way to escape danger in a pinch and get very far away from the city in a short amount of time. 

If you own a boat but don’t live near the water, you can use this strategy too. Have an action plan in place based on different scenarios. Sometimes the boat might be the right option but in many cases, traveling by water could actually become a hindrance. 

Bicycle

If you don’t own or can’t afford a motorcycle or electric scooter, a bicycle is just as good. I’m a big believer in limiting what can go wrong and you will have a much better chance of making it out of the city on a bike than you would with a car. 

I would recommend getting a bike for everyone in your party. If everything else goes wrong and you’re forced to abandon your vehicle, you could all travel via bicycle and stay under the radar. Just keep in mind how easily a bike can be stolen so you’ll need a way to safeguard them. 

Best Bug out Vehicle for EMP

One additional area worth mentioning is the event of an electromagnetic pulse attack. Many preppers believe that a foreign country will attack us using EMP technology which creates short bursts of electromagnetic energy. This can result in a disturbance of the power grid shutting down all technology in the surrounding area. 

When this happens, we need to realize that we’ll lose access to most communication and GPS. The best bug out vehicle for EMP would be something simple, lacking electronic features, and built to handle bumps and bruises on the way out. 

Many experts suggest going with an older vehicle that you’re not afraid to damage the body. Commercial utility vehicles, Land Rovers, and old pickup trucks may serve best in this scenario. The bottom line is, you don’t want anything that’s new because many of these cars require some form of electronic connection to operate properly.  

Bug Out Vehicle Gear

Everywhere you go there are risks. You need to keep that in mind. So, to prepare for these risks you’ll need essential bug out truck accessories if you expect to make it very long. Even though most bug out vehicles will only serve as transportation from the primary residence to the new residence, you need to prepare for the worst. 

Here’s a list of what the ultimate bug out vehicles have: 

  • Advanced survival first aid kit
  • Plastic garbage bags 
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Necessary firearms 
  • Flare guns
  • Sealant for tire punctures
  • Air compressor
  • Tool kit 
  • Camouflage
  • Foldable shovel
  • Spare tire kept at the proper pressure
  • Ladder with traction legs
  • Fuses, fan belts, wiper fluid
  • Spare gas
  • Spare oil
  • Seatbelt cutter
  • Ice pick
  • Ratchet straps 
  • Roof racks 
  • Winch saw

While this is the ultimate bug out vehicle setup, this list is not limited. If you feel there are more things you’ll need, add them. Just keep in mind how much weight and effort it will take to move all of this stuff and factor in how much it would hurt you to lose it. 

You need to organize the gear in a way that will allow you to take the most important essentials if you need to abandon the vehicle. All your gear should be loaded: 

  • Least important first, most important last

By doing this it will ensure that the most important pieces of equipment such as first aid and tools are with you no matter what. 

Bug Out Vehicle Accessories

What about additional purchases? Since we’re not buying a dedicated vehicle, you might want to make some upgrades along the way. If you’re going to do this, here’s what I recommend. 

Run-Flat Tires – Some tire brands like Bridgestone offer run-flat tires that will travel hundreds of miles even when they’re flat. In fact, you won’t even notice it. They cost a lot more than regular tires and they’re not available for most trucks and SUVs. If you’re bugging out in a small passenger car, these could save your life. 

Roof Racks – A roof rack is much less cumbersome than a trailer and there are even camping systems that allow you to set up a tent on the roof of your SUV. These are highly useful in last-minute situations when you’re forced away from your strategy. I suggest getting a roof rack regardless of your plan because it will provide you with plenty of extra storage space. 

Extended Gas Tanks – Most trucks and SUVs can purchase extended range gas tanks. This is an incredibly powerful decision to make, especially if you live pretty far out there. When things aren’t out of hand yet, it’s not a big deal to stop for gas. Once the SHTF, there will be no gas and trying to stop for any won’t be a viable option. 

Security Tint – Everything is up for grabs when all hell breaks loose so you need to do everything you can to prevent people from breaking into your vehicle. Some people won’t just go around smashing windows, they’ll look for opportunities. If they can look into your windows and see all your stuff, that will increase the chances of them breaking in. Dark 30% tint won’t make it too hard to drive at night but it will also keep prying eyes away from your vehicle. 

Bug Out Vehicle Maintenance 

If you’re using a suburban bug out vehicle, chances are you’re using it for everything. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure you’re always prepared by maintaining the vehicle well and planning for the worst at every turn. Keep it in peak condition with the following tips: 

  • Always keep the tank half full AT LEAST
  • Perform a daily vehicle inspection to ensure there are no fluid leaks
  • Check tires weekly for leaks and wear 
  • Have a regular maintenance plan for filters, oil changes, fluid, and pressure checks 
  • Check in on your bug out supply frequently to make sure nothing has shifted position

If you’re storing food and water in the vehicle, make sure to check on this frequently as well. You should only be storing non-perishables but certain foods can go bad if they experience drastic temperature changes. The same applies for water

Your bug out vehicle interior is important as well. Remember that this may serve as your residence for a period of time so you want to do it as comfortably as possible. Be sure to pack things like blankets, sleeping bags, and whatever else you’ll need based on your specific location. If you live somewhere that experiences cold temperatures and you have a family, plan accordingly. Treat it as if the worst-case scenario will always happen. 

The Best Bug Out Vehicle Checklist 

Here’s a quick checklist to follow. This vehicle checklist should apply to most people in the majority of situations. Change or tweak it to fit your needs: 

Gear/Supplies: 

  • Everything in the bug out gear list above
  • Enough blankets for each person to have one
  • Extra fuel
  • Extra oil
  • Siphon hose
  • Non-Perishable food for 14 days
  • Water for 30 days
  • Additional clothing for all
  • Phone chargers
  • Electric inverter
  • Local and regional maps
  • Compass
  • $500 in spare cash
  • House keys
  • Important documentation 
  • Necessary firearms and ammunition

Vehicle Maintenance: 

  • Full tank of gas
  • Tire check
  • Spare tire check
  • Filters
  • Oil
  • Fluids

This list is intended as a starting point. These are the essentials that everyone should think about and you can add onto this based on your specific scenario and plans. Given a basic SHTF situation where everything goes right, this can serve as an emergency checklist. 

Driving to the Bug Out Location 

I assume you understand many of the proper procedures for driving to the bug out location. You should already have a planned route to get there and you should be regularly checking on that route to make sure that nothing will cause problems when need be.

You should know exactly how many miles you have to travel, how long it will take to get there, and alternate routes in the event that you can’t take the main one.

Stay away from any major highways, toll roads, or interstates. Travel on as many backroads as possible even if it takes a little bit longer to get there. Make sure you’re trained in defensive driving as well because you’ll need to know how to prevent vehicle hijacking if things get sketchy fast. 

Remember, no matter what, do not get out of the vehicle. If you need to park and get out for any reason, only do it off the road in a secluded location. Keep your bug out bag with you at all times when leaving the vehicle. 

The ultimate goal of bugging out is to drive directly from point A to point B without any stopping. That should be your goal as well. 

Also, if you’re traveling with firearms, do not panic. Do not make the mistake of carrying a loaded weapon in your lap or unsecured on the dash. You need to keep the gun in the holster with the safety off at all times. If someone hits you or sneaks up on you, the weapon could accidentally discharge, shooting you or a family member. 

Always carry it with one round in the chamber. If you have a tactical vest, you’re at an advantage. 

Final Thoughts 

Preparing your bug out vehicle for the big day is an exciting but nerve-wracking experience. This is something we spend so much time thinking about and planning for but when the day comes, we all know that nothing will go according to plan. Do yourself a favor and prep ahead so you’re ready when the SHTF. 

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