What to Do if Your Bug Out Vehicle is Too Small

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This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Prepping in small spaces is a topic we’ve discussed, but we have not discussed space issues in a bug out vehicle.

Many city dwellers are trying to save on gas, and are downsizing to a smaller vehicle.  Several relatives have switched to small economy cars or hybrids after getting tired of high gas prices.  If you live in a city, there is always a chance you may need to get out, hopefully you will be able to drive out while you can.

Now is a good time to evaluate your bug out vehicle, before any emergency happens.  Here are some considerations:

  • Number of people riding with you.
  • Trunk/storage space
  • Gas mileage
  • Ability to drive in flooding and rough terrain
  • Height of the car
  • Condition of the car

How much supplies you want to take with you?  You’ll need to be choosy about what will go into your bug out vehicle.  I realize many preppers favor “bugging in” instead of driving out.  I can understand it is much easier to shelter in place.  But everyone needs a “Plan B” in case you have to flee an immediate danger in the city.  You will need essentials such as water, food, shelter (tents etc), your bug out bags.  If you have pets you will also need space for them and their supplies.  You may also need a gas can or two, depending on the situation.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Clean out your car thoroughly.  I know people who carry a lot of clutter in their trunk such as sports equipment, bags of clothes they need to donate or take to the cleaners, even trash.  I’m not judging anyone, but if you happen to have junk in your car, get rid of it.
  • Maintain your car.  Are you overdue for an oil change or tune-up?   Do your brakes need replacing?  Are your tires balding?  If yes, get new tires. If you want to be able to get off-road, opt for aggressive mud tires. I have been guilty of all of the above at some point in my life when I kept putting off repairs due to budget constraints.  Do your best to get your car serviced.  You don’t want your car to break down when you are trying to get your family to safety.
  • If your car lacks space for emergency supplies, now is the time to look into ways to increase storage space:

Roof luggage rack

Roof luggage rack

Roof Cargo bag Rooftop cargo box or rooftop cargo bag

Cargo Carrier

Cargo carrier

Before you buy, check the specifications carefully to make sure the space extender you are buying will fit your car.

Low budget idea:  If you have a built in roof rack, mount items on the rack with rope and a black or brown tarp,  but you will will need to practice doing this to make sure everything is secure.  Not very attractive, but if you are trying to leave in a hurry then you may not care about appearances, just try to avoid attracting attention.

You could also find these items used.  As people change cars, they will not be needing the old rack for the old car.

I’m not an expert on cars, and you may find other solutions work better for you.  Space in your car may someday be as critical as the space in your home.  The good news is, these space extenders are useful to have even if no emergency ever happens.


© Apartment Prepper 2016

For beginning preppers



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  1. As usual, your blog is on point. We were just wondering how to bug out in our little Suzuki 5 door! You have my favorite survival blog, because I may always be dealing with urban issues. Thanks again Apartment Prepper!!!

    1. Hi Angela, I am glad you find the blog helpful. Being an urban prepper has its challenges but still workable. I appreciate the comment.

  2. I don’t know why, but the mention of preppers ‘bugging in’ just bothered me. It’s probably because a day ago I read an account on http://www.JPFO.org of a family trapped in the LA riots in 1992. You need to ask yourselves this question – if riots start, and the rioters start burning the town – will you still be able to get out of town at that point? It seems to me – and you’re free to disagree as its your life not mine – that it would be better to bug out of town early, and come back later if you find out you left unnecessarily, than to think you could out-wait some situation and be torched by hordes who couldn’t or wouldn’t wait it out.

    1. Hi rev. dave, I agree with you about preferring to bug out. Many preppers disagree, as they want to be in their home with all the preps and feel there is no point in leaving if there is no bug out retreat. However I saw what the the LA riots were like, maybe not in the same vicinity but close enough to see looting, people running out with TVs, and burning buildings. It was terrifying. Many business owners that got burned out of their stores never came back. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Excellent post. One word of caution on the rear-mounted cargo carrier though. A friend had one of these on his SUV and it was directly in line with the exhaust pipe. When he stopped to fill up at a gas station, he discovered that the heat from the exhaust had partially melted some of the items he had on the carrier. Make sure that a rear cargo carrier does not sit where the exhaust pipe will be blocked by items you load onto it!

  4. I just went from my 2006 Toyota FJ Cruiser to a 1990 Jeep Wrangler as a bug out vehicle. It is MUCH smaller, but easier to work on in the event of a problem. That said, I think that there is a discussion to be had around a “small” bug out trailer. Not necessarily an RV type of trailer. A smaller, lighter, trailer that can be built by you or I, that is under 1000 pounds, easily trailered by a smaller vehicle that can hold essential bug out gear. There is a company I spoke with that “Compact Camping Concepts” that has plans to build a “camping trailer.” A video can be found here, showing it in use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlkFcVz3-Y0 If you Google “Compact Camping Concepts” there are several links that pop up for review…

    1. Hi Jack, Thanks for bringing this up. The small bug out trailer is definitely worth a discussion. I will check out your links and post an update when I know more. I appreciate the comment!

      1. I spent the money and bought the plans. Ultimately looks a little small for me, and I would make a longer trailer, but their plans have it weighing in at about 400 lbs, and takes into consideration a few main points that make sense…

  5. Keep in mind it may not be a TEOTWAKI event. I live a few miles from the Waldo Canyon fire and we were evac’d for 10 days. We grabbed the pets, BOBs, meds and some basics and then grabbed a bunch of things easily at hand. In retrospect some choices were silly. We need not only to have a plan, but plans for various levels of threat.

    Speaking of trailers, I’d like to get one of those teardrop camping trailers. I figure someone might let you park it on their property where they’d never let you stay in the house with them. Besides, I’m too old for sleeping on the ground any more.

    1. Hi Kalvan, Thanks for bringing this up- there is a possibility of having to bug out even without the big TEOTWAWKI event. Jack in the comment below linked to one of those camping trailer, but he did mention it may be on the small side. I am sure there are others available. I appreciate the comment.

  6. This summer, as many of you know, wild fire evacuations were enforced here in CO when the Waldo Canyon Fire changed directions, leaving people in immediate evacuate their homes. It went from a watch to NOW withing 10 mins or so. Although the fire didn’t jump Hwy 24, it gave me pause to take stock in what I could fit into my car at a moment’s notice. I went down to our “pantry” and felt so overwhelmed looking at all of those #10 cans, canned goods and jars filled with all kinds of things. Both my husband & I carry a BOB: he in his work van, and mine is in the Ford Escape. I hadn’t considered a cargo rack for the car, so that’s going to be one thing I will invest in immediately! One thing we do need to do, is practice packing our car, should the need to bug out become a reality. Thank you for sharing your ideas with us! I always learn something new.

    1. junipers, How scary to have a fire closing in! Having 10 minutes to load all your important belongings and preps into your car would be so stressful. Having some practice in packing your car would go a long way in preparing yourselves. I am glad the post was helpful!

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