bug out vehicle gear

What Bug Out Vehicle Gear Should YOU pack?

bug out vehicle gear

Note: This article was contributed by James Smith. Read more about him in the About The Author section below.

While having the most reliable and dependable vehicle to get you to your bug out location should be high on your list of needs – the gear that you bring with you in your vehicle is much more likely to mean the difference between extreme hardship and preparedness.

When packing your bug out vehicle gear it’s important to consider that your car may be a home on wheels of sorts for some time. In a SHTF situation, you will not be able to go shopping or seek medical attention and may even get stuck while you’re out driving.

bug out vehicle gear

Wrench-in-plan situations could include having to go off-road (or take an alternate route) to avoid a bottleneck, getting lost, camping overnight, getting injured or just something going wrong with your vehicle itself.

Needed bug out vehicle gear and considerations can be broken down into a few categories that I discuss in more detail below:

Tools and Equipment

bug out vehicle gear
Your bug out vehicle gear should include a tire iron or socket wrench for changing the tires, as well as other tools for maintenance and repairs.

You will want to make sure that you have the basic tools needed for minor repairs to your vehicle and other belongings. This can include vehicle replacement parts, tow cables, rope, straps, jumper cables and duct tape. Additionally, a fire extinguisher for emergencies may come in handy. Other indispensable items include a shovel, multitool, car jump starter (check out our favorite, The Anker PowerCore Car Jump Starter), and heavy gloves.

bug out vehicle gear

bug out vehicle gear

Shelter and Clothing

Fuel should be treated as a finite resource so you will not want to run the engine any more than is necessary for driving. While it is tempting to crank the heat when parked, a better option is to pack extra layers and bedding to keep everyone warm. Ensure that you add a roof top cargo carrier to your vehicle and pack your extra weather appropriate clothing, shopping bags, hiking boots/shoes, and hand warmers.

bug out vehicle gear

All of these things that will help you stay warm and beat hypothermia should you get stuck and take longer to get to your bug out location. Plan to include a tent, tarp, and sleeping bags in your bug out vehicle gear if it will take you some time to reach your ultimate destination.

bug out vehicle gear
You probably won’t have access to these along the way so it’s extra important to conserve fuel in your bug out vehicle.

Fire and Lighting

Always carry multiple flashlights and various lighters, matches, and strikers. These items are essential for warmth, preparing food, and sterilizing water. You will also need to be able to see to access gear, make repairs, read maps, and scan the area for danger.

Flashlights and fires make excellent distress signals that are visible over long distances, should you need to send out for help. A tactical flashlight, such as the Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight (pictured above), offers extra features for breaching and self-defense.

Signaling and Communication

To communicate with others and receive whatever transmissions are being sent, be sure to pack a radio and batteries or a reliable wind-up radio, a cell phone or prepaid phone with car adapter, portable CB radio, two-way radio, and whistle. Of course, make sure you know how to use them, and spend time practicing as much as possible.

best emergency weather radio


bug out vehicle gear
Digital navigation can be very useful but often not as reliable as a printed map.

One of the most important things to stock in your bug out vehicle is proper navigation gear. Be sure you know both where you are going and all of the possible ways to get there. Prepare for unexpected detours and pack a GPS device, paper maps (both road and topographical), and a compass.


Plan to keep plenty of extra water inside your vehicle – enough for you and your family to get to your bug-out location then add on a few extra liters or gallons person. It’s helpful to have a durable yet pliable water container/bladder that can be collapsed when not in use and be sure to carry water purification tablets and durable metal cups.

bug out vehicle gear
The wide fill port makes it easy to fill and to clean the Camelbak 100oz Antidote Reservoir. Click the image to view details on Amazon.


Pack and carry extra food at the rate of 2500 daily calories per person. Pack up a stove and basic kitchen as well. If you have a knack for it – and live in an area where it would be useful or practical – consider packing up a fishing kit as well.

bug out vehicle gear
The Emberlit Stove uses wood so you don’t need to worry about storing fuel. It also folds flat, making it a great addition to your bug out vehicle gear. Click the image to view on Amazon.

First Aid

A proper and complete first aid kit is essential, and there are plenty of pre-packed ones on the market. They range from basic small first aid kits that include wound dressing and cleaning supplies –to more elaborate medical kits that also include blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, splints, scalpels, and suture kits. Get what you believe is best for your family’s budget, but remember that it’s always better to err on the side of being over-prepared than under.

Also, don’t forget the toilet paper, feminine hygiene products (if needed) and any important prescription medications.

Safety and Protection

Pack up flares and a good multipurpose knife. Road flares are made to burn in inclement weather, and they are easy to get going, don’t require the same finger dexterity that a finger and match does, and they burn for a really long time. If you are stuck in a dire emergency that you can’t work your fingers to light a fire flares would do the trick – and they work nicely as a torch as well.

bug out vehicle gear

A multipurpose knife is a must-have in any vehicle bug-out bag.  One top choice would be a KA-BAR Full-Size, Straight Edge – a true war-horse of a knife that many United States Marines call their one and only.

Premade Auto Emergency Kits

A quick and easy solution to have your car stocked with survival supplies is to get a premade auto emergency kit. They serve as an excellent foundation to get your car stocked with supplies and then you can build up from there by adding any additional items you see fit.

Pre-made car kits are a helpful (and economical) starting point for building your bug out vehicle gear. This kit from TopGear includes jumper cables, work gloves, basic first aid, and much more. Click the image to view a full list on Amazon.


We recommend the Always Prepared 65-Piece Roadside Assistance Auto Emergency Kit.

Extra Bug Out Vehicle Gear Considerations

Depending on your route and possible hiccups native to your unique location and geographical area you may want to consider any additional water and land specific needs. These might include packing up life jackets, life rafts, paddles, off-road tires, ice scrapers, and wrenches.

Also, ALWAYS make sure you have a car jump starter with you. It can easily save your life! Check out my favorite jump starter, The Anker PowerCore Car Jump Starter. It can even charge your phone or other devices!


Planning ahead for any unforeseeable situations can save you a lot of headache figuring out what to do to solve the problem in the moment. Being well prepared with the bug out vehicle gear you need will give you the peace of mind that your whole family deserves.

About The Author

James Smith is a survivalist, who loves to write about survival skills and techniques. He has extensive knowledge about different survival kits and other survival supplies which he loves to share with others by writing blog. Follow him on twitter @jamessmith1609.

Your Thoughts

Is a bug out vehicle part of your survival plan? Do you have one stocked and ready to go? (We’d love to see photos!) Share your tips and ideas in the Comments section below, thanks!

Read More

best bug out vehicle checklist

Best Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

best bug out vehicle checklist

If you are one of the millions of people who own a vehicle you should seriously consider integrating it into your bug out plan.

However, this can be more complicated than simply throwing your bug out bag in your car and hitting the gas.

  • How can the particular advantages of a vehicle evacuation be maximized?
  • How can we eliminate any negatives?
  • What is the best bug out vehicle checklist to maintain?
  • What is the best bug out vehicle for YOUR survival situation?

We will walk through each of these points and demonstrate how to effectively incorporate a bug out vehicle into your bug out plan.

Bug Out Vehicle Advantages

1.  Greater travel radius

A vehicle will allow you to travel further faster.  This should be explored as part of bug out planning.  Is there a better location further away?  Just because you can travel further doesn’t mean you have to.  Take the best bug out location option, not the furthest.  If you can defend a closer location better or cache more supplies there, consider these factors.

2.  Carry more supplies

A vehicle can carry more supplies and survival tools than a person can lug.  This is great as a properly planned bug out vehicle checklist can make your ride a mobile bug out location.  However, it is important to avoid the temptation of packing EVERYTHING.  The goal is to find a balance.  Bring survival gear that will extend your independence and raise your odds of survival, not everything imaginable.  As always, focus on multi-use items.  Additionally, you should not consider even the best bug out vehicle to be a mobile bug out bag.  You should always have a full bug out bag packed and at hand in the vehicle in the event that you have to ditch it quickly.

3.  Additional shelter

Your vehicle can shelter you from rain and wind even if you are out of gas.  If it is running it can also provide heat or cooling as needed.  This makes it a powerful ally.  If a storm is hitting you can simply take cover in your vehicle rather than having to set up a survival shelter.  It can also be slept in with no additional modifications.  If you are in a pinch you can even cook on the hot engine with proper preparation (how to video below).  This will greatly raise morale and increase your odds of surviving.


Bug Out Vehicle Disadvantages

1.  Can create dependence

Planning to have the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation is fantastic but you should not consider it as an answer to all potential problems.  You still need to plan your bug out assuming that you are going to have to ditch your car, and all the niceties it brings at some point.  You may run out of gas or run into an impassable road.  Either way if you planned on driving the entire way to your bug out location you are going to need to improvise.  Even with the best bug out vehicle you will need to hone those survival skills and plan on hiking to your destination in order to guard against uncertainty.

2.  Not as versatile as traveling on foot

Foot travel is more energy intensive than driving but it is also more versatile.  Imagine you have your bug out vehicle checklist planned and packed and when SHTF you go on your merry way to find that everyone else has the same plan.  You are now faced with miles and miles of traffic.  Is this still the fastest way to bug out?  What if rubble and debris cuts off a vital road?  When planning your bug out route consider if going on foot is a more direct means of travel as you can cut through terrain rather than having to stick to a road or trail.

3.  Additional complications

Traveling by vehicle provides serious advantages as we mentioned above.  However even the best bug out vehicle also adds additional complications and costs in volume, weight, and money into your bug out plan.  Consider this addition as a whole when assessing what is the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation.

Best bug out vehicle

The Best Bug Out Vehicle

The ideal bug out vehicle would have the following qualities to maximize the advantages of a vehicular bug out while minimizing the challenges present:


A no-brainer when picking a bug out vehicle.  This will vastly increase your options when bugging out.  A non-4WD car will quickly break down if forced to drive off road.  Having a 4WD bug out vehicle will enable you to pass over far more terrain and reach safety faster.

Modular interior

Unless you are planning on bugging out in an RV you will want to modify the interior of the vehicle to be more suitable for survival.  This may mean taking out seating to allow more storage or making it convertible for sleeping in.  It is important to note that although you will want to customize the interior of the vehicle you want to do as little tinkering with the engine and drivetrain as possible.  Customization in these areas make repairs and sourcing replacement parts far more difficult.  Reliability is key with a bug out vehicle, having stock parts that you may be able to scavenge is an essential element of this.

Diesel engine

A diesel engine has many advantages over a gas model.  They are generally more fuel efficient for one.  Additionally, they allow far greater fuel flexibility, being able to run on home heating oil, kerosene, and some jet fuels.  This significantly increases scavenge potential while on the road.  Diesel fuel also has a far greater storage lifetime than gasoline.  With the addition of commercially available fuel stabilizers diesel fuel will last more than 10x longer than gasoline.

Good gas mileage

Having a gas guzzler for your bug out vehicle is a good way to shoot yourself in the foot.  Gas will surely be in short supply and you may not even have the time or opportunity to scavenge additional supplies while on the move.  Look for a vehicle that is rated for at least 23-27 MPG to ensure gas efficiency will not be a problem while making your evacuation.  Higher MPG would be better but may be hard to find for a vehicle that has good storage capacity.  Check out this site for a list of all car models with mpg ratings.

Easy to repair

Reliability is key with when trying to find the best bug out vehicle.  Having stock parts that you may be able to scavenge is an essential element of this.  Choosing a vehicle that is widely used and has commonly available parts is ideal.

Trailer hitch

This opens up options for including a bug out trailer as a part of your bug out plan.  A trailer allows more cargo space overall without sacrificing passenger seats, which is great if you have a family travelling with you.  Additionally, a trailer can be ditched once the supplies within have been used up to improve gas mileage.

Brush guard

This should be partnered with any vehicle you intend to take off-road.  It will save your front end and radiator from damage and also improves your ability to ram trees in the way or doors that need opening.

Manual transmission preferred

This isn’t required but it sure helps.  Manual transmissions increase reliability, improve gas mileage and are easier to fix and replace than an automatic transmission.  They also allow you to push start a car if an ignition is burned out or you lose your keys.

Bug out vehicle checklist

So what additional items would you want on your bug out vehicle checklist to increase your odds of success?  Note that this is in addition to your bug out bag, which you will be bringing as well!!!  Here is a list of items that will maximize the advantages present in a vehicular bug out situation:

  • Extra fuel containers

  • Siphon Pump

  • Tow Straps

  • Seatbelt Cutter/Window Breaker (see our comprehensive guide on these by clicking HERE) 

  • CB radio

  • Tire chains

  • Jumper Starter



  • Can of Fix-A-Flat

  • Basic tool kit – Pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, duct tape, stanley knife, cable ties

  • Power inverter – To charge any electronics you may have on the go

  • Winch

  • Extra oil

  • Spare keys

  • Spare tire – not a doughnut!

What else can I do to make my bug out vehicle great?

  • Beyond stocking up your bug out vehicle checklist be sure to service it regularly.  There is no point in having the best bug out vehicle in the world if it is unreliable or won’t run when you need it!

  • Make sure you have a reliable Jump Starter!  This is easy and can save your life!  This is the one I strongly recommend.
  • Practice driving your intended bug out route to see if your car is up to the task.  This will also help you identify any difficulties along the way and point out any modifications you may need to make to either the car or your bug out plan.

  • If you choose to use a manual transmission vehicle make sure all the adults in your bug out party know how to drive it.  As with any aspect of your bug out plan, redundancy is key.

  • Add vehicle inspection and testing to your regular bug out plan reviews to make sure your bug out vehicle still fits into your strategy.


As you can see, there are a lot of options for finding the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation.  Understanding them and what works best is an important step towards adding a car or truck to your bug out plan.  Adding a bug out vehicle checklist to your bug out bag essentials will additionally help you maximize the advantages of bugging out in a vehicle.

It is important however to not depend on any one thing in your bug out plan for your survival, including a car or other means of transport.  Keep flexible and be ready to continue your bug out on foot if need be.  Please also check out our printable Bug Out Vehicle Checklist Graphic below which you can download and print to have with you when you are preparing your bug out vehicle:

Best Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any items you would add to this bug out vehicle checklist?  What do you think would make the best bug out vehicle?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below.  If you thought this post was helpful please Like, +1, or Tweet it using the social media buttons at the top of the page, thanks!

Read More