Step 2: What Vehicle to Choose

You’ve evaluated the situation and decided to bug out.  Generally speaking, the best way to get away is by car, SUV or truck. It’s convenient (most of us have them), offers good protection from the elements, is relatively fast, allows you to carry much more gear than being on foot or a bicycle, and is less physically demanding than walking..

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking a train to a safe house in a nearby city. Captain Dave is partial to boats, and even a bus or a bike beats walking, but for most of us, the automobile is our escape vehicle of choice.

While everyone chooses a car that fits their lifestyle and budget, Captain Dave considers a large four-wheel drive vehicle  the best bet for evacuating to your safe house. The bigger, heavier the vehicle is, the better, within reason. Not only do larger vehicles have greater ground clearance and the ability to ford higher waterways, they carry the most gear and have greater towing power. They also offer you and your passengers better protection in a fender-bender. When the entire city seems to be running from an impending disaster, you don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road as the victim of a minor accident. You want a vehicle that will shrug it off and keep going.

Four-wheel drive is critical if you need to go off-road to avoid accidents, road blocks, or other evacuation-related snafus and is it also valuable if you run into serious weather problems.

Since a surplus army truck is probably out of the question, a large four-wheel drive pick-up with a cap may be the best bug out vehicle available. But the fact is, whatever vehicle (or vehicles) you have at hand is the best choice because you are familiar with it, comfortable in it, and know its performance limitations and maintenance requirements.  If you get a Noah-like warning of impending disaster, you can rent a big Ryder box truck and evacuate the contents of your house, but most of us will not have that kind of insider information.

The old saw about never letting your car’s gas tank get below half makes a lot of sense. Captain Dave also recommends keeping a couple of five gallon tanks of gas on hand “for emergencies.” Even if you use it to fill your tank while underway, carry the empty with you (strapped to the roof, perhaps) because you never know when you might have an opportunity to re-supply. If you are a very serious prepper, you can have a second gasoline tank installed in your truck. This can give you 50 or more gallons and extend your range.

And while we’re on the subject of cars, make sure yours is good mechanical condition prior to bugging out.  The best way to do that is to maintain it all the time.

Frequently, families may have multiple cars and multiple drivers.  This raises the question of whether you should take two or more vehicles, which allows you to carry more gear, or whether you should stick together in one vehicle.  Government officials will discourage you from taking multiple vehicles during a mass evacuation because it adds to crowded roadways, but Captain Dave generally encourages redundancy and likes multiple vehicles it because you can enhance your survivability by bringing additional gear with you.

Like most survival decisions, this is a decision you should make ahead of time based on the vehicles and their capabilities, your destination, the abilities of your drivers, and the amount of gear you want to carry.  You could have multiple scenarios.  For example: if we are heading to Frank and Sarah’s house, we will take the small car because it goes the furthest on a tank of gas and because we have lots of supplies pre-positioned there.  But if we have to cross the mountains to go to Grandpa’s old farm, we’ll take the SUV and the small car because we will need to carry more equipment.  If we have to abandon one car, we will abandon the small one because the SUV may be needed to get up their road and it has parts in common with Grandpa’s truck.

Multiple vehicles in a convoy Everyone in a single vehicle
Pro: You can carry more gear Con: Limited space
Pro: Redundancy.  If one vehicle breaks down, the other can either tow it, or you can load the people into the one and continue.  If one car is attacked or destroyed, half of the party can get away and survive. Con: Lack of redundancy.  If something breaks down, you’re on foot.  All your eggs are in one basket.
Pro: One driver in a convoy can look out for the other and provide back up in a bad situation Con: All your resources are in one vehicle.  There is no element of surprise in an attack or altercation.
Cons: Drivers cannot spell each other. Pro: If one driver gets tired, they can sleep while the other drives.
Cons: You limited supply of gas is used up twice as fast. Pro: A set amount of stored gas will last longer.
Cons: Twice as expensive Pro: Cheaper to buy gas (at potentially inflated prices) and pay tolls.
Cons: Requires radios or other communications devices to ensure coordination Pro: One driver will not lose or become separated from the other. You will all have to stick together.

The best plan may be to tow a small vehicle behind a large one.  This works very well for RVs; with the proper equipment, you can have an RV tow a smaller vehicle. Pack both vehicles for maximum storage space, but if the tow vehicle breaks down or is in an accident, you have the smaller one for escape. You can also consider a trailer to carry your survival gear or personal belongings you don’t want to leave behind.  In fact, you can pre-load your trailer so that all you need to do is back up to it, hitch up and you are ready to roll.

The RV Option

Recreational vehicles are self-contained, have a kitchen with propane burners, a fridge or ice box, a water tank, provide sanitation, sleeping quarters, and usually have hidden storage space.  They make great rolling safe houses and have the advantage of allowing you to go wherever it is safe rather than just one or two pre-set destinations.  Your old college roommate will be happier to see you when you roll up in your self-contained RV and ask to plug into an extension cord than if you show up expecting to use the guest room for an indefinite period of time.

Plus, during the evacuation, one person can drive while another sleeps, and then you can trade off.  On the down side, they are expensive, use huge amounts of fuel, are large targets, and have no off-road capabilities.  Their generators are noisy and the sanitation tanks need to be emptied.  But they are a viable evacuation option for anyone who already enjoys RV-ing or does not want to buy a retreat.


In normal circumstances, riding your bike is a lot of fun, but sitting in miles of stop-and-go traffic on one is not the best scenario.  Sure, you can try riding down the center between to rows of cars, but that’s going to end badly eventually, either due to law enforcement or an angry motorist.  It beats walking or peddling, but the exposure to the weather, danger in a traffic accident, and limited cargo capacity do not make bikes the best evacuation vehicles unless you leave well before the crowds.  Our best recommendation is to tow your bikes on a trailer behind your car or truck.  In this manner, the bike is there in you need it or as an emergency bug-out vehicle, but is not your primary escape vehicle.

Walking to Safety

Let’s face it, traveling by any vehicle is preferable to hoofing it.  That is why you see refugees on wagons pulled by tractors – because even an old tractor goes faster and farther than an old woman or a young child can walk.

If traveling via vehicle is unsafe or impossible, or there is an over-riding requirement for stealth, you will have to travel by foot carrying everything on your back.  Let’s say, for example, that the government has declared martial law and prohibited travel from your town due to a dangerous outbreak of a highly contagious disease.  Police and national guards have roadblocks on all the roads, leaving you no option but to stay home and die or to sneak out to safety.  Or perhaps your community is about to be over run by a horde of marauders in a post-TEOTWAWKI situation, and they have the roads in and out of town blocked off.

In this scenario, you should travel at night, sleeping during the day (preferably with a member of your party on guard) in the wilds or in abandoned homes and barns.  Scrounge what food you can along the way, from natural and man made sources.  Have one member of your party ready with your .22 to kill small game and another ready with a larger caliber rifle to kill larger game.  Be ready with both to protect your party.  On a good night, you might make only 6 or 8 cautious miles, but you will get there eventually.  Once you are well outside the prohibited zone, you still need to be cautious.  Strangers may be greeted with suspicion, and should the police check your IDs, you may end up back in quarantine.

There is safety in numbers, so you will do best if you have at least two and preferably four party members.  If you have multiple people, you can watch each other’s backs, take turns on guard, and one person may see something another misses.  The safest way to walk in a survival situation is similar to a military patrol.  First, do not clump up together.  Second, have someone on point, ahead of everyone else by up to 100 yards, who is actively looking out for danger as well as picking the best path to travel.  Third, have one person trailing the main party by 50 or so yards and keeping an eye out for anyone following you.  If you have a large enough party, you can have scouts on the sides (flankers) who also perform reconnaissance and look out for trouble.  The distance between the elements will depend on the terrain and conditions.  Generally, the point man should be in sight of the main party, and the rear point should be able to see the main body.

If this sounds too complicated, it may be simpler to break your party up into two parts.  The first party proceeds to an agreed upon destination anywhere from a few hundred yards to a mile away, depending on the terrain and the level of activity expected in the area.  Once there, they get into a good defensive position so they can keep an eye out for trouble ahead of them and watch over the party coming from behind them.  The second group then catches up with them and the process repeats itself, or the second party leapfrogs the first and continues for a predetermined distance where they settle in to a defensive position. In this manner, you can cover a fair amount of distance in a relatively secure fashion with frequent rest stops.  This may be the best approach for parties of untrained or undisciplined people.

When walking, stay off the roads and use untraditional paths, such as high tension wire cuts and stream beds.  While power line right-of-ways will not usually appear on maps, you can use Google Earth to identify them before a TEOTWAWKI situation.

Unless you are used to hiking, start your on-foot bug out slowly and build your endurance.  Comfortable shoes are a necessity, as are several changes of socks.  You can also carry sandals or flip flops to wear when fording streams and rivers or as “camp” shoes. Well-made backpacks are critical for carrying any substantial weight a decent distance.  Ponchos are worth their weight when it rains and because they can keep you warm and dry and you can sleep in them.  Nice camouflaged poncho’s can help hide you during the daylight and a blend in at night.  Backpacking gear such as water filters and small pocket stoves are also useful if you have to bug out on foot.

Your biggest challenge here will be maintaining your health and an adequate food supply.  If you are passing through populated areas that have been abandoned by prior evacuation, don’t be afraid to search abandoned homes and stores for canned food and other edible or usable items.  Looting big screen TVs and armloads of jewelry during an emergency is unquestionably a crime.  Liberating food from an abandoned pantry to feed yourself and your children in an emergency is a different matter.  Just try to minimize damage, be respectful of other people’s property, and keep in mind that what appears to be an abandoned home may occupied by someone who prefers to avoid contact but may aggressively defend what is theirs.

In some areas with a remnant population, you may be able to work for food and a place to stay.  If there is no utilities, or if EMP has rendered most vehicles and modern electronics unusable, man power (literally) will be at a premium.  In rural areas, you may also find farm animals available for barter or trade.

Keep in mind that only a few hundred years ago, it was not unusual for Americans to walk or ride in wagons from St. Louis to Utah or California.  Walking is slow, but as long as you can cross the major waterways, you can get there, eventually. But it is your last choice.  Drive or ride if you can.  Walk only when you have no other options.


When you are in Cancun on vacation and hear that the hurricane is three days out to sea and heading your way, flying home to the states makes a lot of sense.  When you want to bug out due to a pending emergency at home, flying is not the ideal method unless you have a second home at the other end of the trip.  If you have a summer home in Michigan and you winter in a condo in Florida, flying off to one when the danger is encroaching on the other is not a bad idea.  Especially if you have duplicate important personal items at each location.

But if you are simply heading to the airport to get out of town, we don’t recommend it.  First of all, going to an airport limits your control and restricts what you can bring with you.  It also puts you in the hands of the authorities, who may choose to close the airport at any time for any reason.  (Look at how many people were stranded after 9/11 when they grounded all air travel.)  Driving gives you options and resources that flying does not, including the ability to change directions.  If you are out of town and have a ticket, flying home may work, but renting a car may be more of a sure thing.

Weapons During Evacuations

In your normal government-mandated evacuation supervised by local and state police, Captain Dave recommends that every able-bodied, trained individual be armed with a concealed lethal weapon and non-lethal weapons (such as pepper spray) just as they should be at any other time.  Rest stops, gas stations, and traffic accidents can all be potentially dangerous, especially in a high-stress situation when there are shortages of critical supplies and slow law enforcement response times.  In any case, a concealed pistol provides you the ability to protect yourself and your loved ones both while underway and once you reach your intended destination.

In a well-mannered evacuation via vehicle along interstate and other highways with frequent police presence, long guns should be carried in a legally prescribed manner to avoid police interest and potential confiscation, but one should not hesitate to unpack secured long guns and load up at the first sign of trouble.  If the situation is grave enough that you feel it necessary to have an assault weapon handy, don’t brandish it about unless you expect to use it.  Keep in mind the value of surprise. Guns do not need to be carried openly or aggressively unless you believe the deterrent value of appearing heavily armed is better than appearing to be an unarmed victim.

In a TEOTWAWKI scenario where the rules of civilization have broken down and there is no danger of arrest, it’s too late for concealed carry.  You may choose to have a concealed back-up weapon, but once TSHTF, the visible presence of a weapon carried in confidence may be a deterrent to an attack.  Smart predators know there are plenty of unarmed sheep and will likely avoid confrontation with an armed one.  You want to look like too tough a target, while not appearing to be so aggressive that you are seen as a threat by others in a similar predicament.

Your first objective should be to avoid gun play, but if criminals attempt to detain you at an illegal roadblock, or if they run you off the road with the intent to kill you, rape the women and take all your stuff, then fight back with every weapon at your disposal.  Larger caliber battle rifles – like .308 – are better than .223 in an anti-vehicle situation.  In a close combat scenario, shotguns can also be quite useful, but keep in mid that 00 buck may not penetrate car doors with sufficient power.  With buckshot, aim for the windows or the wheels, or use slugs.

Weapon selection is covered in greater detail in a later chapter.