Bug Out Vehicle

How to Build a Bug Out Vehicle

In an emergency situation that forces you to either flee your home or leave a dangerous situation to get to a safer location, your vehicle allows you to quickly cover distance and carry crucial survival gear.  In this video, we’re going to take a look at the bug out vehicle.  I have a family of 5 that includes a very young child, so for me, having a vehicle ready along with the necessary gear to ensure we can make it on our own if we have to flee our home and potentially live out of it for several days is important to me.  I’ll discuss 16 important categories you should consider when deciding what items you’ll want to always have in your vehicle along with the critical gear you’d want on standby that you can quickly load, and at the end of the video, I’ll detail some things you should learn as soon as possible.

Before we jump into those items, let’s answer this question: what is the best bug out vehicle?  The answer is the one you have.  My primary standby bug out vehicle is my Jeep.  It’s a 4×4 and very capable for off-roading.  I am surrounded by mountains with a lot of offroading trails, so I went with a vehicle that’s geared very low to handle steep climbs and rock crawling and is small enough to get around the trails in my area.  But, the principles we’ll lay out in this video will apply to any vehicle. 

Feel free to modify or swap out any of the items we’ll cover, but the categories I’ll detail are pretty universal and base what you pack based on your specific needs and vehicle’s capabilities.

So let’s jump in.

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I realize this is not covering items per se, but you need to stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance.  Vehicles come with a manufacturer’s guide that defines the recommended maintenance you should do based on the miles driven.  In addition to maintenance, get in the habit of keeping the tank at a minimum, half full.  I typically don’t let it drop below a quarter empty.  Make sure the tires are in good condition, and stay on top of your oil changes, air filter, radiator fluid levels, and other tune up considerations.  If you’re not sure where to start and don’t have the money to take it to a car repair shop to get a tune up, you can get the parts at your local auto store like AutoZone and find plenty of videos on Youtube to walk you through the process of doing a basic tune up.  

Alright, so let’s jump into the actual items we want to have on hand.

Safety / First Aid

These are items I keep in my vehicle at all times and within arm’s reach as I want these readily available and easy to access.  I keep my first aid kit in my middle console which is a bleeding prevention kit from Refuge Medical which includes a tourniquet, I have a seat belt cutter with a windshield breaker on the roll bar above my head and a fire extinguisher on the back of the driver’s seat.  Again, I would recommend always keeping these in your vehicle and easily accessible.

Film these while talking to the camera:

– First aid kit with a tourniquet
– Seatbelt cutter / windshield breaker
– Fire extinguisher


If things have truly gone sideways and you’re on the road, it’s gonna be up to you to take care of problems that come up if you get stuck or have a flat tire.  Like the first aid items, also keep these in your vehicle at all times.  Most of these items, minus the spare tire, I keep under my back seat and behind the back seats in my Jeep.  And before I go through these items, let me strongly encourage you to change out your tire with the spare tire.  It’s a great way to make sure you understand how to do this and have the correct tools in your vehicle.

Kris Film

– Jack.  My vehicle requires a special jack due it having a lift kit and the fact that I may need to change tires in offroading situations.

– Lug wrench: It’s a good idea to go ahead and upgrade to a 4 way lug wrench.  And make sure it matches the lug nuts on your vehicle.

– Tire repair kit. It’s small enough that I keep it on my vehicle at all times.

– Air compressor.  I currently have an air compressor built into my vehicle, but you can buy portable air compressors or even a simple manual air pump will suffice.

– Can of fix-a-flat

– Hazard lights.  I prefer the LED kind.

Emergency battery charger and or jumper cables.  I have both of these options in my vehicle.

– Mechanic gloves.  If you have to do any type of work on your vehicle, having a good pair of gloves to protect your hands will be vital.

In addition to fixing issues that may come up, if you get stuck somewhere, have options to get you unstuck.  In my vehicle, I always have tow cables and straps and I’ve got a winch mounted on the front.  For my Jeep, I also have traction boards on standby staged with the items to toss into my vehicle.

Film these while talking to the camera:

  • Tow cables and straps
  • Winch
  • Max trax

Vehicle Items

These are items that allow you to make repairs or fix minor problems that may come up along with a few crucial items if you’re driving long distances.  I’ll break this into 2 groups.  The first group of items that I always have in my vehicle, mostly under the back seat and items I have staged next to my vehicle if I have to quickly leave.

Kris Film

  • Reflective vests.  Useful if you’re out working on your vehicle on the side of the road, such as changing a tire.
  • Extra clothes.  Depending on what you’re wearing, you may need a change of clothes to allow you to get dirty.
  • Socket wrench kit.
  • Multi-tool
  • Duct tape
  • Zip ties
  • Extra batteries for your key fob.  I was camping one time when the battery in my key fob went out.  While I was able to get into my vehicle with the key, I wasn’t able to disarm the alarm to start the vehicle. 

The next group of items I keep on standby in my garage with the items I’d take with me.

Kris Film

  • Tool kit (roll)
  • Extra fluid
    • Oil
    • Radiator coolant
  • Extra gas can
  • Siphon and pump.  I included this one as you may have to siphon gas from other vehicles or places where you can find gas. 


Regarding these tools, I also keep these in my vehicle at all times under and behind my back seats.  Why?  Because when I go offroading, having an an axe or saw to be able to cut trees to remove branches that may have fallen across the road or using a shovel to dig out of a situation is important.  Additionally, having bolt cutters could be invaluable if you run into a situation where a trail may be locked off or gates locked.  Having these basic tools ensures I can get around to where I need to.

Film these while talking to the camera:

  • Axe
  • Saw
  • Shovel
  • Bolt cutters


When you’re out on the road, having a way to keep updated and being able to communicate with others will be vital.  Apart from the radio in your car, here are items you should consider.

The most common form of comms we all have on our person is of course our cell phone.  So make sure you have a way to charge it by having a car phone charger that plugs into your cigarette lighter and the cords necessary to plug it in.  Since I have a HAM radio license, I keep a HAM radio in my glove box.  I’ll post a link to a video I did awhile back that walks you through the process of getting your HAM radio license.  Also in my glove box, I have Garmin In-Reach which allows me to send and receive text messages via satellite.  Additionally, I keep a couple of walkie talkies stored in my garage with my other important items to have ready to take.  Now this last item is a Starlink satellite dish which is not cheap, but it comes in handy for offroading when I’m in remote locations.  I also have it for standby if the grid were to go down at my house.

Film these while talking to the camera:

  • Car phone charger
  • Car phone charger cord
  • HAM radio
  • Garmin In-Reach
  • Walkie talkies
  • Starlink (case at Home Depot)


When discussing navigation, you’ve got several options.  These are all options I keep in my Jeep at all times.  First, let’s look at our phone.  You can download an offline map of your local area on your phone with Google maps.  So if cell coverage is down, you will have a map backed up to your phone.  Go to youtube and search “download google maps offline” and there’s plenty of tutorials that will show you how to do this.  Additionally, check out Gaia app.  There’s a free version and again, this is a powerful tool, even the free verions.  Of course, having a physical copy of maps along with a compass will be important.  I have a map of my local town along with a Randy McNally map in the event we had to travel longer distances.

Film these while talking to the camera:

  • Phone GPS
  • Physical Maps – local area
  • Compass
  • Randy McNally map


Make sure you keep a physical copy of your current insurance and car registration in your vehicle at all times.  I keep these items in my glove box. I know some apps allow you to load your insurance, but if I got pulled over, I don’t want to open an app on my phone and hand it to an officer essentially giving them full access to my phone, but instead, I’d prefer to just hand over the hard copy for these documents.  Have these printed and easily accessible so you’re not having to rummage around your car if you were to get pulled over.

Film these while talking to the camera:

  • License
  • Insurance
  • Car registration


What do I mean by this category?  What intel are we gathering?  There’s several ways to look at this.  Say you’re on the road and there’s an accident on the road ahead blocking the road.  Do you come near to the scene to help or do you fly in your drone to check it out in advance to ensure it’s a legit accident?  Maybe someone has set up a fake situation to lure you in to ambush you.  Or, maybe you’re in an unknown area and get lost and want to pop up and look around.  Or maybe you’re contemplating driving onto a busy road with other vehicles but not sure what’s ahead.  Maybe there’s a traffic jam and you want to go around the area on secondary roads.  For this reason, I keep a drone in my glove box as it allows me to pop up, look ahead, look around, and scout the situation.  Additionally, a simple pair of binoculars can allow you to look out at your surrounding area.

  • Binoculars
  • Drone

Bug out Bags

I’ve done several dedicated videos on this subject and I’ll refer you to those videos, but I keep these for each family member on standby in my garage.  I put them into the vehicle last as I want them to be easy to grab if I have to bail out of my car.


There’s a couple of considerations here.  First, we want to have water ready to grab and toss in our vehicle.  The general rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day.  Since I am planning for a minimum of 3 days of water on hand, I need 15 gallons ready for my family of 5.  Now additionally, we can refill them in various places along the way, so I keep purification tablets and a Katadyn water filter with a hand pump in our gear.  I went with this particular water filter as I can pump water from a source into our water containers.  Since we live in an urban environment, I also keep a silcock key that allows you to open various water faucets such as the kind you see on commercial buildings.

Film these while talking to the camera:

  • 4 drinking water in water canisters
  • Purification tablets
  • Water filter – Katadyn – show pumping it
  • Silcock key

Food / Cooking / Fuel

My approach when it comes to food is to avoid cooking and cleaning entirely.  For that reason, I’ve got a mix of MRE’s and Freeze Dried Food.  The MRE’s can be heated up with their own internal heaters and for the Freeze Dried Food, they only require boiling water.  For heating up water, I have a JetBoil with fuel canisters.  It’s small enough and light weight that it barely takes up room in our containers yet can heat up water very quickly.  If I did run out of fuel, I do have a small, backpacking solostove which while it would produce some smoke, it would be fairly minimum.  Also, make sure you have forks, plates, soap and sponge to clean the items, paper towels, and matches or a lighter.

Film these while talking to the camera:

  • Non-perishable food
    • MRE
    • Freeze dried food
  • Jetboil and fuel
  • Forks
  • Plates
  • Soap and Spongue
  • Paper towels
  • Trashbags
  • Matches and lighter

Warmth / Shelter

When it comes to shelter, my Jeep has a roof top tent mounted on the back.  As you can, right now it’s collapsed, but it unfolds like a book opening and then has a ladder so we can climb inside.  I’ve also got an an annex I can add to it, so we’d have shelter for our family in here if we need it. Additionally, I keep our sleeping bags, our rain flies, and rain gear inside of our bug out bags.  If we had to bail on the Jeep and walk with just our bags, we have shelter available in our bags.  Additionally, we keep a wool blanket inside our containers.  During the cooler months, I keep a Mr. Buddy Heater on standby with our gear along with a small propane tank and a hose.

Film these while talking to the camera:

  • Shelter
    • My Jeep has a RTT and annex
  • Inside bug out bags
  • Wool blanket
  • Mr. Buddy Heater + Propane tank + Hose


For security, I keep my rifle and magazines in a gun case along with an ammo can that has plenty of 5.56 along with 9mm.  Since I have a CCW license, I’d keep my secondary on my person.  For the context in this video, you have to remember that we’re discussing a situation where the grid may be down and you’re on your own.  There’s no first responders.  Unfortunately, those that are not prepared will look for easy targets.  That shouldn’t be you.

  • Firearms case
  • Ammo can with dedicated ammo
  • Magazines in ammo can

Personal Hygiene

Observing your personal hygiene can make a big difference. I keep a bucket that serves as a toilet and inside I have poop bags, wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, and soap.  I also keep a toilet seat along with our other items.  While not quite hygiene related, I do keep insect repellent with this gear.  We keep all our personal toothbrushes and other toiletries in our personal bug out bags.

  • Toilet (bucket)
    • Toilet paper
    • Poop bags
    • Wipes
    • Baby wipes
    • Paper towels
    • Soap
  • Toilet seat
  • Insect repellant

Power Generation

The last category is power generation.  What are we powering?  It depends on what electronics you have.  I have the Starlink satellite dish, so I keep a solar generator and 400W of solar panels on standby.  Now let me say, you don’t necessarily need all of this, but it fits my specific needs.  Of course, you can power most of your smaller electronics by charging them in your vehicle, but I do keep these on standby with my other gear.

  • Solar generator
  • Solar panels


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