With the type of vehicle chosen, the next step is to decide what kind of modifications you want to make to it (if any). Sometimes it’s tempting to build a bug out vehicle like a MadMax truck, and while doing such has it’s own virtues, it might not be necessary or feasible.
Still, here’s some suggested mods to take into consideration when “stock” just won’t cut it for you.
Tires are the most important modification you’ll make to your bug out vehicle. Having durable, long-lasting tires is essential in having a safe getaway. Especially if you are going to be going off-road, or traveling through the snow or the mud, you need tires that can take the hardships you throw at them.
Equally important is having a full-sized spare tire. If you have a blow out, do you really want to be relying on a donut tire to get you through an emergency? This is not the place to get thrifty – tire quality can mean the difference between life and death in a SHTF scenario.
When it comes to selecting tires, you’ll probably want to choose one with radial construction. While bias truck tires are number one for extreme off roading, they don’t drive well on pavement, and will wear down quickly when taken on road.
All terrain tires may be sufficient for your needs if you anticipate sticking mostly to the streets, but they won’t do well on really rough terrain. Radial truck tires are a good compromise, handling well both on and off road. While you may not need all the expensive bells and whistles found on some bug out vehicles, quality tires and a quality spare are well worth the expense.
Stock wheels are often made using the cast method that leads to a less durable product, and is more likely to crack. Forged wheels, on the other hand, are well known for their strength and longevity. When choosing an off-road wheel, you are usually faced with the choice between steel and aluminum alloy.
Steel wheels are incredibly durable, and are resistant to corrosion, so they will last a long time. Aluminum alloy wheels are lightweight and allow for better airflow, protecting your brakes from overheating.
Those basic headlights just aren’t going to cut the darkness it when it comes to off-road night driving. Whether you’re facing extreme weather conditions, heavy debris, roadblocks, or tough terrain, good lighting is necessary for your safety, especially if you’re driving through hills or deserts in the dark.
Installing an LED light bar on top of your vehicle is an easy investment that boosts your visibility, and greatly reduces your chances of a wreck. This is also one of the least expensive improvements you can make to your bug out vehicle, as LED lights have greatly increased in both availability and affordability.
We recommend a 30-50 inch light bar mounted on top of your vehicle. Mounting a light bar on your bumper can interfere with your headlights, giving you reduced visibility, while light bars mounted on top of your vehicle works with your headlights to allow you to see farther ahead.
TEOTWAWKI is sure to come with a large shortage of fuel sources, and heading to your bug out location is likely to take much longer than anticipated. You aren’t going to be able to just stop at the gas station and fill up your tank if you run out of fuel.
One option is to mount canisters with additional fuel on your vehicle. If you are looking for a solution that doesn’t include stopping to refuel, you could also swap out your gas tank for a larger one, or even install a secondary fuel tank. If you want to use wood gas, you may consider mounting a wood gasifier on your bug out vehicle.
Some people also choose to keep their primary bug out vehicle and/or supplies packed and ready to go in a storage unit on the way to their bug out location. This is especially true of individuals living in compact cities with limited storage space.
With all of their supplies (including extra fuel) packed and ready to go just outside of town, they can make a quick getaway and beat the hordes of people panicking to get home, and hit the roads fast. In the event that SHTF while you are at work or away from your residence, this method can save you valuable time.
In addition to your regular AM/FM radio, you may want to consider purchasing a secondary transceiver radio. AM/FM stations may or may not be broadcasting in an emergency situation. A transceiver radio will allow you to stay up to date on emergency alerts and reach out for assistance if needed. CB and HAM radios will allow you to communicate with other survivors when other communication methods fail. You should also invest in a power inverter to charge your phone and other electronic devices.
BUMPERS & WINCH KITS
These features aren’t for everyone, but if you have the money, they aren’t bad things to include on your bug out vehicle. Improved bumpers and bully bars give your vehicle extra protection from collisions. A durable winch kit will be a lifesaver if you get stranded in a ditch or stuck in the mud. Being able to pull yourself out of a sticky situation or tow another vehicle is a major advantage.
Driving your bug out vehicle
Now that you have your bug out vehicle ready to go, it’s time to put it to the test. Your bug out plan and vehicle are useless unless you are familiar with the routes and vehicle. Have at least three routes to your bug out location planned, and practice driving your bug out vehicle on every one of them. This is a good way to gage how much fuel you’ll need to carry.
Whatever fuel it takes (on the longest route) to get to your location, triple that, and carry it on your bug out vehicle. Also be sure to keep your bug out vehicle fueled up at all times. It won’t do you any good if an emergency comes along and you pack up your family to head to your bug out location just to find that your gas tank is near empty. Always be prepared with a full tank of gas.
Drills are especially important if one or more of your routes include driving off-road. Off-roading isn’t just a matter of having the right vehicle — it’s also a matter of having the right driver. Off-roading requires skill.
Even if you have the toughest off-road capable vehicle, if you don’t know what you are doing behind the wheel, you could be in for serious trouble. You don’t want to get stuck in an emergency because you put all your confidence in the vehicle, or were overly-confident in your driving capabilities.
Practice driving on multiple terrains often to protect your ride, family, and get to your bug out location as safe as possible.
It’s also important to practice driving your routes in various weather conditions. Disaster doesn’t only strike when it is sunny and dry outside. If you live in an area with snow, you’ll want to be sure that your vehicle (and driver) can handle the icy, snow-covered roads.
This is especially true if your bug out plan includes routes with more rough terrain. If you only practice your routes in nice weather, you aren’t really prepared for any SHTF situation.
During your drills, keep an eye out for road changes on your routes, and identify possible chokepoints. If you get stuck in a major traffic jam, how will you get out of it? Are there tertiary roads nearby that you could get to?
You don’t just need a plan A, plan B, and plan C. You also need a way to get from one plan to the next. In addition to making sure your routes are accessible by vehicle, you’ll want to make sure that they could be reasonably travelled by foot, in case you have to abandon your bug out vehicle. Will you and your family be able to cross the terrain?
With the proper equipment, plan, and practice, you will be as prepared as possible for a SHTF scenario, no matter which vehicle you choose for your bug out vehicle.
The editor of Resounding Earth, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.