The quest for survival is long and potentially arduous. Oftentimes, it literally involves moving from point A to point B. As such, having a reliable bug-out ride could make all the difference. The only question is: what vehicle will you choose?
Today, we will jump into the world of survival pickup trucks and identify the cream of the crop. With many manufacturers producing incredibly tough and rugged beasts, it is a proverbial candy store for preppers looking for an all-conquering bug-out truck. Let's get right into it!
The best bug-out truck is the Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty 3500. The truck, which is available in different specs, boasts an incredible towing capacity of 36,000lbs. It has room for 5-6 adults and a sizeable cargo bed with a versatile tailgate. Other notable pickup trucks include the Ford F-150, Jeep Gladiator, Honda Ridgeline, and Toyota Tundra.
What is a bug-out truck?
A bug-out truck is a pickup truck that has been modified, customized, or otherwise "prepped" for life after SHTF. As we have already touched on in the introduction, the ability to cover as much ground as possible, in as little time as possible, may save your life in a disaster. Even if walking is a viable option for you, is it practical for your family, friends…pets… and your essentials?
Pickup trucks are workhorse vehicles that are born for hauling people and cargo quickly and efficiently. Because of this, they tend to be more powerful and spacious than your standard hatchback or sedan.
They also feature different physical layouts e.g., crew cabs, double cabs, and regular single cabs. This allows you to choose between high people-carrying capacity, high cargo storage capacity, or a compromise with a bit of both.
In fairness, almost all pickups offer a bit of both. This is because of the pickup’s defining feature: the load bed. Located in the rear, the bed offers the majority of a pickup truck’s cargo space. In a pinch, the bed can also be used to ferry people out of trouble. The less cab space a truck has, the greater its bed storage, and vice versa. This means that single cab trucks tend to have larger beds than their double or crew cab counterparts.
Every prepper knows the value of a bug-out bag, and while it is essential, it is far from enough. When S really HTF, you won't know when (or if) things will get back to normal. Therefore, you will need additional storage space for your food, water, hygiene supplies, bedding, tools, weapons, and more.
Of course, storage capacity is not just restricted to the space in a truck’s cab and bed. Pickup trucks also have notable towing capabilities. Preppers will recognize this as a heaven-sent feature because, to be honest, you can never have enough storage space.
Trailers offer even more storage space for your bug-out gear and essentials, while campers and fifth wheels offer storage AND accommodation facilities.
If you are forced to evacuate your normal home, you could easily use your pickup to tow your mobile home to safety. These can even serve as emergency wards in the event of serious injury or illness in the wilderness. First aid, bandages…tissue paper. You can’t store enough of these things, so every square inch of storage space helps.
In addition to storage and towing, pickups are also adept at life off the beaten path. Pickups, along with SUVs, are also classified as “overland vehicles” because they can tackle all sorts of terrain. There is no telling how crucial a vehicle’s off-road capabilities will be in a major crisis.
Large metropolises could be faced with mass evacuations, which could severely clog up major roads and highways. A pickup could save you this trouble by allowing you to go off-road via backroads, deserts, muddy swamps, or an angry farmer’s ranch!
Pickup trucks are among the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. and Canada because of their exceptional value for money. Unlike luxury sedans (that lose 15 or more percent to depreciation as soon as you hit Reverse off the lot), pickup trucks hold their value well. Matter of fact, I’d classify them as value addition assets because they play key roles across various industries. Think about it…timber, agriculture, health, military…even horse racing.
Repairs and modifications are also affordable and easy to learn, even for the high-tech modern trucks. These vehicles have decent ground clearances as a rule which is a help. You can even raise the suspension on some trucks. There is a whole host of cool survival truck ideas on Pinterest to help you get started with any customizations.
Pickup trucks also offer security from the elements and any malicious threats. Their rugged appearances give off a tough, or even imposing presence, which could make looters or raiders think twice.
A survival truck also presents you with an opportunity to transport secondary vehicles like motorcycles, bicycles, or an ATV. If you were to run into a circumstance where you were forced to abandon the truck, you wouldn’t be forced to continue on foot. Auxiliary vehicles also allow you to carry short supply and scouting runs and, ultimately, save your truck’s fuel.
Best bug out trucks
The demand for pickup trucks in North America has really shot up over the last couple of decades, no doubt a result of their reliability and versatility. As such, several manufacturers have waded into this market to compete with the traditional big boys. This is great news because, as you know, more competition equals more quality choices.
Below are some of the best pickups you can get your hands on today. To keep things simple, we’ve chosen one pickup as the best overall and one pickup each from some reputable brands.
Best bug out pickup truck: Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty 3500
Now, this lofty title can only be awarded to a vehicle of the highest caliber. A car that embodies everything we know and love about pickup trucks, while still pushing the boundaries. In a field of monstrous machines, our pick stands out as a true king…both in stature and statistics. Preppers, I give you the Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty 3500.
It's got the size. It's got the mean looks. It's got the power, the towing…the optional extras. A vehicle that's as American as Kentucky fries and a Diet Coke, the Silverado was born for the no-nonsense pursuit of excellence.
Where do we even start?
The Silverado HD is an absolute behemoth, and Chevrolet claims that the 2021 iteration is its “most capable yet”. The sheer size is impressive, with a height of 80 inches, a width of 81-inches, and an overall length of 249 inches. Very few vehicles can match this Chevy's supreme presence. Everything, including the truck’s glorious grille, is extra-large.
The 3500 HD Silverado is available with a 6.6L V8 that runs on gas, or a 6.6L Duramax Turbo-Diesel motor. While both feature the truck's signature rear-wheel drivetrain, the diesel might be the better choice because it offers greater horsepower (445), torque (910lb-ft), and a ridiculous towing capacity of up to 36,000lbs!
Various parts of the body, including the chassis and bed, are made from high-grade steel that has been refined to be lighter than previous Silverado generations.
The interior is comfy enough with all the standard bells and whistles. There is room for five adults in the crew cab trim (six if you choose the "bench" front seat configuration), with more than enough leg and headroom. The truck has GPS navigation, reverse and trailer cameras, and a banging sound system. There are plenty of storage compartments, as well as some good-sized cupholders.
The bed has an incredible cargo payload of one ton, and it features 12 tie-down points. You can easily secure generators, toolboxes, and other heavy stuff with total peace of mind. The pan is also available in long or short form, so there’s no need to compromise between cargo and cab space.
On the road, the truck comes with your choice of 17, 18, or 20-inch wheels and all-terrain tires. The HD Crew cab also has a dual rear wheel configuration to make it a six-wheeled 4WD monster. The Silverado will simply crush any obstacle in its path. An 11.8-inch ground clearance and 26-inch water fording depth also speak to its off-road pedigree.
This is one hell of a truck, there’s no other way to say it, and it’s the best bug out pickup there is. Period.
Best Ford bug out truck: Ford F-150
Ford’s legendary trucks are bona fide members of American automotive royalty, with the sales records to prove it. Whether it is the F-series in North America or the iconic Ranger in Europe and the rest of the world, the company's pickup trucks are notoriously robust, reliable, and tough.
Refinement has also become a defining feature for Ford trucks recently, and our pick, the irresistible F-150, is the brand’s most advanced pickup ever.
The F-150 boasts its classic imposing frame and bulk, as well as updated facia and body design. The interior is very sophisticated, and it features a sense of symmetry inspired by the Japanese art form of Origami. The crew cab can seat six adults.
The truck’s load bed offers a lot of space, regardless of the spec you choose. With ample storage, as well as a tailgate workbench and power outlets for tools, the F-150 highlights exceptional attention to detail from the manufacturer.
All F-150 trims have great ground clearance, and off-road capable tires can be acquired from Ford or the aftermarket. A new independent front suspension, combined with features like Hill Start Assist makes tackling treacherous terrain a breeze.
The F-150 also has six engines across its full lineup. The 3.5L Powerboost Hybrid V6 is arguably the best choice for most preppers as it boasts the best towing capacity and fuel efficiency.
Best Toyota bug out truck: Toyota Tundra 2021
Toyota, like Ford, is another brand you can always count on for excellent cars, especially in the pickup truck department. The 2021 Tundra is living proof of that, and it should definitely be on your bug-out ride shortlist.
Available in six reasonably priced (and customizable) trims, the Tundra boasts a ton of cool features that would be useful in emergencies. With a massive size, clever technology, and Toyota’s legendary off-road genes, the aptly named Tundra shines in any environment…24/7…rain, sleet, or snow.
Power is delivered by a 5.7L Aluminum iForce V8 that delivers 381 horses and 401lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The transmission is a six-speed automatic while the suspension uses modern coils in the front and traditional leafs in the rear.
The truck also has a towing capacity of over 10,000lbs and a bed payload of over 1,700 lbs. Handy.
Other features (depending on the package) include fog lights, a 38-gallon fuel tank, automatic dual-zone climate control, a smart key system, and Toyota's Safety Sense collision avoidance technology. Did I also mention that grille?
Best Honda bug out truck: Honda Ridgeline 2021
While Honda is a jack (and master) of many automotive trades, the company has traditionally been found wanting when it comes to consistently producing reliable pickup trucks. The traditional big boys like Ford, Chevy, and Dodge have presented a sizeable barrier to entry for the Japanese brand...until now.
The 2021 Ridgeline is a noble attempt at closing the gap, and a real sleeper pick for a bug-out pickup. Stunning looks, off-road capability, and a wide range of upgrade options make this one of the best mid-sized pickups money can buy.
Available in four trims, including the epic Black Edition, the Ridgeline has a host of features and options. What they all share, though is a 3.5L V6 engine that produces 280 horsepower and 262lb-ft of torque. All trim packages also boast a towing capacity of 5,000lbs as well as Honda Sensing Safety & Driver-Assistive Technologies.
The interior has enough room for five adults, and it boasts leather-trimmed seats on all but the entry-level spec. Heated front seats are also standard on the RTL, RTL-E, and Black Edition specs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims.
Other notable features include cruise control, sliding sun visors, and a tri-zone automatic climate control system.
Best Jeep bug out truck: Jeep Gladiator
While the Jeep brand is synonymous with unrivaled off-road nous, it is not commonly associated with pickup trucks in the purest sense. The old Gladiator Series J is one of the most underrated vehicles of the 20th century and has sparked the inspiration behind the latest Jeep to bear the name.
The new Gladiator is an eye-catching car that expertly blends the best attributes of its spiritual ancestor and its modern SUV siblings. While it is certainly a vehicular mutant, the Gladiator’s signature load bed marks it out as a genuine pickup truck.
The Gladiator has the classic seven-strip Jeep facia that we have adored since WWII’s Willys Jeep. It shares many exterior and interior features with its famous sister, the Wrangler. Leather seats, a five-seater layout, an infotainment system, and a great sound system are standard features.
The bed means that the Gladiator has the most storage capacity of any modern Jeep. The towing capacity of 7,650lbs is decent enough to haul a good-sized camper trailer.
You can also choose the Gladiator’s heart. The eight trim packages come with either a 3.6L Pentastar V6 and a 3.0L EcoDiesel V6. You can also choose between a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Best bug out truck camper
Now, the prospect of living in your truck indefinitely is not the most appealing. As versatile as these vehicles are, you will still need some sort of bug-out shelter for you to get some decent rest.
This is where camper trailers come in, and they don’t get much better than Off Grid Trailers’ Pando 2.0. Boasting a corrosion-proof aluminum design, a load capacity of over 1,300 pounds, and a well-thought-out sleeping cabin. It also features a nifty outdoor galley for cookout-style dining wherever you camp.
The Pando 2.0 weighs in at 2200lbs, with a 300lb tongue weight. This makes it perfect for most pickup trucks, including all the trucks listed here. The camper has high ground clearance and is fitted with rugged tires which enhance its off-road capabilities.
Other features on the Pando include a 14-gallon water tank (with an additional 19-gallon tank available as an optional extra), storage cabinets, and spice racks, full solar power, and basic kitchen essentials. Cooking is a cinch thanks to the 2-plate propane burner stove, and the 15-gallon freezer is a welcome preservation tool for your perishables.
All-in-all, the Pando offers you a decent-sized sleeping area as well as some precious home comforts. Sleep, cooking, showering…it's all possible thanks to this awesome camper.
While we've chosen the Pando because of its compatibility with most trucks and SUVs, you must know that it is not the biggest. If your traveling group has three or more adults, you might want to consider a larger camper or a fifth wheel…provided your truck is compatible.
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What to look for when buying a survival truck
There are loads of things that you should consider when browsing for a potential truck. Depending on your circumstances, some things may be more crucial than others. However, the most important thing is a clear understanding of your needs in a bug-out situation.
The following is a brief list of bug out truck considerations:
- Storage (cab and bed)
- People carrying capacity
- Fuel efficiency
- Fuel type
- Speed and performance
- Towing capacity
- Ground clearance
- CO2 emissions
- Availability of spares
Prepper trucks: benefits & drawbacks
Any class of vehicle carries inherent advantages and disadvantages, so compromise is inevitable. Just make sure you make compromises you can live with.
With bug out trucks, the benefits are as follows:
- More spacious than sedans and hatchbacks
- Off-road capability
- Imposing appearance
- Towing capability
- The ground clearance makes repairs easier without lifting equipment
- Ruggedness and durability
- Versatile bed and tailgate
Now, for the downsides of survival trucks:
- Not as maneuverable as smaller vehicles
- They can be rather inefficient with fuel. Especially in stop-start driving.
- They stand out. This could attract looters.
- Without a camper, pickups are not as livable as RVs.
Survival trucks vs other types of bug out vehicles
Before deciding on which truck to get, you must establish if you need a pickup truck at all. The best way to do this is to compare with other vehicle classes.
Traditional sedans and hatchbacks are smaller than pickups, which makes them a bit more maneuverable. However, they do not compare to trucks when it comes to people carrying and storage capacity, and they do not hold a candle when it comes to off-roading.
Recreational vehicles are much more livable than standalone pickup trucks, and they offer greater storage space as a rule. However, their maneuverability is even more cumbersome than that of pickups. Class A RVs are especially ungainly when off-roading too. Plus, RVs stick out like a sore thumb when you need to keep a low profile.
Bug out motorcycles and bicycles are much nimbler than pickups and, oftentimes, much easier to repair. However, they have virtually no storage capacity when compared to pickups. The towing capabilities of a motorbike or a regular bike are also non-existent. Bikes are also a poor barrier to the elements or animals.
Essential gear for a bug-out truck
Simply acquiring a truck is not enough for a successful survival mission. You will also need to equip it and stock it up with various pieces of survial gear. Tools, weapons, supplies, and so on. These items should be on top of any truck bug out bag you prepared before hand. Below is a list of essential items every bug-out trucker could use when SHTF. Feel free to add any items relevant to you.
Essential bug out gear for a survival truck includes:
For a comprehensive overview of all the gear, tools and checklists you should have in a survival vehicle, check out our article with 5 essential lists for bug out vehicles.
Survival Trucks Conclusions
Pickup trucks certainly tick several prepper boxes and the selection available today is as great as it’s ever been.
With great storage capacities, off-road steel, and all-around value-for-money, survival trucks are a serious contender for the title of best bug out ride.