Best considerations for an evacuation or bug-out vehicle

With recent discussion of evacuation events, I realized we could be evacuated despite our plans to SIP. In that scenario we would need shelter and accomodations which may not be available or affordable if prices go up. We would also need to consider a range of time frames.

I can see the wisdom of modifying my existing Chev Astro van into a BOV that can handle all season events. It still must function for normal use. The van sits on a truck chassis so it sits higher and can handle certain terrain that a lower vehicle might not fare so well upon.

Seasonal studded tires alread in place.  I need to add a set of cable tire chains to carry in the vehicle to handle a winter event. We always have a full tank of fuel plus extra jerry cans.

The known gas mileage can be used to calculate the radius that we can travel. It is possible then to pinpoint areas that could be safe to stay until it is safe to return home. I want to calculate a radius as the evacuation event could come from any direction.

Currently the van has front bucket seats and two removable bench seats plus floor space behind the last bench seat. I want to set up items in a way that won’t draw attention as a target for a break in. Under the bench seats would work for some of the items.

I want to equip a rudimentary sleep area (rolled up foam or sleeping bags). Pail (already in van) and toilet seat ready to use. Kelly kettle and camp gear. Food items/MRE’s in sturdy bags ready to grab and go with BOB. Fishing gear in case it goes longer.

Currently the van is white, but if I am not mistaken are there not tarps or nets that can be thrown over a parked vehicle to disguise it? Anything shiny needs to be covered as well. I am looking to keep costs down.

I want to be very low key if on the move.


  • Comments (33)

    • 11

      Ubique, The boating folks use the formula of one third fuel to go our, one third fuel to return and one third in reserve. Consider – not –  to use extra fuel jerry cans for radius calculation. 

      Yes, there are tarps with some manufactured for categories of vehicles. A basic field tarp is best buy with max selection. The objective is to ensure that the tarp is not considered by viewers as disguise. – Keep the license plate visable -. If tarp too expensive consider a thick shower curtin of an appropriate color. 

      Consider from eg 1 AM to hour before dawn, one is always awake and ready to walk outside of van.

      My megaphone with fog horn button does wonders for talking to night people I deem a threat …. and everyone sleeping within a  half mile is on alert for something going on somewhere nearby. If megaphone not practical, a small boat fog horn using the disposable/replacement cartridges can be a substitute.  

      • 8

        Thank you for the 1/3 factor for fuel and to hold jerry can in reserve.

        1 AM to dawn works for me -I’m usually up in very early hours.

        I really like fog horn/megaphone combo – It is on my shopping list. 

        Really like your ideas, Bob, many thanks.

      • 5

        Yup many preppers use a similar formula   we say you need enough fuel for three times the distance to your destination.

      • 4

        This is why I value this community so much. There are many things I don’t know and would have missed. I will remember the 3x’s formula.

      • 8

        I used to always leave a third tank of gas in my car, but since moving into a rural area and further away from gas that is not 20 cents more because it’s in the mountains, i’ve tried to always have 1/2 tank. 

        Still need to follow the prepared’s article about gas storage and buy me a couple gas cans as part of my preps. 

    • 11

      Hi, Ubique,

      I have a full size heavy duty pickup, it is 4 wheel drive and all manual for reliability, snow tires, etc. It’s not jacked up or fancy, it’s over 20 years old in fact, it’s either a good BOV or a big blueish-green target, LOL.

      I have lots of room and a bunch of “recovery” type stuff, tow strap & chain, hi-lift and bottle jack, come-along, flares, etc. Small tool kit, jumper cables, first-aid with trauma stuff, some spare parts like a fan belt, stop leak, hose patch, tire plugs, tire inflator/ battery booster and such. And of course a roll of contractor garbage bags! Not really built to be a BOV just stuff acquired over the years and stuck in the tool box.

      Having said that, and not to be a troll, but I’m not a bug out advocate, unless the emergency is entirely at my home and no one else affected, or in the event I am about to be attacked, burned-out, flooded, etc. I’d stay at home even if I had to camp in the yard in the event of a widespread problem. The reason is simple, when you are home you are a citizen, you have an identity, you are a tax payer, The Establishment— even if you have long hair, you belong at least superficially. But when you are on the road you are A Stranger, part of the mob, a refugee, a vagrant, a squatter, another mouth to feed, a potential attacker to trigger-happy locals, or worse, a soft target.

      If one has a firm destination, prearranged, confirmed to be in better shape and more resilient maybe bugging is a good idea. But even the cliche cabin in the woods will not be the same idyllic retreat in a widespread event. One might find it occupied or ransacked. The surroundings overrun, the natives restless and resentful. Even the welcome of relatives has a limited shelf life in most cases.

      If I could go a ways and find a Motel 6 I might go, but how often will that happen except in mundane or isolated case? Say tornado or wildfire. But randomly heading out or going off to the woods is a fantasy in my opinion. If you’ve been hunting recently you know how crowded it gets on opening day, just imagine every hunter, hiker, biker, bird watcher, RVer, and tenderfoot showing up at the same time! Might as well stay in town, because every townie is going to the country! LOL

      Just ¢2 worth from my perspective Ubique, obviously your milage may vary. 


      • 6

        Hi Pops,

        Good to hear from you and always appreciate and value what you have to say.

        The reason I posted this is because our plans are to SIP. Many years ago we thought hard about BO, decided SIP was best for our needs and so had stopped considering any BO plan at all.

        With the recent evacuation threads, I realized that we need to still have a plan of some kind and equip our 24 year old (rebuilt) van with some basics in case something that required evacuation hit close to home. Tornado, fire, gas leak or ammonia leak from ag chemicals or anything that requires rapid exit from our area. We might be out of our home for several weeks or months for example.

        We might be able to find a motel or maybe not. I wanted to cover the scenario that accomodation might not be found or safe to stay in.

        We were on a house buying trip and rented a room in a small town motel, had supper and went to the room. The idea was to make the long trip less demanding by sleeping overnight and then going home.

        I marched my husband, dog and self straight out of that room – it was filthy and the room beside us had a dealer hanging out of the door waiting for customers. We got our money back and I drove us home.

        It happened again on a return trip home from Winnipeg, when I was too tired to drive home. The motel on the side of the highway was horrible for the same reasons. I got a couple of hours sleep and we got out of there.

        There aren’t a lot of motels left across the prairies and they will fill up fast. That is why I thought we need to be able to sleep and function in our vehicle and use it as our accomodation.

        This mainly would be for short term evacuation in the immediate area  If it was beyond my region, then I would head toward where I was raised. There is a large extended family there, big lake for fishing and time to sort things out. By having the van fitted with the basics, we can park on one of my cousin’s farms and not impose too much.

        Long term BO will not be an option for us as it is a very difficult thing to do. Even Dick Proenneke in Alaska, had a buddy with a float plane who used to drop off items once or twice a year, including socks that his wife knit for him.

        We also carry pretty much the same things as you do including the garbage bags – they are very useful. Also kitty litter to act as traction.

        Thank you for replying. You raise very good points for anyone who thinks BO is a long term solution. 

      • 9

        Ubique, I hear you. Some time I’ll have to tell you about our cross country pandemic bug-out/move last year from Washington to Missouri, right at the time of the big bike rally in Sturges, SD. Fun times!


      • 3

        Pops, That’s something one would never think of – what events are happening (it wasn’t supposed to happen last year from what I remember). I’ll bet the traffic was fun. lol

      • 2

        Pops, pressed save too fast – We moved from BC to Manitoba during some of the worst rock slides. Yeah, white knuckle fun and really bad timing LOL

      • 8

        I wish they sold more manual transmission cars. They are pretty hard to come by nowadays. Better fuel economy, more control over your vehicle, and I feel more connected to it. Being connected and intune with your car helps you to be proactive and care about keeping up with maintenance. A reliable form of transportation is one of the number one preps we can have.

      • 4

        One of the few remaining benefits of being in the UK, 90 % of vehicles are manual or stick shift as the americans like to say

      • 5

        But the guy making them in the factory must have been drunk because he installed the steering wheel on the wrong side of the vehicle. 😉 haha just kidding!

        That’s cool Bill. That’s something I wish was more common here in the states. Manual transmissions and the metric system, both something that was perfect, but then we had to go and mess it up.

      • 8

        I want a car with the gearbox out of the Fast And Furious movies starring Vin Diesel, they are amazing you only ever shift up through at least 20 gears 🙂

      • 6

        I want an Interceptor motor – just for a day – longer than that and I or the local wildlife will come to a tragic end (as my husband says).

      • 6

        I’m with you Robert. I looked all over to find a ford with 7.3 turbo, 6 spd manual trans, 2 spd transfer, locking hubs.  Don’t know if it will last forever but if it breaks it will be broke forever ‘cuz I can’t afford to fix it. LOL

      • 4

        Robert – I prefer manual (van is automatic). I find that I am more mindful when driving a manual transmission – for the same reasons that I don’t use cruise control. I like to pay attention to what I am doing.

        I keep an R&M (repair and maintenance) file on my home and vehicle. That practice paid off in 2005 when I sold my 1984 Ford, manual stick, 300 inline (best motor ever – next to an Interceptor lol).

        Because we moved across country, it went to auction. My friend who handled it said that buyers poured over the R&M file for the truck. The truck went for much more money than expected because the file said: good and regular maintenance.

        I also use the R&M on our van to check for items that have been replaced and put them into possible service pending if it has been awhile since repair/replace.

    • 8

      Couple of images of my van. 20190311_12515720190314_10392020190314_103938

      • 9

        Super neat van Bill! I especially like that water pump that siphons from the container in the back. Really smart!

      • 9

        and cheap, hand pumped from refillable water container, Pump was around $12 , pipe cut from garden hose, Water container $8 from camping shop and plywood box from scrap.

        When you lift out the kettle and flip the work top extension over it exposes a removeable stainless steel bowl of about 2 1/2 litres, its a Dog food bowl. ( dont tell the dog)

      • 4

        The internal lighting comes via a 5000 miliamp USB power pack, recharged by a small solar panel, and the lighting itself is just a $10 self adhesive strip of white LED lights.

        Portable toilet had to be made because the low van roof meant one could not sit on a plastic camping toilet comfortably because it was too high. So its basically a wooden box with a large plastic lidded bucket of around 5 gallons capacity part filled with cat litter.

      • 5

        Very cool design Bill. Showed my husband. He is now looking for paper and pen to start sketching a design for the back of our van.

      • 3

        The easiest design for vans is a row or if the vehicle is wide enough two rows of high quality LIDDED storage tubs, with a ply board on the top and a memory foam seat / mattrass. with walk space in the middle.

        if the van is narrow then a single row but with a backrest / matress that can be placed on the floor as a second bed.

        A single board fastened to a door that can fold down to act as a worktop for a single burner cooker

        and a strip of self adhesive LED lights for illumination.

        The knack is to make a toilet box the same height as the storage boxes.

      • 6

        or  this with tubs undeneath



        eec2660f189cd50837fa6f865bbcf31b (Large)78cbd788fa98e5dfea5c94e1b08879f9 (Large)

      • 5

        Real nice, Bill. I like the cab curtin arrangement.

        At yellow labels, does “spares” actually mean more than one ?

      • 7

        Spares = Bulbs, Fuses, relays, Fan belts, tape, cable ties, wiring connectors etc.

      • 3

        Appreciate info Bill.  Thank you.

        Initially though spares exclusive to spare tires.  Was recommended to carry 2.  Space is a premium re my pickup truck and only have 1 mounted under vehicle.

      • 4

        Mine has one underrneath and one on the back door, the back door mounted spare also having another gallon can of diesel in its center.   Total range in Jerry cans is 750 miles +

      • 3

        Excellent !

    • 9

      Pops, Ubique, all; Ref evac motels;similar lodging;

      There’s been a somewhat big change to enroute motel availability under the new national/state emergency programs.  Two abbreviations got renewed activation: MOU and MOA: Memorandum of Understanding and Memorandum of Agreement. The local area emergency management authorities arrange in advance with the motels, inns, campgrounds to book blocks of rooms for out of area emergency responders to use.

      Omitting much, enroute lodging, less the vehicle or rigged up awning on vehicle on side of road, … don’t plan on motel availability. Dining facilities determined by what’s in vehicle.

      • 6

        Good to know, thank you for the info, Bob

    • 4

      Another to be aware of is if using a locking gas cap, theives can place a container below the gas tank, and then puncture the gas tank with a screwdriver.

      It has happened in my area as well as dumping syrup or sugar into gas tanks. That is the biggest reason I have a locking gas cap.

      Something to be aware of if evacuating and relying on vehicle for shelter/safety.