Definition of a bug out vehicle:
A bug out vehicle is a vehicle that will make it possible for you to escape a natural or man-made disaster without finding yourself stuck with a useless pile of metal that doesn’t have the ability to go through a shallow stream or for that matter, a crumbled road surface. It should be able to traverse obstacles and be able to go off-road if needed. Preferably it would have 4x4 or more capability. It should be sturdy and reliable in most kind of weather and terrain conditions. It should be simple in design and function, with not a lot of useless gadgets that you don’t need. A short wheelbase and good ground clearance are also highly desirable too. The ability to tow or be towed or winched out is very important also.
A little background and thoughts you should consider
I have spent a lot of time over many years thinking about this topic. After careful thought and consideration, I have decided that I needed to write something to accompany my other articles on being prepared for disasters. After having read more articles on the subject than most people would ever want to, and doing much research into this, I have finally sat down to voice my opinion regarding the ultimate “bug out” vehicle.
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Let me first say that there are a couple of criteria that need to be addressed right from the start to let everyone know where I stand on this subject, since it happens to be very controversial in the first place. First off, not everyone has the funds to go out and buy or have a bug out vehicle. Second, even if you did have the money, would you really need one? Ok, now that I have said that, let me go further into this for you.
I will start with the most obvious. A so-called bug out vehicle is supposed to be a vehicle that can get you from point A to point B without having anything prevent you from getting to there. But, it all depends on the conditions that you plan on traveling in the first place, and what the vehicle’s capable of doing to accomplish the intended usage.
Most people are not into buying a surplus army vehicle for the simple reason that most surplus army vehicles have special parts that are not readily found at any average auto parts store. Also, most surplus army vehicles have seen a hard life before you even get to see them. That is really the reason that the army has decided to sell them in the first place. Oh yeah, you will also see some advertisements for these vehicles stating that they have low mileage. Yes, while that may be true to a point, but what kind of mileage have they really seen? They usually require repairs that are not cheap too. Let's face it, why would the armed forces get rid of a perfectly good vehicle unless it was a) hard to get parts for because of its age, b) the cost to maintain it exceeds its actually worth, or c) it cannot be easily interchangeable with other vehicles in the fleet due to all of the aforementioned reasons. Most people that have military service know that all military vehicles need to be just like the types of weapons that they use. In addition to that fact, army surplus vehicles are not sold directly to the public anyway. You have to go through a special dealer, or be a special dealer that has contracts with the DOD so that you can buy them at auction.
A lot of these vehicles have sat in a yard for who knows how long in the weather, and they need “complete” servicing before you can just go out and use them in the first place. Unless you want to be sitting on the side of a road somewhere waiting for a tow. And depending on the vehicle, it may require special towing equipment too.
Also, some of these vehicles require special repair skills and tools to be able to service them too. Remember, these are not vehicles that you can go get parts at any parts store either as I have already mentioned. You would also need to know that you better have a complete shop manual for the vehicle too. It is extremely important that you do your research to find out where you can get parts for them, and if you can get parts for them easily, before you go out and by that cheap $8,000.00 dollar used military 6x6 all terrain truck. Then you have to think about the mileage that it may get too. The vehicle depicted here below gets about 6-8 mpg on any fuel. It also has a top speed of about 50mph. But it can carry about 5 tons of gear easily!
Used Military 6x6 truck
The Jeep CJ 5 started out as the original Willy’s Jeep of WWII. It was so light that 2 men could actually move it if it got stuck. Now the vehicle is an icon with 4x4 lovers throughout the world. Probably the most affordable of the 4 wheel drives. It also has rugged good looks and dependability too. It is the American choice of most 4x4 enthusiasts.
Jeep CJ 5
The original Landrover Defender is a legend in the 4x4 world. This model vehicle had been to more remote places first, in more off-road events, than any other 4 wheel drive in its day. The original models were extremely tough vehicles. In Europe you can still buy them with a Diesel power train. Unfortunately in America, Tariffs and other fees along with smog requirements caused Landrover to discontinue importing the diesel model.
Land Rover Defender Series
When Toyota came out with the Land Cruiser it won people over by being a very capable and dependable vehicle at a reasonable price compared with The Landrover. People quickly learned that it was a very reliable vehicle that did what it was intended to do, and the customer didn’t have to buy all sorts of accessories to go off- road with it. Toyota took this vehicle and made their own history with it, by going places that few other 4x4 vehicles had gone too.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Ultimate Jeep CJ-7 Rock Crawler
Alright, I hear the arguments already about owning a used
military vehicle vs. a civilian 4x4. But they are all terrain, and they can run on any fuel from
cooking oil, kerosene, diesel, gasoline, and alcohol too. That may be partly true, that depends on the
vehicle. Not all these military vehicles are multi-fuel capable. Besides, you
can run your gas engine car on diesel if you have too, but I would NOT recommend
doing that unless you want to ruin the engine or you don’t care.
During WWII people got inventive and did a lot of things
during gas rationing. But I know from talking to people from that era, they
said their cars ran terrible. Also, modern cars have many things that make them
very different from those cars anyway. For one thing, those cars had no
computers or smog equipment or catalytic converters either. Modern cars
computers are the most vulnerable part of the car nowadays in my opinion. Some
cars won’t even run if you have a computer failure. And lastly, most surplus
army vehicles are NOT street legal until you go through smog, safety, and all
the other requirements to make them legal. The army is exempt from all the
civilian requirements for obvious reasons. So those are some of my reasons for not owning that surplus army vehicle.
Now you might be thinking, what the heck do I recommend? This might not be a simple answer to explain, but it is true as far as logic is concerned, if you will please bear with my train of thought, I think you will see my points. There are a lot of people that say the main reason they want military surplus vehicles is because they are EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) proof. That means that in the event of a nuclear bomb being detonated over America, that all electronic devices would be useless. That would include your modern vehicles computers and electronic components too.
I cannot say for certain that this is true or false for a
couple of reasons that i will elaborate on here. One reason would be that it makes sense that if such a event did happen, it might very well knock out every electronic component in the vehicle. But since even the military has not tested anything under actual post
nuclear event conditions that I am aware of, how can we be so sure that their
vehicles would not be affected either. I know what you going to say now. But they test everything to make sure that they can survive a nuclear event. That may or may not be true. Let's use another example that what they tell us and what is true may not be the whole truth. The military has experimented and approved all sorts of gadgets over time that when they were exposed to real world conditions, they were utter failures. A case in point was the Sherman tank vs, the German Tiger tank. Anyone that knows anything about these tanks could tell you that they were a death trap. The only thing that they did well was that they could outmaneuver the Tiger tanks. The armor on them was so thin that they were clearly no match against the heavily armored Tigers. There are many others examples too. But i think I have made my point here.
The best I think that they can say, is that these vehicles are "hardened" against nuclear EMP waves. For one thing, their vehicles do not have a lot of the gadgets and electronics that your vehicle does in the first place. That in itself eliminates a lot of potential problems that could happen.
Secondly, if there was an actual nuclear attack on the United States, I don’t really think that this would be my number one concern truthfully. I probably would not be driving anywhere because there would be so much disruption and damage to even basic services, roads and infrastructure, that staying put might be my best option.
Ok, so what about the vehicle I recommend? after reading all this I know you really want to know why I am stalling. I am not stalling. I just want to present things in a manner that you can see why I recommend what I recommend. I suggest that you have a vehicle that is widely respected and recognized for it's overall low cost, (spare parts included), dependability, readily available parts, that it has decent ground clearance, and should have 4 wheel drive capabilities, although that is not the most critical item. Unless you are going to be doing some desert, rock crawling, or swamp driving, or into some very remote areas that you cannot get to without a full 4X4 capable vehicle.
Any 2 wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance will get you to where you might want to go in most disaster situations provided that you bring along the following items.
These would be a come-along or a winch, a good set of tire chains, high lift jack, a good shovel, and a good pry bar about 6 ft. long, a few metal form stakes about 2ft. long, and a sledge hammer, and tow cables or straps. and a full set of tools for repairs and a flat tire repair kit. These are the minimum tools that I bring along when I go into the back country. I also include other items further into this article that I believe you should have too. You may even purchase a set of ladders that are specially designed for going over rocks or debris with your vehicle.
Back in the day when nobody had a 4x4, they all drove in the back country because we didn't have modern paved roads. It wasn't until Eisenhour was elected that we even had major freeways as we do now. With these simple tools, People were able to get most places that they needed to go without 4 wheel drive. Another tip is this. Even if you have a 4x4 vehicle, you try to think like the following and you will be ok in most situations. Pretend that you only have a 2 wheel drive vehicle and that if you can’t make it through with a 2 wheel drive, you probably shouldn’t attempt it with a 4 wheel drive either. Most experts agree that this is sound theory. This will insure that you will have a much easier time than if you actually were in a 2 wheel drive vehicle because you have 4x4 capability. That is just my opinion. I base it upon the fact that I hate having to think about getting stuck in some really nasty terrain that will make me unsafe, or have to waste a lot of time trying to get unstuck.
Desert Dune Buggy
Now that I have given you some of the basic stuff to think
about, I will say that I also recommend a vehicle that has a short wheelbase too. It is much easier to maneuver when you are in tight spaces. If you really are
interested in going all out, and you have the ability and money to afford
whatever you want, then I would say that this article wasn’t really intended for
you. You know what you want already.
I also suggest that having any older vehicle that does not have all the computers and gadgets is a better vehicle. In thinking of Bug out vehicles, I like to think that less is more. Obviously, there is less to break down, and less to troubleshoot. You may also want to make or have a vehicle that has the ability for towing too. That way you can attach a small trailer with all your gear in it already to go, so that in the event you have to bug out, all you have to do is hitch it up and drive away.
Otherwise, don’t worry about it too much unless you have to
get into the back country and escape from whatever it might be for the reason you are having
to bug out in the first place. The one biggest consideration that I would note is that whatever
vehicle you decide to get, is that you check to see if you can obtain
replacements parts easily. I know I already mentioned this, But I can't emphasize its importance enough. Also make sure that you check and see what parts of
the vehicle are most prone to breaking on you. And if you can afford them, buy them and keep them as spare parts. This is also a big factor when
deciding what vehicle you decide to purchase.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
It is advisable that if you have the intentions of using any vehicle for any off-road purposes, then you should also be prepared to have to do repairs in the off-road too.
Here are additional items that I recommend you have. Coolant, oils, air filters, power steering fluids, a spare battery, a complete set of extra fuses with a couple of each type for your vehicle, emergency tire inflation equipment, tire irons, and tire patch plug kit, spare spark plugs, and etc. Good quality wrenches and any special tools that may be needed for your specific vehicle are of the utmost importance too. Make sure to do your research there on special tools. Ford trucks used to make a special wrench that they had patented. You needed to use that wrench to adjust your distributor. Without that one wrench you were stuck with a useless piece of crap.
International Harvester Scout
70 era Chevy K5 Blazer
Old Ford Bronco
So if you are looking to get a bug out vehicle please consider buying a used vehicle that has a good rating. You can usually pick one up for a reasonable price if you shop around. But remembering that these type vehicles are always going to be higher priced if they have a good dependability rating. As far as gas mileage goes, most people know that these vehicles are not shy when it comes to consuming fuel, so i wont get into that at all. But I will say that a jeep Cj5 is going to be a hell of a lot nicer than if you were to buy a 60s or 70s era Dodge Power Wagon 4x4, with a 440 cubic inch motor under the hood.
There is also another point that needs to be made now. That is, how much cargo are you going to be able to pack in it with all your passengers too? This is an important consideration, since that will determine what you can bring along if you can’t tow a trailer.
Oh yes, just one more thing. Should it run on gas, diesel, or multi- fuel? If you are planning on a WWWIII scenario then I recommend a multi-fuel vehicle. But if you are like most people, then gas or diesel are both good in their own rights. They both have their own flaws and strengths. That it is up for you to decide. I will say that gas is always easier to find than diesel, and that might make your mind up for you. But diesels tend to be more durable, and they usually get better mileage per gallon. But diesels can be converted to run on Bio-fuel too with very little if no effort at all depending on the vehicle. But then you have to factor in the cost of maintenance of each type too. Diesel engines are more expensive to repair than most gas engines because they are more heavy duty.
So in conclusion I will say that if you CAN'T afford to buy a vehicle that has all the capabilities of getting you through the Serengeti desert, or through a swamp or whatever. Just make sure that your vehicle is capable of getting you from point A to point B with the least amount of trouble, and that you have made all your preparations and have those tools that you will need for that bug out vehicle.
Let’s all hope that we never have to bug out. But, if I ever had to bug out, I would rather that I have that vehicle capability than not. Besides, I can use it for fun to test it out, just to make sure that it is up to the challenge if and when that day ever comes to bug out.