xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Everyday Bug-Out Vehicle ~ The Prepared Guy

Friday, June 26, 2015

Everyday Bug-Out Vehicle

I have a problem with the typical bug out vehicle that you may see hard-core preppers advocating all around the internet.  A big, old, ugly, lumbering beast of a vehicle.  Of course there are many different versions of what could be called a bug-out vehicle as well as many reasons why you might want to build one.  My version of a bug out vehicle is one you might not have considered.  Do you need a bug-out vehicle built from an old surplus military rig or '70's EMP resistant vehicle?  Maybe not.

Here are some of the qualities that I require, or rather, need, in my own bug-out vehicle.

Reliability/Dependability.  Sure, a 1970's bronco could be considered reliable in it's own right but compared to a Toyota from the same era it doesn't hold a candle.  Imports including Toyota and Nissan have long proven to be the most dependable SUV's and trucks on the road,  Newer American made vehicles like the F150/250/350 have also proven to be tough and reliable.

Move quickly and quietly over rough terrain.  In an SHTF scenario you'll need to depend upon speed, agility and stealth.  A full size, solid axle V8 vehicle with a flowmaster type exhaust and big knobby mud tires is not what I would consider agile nor stealthy.  Worn mud tires and a loud exhaust meant to show off your big block V8 engine grunt will tell potential marauders that you are coming from miles away.  Keep your vehicle exhaust stock to keep it as quiet as it can be.

Be appropriate for everyday driving.  In an emergency you may not get the chance to switch vehicles from your daily driver to your bug out vehicle.  For me they are one and the same.  I've got to be able to carry all 7 of us safely to and from school as well as on the weekend trip.  Three point seat belts and head rests for everyone.  AC and a good stereo too.  :-)  

Capable.  It should be obvious that any bug-out vehicle must be four wheel drive.  The traction difference between front wheel or rear wheel drive only and a 4 x 4 rig is like the difference between night and day, or even more dramatic.  If you were to get stuck because you don't have a 4 x 4 then your bugging out attempt is over and your chance of survival drops dramatically.  Getting slowed down by rough terrain would also make you vulnerable to those who would take your preps away from you.  A capable rig does not mean that you have to be able to drive it through a mud bog or a boulder field.  Most stock trucks and SUV's are capable enough to get you through more obstacles than you can imagine if you have the knowledge and experience of how to drive them.

Towing.  The most reasonable way to prepare to bug out is to have your daily driver and then equip a trailer to tow with all your supplies.  Yes, your bug out location should already be stocked up with supplies but there will always be more that you should take with you.  A camping trailer or a simple enclosed trailer will do nicely.  There are off-road trailers available that are more capable with more ground clearance that are a great option depending upon where you plan on going.  Parking a camo painted blazer on the side of your home may alert your neighbors in your suburban neighborhood that you are a bit of a kook, whereas your daily driver with a few mods and a white utility trailer wouldn't stand out at all.        

To ensure that a vehicle remains dependable it must remain as close to stock as possible.  To improve speed, and agility you'll have to make some modifications without compromising reliability.  

To make your rig more capable without compromising reliability I suggest the following modifications.

Lift.  Increase the height of your rig by 1" to 2" to accommodate heavy duty springs, slightly larger tires and better quality, larger diameter shocks.  This will increase the load carrying capacity and make your vehicle handle better with heavier loads.  Most rigs can handle up to 3" of lift without compromising the angles of the drivelines and axles/CVs.  Do some research for your particular vehicle to determine what is best.  You can go higher but you might compromise the driveability of your rig and compromise dependability.  There are lots of great quality kits available if you do wish to fit bigger tires, depending upon which rig you have chosen.

Shocks.  Switch out your stock shocks to a higher quality more off-road capable shock like the Bilstein.  Longer shocks will be required when installing a lift kit.  Bilsten makes more than a few versions from the mild to the wild.  There are also many other manufacturers that make replacement performance shocks.  Larger diameter and longer shocks will give your rig more suspension travel, more control under heavier weight and allow you to move at higher speeds over rough terrain under control.

Tires.  With a 1" to 2" lift you'll be able to fit a slightly taller and wider tire on your rig.  A taller and wider tire will give you a wider track and larger tire footprint.  This is especially important when driving on deep sand, mud or snow when flotation is important.  Mud tires are awesome off road!  For the ultimate traction purchase a set of mud tires.  However, mud tires are noisy.  Especially as they get more and more worn.  This will hurt your ability to be stealthy at speed on paved roads.  Mud tires are also not as agile as an all terrain as they are made to fold and conform to rocks for increased traction.  Choose an aggressive all terrain tire that will keep your road noise down but is still tough enough for serious off-roading.  The BFG AT KO2 is my tire of choice.  There are only a few other tires that are just as tough.  For me, this tire provides the best combination of street performance and off road traction and durability. And it's pretty awesome looking too.   You need only increase your tire size by one or possibly two sizes.  Fit as much tire on as possible without any rubbing under compression or while turning.  

Wheels.  Consider buying a new set of wheels with your new tires.  Most of the time larger tires will still fit appropriately on the stock wheels.  Most stock wheels are designed for the tire to stay completely within the wheel well of the vehicle, which means a narrower stance.  Adding width is a must when adding height to your vehicle.  Select a wheel that has additional offset, that will widen the stance/track of your vehicle.  You need only add a little bit of width so that the edge of the tire matches flush with the edge of the vehicle or slightly beyond.        

Locking differential.  Adding a locking rear differential to your rig keeps both wheels turning regardless of how much traction either wheel has.  With an open differential if one wheel were to loose traction by either being on a slippery or loose surface or is lifted up off the ground, all of the power from the drivetrain would be transferred to the wheel with the least traction.  Locking the differential ensures that power is transferred evenly to both wheels.  If your rig has a traction control system you already have the means to control wheel slip.  A locking differential is more effective but with some practice you'll learn how to drive with your traction control system almost as effectively as having a locking differential.  Many Toyota off road vehicles have electronic locking differentials in addition to traction control systems which is the best of both worlds.

The vehicle that I have chosen for my bug-out / bug-home / tactical / utility (whatever you wanna call it) vehicle is a 2005 Toyota 4Runner.  Here's why.

It seats 7 people which is what we need to accommodate our family.
It is small enough to be agile on narrow mountain roads.
It is as reliable and dependable as it gets.
It has a 265 hp/330 lb ft torque V8 engine that is rated to tow 7,000 lbs.
It has a 20 gallon gas tank which give us the range we need to get out of dodge.
It is full time four wheel drive and has traction control and locking center differential.
I have equipped it with a 2.5" lift using heavy duty replacement coil springs and coilover shocks.  These particular coilover shocks are essentially a tamer version of a full-on off road racing shock.  The larger diameter shock body allows me to hit large bumps without slowing down while retaining control.
I switched out the narrow stock 17" wheels for a wider offset wheel to give it a wider stance for stability.
It runs 265/75R16 BFG AT KO2 tires.  Just one size larger than stock.  That's pretty much as tough a tire as you can get.  It has a three ply sidewall to resist punctures and aggressive side lugs to help when in deep mud.  Don't forget the full size spare.
I installed a hidden receiver hitch on the front of the vehicle to carry a Warn winch.  I elected not to install a steel bumper as they are quite heavy and reduce the agility and load capacity of the vehicle.
Add heavy duty skid plates to protect the vital 'organs' on the underside of the vehicle.  

This vehicle will get me anywhere I need to go and it can do it with relative speed, stealth and agility.

Now I know that there will be those of you who say that it is not EMP protected.  This may be true but my current bug-in plans do not necessitate an EMP resistant vehicle.  I have read that an EMP will not harm most vehicles anyway.  Whether this is true or not is beside the point as our current plans are to bug-in.  I am also of the philosophy that if you don't get out early, really early, you probably won't be able to get out at all, unless you happen to own a tank and a refueling station along the way.  If you plan on bugging out, do it really early, even now.  Move to a rural area and start your life there where you can then bug-in.

My priority with building this vehicle was to have fun in the mountains which also makes it an excellent bug-out vehicle.

Since I do not live in a truly densely populated area like an 'inner city' area I don't have to think about how I'd get out of there.  Frankly if I did i'd probably feel panicked every day thinking about when the right time would be to get out.  Get out now if you are not comfortable with where you live.    

Those of you who feel the need to purchase a surplus military vehicle that will cross the continent, more power to you!  You may be the one we all need to hitch a ride with some day.  For most preppers I think my advice should do you well.


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The purpose of this site is to provide you with information about what I have learned, my experience, and what my motivations are as a Prepared Guy. I have always felt driven to be ready for any situation by something powerful deep inside me. Being prepared has always served me well. I feel compelled to help others do the same.
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