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Bug Out Vehicle; 8 Considerations

Bug Out Vehicle

8 Bug Out Vehicle Considerations.

You know you are a prepper when purchasing a vehicle you consider how a vehicle will perform in a bug out situation.  Every person, every family, has different requirements when it comes to the Apocalypse wagon of choice.  Certain features, like passenger or cargo capacity, are not in the scope of this article as these are situation dependent so we will focus on things to consider in any vehicle.   In my opinion, the most important feature of a bug out vehicle is one that can get you to your destination.  I would assume that within hours after a major event fuel would become scarce.  If you make this assumption, reliability and capabilities become the top factors in choosing a BOV.  In most cases, a bug out via vehicle is going to be a one shot ordeal, you will either get there or you won’t, much like a space mission.  Here are some considerations when choosing a bug out vehicle:

Points versus Electronic Computer Controlled Ignition 

This is an age old argument in the prepping community, should you consider a vehicle that is old school with points and condenser or anything built after about 1980 with electronically controlled ignition?  The argument comes down to this, do you want a vehicle guaranteed to survive an EMP?  The only scenario that might render a newer vehicle inoperable would be an EMP, whereas it is pretty certain an older vehicle will not suffer this fate.  If that is what you are gambling on happening, then you might want to choose the old school vehicle.  If you aren’t concerned with an EMP or feel that an EMP will not affect your vehicle (some tests show cars to be immune), then the electronic ignition of modern cars is the way to go.  In ancient history, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, servicing a car’s ignition every 5,000 miles was the norm.  Modern cars can go 100,000 miles or more without ever thinking about spark plugs.  With a 20 times greater service interval, new cars are less likely to have a problem during an actual bug out.

New versus Old

New vehicles are far safer than old vehicles.  Government safety standards have forced auto manufactures to add a plethora of safety related features over the years.  In a severe accident, your chances of walking away in a new car are much better..but here is the catch;  this safety is at the expense of the vehicle.  Modern vehicles with crumple zones are designed to sacrifice the car in an accident.  A minor fender bender may leave a new vehicle inoperable whereas an old vehicle, while damaged, may be driveable.  Case in point, I hit a deer a few weeks ago with the family truckster (a 2004 Mazda MPV).  We were running with the whole fam, complete with our bug out gear coming back from the Tin Hat Ranch.  It was dusk and one of those little buggers jumped right out in front of us.  Nobody was injured (except the deer), in fact, it didn’t even feel like much, yet the car was destroyed.  The deer pushed the radiator core support right back to the engine and split the radiator itself right in half.  If it had been an actual bug out we would have walked away from the accident, but..we would have walked away.  The vehicle was inoperable.  An old body on frame car or truck would have probably shrugged off the incident before the radiator was punctured.  Heck, we might have even strapped the venison to the hood and continued on.

New cars are ultimately safer, but in a minor incident they can leave you stranded.  As far as ultimate safety, check out this video of a crash test between a 1959 Chevy Bel Air and a 2009 Chevy Malibu:

4 Wheel Drive

Everybody has to have 4WD, right?  I don’t know.  It is a definite must if getting to your BOL involves traversing unpaved county roads or seasonal passes in inclement weather, but what if your route is a clear shot?  If the vehicle you choose has the option for 4WD I would ultimately recommend that you choose it, but know a few things.  4WD ads complexity to a vehicle, yes, it adds more capability, but it also adds more parts that can break.  4WD also adds weight and lessens fuel economy.  Most 4WD vehicles are never taken off road, never.  Off road driving involves a bit of skill, an unskilled driver who has never been off road may quickly find themselves stuck due to inexperience.  If you feel that you are going to need the four wheel drive, use it, practice.  Don’t let your first off road experience be in TEOTWAWKI.  Another consideration is, when you leave the road, where will you be going?  You must absolutely consider how you will use this tool.  It could be a great benefit if you live in an area that offers off road trails that lead to somewhere.  While everyone is stuck in a jam on the highway, you could be traversing the route in relative ease.  4WD is a positive, but like a firearm, it isn’t supposed to be purchased and have it’s first time use be in an emergency.

Fuel Economy

Everybody keeps a full tank of gas, no prepper ever runs down past three quarters of a tank.  While that should be the case, it is probably not practiced all of the time.  That big SUV might have enough range to make it to the BOL when the tank is full, but what happens when your decision not to fill up today coincides with a need to bug out tomorrow?  I recommend that everyone keeps enough fuel to complete your route stored in separate containers that are rotated frequently.  This greatly improves the chances of having enough fuel if the need ever arises.  Consider this, though, you might have a route thoroughly planned out.  You may have a main route, a secondary route, and an emergency route, but what happens if all of these plans are squashed?  What happens if you encounter some mass exodus and that two hour trip turns into a two day trip.  Most of the ultimate bug out vehicles that I see are of the gas guzzler variety and fuel economy is last on the list.  If you are considering a BOV, I would recommend keeping fuel economy high on the list.  Tank size is also important, but the ultimate authority would be miles per tank. You must also know your vehicle, know the mileage, be certain of the range.  In an actual bug out it is the fuel gauge that will have you on edge of your seat until you get to your destination.

 

The Full Size Spare

spareWhat size spare tire is in your bug out vehicle?  Does it even have a spare tire?  After the demise of the family truckster I considered about a dozen different replacements.  Out of that dozen, there was every form of spare or lack thereof imaginable.  From full sized spares, to mini spares, to uninflated spares, to a can of fix a flat.  Anything other than a full size spare reduces handling, limits speed, and is easier to damage a second time.  This is often overlooked but of vital importance, the tires on your vehicle are the weakest link.  A full size spare is best to have in a bug out vehicle.

 

 

A Strong Aftermarket Following

Once you have chose your bug out vehicle will you be able to do anything to it to improve reliability/surviveablity?  Skid plates, bull bars, roof racks, there are a million different accessories that can be fitted to vehicles, as long as everyone else is doing it.  You might find you have a choice between two vehicles that meet your needs, yet one has a huge aftermarket following.  This could be the factor that drives your choice.  Maybe two vehicles have aftermarket followings, yet one has a larger following, making parts cheaper.  Before purchasing, consider if the vehicle can be made better due to the availability of inexpensive aftermarket accessories.

Carburetion versus Fuel Injection

This is kind of the points versus electronic ignition argument again.  For everyday use during normal condition fuel injection wins hands down.  It is more reliable and efficient, period.  The problem with the argument, again, goes towards fuel availability in SHTF.  Once the fuel runs out people will become resourceful.  In World War II farmers resorted to wood gas as a means to power their farm equipment.  My bet is you will see this again, the only problem is that it would be very hard to do with a new  fuel injected vehicle, probably impossible for the average person.  The computer would freak out trying to figure out what was powering the car and wouldn’t deliver ignition.  A carbureted vehicle, on the other hand,  can be adapted very easily to wood gas.  If you don’t know what wood gas is, check out this article.

Picture Courtesy of Tesla Motors

Picture Courtesy of Tesla Motors

The Electric Car

Yes, I said it.  The electric car.  If things progress in electric vehicles and prices come down (before SHTF), the electric vehicle might be the ULTIMATE bug out vehicle.  Cars like the Tesla are approaching 300 miles in range on a single charge.  Yes, they are technically complicated, but so far they seem to be reliable.    As economies of scale come into play they may become affordable for the masses, like you and me.  When they do become attainable they may be the best choice for a few reasons.  Here is where they may shine; they can be recharged via solar.  Duh you say?!  Think it through one step further.  Cars like the Tesla have a neatly packaged 85kw/hr battery that lasts many years.  Do you know what 85 kilowatt hours of lead acid batteries looks like?  That is a lot of batteries.  Yes, the car could not only provide transportation on a limited basis (it might take weeks to charge on a modest solar system if you completely drain it), but it can power your 12VDC lights, appliances, and if inverted back, could power 120 VAC items as well.  It is a mobile battery bank, if you will.  While they offer their own challenges as vehicles, they don’t have cooling systems, per se, and the moving parts are very simple.  Preppers will soon start realizing the utility of an electric vehicle in SHTF.

 

 

 

 

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