The Ultimate Survival Kit for Bugging Out with Your Car

The Ultimate Survival Kit for Bugging Out with Your Car


What’s the best vehicle for bugging out with and what are the essential items for your car survival kit that you should have for a widescale emergency and self defense?Included: List of bug out essentials and specialized tools that can help you escape armed robbery, a traffic hell storm to nowhere, and getting stuck if you make your escape off road or in a region damaged by an earthquake or war and the roads have been all but destroyed.

One of the “mainstream survival articles” I have more fun reading are the ones where they showcase these modified, weird, expensive bug out vehicles.

These fully-armored tactical vehicles aren’t just expensive ($200k and up) but they’ll surely attract too much attention in bug-out situations, the last thing you want. Let’s talk about bug out vehicles you can actually afford and how to prepare your vehicle for what’s to come.

What does your vehicle say about you?

The first aspect I want to talk about is the overall look of the vehicle. If you live in the city or in the suburbs, bugging out may be less about driving on uneven terrain and more about avoiding rioters, thugs and traffic jams. This means that tactical vehicles and fancy/expensive SUVs shouldn’t even be on your list.Let’s think about this for a second… in case of social unrest, most of the rebels will be young, male and from the lower classes. They hate anyone wearing a tie and are going to attack them first to get their supplies, guns, money and, of course, their vehicles.

This all goes back to the concept of being a grey man and blending in but, at the same time, you don’t want to appear weak. You definitely don’t want a car that looks vulnerable because it’s gonna make you look the same. So, if it looks like it belongs to an old-school tough guy who likes his guns more than money, local thugs might think twice before messing with you.


That’s why an older 4×4 is the ideal choice for a bug out vehicle. If you estimate you’re gonna drive off road to get to safety, something like an older model Ford F250, GMC, or Chevy truck is a good choice but if you’re a city dweller, you might consider a smaller SUV or even a 4-wheel drive sedan.

And if you can afford to invest money into a heavily armored tactical vehicle, which some have done in recent years, someone else might want that vehicle and may be willing to do anything to take it from you. For that reason, I don’t think it’s a wise move — not unless you live far from a populated area and have immediate access to remote wilderness or desert mountains, and even then that vehicle may still be a poor choice due to it’s weight and poor fuel economy.

Don’t look like a soccer mom or yuppie — both are seen as easy victims

The next time you’re out in traffic, scan the vehicles around you. You’ll notice that a lot of vehicles on the road today look like yuppies or soccer moms are behind the wheel. Seriously, these are not the type of vehicles that you’d want to own if you are at all concerned about being robbed out in the countryside following a collapse or pulled from your car and beaten if in an urban area during a period of civil unrest.

How big should your car be?

While we’re talking about the size of the car you need to consider the routes you’ll have to take to bug out. Does your town or city have narrow streets? Is traffic a problem? Do you have sandy beaches you might be able to use to escape while everyone else is stuck in traffic on the main arteries? (By the way, don’t venture out on to the beach with your car unless it’s a 4×4 and you have a shovel in the trunk.)Of course, if you live in a small town where many people are preppers (and friends!), you might be more interested in overcoming various natural obstacles instead of worrying about your town’s infrastructure and ways out.

Also, you need to consider the color of your car but don’t shy away from buying it just because it’s yellow, orange or red. You can re-paint it afterwards into something common such as silver or dark blue to blend in better.

Keep a few cans of spray paint on hand

You might have a great four wheel drive bug out vehicle today, but red or yellow are just too bright of colors. You might be easily spotted even if you try to conceal your vehicle one night with brush out in the countryside. Have a few cans of spray paint on hand — and don’t be afraid to go for the camouflage look, but at the least use non-gloss paint and choose colors that blend in with the environment around you.

Make your vehicle look like a junker

At any time during a collapse you and others run a risk of robbery and car jacking. Consider using a gray non-gloss paint (primer, as it’s called) to spray paint your vehicle with and let that be the color you go with. Why primer? People are accustomed to seeing primer painted vehicles as junkers and may let you roll past, prefering to grab a vehicle that doesn’t look like it’s going to break down sometime soon.

Duct tape your tail lights and clearance lights

Use dark colored duct tape to cover over your tail lights and clearance lights. If for some reason you need to start your vehicle one night, say perhaps to charge any gadgets you have on hand, the tape over your tail lights and clearance lights will help hide your location from people out in the distance. Does your vehicle have a mode for automatic headlights? Be sure you know how to override that — it would be a tragedy to have your headlights come on at night when you’re trying to stay hidden out in the countryside after starting your vehicle.

Let’s talk about the size

Next, focus on the trunk and all the things it needs to put inside. I’ve made a couple of lists towards the end of this article but, for now, it suffices to say you need one that’s as big as possible. In fact, the more people are part of your bug out plan, the more room you need so you can opt for things such as a bicycle carrier or a car top carrier.Another option is to get a trailer. Not only can you load it with many more supplies but it’s easy to ditch if need be. Of course, it has its own set of challenges, such as the fact that it’ll be cumbersome to drive through a riot or on rough terrain. Plus, if you lose or discard it, you’ll also lose a good portion of your preps. To avoid obstacles as well as to protect your car from minor frontal collisions, you may also want a front mounted winch. This will make it easier for you to drive right through a fence (you can yank the fence down with your winch, if need be, or you can just cut it down, depends on the type of fence we’re talking about).

Having a winch on your vehicle will help with the “tough guy look” I talked about earlier.

Speaking of which, you may also think about installing an exterior spotlight because that might give you that “law enforcement look” which may help you in some situations (such as being able to move ahead in traffic jams by pulling on to a shoulder and going around stopped traffic). However, this is a double edged sword. It may work during a mass bug out but if there’s a riot and you wake up with a few dozen rioters around you, they probably won’t let you drive away that easily.

Two notable vehicles for a possible bug out

Jeep – Jeeps have a narrow wheel base and narrow vehicle width, making it possible to get over rocky areas and even down trails that a larger truck would have problems with. One problem with a Jeep though is lack of trunk space — an overhead cargo platform and or tail-hitch platform carrier gets around that though, so a Jeep is a possible good vehicle to bug out with. Don’t count on sleeping in your Jeep though; there’s not a lot of room inside. Stay away from expensive, shiny Jeeps and go with the hillbilly look. You’ll attract a lot less attention and even look a bit dangerous, which can help you avoid a robbery.Toyota Tacoma – In recent years, stock Toyota Tacomas have been built with higher clearance, making these trucks a good choice for rocky, uneven roads or rough terrain. Another advantage a Toyota Tacoma has — like a Jeep, they have a narrow vehicle width, making it possible to drive narrow roads and trails that larger trucks can have problems with.

If going with either a Jeep or a Toyota Tacoma, stay away from the latest models as you don’t want anything that says “Yuppie”. Don’t buy new — by used, going back as many years as you possibly can; what you want is a vehicle that is mechanically sound and has four wheel drive; a few dents and some old hunting and fishing stickers give the truck some character — so if you have a few dents don’t be in a hurry to get them fixed!

What kind of fuel? Diesel is the safest choice in the long term

Diesel or gasoline? I think everyone agrees diesel is better and for good reason. Most sheeple have gasoline cars because they’re cheaper to maintain and better for short drives around town. This means, among other things, that gas pumps are going to be overcrowded while diesel pumps may not. After a major catastrophe, the transportation system will come to a stop, meaning you can use a siphon kit to extract diesel (or gasoline, if all you have is a gasoline powered vehicle) from abandoned trucks, buses, construction equipment and generators.Plus, you may find other places to refill such as truck stops, industrial sites and construction sites — many of these places also have fuel storage tanks on hand. You may have to look around.

Also, diesel engines consume less fuel than gas, particularly when the cars are fully loaded with supplies. Since you’ll keep many emergency supplies inside your car at all times as you drive around every day, this will save you money in the long run. And let’s not forget diesel engines are more durable, which would make a huge difference in a post-collapse society where finding a new one could be expensive or even impossible.

So, though a Jeep or a Tacoma have an advantage when it comes to crossing rough terrain or narrow roads, unless you find a Jeep or Tacoma that’s been customized, neither of these vehicles are known for using diesel. In the end, way the pros with the cons when choosing your bug out vehicle — older Jeep or full size truck? Diesel or gasoline? Tacoma or Subaru? Etc.

Let’s move on to windows

Things may fall on your windshield: someone might throw a brick or a tree branch might fall when you least expect it. If you have the budget, you could consider installing toughened glass on all your car windows.

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Cabin air inside your vehicle

One last point I want to advise on is in regards to the air inside your vehicle that you will be breathing. Your vehicle should have an option to use recycled air from inside your vehicle rather than pull air from the outside. This will be useful when driving through an area that has been tear gassed.If this isn’t an option, you can always wear gas masks or even a pair of goggles and a wet bandana tied around your mouth. Just keep in mind tear gas will cause an immediate burning sensation. Your eyes will tear and your nose will run, making it almost impossible for you to drive. The gas mask will be a much better and safer choice than the wet bandanna and goggles in this case.

Not just tear gas — chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons are also a threat

Plus, if you live near a major city, the threat of a chemical, biological, or radioactive nukes (or just dirty bombs) can kill hundreds of thousands of people and, though a gas mask may come at a price, it may be what saves your life that day. A chemical or biological weapon can poison the air you breathe and be a painful and horrific way to die. Unfortunately, rogue governments and terrorists and even the world’s superpowers are all well aware of the destructive power of chemical and biological weapons and both have long been a tool of warfare.

Plagues, chemicals, viruses

In the dark days ahead we are likely to see these weapons unleashed again. Don’t take the threat of biological or chemical weapons lightly.

What if an EMP takes place? Will your vehicle stop working?

What about EMPs? I have to take a moment to discuss the potential impact on your car on one of the most dreaded disaster scenarios: an electromagnetic pulse. Since the vast majority of cars rely on computers, it’s very likely they’ll simply stop running in case of am EMP. Now, I don’t know how concerned you are about this particular scenario but if you are, the older the car the less electronics inside.Which car should you get? Well, any Ford F-250 that was made in 1970 or before should fit the bill. An old Chevy will also fit the bill. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is write a list of all the models you’d be interested in getting and then figure out which of them don’t rely on electronics, especially when it comes to the engine. If you can find a vehicle that doesn’t rely on spark plugs, that’s even better, although some people prefer to keep a few of them extra wrapped up in a Faraday cage.

Just remember there are many debates over the effects of a major EMP because no one knows exactly what it’ll be like. No one can guarantee Faraday cages will work, for instance. As for the myth that the car itself can act as a Faraday cage, let me just say this: as long as you can use your phone inside, it won’t work. I won’t go into much detail about this, the point is you need an older car with as few electronics as possible.

Equipping your car for the bug-out

Now that you’ve bought your vehicle, it’s time to mention the most important things you need to consider for a wide variety of scenarios, such as: getting home safely as soon as you hear news something is wrong,Bugging out on various routes in various conditions (an abundance of snow, ice storms, traffic jams etc.),

Having to drive through a tear gassed area or trying to escape an area that has been struck by a chemical or biological attack or radioactive fallout from a distant nuke,

Sleeping in your car (because you won’t need to make shelter in this case)

…and getting past obstacles such as fallen trees, ditches etc.

Basic survival supplies for your car

Let’s start with the basics: food, water, blankets, medicine – these are the first things you should have at all times inside your vehicle, even if you use it every day to go to work. These are so important that you should keep them inside at all times (though be aware that in a hot climate temperatures inside your vehicle can cause certain medications to go bad; you may need to take these inside with you for safe keeping).In essence, you want to have a bug out bag inside your car that’s filled with the basics. Some people see this as their second BOB while others prefer to only keep the bare minimum in the trunk and just throw the rest in the trunk when the time comes.

A few survival essentials to consider for your car’s bug out bag

Food and water


A DIY first aid kit (because the ones car manufactures include aren’t that good and, besides, if your car is second hand, it probably expired)

Clothes (durable, appropriate for climate and conditions, can be layered)

An umbrella — or to attract less attention, a waterproof poncho that can be worn over both you and your backpack if you have to make a trek on foot away from your vehicle.

A bandana (a multi-purpose item that could help you filter and melt snow, for instance)

A hand-crank or a battery-powered flashlight and a headlamp

A hand-crank or a battery-powered AM/FM radio (you probably don’t want to use your car’s radio all the time or you may have to abandon your vehicle at some point)

Work gloves

N95 respirators

An extra phone charger (preferably solar)

Guns, ammo for self defense and or hunting

Fishing gear

Sunscreen (if you have to abandon your vehicle — even in snow covered mountains the sun can still burn you badly if you’re out in it for an hour or more)

…and many more (just look at the bug out bag essentials list for more inspiration).

Next, consider these items that will help you deal with car issues, such as:

A winch (pull your vehicle and other vehicles out of bad situations; tear down fences; tear open doors to get into buildings; hoist food into trees to keep away from wildlife; lots of uses for a good winch)

A spare tire

Jumper cables

CB radio

Detachable antennae (so that you can pick up distant radio signals when out in remote country)

Maps of the region and a GPS


A fire extinguisher

An ice scraper

Windshield washer fluid (if you drive through an area of dust, debris, mud or even an insect swarm you’ll appreciate having a full reservoir of windshield washer fluid)

A foldable shovel like this US Military Issue Trenching Shovel to dig your wheels out of places where you have lost traction.

A roadside safety tool kit

A seatbelt cutter

A window breaker

A tire pressure gauge


Triangle reflectors (if you think that they could come in handy as a signaling device at some point)

Electrical tape

An axe (to remove fallen trees or branches that have come down on the road or possibly your vehicle during a storm)

A shovel (already mentioned but it’s worth mentioning it again — a lot of vehicles have been abandoned because they got stuck somewhere on a beat up or muddy or snowy road; a shovel can dig you out and also carry gravel and dry dirt from nearby that can be placed in front of your tires, allowing you to gain traction again and drive away; it’s a good idea to always have a shovel if you may ever one day end up driving off road.)

A pick / pickaxe (can be used in conjunction with the shovel to dig your car out; A shovel may be useless if you run into large rocks, where as a pick / pickaxe can help dig around and under these large rocks, making excavation faster and easier.)

A chainsaw

You may be wondering why you need some of these items. Well, there’s no telling what the roads ahead may look like. If you’re fleeing from a hurricane, for instance, you might come across downed trees. That’s when a gas-powered chainsaw (and some extra gas in a small gas can) will come in handy. If you’re forced to take a secondary road, you might reach a gate which will require some labor (and an axe) to get around.

Last but not least — dump your stock jack for changing tires and spend a few dollars more on a high lift jack. It’s easier to use than most stock jacks and you can count on it to work for you if you are ever off road and on rough terrain.

Gated roads are a certainty — but they don’t have to stop you

Listen — there are a lot of forest service roads that cross public lands throughout the United States and or BLM lands that are gated at different times of the year. In a widescale emergency, and an evacuation, consider going around these gates as one way to escape the region. You will need tools like a chainsaw, picks/pickaxes, and shovels though to make this possible. Some gated roads will have cheap locks that may be easy to cut off with a lock cutting tool, though some gated locks are a lot more secure where this is not possible and you will have to figure out another way to get around these gates (chainsaw, shovel(s), pick(s)).Some gated roads will lead to dead ends and do not go very far. So be sure that you either have an updated map of these forest service roads or that you have previously explored these gated roads in the past (on foot or by mountain bike or even dirt bike). Many of these forest service roads lead hundreds of miles into the wilderness and offer a way to get away from more heavily traveled evacuation routes.

Have detailed road maps — because evacuation may bring traffic to a halt

When it comes to maps, Delorme makes a detailed map for every state. Use one of these maps to locate routes out of any and every city in your state. Also locate distant small towns, state parks, military bases, nature preserves, and little-used roads and highways.An important point to consider: the majority of the population in your region probably doesn’t realize that numerous alternative routes via county roads and or gravel roads and or forest service roads (which are typically found outside of large cities in the countryside) even exist.

Being able to evacuate can be a life-saving survival tool. Realize that if you live in a major city, and there is a catastrophic event like a nuclear weapon detonated anywhere within a hundred miles, your entire region may be racing to escape on the only roads they know — the interstate freeways and highways.

If you get caught in that mess, don’t expect to get very far.

A BOV Inside a BOV?

I know it’s tough to think about abandoning your vehicle after you’ve invested so much money and effort into it but, let’s face it: your life is more important. Most people don’t like to think about scenarios like these but you might be forced to leave your car behind and continue on foot with just your BOB. That’s exactly what separates the average preppers from the pros. Not the quality of their gear but the depth with which they foresee and prepare for as many scenarios as possible. That being said, you should have a secondary bug out vehicle inside your car. Your first choice should be a foldable bike but, depending on your location, you might want to consider an inflatable canoe or inflatable kayak, for example. A number of inflatable kayaks on the market can handle up to class 3 rapids and can be hard to capsize, which means they are stable in most bays (having to flee from San Francisco or New York City for example if bridges are out) and can handle ocean currents.Do you live in a region known for bridges? Consider that an inflatable canoe or kayak (if you have to abandon your vehicle) can get you across a body of water while hundreds of thousands of other people are caught in a traffic hell storm that is not going anywhere.

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Final word

Since a car is a big investment, I feel compelled to advise you to stay away from high lift trucks and other expensive tactical vehicles. You’ll have a tough time bugging out from the cities in traffic hell, they attract a lot of attention, you’ll have to avoid roads that are too narrow or even passing under some bridges (depending on what region of the country you live, some bridges are “below code” and not that high off the ground).Second, you should always keep your car in top shape. Perform the inspections on time and make sure you always have enough fuel to take you to your bug out location. Rotate the food, water and medicine inside the trunk and keep in mind that because of the higher temperatures found inside, the food you store there won’t last as long as the expiration date. Consider never letting your fuel tank drop below a half-tank; when you get to a half-tank, always fill up again. That way, if all hell breaks loose one day at the least you’ll be able to start your bug out with a half-tank of fuel.

One last thing: I know we’ve given you quite an extensive list of things to pack but this doesn’t mean you should keep everything in the trunk, especially if you use that vehicle every day to run errands and go to work. Only keep the “get home” essentials and leave the rest either in your trailer, your attic or anywhere else you have room so you can load them at a moment’s notice.

3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Survival Kit for Bugging Out with Your Car

  1. You make some good points. On the issue of EMP, they have tested vehicles against very close EMP generators and of all vehicles, only one was stopped dead and then it restarted. EMP affects things with long antennas such as the power grid and anything attached to it. I am among the few who have actually watched and lived through an EMP event. That was in 1962 and it was the result of a test of a thermonuclear device in space 200+ miles above the Pacific. I was in Hawaii at the time, 900 miles away. It took out street lights and a television station was damaged. My brother’s transistor radio and those of friends were not affected at all. My own preference is early 90’s XJ Cherokees with the High Output 4.0 inline six and a manual transmission. There is good interior space and if you add a few leaves to the rear springs, plenty of carrying capacity. I like your mention of a High Lift jack. I have been carrying one since 1972 and I weld a grab hook on the tongue of the jack and a large ring on the top of the jack to facilitate use with chain.

  2. I drive an older Subaru Outback. Good ground clearance, good cargo space. Roof racks. Is built for off road and we take it fishing frequently. Crosses streams and fairly rough terrain without blinking an eye. Looks non-descript. Can stuff five or more people in it. Family members may need to bug out with me. Just a boring station wagon.

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