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Bugging Out: Preparing the Right Vehicle

Just as packing your bug out bag will largely depend on your circumstances, how far you intend to travel, how quickly you need to leave, weather, and countless other factors, you will need to consider various options of bug out vehicles, and determine what level of vehicle you will need for your situation. Depending on when you need to bug out, you may not have a choice in your bug out vehicle, so you will need to plan ahead for various contingencies. As you will see below, any vehicle can be a bug out vehicle, but with some planning ahead, you can prepare your vehicle to better support you if or when you may need to suddenly leave home. As with bug out bags, the sections below discuss various levels of vehicles, so you can plan for the most appropriate vehicle for your individual situation.

Level Zero

In many cases, you may not get much, or any warning before you need to bug out. You may not have time to get to a vehicle or access to one. You may need to resort to whatever you are wearing on your feet that day. During the terrorist attacks on the morning of September 11, 2001, thousands of New Yorkers were left stranded in the city, and had to walk the several miles home. You can’t count on having a vehicle available, even if you make a bug out vehicle part of your escape plan. Your only option may be to hike out to safety. In a sudden evacuation, roads could get so congested of people trying to escape, that they become unpassable. You may start out in a vehicle, but it breaks down or runs out of fuel. Even if you have a vehicle, you may choose to dismount, and take some sections on foot. Successfully bugging out on foot will require preparing ahead of time. Learn the routes you may have to take to evacuate, and practice them. How long will it take you to walk to your safe haven? How much will you be able to carry? Can you reduce the amount of gear in your go bag, or should you increase your fitness level? How will the weather or the season of the year affect your ability to make the journey? Will you have others with you? How will their pace affect your ability to escape? If you have to escape on foot, you will want to find a safe haven destination that you can realistically reach on foot. If not, you will need to plan a way to get to a vehicle that can take you the rest of the way.

Level One

A level one bug out vehicle is a single-person vehicle with limited or no cargo capacity. What can go in this category is limited only by your imagination: a bicycle, motorcycle, kayak, shopping cart, wheel chair, donkey, goat, or windsurfer can fall in this category. (In 1994, Alex Morales and two friends escaped Cuba on Windsurfers, while in 1979 Günter Wetzel, Peter Strelzyk and their families escaped East Germany in a hot air balloon). A level one bug out vehicle can greatly increase your range as compared to no vehicle at all, but still has limitations on range and capacity.

A bicycle can provide great advantages for bugging out, as you have increased range as compared to walking, it can avoid traffic jams from all the vehicles trying to evacuate at the same time, it is quiet, it can go on smaller trails, avoid checkpoints, and it won’t use fuel. A hybrid bicycle can increase your speed and range, especially if you have to travel over hilly terrain. You should definitely consider a bicycle as part of your prepping/bug out plan. If your bug out plan includes crossing bodies of water, then a kayak or canoe can give you more options. You can incorporate a kayak into your bug out plan, as you can buy an inflatable kayak, and keep it in your primary bug out vehicle. This way, you will have it available to cross bodies of water to get to locations that would otherwise be out of reach.

When bugging out, you may never return home. You may become a refugee at your destination, and unless you have a supplied safe haven destination, your only possessions may be what you brought with you. You may consider finding a shopping cart, wagon, or wheelbarrow to transport your food, water, and other supplies. By placing your supplies, or even your pets or infants in a shopping cart, you can increase the amount of supplies you can bring with you. Keep in mind, weight will still be a factor, and you should consider carefully what you will really need, and how far you are willing to go with it.

Level Two

A level two vehicle is a typical, everyday commuting vehicle with basic preparations for bugging out planned ahead of time. Most disaster preparedness manuals recommend that you should always keep your fuel tank at least half full. This is a great idea, though it is arbitrary. Practically speaking, you should keep enough fuel in your tank to get you to your destination, or to somewhere you can refuel. Depending on the distance to your bug out location, the size of your fuel tank, and the fuel economy of your car, you may need more, or less than half a tank of fuel. In addition to fuel, You should prepare your vehicle ahead of time with supplies you may need. You should keep a level two bug out kit in your vehicle in case you need to evacuate in a sudden emergency. You should also keep a GPS and paper maps in your vehicle. GPS units are great tools for helping you easily navigate to where you need to go, but it's a good idea to keep paper maps as backup. Keep local maps in your vehicle, even if you are familiar with the route from your home to your bug out location. You may have to take alternate routes to your destination, and having paper maps with you will help you plan your route.

Other examples of a level two vehicle could include a small boat or airplane. Both of these can get you and a few others to safety. If you own a boat or an airplane, or can count on getting one in an emergency situation, these can make great level two bug out vehicles, as they broaden your options. As with a car, make sure you have supplies for both yourself and your car, boat, or airplane to get you where you need to go. Maybe a simpler way of thinking of a level two vehicle is to always have your daily vehicle ready for a long, unplanned trip.

Level Three

The difference between a level two and a level three bug out vehicle is that a level three vehicle has modifications specifically in preparation for bugging out. While there is no set definition of a level three bug out vehicle, some features of a level three may include four wheel drive, a winch, increased horsepower and storage capacity, reinforced front bumper, and a more durable frame. A level three bug out vehicle would include pick up trucks, SUVs, or vans that include prepared gear and modifications for bugging out. You will want to pre-pack a level three bug out vehicle with supplies from a level three or level four bug out kit, or at least have these items available to load the vehicle quickly.

When purchasing or modifying a vehicle into a level three bug out vehicle, consider terrain you may have to travel over, and where you plan to sleep. Your level three vehicle could serve as a temporary shelter if your bug out location is several days away. You should also have a spare tire, rather than a donut or patch kit, and tools necessary to make repairs, get the vehicle unstuck from mud, or anything else Murphy may throw at you. Keep in mind, the fact that you need to evacuate from the safety of your home shows that things have already gone very wrong. You may not have help readily available for the bumps in the road you may face. Prepare yourself and your vehicle to be self-reliant.

Level Four

Those of you looking for the ultimate experience in bugging out will want a level four bug out vehicle. Several companies build vehicles for the sole purpose of bugging out during the inevitable zombie apocalypse. These vehicles include gear and supplies that will keep you safe and comfortable indefinitely. Much more than recreational vehicles, level four bug out vehicles provide durability and sustainability for off-grid living. Some include defensive features, while others promise a luxurious experience while bugging out.

This is the EarthRoamer HD. According to the website at, the EarthRoamer HD is designed for those who love quality, design and craftsmanship, but desire more space and amenities. In addition to being spacious, the HD also provides great fuel, water, solar and battery capacities. By using the latest technologies they’ve created the most efficient, state-of-the-art and self-sufficient expedition vehicle ever, allowing you to travel off the beaten path for longer. The company custom designs each vehicle for the owner, and includes amenities such as leather furniture, big screen TVs, and other survival necessities. For only $1.5 million, this vehicle can be yours. You can visit the company website at to view additional pictures and videos, and see your purchasing options.

For those on a more restrictive budget, a level four bug out vehicle does not need to include expensive amenities. You can build a level four bug out vehicle on a budget. You can buy an older school bus or box truck, and turn it into your bug out vehicle. Think of a level four bug out vehicle as a modern day covered wagon. The vehicle should support you and your party for weeks or months while you evacuate hundreds or thousands of miles before arriving at your destination. Like with the covered wagons on the Oregon trail, your vehicle may need to serve as your temporary home once you arrive at your destination.

Since you may have to travel long distances, or be unable to reliably purchase fuel, you will want to add fuel storage tanks to your vehicle. By buying fuel now while it is cheap and plentiful, you can have plenty when fuel becomes scarce. Water storage will be equally important, as you may not have access to reliable sources of water. Your bug out vehicle should include several days or weeks worth of potable water, depending on the size of your party, and access to water. You will likely not have access to the power grid, so your bug out vehicle should include solar panels and a battery bank to power your lights, refrigerator/freezer, and electronic devices. You will want to have an alternate means of transportation, so your level four vehicle should also include a bicycle, motorcycle, or kayak. You should have a level one vehicle available to give you transportation options if you don’t want to move from your hunker down spot. If you have a motorcycle as your secondary mode of transportation, make sure it either uses the same type of fuel as your level four vehicle, it has a rechargeable battery and electric motor, or you store sufficient fuel for it. Finally, you will not want to attract attention to yourself or your vehicle. While on the road, you want people to ignore your vehicle. You will want your bug out vehicle to look like an older bus, box truck, or van that does not attract attention.

When considering a level four bug out vehicle, you will need to factor multiple considerations such as the number of people in your party, the distance and terrain you will need to travel, and likely most importantly, your budget. Ultimately, a bug out vehicle needs to be able to get you to your destination. How far you will need to travel, and how long you expect the journey to take, will determine what you will need for your bug out vehicle. You may decide that a level two vehicle will be more than sufficient to get you to safety. Whatever your individual circumstances, make a plan for how you can evacuate should you have to leave the safety of your home. Make sure your plan includes how you will get to your destination.


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