When it comes to selecting a bug-out vehicle, the list of potential candidates just rolls off the tongue. Cars, trucks, SUVs, RVs…ATVs. Heck, even bicycles are an option. However, one particular vehicle class is often overlooked…but not today.
We’re talking about boats and life on the water after SHTF. Can a prepper really put their money on a survival boat? What are some of the best ones? What does one look for in a survival boat? We answer these questions and more in the following article.
There are many excellent choices for preppers looking for survival boats. For rivers, the best choice is the Four Winns Vista 355 Coupe Outboard. The V-series Houseboat from Destination Yachts is the best choice for lakes. For coastline preppers, the top pick is the 565 Sailboat from Oyster Yachts.
What is a survival boat?
There’s no doubt that a vehicle is a necessity in most emergencies, and that there is a healthy selection of vehicles for you to choose from. Many preppers are set on going off-road and into the wilderness to avoid trouble, which is predictable. Interestingly enough, people rarely ever consider something that can go off-land entirely.
This is precisely what a survival boat is. These boats are adapted to extended stays and voyages on the water. Some are best suited for freshwater bodies like rivers and lakes, while others are made for life on the coast or open seas. Whatever the environment, survival boats are made for seeing out a disaster from the safety of the water.
If you think about it, bugging out on the water is one of the safest survival routes. There are hardly any traffic jams and you have constant access to food sources like fish and other aquatic delicacies. In an oceanic context, you can go anywhere you choose. The planet’s surface is over 70 percent water after all.
Typically, a bug-out boat will have features and amenities that can sustain prolonged periods offshore. We're talking solar and wind power systems, sleeping cabins, galleys, storage compartments, toilets, and bathrooms. Just like a home on the water.
These boats must also be stocked with supplies and tools. You will need to stock up on a lot of food, water, and snacks to keep your nutrition up. You can also have tools like fishing gear, desalination equipment, and bilge (anti-flooding) equipment. Preppers should also bring a lot of clothing on board as they may be in for a dousing.
It wouldn’t be much of a survival boat if it didn’t have emergency measures, would it? Emergency medical kits, signal flares, life jackets, and life rafts are just some of these measures. VHF radio and satellite internet can also be used for communication with potential rescuers.
Security is also a big concern. Being on the water does not mean you won’t have looters and raiders to worry about. As a matter of fact, you expect an increase in pirate incidents when trouble eventually hits. To combat this (no pun), you will need weapons and a lot of wits. Guns, rocket launchers, grenades, harpoons…it’s all fair game, especially in international waters.
As far as mobility, there are a few propulsion methods to choose from. Diesel engines are perhaps the most popular aquatic propulsion system today. Sails are still very popular if you are of the more classic persuasion. If you are torn, you can simply get the best of both worlds by getting yourself a motorsailer.
Other propulsion systems include water-jet systems, gas turbines, steam turbines, solar, fuel cells, and even nuclear. Some of these technologies are mostly reserved for cruise ships and naval vessels but they may branch into the commercial markets in the future. Your propulsion system will determine how quickly you get to your destinations…or whether you can evade danger.
We cannot speak about boats without touching on their main pain point…the maintenance. Every boat owner (and insurer) knows that upkeep efforts and costs are extremely high. This is even worse for ocean boats because of the corrosive saltwater. In addition, you must be ready for various mechanical and electrical problems that can pop up day or night.
All in all, a survival boat is a viable option for preppers looking for the ultimate bug-out vehicle. People carrying, storage capacity, and steady access to fish are just some of the highlights. Some might even argue that boats are the best vehicle for a zombie apocalypse because the undead can't swim…apparently.
Best bug out boats for preppers
Now let's take a look at some of the best boats you can get your hands on today. We've split up this segment into three categories: riverboats, lake boats, and coastal boats. Some lakes and rivers are MASSIVE and, much like the ocean, they are more than capable of supporting indefinite boating.
Please note that the following list is made up of new boats. While buying new is the safest bet, it is often quite pricey. In that case, you might want to look to the used market for a vessel.
Best survival boat for rivers
Most riverboats are made primarily for adaptability to different water depths. A good riverboat must be able to navigate shallow waters as well as it does the deep.
However, most riverboats also have one distinct weakness: lack of shelter. You simply cannot live on a bass boat or deck boat without being at the mercy of the elements.
Therefore, if you are going to be living on one of the country’s larger rivers, you need a suitable compromise between adaptability and livability. You need a cabin cruiser!
If we’re talking about the best cabin cruisers money can buy, we needn’t look much further than the Four Winns Vista 355 Coupe OB. This beautiful boat is peak American engineering, and boasts a…uhm…boatful of features and amenities that make it perfect for use on big rivers.
The 355 Coupe is not cheap though, far from it. The base MSRP for one of these bad girls is a whopping US$370,000! You could end up shelling out close to half a million dollars if you include some of the optional extras. With such a high price, it may baffle some to realize that the boat is still a fantastic value for money acquisition.
Although this cruiser is classified as a 35-footer, it is actually 37 feet long. It weighs in at 16,000lbs and is powered by a twin Yamaha F300 UCA engine. This motor whips out 700 horsepower and propels the Vista 355 Coupe OB to speeds of up to 44mph.
It has a decent fuel efficiency too, and you can get just over 1MPG if you cruise at moderate speeds. With a 200-gallon tank, you’re looking at 150 miles of range at least.
The boat's main selling point is its livability and comfort. The boat has enough room on board to accommodate 12 people and sleep six. From the rear deck bench to the bow's double lounger, there is a place for everyone to kick back and relax as the world descends into chaos.
The interior cabin is an absolute dream, with a large glass door and large windows offering breathtaking 360-degree views of your surroundings. Four Winns offers different floor plans for the interior, each with a certain twist. However, in all plans, you can expect a lush diner-style lounge area, a full kitchen, and a classy captain’s helm station.
The helm station has a lot of fine leather and is accented with fine stainless-steel switches. Dual monitors offer you all the information you need: from radar and GPS to your boat’s vital info. The adjustable captain’s chair is made from the same combination of leather and stainless steel. A Four Winns-branded footrest completes the setup.
The boat’s kitchenette is certainly a place to be, with pantries, compartments, and spice racks offering plenty of food storage space. You also have an outdoor grill, a refrigerator, and a freezer. Two of the countertops can be opened up to reveal a stove and a sink. Handy.
The boat has two sleeping cabins: a mid-cabin and a master suite. The mid-cabin features twin beds and is surrounded by luxurious ambient lighting. The master suite is located in the boat's aft. It boasts a king-size bed and a bathroom with a shower.
Best survival boat for lakes
Life on a lake offers a great deal of tranquility and peace. However, the size of the lake in question can affect this. Ideally, you want to live on a very large lake, such as one of the Great Lakes, so you can have a bit more control over your visibility and accessibility.
As you know, many boats are well suited to tackling lakes. However, for preppers, we cannot stress the importance of livability. That is why we recommend a houseboat.
Destination Yachts has you covered with the awesome V-Series Houseboats. These full hull boats offer spectacular luxury and a host of standard (and optional) features. All boats in the series feature the company’s patented twin-compartmented hull for maximum stability.
The V-series houseboats range from 70 to 85 feet in length and feature an upper deck, a main level, a second level, and a third level. The boats have high levels of insulation that will keep out the harshest elements. Of course, there is also plenty of outdoor fun to be had, with a sun lounge, swim platform ladder, and floodlights.
The boat has dual fuel tanks with 100 gallons apiece. The captain can rely on a highly responsive hydraulic steering system, depth finders, satellite navigation, and a backup monitor.
The electricals consist of a 2800-watt inverter and battery bank, and a 50 amp shore power hook up. This power features like TVs, the washer/dryer, the water heaters, lights, and a garbage disposal system.
The V-Series houseboats can easily accommodate a family and their supplies for an extended period. Between all the sleeping quarters and lounge areas, there is enough sleeping space for at least 6-8 people. You could squeeze in a few more people if you’re close friends.
Comfort is Destination Yachts’ modus operandi, and the V-series amps it up to 11. You have padded ceilings, rich wooden cabinets, window treatments, and various seating areas. Floor plans are customizable if you want that extra bit of individuality.
You also get a crazy number of optional extras. This includes (but is not limited to):
- An upper deck bath
- 30-foot party top
- Ice maker
- Underwater transom lights
- Satellite dish
- Granite countertops
A true lake monster.
Best survival boat for the coastline
While freshwater bodies can offer ample refuge, they do not offer anything close to the freedom of the sea. Most inland rivers and lakes are simply not big enough for you to keep a low profile.
The aforementioned Vista Coupe and V-series houseboats are also well adapted to life at sea. However, our pick for the best coastal boat is the 60-foot Oyster 565 Sailboat from British boatbuilder Oyster Yachts. With the company’s very existence under threat following a sinking “incident” involving the older 825 Polina Star III, the 565 represents a spectacular bounce back.
Where do we even begin with this beauty? She’s certainly a looker, which isn’t a surprise given Oyster Yachts’ master handcrafters. With the build quality, amenities, and optional extras, you could easily spend a lifetime at sea. At nearly two million dollars, your kids could also spend their lifetimes at sea!
Technically, the 565 is a motorsailer because it also has a 150-horsepower diesel engine. It can hold up to 210 gallons of fuel at a time, which isn't bad at all. However, the boat's main propulsion system is the 1,773 square feet of tri-radial sails.
The 565’s design proves that simplicity is still the ultimate form of sophistication. It makes much better use of space than its predecessor, the 575, by enhancing the size of the bow section and expanding the waterline. The hull volume is also significantly greater.
The best part of luxury products like this is the incredible attention to detail. Exploring the 565 will have you saying “How did they think of that?” roughly every two minutes. From the pristine deck flooring, twin wheels, the highly accessible cockpit, lush interior, and board gated guard rails…it's a jaw-dropping experience.
When you set sail, you will find the 565 to be very well behaved and easy to sail. Retractable thrusters make maneuverability and docking very easy, even in the harshest conditions. The mainsail is deployed with the aid of hydraulic furling, which means you don’t have to leave the helm. Of course, a manual override is possible at any time, or if the hydraulics and electronics fail.
The interior also benefits from Oyster’s incredible build quality. You can opt for a layout with a master cabin and two double cabins or one with the owner aft master suite. Windows and skylights allow great amounts of natural light to come in.
The 565 has a galley that runs longitudinally along the port side. It includes a host of nifty features including a 4-plate propane stove with an oven and an extractor hood. You also get a microwave, a refrigerator, a freezer, and a washing machine.
If your disaster plan involves escaping to another part of the world in a world-class blue water cruiser, you can do much worse than the Oyster 565.
What to look for when buying a bug-out boat
With so many types of boats to choose from, making a choice can be a bit overwhelming. However, we’ve come up with a quick list of things to consider when browsing for the best survival boat.
- Your budget
- Nature of nearest water body (River? Lake? Ocean?)
- Condition of the boat (if used)
- Propulsion system
- Sleeping accommodations and shelter from elements
- Storage space
- Numbers in your party
- Ease of maintenance
- Depth capabilities
- Navigation tools
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Bug out boats: benefits & drawbacks
Choosing to bug out in a boat is certainly a somewhat unique decision. However, much like other vehicles, boats present loads of advantages...as well as a few headaches.
Let’s look at the benefits of bug out boats:
- No traffic (except on busy docks)
- Constant access to fish
- Oceanic boats can go anywhere in the world
- You can spot threats from a distance.
- Zombies can’t swim
- The water can be soothing for stress
- Decent to excellent storage space
- Good people carrying capacity
- Become a better sailor
Now for some drawbacks of bug out boats:
- Boats on inland water bodies have (somewhat) limited movement
- If you have functionality issues at sea, you will be far from any repair shops and technicians
- Boats require a lot of maintenance and monitoring
- Poor fuel efficiency
- Boats are not the fastest
- Docking the boat on supply runs may be risky
- If supply runs aren’t possible, you could be stuck eating fish for a LONG time.
- Weather is a constant worry
- The cost of purchasing and upkeep (insurance, etc.) is very high.
- You, or members of your party, may suffer from seasickness
- Constant exposure to corrosive environments (especially seawater)
Survival boats vs other bug-out vehicles
Of course, to be sure living on a boat is the best thing for you, you must compare them to other vehicle classes.
Cars, bug out pickups, and SUVs are the most popular choices as far as bug-out rides go. These land vehicles are typically faster than boats and they are better for accessing inland destinations. Their storage and people carrying in comparison to boats may vary, but, ultimately, the biggest boats can hold much more people and gear than any car.
Cars are easier to repair than boats, although that may be debatable. What is not debatable is the fact that spare parts for cars will be much easier to source when SHTF. Good luck finding spare propellers in the middle of the Atlantic.
Bicycles and bug out motorcycles are other popular prepper choices. These are excellent for quick supply or scouting missions. They have excellent maneuverability and are much easier to repair than cars and boats. However, bikes and motorbikes are simply outgunned on the storage and people carrying fronts.
Recreational vehicles are basically boats on land. Their livability, storage, and amenities are not too different from what you would find on a cabin cruiser. Of course, as land vehicles, RVs are better for accessing inland destinations.
Essential survival gear for a bug-out boat
Once you finally get your boat, you should stock up on essential survival gear. Remember, you could be on the water for days or even months at a time, so you should try to anticipate every possibility.
Here are some of the things you should get when bugging out by boat:
For a full list of survival items you should have on a bug out vehicle, check out our comprehensive gear lists for survival vehicles.
Best Bug Out Boats Conclusions
Boats may be an unusual choice for many, but that doesn’t make them any less handy when SHTF.
The vessels listed above are just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the ultimate survival boat.