When disaster strikes, you’ll want a small, nimble 4×4 that can handle off-roading situations with ease, such as this four-door 2012 Jeep Wrangler JK Sahara with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and plenty of life-saving gear.
Consider adding to your bug-out vehicle a communications hub for short-range walkies and a long-range, high-frequency radio.
Recovery equipment will help keep your vehicle going no matter what. Make sure your bug-out 4×4 has an ultra-versatile Hi-Lift mechanical jack and a high-quality shovel.
Having a Warn M8274 electric winch and low-consumption LED lighting will help you conquer the roughest terrain 24/7.
Your vehicle should me small, yet durable, ready to take on all landscapes and conditions.
I find it amusing when I see all those heavy trucks dressed as mobile survival platforms. I have a completely different approach that uses mid-sized, highly mobile 4×4 models dressed like civilian trucks, not like military troop carriers.
In a survival situation, the most critical scenario is the one in which you need to move from your main location to a secondary one while society is immersed in an all-out crisis. In my humble opinion, it is all about mobility and speed, and full-size trucks dressed as mobile survival platforms have neither. We will face various threats and challenges in a crisis situation, and possessing a working, reliable mode of transport may make all the difference between success and failure.
Hard Road Ahead
Avoid those vehicles that rely on a load of computers, as most microchips can be damaged or destroyed by a nuclear electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) or even a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). Your best bet is to get a diesel engine with a mechanical injector pump since those engines will run even when the truck’s wiring harness has been badly burnt. Even if you’ve lost electric features like headlights or the AM/FM radio, they will jump start on any slope and keep you on the move. Movement is safety.
Old carbureted gas engines will work fine, but you have to make sure that yours does not have any critical parts that are difficult to replace or bypass. Pre OBD-II engines with simple electronics can also be used if you carry an extra ignition/injection computer with you inside an anti-EMP cover bag. For your peace of mind, the best way to check your rig´s survivability is to visit your dealer and ask them what will be needed to keep the engine running. Every rig is different, and with a little advice, some mechanical training and very few parts, you can keep your truck running.
You will also need to carry enough fuel to get to your destination via a clear road that can handle the size of your vehicle. These two points are the most critical for heavier trucks for two main reasons. The first that their fuel mileage is terrible, so much so that you may be limited to a few hundred miles even on a full tank. Considering that you may need to take a secondary (or even tertiary) route, and that refueling may be impossible for a while, this is a major issue. Most gas stations have fuel pumps that have complex electrical pump/valve systems that will need time to be put back into operational mode, and time is something you will not have.
Speaking of what you don’t have, you may not have GPS or electronic mapping systems that can tell you if your alternate route can handle a high and wide truck. Of course, you can pre-plan and drive all the possible routes to your mountain retreat, but no plan survives the first contact, and I bet you will end up facing a narrow road or a low pass impossible to traverse with a huge truck.
So, you have a vehicle that worked after SHTF, you have a full tank of fuel and live where the roads are open and free of narrow or low passages. Let’s face it, even in this situation you will have trouble with a heavy truck as soon as you drive on unprepared dirt roads. Most trucks are not good at traversing real wilderness, unpaved roads or passing obstacles, as they are simply too big and heavy. This is why outdoor pros tend to use smaller trucks such as 1-ton 4×4 pickup trucks, old Land Rovers and up to Unimog-sized rigs instead of full-size trucks.
Think about the location you’re retreating to post-disaster, then think about the quality and width of the paved and unpaved roads that will take you there. Can a large truck make this drive 24/7? Of course not! Can it go through trails cut in the wild that can be traversed by smaller 1-ton Jeeps or horse carts? Of course not! Now you are facing reality.
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Prep Your Payload
The truth is that full-size trucks have just two strong points: mass and payload. But they also have lots of drawbacks that can get you killed. If we acknowledge this, the solution is to get a smaller, more mobile 4×4 that can still carry a decent load inside its main body and can tow a trailer behind. The trailer may hinder the 4×4’s performance, but it can be detached, allowing the little truck to conquer the obstacle and then tow up the trailer with the help of a rear winch or mechanical Tractel device.
Most survival supplies, except water and fuel, are not very heavy. Please don’t get mad at me for not mentioning guns and ammo, but consider that 10 M4 rifles will weigh less than 50 pounds and that 250 rounds of 5.56mm NATO weighs only 15 pounds. How many of these types of supplies will you need? Pack all the survival gear from your main location that will have to be taken with you to your secondary location, if possible in plastic bins. You will see what I mean. You need volume not weight-carrying capacity. This is another point for using a medium-size truck and not something larger.
Now select what you think are primary and secondary loads and place them in separate piles, primary (life supporting) for the main truck and secondary, if they don’t fit in the truck, for a trailer. For loading, some will prioritize food and water, some who are superb wilderness self-reliance experts will select guns and ammo or tools, some will pack medical equipment to treat a family member with a chronic disease, or books, computers and generators will be selected by those who think all that digital and printed information will be their most important possession in the troubled times to come. I will not try to tell you what to do, but please consider that books and backup hard disks should not be in a bug-out truck. These items should already be at your secondary location before the event happens. The same goes for most of your food and protection equipment.
The heavy cargo should be moved there, little by little, before the event happens. Leave behind those materials and equipment that are irreplaceable, too expensive to duplicate or that will keep you alive until you get there; keep these for the final and swift escape. If you sit down and make this list you will see that with a little planning it’s not too much gear to haul, and way under the capacity of a mid-sized 4×4 and trailer. So why have a 12-ton cargo capacity? I see no reason to if you plan adequately. What you have to make sure of is that you have enough carrying capacity, enough fuel and enough resources to get you to the secondary location, where you will have already placed your main cache. Moving your bug-out, survival and irreplaceable gear from exposed location “A” to a more safe and isolated location “B” ahead of time is what’s important.
Sit down and think if you will be able to face and maneuver through armed mobs in your full-size truck. How will you fare against homemade IEDs and small-arms ambushes? Better to get out quickly to location “B” in your low-profile 4×4 and wait there until law and order returns. Getting stuck on a mountain road or in an ambush will mean losing your full 12-ton load of equipment. This is the reason why I propose a highly mobile smaller truck for bug-out purposes.
It’s all about planning, economy of resources and getting to your location “B” quickly and with a low profile. It’s not about looking cool in a huge military-esque truck that is slow and will be a bullet magnet. And while we are talking about maintaining a low profile, try to stay away from military, emergency or police paint patterns, as most looters will expect high-value equipment in them, such as weapons, communications or medical equipment, and you can draw fire just for looking like them. A simple civilian paint scheme will be much more effective. Racing stickers can be good camouflage.
Plan safe, plan smart and keep a low profile to stay alive.
This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Winter 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.
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