Guest post: BOV Considerations by Burne51

BOV considerations by Burne51

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 Woodpile Report (.com) is on-point this week, 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, 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?

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  1. Great post, I am working out the kinks and adding a few things to my bug out vehicle. I am also working on alternatives to my truck for use as bug out vehicles too. Thanks for the info, lots of things to think about.

  2. Excellent, well thought-out commentary, Burne51. Your thoughts certainly give one food for thought. Extreme trying times will, no doubt, call for extreme measures by both societal as well as personal norms; and will also necessitate a totally radical way of looking at the world we all live in. Great stuff!

  3. Personally I’ve grown weary of the articles that pose more questions than they answer, supposedly prompting me to think about the issues. Burne is another in a long line of survival philosophers trying to wake people up with more rhetoric. What next, a “Lessons Learned…” article about your mistakes. No offense, I do appreciate the effort. Keep up tor preps. 73

    • Bjorn –

      I think Burne51 choose one particular method for writing – some like it, some don’t. Provoking thought can assist in finding answers.

      Thanks – Rourke

  4. Rourke,

    I would like to share with you and your readers an interesting article, written by a LA Times writer, that my old commanding officer sent to me today. I think it will come as no surprise, but it’s a disturbing article nonetheless.



    Cheap food may be a thing of the past in U.S.

    Americans spend only about 10% of their annual incomes on food, compared with as much as 70% in other countries, but with prices climbing, some economists wonder whether the nation’s abundance of affordable food is history.

    By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times

    4:46 PM PDT, March 16, 2011

    American consumers have long enjoyed a luxury that few others could boast: an abundance of affordable food.

    But with prices of wheat, corn and other staples soaring, some economists and scientists are wondering how long that can last.

    On Wednesday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that wholesale food prices jumped 3.9% in February over January, the highest monthly increase in 37 years. Economists expect to see a similar uptick in what consumers are paying for food at retail when the Labor Department releases its consumer price index Thursday.

    “Food prices have been rising a lot faster, because underlying costs have really shot up. You’re seeing some ingredients up 40%, 50%, 60% over last year,” said Ephraim Leibtag, a U.S. Department of Agriculture economist. “When you see wheat prices close to 80% up, that’s going to ripple out to the public.”

    Economists warn that such prices will probably remain high this year and possibly much longer, driven by a confluence of factors: the fall of the U.S. dollar, slowing growth in crop yields, political unrest in the Middle East, high crude oil prices and a revived interest in crop-based biofuels.

    Violent weather patterns, which some scientists blame on climate change, are compounding the problem. Recent floods in Australia devastated much of the wheat crop, while a drought threatened China’s.

    “We’re not sure if these extremes in weather are the new normal,” said Clive James, founder of the not-for-profit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. “But the patterns we’ve seen in the past few years show that this may become more the rule than the exception.”

    Some commodity analysts said it was still too early to tell what the broader economic effect would be from the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and growing nuclear crisis in Japan. But they warn that the catastrophes, added to the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, could slow the economic recovery in the U.S.

    They worry that even a temporary boost in grocery bills could have shoppers once again slamming their pocketbooks shut.

    U.S. consumers spend only about 10% of their annual income on food, yet Americans are already flinching at the gas pumps and at the market checkout stand. The USDA has projected that food prices will rise 3% to 4% this year.

    Produce prices are rising sharply. So is the price of orange juice. This month, PepsiCo said it was raising prices for its Tropicana juices by as much as 8%, after record cold temperatures chilled this season’s citrus crop in Florida. Rival Coca-Cola Co. had already raised prices on its Minute Maid line.

    Some of the biggest increases are expected in the meat section, as livestock feed prices have doubled in the last year, Leibtag said. McDonald’s Corp. has warned that it might charge more for Big Macs and other items. Meat producer Smithfield Foods Inc. recently cautioned that consumers will be paying more for bacon, chops and ribs during this summer’s barbecue season.

    “Retailers understand there will be more price pressure,” Smithfield Foods Chief Executive C. Larry Pope said during the company’s recent earnings call with analysts.

    Before the tragedy in Japan, world food prices had reached a record high this year as stockpiles of key commodities dwindled, according to a price index of 55 food export commodities compiled by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

    Increased demand from China, India and other developing nations is also driving up prices, as a growing middle class is consuming more protein. According to China’s Ministry of Agriculture, urban Chinese increased their consumption of chicken 219% per capital from 1983 to 2006.

    Elsewhere in the world, where people spend 30% to 70% or more of their annual income on food, starvation is growing. The World Bank has reported that as many as 44 million more people had been forced into hunger because of the rising costs of food. That, in turn, has helped fuel the conflict in Libya and helped oust leaders in Tunisia and Egypt in recent months.

    “The situation is volatile and we’re at a point of transition,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a grain economist with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

    Now, as fears mount of a repeat of the food riots around the world in 2007 and 2008, developing new ways to feed the world has become more pressing.

    For some, the solution is rooted in promoting natural farming techniques and weaning farmers off growing crops for biofuels. A recent U.N. report cited evidence of so-called “agro-ecology” techniques boosting crop yields by 80% in 57 developing countries.

    Others argue that a broad structural change is needed in agriculture, led by more powerful technology.

    Amid the debate, the use of genetically engineered seeds is steadily growing. Biotech crops now are used on 10% of the world’s farmland, up from nearly nothing 15 years ago, according to a recent survey by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. Last year, 81% of all soybeans, 64% of cotton, 29% of corn and 23% of canola grown worldwide came from biotech seeds, the organization said.

    Historically, many biotech crops are grown to feed livestock or as ingredients for biofuels, rather than for direct human consumption. But that’s changing.

    China, eager to expand its farm production capabilities, is running field tests of biotech seeds to grow wheat and rice.

    Monsanto Co., which shelved its biotech wheat effort six years ago amid a political and consumer backlash, has revived its research. So have rival seed firms, including Syngenta.

    Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

  5. As someone who has studied and practiced the subject of preparedness for decades, this piece provides exactly what is needed for this particular subject presented to a broad audience – questions. Everyone has totally different circumstances, be it resources, family, health, location, etc. Each and every one who hopes to prepare MUST develop their own answers to questions just like these. The advantage in having someone else present their viewpoints in a questioning format is that it reduces the mind loading subtantially. Without a resource, such as someone providing a prepared list of relevant questions that must be answered, each of us must develop our own complete list of questions and then answer them. This well written article cuts that effort almost in half.


  6. Thanks for motivating me to re-think a strategy i settled on long ago. I’ve hitchhiked across USA several times, lived in camper vans, panel trucks and RV’s; and i can testify to the mental readiness that usually develops. Despite the mostly stocked travel trailer in my driveway, becoming a voluntary refugee does not appeal to me at all during the upcoming chaos. I’m ready to go if i must (radiation etc) but prefer to stay. Even though most houses in this country have serious defence problems, a vehicle is an order of magnitude worse. It is simply too easy to ambush a traveling motor vehicle, especially in the likely absence of police patrol. OTOH in the possible high control scenario, how long till you run out of bribes to pass checkpoints?

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