When it comes to preparing to bug out, one of the most important considerations is your actual transportation.
Unless you and all of your family members are in extremely good physical condition and are used to regularly hiking or walking long distances, your last resort should be bugging out on foot.
One of the popular discussions among preppers is about the use of a recreational vehicle (RV) as a bug out vehicle. Some people think this type of vehicle is a no brainer for a bug out trip. Others believe there are elements inherent to most RV’s that make it a bad idea as a bug out vehicle.
So, can you bug out in an RV?
Yes, you can definitely bug out in an RV. Their large capacity will allow you to take a lot more things with you as opposed to a regular car or pick-up truck.
But should you bug out in an RV? Can you do it successfully? And if so, how?
So, if you’ve been on the fence as to whether or not that old RV in the driveway or wondered if the new model down at the local RV lot is a good investment for your bug out planning, keep reading.
We’ll not only tell you how you CAN bug out in an RV, but we’ll help you determine if it’s a good idea based on your personal circumstances.
Of course, at the end of the day, the decision is up to you, but we’ll present the information you need to make that decision more confidently.
Before you can confidently decide whether or not you can bug out in an RV you really need to analyze your own personal circumstances. Bugging out should almost always be a last resort because it is inherently more dangerous than staying put in a crisis situation.
But your own personal circumstances are very important in determining whether or not bugging out in an RV would even be feasible.
Table of Contents
Terrain and Climate
Think about the climate and terrain where you live:
What are the roads like? Are only main roads paved? How are the driving conditions on the side roads when weather conditions are less than ideal?
Consider weather patterns as well, especially any types of frequent natural disasters that hit the area or extreme weather. Do you get a lot of snow and ice during the winter? How often do you get strong winds and rain that might blow debris such as branches or loose objects into the roadways?
What about heat waves? Keeping your RV warm or cool depending on the season will add up to the costs.
RVs can slide around in flood waters and easily be blown over by hurricane winds thanks to their tall profile.
If you’ve planned alternative routes out of the city, do those routes include rocky or dirt roads? What about the potential for using logging roads or power easement trails? Are you driving through or heading to the mountains during your bug out?
Also, how are you going to stay hidden as much as possible with your RV? Will you paint it in a darker color? Will you drive mostly at night?
All of these questions are important.
As you answer them and think of other factors regarding the terrain and climate in your area, the amount of engine power, durability, and road clearance you need from your bug out vehicle will become clearer.
Special Off-Road and Difficult Terrain Factors
Despite being large and powerful vehicles, RV’s fare very poorly in true off-road conditions and across other difficult terrain. A recreational vehicle is designed to be comfortable and efficient on highways and interstates, but it is not meant for rougher travel.
Gravel roads and unpaved surfaces can quickly wear down an RV’s tires, axles, and other components. In addition, the added weight of an RV can make crossing a stream or maneuvering up a steep incline even more difficult.
Getting up an embankment might well prove impossible, as the breakover distance is quite long.
If you’re forced to take your RV off-road in order to avoid detection or danger, you may find yourself stranded when the terrain proves too difficult.
Getting bogged down in sand or mud is also a common problem for RVers. A large, heavy vehicle will quickly get stuck in these conditions, and may not be able to free itself without serious help from well-equipped vehicles.
Airing down tires and placing recovery boards or planks is probably not going to do the job, here!
This will likely factor heavily in a prepper’s calculus for bugging out: where are you bugging out to?
If your destination is only accessible by taking your RV off-road, then you need to be aware of the limitations and potential risks.
If you BOL destination is something that an RV can reliably access, like a KOA or some other modern “campground” is it really a worthy BOL under the circumstances?
That is for you to decide.
Normal Traffic Patterns
When it comes to deciding whether or not you can bug out in an RV, consider the normal traffic patterns in your local area.
Is traffic already a tangled mess of stop and go traffic during evening or morning rush hours? Do you avoid being on the roads during holidays because roads are so jammed with travelers?
An RV is larger than your average vehicle. It also doesn’t maneuver or change direction quite as easily as a car or truck. If you live in a city where streets are narrow or already jammed with traffic during normal days, an RV probably won’t be the best bet during a crisis situation when traffic will be even more congested.
Think about all the cities and areas you will need to travel through on the way to your bug out location also. Look in your local area and along all of your potential bug out routes for places that could become jammed up and be difficult to get through in a large RV.
Consider points such as bridges, tunnels, intersections, narrow alleyways, dirt roads, etc., and make sure you have a plan for getting through or around these potential pitfalls. Next, let’s look at a couple other factors to consider…
Group Size & Dynamics
In trying to determine whether or not you can bug out in an RV, it’s important to think about and analyze your family or group size and dynamics for any potential issues or problems.
Taking a large motorhome alone on a bug out trip may not be the wisest thing to do. If something goes wrong, you won’t have anyone else to help you identify and fix issues.
An RV can also become a huge target during a crisis situation. Desperate people may believe that you have supplies they need, and you’d be on your own to fight off the crowds or possibly a gang of looters who might ambush you.
But for large families, a bigger RV makes more sense in some cases than using a car for a bug out because family members have space to spread out and be more comfortable during the trip. In addition, when something goes wrong or if you get stuck, your family members can watch your back.
If you’re still on the fence about whether you can bug out in an RV, read on. We’re going to talk about the storage capacity of an RV and how that impacts your decision.
Finally, we’re going to list the different types of RV’s, give you a link for more details on those, and offer an additional option you’ll want to consider, even if you’re convinced bugging out in an RV isn’t for you.
The overall size and “high profile” visibility of an RV can also be a problem when bugging out.
These things simply attract attention, and during a long-term or particularly severe survival scenario might be viewed by the desperate or roving gangs of looters as a valuable target worth taking by force.
Especially for an RV that is already covered with exterior cargo “prairie schooner” style, it will definitely look like quite a prize.
You might be able to defend your RV while stationary, with it as a nexus in a permanent or semi-permanent camp, but while driving an RV you present a very large and relatively slow-moving target.
In an urban environment, the wide turning radius and length of an RV can make maneuvering through crowded streets or tight alleyways difficult to impossible, to say the least.
RVs are just not designed with these types of conditions in mind.
This makes you much more likely to be hijacked, or forced off the road by other motorists or obstacles.
Again, while large and powerful, they are far less capable at barging through obstacles or barricades than you might think; these are relatively fragile machines!
Trying to bust a checkpoint in an RV will likely leave the drivetrain badly damaged and the living compartment compromised.
In addition, any windows or skylights in an RV are potential weak points that can be exploited by assailants.
Compared even to the lightest building materials, RV’s offer precious little in the way of protection from gunfire or forced entry, and the cramped confines make it easy to attack from outside, but difficult to defend from inside.
This leaves occupants with a dilemma: should disembark and live around the RV, slowing any potential escape effort but improving your ability to respond to attack?
Or live in the RV, speeding escape efforts but hampering your ability to fight back if attacked? Your ability to do either may be quite limited, depending on the tactical situation.
Amount of Supplies and Equipment
When it comes to bugging out, getting your loved ones to safety is of course most critical. But once you arrive at your bug out location (BOL), you need food and other supplies to survive until things return to normal or heaven forbid, while society rebuilds.
Sure, you can stockpile some supplies at your BOL but let’s face it, most of what you need for everyday living will be with you and your family. The great thing about RV’s is the space, right?
It’s true that an RV is typically larger than a car, and even larger than many trucks. An RV can offer more storage space so that you can bring more of your supplies with you when you bug out.
You can also take advantage of bike racks, towing packages, and roof racks to increase the storage capacity of an RV. Using an RV for bug out seems like a no-brainer when it comes to storage capacity.
Yes, RVs come in all shapes and sizes, most of them “big rig” but even the largest models provide significantly less storage space than a typical home.
If you’re planning to bug out with your family and all of your preps, to say nothing of other belongings, an RV is not going to cut it. You’ll quickly run out of room, especially if you have to take along supplies for a lengthy trip.
In addition, RVs are not exactly designed for truly rugged living.
There is very limited counter space in the kitchen, no place to store food except in cabinets and drawers (which may be inaccessible if you’re on the move), and few places to sleep comfortably.
Trying to live full-time in an RV can quickly become uncomfortable and cramped – not the ideal conditions in an already bad situation!
This factor can be remediated somewhat by upsizing to a larger RV, but that will only exacerbate terrain restrictions, handling concerns and other factors.
The age of the vehicle, the length of your bug out trip, how well maintained the RV is, the type of terrain you need to, and even the speed you plan to travel can all impact how risky it will be to push the weight limits of your RV.
So, if you’re trying to determine if you can bug out in an RV or not, think about the supplies and equipment you will need to bring with you. When you research RVs to purchase, or if you have one you plan to use, research manufacturer recommended storage capacity.
Make sure to consider the weight of extra stockpiles of food, water, first aid supplies, guns and ammo, as well as other supplies and gasoline you’ll need to survive an extended period away from home.
Distance / Gas Mileage
Another important consideration is fuel. RVs are large and heavy, and have poor aerodynamics, which means they guzzle gasoline or diesel at an alarming rate.
If you’re planning to bug out in your RV, you need to have a plan for where you’re going to get more fuel.
Gas mileage on RVs are notoriously low, much lower than gas mileage for many cars and trucks. We’re talking around 6-10 miles to the gallon for some RV models. That’s pretty low. They’re even lower than the mileage of vans and minivans, which start at around 15 mpg and go up from there!
This might mean carrying extra fuel cans (which take up valuable storage space) or having a reliable source of fuel in the area where you plan to bug out. Hardly a sure thing!
Gasoline will be scarce during a crisis. It doesn’t do any good to have a great bug out location and a rock-solid bug out vehicle if you can’t find enough gasoline to get you where you need to go, right?
In addition, if an emergency situation lasts for an extended period of time, you may find yourself running completely out of fuel. This could leave you stranded in a dangerous place, with no way to get away.
So, before you decide whether you can bug out in an RV, make sure that you can afford, and can store in advance, the amount of gasoline you will need to get to your location.
Some RVs can be modified with an additional or expanded fuel tank, something you may want to invest in so that you can more confidently bug out in an RV.
Special Advantages of RVs
RVs, like any BOV, have special advantages. The RV is very much a mobile nexus of sorts for your survival efforts…
It can provide cargo room, transportation, shelter, communications, cooking, power, and sanitation all in one chassis. This can be a huge boon in certain situations, as it eliminates the need to carry or set up multiple separate components of “infrastructure” gear.
An RV’s onboard or modular systems (generators, solar panels, propane stoves, water heater, and tankage, bathrooms with showers and toilet, radios, etc.) can help you ride out a tough situation.
If you’re lucky enough to have an RV with these features, they can be a real lifesaver. You can also use them to support your efforts to reestablish “home” somewhere else.
An RV can run area lighting, provide power for tools, allow you to talk with other preppers or authorities in an area, and much more. It is sort of like a ground-bound survival spaceship!
Selecting an RV that is Right for You
Okay, so we’ve analyzed several factors you need to consider so you can determine whether or not you can bug out in an RV.
If after analyzing terrain & weather patterns, group size and dynamics, traffic patterns, supplies versus weight capacity, and gas mileage limitations, you’re still considering an RV for your bug out vehicle, let’s have a quick look at types of RVs.
If you think an RV might not be the right bug out vehicle for you, keep reading, one of these RV’s might change your mind.
Types of RVs
There are basically three main types of recreational vehicles (RVs). Within each category of RV, there can be many different makes and models, all which come with their own features.
- Travel Trailers (5th wheel, pop-up, pull behind)
- Removable Campers – or truck campers, modules installed into the beds of a pickup truck.
There is one more option that you may want to consider. In fact, if you are wavering about whether you can bug out in an RV, this final section may just help convince you it’s possible with proper planning.
Off-road Motorhomes / Expedition Vehicles
Expedition vehicles or off-road motorhomes are another option that is out there if you want to bug out in an RV. These vehicles have some special characteristics and modifications that set them apart from other types of recreational vehicles.
Expedition Vehicles and Off-Road Motorhomes are:
- Manufactured for extreme travel
- Include Heavy-duty suspension standard
- Come with 4W drive standard
- Offer additional upgrades for off-road travel
- Typically more expensive than other RVs
- Usually special-ordered
- Likely to Draw more attention (potential security compromise)
Okay, so many of those are out of reach for the majority of us, but we can dream eh? That Patriot Camper, starting at $125,000 is dreamy, and that Rocket Z at $100,00 is something though.
Below are some other videos about accessories and modifications to RVs that seem a bit more realistic for most of us.
The Ultimate Bug-Out Vehicle..?
All things considered, RVs can be viable means of bugging out in some emergency situations. However, they do have significant limitations and there are many factors to consider before making this decision.
It’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before taking the plunge on one of these road-going behemoths. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you hit the trail!
Have you found an RV and modifications that will work for you and your family? Do you have something totally different already set up? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below.
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of ten is learning everything she can about preparedness, survival, and homesteading.