How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for Getting Out Fast – Best Bug Out Vehicle Guide

When you need to pack up and cover distance in a hurry, having a Bug Out Vehicle loaded and ready to go can represent the best solution for rapid evac. In this guide to the best bug out vehicle preparedness strategies, we’ll take a look at some of the best bug out vehicle configurations you can put together for different budgets, with kits designed for every eventuality, situation and price range.

If you ever find yourself in an emergency situation where leaving home becomes essential to survival, implementing a pre-prepared bug out strategy can make all the difference.

Depending on your individual situation, geographic location and the level of advanced warning before disaster strikes, your options for getting away quickly may be limited, and in these cases, leaving on foot with a comprehensive bug out bag may represent the best course of action for rapid evacuation.

On the other hand, if you own a vehicle and either know of an oncoming emergency early enough in advance, or live far enough from densely populated areas to avoid the inevitable gridlock, preparing a bug out vehicle kit can provide everything you need to hit the road and head to your bug out location fast.

We’ve thought long and hard about the most effective way to do this, and our definitive guide to preparing the best bug out vehicle for every situation will ensure that you’re ready and prepared to get out of dodge in a heartbeat, whatever happens.

So what is a bug out vehicle, what are the benefits, what should you consider when planning the best bug out vehicle, and what should the kit you pack into your vehicle look like?

Bug Out Vehicle 101 – Getting Started With the Best Bug Out Vehicle

Having a dedicated and prepared bug out vehicle (alongside an evacuation strategy planned in advance) is an excellent way of ensuring that when times get tough, you’ll be able to put distance between yourself and any unfolding situation, while maintaining a fully stocked and fully mobile cache of survival supplies for continuity.

A bug out vehicle can effectively take any form and while some will opt for a dedicated and specialized vehicle for the task, a regular car or SUV packed with the appropriate gear for survival can be an excellent choice.

While the freedom of moving on foot with a grab bag or go bag is certainly beneficial when an unexpected scenario or disaster hits you out of the blue, if time and circumstances allow, there are a number of additional benefits of choosing to bug out by road.

Bug Out Vehicle Benefits

Putting together the best bug out vehicle strategy can provide significant benefits over evacuating on foot if the situation allows it. Here we’ve outlined some of the major benefits of bugging out by vehicle.

1. Travel Greater Distances

The most obvious advantage of choosing to bug out by vehicle rather than on foot is the distance you’ll be able to cover. If there’s enough advanced warning of an impending event to get out and onto the road before everyone else, you’ll be able to cover considerable distance on 4 wheels. That being said, always consider the best option for your individual bug out strategy and if a more suitable location (easier to defend, better access to resources etc) is available, reaching this destination should remain your primary goal. Faster and further is better when necessary, but only do what’s needed.

2. Carry More Gear

While a fully stocked bug out bag is good – and should be included in your bug out vehicle regardless (more on this below) – preparing the best bug out vehicle for the job simply provides more carrying space when you need to move fast. If you want to evacuate an area with more supplies than a bag alone allows, or are leaving with a larger party, a loaded and ready bug out vehicle is your best bet.

3. Protection from the Elements

In a disaster situation, mother nature is not necessarily going to be on your side and if conditions deteriorate, the protection offered by a bug out vehicle will ensure your progress isn’t hindered by the weather. Similarly, with a few basic modifications, a bug out vehicle can serve as a good shelter for sleeping if required.

Bag vs Vehicle

Whether preparing and packing the best bug out vehicle configuration or assembling a fully prepared bag for use when evacuating on foot, the concept here is effectively the same except with a bug out vehicle allowing for a greater scope, variety (and amount) of supplies and of course, a greater range of travel.

Assuming you have access to a car or other mode of transport, the decision to bug out by vehicle or on foot will be largely determined by the conditions on the ground when disaster strikes or is imminent and will be influenced by your geographical location as well as the ability to get on the road and on the way before others have the same idea.

If you have the option to incorporate a vehicle into your bug out plan however, the benefits of space and extended range offered are considerable and can make a huge difference to the kind of bug out strategy you end up implementing.

Benefits of Preparing the Best Bug Out Vehicle

On the other hand, bugging out on foot is almost certainly going to be your first course of action if you don’t own a vehicle or live in an area where road travel becomes impossible during an emergency situation. Similarly, bugging out without a vehicle offers a level of versatility simply not available if you’re tied to 4 wheels. In both instances, travelling light with a fully stocked bug out bag that you can throw on your back is the way to go – see our essential bug out bag checklist on how to get started with building your bug out bag.

Weighing up the pros and cons of preparing a bug out strategy for vehicle or foot should form the backbone of your preparedness planning and will come down to the considerations above.

All of this being said, even if you decide that preparing the best bug out vehicle for your needs is the more beneficial ally for your situation, it doesn’t by any means make the need for a bag obsolete.

If an unexpected emergency hits when you’re on the road and in the event that you need to leave your vehicle and any larger supplies behind, it’s still highly recommended to incorporate a dedicated, standalone bug out bag as part of your equipment packing checklist for your bug out vehicle.

Bug out vehicle and bags

While it may seem that a bag is redundant if you’ve already got a fully packed bug out vehicle, there are any number of situations in which you may need to ditch your bug out vehicle quickly, and if you do, having a bag that you can simply grab and go can become imperative to survival.

The rule of thumb here is to still pack enough supplies in your backup bug out bag to see you right should you need to ditch the vehicle and take off on foot quickly, so the usual rules for packing a basic grab bag still apply.

Think of your bug out bag as your redundancy or contingency plan should your bug out vehicle strategy become compromised. Like a spare parachute in a plane, if your bug out vehicle runs into trouble on the road, you’ll be glad your backup gear is close at hand.

Check out our comprehensive guide to building a bug out bag to get started with preparing a reserve bag suitable for every budget and situation.

The Best Bug Out Vehicle Kits for Every Budget

Below we’ve compiled a list of the very best bug out vehicle kits for every budget. These kits contain the essential supplies and equipment for preparing the best bug out vehicle for an emergency or disaster situation as well as the lowdown on the individual items, why they should make the cut when it comes to preparing your vehicle, and how they’ll help you when adversity strikes.

So, let’s get started in picking the best equipment, tools and supplies for preparing the ultimate bug out vehicle!

Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for $350

A budget of around $350 allows you to prepare a bug out vehicle with the essentials of emergency survival as well as the critical tools and equipment for hitting the road and ensuring things keep moving at all times.

The priority when bugging out by car or truck is that you’re able to cover as much ground as possible as quickly as possible, no matter the time of day or external conditions.

Preparing the best bug out vehicle with a kit in this price range will enable you to get where you’re going, no matter what obstacles come up along the way.

Packing a pre-configured bug out bag alongside this kit will ensure immediate continuity should you need to ditch your ride in a hurry.

Equipment List

VEHICLE 2.5 Gallon Spare Fuel Can BUY
Heavy Duty Tow Rope BUY
Seat Belt Cutter and Emergency Windshield Hammer BUY
Portable Car Jump Starter BUY
Fix-a-Flat Tire Sealant BUY
HYDRATION 5.5 Gallon Water Storage BUY
NUTRITION Wise Foods Company 72 Hour Cook-in-Pouch Meal Kit BUY
Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove and Fuel Tablets BUY
SHELTER Emergency Sleeping Bag BUY
Survival Shack Emergency 2 Person Survival Tent BUY
COMMS Uniden 40-Channel CB Radio BUY
LIGHTING Maglite Heavy Duty Tactical LED Flashlight BUY
FIRST AID Renegade Survival First Aid Kit BUY
TOOLS Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife BUY

(Prices fluctuate, check here for current pricing.)

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Why You Need This Bug Out Vehicle Kit

There are a few things that are essential elements for making sure your bug out vehicle is ready for a quick getaway, and putting together these crucial supplies is one of the best ways to ensure that when SHTF, you’re ready to roll at a moment’s notice.

The key goal when preparing the best bug out vehicle in any budget range is ensuring that you have enough supplies, equipment and planning in place to get you where you’re going, no matter what’s going on around you during your evacuation.

As with any well considered bug out bag, the core components of a comprehensive bug out vehicle focus on personal survival in every situation that could arise.

However, while the basic needs of a standard survival kit need to be addressed as a foundation (hydration, shelter, nutrition etc) of equal importance, is the ability to maintain your vehicle through every condition, hazard and event that could occur along your bug out vehicle’s planned route.

Your bug out vehicle is the critical tool within your overall strategy if you’re planning to evacuate by road and therefore the reliability and continuity of its running is of paramount importance to your survival in a disaster.

This entry level kit combines the essentials for preparing the best bug out vehicle at an entry level budget and incorporates the fundamental survival supplies you’ll need along the way.

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Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for $500

A basic bug out vehicle load-out like the one mentioned above will ensure that the wheels of your ride keep spinning and that the critical supplies for 3 days of survival are in place and packed up if things start to go south.

If you’re looking to put together a kit that goes beyond the essentials however, it’s a good idea wherever possible to increase your budget to a level that allows you to begin building in some additional levels of redundancy for a wider spectrum of situations.

Preparing the best bug out vehicle for around $500 means you can start considering more scenarios that may unfold and can mean you’ll be better prepared for the unexpected.

A kit within this price range also not only allows for equipment with higher quality, more features, and greater capacity, but also starts to enable you to bug out for periods longer than 72 hours if necessary as a result of these added benefits.

Remember, while packing anything is ultimately better than packing nothing, adding a wider variety of kit to your bug out vehicle now, can make the world of difference when it actually matters.

Equipment List

VEHICLE 2.5 Gallon Spare Fuel Can BUY
Heavy Duty Tow Rope BUY
Seat Belt Cutter and Emergency Windshield Hammer BUY
Portable Car Jump Starter BUY
Fix-a-Flat Tire Sealant BUY
HYDRATION 5.5 Gallon Water Storage BUY
NUTRITION Mountain House Just in Case 72 Hour Kit BUY
Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove and Fuel Tablets BUY
SHELTER Emergency Sleeping Bag BUY
Rothco Camouflage 2-Man Trail Tent BUY
COMMS Uniden 40-Channel CB Radio BUY
LIGHTING Maglite Heavy Duty Tactical LED Flashlight BUY
FIRST AID Renegade Survival First Aid Kit BUY
TOOLS Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife BUY

(Prices fluctuate, check here for current pricing.)

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Why You Need This Bug Out Vehicle Kit

The essential elements for preparing the best bug out vehicle vary only slightly from those required for planning a bug out bag and ultimately cover the fundamental supplies for survival and (in the case of your vehicle) continued operation.

With a slightly larger budget, these survival basics are covered in much the same way as the lower price bracket bug out vehicle kit, however you’ll have the ability to look beyond the ‘just enough to get through’ mindset and can begin planning and packing for a wider range of eventualities.

This bug out vehicle kit starts thinking about potential scenarios that may strike while on the road with the provision of extra supplies for your bug out vehicle such as snow chains and a fuel siphon. As mentioned before, while not survival essentials (unless of course, you find yourself in the situation requiring them!), these are typical of the kind of items that you won’t regret packing until it’s too late to do anything about it.

Preparing the best bug out vehicle for around the $500 mark not only allows for an increase in vehicle specific supplies, but also allows for the bolstering of your regular bug out and preparedness supplies.

The inclusion of a basic lightweight 2 person tent along with a portable solid fuel stove and the excellent LifeStraw personal water filter, represent a formidable ‘pack’ of additional survival essentials that will significantly increase the effectiveness of your overall kit.  Even better, these can also be bundled together separately in an individual bug out bag and quickly grabbed if immediate evac from your vehicle becomes a necessity.

In terms of the equipment for the vehicle itself, at the most basic level the foundation items in every kit we recommend form the backbone the best bug out vehicle to get you where you need to go and therefore change little by budget. In the case of the $500+ kits however, an increased budget provides the ability to include additional tools to help get you through potential adverse scrapes before or during your time on the road.

From tire chains and a fuel siphon to make sure you keep moving, through to a CB radio to keep you informed on exactly what’s going on as the situation develops and unfolds around you, a little extra can go a long way if you can afford to add these elements to your bug out vehicle load-out.

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Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for $1000

If you’re looking to put together a comprehensive bug out vehicle that will allow you and your family to make it to a bug out location with everything you need to get started once you arrive, this kit is ready for the task.

Opening up a higher price bracket allows you to prepare for a wider range of scenarios that you could come up against when bugging out while offering provisions that will sustain a couple or small family for around 72 hours or will allow you to extend the range of your bug out strategy for up to a week if bugging out solo.

Preparing the best bug out vehicle for $1000 opens up a choice of high quality supplies and equipment that are generally more substantial and able to cope with a wider scale of issues in the field and on the road.

The major benefit of building the best bug out vehicle load-out within this bracket is the ability to incorporate shelter and equipment that can cope with almost anything that you or nature can throw at them. We’re talking increased levels of durability, lighter weights, better weather ratings, higher capacities and ultimately, a longer operational life with more functionality.

Equipment List

VEHICLE 2.5 Gallon Spare Fuel Can BUY
Fuel Siphon BUY
Heavy Duty Tow Rope BUY
Cable Tire Chains BUY
Seat Belt Cutter and Emergency Windshield Hammer BUY
Portable Car Jump Starter BUY
Fix-A-Flat BUY
HYDRATION 5.5 Gallon Water Storage BUY
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter BUY
LifeStraw GO Water Bottle with Integrated Filter BUY
NUTRITION Mountain House Just in Case 72 Hour Kit BUY
Mountain House 5 Day Emergency Food Supply BUY
JetBoil Flash Personal Cooking System BUY
Stainless Bottle Cup/Pot BUY
P-38 and P-51 Can Opener BUY
HYGIENE Camping Toilet Paper BUY
5-Gallon Solar Shower BUY
SHELTER ALPS Mountaineering 3 Person Tent BUY
Emergency Sleeping Bag BUY
Survive Outdoors Longer Escape Bivvy BUY
COMMS Uniden 40-Channel CB Radio BUY
FIRE All-Weather Fire Starter & Fuel Bar BUY
Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case BUY
LIGHTING Maglite Heavy Duty Tactical LED Flashlight BUY
FIRST AID Renegade Survival First Aid Kit BUY
TOOLS SOG Folding Entrenching Tool BUY
Gorilla Duct Tape To-Go BUY
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife BUY

(Prices fluctuate, check here for current pricing.)

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Why You Need This Bug Out Vehicle Kit

If you want to be truly prepared for every eventuality when you bug out by vehicle, you’ll want to think about expanding your kit to include equipment, supplies and tools that will help you effortlessly adapt to any developing situation with minimal disruption.

Similarly, if you’re looking to bug out with your family or, if going it alone, are planning to bug out for longer than a 72 hour period, you’ll want to be entering this price range to ensure that the specs of your supplies are up to the job.

Both of these scenarios will require a set of base conditions (mainly around range and capacity) which aren’t achievable with lower budget kits unless you’re willing to significantly sacrifice on the quality of the equipment you pack.

A budget of $1000 effectively allows for a significant increase in operating capacity for your bug out vehicle supplies. Whether this requirement for capacity increase comes from more people in your bug out group or an extended duration for one person, this price range covers supplies and equipment that will allow your kit to go further.

From a high quality 3 person tent to increased food rations, the $1000 bug out vehicle kit will ensure that your bug out shelter and nutrition have enough flex to deal with increased demand, whatever is going on in the world around you.

While this increase in supplies would potentially cause problems if preparing a bug out bag for evacuating on foot, the capacity benefits of implementing a bug out vehicle during an emergency bug out situation mean that you’ll be able to get yourself, your family and a whole load of kit out of the door and on the road without a second thought.

Built around the excellent ‘Tasmanian’ 3 person tent from ALPS mountaineering, this bug out vehicle kit provides the essential foundation gear for setting up camp, storing a larger amount of equipment and laying low at your bug out destination while you wait out the storm from afar.

An expanded provision of meal pouch kits allow for 2-3 people to be fed up to 72 hours, while providing nutrition for one person for up to a week. This increased nutrition allocation is complimented by a wider range of cooking equipment not available in lower price ranges (such as a military can opener set and stainless cooking pot) as well as the fantastic JetBoil cooking system – an upgrade from the solid fuel stoves in cheaper kits.

The space benefits afforded when packing a bug out vehicle, alongside a higher budget also allow for a number of other additional items such as a solar shower, fire starting tools and an entrenching tool, all of which make camp-craft at your bug out location as simple as possible from the moment you arrive and unpack your vehicle.

Provision for the vehicle itself comes in the form of the expanded essentials from the $500 kit above to ensure that whatever happens to your bug out vehicle before, during or after the journey, the engine will keep running and the wheels will keep turning.

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How to Use This Guide

When it comes to knowing how to prepare the best bug out vehicle for every situation, knowing where to turn to get started can feel like a challenge in itself.

What type of vehicle is suitable? How much kit should you pack and which is best for the job? What skills will you need before setting and once you’re actually on the road?

This guide is designed to tackle every one of these issues head on and make sure that you prepare the best bug out vehicle that’s ready to roll at a moment’s notice as soon as the time comes.

We’re going to take a look at the essential aspects of preparation for planning and assembling the equipment and knowledge for building the best bug out vehicle meaning that whether you’re preparing an existing car or truck for an emergency situation or starting from scratch with a new, dedicated vehicle, you can be confident of your wheels when you need to get out of town.

To make things easier, we’ve included a table of contents to help you navigate to the specific areas you’re interested in and get you straight in to preparing the best bug out vehicle.

Preparing the Best Bug Out Vehicle – The Basics

The best bug out vehicle needs to carry out multiple roles in an emergency situation and needs to get the job done with maximum reliability and minimum fuss or thinking on the part of the person bugging out (that’s you or me!). As a result of this, the requirements on preparing a bug out vehicle go beyond what you’d generally consider adequate for a regular vehicle.

After all, when things start to get real, your wheels need to do more than just get you to the store or allow you to pick up the kids from school – they become your means of evacuation and ultimately, survival.

So what makes the best bug out vehicle special from any others and what kinds of things need to be thought of to prepare the best bug out vehicle for any disaster or emergency situation?

The good news from the outset is that any vehicle (and yes, that includes motorcycles and RV’s) can be turned into a bug out vehicle that you can call on when needed to get you out of danger and on the road to survival as part of your bug out strategy.

While some vehicles may be considered more appropriate for dealing with the adverse conditions of an emergency situation (think dedicated bug out vehicles or those with off road capabilities), ultimately any vehicle can be retrofitted to prepare you and yours for the worst case scenario and 95% of people – us included – will prepare their everyday car or truck for use as a bug out vehicle when needed.

What Does the Best Bug Out Vehicle Look Like?

As you probably already know, a bug out scenario can take a lot of different forms. After all, think of the number of situations that may warrant leaving home rather than staying put during an emergency or disaster situation.

Whether we’re talking about a natural event such as an incoming storm, tornado, wildfire or biological epidemic, or a socio/geopolitical breakdown like war or social unrest, the form a bug out situation could take is incredibly dynamic.

Prepare your Bug Out Vehicle Maintenance Plan

Whether you’re working with an existing vehicle or one bought specifically for the task of getting you out of harms way, regular preventative maintenance checks are vital for ensuring everything is running as it should be and that all aspects of your bug out vehicle are in full working condition.

Once your bug out vehicle is packed, loaded and ready to go, the only thing that matters when it’s time to go is that your vehicle is in optimal condition for the challenges ahead.

How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle - Maintenance Checks

From tire pressure and fluid levels to lights, components and gas provision, there are a series of checks that you want to be running on a regular basis to make sure your vehicle is ready to roll in an instant.

A good rule of thumb with your bug out vehicle maintenance schedule is to get into the habit of performing a set of checks at specific time intervals to keep a regular eye on how things look with your vehicle.

As with anything health (and bug out) related, when it comes to preparing and maintaining the best bug out vehicle, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so even the slightest checks of your vehicle on a semi-regular basis can allow you to spot something that could cause major headaches when you actually need to bug out.

Look to carry out the following regular checks on your bug out vehicle and you can be confident that things will work as they’re supposed to when you need them most.

Daily Bug Out Vehicle Check-Up:

Exterior Inspection – Conduct a quick walk around of your vehicle every day and check for any obvious signs of damage or serious wear on the tires, bodywork and windshield.

Also be on the look out for any leaks at this point in your vehicle checks. Check underneath the vehicle and see if there’s any evidence of fluids where there shouldn’t be. Never ignore a leak!

If you also use your bug out vehicle for work or daily errands, carry this check out before taking the vehicle out each day.

If you spot anything suspicious, make a note of what and where (also grab a photo if you can) and assess whether it’s likely to deteriorate or would cause an issue if you needed to bug out that day. If the answer to either of these questions is “yes”, then schedule it in to get fixed.

Weekly Bug Out Vehicle Check-Up – Carry out the Daily Check-Up Above Plus the Following:

Tires – Ultimately, it’s the tires of your bug out vehicle that (quite literally) keep you on the road, so it’s of the utmost importance to make sure that they’re kept in prime operating condition on a regular basis.

The most obvious check here is pressure and keeping these at the optimal level will extend the life of your tires as well as keeping your vehicle safe and ready for anything.

The tire pressure for your vehicle can usually be found on a placard inside the glove box, on the underside of the fuel cap or on the driver side door opening, failing these locations, grab that handbook!

Next, check the tread on every tire to ensure there’s adequate depth across the board as well as inspecting the entirety of the tire for abnormal wear or damage like cracks, tears or bulges. If the tire shows negative signs in any of these areas, get it replaced ASAP.

When carrying out these checks, also be sure to inspect the spare for the same points. If you don’t have a spare, look to source one as soon as possible. A spare tire can be a lifeline when you’re bugging out and need to call on one so having a damaged one is as useful as not having one at all.

Windshield Wipers and Fluid – Wipers are one of those things that we all tend to put off replacing but are readily available, affordable and incredibly simple to fit yourself. More than this though, if they fail when you need them most, the results can be devastating if the weather turns while you’re bugging out.

Look for obvious signs of wear along the length of the front (and rear if applicable) blades keeping a particular eye out signs that the blade is split, brittle or perishing. If the blades seem less effective when you use them and are not wiping the windshield properly, move this check up your list and address it as soon as you notice an issue.

Ensure that your windshield fluid reservoir is fully topped up every month and also that the dilution ratio is appropriate for the time of year (check the back of the fluid bottle or your handbook to get the right mix). Again this can save you a ton of grief when you need to call on crystal clear visibility the most so don’t put it off!

Lights  – Carry out weekly inspection of all exterior lights on your bug out vehicle to check they’re fighting fit. The major checks here are that the headlights are operating on high beam and regular and that any additional exterior lights are working.

Don’t forget to pay attention to your brake lights for full, working functionality during this check – the last thing you want to happen in an emergency bug out situation is to draw unwanted attention through a faulty tail light during your evac! If any bulbs have failed or don’t seem right, replace them. In fact, it’s a good idea to stock up on a couple of replacements as part of your roadside repair kit regardless so you’re never caught short when darkness falls.

Monthly Vehicle Check-Up – Carry out the Daily and Weekly Check-Up Above Plus the Following:

Conduct a full monthly check of your bug out vehicle either every month or approximately every 1000 miles – whichever comes around first.

These high level checks will ensure that the most important elements of the long-term health and reliability of your bug out vehicle are maintained.

Oil – Check your oil levels regularly to ensure your vehicle runs at peak efficiency at all times. Most cars will utilize a dipstick allowing you to check the oil level as well as the color of your oil while some vehicles will substitute a traditional dipstick for an electronic gauge.

Oil levels on a dipstick are usually delineated between a min and max level so make sure it’s sitting in the range and top up with appropriate oil if required using your manufacturers recommended specs.

The color of your oil can also indicate a whole host of issues that need addressing with the engine or associated components so if it’s not showing clean, be on the watch for any muddy or murky colored oil (here’s what to look for regarding oil color) and get it looked at if you’re concerned.

Fluids – The key vehicle fluids to check on a monthly basis are coolant, antifreeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid and power-steering fluid levels.

While it’s not essential to know how to change all of these yourself, it absolutely is recommended that you know how to check the levels of as many of your bug out vehicle’s fluid levels as possible. Some vehicles will have a semi-clear tank that allows you to see the level of fluids directly while some may feature a gauge or dipstick to check levels are optimal.

Don’t be afraid to have a look around under the hood to see if you can locate the various tanks yourself and if you can’t locate them, check your owners manual to find out what to look for.

Battery – It’s good to know the location of your battery regardless of its age, as while newer ones won’t require much in the way of maintenance, it’s still important to check there’s no leaking or any build up on the contacts. If there is a buildup on the contacts, this is simple to clean off using a battery cleaning brush which is then useful stored in the trunk alongside your roadside maintenance equipment and jump starter.

Wiring, Hoses and Pipes – You never know what you’re going to come up against when you bug out so ensuring everything is connected where it should be and in prime condition is a crucial prevention step in preparing the best bug out vehicle for use in an emergency.

Look out for anything untoward with wiring, particularly any wires or cables that are frayed, damaged, disconnected or loose.

Find any obvious hoses and follow them from end to end to check the condition along the length of the hose as well as at the start and end, making sure they’re tightly secured with no stains or obvious leak evidence.

If accessible (again check your handbook if unsure), check both radiator hoses, any fuel lines, heater hoses and any pipes or lines associated with braking systems or power steering.

Air Filters – There are two filters that you should check on as part of your bug out vehicle maintenance plan, the engine air filter and the cabin air filter. The engine air filter is the priority to inspect here, particularly if you do a ton of driving or your vehicle regularly sits in congestion or slow moving traffic where particle pollutants are highest.

If you can locate the filter quickly you’re good to go, otherwise, refer to your owners manual for advice on where it’s located. Either way, check it and if it’s looking dirty, replace it.

The cabin air filter is by no means an essential replacement but is usually super easy to replace and can make the internal environment of your vehicle both comfortable with a higher degree of filtering efficiency when pulling in air from outside.

Consider the replacement of the cabin filter as more of a nice to have and a higher priority on older vehicles on a six month to yearly basis.

Knowing your Destination (and How to Get There)

As with any bug out strategy,  the best bug out vehicle plan is ultimately based around a final objective – your bug out destination.

The final point of your journey is your pre-determined ‘safe place’ and the entirety of your bug out vehicle strategy hinges around leaving home, getting there or to a contingency spot (more on this later) safely and quickly, and laying low.

After all, the last thing you want to be doing in an emergency situation is setting off without a plan or destination in mind and hoping for the best.

Make your plan, know where you’re going, and don’t rely on having to think on your feet (or in the seat) when disaster strikes.

Finding the Best Bug Out Vehicle Destination

Given the overriding importance of this part of your bug out vehicle plan, there are a few key points that should form the backbone of your strategy and that you can prepare for today.

  1. Find your safe place  Knowing your primary bug out location ahead of time is perhaps the most crucial part of your evacuation plan – after all, without a destination lined up, where will you go when you need to leave? The question of where to go when it’s time to bug out is worthy of an entire guide in itself, but it’s ultimately the question that matters most when you pack up your gear and head out on the road, so make sure you know ahead of time.
  2. Find your second safe place – Having a bug out location lined up is essential to ensuring that you know what to do when things go bad, but arguably just as important, is having a contingency destination in place just in case things don’t work out with your initial planned site. The best laid plans can often go awry – particularly when the world is upside down, so have a redundancy destination in hand that you can quickly and effortlessly fall back on if your initial choice becomes a no-go.
  3. Buy a map – In actual fact if you can, buy multiple maps of your local area, bug out destination and the routes in between at different scales. In an age of on-demand GPS, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security of audio guided directions. A serious emergency situation, severe weather event, EMP, or enemy military action could quite easily see the GPS system made redundant, so buy the maps you need, learn the major relevant landmarks for your strategy and keep them ready to go in your bug out vehicle. Oh, and make sure you stock a decent tactical flashlight to keep alongside for night-time navigation.
  4. Determine the route – With your bug out location determined, plot the route your going to take between your home location and bug out destination. Depending on the surrounding area where you live and on the way, you’ll need to determine the optimum route to take assuming heavy traffic, potential checkpoints, natural hazards (rivers etc), and considerations around urban areas and high population densities. You’re ultimately looking for the best way to get from A-B in the safest, quickest and most efficient way possible. That said, depending on the situation on the ground, getting to your bug out location quickly may not always be possible (or preferable) and neither will the route you pick necessarily be the most direct. When it comes to bugging out by vehicle, stay clear of major roads or interstates if possible as not only will these be the first to snarl up during a mass evacuation event, but will also be the routes most prone to electronic diversions during an emergency situation – the last thing you want is to be herded to a location off from your planned route. Consider the full spectrum of factors for your bug out route and plan your escape path early.
  5. Determine a second (and third route) – You’ve probably already noticed at this point, but a key theme with any bug out strategy is contingency planning and building redundancies into your plan. While your chosen route may look (and hopefully will be) clear and free from trouble, prepare as if it’s going to be inaccessible for the entirety of the way. Build in the option to quickly and easily switch to a different route that will get you where you’re going should the need arise. A good idea here is to try and find parallel routes that effectively cover the entire journey from home to destination as well as allowing you to join up to them along your primary route if you find yourself needing to detour. In an emergency situation, any number of situations along the way can mean your path becomes impassable. Don’t let this kill your strategy.
  6. Evaluate the routes – Once you settle on a selection of primary and backup routes to get you to your destination, make the time if possible to scout them out for issues ahead of time. Tactical recon of your bug out vehicle route early on can highlight issues that need addressing before you actually need to utilize your escape plan so be on the look out for potential problem areas along the way. Another good thing to try here (depending on the length of your proposed route of course) is to aim to hit any potential urban or commuter areas during rush hour to get a feel for how they hold up under heavy traffic load.
  7. Practice and learn the routes – As with anything, practice makes perfect and the ability to recall your bug out strategy from memory alone is no exception. How many times have you found yourself driving to work or the store on autopilot and only realized you’re there once you arrive? Learn your route and you won’t need to think when the time comes to bug out.

Arriving at your Bug Out Location and What to do First

When you set off from home the ideal situation is to know exactly where you’re going, what to expect when you get there and the quickest route from A-B. While simply preparing the best bug out vehicle or having a bug out bag ready to go is going to increase your odds of survival significantly compared to having nothing at all, you really want a plan of action regarding where you’re going to hunker down while a situation unfolds – your bug out location.

This next section of the guide assumes that you have a pre-determined bug out location in mind and that you’ll be arriving there in the best bug out vehicle for the situation. Don’t worry if you don’t have a location lined up yet however, check out our definitive guide to choosing a bug out location and then skip this section, coming back to cover it later.

Thinking of bugging out on foot? Check out our guide to preparing the best bug out bag for the equivalent recommendations for reaching your bug out destination without a vehicle.

As with almost every element of emergency preparedness, disaster planning and bug out strategy, one of the key advantages to setting up your bug location is to have time on your side.

In the case of an emergency event, this will often mean getting out and setting up before everyone else does. There is of course a trade-off here with ensuring you have enough supplies to last you should you end up leaving days before an event unfolds and this can be mitigated by either packing more provisions in your bug out vehicle (namely food and water) or ensuring you have a stock ready to go at your chosen destination. Similarly, you may not be granted the luxury of advanced warning allowing you to bug out early, that’s OK though, as long as your evacuation and bug out strategy is in place and rehearsed ahead of time, you’ll be able to limit or negate any disadvantage this may cause.

Listen to the news, evaluate the situation on a day by day basis and leave if/when you think you need to.

How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle

Once you arrive at your chosen bug out location, the primary objective is to set up camp and (depending on your site) to conceal your presence as quickly as possible.

Your bug out destination may take the form of a pre-constructed shelter such as a cabin (or even a more substantial structure such as a house in a remote location) or maybe even just a piece of land on which you plan to set up a retreat while events develop back home or in the wider world.

Whatever the case, you want to make sure you get there quickly, safely (unnoticed and discretely if possible) and setup in a timely manner.

When you first reach your destination, you’ll need to keep your bug out vehicle a suitable destination from your shelter (or place of eventual shelter) so that it’s within reach for unloading and setting up camp but also in a way that does not pose a risk to you and yours. Concealment is key to keeping a low profile so consider investing in lightweight camouflage netting or a tarp to cover your vehicle, shelter and any supplies stored outdoors.

The Best Bug Out Vehicle Tents

Unless you have a pre-constructed shelter, cabin or existing accommodation waiting for you at your bug out location, one of the essential elements in any bug out strategy is the provision of adequate shelter.

The type of shelter you choose for your bug out vehicle plan will ultimately be determined by factors such as budget, climate, party size, carrying capacity (weight and size of the shelter when packed) and the amount of equipment you bug out with. Due to this wide range of considerations, shelter can range from anywhere between a simple tarp up to a 3+ person tent designed for use in all seasons.

While bugging out by foot puts constraints on the type of shelter you can carry to your bug out location, the beauty of bugging out by vehicle is that you’re effectively not restricted by the same set of limiting criteria.

The requirement for a lightweight backpacking tent for example, can be supplemented for increased capacity, features and weather rating – all of which will undoubtedly increase the weight of the tent, but none of which will effect your ability to pack and carry it in your bug out vehicle.

When setting up camp at your bug out location, an indispensable ally comes in the form of concealment whenever possible. If your budget and bug out vehicle space allow it, consider packing at least one camouflage net to provide cover for your vehicle while you lay low. Similarly, packing a lightweight camo net for placing over your tent’s outer flysheet will provide both added insulation and more importantly, conceal your location if you pitch in a suitable area.

Below are our pick of some of the very best bug out vehicle tents for packing into your trunk when preparing your bug out vehicle for action.

Hilleberg Jannu

How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for 2018 - Best Bug Out Vehicle Tents - Hilleberg

If you’re looking for a tent built to survive the elements while providing enough space for up to two people, the Jannu from Scandinavian tentmaker Hilleberg is an excellent choice.

An outer layer of Kerlon 1200 tent fabric provides the first layer of protection from the outside world and with the 9mm poles included, help the tent form a low profile that is discrete, secure and sheds snow with ease.

Your bug out strategy may end up being implemented in adverse climate conditions and if this is the case, you’re going to want to be as prepared as possible when choosing the best tent to see you through.

A dome configuration utilizing multi pole crossing points make up the structural integrity of this survival tent, while a spacious layout and single entrance with a storage vestibule for stowing your equipment and supplies outside of your vehicle mean you’ll be comfortable throughout.

 

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent

How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for 2018 - Best Bug Out Vehicle Tents - MSR

The Hubba Hubba from MSR provides that perfect combination of space and durability alongside a reasonable price tag.

With two large side-entry vestibules (perfect for stowing your gear, the Hubba Hubba features ‘StayDry’ door flaps with built in rain gutters fore keeping you and your stuff dry even if the conditions outside aren’t.

The MSR is designed to provide ample head and elbow room for 2 people throughout, which as you’ll know if you’ve camped out before, is a lifesaver when looking for a spacious tent for you and your gear.

A 20 denier ripstop nylon construction is the key to keeping this tent durable in changeable outdoor conditions while a hub-and-pole system with color coded clips make assembly a breeze when you need to get your shelter up in a hurry.

One of the major bonuses of the Hubba Hubba in our opinion is the fact that coming in at just over 3.5 lbs (with an even lighter packing option of 2.2) makes this tent ideal not only for your bug out vehicle, but also packable as the shelter component of a bug out bag to be carried on foot should you need to leave your wheels behind.

When planning out the best bug out vehicle strategy, the chances are that you’ll have more equipment with you than you would otherwise, while your vehicle itself provides additional storage space as an added advantage, if you’re considering a tent like the Hubba Hubba, MSR also offer an extension to the storage footprint of the tent in the form of the Hubba Gear Shed, a bolt-on space for keeping more kit close at hand.

 

Nemo Galaxi

The Nemo Galaxi offers a number of features that make it well suited as a good all round tent for including in a bug out vehicle load-out.

Storage space and ease of use feature highly in the list of functionality benefits offered by the Galaxi and if you’re looking for a bug out tent that offers room enough for 2 people plus your gear, this is a good choice for both.

With a footprint included as standard, you can feel confident that wherever you pitch the tent, the durability will be maintained while a single hubbed pole makes for a super-simple setup when you reach your bug out destination.

There’s a clear focus on usability with the Galaxi, and whether it’s the magnetic door tie-backs or vestibule space and interior pockets for additional storage, there’s a lot to like about this choice for an affordable, all-round tent for your bug out vehicle packing list.

 

Find out more about the best survival tents in our definitive emergency shelter and survival tent guide here

 

Eureka K-2 XT

How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for 2018 - Best Bug Out Vehicle Tents - Eureka

A major advantage of preparing the best bug out vehicle for your situation and choosing to bug out by road rather than on foot, is the ability to not only carry more (and larger) equipment, but also to efficiently move both you and others to a pre-determined bug out location, whatever the conditions.

It’s with these considerations in mind that you may be looking for a tent that is able to sleep more people and is built to survive every season.

If this is the case, then the Eureka K-2 XT could be just what you’re looking for.

The geodesic dome design of the K-2 XT works twofold to provide extremely strong support in high wind, heavy snow and storm conditions while also allowing good room within the tent itself.

Two vestibules reinforce the storm protection while offering additional storage space to get your gear out of your vehicle and where you need it.

As with most 4 season survival tents, the K-2 XT is designed to be visible in extreme survival situations so if you’re worried that the color of the the outer flysheet may detract from concealing your bug out site, consider pairing with an additional lightweight camo net to provide extra cover.

 

MSR Elixir 2-Person Lightweight Tent

The Elixir is a lightweight backpacking tent by MSR that offers internal space, high performance, and an incredibly lightweight footprint when packed.

This tent is designed to be incredibly simple to setup when you’re out in the field, using color-coded poles, clips, and webbing for fitting everything together quickly and easily.

Utilizing a construction of 20-denier nylon micromesh and 40-denier ripstop nylon, the Elixir is as hard-wearing in the field as it is lightweight and easy to carry when packed.

As well as the tent itself, the elixir comes with a footprint that allows for a lightweight Fast & Light setup with rainfly and is a great addition for extending the life of your tent when used over a range of pitching conditions.,

A 29 square foot floor area alongside a total of 17.5 vestibule storage means this tent provides a lot of livable internal space as well as ample room for storing larger gear and bags.

 

Bugging Out by Vehicle – Knowing when to Leave

When it comes to the best time to bug out by vehicle if things start deteriorating, the rule of thumb remains the same whether bugging out by vehicle or by foot – the earlier the better.

Remember, if you’ve been monitoring a developing situation (whether it’s natural or man-made) and think things are likely to get out of hand, be the one to get out first.

No one ever came first place in the survival stakes by being a crowd follower when disaster strikes, so when the “S” looks like it’s about to imminently “HTF” – it’s time to grab your keys and load up.

How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for 2018 - Early Escape

If your personal emergency response plan includes bugging out by vehicle, it’s particularly important that this approach is followed without hesitation, as making your move after the event can have disastrous consequences on your ability to quickly and safely evacuate an area.

If the situation is going to get bad, then those scenes we’ve all seen of traffic backed up on the roads out of town will become a reality.

Keeping a Low Profile – Getting on the Road and out of Town Undetected

There are a few golden rules when it comes to any kind of bug out situation regarding discretion and these apply equally (if not more so) if you and your family decide to bug out by vehicle.

  1. Don’t Draw Attention (PT 1)  Depending on the nature of the emergency situation when you bug out, there are likely to be varying levels of law enforcement or military forces involved in containment, maintaining public order or other activities. In almost every one of these instances, adopting a policy of ‘business as usual’ will allow you to get through any established perimeters or increased areas of activity without any issues. Again, leaving before the event is the ideal outcome here, but equally important is to not draw attention to yourself whenever possible. Make sure all lights on your vehicle are operating properly (it would really suck to be pulled over for a missing tail light on your way out of town) and pack all of your supplies and equipment in the most measured way possible (again, this is an endorsement for leaving early if you can). When it comes to not being noticed, an everyday vehicle such as a car, truck or SUV is likely to draw a lot less attention than a fully loaded battle bus, or armored bug out vehicle, so consider this when deciding on the best set of wheels for the job!
  2. Don’t Draw Attention (PT 2) Before you even turn the key in the ignition, the best bug out vehicle strategy will have already gone into full effect. As a part of this, discretion should be adhered to as soon as possible. Whether you’re bugging out by vehicle alone or as a family, the ability to pack and leave quickly and quietly is of the utmost importance to prevent unnecessary hold-ups on your evacuation plan. If you have a garage or quiet area where you can load up with your remaining supplies and kit, move your vehicle here in advance of leaving. If it looks like you’re going to be implementing your bug out vehicle strategy imminently, prepare for this possibility by getting your vehicle positioned in this spot as a habit in the preceding days. A good rule with any form of bug out strategy is to have as much kit pre-packed as possible. The great advantage of preparing the best bug out vehicle is that you can pack a lot of kit well in advance and then forget about it until you need to call on it. For those remaining supplies you still need to pack, at least the time to do so is greatly reduced. Whether you need to load few remaining stragglers or load up your kit from scratch, make a list of the ‘to pack’ items to help with an efficient getaway and to ensure that nothing get’s left behind.

On the Road – What to Know, What to Expect and How to React

When you set off for your bug out location, you need to expect the unexpected and be as prepared as possible for whatever may lie around the next corner. There are any number of adverse events that may trigger the implementation of your bug out strategy, from a major geopolitical event to natural disasters and even major civil unrest. Whatever the situation, the best thing you can do if planning to bug out by vehicle is to know how to respond to anything you come up against.

If you’ll be using a vehicle to bug out during an emergency situation, it’s a good idea to begin learning some of the core skills around driving techniques, vehicle maintenance and navigation.

In terms of having full control over your vehicle in all situations, it’s important to remember that while you may think you know how to control your car or truck blindfolded, in reality the situation can become very different in extreme weather scenarios or high intensity situations such as escape and evasion or high speed driving. It’s therefore recommended that you look to pick up some specialized instruction for driving your vehicle in these conditions if you think you’re likely to face any of these kinds of scenarios when you bug out.

Depending on where you live and the area you’ll be bugging out to, climate preparedness of your bug out vehicle is imperative. While this includes physical considerations for your vehicle such as equipment to include when driving in winter conditions or heavy rain, as mentioned above, this also extends to knowing how to handle the vehicle when driving in adverse weather conditions.

If you manage to bug out by vehicle before mass evacuations of areas begins, you’re going to save yourself a whole load of time and greatly increase your odds of getting to your bug out destination safe and on time. If however, you find yourself moving out as an event is taking place (or already has done), the situation on the ground is likely to look very different and this can have serious consequences on your ability to egress and get out of the area of imminent danger.

A disaster or emergency situation can (and depending on the severity of the situation, often will) lead to some degree of breakdown in the social order. When this happens, the pre-requisites for survival become about more than just leaving your home and getting to your bug out location, they become about ensuring safety along the way. If law and order also breaks down and you’re not on the road before things start to get heated, be sure to blend in as much as possible and don’t make yourself or your bug out vehicle a target for those who may want to lay their hands on your gear and your ride.

Avoid crowds, built up areas, and major roads such as interstates, don’t draw attention to your vehicle and its contents and if you feel the situation warrants it, make sure you’re protected.

Thinking about Fuel

When it comes to bugging out by vehicle, fuel is the one element of your strategy that makes the difference between getting to your destination and, well, not going anywhere at all.

Firstly, it goes without saying that when it comes to bugging out, you want to make sure that you’ve got plenty of gas in the tank to keep you and your bug out vehicle moving from home to destination. In fact, one of the best changes you can bring into your lifestyle right now is to always keep the tank topped up to full as often as possible.

This is the best way of ensuring that if you need to hit the road quickly, the gas station isn’t your first stop – because if there’s one thing for sure when a crisis hits, it will be for everyone else.

How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for 2018 - Best Bug Out Vehicle Fuel

You may not know if things are about to deteriorate in the world, but if you do get a heads up or detect signals that things are on the cusp of going bad, you want to make sure that you’ve prepared a reserve of gas to keep in a jerry can or spare fuel container and that you can grab the moment you need to bug out.

The important thing to remember when storing fuel is that it’s kept in a safe and secure location and also that it’s not stored for too long before use.

Knowing the gas mileage of your proposed bug out vehicle and getting an idea of the consumption and fuel efficiency when driving under a variety of different conditions is another excellent way of preparing your bug out vehicle right now.

From highway driving to stop-start traffic, suburban streets to back routes, get a feel for how quickly your bug out vehicle burns gas (particularly when carrying extra weight if possible) and use this information to gauge the potential limitations when you actually need to get on the road in an emergency situation or disaster.

Keep notes of the consumption figures as you get them and store these in your vehicle for reference (glove-box) if needed when planning your bug out route or when actually evacuating your home. If you can train yourself to remember as part of your pre-evacuation vehicle checks, reset the trip computer on your vehicle when you bug out and you’ll be able to pull a range estimate should your plans or route change when you’re underway and on the road.

Roadside Preparedness

Planning and preparing the best bug out vehicle is of course the crucial element to ensuring that when disaster strikes, you’re ready to roll in an instant.

But what if you run into technical problems while on the road?

Putting together a bug out vehicle maintenance plan like the one mentioned earlier in this guide is certainly the place to start when reducing the possibility of breakdowns or mechanical malfunctions but this isn’t enough on it’s own.

Full preparedness planning of your vehicle needs to consider not only the before and after side of prepping the best bug out vehicle, it also needs to plan for contingencies that might occur during evac.

From flat tires and broken windshields to faulty headlights and first aid emergencies, being prepared to deal with any eventuality that occurs on the road or at the roadside is a key component to ensuring only minor disruption (if any), to your overall bug out strategy in the case of an unscheduled stop.

Assemble a Vehicle Emergency Kit

When thinking about emergency preparedness for your bug out vehicle, it’s a good idea to also think of a second set of kit and equipment that sits alongside, but separate to your actual bug out supplies but provide a focus on the continuity of your bug out vehicle.

Another way of considering this separate kit is as the essential tools, equipment and supplies that are vehicle specific as opposed to your bug out gear and preparedness supplies that are primarily focused on helping you escape, survive and thrive during an emergency situation.

While a vehicle emergency kit should form a crucial component of your overall bug out strategy and load-out, it is a separate entity and should be prepared with this in mind.

Packing a stand-alone vehicle emergency kit to keep in your trunk at all times provides the peace of mind that should you hit an issue on the road – even in a non bug out situation such as the daily commute to and from work – then you’ll be equipped with the gear to help you out.

Here’s a list of some of the essentials to build the best bug out vehicle emergency kit for keeping on hand in your vehicle:

How to Prepare the Best Bug Out Vehicle for 2018 - Best Bug Out Vehicle Emergency Kit

Bundling up a few of the essentials for roadside repairs and emergencies doesn’t need to be an expensive or time consuming task, and while it’s always a good idea to have as much kit on hand as possible, simply picking up items and adding to your kit list over time is still an effective way of ensuring you’re more prepared than you were before.

Whichever approach you decide to take, having an emergency roadside kit can make all the difference when bugging out in a vehicle should you run into unexpected trouble such as a breakdown, flat tire, personal injury or other unscripted event along the way – so be prepared!


In an uncertain and rapidly changing world, one of the very best things you can do today, is to prepare and plan for the unexpected events of tomorrow.

Remember, by the time people start talking about the problem, it may already be too late.

Whether you’re just starting out or building on an existing kit, planning, preparing and packing a bug out vehicle for use in an emergency situation is time exceptionally well spent and represents an unparalleled investment when you find yourself calling on your equipment when disaster strikes.

Following the tips and advice in this guide when preparing the best bug out vehicle for you and yours will ensure that when the time comes, you won’t be caught off guard.

The Last Word

When it comes to preparedness, we reference as many expert sources and real world user reviews as possible when looking to provide the most relevant and educational information in our guides.

Preparing the best bug out vehicle for yourself or your loved ones is a highly personal activity with individual needs and preferences sometimes varying considerably between people, locations and uses.

With these considerations in mind, this guide looks to provide advice on our own top configurations for preparing the best bug out vehicle, however it’s always important to carry out your own due diligence to find the best solution for you when putting together your own bug out kit for use on the road.

Prepare . Survive . Thrive

Disclaimer:

Information found on this website is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained herein. Survivalist Prep may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. 

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