One of the most critical and often overlooked parts of any preppers/survivalist bug out plan is the Bug Out Vehicle or B.O.V. The BOV is any vehicle that will be your primary means of transportation during a time of crisis. This vehicle can be anything from a daily driver to a monster truck made just for the zombie apocalypse. Most people will prefer a large 4×4 to a small car or van. But many can’t afford to have a dedicated BOV and will have to make do with what they have, and that’s okay. As long as it gets your group and gear to where you are heading then it’s doing its job. For those of us that have a daily driver car and would like to have a dedicated BOV there are so many options out there. Everything from a nice new rig down to a $500 beater can be made into a BOV.
Choosing a BOV really comes down to what you can afford and what your preferences are. 4x4s are great for off-roading but will cost most than the same model truck in 4×2 (two-wheel drive). How much off-roading are you planning on doing to reach you safe area? Will you be blazing a trail through the woods to reach a remote cabin you built? Or can you reach your destination via the highway or paved back roads? These are all questions to consider when looking for a BOV. Also you should plan on how many people and how much gear you will be carrying, no need to buy a two-seater little truck when you have six family members and their gear to load up.
Once you have a BOV that will work for you there are some modifications you may want to consider. For this I’m going to assume most people will be heading for the hills off the beaten path when the shit hits the fan and will have some kind of truck or SUV. But all these mods will serve you well in the city.
First up is lighting. Sometimes the two little factory lights up front just won’t do. To remedy this problem there are many after market lights and light bars to choose from. You don’t have to go out and buy the most expensive lights you can find. There are many low-cost light systems available at Wal-Mart or online. One thing I have noticed is most lights no matter the cost or brand use the same bulbs, so you are really just spending extra money for the housing and a brand name and receiving the same amount of output.
Extra lights are very easy to install, most will come with the hardware and have instructions that are easy to follow. Just pick out a place for them and mount up. You will have to run a few wires, one to the battery positive with a fuse, the other to ground. Don’t forget the switch on the positive wire to operate them. Again these are very simple. Just splice the switch inline with the positive wire, figure out where you want it and your done.
Another fun thing to have is a winch. These come in all types and sizes. You will need to find one that is rated to pull the gross vehicle weight of your BOV. Now these can be rather expensive so remember there is no shame in buying used or shopping around. A few things to consider when buying used it to thoroughly inspect the winch. If possible have the seller hook it up and run it for you to make sure all switches and motors are working correctly. Also take a look at the cable, some kinks and bends are okay, but beware of any frayed strands in the cable. If you find some don’t fret, this can be repaired. If the broken strands are close to the beginning of the cable (the end with the hook), you can cut off that part and with some cheap hardware from a local home improvement store reattach the hooking device. You will lose whatever length you cut off of course but there should be plenty of cable left. Now if the cable is completely messed up, you can pick a new one up at your local hardware store, which will be cheaper that ordering one from the manufacture. Make sure to get the same size cable that came with the winch.
Installing one of these bad boys is a little more complicated. If you are ordering a new one, it should come with all the hardware and instructions to make installation less painful. If you get one that’s used with no hardware, I quick search online at the winches website or car and truck forums will be able to point you in the right direction for what you will need to purchase.
Power inverters are something I think everyone should have on their BOV. These are relatively cheap and can be found at any local electronic store. They come in many different configurations and sizes, from single outlet to multi outlet. Almost all inverters just plug into a cigarette lighter port. Id prefer a larger one with several outlets so be able to run all your handheld electronic devices, cooler, coffee pot, or whatever (you know the important stuff).
Now that you have all your extra lights and winch installed I would recommend looking into a high output alternator and a good deep cycle battery. These can be pricey and depending on you vehicle can be a pain to install, but the payoff is worth it. All the lights, winches and beer coolers running on your BOV will put a strain on the starting and charging systems. Just think of it as insurance. You wouldn’t want to be stranded with a dead battery.
Other areas of your BOV to look at modifying would be the tires and suspension. A set of good off-road tires will go along way and save your butt where to pavement ends. With tires and other rubber products going up in price in recent years, do your homework. Shop around town, call stores and look online for the best deals. Don’t over look used tire stores. They often have decent tires that someone traded in for something else (just check them for nails and dry rot before buying). Word to the wise, off-road tires or mud tires will not last as long as regular tires if you plan on using your daily driver as a BOV. They wear very fast on the highway and, depending on the tread type, will made all sort of noise on pavement. With the expense and longevity (or lack there of) I’d recommend putting a good used or cheap set on a dedicated BOV and keep it off the highway as much as possible (just my two cents).
Suspension components are second to tires. I not going to tell you to go out and buy a 12in skyjacker kit with a 6in body lift, those are nice but too costly for my taste. A good set of stock size off-road shocks will do fine in most cases. Just enough to help the vehicle perform well when the pavement runs out and you wont have to buy a bunch of other expensive parts to make them fit and work properly. Pricing depends on the brand and vehicle. I would have to say not to buy used shocks because its hard to tell if they are good or not when not installed on a vehicle unless you really know what you are looking for (I have a hard time telling so…. Yeah).
As for the rest of the suspension, if it’s not broken leave it along. If you drive your BOV a lot and it feels sloppy in turns, a good rubber bushing set will go along way. Sway bar bushings, sway bar end links, upper and lower control arm bushings will really bring an old truck back to life (suspension wise). These don’t cost too much and some are easy to replace, but the control arm bushing is what will hurt your pocketbook. They are not easy to install. I’d recommend a professional mechanic replace them.
One last thing. A good brush guard is not a most have but it wont hurt either (plus they look cool as hell). The benefits to one of these is pretty obvious, they will keep the front of your BOV safe from most of the things you may run into off the beaten path. Brush, tree limbs, deer, and zombies will all be push aside while saving your head lights and radiator from damage. They are often easy to find used for whatever vehicle you drive and are relatively easy to install.