Every summer my family and I pack up and move our camper down to a campground for the season here in Maine. We spend a few months there then head back home in the off season. We live close enough that we can go home if we want and my wife and daughter will spend nights at home while the guys stay at the campground. A couple of weeks ago as I was using my swipe key to get through the gate it occurred to me that a campground might be a pretty good spot to land for a week if TSHTF and you had to bug out. Not just any campground, of course, but if you shop around you should be able to find one that would work for you.
Let me say at the outset that I don’t think this would be a good solution for a bug out lasting longer than a week or two. After that it’s anybody’s guess about how things will go, but I think for that golden two week period this would be a good option if you choose your campground wisely.
Why a Campground?
I spent a long time thinking that this would be the last place I’d want to go if civilization blows up, but I’ve since rethought it. Why a campground? First, it’s basically a gated community. You need access to get into the campground and usually there are people watching the gate. Campgrounds are also (generally) at the end of a long narrow road, which means it would be easily defensible.
People who go camping are generally a little more prepared than their city-bound cousins. They know how to live in a camper, start fires, split wood, cook outdoors, etc. They also have their own mobile homes or tents and are comfortable in them. If the power goes out at the campground, which seems to happen a couple of times a year, it’s easy to convert cooking and refrigeration over to propane. Most campers have a 12 volt system that runs off a battery, so there will be lights. RV’s and campers also have water tanks and 12 volt pumps, so if the power and water is cut off there is still 50 gallons of water stored right in the camper, along with a 12-volt pump to get it to your tap. Campgrounds are typically (not always) set up near a body of water, which means you’d be able to have water that you could boil for drinking. There would be water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and bathing.
Bug Out Destination
Many people talk about bugging-out to the wilderness, which we all know wouldn’t last more than a week or two. My reasoning is that if you’re going to bug-out and live in a tent why not do it at a campground instead? Especially if your wilderness camping skills are questionable. I probably wouldn’t want to do this more than a week or two, but during that time I think it would be a viable bug-out location.
Let’s say you’ve done your homework and decided on the perfect campground. It’s far enough away to be a good escape, but not so far that you couldn’t get there after a medium drive or a long walk. If you live in the city it might mean a longer commute to get away from whatever trouble might be brewing at the time. Prepare accordingly.
If you have a camper you have all your supplies with you when you bug-out. When we travel all our food is stored in the camper itself. Like I mentioned earlier, the refrigerator runs off the 12 volt system, so you can travel a long way and it will keep your food cold. Be careful about turning your truck off though – once you do it runs off your vehicle’s battery and it will drain it. If your camper is already at the campground and it’s well stocked all you have to do is get there. Instant bug-out location.
Picking the Right Campground
Picking the right campground will be critical to your success, which means you’ll have to jump in your RV, camper, pop up, or whatever you camp in and take it out to various locations. Do some camping and rate each campground as you go. When I first started I kept a notebook and wrote about each campground we visited. Afterwards I referred to my notes and talked with my wife about the campgrounds we liked and didn’t like.
Some campgrounds are simply party places and you’d want to avoid those. I stay in a family friendly campground and have gotten to know the “seasonals” – folks who live in their campers for the whole season year after year. I’ve established myself as a seasonal and am getting to know the others. They are pretty good folk and are all pretty self reliant – in a pinch I think many of them would pull together to form a tighter community.
One of the criteria I used for selecting my campground was that it had to be family friendly. This means every night isn’t a drunk fest with lots of wild partying and police being called in all the time. It sits on a large lake, has a gate and a road that’s easily defendable. Block off that one road and the only access is by lake. It has it’s own store, laundry, pool, hot tubs, places for the kids to play, sewer system, meeting places, library and other services.
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It’s a great place for kids to hang out during the summer and as an added attraction it limits what your teens can do on a Saturday night. Yeah, they can still get in trouble, but at least they’re not out ramming the roads in a car. The biggest thing you’d have to worry about at a campground is a golf cart.
Some campgrounds have a lot of things to offer like the one where I set up every year, as mentioned above. Other campgrounds are far more basic and might not even offer electrical, water, or septic systems on their sites. These are usually located in more backwoods areas and might make an excellent spot to land. Many people simply don’t know about the existence of the smaller places like these.
One of the biggest variables when it comes to a bug out is people. When things get rough and people get desperate they might try and take what doesn’t belong to them, including your camper and all its supplies. It’s a big fat target rolling down the road and a big piece of chum like that might draw in the sharks. Be prepared to defend what’s yours, or be prepared to abandon it if necessary. Try to have personal bug out bags ready to go in case you have to ditch the camper.
Another thing is that your camper is reliant on mechanical means to travel. Whether it’s an RV or a tow-behind (sometimes called a tag-along) camper, it needs gas and some kind of prime mover to get to it’s destination. Check your route, figure out the mileage, and make sure you have enough gas to get to your destination stored in your truck in case fuel stations aren’t open.
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The camper and truck to tow it can be expensive. I never buy anything new, but my truck and camper together cost me about $15,000. I have a ten year old Dodge Ram pickup truck (it also has a plow mount) and a thirty-two foot camper that is also about ten years old. The previous owner kept the camper in pretty good shape, but like anything used it has a few issues.
Mine is a middle of the road package. Some people have high-end state-of-the art RV’s that start at $250,000 dollars. Other people show up in their mini-vans towing a pop-up camper that cost $1000. Most of the campers I see lie somewhere in the middle. If you go to an RV dealership a new tow-behind camper might run you $25,000 or more. If you check out Craigslist and are willing do a little research you can score a pretty good camper anywhere from $3000 to $10,000 depending on age, size, and what condition it’s in. Mine cost about $5,000 and we probably looked at five campers before buying this one. I walked away from a couple before we found the one that was right for us.
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I doubt if I’d buy a camper if I was only going to use it as a bug-out vehicle. For many, camping is a way of life in the summer time and their camper becomes their full time residence. We probably spend about sixty percent of our time at the campground during the summer because it’s what we enjoy doing. The kids love it and spend most of their time swimming, riding bikes, playing on the various playgrounds, or playing outside the camper.
Types of Campers
There are several different types of campers out there.
- RVs, the big bus looking rigs.
- Tag-alongs or travel trailers, which are towed behind your truck and hook up to a hitch.
- Fifth-wheel. These campers are also towed behind, but the hitch is in the bed of the of the pickup truck.
- Pop-ups. These campers have a small footprint and are easily towed even by smaller vehicles. The downside is that they are dependent on a semi-complicated procedure to set them up. You have to crank them up, then pull out two or more sides to get it fully operational.
- Tents. Tents come in all shapes and sizes: from a small one man ultra-light to the ten man palace that houses a couple of families.
Tag-alongs probably make the biggest proportion of campers I see at campgrounds. They come in sizes from 18 feet or even smaller to 36′ or larger in some cases. I’ve seen fifth-wheel campers that were enormous!
If you have a camper of some kind you might want to consider using it in case you need to bug out. A campground is a viable option, but camping off-grid would work as well if you have a good spot picked out. Make sure you choose your campground wisely and don’t plan to stay longer than a week, maybe two. After that you might want to move on considering how people are behaving and what the circumstances are.
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