14 November 2011

Choosing the Right Bug Out Vehicle (BOV)

It's evident from watching the news, that far too many Americans rely on the government when disasters occur. Recent hurricanes, forest fires, and floods provide stark evidence of this fact. If you think the government will be there a day or two after a disaster strikes, think again. It may take as long as a month before help from state and federal agencies arrive. Because of this it's wise to have not only a vehicle and shelter ready to evacuate in a moment's notice, but also to have an emergency supply of food and water. The Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) can help do all of these things and more.

What is a BOV? What does it mean to "Bug Out?" According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary,  Bug Out is a slang term that means "to depart especially in a hurry." Thus a BOV is a vehicle that will allow you to quickly evacuate or escape from a natural or man-made disaster. If you think you're not at risk from a disaster, think again. A review of recent American history will reveal everything from forest fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, nuclear reactor leaks, civil unrest, and terrorist attacks. The Bug Out Vehicle gives you greater ability and peace of mind to evacuate or respond to almost any emergency, including lesser one's like a power outage or family illness.

The 4x4 Provan Tiger Class C.
So what makes a good BOV? Well, a good BOV should meet five basic requirements. First, it should be large enough to transport your entire family. No sense in buying a vehicle that isn't large enough to take everyone. Second, it should get decent gas mileage and have a gas tank large enough to get you far out of harm's way. Third, your BOV should be large enough to store enough food, water, and shelter for at least 72 hours. Fourth, it should be a 4x4 and should have adequate ground clearance. And fifth, it should have the ability to tow and be towed (depending upon your BOV and your own personal circumstances, the shelter and storage capacities for your family can be greatly increased by towing either a utility trailer, 5th Wheel, or travel trailer. The vehicle choices and combinations are endless).

Is there a such thing as a great BOV? I think there is. In my opinion, an outstanding BOV should not only meet the five basic requirements listed above but should also be mated with an RV. Having a well-stocked Bug Out RV (BORV) will provide you with the food, water, and shelter that your family will need in an emergency. In addition, the perfect BORV should be no longer than 22 feet. Why this limit? Because restricting your BORV to this size will allow you to travel and camp practically anywhere as well as park in a single parking spot or in a family member's driveway. In a bug out scenario you want options and having a large RV will reduce them and may also draw unwanted attention. Using the aforementioned criteria, there are basically three options to choose from in today's RV market: the Class B motorhome, the Class C motorhome, and the ever versatile truck camper.

The 4x4 Sportsmobile Class B.
Small Class B and C motorhomes make great bug out vehicles with each offering their own specific strengths and weaknesses. Class B's come in several flavors including van conversions, like the Sportsmobile pictured to the left, as well as B+ models comparable in size and features to large Class C motorhomes. Van conversions are smaller and more maneuverable than a Class B+ and Class C, and offers more stealth in an urban environment, but are found wanting when it comes to comfort and sustainability.

On the other hand, Class B+ and Class C motorhomes provide more living space then a van conversion, but are heavier, and as result get worse gas mileage, especially for those models offering a slide-out (slide-outs are heavy). The 4x4 feature, however, is difficult to find in Class B+ and Class C motorhomes, but not impossible (the Provan Tiger pictured above is one example of a Class C sporting the 4x4 capability). Another feature that motorhomes offer is the convenience and security of being able to walk from front to back without having to step outside. You can't do that with a Truck Camper.

In my opinion, a 4x4 pickup truck mated with a truck camper makes the best BORV. Assuming you already own a pickup truck large enough and stout enough to support a truck camper, the initial price to purchase a truck camper is much less than what you would pay for a motorhome, especially if you buy used. Not only that, maintenance for a truck camper is less than other RVs and in most states you don't have to pay annual taxes and vehicle registration fees. The truck camper is also versatile. It can be unloaded to set up a base camp, thus allowing you to use the truck for hauling cargo. You can't do that with a motorhome. Truck campers also come in various styles: hard side or pop up, slide-out or non-slide-out, heavy or light. And if you think that a truck camper isn't large enough for a family and doesn't offer adequate holding tanks, think again. The Lance 1191 long-bed truck camper can sleep up to seven persons, while the Arctic Fox 1150, provides an impressive holding tank capacity of 55 gallons of fresh water, 44 gallons of gray water, and 43 gallons of black water.

TJ Brute w/Sparrow Popup Camper
So what features should your Bug Out RV (BORV) have? Assuming you already have enough food and water to last 72-hours, your BORV should have an additional one week supply of food, fuel (propane and gas), and water. Since you'll be off-the-grid, your BORV should be equipped with at least two 12 volt deep cycle batteries for power and an ability to recharge them using either a solar power system (at least 180 watts) or a generator (the wattage of the generator is dependent on your needs). Your BORV should also have an AM/FM or shortwave (HF) radio as a source of news. And if you have the room and inclination, a television capable of receiving either satellite or OTA digital TV signals.
 
When stocking up your BORV, start with the basics. Bring extra jugs and containers filled with fresh water and store them anywhere you can including in your vehicle. These containers may come in handy when it comes time to obtain additional water. Also bring auxiliary sources of lighting. I prefer solar powered flashlights and lanterns that can also be charged from a 12v power outlet. A well stocked tool box is vital. Stock it with a tow strap and all of the basic tools you may need. Include a roll of duct tape, electrical tape, butane soldering iron and solder, as well as spare fuses and light bulbs. Bring along maps and a GPS to help you reach your destination or any other place you may need to go. Also make sure you bring along a well-stocked first-aid kit. And if you take medication, ensure you have an ample supply. It may be a while before you are able to have your prescription refilled.

A light truck with camper shell.
In conclusion, the RVs I've discussed are ideal, but may not fit your budget. If all you can afford is a Jeep and tent or a truck with a camper shell with a couple sleeping bags thrown in the back, then that's better than having nothing. Sure a $100,000 Sportsmobile or Provan Tiger would be nice, but not everyone can afford one. Whatever you can afford, it is hoped that this article will provide enough food for thought on not only being prepared, but also buying the right BOV that will fit your own specific situation and family needs.

12 comments:

  1. Cool, though I always get a laugh when I see that boob Brian Bawdy's rig :p.

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  2. This is a cool blog, yup gonna read thru the whole thing. I fulltime in a fiver and think the same way as u do regarding, being prepared. Will post comments as I go.

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  3. Yeah, I know what you mean, but he does have a pretty cool rig.

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  4. My personal opinion on this subject matter....the bigger the motor home, the better. Whether a 4x4 or a 45 foot long DP, they both need to take the same roads to leave town. So why not be better equiped for a long stay elsewhere and bring more personal essentials and belongings? If every second counts and you have to drive roadside or through farmland, then the situation is so bad you might as well just sit back and get yourself right with God.

    Our motor home is not big at only 24 foot, but I always have it gassed up and topped-off with propane, ready for a quick emergency exit, only needing a fresh tank of potable water and to hook up the Jeep Liberty tow vehicle. The tow will make a great storage trailer as well.

    We live 40 miles down wind of a nuclear power plant of which I admit has me a tiny bit uncomfortable. In such a nuclear crisis, I think we could book out in 30 minutes.

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  5. I quess it all depends on the family. I've had both truck campers and Class B's and they are perfect but limited to a small family or a couple. My children and their families are all within a few miles of us and we couldn't leave them behind, we total 14 as a family. Therefore, best for us would be a Large Class C or Class A with a bath and a half and a towed vehicle. As far as taking up space, a 40 footer wouldn't be too much longer than two class B's but would hold a lot more people and supplies. My luck would be that we would need a BOV in January and no matter what we had it would be winterized with no water to use. I'd have to put a lot more thought into the situation, maybe a well stocked small cabin an hour or so away would be better suited for a large family.

    Nick

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  6. Cause, ya'll can't hide deep in the woods as easily with a big honking DP, they don't fit up those narrow, switch backing logging roads too well :p.

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  7. I fulltime in a 40 foot four slide fully equipped fifth wheel and have to agree with the one post, might as well go big. I can have this thing packed and on the road hooked and ready to go under thirty minutes. Lots of storage and holding tank capacity.
    I still work, the fiver is parked beside my shop, makes for cheap living. The best thing about living this way fulltime, is where ever I go I don't forget anything as I brought the whole house

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    1. I agree with the bigger is better idea. Storage is key to long duration survivability. Unless you are prepared, equipped and skilled at pulling your sustenance from the field, it makes sense to have what you need with you. Supplementing it right from the start will stretch out long term supplies. I wouldn't rely on just storage supplies, and then switch over when they run out. The RV is your shelter. Storage food is the basis for your diet, and water, plus water filtration, takes care of the rest.

      I would go with a smaller unit only if I knew my trek was entirely doable with just what I could pack in it.

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  8. I think it would be good to mention how EMP affects our BOV. I understand that chances for a nuclear strike or other source of EMP are pretty slim, however, investing money in time into a BOV, it would not hurt to make sure it operates after EMP.

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  9. I would personally go for gas milleage and space any day. If I can be able to get a bargain that will land me such a car that will easily aid in my BOV efforts then that would be my priority.
    bestop jeep

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  10. Our BORV was chosen to fill a variety of uses and suited to our expectations. Its size does leave us out of some of the more remote areas, but we have shoehorned that things into spots you wouldn't believe.

    Our expectations are that:
    - We will have access to 5 different pre-established BOLs hosted by family or friends. All have large areas for setting up and decent access.
    - We will not have to drag our trailer over rocks or such.
    - Our truck can pull it where ever it needs to go on paved roads, hard packed earth and fire trails. Though we might have issues with two-wheel drive, the trailer isn't likely to go where we would get stuck anyway.

    To that end, we bought a 31' travel trailer weighing less than 6,800lbs. We pull it with an F250 7.3ltr 2x4. We have taken it up and down steep and banked roads and bypasses and up one fire road. Seems to do reasonably well in the dry.

    We went with the split setup because we like having the shell on the truck for covered transport of item we take, or find while out on the road. The ARE shell and padded full interior BedLiner make for decent back up accommodations in an emergency. Three vented windows help that. We can park the trailer and go out and about, and if we want to buy something to come home with us, the bed takes care of it, without the weather consideration and space limitations that come with a 5th wheel hitch.

    Our rule of three. We make no large purchases unless they can fill three roles. In this case, it serves as our camper away from home, an emergency home for any of the family members that lose everything and need a place they can LIVE, and as our BORV.

    I hate to plug my site (I do so in my signature) but I've written extensively on BORVs over at ASurvivalPlan. It's one of my big time prepper interests, and searching on the topic is what brought me to you site.

    LP

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    1. Outstanding thoughts. It looks like you're well prepared. Great to see others taking their preps seriously. I like your rule of three also.

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Comments are welcome and encouraged!