Knee Deep in Bug Out Vehicles

Moab, Utah was once again the host of the famous Jeep Safari which is the largest four-wheel drive event in the world, or so I’vebest survival vehicle read. Basically, that meant that the town of Moab was awash in potential Bug Out Vehicles. While its easy to conjure up interesting bug out scenarios that would make almost any of the off-road people-containers racing around town a viable BOV option. However, the dose of reality arrived at 5pm on the way home.  With my mind still processing all the BOV variations I saw rolling around Moab, I managed to drive headfirst into Salt Lake City at the height of rush hour.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Every lane of the interstate (and there were always four or five) turned into a parking best bug out vehiclelot for miles in all directions. The usual inept driving of the biggish city caused plenty of “accidents” further slowing the flow of metal and glass. So I had plenty of time to ponder this situation juxtaposed to the wide open escapist mentality I had been living in over the previous week in the Utah desert.

The Cold Hard Reality

If there was a real SHTF event and I did find myself surrounded by thousands of impatient ill-prepared drivers trying to save their families by escaping the city and heading as far away as their half-filled gas tanks will take them, I’d be screwed.  In most cases even if there was room between the cars to pull out of the established current, I would be unable to make any progress by turning hard left or right and leaving the highway. While it was comforting to know that I was just a switch-twist away from low-range 4WD that would instantly turn my family truckster into a tractor, bashing my way off the road was only a start. But then what?  Even if I could drive a mile in either direction in ditch or taking out fence after fence, I would likely just find myself stuck in the muck somewhere else as the later masses fought to enter the interstate fray.

Also Read: Ultimate Survival Vehicle

The mountain bikes on my rig were more than ornamental status symbols to impress posers.  They were all self-contained Best Survival Vehicleescape vehicles of steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber.  But they are all quite fragile compared to cars.  Just one errant driver could crush my two-wheeled bug out salvation.  And at the moment the highway was littered with errant drivers. Add a backpack and I might as well paint a big target on my back since it will take very little panic to readjust the food chain.

Dreaming of SHTF

In Moab, we had all the time and space in the world to plan our routes, and a dozen other jeeps within a thousand yards constituted a traffic jam.  But now, sitting still on the Interstate completely surrounded by thousands of potential foes, some armed, some stupid, but all soon to be hungry and scared if this situation went Defcon 4.  I let my imagination run wild (it’s not like I had anything to do at the moment) and pretended that this situation looked just like every other Friday afternoon traffic jam but about to collectively go postal when real news interrupted the talk radio.  Panic is just one gnawing feeling away. And the moment the first shot is fired or the first accelerator is stomped, the SHTF will go WROL.

After a quick inventory of on-board supplies, I realized that it would be possible to shelter in place for a while, maybe even a week since our water cans for desert travel were still full. Great idea in a blizzard, but not so much in a nervous city filled with opportunistic thieves who will quickly prey upon the miles of intermittently abandoned vehicles.

As my GPS gave me verbal updates of the traffic delays ahead, and the highway signage noted the mile markers where accidentsBest Bug Out Vehicle closed the lanes, it became clear that bad would have no trouble going to worse in a real SHTF event.  Salt Lake City proper only has a couple hundred thousand people, but the SLC metro area has over 1.1 million human packed in the narrow corridor between the Wasatch Mountains and some large bodies of water, much of it undrinkable.  If this was not a drill, it might start out politely, but panic is contagious, and confusion breeds hot headedness.  The good guys with guns would immediately sort out the bad guys with guns, but soon it would be hard to tell the difference. And it really wouldn’t matter where the rubber meets the road.

Also Read: The Vehicle Survival Bag

As the iron snake creeped along at ten miles an hour, I considered the humble porcupine.  Speed was not the answer to thisbest bug out vehicle charlie foxtrot. Instead the movement out of this rolling deathtrap would be found in steady forward progress with plenty of spiky indicators stating flatly to stay the hell away.  At the start of this mess there will be plenty of easy pickings for those early adopters of crime and anarchy.  I hate to talks so negatively about human nature, but I cannot save 1,100,000 million people. I need to save my family first. Sorry about that SLC, but I’m on my own.

BOV Basics

Now I certainly won’t make the situation worse, but I will provide any necessary signs that I am not open for business…instead Best Survival VehicleI mean business.  So stay the foxtrot away! But the tough guy image will only go so far, and might be mistaken for one of the bad guys. Where the bug out vehicle comes into play is that it must be able to crawl along over curbs, gutters, tight squeezes, steep hills, and through fences.  The BOV must have plenty of shooting positions so a sunroof, opening back window, full roll-down back seat windows, as well as have plenty of horsepower.  From there, the BOV must be something you can sleep in, as well as have the towing/carrying capacity to carry all the necessary gear over varying terrain.

From there, the BOV can take many shapes and sizes.  The wildly expensive BOVs on parade in Moab were food for thought. And you could go back for seconds plus desert.  There are certainly no perfect right answers, but there are plenty of wrong answers. A family camping trip won’t answer all the questions, but it will quickly put things in perspective. So pack your gear and take a road trip. Nothing fills in the unknowns like a mild dose of reality.

All Photos by Doc Montana

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13 comments… add one
  • Anonymous April 20, 2015, 8:32 am

    Thanks for the post. Nothing like a max exodus to impress people that we have too many vehicles on the road. The Texas Interstate 45 fiasco some years back was a huge reminder of this. KNOW YOUR BACKROADS AND PLAN ON USING THEM AS THE PRIMARY.

  • Pineslayer April 20, 2015, 12:50 pm

    The thought of being stuck in a gridlock situation makes me queasy. It reminds me of the first episodes of The Walking Dead. I guess at some point, if you were in deep and no exit, you need to be able to walk away, or bike. A good reminder to always have your kit with you.

    Cool rigs. Ground clearance, 4WD, and horsepower!

  • TPSnodgrass April 20, 2015, 6:56 pm

    The “problem” the author ran into, is partly geographic, and partly the HUA drivers here in Utah. There are NO direct or indirect north-south arterials, one can use to by pass the I-15 corridor along the Wasatch Front. They do not exist, thanks to the lack of planning and foresight from the Utah Department of Transportation. With the military/DOD/NSA property to the immediate west of I-15, much of that land is off-limits to mere civilians.
    Then we throw into the mix, the spectre of the (yes, selfish) Yewtard drivers. It’s a goat rope most of the time.

  • irishdutchuncle April 21, 2015, 2:31 am

    the longer you wait to bug-out, the better your BOV needs to be.
    off roading skills are something to practice ahead of time, if you plan to rely on your off roading abilities. better to leave a day early…
    I’m trying/ preparing toward being a “vacationer”, as opposed to being a refugee. off-roading is a pretty cool activity. people would not treat an avid off-roader the same as they would treat the “doomsday preper”. we should play up the “cool factor” of our
    prepper skills, whenever possible…

    • irishdutchuncle April 21, 2015, 3:08 am

      … what I’m trying to say:
      your BOV shouldn’t sit around, rusting. hunt, fish, go play in the mud.

      SHTF might never happen. (although we know it will)
      in the mean time, get out there and make memories with your friends, your spouse, your children.

    • irishdutchuncle April 24, 2015, 1:05 pm

      … and maybe the best BOV is not just one. I keep a beater for my daily slog to work, and a respectable looking SUV for my Wife. the progeny is a grown-up himself now, and always has a car or two of his own.
      I can’t really afford two vehicles, but the trains don’t run here during the overnight, when my work shift ends…
      out of necessity, I do most of my own wrench turning. it’s best not to get too attached to any one car. Be Prepared to use them all up to make your escape. making it to the BOL is the bottom line.

  • Doc Montana April 21, 2015, 1:58 pm

    In a SHTFATGWROL (SHTF-about-to-go-WROL), secondary or surface roads will clog as bad or worse than highways. I’ve watched crowd dumps after sporting events, concerts, etc. where thousands of cars enter the roads at the same time, and the mess is compounded by the number of walkers which are not part of the usual interstate demographic. In fact, without the usual corner cops spending the rules of red lights and stop signs, traffic flow would be at the inverse of flaring tempers.

    It’s more than choosing between being stuck on a frozen lake or a frozen river. At least the river does not have the unwashed masses circling the prey…yet. Whether homeless beggars, entrepreneurial kids, or charity events, surface roads make great places to intercept traffic. On the other hand, the potential inherent speed of an interstate or highway precludes foot traffic and might be safer for a while. The last place you want to be wandering around on foot is on that river when the ice breaks free and flows again (even if that’s unlikely).

  • Steve suffering in nj April 21, 2015, 3:06 pm

    The best BOV will be one that’s equipted to keep moving. Lift kits and mud tires are cool, but one stuck armchair commando generally blocks the whole trail.

    Spare tires, plug kits, air compressor, jack, high low jack, tire chains, tow strap, saw, axe, shovel, tools extra fuel and a understanding of your vehicle is vastly superior to someone who dropped some $$ on some big mud tires.

    Food for thought, on today’s modern vehicles any real impact is likely to trigger a crash sensor. Crash sensors can be triggered with out a air bag deployment. The crash sensor tells the SRS supplemental restraint system control module that a impact has been detected.
    Even if the event doesn’t qualify for air bag deployment, generally the presents of a “crash status” being reported to the SRS will cause the vehicle not to restart.

    All vehicles are a little different. However most systems share this stratigy. The engine computer and the SRS computer communicate with one another all the time the veh is in operation. They peputally poll one another with a ” I’m ok” signal. Once the “I’m ok” signal is not sent the lack of a message is interpreted as a “Crash”. Thus god for bid the vehicle is ripped in half the air bag computer and the engine computer don’t need to talk to each other to say shit just went down. The lack of the “I’m ok” message is the signal of problems.

    So, you just had a minor collision. The vehicle looks a little beat up. Radiator is not leaking, steering a ok but the car won’t start. Yup, the SRS told the ECM there was a crash. The ECM in turn killed the fuel pump.

    Be aware of this safty stratigy. Don’t plan on clearing blocked roadways with your vehicle by pushing your way through. Your only one “crash status” signal away from walking.

    The system can be manually overridden. But it’s not for the shade tree mechanic.

    • 3rdMan April 22, 2015, 9:14 pm


      Most vehicle have a manual fuel pump reset switch. One the fuel pump is reset the vehicle will start.

  • BamaMan April 28, 2015, 9:31 am

    I own a Z71 crew cab and that is as much truck as you would need.

    Ideally you probably would want a Toyota Tacoma and 4×4 is not required.

    4×4 sounds cool but will get you stuck as many times as it gets you out of trouble. You also are trading down for a gas friendly vehicle in a time of fuel shortages.

  • Groffeaston June 12, 2015, 9:54 pm

    Depending on where you live and how far you need to go to get to your Bug Out Location and what type of Geography/Terrain you have to deal with; A 4×4 Jeep, 4×4 Pick up truck or similar type vehicle or SUV may be fine. But some people may opt for a larger Civilian Hummer or the military Hummer available at different auctions. Also for those more adventurous types, “gear head” types, and/or “Prepper” types you can also obtain from the Military 2 1/2 ton and 5 ton 6×6 utility trucks at auctions, some of these can be turned into Excellent Bug out vehicles!! lol

    Some people will also use: campers/motor homes, camper trailers, tractor trailers, Boats etc. as Bug out vehicles! Again it depends on where they live, Geography/Terrain, how far they need to go to the bug out location, what vehicles they already have on hand, etc.. And some people can afford to build/buy special purpose or purpose built “Bug Out Vehicles”!

  • Truckweld32 April 28, 2016, 9:40 pm

    Well I just bought my Bol in northern Nevada, in the middle of NOWHERE. I live in Alabama, and I picked this location due to the remoteness of it. I am an owner operator trucker, and I been driving years, I know most backroad and have the most recent grid maps of the United States, including google earth images with power line routes, you know the super size ones that run state to state. Now when I’m at home I keep the tanks full, 200 gallons and I can strap 50 more to my catwalk, more than enough to get me bobtail to my Bol, however I am limited to mostly asphalt in that. So I am building an up armored bov, out of an early 90s f-250 truck. I was army for over 10 years with combat experience. And we had to armor our vehicles at first. I am also a welder with a degree in it from a technical school, and have the right steel and welding machines to do it properly. Also it’s not very hard to make your own bullet resistant glass. It will be intimidating looking and have plenty of turbo diesel power to push most vehicle out of the way of need be. The chassis and engine are rated for more than 10000 pounds so I know it will handle the weight, however a lot of the protection will come from glass panels hidden in door panels and framed glass over the factory Windows. I have military run flat inserts and everything. Should be done this summer. I have 150 gallon big truck tank to mount and with that fuel and about 10 miles a gallon I can make it with some fuel to spare to my bob. I don’t know if anyone has thought of it but power line roads are over rough terrain and even out of big cities usually lead directly out through woods. You can easily route yourself down power line trails, but you need something heavy duty for some of them. This my creation I am building, BOV/adventure over lander. I have cut the fenders to almost nothing so approach angle is insane, front and back and I have winches front and back. It is basically open wheel design with seating for 6 adults with plenty of storage. I literally only have maybe 8 grand in it and I have all the materials. Going open wheel allowed me to not lift it and throw big wheels and tires on it, so it still has low center of gravity but looks “lifted” I also shortened the wheel base by a few feet so it can go over obstacles without centering out. Dually wheels out back with aggressive at tires, and I am seriously thinking of putting the same in the front so it will have a total of 8 tires.nothing inconspicuous about the design, it looks like some kinda of Mars rover, but with the reinforced steel front piece I built I can push just about any large suv out of the way with out hurting the vehicle. Just my thoughts, not everyone has a full welding shop and engineering degree to plan and build something like this. But it’s seriously not hard. Companies offer level III RIFLE protection in Kevlar blankets you can stuff in the doors and on the floor of the passenger compartment, you can weld plate steel with slots over window areas, it all depends how much and how far your willing to go. By the way the bullet resistant glass is made by layering regular glass with regular clear film about 6-8 layers and resin clamped together for 12 hours. A trip to Home Depot or Lowes and it cost about 150 bucks per window maybe 200, on my windshield I actually made the frames with angle iron and have split front windshield and 3×3, had to get smaller wiper blades but it still works. Same thing for door glass, angle iron frame the glass over where the normal factory roll up window is. Only downside is no more rolling the windows down. So I really am just going to have front door glass and windshield, I took the bed off and am adding a passenger box behind factory cab to be more like an suv than a truck. So it will be safe from all small arms fire up to but not including 50 cal. Obviously your not stopping that round, but anything less than that and your good, with run flat inserts and everything I listed I think I will be able to get out of the south east and into no mans land pretty quick. I’ll post pics if anyone wants.

    • Dean December 20, 2016, 7:15 am

      Id like to see em please, i had similar idea when i got home from afghanistan but was able to move to my location in the nwga mountains when i ets’d. I bought a dodge 1500 unfortunatly didnt properly plan for the weight load so cancelled. If you need any help holler im a manual machinist and a certified welder (not the best hence turning to machinery lol). I had the glass coating at 1,000 a roll which i think was enough for a small cab truck. Sounds like you found a cheaper way kudos. Question why head out west? Pretty rual 50 miles form tenn. boarder so long a chatanoogans dont herd out of there.


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