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Bug Out Vehicle Options and Preparations

A bug out vehicle is a means of transport, well-stocked with survival tools and ready to “bug out” of town in the event of a catastrophe. Having a bug out vehicle (BOV) packed and ready to go can help you feel prepared to handle a natural disaster, an incident of civil unrest, or even a zombie apocalypse.

But it can be challenging to determine what items are the most essential since you’ll have limited space to work with depending on what kind of vehicle you choose. It’s important to use your space wisely so that you can be appropriately prepared in the event of a disaster.

Truck with camper in the sunset desert
Truck with camper in the sunset desert

Best Bug Out Vehicles

Important considerations for your bug-out vehicle of choice include fuel efficiency, off-road capability, durability, concealability, speed capability, and ease of maintenance. The amount of room you have to store survival tools is also important, but keep in mind that the more you store the heavier and potentially more difficult to maneuver your vehicle could become.


There are a variety of camper types that you could use for your bug out vehicle. There’s the good old RV, for one. This is a good choice if you have a lot of people you will need to take with you and you need more space than a car or truck cab can provide for everyone. But keep in mind that these have terrible gas mileage and are very difficult to conceal. Take these details into account and be sure you really need that extra space before deciding to go with a choice that is so fuel-inefficient.

Another option is a truck camper. The kind that sits in the bed of a truck and hangs over the cab. The combination of a truck and this apparatus will likely be lighter and thus more fuel-efficient than an RV, and its slightly smaller size would make it easier to conceal as well. Combined with the additional room it offers than the truck would have on its own, it makes a pretty decent choice for a BOV, even with a few extra passengers.

This truck-and-camper combo also requires less maintenance than an RV, and most states don’t require registration or any additional fees for owning this type of camper like they would for an RV. These kinds of campers can also be removed and left at a base camp so that the truck bed can be used for hauling if needed.

The next best option for a vehicle you can live in is the converted van. It has less room for storage and living, but it is stealthier and smaller. These qualities give it better maneuverability, concealability, and fuel efficiency.

Generally, only two people can fit comfortably in a converted van when it comes to sleeping, but if your bug out party is on the smaller side, it could be the perfect option for you.


SUV stands for “sports utility vehicle.” The name alone tells you it’s a good choice for maneuvering in emergency situations. Try to get an SUV that is four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, as this will make it better for driving off-road and through potentially less-than-ideal terrain.

An SUV is also a great everyday vehicle, which means you could use it in your regular life and as a BOV if the need arises, which eliminates the need for an additional vehicle and all the costs that come with that. A roof rack can be added to add extra storage room if needed.


Also good as an everyday vehicle, a truck provides even more room for supplies or a truck bed camper. The reduced inside space could make it more ideal for a smaller family than a larger family, though. But a four-wheel-drive truck still makes a great survival vehicle in most cases.


The upside to a bike prepared as a bug out vehicle is that you can easily get around traffic in the event of a mass exodus, and no fuel is needed to keep it going. And it’s better than walking. You can also get a small bike trailer to attach to the back so that you have more room to carry your survival gear. If you’re running for it alone or with other adults who can ride their own bikes with gear, this could be a great option.

Bicycles are also much easier to hide than a larger vehicle due to their considerably smaller size. And repairs are easier to prepare for since everything from an extra chain to a new tire is light enough to carry with your other supplies with little extra effort.

The obvious downside to this is the lack of protection from the elements. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a full-length raincoat, and waterproof shoes or boots to anticipate needs as the weather changes.


A motorcycle is a fuel efficient bug out vehicle
A motorcycle is a fuel efficient bug out vehicle

Like a bicycle, a motorcycle has all the same advantages and disadvantages except for the need for fuel. It might be easier on your legs since it doesn’t require peddling, but when it runs out of fuel, you’ll be out of luck. The additional storage space required by the need for additional fuel will take away from the available room to pack other essentials.

However, most motorcycles are still able to maneuver around traffic and through rough terrain, and their smaller size makes them almost as easy to conceal as a bike, which makes them a good choice for survival vehicles.


All-terrain vehicles are even better than SUVs for traveling through rugged landscapes. But they do come with the same downsides as bikes and motorcycles in the event of bad weather. If this is your survival vehicle of choice, be sure to also pack sun- and rain-protective gear.


A boat can be like a full-sized RV in that it can function as both a survival vehicle and bug out location. Depending on the size, multiple people could live comfortably in a boat for an indefinite period of time.

Additional advantages to using a boat as a bug out vehicle include that anyone without a boat won’t be able to get to you, which could be ideal in a dangerous situation, and that you have constant access to water and don’t need to pack much as long as you have an appropriate filtration system either for freshwater or saltwater as needed.

You also have access to a great food source if you bring or construct a fishing pole. If your main pastime is general survival, fishing will not only provide you and your family with food but also something to do with all your free time.

Most Important First Aid

You can purchase a fully-stocked bug out bag or bug out first aid kit, but these can be quite expensive. If the convenience of buying everything at once is more important to you than cost efficiency, then these may be a good choice for you. But if you’d rather spend a little time compiling the necessary items in order to save a little cash, here is a comprehensive list for you to follow.

Wound Care

Be sure to include Bandaids, medical gauze pads, roll gauze, plastic cling wrap, medical tape, and ace bandages for wound care. Also tweezers for removing splinters and wound debris and 20 ml irrigation syringes with saline and 18 gauge needles to flush out microscopic debris from large wounds. Topical antibiotic ointment is also necessary to help prevent infection.

In case of deep wounds, a few sets of medical suture and suture needles will come in handy. Pack isopropyl alcohol as well to disinfect as much as possible and hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound itself and keep the surface clean.

Pain Control

Over-the-counter pain control medications such as aspirin (Bayer), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil) can all help with migraines, menstrual pains, and some pain from wounds. If you are on any prescription meds, consider keeping a few weeks’ supply on hand if possible for emergencies.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) pills and hydrocortisone cream can help control itching related to insect bites and allergic reactions to pollens and other outside things. Diphenhydramine can also help you sleep if you’re struggling to get rest in the midst of the unusual noises of the outdoors.

Tecnu scrub is wonderful for removing poison ivy and poison oak oils from your skin before then can cause a rash. If you aren’t able to beat the rash though, calamine lotion and Ivarest cream are useful for reducing the itching and pain that results from coming into contact with these unfortunate plants.

Necessary Food and Water

Pack at least three days’ worth of food and water. Ideally, if your vehicle has the room, stuff two weeks’ worth or more in there. Better to be safe than sorry.

Good food choices include non-perishables such as beans, rice, and if possible, MREs or meals ready to eat such as those once only used by the military. These meals are calorie-rich, nutritious, and often freeze-dried or preserved in a similar way, allowing them a 5+ year shelflife. You can find MREs pretty much anywhere from military surplus stores to Walmart.

Water is heavy and difficult to transport, but still absolutely essential to life. Bring some along with you, but also bring a water filter and a pan for boiling water so that you will have options for making water that you find on your journey safe to drink.

Filtration is important for removing impurities from the water, but boiling is also essential for removing microscopic organisms that can make you sick if you ingest them.

Survival World’s guide to survival food is loaded with tips and tricks for foraging, trapping and preparing animals, fishing, and storing leftovers.

Other Essential Items

A waterproof tent can provide shelter
A waterproof tent can provide shelter


If you’ll be traveling in a bug out vehicle that doesn’t provide shelter, such as an ATV, motorcycle, or bicycle, you’ll need to pack some kind of shelter. A sleeping bag would work at a minimum, but a waterproof tent would be ideal if you can fit it with the rest of your essential supplies.

Keep in mind that shelter is as important as your other items, since being cold and wet or unable to escape biting insects could become life-threatening without access to typical medical help.


The most obvious choice for self-defense is a gun or two. Be sure to pack as much of the appropriate type of ammo as possible, as you could use these for hunting animals for food as well as for self-defense from dangerous animals or nefarious people.

If you are uncomfortable using a gun yourself, or wish to equip your children to defend themselves but don’t feel comfortable letting them use a gun, consider purchasing a taser. Self-defense stores sell tasers and taser-flashlight combinations that can provide a safer version of self-defense.

Alarms to set around camp and alert you to any approaching parties are a great idea to bring along.


Walkie-talkies can be useful in the event of cellphones becoming unusable for any reason. Pack extra walkie-talkies, plenty of batteries, or if possible, a solar-powered battery charger and rechargeable batteries. This ability to communicate with others who may be fishing or trapping away from basecamp could be very valuable and even life-saving in some cases.

Also, bring along a shortwave radio so that you can keep up on news. In the event of an emergency situation, knowledge of what’s going on in the rest of the world could be invaluable as you plan your next move.


In the event of you wanting to be found rather than needing to hide from potentially dangerous people, include flares, reflective clothing, a flashlight with additional batteries, and signal mirrors with your survival gear.


A compass for navigation
A compass for navigation

A good old compass is priceless for helping you get to your bug out location as quickly and safely as possible. 

Extra Fuel

If you have a destination in mind, figure out how much fuel it will take to get there from your current location and pack at least 1.5 times that amount, if you can fit it, to cover wrong turns and possible speedy races from danger.

The Preparations Process

While this is a preparation for the worst of circumstances, the preparing process can be a fun and educational event for the whole family. Consider bringing your family along to purchase your survival items and teach them why each one is needed and how to use it. Education is another important part of preparation.

If you are a prepper and already have a bug out vehicle packed and ready when needed, we’d love to hear about your bug out vehicle and how you personally prepared yours for survival. For those just beginning the prepper process, we wish you the best as you prepare your bug out vehicle and supplies!