There is no doubt ATVs are among the best vehicles for when SHTF. Whether as workhorses, escape vehicles, or good old adrenaline stations, there are many reasons to consider them for bugging out.
Today, we go on a journey into the world of all-terrain bug-out vehicles. We examine their benefits over other vehicle classes, the differences between "ATV" and "UTV", as well as a few other frequently asked questions. Of course, we've helped you identify some of the best bug out machines out there.
The best bug out ATV is the Can-Am Renegade X XC 1000R, a trail quadbike that features a 971cc engine that produces 91 horsepower. The ATV also has advanced Tri-Mode Power Steering and it can be equipped with a winch. It can also tow a cargo trailer to increase its storage capacity. The best bug out UTV is the Can-Am Maverick X3 X DS Turbo RR.
ATV stands for “all-terrain vehicle”, a class of vehicles that specialize in tackling…all terrains. The formal definition of the acronym, according to the ATV Safety Institute, is “a motorized off-highway vehicle designed to travel on four low-press or non-pneumatic tires, having a seat designed to be straddled by the manufacturer and handlebars for steering control”.
Most laypeople tend to refer to ATVs as “quadbikes” or “quads”. It is also common to find the word used to refer to dune buggies or side-by-sides. However, the formal term for those vehicles is UTV (Utility task vehicle). The main difference is that UTVs are driven like cars, while ATVs are ridden like motorcycles.
While the two are different, they both have an area where they can be equally useful…bugging out.
When SHTF, mobility will be key. Walking is a drag and will sap vital energy. Conventional cars are very efficient and fast, but they are restricted to the tarmac. Attempts to escape large cities could clog up traffic on all major roads.
This is where ATVs (and even UTVs) come in. These vehicles are specifically designed with ultra-rugged tires and suspensions that make them feel right at home off-road. Riding them is a breeze, and they are surprisingly quick and powerful. That power can also come in handy for hauling trailers or even other ATVs!
With these bad boys, even the nastiest traffic jams will be relegated to apocalyptic backdrops as you shred backroad dirt on your way to freedom. That image alone is reason enough to stop reading this article and place an order. If you’re still not convinced, allow me to highlight the full merits of an all-terrain vehicle.
The prepper ethos demands preparation for any and all eventualities. Of course, no one can predict when, or how, disaster will strike. One thing you can predict is widespread panic when it does. If you live in a large city, you should know that widespread panic will lead to one thing…stampedes to get out of town and, eventually, jams on all major roads and highways.
Besides endless traffic, there may be other reasons to stay off major roads when SHTF. If the crisis is some sort of foreign invasion, military coup, or all-out Purge, you would be wise to stay off-road, especially when moving across state lines. Such nightmare scenarios are also a major reason why you should avoid bugging out on foot.
With an ATV, you can easily hop on or off the tarmac, or go off-road completely. Depending on your location, you could even cut across open grass plains and ranches and escape as the crow flies. With the exception of sheer gradients, narrow gaps, or bodies of water, an ATV can traverse any environment a human can…only faster.
Modern ATVs are exceptionally powerful and torquey, which makes them good for carrying an extra passenger and hauling trailers. In a pinch, these trailers can be abandoned to allow you to escape with your bug-out bag.
Trail and competition quads are not only fast, but they have exceptional handling over the roughest terrain. The ATV is perfect if you have a fixed bug out pad. It can be used for supply runs and light haulage (firewood, wild game, water containers).
The UTV market, on the other hand, offers a bit more flexibility, especially when it comes to carrying and storage capacities. These factors are important if you have a family or companions to worry about as well. Storing gear and supplies is a major issue for all preppers.
The performance also has wider interpretations in the UTV arena. There are workhorses that are engineered for hauling loads of gear and supplies one end. On the other end, there are elite buggies with the speed and agility to rival any high-performance ATV. However, all UTVs are very adept at off-roading and dirt/ snow trails.
UTVs are a good choice if storage space is a major concern. If you don’t have a shelter or bug out home, a UTV would (in most cases) provide better storage than an ATV. The former’s driving-style cockpit and passenger areas are much more conducive to storing things than the latter’s rider-style configuration.
Now that we've pointed out how ATVs and UTVs can assist your survivalist mission, we should identify a few standout machines. Luckily for you, there is an excellent range of choices across the two vehicle categories. Let’s focus on a few models that cater to a variety of needs.
Let's kick off with the best ATV you can buy today. This hotly contested title has to go to the Can-Am Renegade X XC series. These high-performance sport-utility quad bikes are simply spectacular in every way. You can get the X XC with an 850 or 1000cc V-twin engine. The 1000cc spec, known as the 1000R, packs 91 horsepower, while the 850 has a respectable 78.
Both specs are world-class machines and they largely share the same features (and optional extras). You can choose between a two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive configuration for both engines. The X XC features Can-Am’s Visco-Lok QE front differential, which allows you to gobble up any surface in your path.
Other features include an arched double A-arm front suspension and a torsional trailing-arm independent rear suspension. Handling is a breeze thanks to the Tri-Mode Dynamic Power Steering. The engines’ mighty power is pummeled into the dirt by 25-inch ITP Holeshot tires. Fuel capacity is a reasonable 5.4 gallons.
The 850 weighs in at 686 pounds, while the beefier 1000R weighs 710 pounds. Both specs have a 51-inch wheelbase, 10.5 inches of ground clearance, and a 34.5-inch seat height. Besides a 35-pound capacity rack, there is very little storage capacity to speak of. However, you could attach a trailer to the rear. Both X XC specs have a towing capacity of 1,300 pounds. You can also include a winch as an optional extra.
As the rider, you will have access to a 4.5-inch digital infotainment screen that features the speedometer, odometer, tachometer, and more. There's also a standard DC connection outlet in the center console. The X XC bikes all feature Can-Am's patented RF Digitally Encoded Security System (D.E.S.S.)
The X XC is also well adapted to night riding, thanks to its four 240W projector-beam headlamps. The 60-watt tail and brake lights also ensure a high level of visibility. Both specs are protected by an aluminum front bumper and the handlebars have an aluminum taper to protect your hands.
Both X XC specs come in a cool “Desert Tan & Carbon Black” colorway but there is an incredible “Black & Can-Am Red” colorway that is exclusive to the 1000R.
Naturally, the "best" is going to cost a pretty penny. Expect to pay anywhere between US$12,000-$16,000, depending on the spec and options you choose. However, if you are after a no-nonsense, performance-ready beast of an ATV (and money is no object), then you needn’t look past the Can-Am X XC. Our tip? Just bite the price bullet and go for the 1000R.
If budget is your primary concern, you might want to take a look at the Kawasaki Brute Force 300. With an engine capacity of 271cc, this ATV is much less powerful than the X XC. However, at about a third of the price, it presents excellent value and an ideal entry bike for new riders.
The Brute Force is an awesome utility ATV that is comfy on any terrain it comes across. With large protective floorboards, your feet will be safe and secure as you rip through sand, snow, or gravel. The ride quality is unbelievable, and the suspension expertly absorbs all forms of punishment. A worthy shout.
As we have already hinted at, utility task vehicles can be very different in terms of form factor, intended use, and seating/storage capacity. As a result, only you can determine the best UTV for your survival quest. It’s that subjective.However, this wouldn't be a "best" type of article unless we made a choice!
Our top pick UTV is the incredulous Can-Am Maverick X3 series. The Maverick family features four configurations, with the undoubted star being the X3 X DS Turbo RR, the ultimate doom buggy.
Packing a whopping 195 ponies, the two-seater RR is an absolute joy to drive through any environment. With a burgeoning Dakar legacy coursing through its veins, the Maverick is especially adept at tackling desert environments. While some of its siblings, like the X3 X MR Turbos and RS Turbos, are experts at dunes and mud respectively, the non-specialized trail orientation of the DS Turbo makes it the best choice for preppers.
Under the hood lies a 900 cc Rotax Advanced Combustion Efficiency (ACE) engine with an integrated intercooler. The throttle response is almost like that of an electric car and the glorious transmission effortlessly harnesses this beast for supreme performance. You can switch between three four-wheel-drive modes or you can go with two-wheel drive. A locked front differential also comes standard.
The buggy's wicked dance moves are facilitated by a double A-arm front suspension and a 4-link Torsional Trailing-arm X rear suspension. It also sits on 29-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires. The grip on these tires is simply insane and it allows the DS Turbo to be forgiving in the corners.
Stopping power is just as (if not more) important than go-power, and this UTV reflects that sentiment through its brakes. There are 262mm discs in the front and 248mm discs in the rear. Both front and rear brakes feature hydraulic twin-piston calipers.
The Maverick X3 X DS Turbo RR weighs in at 1501 pounds and has a 102-inch wheelbase. It sits 14 inches off the ground when unloaded, and it has a fuel capacity of 10.5 gallons. Its LinQ rack can hold up to 200 pounds of cargo. All in all, the UTV has a total storage capacity of 2.5 gallons. There is also a tow hook for attaching a trailer. No winch options, I’m afraid.
Other features include LED head and tail lights, RF D.E.S.S. security, and a 7.6-inch infotainment screen with a keypad. The panel displays your speed, revs, mileage, performance mode, differential lock indicators, and a whole lot more.
Can-Am offers a 6-month limited warranty and up to 30 months of extended service on the DS Turbo RR. Fair warning…this machine is expensive. If two seats are inconvenient for you, you can cough up a little extra for the X3 Max X DS Turbo RR version which seats four people.
Again, I cannot stress this enough, the Maverick X3 X DS Turbo RR is our pick for the best UTV.
The Polaris Ranger CREW XP 1000 Big Game Edition is another noteworthy UTV, particularly for its storage space and six-seater configuration.
The Honda Talon 1000X is another zippy two-seater like the Maverick. Its automatic dual-clutch transmission is arguably the best transmission on any UTV ever.
Also, check out the Yamaha Viking VI Ranch Edition (space and seating) and the Polaris RZR Turbo S4 (speed and agility). The Kawasaki Mule is a classic name in the UTV game, and the Mule SX is a great budget workhorse (no pun).
ATVs pretty much have the same overall form factor. However, they have variations in size, ride height, storage, and power that make some more suited to bugging out than others.
The first consideration is budget. ATVs generally follow a “more power, higher price” pattern. If you want machines with the best specs, you should prepare your wallet. Take your time to draw a pros and cons list of the ATVs in your desired price range.
The next consideration is your environment. If you live in swampy marshes, then a mud-quad or “mudder” is worth considering. A lot of brands feature mud-ready versions of their most popular ATVs. If your immediate environment is a mixed bag of different surfaces and tarmac, a trail ATV is the way to go.
You should also look for ATVs that are appropriate for your riding level. If you’re an experienced rider, you should think twice before spending money on pro-grade machines like the Renegade. If you are a seasoned veteran, then go crazy.
Comfort is another consideration. There’s a good chance that when SHTF, you will be on your ATV for hours on end. The seat is arguably the most important part of an ATV, and your bug-out machine must have a decent one if you are to make it through the end of the world with your back intact. Older riders must make this priority number one. A bad seat will get old...fast.
Comfort also extends to other areas like the floorboards and the handles. The floorboards should allow you to get on or off the ATV with ease, as well as shield your legs from debris and mud. The handles should be ergonomic and comfortable to hold for hours.
A winch is a tool that is seldom used, but you do not want to need it…and NOT have it. If your ATV were to get trapped in a ditch, for instance, you would be able to rescue it with a winch. If your desired machine doesn’t have a winch, find out if the manufacturer provides one as an optional extra.
Coloring could be very important as well. We’ve already discussed some reasons to stay incognito during a crisis. Try to look for an ATV which doesn’t stand out too much. A lot of ATVs come with camouflage paint jobs, which isn't a bad choice. Of course, you could always go for an aftermarket paint job.
Towing is another important consideration. Let’s face it, you’re not going to store much on an ATV, no matter how creative you are. A trailer will be needed if you are to carry anything besides a bug-out bag.
A lot of preppers are daunted, and thrilled, at the prospect of leaving civilization behind and heading towards the horizon on the back of a screaming ATV. But what are the benefits and disadvantages of choosing such a vehicle?
Let’s start with the advantages of bug out ATVs:
Now for some drawbacks of bug out ATVs:
While ATVs have a noteworthy claim to the title of the ultimate bug-out ride, we should discuss some of the other pretenders to the crown.
The recreational vehicle is one of these, and for good reason. RVs are the polar opposite of ATVs, as far as storage goes. RVs have loads of open interior space, cupboards, and storage compartments. Some of the bigger ones can even accommodate multiple beds, TVs, and kitchens! Unfortunately, they are best used on flat or paved roads. You can also forget about not standing out.
A standard sedan or hatchback also has more storage space than an ATV. In a pinch, you could even sleep in your car. However, cars need roads. “As the crow flies” won’t fly here.
SUVs have even more storage space and some decent off-road skills. However, even the most battle-ready Jeep cannot reach some of the narrow pockets an ATV can.
A dirt bike is an awesome choice for bugging out. They are quick and can go anywhere an ATV can. Having two wheels makes them more gap-friendly than ATVs could ever hope to be. However, a motorcycle has even less storage space than an ATV, even if you count the helmet! Also, motorcycles carry a greater risk of falls and injuries, especially off-road.
UTVs have many of the benefits of an ATV, including suitability to roads and dirt and good fuel efficiency. Generally speaking, they can carry more people and gear, in addition to being tow-friendly. However, they are bulkier than ATVs and some of the more work-oriented UTVs are about as agile as golf carts. UTVs are also wildly expensive.
Choosing an ATV as your bug-out vehicle might leave you scrambling for storage, but there are a few items that you have to consider. If I were you, I would make sure my bug out ATV had:
For even more vehicle checklists and gear lists, read our comprehensive article on the 5 bug out vehicle lists for preppers.
An ATV is an awesome choice for bugging out with very little cargo. Their off-road capabilities are bound to be a key advantage when SHTF.
Just make sure that ATVs are the right choice for you, and be aware of their limitations. You might find that a UTV, or any other vehicle class, would be a much better choice for your needs.