While an RV might not be your first choice for an end-of-the-world type scenario, if you already own one, you could do worse than considering it as an option for getting out of dodge if the worst should happen. An RV can be more than just a vacation option – it could also become a stop-gap home for you and your family should you have to flee your home – as long as you are properly prepared.
Why Prepping Might Be a Good Idea
Our world: a ticking time bomb…
While none of us like to imagine that the life we live is under threat, the truth of the matter is that we are facing a range of global dangers. Climate change is a serious concern. Rising sea levels, droughts and extreme weather events are likely to affect more and more people over the next couple of decades. Climate change, unsustainable mass agriculture and infrastructure and logistics problems mean that our food security teeters on a knife edge. A pandemic or warfare could disrupt the status quo at any time, and while modern technology can provide some answers, it poses a number of risks too.
Threats are all around us and, while it would be foolish to become completely obsessed by it, preparing for what may come is only sensible. The question is not really if, but rather when, we will experience disruption in our modern way of life. How large the disruption will be remains to be seen, but the truth is that it makes sense to expect the best, but prepare for the worst.
The Pros and Cons of an RV as a Bug Out Vehicle
An RV can provide many of the basic elements that we need to survive. It is a self-contained area of shelter, that can often also provide water, cooking facilities and a degree of protection from the outside world. RVs are also mobile, and could allow you to travel some ground to get to a less populated and more secure location. Unlike other, smaller vehicles, which may have other advantages, an RV has space to store provisions for a longer stay away from civilization.
RVs come in many shapes and sizes – each will have different strengths and weaknesses as a bug out vehicle.
Of course, not all RVs were created equal. Some are better equipped than others to become a retreat for your family when the worst happens and you need to leave your home. Some of the shortcomings of an RV as a bug out vehicle might include:
- Being large and more difficult to maneuver than a smaller vehicle. (This could make it difficult to navigate to a safe destination if roads are choked by traffic or road conditions are bad.)
- Using a large quantity of fuel to drive. (This could make a long-journey more troublesome, especially if there are fuel shortages in a crisis.)
- Not currently being equipped for off-grid living. (Many RVs rely on propane or other fuels for heating, cooking etc.. Again, these could be in short supply in a crisis.)
Consider Driving and On and Off Road Capabilities
The size of an RV (and its on-road and off-road capabilities) will, of course, depend on what make and model of RV you own. There is a trade-off between flexibility and ease of driving, and space for you, your family and your stores. If you are considering buying an RV as a bug out vehicle, this is certainly something to consider. Think about how far you may need to go and how you will be able to get there, as well as how much space you require and how long you wish to be able to survive for in the vehicle.
If you are thinking about using an RV you already own, you will, of course, be limited by the restrictions of that specific vehicle. But there are certain things you can do to increase the chances of reaching a safe destination successfully. For example, you could:
- Consider fitting the vehicle with ‘all weather’ or ‘winter’ or ‘summer’ tires for the appropriate seasons.
- Making sure that you have snow chains for the vehicle if you experience snowfall where you live.
- Modifying your RV with all-terrain, off-roading tires for backwoods roads and tracks.
- Upgrade your suspension & axles. (The suspension and axles on many RVs are insufficient to the task, especially when you are fully-loaded on bumpy terrain. Upgrading these elements could turn your RV into a more suitable bug-out vehicle.)
- Make sure your tires are always at the correct pressure so you can get going when you need to in a hurry. (Consider temperatures, load and other factors.)
Consider the Fuel Situation
Getting it right when it comes to the tires, tire pressure and other factors will help in reducing the amount of fuel it will take to reach your safe location. But the fact of the matter is that a large RV will still usually take a considerable amount of fuel to run. An electric RV, along with the ability to generate your own electricity off-grid with solar panels or turbines could be the ultimate answer. However, this may be out of reach economically for most RV owners for at least the next few years.
In an apocalyptic scenario, it may be challenging to find the diesel or gas you need to run your RV. Stockpiling a certain amount of fuel (within the limits of the law where you live) could be a sensible option. However, you may also be able to consider making your own biodiesel to run your RV bug out vehicle. Biodiesel can be used in a diesel vehicle without any mechanical modifications. It is also possible to convert a diesel RV to run on vegetable oil.
Choosing to convert a diesel RV to run on a waste material like vegetable oil could be a good option for those preparing for the (potentially bumpy) transition to a low-carbon economy.
Consider Off-Grid Capability
Of course, getting to your bug out destination is just one of the considerations you should have when preparing your RV. It could also be a very good idea to think about how you will be able to live off grid, without necessarily having the convenience of a electric grid and water hook-ups or the ability to replenish propane or other fuels.
RV Off-Grid Electricity
It is unlikely that you will be willing or able to live entirely without electricity in your bug out location. Fortunately, there are a number of short and longer term solutions that can allow you to boondock in an RV while generating your own electricity.
The simplest way to generate electricity for your RV bug out vehicle is by using solar panels on the roof of the vehicle, along with a solar generator or power bank to store energy for later. The first step in deciding which options to choose is determining how much electricity you and your family will require. Of course your location will have a bearing on how sunny it will be and how much energy you can generate.
You could also consider generating additional electricity once you reach your bug out destination by installing a wind turbine on your RV. Whether a wind turbine will be right for you will, of course, depend on where you are going and whether you need to be mobile or intend to hunker down in your RV for a certain period of time.
No matter what sort of renewable energy you rely on in your bug out situation, it is also a good idea to consider how you can reduce the amount of energy you use in your RV. Reducing energy use will not only save time and help you go greener now, it can also make it easier for you to survive the ‘end of the world’.
RV Water Supplies
One of the most pressing concerns in a bug out situation is having access to clean, fresh water. While it is a good idea to keep a full tank on your RV in case of emergencies, this will obviously involve extra weight (and therefore extra fuel) when on the road. The more water you haul with you, the more troublesome your travel may be. Of course, no matter how much water you store, it will still run out some time. In an RV with its space constraints, that is likely to be sooner rather than later.
While it is a good idea to keep your RV ready to go with a store of some fresh water, it is more important to make sure you have a plan regarding where you will be able to get access to fresh water when you bug out, and the means to filter and purify water in an emergency.
When planning your RV bug out, be sure to make sure you have the following:
- Good quality maps which show, for example, the locations of natural springs and water sources in wilderness areas close to your intended destination and in the surrounding region.
- A good water purifier (note, a purifier offers a higher level of protection than a water filter).
Off-Grid Cooking in an RV
Learning how to make a campfire and cook on it is an essential preppers skill.
Reliance on propane is not a good idea in a bug out scenario. Rather than waiting until the worst happens to learn how to cook without propane, it is a good idea to learn the skills you need now. Off grid cooking can be as simple as toasting a few marshmallows over a campfire.
But cooking off grid does not have to involve going back to the very basics. It can involve creating a gourmet meal in a solar oven, or by using an eco-friendly solid-fuel stove. Some solid fuel stoves also come with charging capabilities and make it possible to cook comfortably outdoors without any hassle.
Some RV owners even consider installing a wood burning stove in the RV – for cooking and heating in an off-grid setting. There are a number of small-scale multi-fuel or wood burning stoves that could work perfectly for an off-grid RV.
Prepping Stores for an RV Bug Out Vehicle
Learning how to grow and can your own produce at home is a great way to stock up your home and your bug out RV for an emergency situation, without breaking the bank.
While many preppers advocate buying in lots of small-size, dehydrated food packs, (and this could also make a lot of sense) prepping is about more than just having supplies for a certain length of time. Being prepared also means learning skills that will allow you to survive when things change and we lose the ‘on demand’ culture to which we have become accustomed.
Skills such as gardening, cooking from scratch and preserving the food that you grow will stand you in better stead than hundreds of stockpiled cans filling every corner of your RV. It is also worthwhile remembering, while stocking your bug out RV with food to last you and your family as long as possible, that it could also be a very good idea to prepare for the eventuality that you will never be able to return to your home and garden. Consider stocking up on seeds (properly stored) and the basics for creating a rudimentary garden as well as on stockpiles to see you through.
Thinking out all the eventualities and thinking long term is key to being prepared for anything that may happen in the years to come. Whatever you may believe about the likelihood of a major catastrophe, it makes sense to be prepared and an RV could be part of those preparations.
Elizabeth Waddington has an MA from St. Andrews University and a Permaculture Design Certificate. She is a green living consultant, with a passion for sustainable travel, permaculture and the natural world. She lives in rural Fife, just north of Edinburgh, close to the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland.
No stranger to RV travel, Elizabeth has travelled all over Scotland, the UK and beyond in search of natural wonders in her RV. Her camping adventures have taken her to the Grand Canyon, up the Pacific Coast of the US, to Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons and to explore the wonders of Utah. She has travelled extensively in the Pacific Northwest, and around New England. In Europe, she has taken trips through much of the western part of the continent, travelled up to Norway, and down through Romania and Bulgaria to Istanbul. She looks forward to further eco-friendly adventures.