The Prepper Journal

A Rolling Bug Out Bag

Editor’s Note: This article was generously contributed by Bolo and he discusses the merits of expanding your bug out bag concept to include your vehicle.

This past weekend I completed a quarterly inventory of the gear that constitutes my ‘bug out’ bag. I should probably qualify that term since, in reality, a 4WD truck serves as a full-time rolling get-home-bug-out platform. This is an approach to prepping that may not work for everyone, and that’s okay. It is important to each of us that we develop a system we are personally comfortable with; one that best utilizes the assets, space and gear at our disposal. My planning is based around the use of a truck as the primary means of evacuation/escape, but with an expectation that I will be on foot at some point. These two factors, combined with my geographic locale, climate and anticipated travel distances are the driving forces in the selection of gear stowed in my truck.

To begin, I live in a high desert mountainous zone of the southwest, so my preparations may differ from what you might find necessary where you live. Even so, the items that I stock for a bug out scenario, allowing for seasonal variations, should be generally representative of the gear that you might want to consider. Because I live in an arid zone, one of my great concerns is access to water. Because I live in a mountainous zone, I can experience sub-freezing temperatures and snow.

Second, I operate on the premise that, under most conceivable bug out circumstances, I will not be going solo. That is, there will be several vehicles moving to a rally point, then to a pre-selected objective. Although I am not responsible for what may be contained in these companion vehicles, I will be carrying gear that can be used (and will likely be needed) by others. Should circumstances prevent a link up I will still be self-sufficient for the period of time needed to reach my destination, whether by vehicle or on foot.

Finally, I removed the rear seats from my cab to maximize storage capacity. That might be something you are not willing to consider but, remember this: in a life-threatening emergency, you can’t eat your back seat.

As a frame of reference, my primary bug out objective is approximately 80 miles distant via paved road. Travel time under ordinary conditions would be about an hour and 45 minutes through mountainous country. But, you have to toss out the concept of “ordinary” in any scenario that necessitates bugging out. Highways could be blocked by abandoned cars or purposely blockaded.

If it became necessary to strike out cross-country on back roads and 4WD trails, my travel distance is reduced to about 60 miles, but travel time conservatively expands to two days.   If I had to hump it on foot, it would be necessary to abandon established 2-track roads in favor of a route that guarantees regular access to water – all of which would require filtration or purification. The distance is reduced to about 50 miles, but the bad news is that there are three mountain ranges rising from 5,500 to 8,000 feet between my home location and my bug out destination. As a result, my travel time would conservatively expand to five days – and that assumes favorable weather and temperature conditions.

Not for everyone or every location, but each of us can use our vehicles to a greater extent to augment our bug out plans.
Not for everyone or every location, but each of us can use our vehicles to a greater extent to augment our bug out plans.

This is why I emphasize the value of staying with your vehicle as long as possible. Even if I only made half the intended distance on back roads before having to abandon my truck, I will have saved two or three days of backpacking on foot. It is a guarantee of mobility, relative safety and vastly increased comfort. It also ensures access to a multitude of gear options.

Organizing the Gear

Why would someone base their bug out preparations around their vehicle? Two integrally related words come to mind: space and options.

  • The capacity of a bug out bag is measured in cubic inches, where the interior of a quad cab truck (or SUV) is measured in cubic feet. The longer that I can maintain access to several cubic feet of gear, the less time I will be dependent upon the cubic inches of gear that I can stow in my bug out bag.
  • Having greater storage capacity means that you can multiply your options; you are no longer limited to a specific bug out inventory that fails to match the conditions you are actually confronted with. Will I use all of it? That is impossible to predict, but the utility of each item is reasoned and the need is plausible. Therefore its’ potential usefulness to me merits inclusion in my vehicle, though not necessarily in a backpack.
  • Having the gear already stowed, rather than sitting in various locations in my house, means that I can roll whenever the need arises. It means that I don’t have to go looking for my gear in an emergency, or that I risk forgetting something. Naturally, you wouldn’t plan to bug out at the drop of a hat, but it becomes an option if the gear is already loaded and things have gone to hell in a hand basket.
  • The volume of stowed gear is far more than one individual could carry, but I can distribute important items among several individuals if we are forced to abandon our vehicles.
  • Capacity also means that you can, at all times, have more of something that you deem essential, such as extra water and food, or ammo.
Even the backs of seats can be used creatively to store gear essential to your survival.

Compartmentalizing Your Gear

My cab interior is reserved for four types of items:

  • Those that are individually small and potentially easy to lose track of
  • Gear that needs to remain dry
  • Gear that could be easily damaged by rough handling (radios, optics, etc.)
  • Gear that may be attractive to theft if left sitting in the open


My primary bug out bag, (5.11 Rush24), has a capacity of 2,000 cubic inches in the main compartment.

The truck bed is reserved for larger items that are organized and ready for quick loading from my garage. Load up time takes about ten minutes.

If you think of the rear half of a quad cab interior (with the seats removed) as a large empty box, you will typically have a flat area between the doors as well as two passenger foot wells behind the front seats. In my case, this provides about 42 cubic feet of space for storage (>72,500 cu. in.). In contrast, my primary bug out bag, (5.11 Rush24), has a capacity of 2,000 cubic inches in the main compartment. In effect, my “rolling” bug out platform is the equivalent of 36 bug out bags; without even factoring in the capacity of the truck bed.

Trying to figure out the best way to store gear so that it is organized by function, need and portability can be a daunting exercise. I’ve made numerous changes and adjustments over time before becoming comfortable that I wouldn’t have to guess where something was. The key to this was to set up a series of experimental “go-to” boxes. I would take an item or piece of gear and ask myself how (and how often) it might be needed in a bug out or other type of survival scenario. Would it end up in someone’s backpack or be permanently assigned to a storage compartment in my truck? In other words, was it something that I could use, but that I was willing to leave behind if I found myself going cross-country on foot? A good example would be jumper cables: they are very important, but not something you would stuff into your backpack after you’ve abandoned your vehicle.

The result of this exercise was to establish fifteen modular storage containers for various types of items based on function, need and portability. And, by the way, a backpack, stuff bag or storage bin qualifies as a container. Organization allows for multiple (backup) items that can be stored in more than one container. I am a firm believer in the adage “two is one and one is none,” so I do carry extras of some items that I deem critical. For instance, I have two 12” machetes in my truck. One is stored in a lidded container, while the other is quickly accessible by simply reaching for it. Because they are short, they also easily fit into backpacks if I end up on foot.

Here is a list of the compartmentalized storage containers that I keep inside the cab. All of these fit in the area between the floor and the lower edge of the rear windows. If I needed to stow more inside gear or food, I would still have space for it.

Main Gear Box:

  • Items that would be used as long as my vehicle was available.
  • Back up portable gear that I would use before touching the contents of my bug out bag.

Food/Cooking Box:

  • The equivalent of two weeks of food if I was on foot.
  • Cooking gear, including backpacker stove and fuel sufficient for two weeks. I stow a second stove with an ample supply of fuel that I would use if encamped, but I would have to abandon these items if I was on foot. [I would use native fuels for cooking to conserve my fuel canisters.]

Compact Survival Bag:

  • Items that I would always carry with me if I had to abandon by vehicle.

First Aid:

  • Standard items, but bulked up.

Ammo Bag:

  • Ammunition for two firearms I would carry if on foot. It is the threshold below which I am not willing to go.
  • Given the opportunity to abandon my home in an orderly, unhurried manner I would certainly add more ammo for these calibers, as well as additional firearms and ammo.
  • Bore snakes and other firearm maintenance/cleaning gear.
  • Bandolier for ammo to supplement loaded mags.

Radio and GPS Bag:

  • 2 FRS/GMRS walkie talkies
  • 2 UHF/VHF radios
  • Charging cradles
  • Additional (frequency tuned) antennas
  • GPS unit

Battery Bag:

  • A significant supply of various batteries in sufficient quantity to last a minimum of two weeks.
  • Power inverter for recharging electronics as long as my truck is available.
Camo netting can keep you hidden from sight and is relatively simple to deploy.

Camo Bag:

  • One 10’ x 20’ reverse pattern camo net for my truck (or for shade).

Towel Bag:

  • Not much elaboration needed…

Sleeping Bags:

  • Seasonal change out from light weight to winter season.

Clothing Bag:

  • Seasonal change out between summer and winter months.

Tool Bag:

  • A permanent cache of automotive tools that would remain with my truck if I had to abandon it.

Bug Out Bag #1:

  • 5.11 Rush24 primary bag with add-on pouches and a water bladder.

Bug Out Bag #2:

  • Severe Weather gear with space to carry additional items.

Bug Out Bag #3:

  • Open for assignment.

In addition to these bags and packs, I store 17 “loose” items in the rear cab. These primarily provide shelter options and include a variety of tools that can be used to construct shelter. Some of these items lay flat, can be stuffed into other containers, or can fit into niches in the rear area of the cab. If necessary, I would abandon some of these items if I had to make a go of it on foot. For example, I keep heavy-duty bolt cutters in the cab in case I have to cut through a chained gate while driving. If on foot, I would simply climb over the fence.

My primary bug out bag is, of course, pre-stocked. The remainder of the gear is the functional equivalent of a scaled down survival department store. Over the course of time I have used every item in the field, so its’ utility has already been established.

Would the concept of a rolling bug out bag work for you? That’s something you have to evaluate for yourself. My objective is simply to provide ideas that can be adapted to the circumstances you might encounter.   Your comments and ideas are welcome!

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