Using a Van as a Bug-Out Vehicle

Vans are a popular vehicle to convert into what are called “day vans”.

bug-out van

A day van means the storage area in the back has been converted to have a folding chair/bed and a few cupboards along with a leisure battery or batteries.

That’s a basic day van and they do not hold much when you do this, but a bug-out van needs to be more on top of a day van.

What we are going to explore is bug-out vans, their pros and cons, the best fuel to choose for your van, how to prolong the fuel and the projected mileage when compared to a motorhome/RV, but also why a bug-out van might be a good idea.

Bug-out vans and motorhomes/RV are different and can be used for the same purpose or for different purposes.

In today’s article we will be looking at:

  • What goes into a bug-out van and why are they a good idea?
  • What is missing from a bug-out van?
  • The Pros and Cons of a bug-out van
  • What fuel is best for a bug-out van?
  • Why a bug-out van?
Van Talk- Bug Out Van- Important Preps to have in place

What Goes Into A Bug-Out Van and Why Are They A Good Idea?

Many people will throw in carpets, wallboards, a cupboard unit and a folding bed and call it a day.

However, that’s not a true bug-out van. A true bug-out van is more than that. They are well thought out to include items that would be needed for long term survival, like tap and sink, as well as a hob.

What they are trying to create is a scaled-down motorhome or RV with just the essentials for survival that will last for as long as possible or needed.

A designer of a bug-out van has to find where to put all the needed units and where to put a water container, bed, breakdown/van maintenance kit, leisure battery and lights.

A Bug-Out Van needs:

  • Lots of cupboards/units
  • Leisure Battery
  • Windows
  • Water container
  • Bed
  • Lights
  • Carpets
  • Insulation
  • Wall boards

That’s basically it. Where they go is up to the designer.

A van is more capable of navigating a queue than a motorhome/RV when trying to escape where you are, which is what bugging-out means, you’re escaping a bad situation.

The term”bug-out” is said to have come from a 1930’s cartoon of bugs fleeing a boot/coming to brush them, however, it is agreed that the term comes from bugs scattering when discovered under a rock for example.

A bug-out van might not give you the room like a motorhome would, but if you have a bug-out location to get to then a bug-out van is a perfect option as you’re not relying on the van to be your long term protection and shelter.

If you don’t have a bug-out location, having a solid roof, and a warm and soft bed that is nice and secure that is stocked with supplies is still better than walking with very little or nothing at all for supplies.

What Is Missing From A Bug-Out Van?

The first thing we see is the loss of space compared to a motorhome/RV. A van will feel tight to live in, when everything is put in place, you might not store as many preps as a motorhome/RV can.

A toilet/shower area is also missing. You do not really have the room to be adding a shower/toilet area in a van.

Many day vans do not have them making use of the outdoors instead along with a portable solar shower or a bucket.

The Pros and Cons of a Bug-Out Van

✅ Easy to move around a city❌ Not a lot of room
✅ Easier to find spare parts❌ No built-in toilet/shower
✅ Fuel station accommodation❌ Have to adapt to make a camper
✅ Less of a target❌ Roof height

What Fuel Is Best For A Bug-Out Van

Diesel is the better choice.

Diesel is better as you can find another form called Red Diesel that will work for your diesel van, this is normally reserved for trucks/lorries and is illegal to have in your day-to-day van, however, when there is no law, you can use it.

Diesel or Gas For Bug Out Vehicles

You can add used chip oil to your diesel to prolong the diesel fuel, however, this is also illegal, unless there is no law.

You can use petrol/gasoline, however, you’re limiting yourself to having to find petrol rather than being able to look for chip oil and red diesel on top of normal diesel when the need to refuel arises.

A van will have more fuel station options to refuel compared to a motorhome/RV, depending on the height of the pump roof.

Let’s look at fuel usage and consumption, we should take one well-known van, a Ford Transit Nugget and a Motorhome/RV, a Winnebago Indian and compare their diesel consumption over flat terrain and climbing a hill, vehicles from 2019.

The Ford Transit Custom Nugget can get around 29.5 mpg on a highway, this will vary when in a city, climbing a hill or long ramp, depending on the gradient of the rising road, the fuel tank capacity is 15.8 gallons or about 59.81 litres. This model is a professionally built camper-van with a toilet.

The Winnebago Indian can get 16-18 mpg (miles per gallon) on a highway and can be less when in a city, climbing a hill or long ramp, depending on the vehicle weight and gradient, like for a parking structure. The fuel tank capacity is 26.4 gallons or 120 litres.

Remember you can stretch the mpg using chip oil and you can use diesel tank cleaner to help improve your mpg over time as you travel.

Final Thoughts

When you think hard about what should go in your bug-out van you can have one that will be suitable for survival.

A van does have certain advantages over a Motorhome/RV, like easier to drive and easier to manoeuvre.

Those are good features, however, when you want to survive a long time a motorhome/RV is a better choice as you have more room for extra preps and gear, especially if you do not have a bug-out location or your bug-out location is a long drive or you have to escape something that requires you to always be moving or get out of a radius.

A bug-out van is great for one or two people who are in a position to escape to a remote location that will not take them a week or two to reach or a family who has set up hidden restock locations along the way, depending on how they make a bug-out van.

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1 thought on “Using a Van as a Bug-Out Vehicle”

  1. I have (2) bug out vans 1990 & 1996 fitted with potty,plastic sink 10 gallon water gel gas stove big cooler.Bed, spare clothes/blankets im almost ready if the time comes to get out of the city to my BO location. grab food & gone, i keep them full fuel. 2 new tires yesterday.


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