In any bug-out scenario, your vehicle becomes, and remains until further notice, the place where you live, along with everything you own in the world.
You may be the best-equipped prepper in your circle, or the smartest gal on the block, but when TSHTF, you may find yourself to be just another weary traveler looking for a safe place to land. In many ways, you’re a refugee, no different from Okies escaping the Depression Dust Bowl; or survivors fleeing a volcano or armed killer mobs or the authorities du jour, which may not be mutually exclusive.
It ain’t necessarily pretty. It’s pretty clear that if you can uproot folks and get ‘em moving, it’s fairly easy to keep ‘em moving, or herd ‘em into corrals of one sort or another. Then it’s hamburger.
There’s plenty of good advice out there to stay away from crowds, don’t allow yourself to get swept up into camps, etc. There’s also a lot of evidence that this is already going on; forced relocation has been a policy of our government for quite some time. Ask an Indian.
If we’re talking vehicles here, I’m guessing we can agree that we mean ones fueled by internal combustion engines. We’re going to leave out discussion of backpacking, bicycles, horseback, ox-carts, sailboats and rickshaws, even though there is a lot of merit in thinking about those, and perhaps including them as secondary or fallback options. Suffice it to say that the amount of stuff you can haul decreases significantly when one loses fossil-fueled prosthetics and slaves.
If you’ve planted your flag, and are determined to live or die defending your very own spot on the planet, that’s nice. Maybe we can be friends, and maybe we can assist one another, and WPCTS (When Push Comes to Shove – an acronym I haven’t seen yet), maybe we can’t. Having, and retaining, the ability to maneuver in such instances strikes me as important.
We humans have been moving around this planet for a long time, jockeying for position and advantage, and dodging the Grim Reaper, and there’s no reason to think that’ll change. I haven’t studied mass migrations, or refugee behavior (from the perspective of either the refugee or from the agents who create refugees for their own benefit), or nomadics; and I’d welcome readings and discussion of those topics as it pertains to survival, specifically mine.
But there’s a long, honorable history, notably on this land, of whole peoples successfully living nomadic lives while remaining deeply attached – rooted, even – to the land, and I suspect we’ll be seeing more of that, and may well be better for it. There are better places – and times – to grow crops, or hunt and fish, or trade, or winter, or a thousand other nuanced things; and those places and times are not likely to all be the same, and moving from one to the other, when safe and appropriate, may be a good way to live … or the only way you can keep yourself and your loved ones alive to move the species forward.
Ol’ Remus over at the WoodpileReport.com is on-point this week [Rourke: remember – this is a repost], as he routinely is, in his discussion of guerilla gardens. “The alternative to living like a convict is to live like an escapee,” he says this week, and knowing where you’ve stashed food, or can grow, hunt, forage, and preserve it, and how to safely move between sites on whatever is your scale and timeline, will mean the difference between living and dying, between freedom and slavery.
I’m amazed in my travels at how much unused land there is in this country, even in the East, and finding folks who’ll rent or trade you an acre for potatoes or Jerusalem artichokes (800 gallons of fuel alcohol per) or a couple of hives of bees; or free places to plant annual or perennial herbs for later harvest, is not all that difficult.
Which brings us back to the bug-out vehicle, AKA “your car” or “the daily driver.” There’s a whole big thread out there (try the Van Dwellers Yahoo Group to start) of folks who are now living in their vehicles full- or part-time. Many are conducting “normal” lives, going to jobs, socializing, recreating, etc. Many are older retirees, like Snowbirds and Workampers, driving huge RVs and towing cars around the country, who’ve already “bugged out.”
What’s going to happen to that lifestyle? You might want to think about exactly how little you need in a vehicle, as well as how much you can cram in. What are your deal-breakers when it comes to vehicles: standing head room; full-size bed; a toilet; running water; nighttime A/C or heat? How much electricity is enough, and how are you going to get it? You may have to gut and rebuild the ridiculous interior of an old RV to eliminate horrid design and make the unit work long-term.
There are some significant advantages to making the move to vehicle-based living before a SHTF situation occurs, leaving aside the argument that it’s already hitting.
For one, it forces you to think, hard, about what you need and how to keep it safe, productive and relevant. Does vehicle-based living free up money that’s better used elsewhere?
Instead of a mortgage (taxes; utilities; maintenance) in a suburb that frowns on agriculture, will car living enable a farmland purchase? Or just eating? Am I capable of, or interested in, owning a house or land? Do I have the money, or the credit, or the job/career, or the kind and level of responsibility necessary for “ownership”? Will that continue? Are those things even desirable? Am I better off as a fixed, or as a moving, target?
I’m very leery of adding any fossil-fuel-powered equipment to my life, from a number of perspectives. Anybody who’s looked at a graph of per capita energy use, or of Hubbert’s Peak, gets a sense that we humans are likely to be using far less energy than we have for the last couple hundred years, and that we Americans, as the most profligate oil users, have the farthest to fall. Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Back on topic: How many vehicles should I own, insure, maintain, equip? How many can I drive at once? I suspect Gary, whose video I saw linked over at M.D. Creekmore’s www.thesurvivalistblog.net, owns even more than the two vehicles he’s shown us, plus his house, probably all with multi-burner propane stoves and toilets and swivel TVs. Gee, he must have a lot of money
If you only had one motor vehicle, from now until forever, what would it be? A pickup, van, car, SUV, RV? 4WD, 2WD? What engine, transmission, fuel? American or foreign; old or new? How do I find it; what does it cost to buy, fuel, insure and maintain? Can I make it last 2 years … 5 … 10 … 20? Do I have the necessary skills and can I get the parts? Can I live in it and with it for that long if I want to or need to? Moving and parked? This, like the endless firearms debates, is ultimately unanswerable by anyone but you; but it, too, is crucial.
What about stealth? Do I blend in or stand out where I am and where I anticipate going? Is it good to have folks telling you how cool your rig is, or would you prefer nobody noticed? Can I show up to work every day in an RV, or not leave the parking lot at night, without inviting nasty questions and snooping? Am I better off pulling a travel trailer with a “civilian” vehicle, or parking my Winnebago elsewhere and riding a bicycle or motorcycle to work? Can I work nights and sleep safely in the daytime, or park safely when it’s light and find other safe places to sleep? How does sleeping much, much lighter in a vehicle affect my health, alertness and judgment?
Can I park at a friend’s house (or plural …or WalMart) and use their electricity, bathroom, kitchen, and/or washer? For how long? What will the neighbors think? How about a 24-hour gym membership; I can probably use the exercise, and I could sure use a shower, and if it’s open at all hours, it’s a good place to park, right? What’s that cost these days?
What about range and mileage? Can I count on the next supply of fuel? Can I make my own, perhaps with friends, like a fuel alcohol or biodiesel coop? I can’t just turn the car out to pasture to forage, and it’s unlikely to heal itself when something goes awry, though I have seen it happen.
Do I have useful mobile skills, the equipment to use them, and reliable markets for them? How about tools for gardening or carpentry, or a small workshop in a Wells Cargo? If I stash my tools in a trailer or storage unit, or friend’s house, how quickly and safely can I get ‘em? Can I sleep in it? How does pulling a trailer affect mileage and maneuverability? What are my protocols for dropping my trailer? What happens if I lose it … the trailer, that is?
Am I likely to be flying solo, or with family or friends? If I’m in a group, by choice or chance, what about their gear? I’ve seen enough Westerns to worry about the weakest wagon, and I’m sure the Plains Indians made sure everyone’s travois were up to snuff. And what about defense, personal and group?
Does it make sense to become a migrant worker; if so, what’s involved? How do I move my wealth, and protect it on the road? I know what it feels like to have every penny locked up in a vehicle; it tends to induce paranoia, and to restrict one’s movements in order to keep the vehicle constantly in sight. Do you?
What about the rest of my stuff? Do I sell or dump it; is it worth anything? How about a storage unit(s)? Is it cheap, secure, 24-hour accessible, adequate? What happens to that electric gate if the grid’s down? Does it make sense to have several units in strategic locations? Will they let me store gasoline, alcohol, propane, food, weapons and ammo? Will they know or find out? Are the owners on site; can they be trusted?
Where and what sort of caches are appropriate? Does it really make sense to carry a half-ton of rice, beans and wheat berries? How about Operational Security, for us civilians? There’s some good thinking over at Analytical Survival’s YouTube channel. How long before I run out of gas – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially? Is that a realistic time line? What happens then?
Speaking personally, if not too specifically, I am living on the road now, with my wife, dog, and, currently, four cats. No, they’re not for dinner. We left what had been our home base for 25 years last July, semi-voluntarily, and anticipate moving again six to 10 weeks from now, with our next destination uncertain. We’re learning a lot; it’s stressful; it’s uncertain; and I don’t think either of us regrets the experience. Our current bug-out vehicle: a 1998 Ford Explorer pulling a home-built camper/utility trailer. Perfect? Hardly. But it’s what we’ve got.
How about you?