Is An RV a Good Idea For a Bug-Out Vehicle?

First of all, I’d like to thank the folks that left so many good ideas on my Fishing For Ideas article.  Over the next month or so I’ll write on the various topics suggested by you all.  Today’s post is a direct answer to one of our readers, jennie, who wrote in with several topic ideas.

One of her questions had to do with using an RV as a bug-out vehicle and whether or not I thought it was a good idea.  Thanks jennie – this is a great question I’ve thought about before, and since I’ve already done a little thinking around this topic it I’ll try and flesh it out here.

Quick answer:  No.  I don’t think an RV would be good to use for a bug-out.

Allow me to elaborate.

Not long ago I wrote a post about Camping As Practice For a Bug-out.  I have a twenty-six foot camper for taking the family to local campgrounds and wondered about the idea of using it for an evacuation and posited that it might indeed be useful under the right circumstances.  If I had time to hook it up to my truck and conditions weren’t too bad it would indeed work out well.  Having said that, if road conditions were bad or I needed to run quick I can always ditch the camper and boogie out in my truck.  The thing is a beast and at the first sign of trouble I’d ditch it because, frankly, I can easily live without it.  It’s merely a way to keep the family comfortable during a hard time.  If it came down to survival, I’d ditch it in a second and use my wilderness skills (if needed) to keep us alive.  Survival is very different from camping comfortably.

jennie didn’t say how big her RV was, but in general they aren’t small vehicles.  They get poor gas mileage and aren’t all that maneuverable under the best of conditions.  Newer RV’s are wonders of innovation and technology and truly can be roving apartments, but the price for that is size and weight.  I met a guy at the campground with a beautiful RV and after sizing it up I looked at him and said, “What do you get for gas mileage?  Six miles to the gallon?”  He pointed at me and said, “You nailed it right on the head.”

I can think of many bad situations where being in one of these big beasts would cause problems.  You’d be stuck to main roads, so if your bug-out plan called for a short trip across country you could probably forget it in the RV.  You’d be limited by the amount of gas in your tank and I wouldn’t be too sure about gas stations open during some kind of full scale emergency.


What About a Smaller RV?

A smaller motor home like what’s shown below would be better, but it’s still a road vehicle.  It might be ok going down dirt roads, but as soon as you have to do some serious

off-road you’re going to be in trouble.  Plus the small motor home would only be good for a single person or a very intimate couple.  I can tell you from personal experience that as soon as you get a couple of kids on board you want to have a little more room for them to play.

If I had a choice of a rugged vehicle to pull my camper it would definitely be the hummer in the picture.  It’s rugged and

I’ve driven them many miles in all kinds of terrain and never had a problem with them getting stuck or not doing what I wanted them to do.   And if I could get one with the ring mount machine gun like this one I’d be all set for the zombie apocalypse!
What do you want for a perfect bug-out vehicle?

-Jarhead Survivor

32 comments… add one

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. June 22, 2012, 7:25 am

    Something that you can camp and live out of if you don’t have a destination to go. Something tall enough to hang a tarp off to the side or back and be able to stand under. Something that can carry a good sized pantry and water supply, yet still be able to maneuver in traffic. Something that doesn’t gain visual attention.

    To me, a well serviced Suburban or Van with good ground clearance and great tires.

  • Ray June 22, 2012, 8:43 am

    GUYS ! c’mon, If it uses gas,oil or rubber and the factory grid goes down, the place it stops is the place you STAY , or walk from.Ya’ll still think like the factory grid will still be here after TSHTF . If you can’t eat it ride it or hitch it to a plow it is a liability NOT an assett. people that bug out are called REFUGEES . they carry there world on there tranport. It stops and you get what you carry. If ya’ll have to go more than 100 miles to safe harbor , your in REAL trouble. There will be NO gas NO food and NO safety on the roads after THE FALL. An RV is a VERY LARGE TARGET ,and when out of gas, a death trap. If you MUST run think HORSES you can go cross country, carry people and goods and worst comes eat ‘em. When this all Resets to the 18th century , I realy don’t want to saddle myself with technolagey that I cannot fuel, cannot maintain, and cannot replace.( you know like stuff that depends on factorys and global transport) — Ray

    • Jarhead Survivor June 22, 2012, 2:16 pm

      I agree that bugging out is a good way to become a refugee. As mentioned in other replies below it’s wise to live in your bug-out area if at all possible, and many of us do.

      I never specified the type of bug-out in the post, but I usually think of something like a forest fire or other type of natural disaster or maybe a chemical spill when I think of bug-out.

      If some kind of societal crash happens I intend to stay home!

      • Ray June 22, 2012, 11:22 pm

        Ok. Gas , Fire or Flood and gotta run , the RV is still a pig, poor gas mileage poor mobility and dead slow. I like your truck/trailer WAY better for that. Like you say; If ya’ gotta boogie , drop the triler and scat. –and yeh if I had to I could walk to Moms farm , And Ya’ll know what they say :” home is that place you show up at 3am they GOTTA let you in” — Ray

  • millenniumfly June 22, 2012, 8:47 am

    Maybe the RV could simply be parked in a nice bug out location and used as an inexpensive shelter if money were a concern… and when is it not.

    • Jarhead Survivor June 22, 2012, 2:22 pm

      I thought about that too. The only problem I could come up with is that it would have to be in a place nobody could accidentally stumble upon. If it’s an RV it would stick out like a sore thumb just about anywhere.

      Once someone finds it all those beautiful preps are gone!

  • john June 22, 2012, 8:55 am

    Ford E-350 diesel converted to an armored car and 4×4. They show up occasionally on E-Bay for around $10,000. You want hinged doors on the side, not a sliding door.

    Personally, I think my 4×4 van would be a good bug out vehicle towing an off road trailer. About a 300 mile range. Ideally, your trailer should have an ATV along with gas, water, and food.

  • Spook45 June 22, 2012, 9:16 am

    I would say no. Mainly because if you have to travel any distance to get to your place, you want make it i that due to traffic congestion and the fact that it makes a rather large target. A 4×4 SUV, a motor cycle or atv or a horse and pack mule. NO big vehicles that cant go offroad/overland or around traffic jams and backups. OTher than that it would pretty cool cuz you can sleep eat shower etc all in one place and haul a whole lot of stuff. I can see the appeal, I just dont think it would be sound in hte respects of security and mobility and its gonna draw a lot of attention.

  • Tim June 22, 2012, 9:17 am

    No disrespect intended, but I cannot imagine any plausible scenario in which ‘bugging-out’ would anything but last, on a long list of bad options.

    You’ll be a beautiful target, alone with limited resources, and in unfamiliar territory.

    If you truly believe that bugging-out might be necesary & you have the ability to do so, you need to begin that relocation process now.

    • Jarhead Survivor June 22, 2012, 2:17 pm

      Hi Tim – I agree on all your points.

    • GW June 25, 2012, 12:37 pm

      If bugging out is a poor option…how do you recommend to better prep for natural disasters such as forest fires?

  • Westie June 22, 2012, 9:30 am

    I totally agree that survive in place is the best option. This is where I have my supplies, I have good albeit naive neighbors and have no place to go to anyway. I’ll make my stand here as I feel that is my best chance.

  • lee June 22, 2012, 1:57 pm

    i have thought about this as i have a jeep and i am considering buying a prius because of the driving range, which is twice as far as my jeep.

    i realize i’m taking a risk with a car that cant jump a decent sized curb; but I live in Houston; a big city that could have all sorts of problems and if i need to get out; it’s got to be further than most will be able to to increase my chances at being safe.

    i figure if i really need to get out, i can get down to the coast with food for 2 months, guns, other necessities and the clothing, shelter, cooking needs to live on a beach and 10 extra gallons of gas for any movement and ability to go back to Houston after reports get out that the people have accepted the circumstances of living in Houston in a great depression.

    One of the problems with having a suv or generator to keep you comfortable is that they will run out of fuel at some point and if the gas pumps dont work, you’re just as stuck as everyone else when your reserves run out.

    • Jarhead Survivor June 22, 2012, 2:19 pm

      It’s a tough decision – go light and mobile or heavy and defensive. The question really comes down to your desires and needs. If you’re a single guy then maybe light and agile is a good way to go. If something happens to your vehicle or you get stuck you can always hit the ground on foot and bug-out alone.

      Those of us with kids will have a different set of considerations.

      • lee June 22, 2012, 4:24 pm

        Kids ? Those things just eat up your rations in the first week; that’s the first thing you gotta leave at the nearest relatives house on the way out to greener pastures.

        I’m just kidding !

        I’m planning on taking my sister(single mom) and her kid to the beach and will have provided for them as theyre in the “just a rough patch” camp.

        i figure if you know what the neccessities are, you can get it for 2 months for 2 adults and 2 kids if you live on the beach in a prius. i have lived out of hotels for my job, so its amazing how little a person really needs to exist when you get into that situation.

  • carl June 22, 2012, 3:54 pm

    In the fall of 2009, we bought what I thought was a big 30 foot Class C RV and we went from Wisconsin to Kingman Arizona for the winter. We actually had a pupose( medical) but I saw this a real-time Disatser response Trial. I assure you that living full time in ANY RV is a challenge at best and unless it is an EL-Humungo Class A, with 3 or 4 slide outs in a Month or so you will be a each others throats. They are just like boats, Holes in the earth to throw money into.

  • Student Prepper June 22, 2012, 4:00 pm

    For me a bug out situation would be if I had to evacuate because of some unplanned event, such as the wild fires in New Mexico, hurricanes in the south of floods. In those situations I would want a sturdy 4×4 that I never let get below 1/2 a tank and have extra fuel for. Vans would be great or an SUV. I am not as sold on trucks because of limited cab space.

  • BillyB June 22, 2012, 5:48 pm

    I can conceive of a need to “bug-out” but it would truly be last ditch.

    If bugging out became necessary, I would do so alone; so, either my own two feet, or a dirt bike.

  • Aaron June 22, 2012, 7:58 pm

    Stay home but if there is total collapse you still will need some type of transportation. Go old school something that doesn’t require a computer to run and can be fixed with bailing wire. Our choice is a 1970 landcruiser tough as nails, basic maintence, always runs. For the runs into town, accross town, or whatever our need to survive at the time. Don’t know about you but I don’t live in a big city and travel will be required to trade and to communicate with the outside world. Some good old sheet metal ussually won’t let you down!

  • Michael June 22, 2012, 10:55 pm

    Bug-out in whatever you have. I don’t think it makes sense to have any sort of vehicle just because you’re worried about bugging-out. But, if you go camping a lot and think owning a some sort RV would be helpful for that then go for it.

    When I was growing up we had mom, dad, & 4 kids living in one small house. One day dad came home pulling a small, used, tent trailer behind his car and once school got out us kids got kicked out of the house for the summer. We all felt pretty badass, having our own little place and mom & dad got us out from underfoot.

    We also used that tent trailer to go camping. We drove on dirt roads all over northern British Columbia towing that thing behind a ’68 Country Squire station wagon.

    A small tent trailer won’t decrease your gas MPG by very much, can get pulled over rough ground, would give you more storage space, and protection from the elements. Not a bad way to go. They also can be picked up used for fairly cheap. But, watch the weight on them, some of them can be really heavy.

  • KC June 22, 2012, 11:39 pm

    With Respect to all those with Gasoline Vehicles;

    I’m rather curious to why is it that most persons when they think of BOV’s they automatically presume that Gasoline will be available in quantity to get them from Point A (the site of the disaster) to Point B (the so-called “safe-haven) without so-much as any issues of traffic congestion or acts of wanton violence, by the desperate mobs, with the same ideas as you in mind?

    Instead of automatically selecting the default option, why not look into alternative fuel options, which can make for versatile use, not only as a daily driver, but as a vehicle which could mean the difference between getting 58 miles down the road or the 330 miles it actually takes to get to the destination. As a matter of course, I’m running exclusively with diesel powered vehicles, because of the readily availability of not only diesel fuel (OTR Trucks), but WVO and E-100 plus in a pinch waste motor oils, in the absolute bottom of the barrel. In addition to the readily available fuels, EMP protection is key for any long-distance journey. Most Vehicles already described, won’t go 100 feet let alone 100 miles after the first EMP detonation. With a diesel powered vehicle, along with a battery clip lead, removes the trouble from the equation.

    A few here have mentioned Armor protection for the BOV of choice, however with Armor comes weight, lack of cargo space and a changed center of gravity, so practice and training are vital prior to “game-day.” I would recommend to those where this is an issue, it would be easier to armor the occupants than the vehicle itself and in the event that the said BOV would become inoperable, then the occupants would still have a measure of protection above that of their refugee peers.

    So I reckon until the Defense Department begins to sell off the massive collection of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle family they’ve collected over the past eight years, one should give much thought and discussion with family/associates prior to purchase.

  • iowaprepper June 23, 2012, 1:34 am

    Regardless of the situation I don’t bellieve and RV will work unless you have plenty of time to bug out first. Usually this is not the case so it’s a no-go on the RV imho. For a “normal” bug0out situation like a weather disaster or fire I would recommend any 4×4 vechile that has enough room for your family and gear. Trucks or SUVs obviously being the cheaper alternative, but scaling up to the Hummer or outfitted Van. In a SHTF situation I would suggest any of the various multifuel type vehicles so you have multiple options for fuel, with used oil being generally the easiest to get.

  • john June 23, 2012, 5:07 am

    > With a diesel powered vehicle

    Most of the newer diesel powered vehicles, example Dodge Cummings 1998-> are just as prone to EMP as a gas vehicle because the injector pump has OEM specific computer controls that will nuke at the slightest hint of EMP.

    On most of my 4x4s I can switch from electronic ignition with carb, to old fashion vacuum advance with carb by switching out the distributor at the front of the motor. Only tough thing would be bump starting an auto truck that weighs 7k if the battery/alt fries.

    Most body armor will not stop a 7.62 or 5.56. There is no substitute for an armored vehicle or armored truck if you want to have any hope against sniping.

    To me a BOV is for BEFORE the stuff really hits the fan. Once chaos sets in I would not want to be on any paved road. To me the BOV is for before or the hour after it hits the fan.

    Ideally, imho, a 4×4 diesel powered (no electronics) 5 speed manual transmission is the the way to go for long term survival. For short term use, I think gas powered is fine. For me the best thing about diesel is you can store it long term and it is less of an explosion and fire hazard.

    That is one thing I find attractive about people doing the BT4 swaps or converting bread trucks to 4×4.

  • Joe June 23, 2012, 8:49 am

    Great article Jarhead! I’ve read a fair amount about BOVs and I’m fortunate that in my case I don’t have to worry too much about selecting one. We live in our bug out location so my biggest issue may be getting home after a significant event.

    I have however, recently bought a bug-in vehicle that is, I hope, EMP proof. I’m not certain that it’s the ultimate vehicle for my needs, but for now it’s what we have.


  • Adam June 23, 2012, 1:19 pm

    I’d say a 4×4 SUV or a 4×4 pickup with an extended cab and a camper top. The RV would be confined to the road in my opinion whereas the 4×4 can get around congestion better.

    EMP wise, it all depends on distance and power of the pulse. Look at the EMP Commission report about cars and they found that not very many had major issues. They tested them in 2002, so it isn’t that old.

  • Sundance WMC June 23, 2012, 11:09 pm

    I have an RV. A class C . Powered by a Chevy 350. It is a 1978 year model….mechanical fuel pump, non electronic ignition. The chassis is a truck chassis. No power? I have siphon hose, I will get fuel.
    I do not live in a city, no major traffic arteries I would take anyway. The old RV is ready to go anytime. Can I take it out in fields and woods? Oh hell yes. Battery powered cabin via 12 volt deep cycle batteries and solar panels to maintain charge, propane till it runs out…beats lying on the ground. Does it have limitations? Of course it does. Communication via Amateur radio (HAM)….yes, licensed and equipped.

    I also have a Ford Supercrew pick-up, another van,and a small pull behind camper trailer and plenty of motorcycles and shoes. Depending on situation AND if I need to actually bug out, I have bases covered…….though I intend to stay put.

    I have a well, a garden, and plenty of land to scavenge, to include woods and lakes and ponds…..water and fish not gonna be a problem…….in the mean time…..I hope for the best, and am ready for all I can handle.

    though in other news……I did save a ton of money by switching to Geico.

  • izzy June 24, 2012, 3:47 am

    The useful thing about an RV is that it makes everyone emotionally READY to bug out – because, instead of saying to each other, “Is this REALLY it? Will the fire really get bigger? Is the drought really gonna continue? Is this town finished? Will they really institute martial law?” – instead, everyone says “Vacation? We can really use it right now! YAY! We have everything ready, let’s go!”
    And if the tornado doesn’t hit, well, you just spent some quality time.

  • gat31 June 24, 2012, 9:24 pm

    short term bug out say for fire or weather doesn’t really matter what you have truly. My mom and sister “bugged out” right before hurricane Dennis because they lived on an island. They left the state. While in a diner eating, someone broke into the van and took all their stuff including their personal papers (titles, birth certificates etc). If they had had an RV, thieves would have gotten more stuff.
    If they had stayed on the island, they would have been fine in the upstairs apartment as the downstairs was waist deep in water.
    Point is if people really want to get to you or your stuff they will.
    Unless you are prepared to protect it by force, or able to hide in a truly secret impenetrable place, you are vulnerable to attack. question would be where would it be easier to defend yourself? In your BOV or in your home where you know all the blind spots, hiding places etc.? I work a mile from home. i can walk it in 30 minutes or less in worse conditions. My preps are here, my garden is here, my support network is here. Would truly have to be something incredible to make me leave it. And truly worse case scenario, l also have a garden planted at work so if l got stranded there for a few days, l could eat at least :)

  • TI June 26, 2012, 7:27 am

    I would like a vehicle that would be protected by a EMP. I have read about the Faraday cages. Could you apply the same techniques to a vehicle? One of the most valuable modes of transportation is the bicycle. The family loves the rides. Throw some bike in your truck, small trailer for one or two of them for your gear. Yes, manual transportation takes alot of work but it is a great idea for a back up.

  • concerned June 26, 2012, 2:14 pm

    My bug out vehicle of choice is a 89 ford F350 ambulance 4×4, 7.3 IDI with a two tank set up for veggie oil, (can burn used oil).
    Reality is have back ups to your back ups, we have packs for all members of the family, setting up off road bicyles for everyone and setting up a couple of old school dirt bikes. I need to set up a portable filter system to clean fuel sources on the go for the f350.
    Reality is hardly anyone can go it alone unless you are great at running and hiding and that means minimal stuff, other wise make sure you have all bases covered with members/friends that are like minded. Strength in numbers.

  • JayOfAllTrades July 8, 2012, 4:40 pm

    I have a lifted 4×4 truck with camper shell. Its an extended cab, plenty of room for supplies and people. Camper shell has sliding windows with screens to keep bugs out. I’ve seen several websites dedicated to truck campers, with plans for folding beds, storage, cooking, water, etc. I’ve also seen smaller contractor trailers converted into pull behind living quarters. The usual bland white single axle enclosed trailers hardly attract attention. Add a few “Bob’s Septic Service” stickers to the sides to keep prying eyes out of it, too. Simple folding bunk beds, some household insulation, shower stall/toilet combo, sink, and a portable solar array with battery bank, and they seem to work great. You can get kits to raise them up on bigger tires to work over rougher terrain, since a lot of contractors tow them to remote areas for work anyway. Another option I’ve looked into, is the truck camper. You have the ability to load it in the bed of the 4×4 and go, but the flexibility to drop it on a remote site as a base camp as well. Most are cramped, but have many comforts as well, including fully capable solar arrays, which can enable off-grid living for an indefinite period. Mobility is key, since you have the advantage of your 4×4, plus nothing in tow to slow you down, and as long as you are mindful of the height and center of gravity, you can get around almost anything. (I’m referring to the smaller, hunter/camping type bed mount campers, not the huge monster ones with a slide out and need a 1 ton dually just to handle the weight. )

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