Last Updated on April 1, 2021
When it comes to planning for the end of the world as we know it, thoughts generally turn to Bug Out Vehicles sooner or later. For most of us, our BOV of necessity will be whatever we can get our hands on at the moment. For those of you who have a little extra time or money, I wanted to discuss the concept of using a Recreational Vehicle (RV) as your dedicated mode of getting the hell out of dodge. The idea for this came to me from a reader named Alexander who asked the following:
I’d like to hear what you have to say about using an RV for a bugout vehicle. What would you stay away from and what would you do to get it ready?
Great question and I am happy to give my thoughts and opinions, this is a blog after all. For the record, I do not have an RV, so my thoughts will be centered on an analysis of aspects of both the RV and the practical needs for bugging out. I welcome anyone who does have the experience to comment below and give their own side of things.
In thinking about the question of whether an RV is the Best Bug Out Vehicle or not, I think it makes sense to start with a shared understanding of what exactly I mean by RV. For the purposes of this article, let’s say an RV is any vehicle you can drive or pull behind another vehicle that has living quarters built into it and was designed for one or more people to live in temporarily. Don’t get hung up on the temporary part of that description. Essentially everything from Motley Crue’s tour bus to a truck camper fits into this category of RV. I’ll even add some photos below.
So now we know what an RV is let’s discuss what Bugging Out is. From my perspective, Bugging Out is when you need to leave your home quickly to avoid a natural or man-made disaster. This can be a flood, hurricane, Tsunami, or Wildfire. It can also be rioting, war, chemical gas leak, nuclear plant melt-down, zombies, ethnic cleansing, slow-moving lava, or any one of hundreds of other possible scenarios. You are bugging out hopefully with supplies you need to live for three days at a minimum and you may or may not expect to ever go home again.
Unless you have a fully stocked mountain retreat tucked into the woods within walking distance away from your home, you are going to need to get there somehow, so we developed this term of Bug Out Vehicle to describe our conveyance that could help us avoid the calamity we were leaving and be tough enough to navigate the terrain in a post-apocalyptic world. It is my contention that most of us do not have even a partially stocked retreat anywhere so if we are forced to bug out of our homes, we won’t have any place to stay or we will be lucky to shack up with friends far enough away from the catastrophe that we won’t be affected.
The RV seems at first to be a logical vehicle to consider when you are looking into what can take you down the road in style and offer some of the comforts of home at the same time. Some of these comforts can work against you and I’ll describe some thoughts I had when I considered if an RV was the best Bug Out Vehicle for my family.
How are you planning to use this RV as a bug out vehicle?
The first thing I think of when I consider RV’s as a bug-out vehicle is their obvious ability to take a pretty big chunk of the conveniences of home with us on the road. Even pop-up campers can comfortably sleep 5 or 6 people and isn’t that better than sleeping in the woods? Larger 5th wheel campers have 2 bedrooms a full kitchen (for a camper) and even a living room!
Worried about going to the bathroom in the woods or taking a shower? Have no fear because most RVs have this covered too. In terms of roughing it, RV’s do their best to make that a non-issue.
So, we would buy one to live in if the grid went down, right? Or else you have one already or were considering the purchase because you genuinely want an RV to tour around the country.
Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, if you were away from home and the grid went down for whatever reason, having a stable place you could stay would be a huge advantage. However, if you were planning to fire up the old RV after a disaster was announced, or people were already fleeing from (insert your reason here) an RV could have a lot of liabilities.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be is an RV a good bug out vehicle, but rather, is an RV a good replacement for a survival retreat? If you have an RV parked in the middle of the woods away from society and we have some type of grid down disaster I think that you would consider yourself one of the luckiest people in the world. However, I think if you were trying to navigate the roads with one of these vehicles right in the middle of mass panic, you would not feel the same way.
For one thing, RV’s stick out like a sore thumb. Anyone who sees one knows that you most likely have room in there and you are driving around shelter. An RV would make a tempting target to anyone looking to better their position in life during a disaster, but that’s assuming you are actually moving. If you are one of the lucky ones who made it out of your town before the rest of the crowd, you might not be stuck on the highways but any plan involving bugging out in a vehicle faces the risk of traffic jams.
If you find one route blocked, quickly detouring to an alternate route could give you a better way to reach your destination. Most RVs aren’t going to be able to quickly do anything. If you are pulling a trailer, turning around may be impossible if turning means leaving the road even slightly.
Another aspect of RV’s that my friend Captain Bill covered in a post he wrote for another site is the ruggedness of your RV. I think it’s fair to say that RV’s aren’t meant to haul tons of equipment and go jostling down country roads and over boulders. They are really just nice mobile homes and as such, loading them down with all the supplies you might need for an extended time away from home could cause mechanical issues.
Captain Bill had purchased a 5th wheel and almost immediately saw the need to enhance the suspension to carry his extra weight and provide stability. I know there are extreme campers out there that can go off-road like the Ford EarthRoamer but starting at over $300,000 that is a little out of the scope of this article. If you have that much money you aren’t listening to me anyway…
So what’s the bottom line? I think if you want to purchase an RV to have fun, they are great. For bugging out, unless you are the first ones out the door you will run into problems. Even if you do leave before everyone else, RV’s aren’t designed to be highly maneuverable and off-road capable. For the cost, I would personally sink a lot less money into a Quad Cab – 4 wheel drive truck, add a cap to cover the bed, cargo rack on top, beef up the suspension, add winches and call that my Bug Out Vehicle.
If I had to bug out, I would leave the RV at home and hit the trail in my truck first. I know there are a million different scenarios that each of us has that could make an RV a better choice, but for me, they aren’t the most versatile vehicle I can think of to get me and my family out of dodge. What is yours?