Your daily routine of considering new prepping strategies has come to the least important, most important detail: a bug out vehicle – or the lack thereof. Do you even have one? It’s all the same – when SHTF, you’ll need something to take you swiftly and safely to your hideout. Your legs may or may not rise up to the challenge.

As every prepper knows, there are two basic types of calamities. With the first type, it’s recommendable to bug in. Just like most of us have been doing during the ongoing pandemic, it’s just safest to stay put in the relative safety of your home and wait it out.

Of course, a prepper would have made his home a safe haven before s**t actually hits the fan. Piles of food, supplies, and even self-defense weapons are likely to already be sitting in your basement.

Yet in some circumstances, all of that may amount to nothing. In scenarios such as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist or nuclear attacks, it’s way more advisable to bug the hell out. As soon as you can, as fast as you can, prepared (or not prepared) as you are at the moment. And depart to your previously designated and prepared bug out retreat.

But for that, you’d need a proper bug out vehicle. I suspect your shelter isn’t anywhere near to your living place. (Otherwise, it would probably beat the purpose.) So, you need a safe and reliable ride that will take you there.

But prepping is costly, especially if you do it right. Do you need to splurge hundreds of thousands of buckaroos on a special bug out vehicle?

Go ahead and do it if you have the means. Since most of us don’t, here’s a set of instructions on how to convert your car – any car – into a bug out vehicle.

BUG OUT VEHICLE MUST-HAVES

The best ready-made solution for your bug out vehicle would probably be a SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) – the kind that Land Rover or Jeep tend to make. In an ideal scenario, get an armored or bulletproof SUV if possible, or even a Humvee (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle). They feature ballistic glass with various levels of protection against firearms.

I’ll assume, however, that you aren’t hoarding millions of bucks in your savings (or prepping) bank account. Those of us who are working on a budget will have to come up with way more modest solutions. And somehow make them work.

So, don’t imagine a space shuttle parked in your doorway. Or something like this. Feel free to drool over it all you want. But once you’re done drooling, pull up the sleeves and get to work. You can turn almost any car into a bug out vehicle if you make sure it meets certain conditions.

bugout vehicle

It Needs to Be Spacious Enough

Many of us tend to be a bit too precautious when our safety is at stake. Take your ultimate prepper gear checklist. Cut it in half, get rid of a few extra items your optimistic partner deems unnecessary, and you’ll still have a big bulk of items left. That’s a whole lotta stuff to carry! I’ve met preppers whose survival gear is so extensive that they would probably need a bug out truck.

If you’re thinking about hooking up a trailer onto your bug out vehicle, stop right there. Handy though they are, trailers will seriously affect your agility on – and especially off – the road.

But even if you only opt for your bug out bag, remember how I recommended that each of your family members needs a bug-out bag of their own? All of you must be safe and well prepared to survive even when left to their own devices. And a serious prepper mustn’t get lulled into the dangerous hope that the worst will never happen.

That means your bug-out vehicle needs to be at least as spacious to contain your bulky bug out bags.

It Has to Accommodate (at Least) Four People

Oh wait – did we mention family members? Yep, don’t forget that among all those food cans and emergency supplies, there has to be enough room for all of you to at least breathe.

Even if it’s just you and your partner, it’s still desirable to bring more people. All the more so if you’re on your own. Lone wolves usually don’t fare well in disaster scenarios. As a pack member, your chances are definitely better!

This is probably a good moment to remind all of prepping beginners out there to always plan their escape with at least one other person. If you don’t have a partner or a spouse, pre-arrange your escape with a good, trustworthy friend. If it never comes to that, all the better!

Back to our topic – I hate to disappoint all of the sports cars owners. Those machines may be powerful and beautiful, but they just aren’t the best choice for a bug out vehicle.

Rugged Machines Always Win

Some if not most disaster scenarios will force you to abandon our straight and tidy highway lanes and follow the lesser roads. Fighting your way through an earthen or gravel road is tough – especially during rains or storms. Not to mention numerous occasions where you may have to abandon all roads – any roads. And turn to the nature-made infrastructure, or the lack thereof.

Frankly, the backcountry is more suited for travelling on horseback than any other kind of transportation. But we must do with what we have.

So, like I said above, an ideal bug out vehicle for these scenarios would be a four-wheel off-road SUV, or another high-riding car such as some Toyota, Chevy or Ford models. If you don’t have the budget for these beasts, I feel you. Don’t curse me, then, for recommending you an imperfectly perfect solution on a budget – the clumsy beast of a Lada Niva. To quote from this hilarious but very realistic review from Jalopnik: “The Niva felt like your homely asshole friend who always manages to say the wrong thing at parties but who really has a heart of gold and you always, always know that when the shit gets real, he’s got your back.”

But what about those of you who just can’t squeeze in a special car into your survival budget? Read on – we’ll cross that bridge when we get there!

HOW TO TURN YOUR FAMILY CAR INTO A BUG OUT VEHICLE?

Whether your car meets the above conditions or not, your main responsibility is to make sure it’s always ready. Day or night, summer or winter, while you’re at work or in your pajamas binging on Netflix… Disasters usually come unannounced. That’s why they’re called disasters, and that’s the main source of their devastative potential.

So, here’s a list of things you need apart from the basics such as food, water, shelter gear, and spare clothes. Most of these are really common sense items that you already have. Even if you don’t, they won’t rip you off. Still, do your math on time and equip your ride as soon as you can. Your sleep will thank you!

1. Decent Tires

Like I said, the roads (or lack thereof) are unforgiving when you’re on the run. In many survival situations, you’ll have to drive fast across bumps, slushes, potholes, and other tire-wracking phenomena.

That’s why you should get a set of brand new all-terrain tires. Even if they don’t solve all of your problems, they will still make your car more resistant and stable across different conditions and terrains. They will perform a good job even in snow.

2. Tire Repair Kit

bug out vehicle must-haves

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Even the best tires will eventually go flat due to a puncture. Since you can’t really carry two or more sets of spare tires around, it’s best to get one of these kits. And learn how to use it before you need them!

3. Seat Belt Cutter & Window Glass Breaker

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In certain situations, your bug out vehicle, the very source of your safety, may turn into a death trap. That’s when you’ll be glad you had this kit with you.

4. Roof Rack

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What if you only have a smallish car that barely accommodates its human cargo, not to mention all the stuff you need to bring along? Why utilize the rooftop, of course!

Naturally, you’ll have to make sure your roof racks fit. They should also be lockable so as not to let any of your precious items down the drain. You can use them, for example, to pack up all of those bulky water containers that you would otherwise have to leave behind.

5. Jumper Cables

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If you get stranded in freezing weather, your car heating may be one of the resorts against freezing. But there’s only so much electricity demand your car battery can manage. When it goes dead, these cables will help you start it again. 

Or better yet, you can learn how to jump a car without jumper cables.

6. Compass and Regional Maps

how to convert your car into a bug out vehicle

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You can’t always rely on your navigational tech. Many bug out scenarios will take you off the grid, where there’s no electricity, not to mention internet connection. That’s why you should always have a compass and a physical map of your entire region. If you don’t know how to use a compass and a map, check out this guide.

7. Floor Jack

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Why spend extra cash on a floor jack when you already have one? I hear you, but this one won’t let you down when you need it most. Any repair will be a lot easier and faster. 

8. LED Lightbar

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If this thing doesn’t sound essential to you, it probably isn’t.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take much room yet provides brightness when you need it most. Imagine, for example, having to fix something on your car in the middle of nowhere, at the dead of night. Or even a thing as simple as unpacking, which would be very difficult if done in darkness.

9. An Extra Gas Can (Or Two)

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The first reason you need this one is obvious. You may run out of gas out in the wild.

The second reason is that you won’t be the only person who’s run out of gas. And people resort to nasty survival techniques, including stealing. That’s why you should keep your fuel reserve buried under a load of other items.

10. Car Safe

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The most obvious purpose of this security case is to safeguard your handgun. And this is not just to keep your weapon safe from any adversary. It’s also to keep your own kids from messing around the moment you turn your head away.

11. Power Inverter

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This device will allow you to convert the DC voltage from your car battery into AC voltage that you can use to charge your phone or laptop, for example. It’s not only convenient because the kids will need their share of fun, but also because your gadgets can really come in handy.

12. Last But Not Least… Organizers

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It’s hard to think about petty things such as organization when your life is at stake. But that’s why you should think about it now, while it still isn’t.

You’ll need organizers due to sheer volume of small things you’ll need to bring along. Granted, your bugout bags will already have tons of compartments. But believe me: no matter what you do, you’ll always wish for a few more of those. (Also, it would be a pity if your car seats don’t have a role too!)

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Should you also need to keep things organized in your trunk, make sure the bins are leak proof such as the above pair.

Bonus: Bug-Out Car Maintenance Tips

Before we say goodbye on this topic, here’s a short list of things you always need to keep your eyes on.

  • Get a new battery every two years. In normal circumstances, batteries tend to show first mortal signs every three to four years. Obviously, potential disasters warrant more precaution.
  • Regularly check your tire pressure. When at proper level specified by the manufacturer, it significantly reduces their chances of going flat – as well as fuel consumption.
  • Make sure to never run out of gas. And I mean NEVER. Ideally, your tank should always be half-full to full.
  • Change your motor oil regularly. That’s how you’ll keep your engine healthy. Same goes for transition oil.
  • Belts and hoses should be in top shape. If they are worn out, make sure to replace them.