Bug-out Vehicle

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A Bug-out vehicle (BOV) is any vehicle that you use to bug-out. Depending on when, where, and how you plan on bugging out your vehicle needs will change dramatically. There are many considerations to make when choosing your vehicle such as fuel economy, off-road capability, seating capacity, cargo capacity, acceleration, handling, etc...

Trek 4500.jpgChevrolet Aveo.jpg


Basic Considerations for Choosing a Vehicle

These are some factors you will want to consider when choosing your BOV.

  • Route - the pathway you will take, along with its accompanying challenges such as surface type, road conditions, distance, obstacles, etc...
  • Gear - the gear and supplies you want to bring with you when you bug out
  • Capacities - Cargo, personel, and fuel capacity
  • Capabilities - do you just want your vehicle to move humans? or does it need to be able to pull a trailer, perform self-recovery, etc...

Basic Vehicle Classes

  • Bicycles are an often overlooked bug out vehicle. While they do not offer the speed, power, and capacity of a motorized vehicle they do have the advantage of stealth, silence, no-fuel concerns, the ability to go around virtually any obstacle, unquestionable immunity to EMP, and far simpler maintenance making them extremely reliable. The factors limiting the usefulness of a bicycle as a bug out vehicle include limited range, speed, and cargo capacity.
  • Boats, such as sail boats travel on water and allow access to a wide variety of places land craft cannot go. They feature heavily in some very specific types of bug outs and life styles.
  • Cars have a great deal of variation, but sufficed to say that cars will generally have the best fuel-economy, handling, and acceleration in a four-wheeled vehicle, as well as decent seating and cargo capacity, but generally lack off-road abilities. The range of a car is typically unparalleled by other road vehicles, as some models can travel for 400 miles or more without requiring a refueling.
  • Dirt bikes offer outstanding off-road capability, acceleration, off-road handling, fuel economy and the ability to go around most obstacles. Unfortunately you will enjoy these benefits with only seating for one, two if you stretch it, and little more than a BOB on your back all while being vulnerable to grasping zombies. Range will be severely limited, as the fuel tanks on most dirt bikes are typically only 2-4 gallons.
  • Cruising Motorcycles may offer reasonable fuel economy and assuredly the best range of all motorcycles, since they were designed for long-range riding. Acceleration may or may not be great, depending on the size of the motor on the bike in question. Top speeds are typically very good. Storage on this type of motorcycle may be slightly better than other bikes due to the availability of saddlebags and other miscellaneous storage methods. As with other motorcycles, they have minimal seating and offer little to no protection from the elements.
  • Sport Motorcycles typically offer the absolute best acceleration and top speed of all road vehicles. This assumes a 600cc or higher displacement typical of most popular sportbikes. Unfortunately they have minimal seating and storage capacity, as well as a very limited range (~4 gallon tank size is typical), while also providing no protection from the elements. As with all motorcycles or uncovered vehicles, weather and climate is a big concern which should not be overlooked. Motorcycles require heavy protective clothing under temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and are rendered virtually useless in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or when snow is on the ground. Another consideration for motorcycles is that in an accident, the rider is afforded very little protection and personal injury is almost assured.
  • SUVs are probably the most popular bug-out vehicles. They lack the fuel-economy and handling of smaller vehicles, but with 4-wheel-drive and more ground clearance their off-road ability lets them go places cars and motorcycles may not always be able to go. They also have superior cargo and seating capacity to any other road vehicle.
  • Trucks provide similar performance to SUVs with more cargo capacity and less seating room.
  • Vans offer slightly superior fuel mileage to SUVs while retaining the cargo space and losing the off-road capability.

Vehicle Features and Considerations

  • Fuel Economy is a major consideration for a bug-out vehicle. Along with fuel capacity it controls the effective range of a vehicle. Small, lighter, more aerodynamic vehicles get superior fuel efficiency. Having greater range gives you more options when it comes to when and where you stop. Regardless of your vehicles inherent fuel efficiency, you should learn to drive as efficiently as possible.
  • Cargo Capacity should be considered when choosing a bug-out vehicle. The amount of equipment you can carry will give you a lot of options. Items such as food, water, tools, vehicle recovery equipment, and extra fuel give you many options that you wouldn't otherwise have.
  • Seating Capacity's importance will depend on who you're planning on taking with you and if you want to plan for possible additional people joining your crew during a bug-out.
  • Tires greatly effect virtually all performance features of your vehicle.

Drive Systems

The type of drive system a vehicle has will greatly impact its capabilities on and off-road. Each drive system as advantages and disadvantages.

  • Rear-wheel drive was at one time the only kind of drive system available. Rear-wheel drive is a two-wheel drive system at the rear wheel with a single differential between them. Rear-wheel drive provides the best on-road performance during good road conditions, if you understand its unique traits.
  • Front-Wheel Drive is the most common drive system available on vehicles today. Most cars, vans, and small SUVs will have front-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive is a two-wheel drive system that operates the two front wheels with a transmission that acts as a differential as well. The weight of the engine is directly over the drive wheels, which gives them better traction during slippery road conditions compared to rear-wheel drive.
  • Four-wheel drive, sometimes called part-time four-wheel drive, provides power to all four wheels with differentials between each of the front wheels and each of the rear wheels, but no differential between the front and rear differentials. Many four-wheel drive systems allow you to choose between rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive high gear, and four-wheel drive low for extra torque. Four-wheel drive provides the best off-road performance and handling during slippery road conditions. Due to the lack of a differential between the front and rear axles 50% of power is always being sent to the two axles. This means that you will always have at least two wheels receiving power and also that four-wheel drive should not be used on dry pavement.
  • All-wheel drive, or full-time four-wheel drive, is similar to four-wheel drive with the exception of a differential between the front and rear differentials. This means that it can provide anywhere from 0%-100% of the total power to any wheel. All-wheel drive can be used on dry pavement.


The transmission of a vehicle control the gear-ratio between the engine output and what is sent to the rest of the drive system. As you move to higher gears your torque decreases, but your drive speed goes up relative to you engine output speed. There are three types of transmissions to consider, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Manual-transmissions are the oldest type. They are simpler and generally considered to be tougher, although there are many exceptions to this rule. Manual transmissions generally have more gears available give you a greater range or torque, top-speed, and fuel efficiency. They allow for greater performance as they do not take power from the engine to operate, but they do require one to be relatively good at using them to reap these benfits.
  • Automatic transmissions change gears for you, which can be a blessing when you need that other hand to shoot zombies while driving. Many people today do not know how to drive a manual making an automatic their only option. Automatic transmissions take some power from the engine to operate.
  • Continuously variable transmissions are a very new type of transmission with many different proprietary implementations. What they all have in commons is a lack of discrete gearing. This means that they never have to disengage power from the drive system while they dynamically increase and decrease gear-ratios. This gives them a huge advantage in fuel efficiency and acceleration. The downside is that they are so new it is difficult to say what, if any, inherent problems they may have.

Engine Type

The engine is the most important part of any motorized bug-out vehicle. It will weigh heavily on the power, range, reliability, and many other factors of your vehicle's performance.

Fuel Type

Vehicles can be run on many different fuels, but there are two basic types vehicle engines are designed to run on, diesel or gasoline, each has its pros and cons.

  • Diesel engines are simpler, more efficient, last longer, and can run on a range of fuels such as waste vegetable oil. Unfortunately they are also more expensive, diesel can cost more in some areas, and the engines must be primed if they run out of fuel before they will start again.
  • Gasoline engines are extremely common and the fuel to run them is often cheaper, but they are less efficient and wear out sooner. There are also not as many alternative fuels that you can run them on.

Supply Lists

Great speed and protection are certainly big advantages to bugging-out in a vehicle, but the ability to carry additional supplies is also a considerable advantage. These are some supplies that you may want to consider taking with you in addition to extra basic supplies like food and water, particularly items that are too large or heavy to take on foot.

Basic Tools

All the spare parts in the world are no good without a tool kit, make sure that you have all the tools you might need to perform any repairs you think you might need to. These are some basics, both for fixing your vehicle and for every day use:

  • Breaker Bar
  • Duct Tape
  • Hack saw
  • Hammer
  • Pliers (lineman, channel lock, needle nose, etc)
  • Screw Drivers(Philips, Straight, Torx, etc...)
  • Sockets and Driver(Metric and SAE)
  • Tape measure
  • Torpedo level
  • Wire of varying gauges
  • Wrenches(Metric and SAE)
  • Zip Ties

Communications Equipment

It is often useful to have some sort of radio communications equipment on board instead or relying on cell phones that won't work outside of tower range or as readily as a two-radio system. These are some of the more popular systems.

Entry Tools

Entry Tools are often too large and heavy to be practical to carry as part of your BOB, but are trivial to include in your vehicle's bug-out supplies. Here are some items you may want to consider

Vehicle Recovery and Emergency Tools

Even the most capable BOV can get stuck and when that happens you better be able to get un-stuck. Here are some tools that can be helpful.

Vehicle Supplies

It is important to not forget the vehicles maintenance and fuel needs when stocking it for bug-out purposes. If you plan on relying heavily on your BOV then you better be able to keep it going without needing to stop and get supplies that are no longer available.

  • Coolant and Water
  • Fuel - Gasoline, Diesel, or whatever your vehicle will run on
  • Oil and Filter
  • Serpentine or Drive Belts
  • Transmission Fluid and Filter
  • Vehicle Manual such as a Haynes or Chilton

It is a relatively common practice among the Do-It-Yourself types that any time they are performing scheduled or preventative maintenance on their vehicle which includes replacing a part (like a belt or hose) that the aging yet still serviceable part which was removed they keep on hand in case the new part fails. Using this method you can reduce the likelihood of a failure from happening by keeping those parts which wear out in good condition, but also allows you to have a spare on hand in case of failure. Yes, you could just buy a spare belt and hoses and keep them in your BOV kit, but if you leave the old parts on the car the odds of that part failing increase the longer they are used. It's always a better idea to prevent a failure than to be prepared for one.

See Also


External Links

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