Today, we take a look at DIY vehicle modification and preparation. We explore ideas on how to enhance your car’s storage, security, and overall reliability. We also go over some key considerations before purchasing and modifying a bug-out vehicle.
Choosing a bug-out vehicle is a key decision with major implications for your mobility during an emergency. Recreational Vehicles are a popular American pastime, but are they a viable option for when SHTF? Let's find out!
RVs are superb vehicles that not only look cool but are also highly practical and quite comfortable. Today we assess the very best models for various prepper needs. We will also discuss their advantages and disadvantages before we compare them to other bug-out vehicle classes.
The best bug-out RV is the EarthRoamer XV HD, a luxury overland vehicle with a host of incredible features. The best bug-out trailer is the Pando 2.0 from Off Grid Trailers. The best pop-up camper is the Air Opus Camper, while the best foldable camper is the Pennine Pathfinder. The Grand Design Solitude is the best fifth wheel and the Mammoth 11’ 6’’ is the best truck camper.
A bug-out RV is a recreational vehicle that has been acquired, stocked, and/or modified for survival. Bug out RVs are used for mobility, shelter, and storage in the event of a crisis.
Depending on your particular set of circumstances, mobility may be of paramount importance in a disaster event. If your area falls victim to natural disasters like floods, military or terrorist threats, or just good old anarchy, you might want to skip town fast. Luckily there’s a wide range of options when it comes to ways of getting from point A to point B.
RVs are one such option, and many preppers are increasingly fanning the flames of the survival RV hype. Several manufacturers, new and old, have gotten wind of this and now a new age of bug-out beasts is upon us. DIY modifications have also ramped up, both in terms of innovation and wackiness. But hey, "it ain't stupid if it works”.
Recreational vehicles are so-called because they are designed to offer relaxing home comforts. Usually, these include bedding, cooking facilities, lavatory facilities, lounging, and showers. TVs are also increasingly common, and some of the more luxurious RVs have multiple media and entertainment devices, Wi-Fi, and even massage chairs!
However, as plush as the amenities may be, there are perhaps two main reasons why one would get an RV…shelter and storage. I don't know about you, but living in a sedan, or even an SUV is not a sustainable way to live, especially for an extended period. Worse still if you have a family or group you will be bugging out with.
RVs are the ultimate homes on wheels, and while most of them are not the Four Seasons or even perfect replacements for a typical suburban home, they are the best living arrangements on wheels…by far. It would be fairly difficult for one person to bug out in a car, let alone a whole family.
To stand any chance of survival, your bug-out vehicle must also be equipped with critical gear, supplies, tools, and weapons. Storage space for food, water, tools, weapons, and other things is a luxury most vehicles cannot offer, so RVs have a distinct advantage. Owning an RV means essential, or even sentimental items won’t be left behind when you need to evacuate.
The ideal bug-out RV would also need all-terrain versatility and maneuverability. Off-road tires and suspensions could prove their weight in gold. You never know what could make the roads unusable. Defensive reinforcements, coverings, and camouflage could also be needed because RVs might be perceived as easy targets by raiders.
Recreational vehicles come in different shapes and sizes. These categorizations are known as “classes”. Class A vehicles are the largest, with most of them based on coach chassis. Class C vehicles are smaller and usually feature a cab that is affixed to a trailer.
Interestingly, Class B vehicles are smaller than Class C vehicles. Class B usually entails RVs built on van frames. Travel trailers are an awesome way to convert an ordinary pickup truck or SUV into an RV. The same goes for pop-up trailers and fifth-wheel trailers.
Each of these RV classes has its pros and cons, and you must understand them before you commit. RVs can be insanely expensive, so make sure you get one that suits your needs. Fifth-wheel trailers, for example, offer most of the comforts and space of Class A vehicles, as well as the advantage of being detachable from the towing vehicle.
Now that we've looked at what a bug-out RV is, it's time we explored the very best machines you can get today. Believe it or not, there are quite a few different classes of RVs, from motorhomes to fifth wheels and so on. We will touch on all of these in a bid to point you in the right direction and highlight what you need to be looking for from a survival RV.
While most RVs are reasonably livable, some are definitely more “homely” than others. For this article, we have focused only on production or built-to-order vehicles rather than on one-off custom motorhomes. Unfortunately, this means we cannot discuss machines like Will Smith’s incredible custom RV.
However, the RV we have chosen as the winner of this category is still a true work of automotive art. An all-conquering beast that is pumped and ready to smash the outside world while keeping you as snug as a bug-out bug in a rug. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the EarthRoamer XV HD, the ultimate bug-out motorhome.
The EarthRoamer brand has come a long way since founder Bill Swails' initial attempts at building a wilderness camper on a Dodge Ram chassis in the late 90s. Today, the company is now one of the leading lights in the luxury overland vehicle market, with the LTi and its predecessor, the LTS, proving to be a hit.
The XV HD, as the bigger, meaner, and more luxurious older sister to the LTi and LTS, is undoubtedly the jewel in the brand’s crown. This massive motor home is built on the chassis of the already massive Ford 750. A bit of warning though, do not expect to pay regular Ford prices for this monster. Before optional extras, the HD will cost you north of a million dollars…at the very least!
If you are still reading after “a million dollars”, congratulations. If money is no object, you should at least consider this self-sufficient motorhome as your bug-out vehicle. The HD is an uber-luxurious Class C RV, with the four-door F-750 cab hauling a massive composite camper.
It is significantly larger than its siblings, measuring 35 feet in length, 8.5 feet in width, and just over 13 feet in height. The HD also weighs 37,000 pounds. To handle all of this heft, the vehicle is equipped with a 6.7-liter V8 diesel engine. Combined with its turbochargers, this engine dishes out 330 horses and 725nm of torque.
The RVs awesome power takes to the road via the massive 46-inch wheels it sits on. The tires are military-spec, and I cannot think of anything that could successfully stand in their way. The wheels also contribute to the vehicle’s 12-inch ground clearance.
As a Class C RV, the HD is better suited to full-on off-roading than most Class A motorhomes, which are notoriously cumbersome in tight spaces.
With regards to the inside of the vehicle, EarthRoamer offers six floorplans for you to choose from and customize. Whichever plan you choose, you can expect a glorious and well-lit interior that is akin to a swanky Manhattan apartment.
The highlight of the HD’s interior is arguably the main lounging area at the back of the vehicle, which features a plush wraparound couch. The table can be heightened or lowered to serve as a dining or coffee table. When it’s time to turn in, the lounge area can be completely converted into a sleeping area with a king-sized bed.
A kitchen made up of two marble countertops on opposite sides of the corridor is another highlight. Several drawers, cabinets, and spice racks are available to flesh out the kitchen. There is also a large sink, fridge, freezer, 3-pot induction cooker, convection oven/microwave, and even a small washer/dryer.
The rest of the RV features more storage closets, cabinets, and a hidden set of stairs that allows easier access to the second sleeping area above the cab. The bed here is also king-sized and, like the other one, sits below a neat sky-hatch that greatly increases natural lighting. In addition, the HD features large windows right around for maximum natural light. At night, you would also be able to enjoy the LED and ambient lighting.
The HD’s cool window layout also facilitates fantastic views. Camping by a canyon, a waterfall, or good old sunset could prove highly therapeutic in the event of post-apocalyptic trauma.
The windows are also extremely beneficial for keeping an eye on anyone who may approach your million (and a half) dollar RV. Of course, you also have a highly sophisticated system of security cameras at your disposal.
The EarthRoamer also features a lavatory and a separate shower which features a marble floor. An additional sink is also tucked away behind the shower stall. The interior is very breathable and two adults can even walk through the corridor side by side. The headroom is excellent, and I can picture a few NBA players bugging out the HD.
The HD cab’s four-seater interior is a significant upgrade on a standard F-750, with comfier seats and expensive-looking wood panels. A neat gangway allows for direct movement between the cab and the main trailer.
Entertainment amenities include two flat-screen TVs, each with a Bose Surround sound system, as well as Wi-Fi. The rear lounge area is a great place to sit with a good book.
For the electricals, the XV HD is powered by a 20000W Lithium-ion battery bank. The solar panel array delivers 2100 watts of power. A clever hydraulic generator serves as a backup for when the solar panels fail to deliver enough juice to the batteries. As far as your heat and electricity go, the RV is completely self-sufficient.
This awesome RV also boasts awesome levels of capacity. It can hold up to 115 gallons of diesel, 250 gallons of freshwater, and 125 gallons of black water.
Other features include hydraulic stabilization, a 50-inch auxiliary LED headlamp, and an electric winch with a 30,000lbs capacity.
We could dedicate the rest of this article to the XV HD…because it has much more to share. The steep price is the biggest problem for anyone interested in this monster. However, if you have the cash, you will be the biggest problem for any crises you may encounter.
If you do not have a few million dollars, but already own a powerful 4x4 vehicle such as an SUV or pickup, a bug-out trailer may be the best choice for you. These are commonly referred to as “towable RVs”.
It is especially hard to rate the “best” in this category because different vehicles have different towing capacities. When choosing a towable RV, you must choose a trailer that your vehicle can handle.
With that said, one of the best bug-out trailers today is Off Grid Trailers' cute and functional Pando 2.0. At 2200lbs, it is much smaller than the EarthRoamer we just looked at. However, while not cheap, it is much more affordable. The smaller size makes it suited for most SUVs, pickups, or even estate cars.
Off Grid spared no effort in creating this lovely off-road trailer, with a corrosion-resistant aluminum frame that was engineered for the splashes of the wild. Mildew and mold have always been major problems for motorhomes and trailers because of all the wood they tend to feature. Well, not anymore.
The Pando 2.0 has a carrying capacity of 1,300lbs (while in tow), which is a fair amount of clothes and gear. It is 13 feet long, 6.5 feet high, and 7.4 feet wide. With some handy amenities and a sleeping area, the trailer is ideal for two people and a child, as well as a lone prepper.
Mobility is also very good. The trailer will match the towing vehicle’s agility in most normal driving conditions. This is thanks to the trusty Timbren suspension and fat off-road tires.
Sleeping arrangements are also straightforward here. There is a small cabin with a decent-sized foam mattress, entertainment system, flat-screen TV, and a super cool roof fan. As far as windows though, the Pando is the proverbial tent to the XV HD's penthouse. You can have a rooftop tent included in your package too.
The Pando also has an outdoor galley, which is revealed by opening a rear door that is then converted to an awning. Boasting a deep sink, propane burner stove, freezer, and more, every meal will feel like a cookout.
Electricals are handled by a 50-amp circuit bus located in the tongue box. A Zamp solar port feeds the 1000W sine wave inverter for self-sufficient power. This setup supports all of the trailer's devices, lighting, and heating.
Water is stored in a 14-gallon tank, and you should definitely get the optional 19-gallon reserve tank. The Pando also has a heated outdoor shower, which is always handy.
All in all, the Pando is a great medium-sized trailer that is worth your consideration.
Pop-up trailers are exactly that. You simply tow them to your chosen campsite, and then “pop” them up to make them livable. In normal circumstances, these small trailers are mostly used for one or two-night recreational camping. However, if you are in a jam, or simply cannot afford some of the flashier trailers out there, a pop-up will have to suffice for bugging out.
While there is stiff competition in this category, it is hard to look past the Air Opus Pop Up Camper. This RV is simply eye-catching, with a rugged outer shell that houses unimaginable secrets.
You see, the Air Opus trailer opens up to reveal a self-inflating tent that can accommodate four adults. The tent raises itself up within three minutes, which is fantastic if you just want to crash into bed after a long day on the road.
The outer shell is made from super-durable aluminum Dibond, which makes it virtually corrosion-proof. Available in orange, blue, matte black, and metallic gray, the Air Opus is as stylish as it is functional.
The tent has plenty of floor space in addition to its dinette, kitchenette, and several storage cabinets. The trailer features a cool slide-out kitchen and fridge unit that also has a four-burner stove and sink.
The Air Opus trailer weighs in at 3970lbs, with a 1000lbs load capacity when on the road. It is 16 feet long, almost 7 feet wide, and 5 feet high. With a height clearance of 12.4 inches, the trailer is ready for any terrain it faces.
Other perks you can get from this cool trailer include an optional shower extension room, hot water, and a roof cargo rack.
Foldable campers are similar to pop-up trailers. The major difference is that pop-up trailer tents can be fully hidden, while foldable campers are expandable to increase living and storage space. However, in the real world, the two terms may be used interchangeably.
There are some great campers out there for you to pick from. One such camper is the Pennine Pathfinder. This foldable camper trailer is an excellent blend of comfort, style, and durability that would serve any survivalist well. A trailerful of optional extras only serves to amplify the Pathfinder’s awesomeness.
The camper boasts a lot of useful features, including hot water, central heating, an external shower, a washroom, a cassette toilet, bed boards, and a carpet. Kitchen facilities include a 3-burner propane stove, a fridge, a convection oven/microwave, and a sizeable sink.
The erected tent is 19.6 feet long and 6.9 feet wide. Its highest point is over 7 feet above the ground. When everything is folded away, the trailer measures 4.5 feet in height, 16 feet in length, and nearly 7 feet across. The total weight is just over 2,200lbs, which means that smaller cars like sedans and estates can haul the trailer around quite easily.
The trailer is very agile and its tough all-terrain wheels are ready for anything.
Fifth wheels are among the most popular RVs in the U.S. and Canada today. These trailers offer great size ranges, which, in turn, leads to great price ranges.
There is a fifth wheel for any budget if you are willing to look long and hard enough. Another major advantage with fifth wheels is that they are detachable, meaning you could temporarily leave the trailer at your campsite to increase your pickup truck’s mobility (and gas mileage) for supply runs and errands.
The title of “best fifth wheel” will always be a topic of debate because there are some fantastic ones out there. That said, you will not go wrong by getting the jaw-dropping Solitude from Grand Design Recreational Vehicles.
Boasting more features than a DJ Khaled album, the Solitude is what on-the-go luxury is all about. Not only would this RV make up for any lost home comforts in a bug-out situation, but you might also find it to be an improvement on your actual house!
Grand Design offers FIFTEEN floor plans for the Solitude, with each having a different dimension and price. Each floorplan comes with a thermally insulated roof, laminated walls, triple-floor insulation, and an underbelly seal that blocks out the elements.
Physically, the floorplans range from 34 to 41 feet in length. The weight also ranges from 15,000-16,800 pounds, depending on the floorplan. Physical space is the Solitude’s number one claim to fame, which is perfect for preppers with families and pets.
The fifth wheel has comforts ranging from a master bedroom with a queen bed, pantries, elegant LED lighting, a walk-in master closet, overhead cabinets, and much more.
The kitchen includes an oversized pantry with LED rope lighting, a sink with a faucet that serves as a pullout sprayer, a microwave, and an optional French door refrigerator.
The bathroom has a fiberglass shower a glass door, a porcelain toilet, and an under-mount lav sink. A 12-gallon gas-powered water heater also comes standard.
The Solitude’s electricals feature a 10-gauge wiring Solar Prep system with universal MC4 connectors. You can also get a 300W solar panel, a controller, and a 2000W inverter as part of the optional “Solitude Solar System” package.
While not the most maneuverable, the Solitude can go pretty much anywhere a reasonably powerful pickup truck can go. Hitching and unhitching the RV is a breeze thanks to the highly accommodating gooseneck.
Truck campers are another handy way to convert a pickup truck into an RV. While significantly smaller than fifth wheels, they tend to be much more affordable. Truck campers are also easier to maneuver than fifth wheels.
With regards to the best one, few would argue against the Mammoth 11’ 6’’ from Host Campers. A living representation of “don’t judge a book by its cover”, the Mammoth has a simple design that belies extraordinary functionality, comfort, and space.
The Mammoth earns its name thanks to its massive size. Its three slide-outs really beef up the camper’s appearance and utility. It features a fancy dinette, a queen bed (king-size is optional), a love seat, and even a fireplace! A refrigerator, 1000W inverter, and a 3-burner stove all come standard.
The Mammoth 11' 6" is so-called because it has a floor-length of 11 feet and six inches. It weighs 4,700 pounds and can store 65 gallons of freshwater, 51 gallons of grey water, and 31 gallons of black water.
With a ridiculous list of standard features and an even more ridiculous set of optional extras, this bug-out truck camper is perhaps one of the most customizable RVs you can get today.
As we have seen, RVs have several features to offer. As a prepper, there are a few things that you should pay attention to. Of course, different folks may require different strokes, so keep your own needs in consideration.
However, here are some of the things you need to look for before committing to an RV as a bug out vehicle:
RVs, like all other potential bug-out vehicles, require careful consideration of the pros and cons. All preppers know that compromise is the name of the game, and that you will have to decide what you can live with…and what you cannot live without.
A comparison with other vehicle classes is inevitable because you want to get the best vehicle for you and your circumstances.
The biggest advantage RVs have over other vehicle classes is their sheer size. As far as road-going vehicles, RVs have the most living and storage space. Living in a car is a nightmare if you have to do it for one night, let alone for an indefinite period. Worse still if you have companions or pets. Even bug out SUVs are no match for the livability of an RV.
However, mobility could prove to be a major problem for RVs. They cannot weave in and out of heavy traffic like motorcycles or small hatchbacks. Class A RVs and fifth wheels cannot bypass main roads as easily as 4x4s or bug out ATVs. If your bug-out plans involve any sort of speedy escape, an RV might not be the best choice.
If the world goes full Mad Max, bandits and looters might be an ever-present threat. A fat-looking RV like the Solitude could prove to be a magnet for all sorts of trouble in tough times.
Also, if society crumbles completely, manufacturers, service centers, or RV mechanics may not be accessible to offer consultations, repairs, and parts. Motorcycles, and older cars, would be much easier to repair in such a scenario.
A bug-out RV is a great investment for preppers who will require mobility and emergency shelter when SHTF.
Their storage capacity and livability cannot be matched by most other vehicles, which is why they must be a feature on any survivalist's bug-out ride shortlist.