Bug Out Vehicle (BOV)

What is the best BOV? I have sometimes been asked which is better, a this or a that? My reply goes something like this: Which is better, a Volkwagon beetle or a dumptruck? Apples and oranges. If you need a small car to carry several people economically, the beetle might be the better choice. If you need to move ten tons of dirt, the dumptruck.

So let's clarify: Many vehicles will do the job of getting you and your gear out of town. How many people are 'you' and how much 'your gear' are we talking about? You see the difficulty in giving a reply that will satisfy everyone? There is no 'best BOV' for all people. (see the FAQ)

I returned to the US from doing earthquqake relief in Nicaragua (1973) with three others and a lot of gear in a VW beetle, maybe 1500 miles, I don't know, but many days on the road. We welded a rack together and mounted it on the roof to carry maybe 200 pounds of luggage. An SUV (not invented yet) would have been more comfortable, but they guzzle gas, are five times the price and are difficult to repair at home. A beetle would be a good BOV for up to four adults, depending on the terrain.

Plan on taking your car, but have a backup plan. Timing is critical. If you wait too long to bug out, you may be caught in traffic with all the other people who waited until there were lines outside of banks (for example), or until supermarkets were empty, or whatever sign or event made people panic and want to leave. Let's say you bug out in your car full of gear, with your family. You have a destination, but there is so much traffic, cars stalled, overheated or frozen or out of gas, traffic finally stops and remains still, for three days. That's what many people experienced before Katrina hit New Orleans. They eventually had to abandon their vehicles, and walk. Not good planning.

Get a bike rack and carry a bicycle for each person in the car. Mount baskets front and rear (and/or panniers) to carry gear. If you get stuck in your car and there's no sign of relief, you can load up the bikes and continue to your destination. Carry extra tubes, pumps, tires, chains, patches, tools, lamps, batteries, etc. Mountain bikes are made for abuse and will take you off-road, if necessary, though they are less efficient on pavement, due to tire friction.

After an earthquake in a city, streets are often full of rubble (pieces of buildings) and damaged cars, making them impassable with ordinary cars. Bicycles and small motorbikes, however, can go around and over debris. If necessary, they can be carried over and around major obstructions.

Conclusions: Consider the kinds of situations which could force you to bug out and the demands placed on whatever vehicle you choose to use as a BOV. There is no vehicle that will work for all people in all situations, but perhaps the vehicle(s) you have will serve well enough. Consider also that fuel may become very costly or totally unavailable in some situations, so consider storing enough in appropriate containers to make your trip.

  • Consider storing/burrying fuel along your route (use Stabil or other stabilizer to prevent gas from going foul). Replace with fresh fuel every year. See the section on burrying gear. Out here in the desert, I keep four to six 5-gallon gas cans full at all times, placed under a tree, covered with a camo tarp. I use the gas and replace it every year.
  • Have a bicycle (and a rack) for every person, and practice now - get in shape.
  • Keep your BOBs, along with extra food and water, in your BOV, if possible.
  • Have an extra 5-gallons of fuel (or more) that you can load in your BOV before departure, and keep it fresh by using it in your tank and refilling it when you buy fuel.
  • Keep your tank above 3/4 at all times.
  • Maintain your BOV: oil change, tires, belts, hoses, coolant and fluids
  • Carry spare parts, spare tire, oil, jack, tools
  • Maps, street maps, topo maps - keep them in your BOV

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