Bugging Out via Vehicle - A Bugout Vehicle Guide

Bugging out or evacuating is typically done by way of vehicle. If wildfire is approaching your home or violent rioting has encroached into your neighborhood, the ideal means of escape is the car or truck in your driveway. This reference guide prepares you for survival in the harshest of vehicle-borne incidents (crash, breakdown) and outlines tips for reacting to Life Altering Event (LAE) or SHTF scenarios. Equip yourself with the knowledge to avoid a crash, what to do when encountering roadblock ambushes, and how to plan bugout routes.  Develop a Bugout Vehicle (BOV) Setup Plan for vehicle selection, packing, equipping, and egressing.


A bugout vehicle (BOV) is any device designed to transport a person that is either human or motor propelled, and is also equipped with prepositioned supplies and equipment to aid during emergency scenarios. This could be a car, truck, van, SUV, motorcycle, bicycle,  plane, train, boat, etc. It must be outfitted with a Vehicle Emergency Kit (VEK) which has equipment and tools that stay inside or otherwise attached to the vehicle, until needed. It should have tools for overcoming problems like a dead battery, frosted windshield, and low fuel. It should solve basic vehicle recovery issues. It should be there for a crisis such as a long-term stranded motorist incident, snow storm, and crash. The VEK will also be a supplement during survival or medical emergencies by providing necessary supplies to start a fire, sustain health needs such as food/water obtainment, signaling, communication, shelter, warmth, navigation, and other basic life sustainability requirements. Vehicle preparedness goes beyond the type of vehicle and the items you pack inside. You must possess basic knowledge of tactical/evasive driving, keen situational awareness, and an understanding of how to improvise and overcome. Some common sense and  planning can help ensure you stay moving during storm weather, heavy traffic, and when navigating through high crime areas. Your tactics and preps change during a Life Altering Event (LAE) such as widespread catastrophic attack, disaster, or civil unrest.



  • First: Ensure Safety of Self/Others, Contact IM, Update Situation, Make a Plan. 
        • If no Contact is made, follow ICERS guidelines.
  • Second: Determine safety of current location.
      • If Safe & at Home: 1. Shelter in Place | 2. Contact Team | 3. Follow AP
      • If Unsafe and not at Home: 1. Retrieve GHB and go Home | 2. Visit RPs while enroute | 3. Avoid threats/others. 4. Attempt Contact w/ Team.
      • If Unsafe & at Home: 1. Retrieve BOB. 2. Gather Team in BOV. Go to nearest RP/BOL.



    • Assess the need to bugout or shelter-in-place. Make a coordinated plan that includes incorporation of other members of your team, designation of bugout locations & rally points, and multiple safe routes.
    • Take precautions and conduct preventive steps to ensure your vehicle is always ready. Understand the importance of vehicular defense/security and evasive driving. Blend in and maintain a low-profile appearance.
    • Practicing divergent tactics and improvising will provide an advantage in the event of an LAE.
    • Select a BOV that is appropriate for your needs using our Categorical Setup analysis. Loadout the BOV with the necessary equipment and supplies following the Vehicle Emergency Checklist.

    In our Bugout Vehicle Reference Guide, we’ll go into great detail on topics ranging from vehicle security, vehicle maintenance, travel planning and more. Below is a summary of these mini-guides.



    First and foremost, maintaining a defensive posture is vital to every follow-on task and purpose of a vehicle. Keep your doors locked (even when stopped at a traffic light), check for tampering, add a lock to your gas cap,tin windows to prevent a thief from seeing your supplies, etc).



    Much of what makes a vehicle “emergency” or “bugout” ready relies on the supplies within/affixed to the vehicle as well as the capability of said vehicle. This could mean have a 4x4 option or an external locked storage box for supplies. It’s the steps you take to turn a daily vehicle into a BOV (perhaps it’s adding a bugout bag to your trunk, an IFAK in your glove box, and a rifle behind the rear seats).



    It’s evident that if your vehicle attracts attention, it’ll likely be unwanted attention. In an LAE, a fully loaded tactical-apparent truck would make you a target for attack in an attempt to seize your supplies. In daily life, political decals or speeding could draw the attention of a disgruntled activist or a ticket from police.



    The last thing you want is to encounter a need to quickly evacuate only to find a tire is flat or you’re low on fuel. Time is invaluable in this type of scenario. Take steps now to maintain a “ready ride”.



    It all comes down to this, the actual driving of your vehicle for the purpose of egressing, retrieving supplies, visiting/contacting others, conducting perimeter security runs, etc. Whatever your purpose for traveling is, take additional steps to ensure safety and efficiency.



    Traveling is always a risk. We are away from our element, from the safety of our home or workplace. However, that's the whole purpose of a vehicle! Aside from vehicle crashes; there are an array of threats that present themselves while on the road. Here are some tips for dealing with civil unrest, fuel shortages, heavy traffic, covert vehicle surveillance, emergency egress, and lethal vehicle-borne attacks. We’ve provided a quick lesson below on various tactics to employ during a LAE. but bear in mind many of these are applicable to daily life. Most of these tips are shared from our Hip Pocket Brief book.



    On occasions without a rule of law, following a LAE, it may be necessary to act outside of accepted peace-time norms. Consider all options at your disposal. This could mean knowing how to hot-wire a vehicle or the forethought to keep commonly available generic keys to open storage containers (like a CH751 key which opens many security boxes).



    Your vehicle and its components actually can be improvised as useful tools and supplies in various emergencies. If you forgot to pack a certain item in your kit, knowing how to make do with what you already have can aid you. Turning your windshield wiper fluid container into a water collection container or using the padding of the back seats to insulate your clothing are two of 100s of options.



    When you must travel from point A to point B by vehicle, gasoline usage could become a concern. During a LAE, fuel availability may be scarce. As discussed above, there are options for scavenging fuel and storing fuel – but when faced with the need to egress immediately, saving fuel may become a necessity. The most extreme version of vehicular travel and fuel efficiency is using Hypermiling. This is the practice of using fuel saving operations and preventive measures to extend the distance you can travel before you stall. Hypermiling is used as a bugout technique during vehicle egress to a BOL, on scavenge runs, and during scout operations. In short it's a method to increase your MPG by 20% to 60%. Separately, we’ve also written a fuel collection and storage guide that would be relevant here.



    A BOV is a pre-prepared egress vehicle that is loaded with supplies and outfitted for the planned route. Think realistically when prepping your vehicle and realize that planning with a cheap van may be more realistic, and in some cases a better option, than an expensive decked-out SUV.

    • Loadout includes a combination of the INCH Checklist (Downloadable as part of our ELG Series) and the VEK Checklist.
    • When selecting a BOV, the following 8 Categories should be analyzed. Assign a rating of 1 to 5 for each below category then add up your total. While it is a subjective rating, you should target a 18+ score.
      • For Example - A motor bike may score high in mobility and mileage (i.e. 5/5) but would score low is storage and seating capacity (i.e. 1/5). A utility van with a ballistic kevlar curtain and sandbagged sides would score low in mileage and mobility (i.e. 2/5) but would score high in security, storage, seating capacity (i.e. 4/5). 



    1. Mileage (Fuel MPG, alternative fuel options, alternative powering option, fuel tank size.) Gas/Diesel may be scarce. Bugging out with enough fuel to reach your planned Rally Point or BOL is key.
    2. Mobility (off-road capability, turn ratio, ability to navigate in traffic or narrow pathway.). The BOV should be 4x4 with ground clearance for curbs or downed trees on approach, breakover, and departure. 
    3. Maintenance (ease of upkeep, complexity of motor/electronic components, ease of locating replacement parts, repair potential). Newer vehicles usually mean they are more difficult to make repairs, however troubleshooting and finding spare parts may be easier. Weigh the pros/cons based on your experience, and make sure you can resolve basic repairs and upkeep.
    4. Speed (acceleration is needed to quickly escape from hostile situations and have top speed to outrun incoming danger). Keep in mind - this category is focused on acceleration and top speed.  As a rule, speed isn't everything, as in almost all scenarios it would be better to sacrifice speed before mobility. Don't overlook a slow moving off-road capable truck for a powerful sports car.
    5. Storage (space to pack and organize INCH/VEK, should have appropriate size truck bed, trunk, aftermarket storage containers, roof rack). One of the best ways to extend the amount of storage space is to have external storage such as a roof rack. Consider incorporating features such as an outboard water tank or a Roof Top Tent(RRT).
    6. Security (tinted or bullet proof windows, ballistic walls/doors, fully contained, low profile, roll bars). Consider the ability to react from inside the vehicle, e.g. can you return fire easily from a rolled down window, is there a rear sliding window, is there a push bar installed for ranking a hostile blockade? 
    7. Seating Capacity (number of persons that can be carried; if you are the only person in your party, then  1-2 seats is acceptable)
    8. Impression (low-profile, does not attract attention or standout, concealable, fits in with surroundings, utilized “grayman” system). A fully-loaded down BOV that lacks security and planning can become a target for marauders or non-friendlies. Don't draw attention to yourself. 


    This list should prepare you for any vehicle-based emergency. Carefully plan how you'll organize the items in your vehicle. Follow the “Organization Template” for suggestions on where to store the items for quick access and security. This Checklist is appropriate for all climates, locations, and persons; still, you should edit and adjust to best fit your needs. A Bugout Vehicle should contain all the items from the Vehicle Emergency Kit (VEK) checklist (above). The VEK checklist is more of an everyday preparedness step that we should all keep in our vehicles during normal peacetime climate. Additionally, a GHB or Get Home Bag should be packed in your ride. Other loadouts such as a Bugout Bag (BOB) and an I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) kit could be added depending on the current or expected LAEs or an event that would affect the way you live and survive: things such as a global pandemic that has a fatality rate of 10%+, or an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) that caused years of blackouts, or a national natural disaster, or a land invasion by a foreign adversary. Get the Bugout Vehicle Reference Guide to see the checklist.