When everything hits the fan and you've got to bug out, the average family car just isn't going to make it. A bugout vehicle has some specialized features that will help transport you and your family securely through emergency situations. During the Katrina evacuation, the National Academy of Engineering reports that significant traffic jams occurred as far away as Shreveport, 300 miles from New Orleans. Unless you've got very early warning, you're going to hit massive traffic problems when you evacuate. The ability to drive off road and get through traffic jams could be the key to reaching your shelter safely.



The Basic Vehicle

If you don't start with the right kind of car, no amount of modding can turn it into a great bugout vehicle. True four-wheel drive is crucial for getting you through tough off-road terrain such as mud, rocks and snow. It should sit high enough off the ground to pass over thrown tires, logs and even traffic cones, if need be.

Choose a vehicle you can repair yourself. You may not be a master mechanic, but doing simple repairs is a mandatory skill, and spare parts are an important part of your stash. The exact vehicle is a matter of choice, but something like a Jeep Wrangler or Cherokee fits the bill. After choosing the ideal vehicle, there are still changes to be made.


Spare tires are a necessity, and not the donuts that come with the car. Invest in two full-sized tires and rims and keep them in the vehicle at all times. Put a solid set of off-road or all-terrain tires on the car for dealing with any kind of weather or land conditions. Nexen tires have deep treads and a solid base to take you through all sorts of terrain.


Whether you need to keep in touch with other members of your party or just want to find out the details of your particular emergency, at least two forms of communication are important. A cell phones is a staple, as are battery-operated phone chargers. Keep in mind that in a true emergency, cell phones may be reduced to text message only, or worse. There are many other options, but a proven winner is the good old CB radio. It's simple to operate, reliable, transmits over long distances and is very difficult to track. Keep a base model in your shelter and a car model in all your vehicles—Cobra makes quality models for both types.

Hidden Items

In all but the most permanent of emergencies, you'll need a ready supply of cash, and often not a lot of time to gather it. Attach a hidden safe in or on your car, and make sure it's large enough to keep money, valuable papers and even a backup weapon in case you need to grab the car and go. Use a car stash box—a commercial waterproof box with super-strong magnets on it, ideal for holding valuables and attaching to the underside of your vehicle. Their dark color and relatively small size make them perfect for hiding valuables where thieves won't look.

Another option is the diversion safe, ordinary objects emptied out and filled with valuables, then placed casually so no one would suspect alternate contents. Popular models include coffee cups and engine degreaser cans.

Michael Driscoll

Mike is a retired New York City cop who blogs while pursuing a law degree.

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  • I've considered creating a hidden compartment within my truck for high value items but have been disturbed to learn that some states have made such hidden compartments in cars illegal, regardless of how they're used.

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