The Bug Out Vehicle: An Extensive Guide for Beginners

When things get bad, and you’re forced to leave home, planning a quick and fast way to get out of DODGE and getting to your bug out location is crucial.

Planning point A and B? That’s easy. Getting from A to B is the tricky part unless you’ve already got a bug out vehicle.

If you haven’t thought about getting a BOV, now is the time. Having a BOV, preferably a car or truck, makes your plan of bugging out viable. 

To help you decide on your BOV, here are things you need to know:

Factors to Think of When Choosing Your Bug Out Vehicle

bug out vehicle keys

Before we get down and dirty with what vehicle you should get fixin’ and all the stuff you can buy for it, there are a few things you have to think about. This isn’t some Sunday shopping with grandma where you get to put whatever you want in the shopping cart.

Buying or getting a car is a big step. Getting a bug-out vehicle? An even bigger one. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you lock in on a vehicle that you want:

Is the vehicle easy to maintain, and is it durable?

It’s a no-brainer. Whether you’re going for something old or going all-in with your cards for a newer car, your bug out vehicle has to be durable, in good working condition, and easy to maintain.

Don’t be THAT guy who buys a car and realizes there are no car parts available where he lives. Do you want to be worrying about where you’re going to get spare parts when SHTF?

On the other hand, knowing a thing or two about cars and fixing them up will be helpful. It needs a lot of practice if you don’t already know how to maintain a car, but over time, you’ll get to know your BOV more.

How fuel-efficient is it?

Another thing to consider or look out for when choosing a BOV is the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. A bug out vehicle is going to be as useless as a rusty tin can in the cupboard if the fuel range on it won’t get you to your destination at all.

Know what the fuel mileage is on the BOV that you want, then factor in how much fuel you need to get to where you need to be. Keep the following in mind:

  • Detours you might make 
  • Traffic
  • Off-road courses you’ll encounter

This is why knowing all about fuel efficiency and mileage is essential.

Is it off-road capable?

A car being able to go off-road might not mean jack to the average person, but a bug out vehicle? It’s a whole different ball game. Off-road capabilities are a must for your BOV.

If you’re planning to bug out, you’re more than likely going to be on the back road, and that back road can be a killer to a car that ain’t off-road capable.

Types of Bug Out Vehicles You Can Get

The ideal bug out vehicle would have to be a truck or a car. But let’s face it, not everyone’s got a bag full of cold hard cash ready to be spent on a new car. A lot of people will use whatever car they have parked on the driveway, tailored for bugging out.

But did you know that you don’t have to restrict yourself to using just a car? Here are modes of transportation you can use as a bug out vehicle:


Hook it up to your car, and a camper works well enough as a bug out vehicle. It’s got functional space, enough to carry several people as well as gear. You could even live in it if you ever have to. Think of it as a bug out trailer.

The only thing we don’t like about campers is how they stick out like sore thumbs on the road. Plus, ruggedness isn’t their forte, and we’re not too sure they can handle the rougher type of terrain.


For the badass solo riding prepper, motorbikes are just the right bug out vehicle to have.

One thing to love about this two-wheeled monster machine is how easily you can get in and out of traffic. You can even customize it so you can take it out on the dirt road or on tougher routes. It can’t carry that much gear, though.

But if your bug out location is all set, you just need the essential equipment to help you survive on your journey.


With a bike, you don’t have to rely on fuel to get you places. It’s also better than walking. So how can you not win with a bike as a bug out vehicle? Getting in and out of traffic is a check, and a bike is way cheaper than a brand new car.

A trailer can be attached to the back of the bike to haul your essential gear and supplies, and this would be the best option for those off-road tracks.


A boat on the ocean or river as a getaway vehicle? Sounds like a scene straight out of an action movie, but we like the idea of this. A large enough boat can be both a bug out location and a bug out vehicle.

We do suggest that you have an alternative mode of transportation (like a motorized rowboat) just in case you need to leave your boat behind in the water.


Short for a sport utility vehicle, an SUV is a perfect bug out vehicle because of the amount of gear it can carry and how it can easily transport you and your family at the same time. Make sure it’s a 4-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive. SUVs can also be customized to make them more rugged and to fit more to your needs.

Related: Best Bug Out Vehicles to Own


Similar to an SUV, with the condition that you’ll have way more space for gear on a truck. It’s a good choice for a family of three to four, no more. Trucks easily double as an everyday vehicle, too.

Items to Store in Your Bug Out Vehicle

Deciding on what essential items you can put in your bug out vehicle is important and does take some thought. Though there’s space, you have to be smart about utilizing that space and what to bring.

Here are a few items you can put in your car:

Bug Out Bag

The bug out bag is non-negotiable, and this BOB is solely for your bug out vehicle. Your BOB at home is different from this. This bag should have enough to help you survive for three days at most, and you should never touch it unless you plan on abandoning your vehicle.

Vehicle Emergency Kit

Never get caught with your pants down. You need to think ahead and prepare for the things your car needs in case it breaks down or you need to do repairs on it. Items in this kit can include:

  • A car tool kit
  • Spare parts like spark plugs and tires
  • Tire repair kit
  • Jack
  • Air compressor
  • Emergency jump starter
  • Extra fluid (oil, coolant, transmission fluid, etc.)
  • Tow cables and straps
  • Spare keys
  • Cordage and rope
  • Tactical gloves
  • Siphon and pump
  • Duct tape
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Emergency warning triangles
  • Reflective vests
  • Seatbelt cutter
  • A folding shovel or entrenching tool
Related: Your Guide to a Bug Out Vehicle Emergency Kit

Communication and Signaling Gear

communication and signaling gear for your bug out vehicle

Having comms is important, and staying in contact with loved ones, near or far, is one thing that will keep you sane in dire situations. Things you might need in this category include:

  • Solar phone charger
  • Car phone charger
  • Flares
  • Walkie talkies
  • Extra phones
  • Radios
Related: Top Choices for Radio Communication

Navigation Kit

This one is pretty self-explanatory and a no-brainer. When SHTF, we guarantee you that places, roads, and highways won’t look the same when society was still alright. Things will change, so it’s best to have items that will help you navigate your way to your bug out location.

Stock up on these:

  • GPS
  • Maps
  • Compass

Water and Food

Your BOB is bound to have food, but remember, you’re not supposed to touch that supply. That means you need to outfit your bug out vehicle with the essentials, too. Pack the following:

  • Bottled drinking water
  • Water filter
  • Non-perishable food
  • Emergency stove
  • Cooking pot and utensils
Related: Emergency Food Supply

Warmth and Shelter

You can’t exactly sleep in the car, especially if you’ve got people with you, so having shelter items in your bug out vehicle will definitely help sleeping arrangements be comfier:

Important Documents

You still have to abide by the law, even in situations that might seem like the law doesn’t exist. Having the right documents to show to the proper authorities is something to always prepare for. Don’t forget to shove these in the glove compartment for safekeeping:

  • License
  • Vehicle manual
  • Contact lists
  • Car registration

Survival Kit

Surviving the wild ala Bear Grylls might sound tempting, but if we can use tools that can help us, why not? Prepare a survival kit according to your needs and add the following to it:

  • Knife
  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Bolt cutters
  • Axe
  • Protective gear
  • Binoculars

Personal Hygiene and Wound Care Kit

Just cause you’re on the road doesn’t mean we throw personal hygiene out the window. Stock up on these things in your BOV to keep yourself clean and healthy, too:

  • Toilet paper
  • Sunblock
  • Soap
  • Baby wipes
  • Insect repellent
  • First aid kit
  • Vitamins
Related: Ultimate First Aid Kit

Accessories to Fit Your Bug Out Vehicle With

Laid out and ready, the basics of what goes into your BOV are just one thing. Now, we go to a part that a lot of car enthusiast preppers love—decking out the vehicle to make it one clean and mean-lookin’ machine. Be sure to build it according to your budget. It takes time to add the accessories you need, and it also depends on your budget.

Here are some great accessories to add to your BOV:

Upgraded Tires

a person rolling a tire

Out with the old, in with the new. This deserves the first mention because most car companies outfit their vehicles with standard tires that are good for city driving, you know, where roads are less likely to have potholes.

Sturdy, reliable, and durable tires are needed when you go off-road—tires that won’t easily get cut or bogged down by mud and muck. Make sure your tires’ pressure is always on point.

Light Rack

Nilight – ZH006 LED Light Bar

A light rack will add extra lights to your BOV and is useful in any situation, such as setting up camp or driving through a fog or dark road. Bottom line? You can never go wrong with too much light.

Roof Rack

roof rack of a bug out vehicle

RoofPax Car Roof Bag & Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Additional storage space on a bug out vehicle is a plus. Using every inch of your car is important, and getting roof bag or roof racks is a smart way, getting more out of less. With a roof rack, you’ll be able to carry more water, more food, and more supplies.

Window Security Film

a cracked window

You’re prepped. That’s what you do best, and we’re pretty sure you’ve got the front and back windshield of your car break-proof, but how about the side windows?

Window security film is what you need for them. This might be expensive, but it’s truly worth it for break-proof windows that stop thieves from stealing your supplies and your car.

Winch Kits

GearAmerica Off-Road Recovery Kit

Getting stuck in the mud like a pig isn’t the best scenario you want to be in when driving your BOV, but it is possible. When this happens, you’ll want to have a winch kit installed so you can get your car to safer and solid ground.

Suspension Lift

Most cars in post-apocalyptic world movies easily drive over rocks, other cars, and even zombies. That’s because those cars are more likely than not fitted with suspension lifts. With the right lift size, your BOV will still be fuel-efficient and not experience problems with ground clearance.

Grille Guard

Westin HDX Grille Guards

Crashing into fences, abandoned cars on the road, uprooted trees, can cause severe damage to your car. To protect it against collisions, get grille guards to protect the front and absorb impact.

Extra Fuel Tanks

a fuel tank

Briggs and Stratton Press ‘N Pour Gas Can

Though your car’s fuel gauge should always be at full when you start, we must never reach halfway, or worse, empty. You’re not exactly going to be able to pull up at a gas station and refill when SHTF.

Honestly, even if you could, staying off the main road is a priority. That’s why extra fuel is a must-have in your BOV. Get the appropriate fuel containers and fill them up in advance. But before you do, research the proper way to store fuel in your BOV.

Related: How to Store Gasoline Safely For When SHTF

Final Thoughts

Being on the road is the last thing you want, but being ready for it pays off if it ever does happen.

Always be prepared, and make sure you have a solid plan to get to your bug out location. Set up your bug out route and have a backup plan on top of your existing plan.

Ready to get your bug out vehicle? Sound off in the comments below and tell us all about your plans!


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