How to Bug Out in an RV

When SHTF and it becomes clear that home is no longer safe, most people plan to bug out. If you are one of the lucky ones who has the resources to buy or set up a bug out retreat in another location for just such an event, all you have to do is get there. But if your financial resources don’t include a well-stocked bug out retreat or prepper hideout to run to, it’s critical to look at other options.

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead series, you may recall that Dale’s RV served the group well whether they were camped in one place or on the move. For those who already own a recreational vehicle (RV) such as a motorhome, trailer, or even a pop up camper, you may find yourself wondering exactly how to bug out in an RV.

For this article we’re going to assume you’ve chosen to use an RV as your bug out vehicle and we will run through the steps you need to take to make your bug out in an RV as successful as possible.

1. Choosing an RV for your Bug Out Vehicle

When it comes to RV’s, we’re talking about any type of motor vehicle which includes sleeping and/or living quarters. This includes motorhomes, pull-behind trailers, fifth-wheels and even pop up trailers or truck campers. There are different types of RV’s to consider and each of them has pros and cons that will impact your bug out planning.

Class A

These motorhomes are the largest of the motorhomes. These vehicles have vertical windshields and similar in look and size to a large charter bus. Class A motorhomes can be great because they often include full size kitchen and bathroom facilities.

These vehicles are often completely self-contained using a generator for power, but the trade-off is that they can be more difficult to maneuver and also anyone else desperate to save their families will see this vehicle as full of resources. Class A motorhomes can also be the most expensive option and will definitely make you a bigger target out on the roads following a SHTF event.

Unless your bug out plan is one that gets you out and away from people before roads become blocked and impassable, using a Class A RV to bug out isn’t the best option.

Class C

Motorhomes with an extended section over the cab, that often includes a bed are Class C recreational vehicles. These are mid-size vehicles and can often include galley kitchens and some bathroom facilities. They are not as large as the Class A motorhome and are less conspicuous and somewhat more maneuverable in the event you need to alter your original bug out route due to abandoned traffic or blocked roads. For some people, these Class C motorhomes could be a decent option for bugging out with the right preparation.

Class B

These recreational vehicles are the smallest type of motorhome. These often look more like a passenger van than a bus. One of the advantages of the Class B motorhome is that it looks more like a large van which means it will blend in easier in SHTF traffic. In a Class B motorhome, you may not have as many resources as in the Class A motorhome, but the trade-off is that you are less of a target on roads and highways.

The downside to a Class B RV for bug out is that if the vehicle breaks down, you could end up on foot if you haven’t planned ahead. Class B RVs generally are less expensive and can be a great bug out vehicle for many people with the right preparation and planning.

pull behind trailer

Pull-Behind Trailers

One of the main disadvantages of the motorhome for many decades was that your living quarters went with you wherever you went. There was no ability to disconnect your vehicle from the living quarters to run errands and parking for such a large vehicle was a major concern. For recreational camping, many families turned to the pull-behind trailers for this reason. This type of RV is a trailer with your living quarters that is pulled behind or towed by another vehicle like a car, van, or truck.

Trailers come in a variety of sizes from very small and lightweight (teardrop) to trailers that are very long and heavy and require a special type of towing setup, like a fifth wheel in-bed hitch to tow them.  A main disadvantage with the pull behind camper is that it is completely separate from your vehicle.

You and your family cannot get to your living quarters or your gear and supplies while on the move. In a bug out situation where the ability to stay moving is a huge advantage, pull behind trailers aren’t the ideal option. With a pull behind trailer, passengers cannot legally ride in the trailer while it is moving which can be a disadvantage for families with young children who need to get out of the city fast during a bug out.

With a pop-up camper, everything must be folded down before the camper becomes towable. This process requires precious time and could result in having to leave the camper to make a quick getaway to avoid looters harming your family. When choosing a pull-behind or pop up trailer for your bug out vehicle, make sure you consider maneuverability, security, and how much your vehicle will stand out to others on the roadways.

Lancesnow truck camper

Attribution, Link 

Truck Campers

The truck camper uses an attached “cap” and essentially turns the bed of the pickup truck into a covered area where you and your family members can store gear and/or climb in and sleep when necessary. The hard cap that can be locked which keeps gear safer than in a tent or pop up camper. The cap or camper essentially becomes part of the vehicle so as long as you can drive your truck without maneuverability issues, you have your gear and a place to sleep protected from the elements.

A truck camper also is going to blend in a bit more with other cars and trucks on the road, so your family doesn’t become a target. Disadvantages of truck campers are that the living space is small which means it may work well for individuals, couples, or couples with a small child but won’t work as well for families with many people.

2. Plan Your Bug Out Route and Alternatives

The main purpose of a bug out location or prepper retreat is to serve as a safe haven following a SHTF event. But your bug out location or prepper retreat will only help you if you can get to it quickly without falling prey to the many obstacles and threats that will block your path.

There is no predictable way of knowing which roads and highways will be passable when you bug out. Road and highways can be blocked with debris from a natural disaster, with abandoned vehicles that have run out of gas, by gangs of looters, or by roadblocks or checkpoints that will crop up under a Martial Law order.

By choosing to bug out in an RV, you may be able to take more gear and supplies with you, but you won’t be able to maneuver turns and obstacles on the roadways as easily as in a car or truck.

The success of your bug out trip largely depends on whether you plan out your bug out routes and several alternatives you can switch to at any point along the route if something goes wrong.

Avoid bridges and other potential choke points as you plan your bug out routes as these will quickly become clogged with traffic and abandoned vehicles.

3. Equip and Maintain Your RV for a Bug Out

Once you’ve chosen your RV for use in as a bug out vehicle and determined what route and alternate routes you will take, the next step is to equip your RV and keep it maintained in good working condition so it’s ready when needed. This can be done all at once or in stages as you have the time and funds.

When equipping your RV for a bug out, you need to make sure you consider the recommended weight limitations of your vehicle so that you don’t overload it and cause it to break down. Once you know the weight limitations of your vehicle, you can begin to think about any modifications you can add that can help you during your bug out trip.

Modifications to bug out in an RV can include:

  • Power Inverters and Adapters
  • Deep Cycle Marine Batteries
  • Bullet resistant or shatterproof glass
  • Rewire lights with better grounding
  • Tools and spare tools needed to do repairs
  • Extend a Stay Adapters and External Propane Tanks
  • LED Lighting to reduce power needs
  • Flip the axle to avoid bottoming out
  • Bedliner on the roof
  • RV Solar kit
  • Tankless or Solar Water Heater
  • Sump pump and filter to pull water from creeks/streams
  • Wind Generator
  • Additional Insulation for Colder Temperatures
  • Heavy Duty or Run Flat Tires
  • Brush Guard or Grill Guard
  • Towing Package
  • Roof Rack or Cargo Rack (additional storage)
  • Alternative Cranking Method (use heavy duty drill and special socket to raise/lower pop up camper more quickly)

4. Survival Needs to Consider for Bug Out in an RV

To plan to bug out in an RV, you will need to plan ahead for a wide variety of survival needs. Your main priority should be on keeping the vehicle moving so you can either reach your bug out destination or stay ahead of the hordes of looters and people desperate for your supplies. Although RVs are made to travel long distances and tend to hold up very well when used for extended trips, regular maintenance on your RV will be critical to a successful bug out.

It’s also important to fully understand the proper operation of your RV so that you can be prepared to do any necessary repairs that crop up during your bug out trip. For example, if your RV blows a radiator hose in a way that cannot be patched, do you know what other vehicles have radiator hoses that will fit your RV? Knowing what make/model to look for in a sea of abandoned vehicles could determine whether you continue to your destination or end up on foot for the rest of the trip.

  • Operational Needs (Spare Parts, Fluids, Fuel, Bearing Grease, etc.)
  • Security
  • Reliability of the Vehicle
  • Backup Transportation (If your RV breaks down or is confiscated)

5. Stockpiling Needs to Bug Out in an RV

When stockpiling supplies to bug out in an RV, most of these will be the same as if you were bugging out in another type of vehicle. Make sure you plan for weight limitations and storage as well as something going wrong that necessitates finishing the trip on foot.

You will need to have a plan for:

  • Sanitation and Personal Hygiene Needs
  • Food Stockpile
  • Water
  • Storage and Space Utilization
  • Power Needs (lighting, cooking, heating & cooling)

If you plan to bug out in an RV, what other modifications have you done or considered? Share any creative storage and space utilization methods you’ve come up with in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “How to Bug Out in an RV”

  1. A word of warning on pickup campers. Watch your weight distribution. Drive one around if you can.

    I have a friend that got one, put it on a single wheel rear axle pickup. The springs were not up to the job and it swayed terrible, especially in any kind of wind.

    We have a pull behind trailer, and pull it with a 3/4 ton diesel truck. I really like using a diesel. We originally had a short bed Chevy Tahoe with a 5.7 V8. The truck acted like a teenager asked to do free work when it went up a hill. Now understand we also live on the Continental Divide so things may be different at lower elevations. I’ve also added air shocks to the bed for extra stability. I really like having a dedicaated vehicle for my camper, and the 8′ bed makes carrying an ATV easier (but it does take acres to turn).

  2. If you buy a pull-behind trailer, make it tandem axle. A single axle is far less stable on the road. If used, get it inspected. A common issue is water in walls because an awning was ripped off during a storm.

    We had a large pull-behind for years. It had everything – but it was big & heavy, and took a lot of fuel to haul. We left it on top of a mountain, along with several acres of land we developed as a bug-out property.

    May I suggest that a bugout vehicle may not be a best idea? What if you can’t buy fuel? Or, even if you can, your movements can be tracked.

    Where you gonna park it? Private land? No. You’ll get arrested without permission. Campground? I hope not, for your sake. State park? Noooooo…..maybe you have a pre-arranged agreement? Great! Hope you & your tribe can get there.

    And how many supplies can you haul around in it? Answer: not many, and they won’t last long.

    If you can afford an RV, you can buy a little remote land, even if only one acre. Even if it is only raw land.

    Make sure it has a viable water source; if a creek, that it doesn’t run through other properties that will be a problem. Or that your nearest neighbors are running a methlab. Been there – done that. And TRY to buy land wherein you still own mineral rights. Otherwise, you could wake up one morning to a commercial drill on your land. Seen that, too.

    Read Mike Oehler’s $50 & Up Underground house book, or “Sandbag Shelters”, books on cordwood or straw bale construction. There are cheap ways to provide shelter. Electricity, flushing toilets and RUNNING water are luxuries – not necessities. There are simple ways to meet those needs.

    Go there & work it as often as possible. Leave most of your supplies there. If and when you must flee there, you’ll be able to travel light and faster than “loaded down”. Get to know the people and the community. Know every way in and out.

    You can buy such land in lots of places: the Ozark and Appalachian mountains; maybe even Smokies, if you avoid tourist trap areas. The Tennessee Valley (NW MS, North AL, Southeastern TN (NOT near any large city). Avoid West TX because of water problems(Permean Basin). Other areas might be okay.

    Look at earthquake activity before selecting an area, as well.

    There is cheap land available. If. however, a parcel in a certain area is a lot less than everything in the area, find out why.

  3. We leave our trailer on our property, it’s hooked to water/sewer, our issue is to make our place a bit more difficult to get into..

  4. I don’t know what I think about bugging out. I think folks need to make decisions ahead of time about what circumstances would warrant leaving home. I have stayed home even in the face of a major hurricane. I am glad I stayed home because folks that waited to long to pull the trigger wound up stranded on the side of the road without gasoline. The only circumstances I can see bugging out is chemical attack or fire.

    • Bam Bam:

      I am not a fan of “bugging out”. Logistics alone would be a nightmare. However, I am a bit of a realist. Just looking at things like a forest fire or chemical spill, I might not have a choise. So, I prepare for it anyway. But I sure hope for 24-48 hours notice.

    • Bam Bam,

      I don’t know what I think about bugging out. I think folks need to make decisions ahead of time about what circumstances would warrant leaving home.

      That’s why everyone needs to go through the table top exercise of preparing a threat matrix as detailed here: {dead link removed}

      I have stayed home even in the face of a major hurricane. I am glad I stayed home because folks that waited to long to pull the trigger wound up stranded on the side of the road without gasoline.

      My kid sister left Key West ahead of Irma and did a caravan with a friend in another car. One used Gas Buddy to find the gas they needed and the other used Waze to plot their course north. They made it safely to the panhandle in 234 hours, on a normal 10 hour trip. My sister also towed a 12 foot dual axle trailer and had extra fuel and gear on hand if she needed it.

      The only circumstances I can see bugging out is chemical attack or fire.

      Chemical attack could easily be a tanker truck that crashed and left a cloud of noxious vapor; but, in this case, the bug out would most likely be short. I you live ins some areas out west however, those wildfires might require an INCH bag and not just a BOB.

  5. This was a very well thought out piece. We currently have a pop up camper, which we pull with a van, and that gives us more storage space. We have considered a Class C. I can’t do a teardrop because I think it would be too claustraphobic for me. But yeah, storage. And LTD, privately owned campgrounds can be a good retreat. We camped for years at one(a ‘permanent campsite’ with year round privilege), it was our potential BOL because we knew everyone there, they had fresh water (river and wells/springs) and fuel storage (propane and gasoline) on site. It is actually still on the list, just not a high since we haven’t camped there in a few years but we still know ppl that are there. I would DEF stay away from state/local parks. But I think privately owned campgrounds, if you develop a relationship with the owners and permanent campers, could be a potential BOL. Our ‘permanent campsite’ was almost as well stocked as our home.

  6. I think the pop-up makes the most sense, but having an already built overhead cover for it would improve it drastically. My brother and I built an aluminum two vehicle carport on our property and installed an elevated 10′ x 10′ platform under it. Cover from sun and rain is excellent and combined with natural air flow, works well.

    Very small, but has adequete storage if vehicle is parked nearby for additional (a van makes the most sense to me – a pickup bed trailer is easy to haul).

    A trailer makes sense because eventually, you will likely have to move to new location as firewood is depleted. Eventually, it becomes to far to haul – having the ability to move to new locale would be great.

    Thank you for the post – good topic !

  7. We live in our bug out retreat and have spent more than 30 years setting it up the way we want it, so shelter in place is currently our only plan. There are only two things that could interrupt that plan.
    If we are contacted by local authorities and there is a noxious cloud of some kind headed our direction, we would need to bug out in a temporary fashion, meaning local friends and neighbors, or even a hotel room for a short time.
    The other would be a direct strike by a tornado, in which case, assuming we survived the event, we would live in a hotel, rental units, or a friend or relatives house until the insurance had things back together enough to move back in. The main/ oldest section of this house is however, nearly 100 years old, and so far, the odds seem rather good against such an event happening.
    Add to that we are in our late 60’s and retired, and the RV & camping solutions don’t appeal to us as they once did; but, we still have the skills and equipment to do some if required.
    For the proverbial SHTF scenario, we will stay here and be joined by invited members of our MAG, who have various skills and will bring the supplies they have, and plan to stay here and to work doing whatever is needed, especially helping with security. I have enough communications equipment and firearms to supply a small group; but, most of those coming would bring their own and just settle in.


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