BOVs – Part I

The “BOV”

A Bug-Out-Vehicle (BOV), is whatever mode of powered transportation that gets you from a bad, or soon-to-be bad place, to wherever you will do better. It really is that wide open of a consideration. If what you have will fill your need, then that is the right BOV for you. The trick is in accurately defining what you really will need.

BOVs commonly described are:

  • 4 wheel drive trucks and SUVs
  • High-mileage cars & 2 wheel drive trucks with a good amount of storage
  • Motorcycles (consider a trailer if on-board storage is limited)
  • Motor homes (all classes)
  • Travel trailers, pop-ups (tent trailers) and 5th wheel trailers
Whatever the configuration, it is generally accepted that the vehicle needs to be able to traverse the terrain on the primary and backup routes to your destination, carry everyone that is going with you and all supplies you plan to use en route. Anything else is additional. The larger and more powerful the vehicle, the more that can be transported.In this series of articles, I’ll cover this broad topic in a way that hopefully will point you in the best direction for your Survival Plan, without burying you in the ditch of details. Coming to a decision is an important road to travel. I hope you don’t take a careless shortcut.

Considerations  –  Part I

The Best BOV – How do I start my planing?

It is common to find forum members that publish posts along the lines of, “Can you tell me what would be the best BOV?” The answers I’ve read run the gamut. The best advice yet is that which instructs the shopper to answer questions like these….

Do I have a realistic bug-out-location to reach?
It’s pretty foolish to waste hard earned, and heavily taxed cash on a vehicle you don’t need. So evaluate your real situation. Do you have a BOL, or a suitable stand in? Do you need one? Hard core “survivalists” will say that you need some means of getting away from wherever you are, and in a great number of scenarios, they are right. What they recommend is often times just too far out for most to acquire or operate comfortably.

You need to chose the most efficient method of transportation that will fit your Survival Plan., not theirs.  A Survival Plan needs to address the realities inherent in the scenarios you suspect are most likely to occur. And in your Plan, you need to address the issues of your BOL and your BOV together.

What are the transit considerations (terrain)?
Let’s assume that you do have a BOL, and need to narrow down the choices of a vehicle that will transport you to it. It’s job is to cover ground, and do so safely and capably. Terrain can be segmented into two categories for purposes of consideration.

Off Road:

  • fields, streams and rivers
  • mountains
  • deserts
  • parks (national, state, intra-city and urban)
  • forests, etc….

On Road.

  • dirt and paved roads
  • major streets
  • highways and freeways
  • bridges both fixed and draw (or pivot, as the case may be)
  • toll roads and bridges (pay points turn into check points)
  • parking lots
  • railroad crossings and rights-of-way
  • ferries

A Survival Plan must consider what was mentioned previously. “…chose the most efficient method of transportation that will fit your Survival Plan.” and “address the realities inherent in the scenarios you suspect are most likely to occur.”

You need to plan at least one route to your BOL. (Two is better, and three is just wonderful!) You need to actually drive that route to become intimately familiar with the terrain. This enables you to determine if that easy-looking path on the map truly is easy, and it helps you to fix landmarks in your mind, and clearly notate them on the map. (By the way, a collection of maps is the best back-up to GPS units. It won’t matter to you how the GPS failed when it did, just that it did. Your stress levels will be much lower if you have a proven backup system.)

Each transition between terrain types requires that you imagine its difficulties. That dirt road may be just right for a quick shortcut, but the drop to it from the highway takes you down a moderately steep embankment, with high brush, and through what looks like a possible drainage ditch at the bottom. Can your truck get to the other side? You’d better find out now….

Once on the dirt road, you can check it out for suitability. For instance: That 3 mile dirt road short-cut was chosen to save you 9 miles of highway driving through a bad area, but has the potential to become a muddy mire if the soil won’t drain. DRIVE THE ROAD. Stop now and then, especially at low points, and look for signs of flooding, bogging, or other problems. Deep tire ruts that have dried indicate soggy wet conditions. That short cut may require that you have 4 wheel drive, or at least a winch capable of pulling you out. Without trees nearby, you’ll need to pull yourself out with a purposely buried anchor such as a spare tire or rim. Plan NOW.

As you can see, the actual test drive, and subsequent practice runs, will point out things you can’t possibly cover, in entirety, via the usual means. GPS, internet satellite imagery, maps and hearsay are nothing compared to experience. If you have the time, running the course in dry and wet seasons will give you what you need. Even if your bug out route is very familiar to you, do at least one discovery run wherein you pick it to pieces looking for failure points. The only help you can expect will come from planning and preparing.

Any access point along your path that can be controlled by humans is of special concern. Toll plazas can be shut down easily, and since they are generally positioned at choice points, they are reason for special concern. If you are transiting during normal times, or during a period of mandated evacuation, you’ll be fine. If a lock-down is coming soon, they will be used as control points. Draw bridges can be disabled. They can be damaged by shipping. They allow for no crossing if unavailable. In worse case scenarios, both of these obstacles could be manned by bad guys looking for payment, or loot. Try to plan around these if possible. If your personality makes driving through them an option, then a stout BOV will be required, along with possible spare parts.

Most off-road routes will require at least a half ton truck, minimum. If you plan to survive, then your vehicle needs to survive as well, or you better have good boots and a nice hand cart. While a rear wheel drive car and truck share the same driveline configuration, the similarities stop right there. The truck’s suspension, even in 2 wheel drive, can handle much more abuse, and carry a bigger load. Examples of such trucks are the Ford F-150, and the Chevy and Dodge 2500. Of course, bigger is likely better, so the F-250 and F-350, and the Chevy and Dodge 3500s fit the bill.

Highway routes are easier to traverse, if not clogged by the masses (you plan to leave early, right?). If your main and backup routes do not include rubber on dirt, your options widen. Trucks are still viable, if only for their added ability to go places you don’t initially plan to go. But added to those are vans and minivans, SUVs, large cars, station wagons, motorcycles… you name it. If it will carry you and yours, and your needed belongings, it’s fair game. I do lean towards vans and SUVs because of their interior space. Even if your supplies will not take up all of the room in these vehicles, the extra space is not a waste. It makes for handy sleeping possibilities. If you are of the type to pick up the stricken and the lost, there’s the room.

What kind of distance am I looking at, and how much fuel will I need?
While it may not seem obvious to some, your vehicle’s range is important. We are used to filling up whenever we want, and wherever we need. Your bug-out plan is best served if you plan on NOT relying on fuel to be available to you through normal means. This is only possible if you can carry fuel sufficient to the trip either within the vehicle’s tank (s), or via supplementation by fuel storage cans. (Counting on scrounging leaves you too vulnerable to chance.) Your fuel supply needs can be discovered by a couple methods. The first, is by mileage. Either run the route and record the miles traveled, or use one of the online route planning tools, and get a good read on the distance you’ll cover. This is the first part of figuring out your fuel needs. By running the route, you become familiar with it as detailed above, but you also get a feel for how your vehicle eats while working. Distance figures on maps can not tell you how driving up hills and mountains will affect you mileage. While maybe not on the first run, perhaps the second would best be practiced by loading-up everything you think you might need and see how it affects your mileage. You’ll know for sure if you can get there on one tank.

For those that can not make practice runs due to distance, time or other factors, you can still narrow down the fuel storage figures. To ensure that you bring enough fuel to complete the trip, start by calculating your vehicle’s fuel consumption using its worst rating. Every car and truck on the road has a city mileage rating and one for highway. You will be loaded down with supplies and /or people. This affects your mileage, so start with the city rating. Calculate the miles between you and the BOL, and multiply that by you worst mileage. If your F-350 gets 14mpg when loaded, and you have 275 miles to run, you’ll need at least 19.6 gallons (275 /14 = 19.6). This is a figure that does not account for sitting at lights, idling while waiting at check points, wasted fuel burned on detours, or running the engine while laid over in bad weather requiring the use of the vehicle’s heater. To be safe, I recommend carrying double the estimated fuel needs, even if you have driven the route. 19.6 X 2 = 39.2 gallons. Say, 40 gallons for a nice round figure.  That F-350 may only have a 30 gallon tank, so you will need another 10 gallons. This is solved by having a pair of 5 gallon fuel cans on a bumper rack, or on any trailer you plan to drag with you. Having too much fuel is rarely a problem.

Your Plan may call for a return to your home after some time away. You might not be able to count on regular refueling at gas stations. This would justify having all of your fuel for both trips on board when you initially leave. 80 gallons is a lot of fuel, and you won’t be able to carry that much without some serious preparations. It is possible if you have a truck with extra tanks or a transfer tank in the bed, a trailer on which to carry the extra tank or cans, or another vehicle with you traveling as support. If a complete round trip is in your plans, think ahead regarding these possibilities.

Go to Considerations – Part II.

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