Roadside Prepping: Tips to Prepare your Vehicle for Bug Out Disasters

Bug Out Vehicle driving off the road

You have a bugout bag, your home is ready for disasters, and you have planned for the worst case scenario; but what about your vehicle?

From preparing for everyday vehicle problems and breakdowns to preparing your vehicle for quick evacuations during times of crisis, vehicle-related preparedness is an important topic that you can’t afford to ignore. When seconds count, your bug out vehicle needs to be ready and able to go at a moment’s notice.

Turning your Vehicle into a Bug Out Ready Vehicle

While you could go out and buy a dedicated bug out vehicle, for the purpose of this article we are going to look at things you can do to prepare your current vehicle for disasters.

Yes, a dedicated 4-Wheel Drive Bug Out Vehicle would be nice – and if you have the money then, by all means, go ahead and invest in one – but the fact is disasters rarely happen when you’re expecting them. Unless your bug out vehicle is your everyday driver, you need to prep all of your vehicles as if they are the one you will be using when disaster strikes.

Regular Preventative Maintenance.

The first thing you need to focus on is your vehicle’s ability to make it out during a disaster; which means you need to stay on top of your vehicles regular maintenance.

  • Daily Checks: Before getting on your vehicle in the morning, it’s a good idea to do a quick walk around. Look at the tires, check for leaks, and look for anything that looks out of the ordinary.
  • Monthly Checks: At least once a month you should be checking things like your oil, transmission fluid, tire pressure and other vehicle fluids.
  • Never let your gas tank fall below half a tank. When disaster hits, you need to be able to evacuate as quickly as possible. The last thing you want to do is get stuck in a long line at the gas station, so ideally your gas tank should never fall below half a tank.

Stock up on the Essentials

At the very least, you should be carrying either a dedicated Bug Out Bag or Get Home Style Bag in your vehicle at all times. Because your vehicle gives you the ability to carry even more than you would normally be able to fit into one of these bags, there are some vehicle specific things that you might want to consider.

  • Water: The average person goes through about a gallon of water per day. Water should be one of the first things you stockpile inside your vehicle. I advise carrying a couple of these Heavy-duty Aqua-Tainer 7 Gallon Containers in your trunk.
  • Food: Quick and ready to eat foods like pop-top canned goods, granola bars, and high-calorie energy bars are all things that can sustain you during an evacuation. Throw in some sugar packets, a couple of bags of nuts, and some hard candy and you have yourself a great source of instant energy, and a good way to improve your mood.
  • First Aid Kit: Your vehicle should have a good dedicated first aid kit, filled with the essentials for treating minor injuries, burns, and wounds. Check out my list of things you should include in your emergency medical kit.

Invest in a good Emergency Road Kit

On top of your regular emergency gear bags, you should have a vehicle specific preparedness kit. The kit should be filled with all of the tools you need for roadside emergencies and vehicle breakdowns.

Some Vehicle Specific items that you may want to consider include:

  • A Floor Jack
  • Jumper cables and an Emergency Car Battery Jump Starter. I like the Stanley J5C09 1000 Peak Amp Jump Starter because it not only jump starts your battery but it also has a compressor to fill flat tires and ports for charging cell phones, communication gear, laptops, and tablets.
  • Spare Fuses, extra oil, antifreeze and vehicle fluids.
  • Spare Hoses & Fan Belts
  • Tire Pumps, Patches & a can of Fix a Flat
  • A Power Inverter
  • A properly inflated spare tire (preferably a full-size tire)
  • Jerry Gas Can with extra fuel (preferably stored outside the vehicle)
  • A shovel and piece or carpet or traction material. Combined with the floor jack, these can be used to get you out of snow, sand, and mud.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • A Good Tow Cable: A tow cable is a good idea, for being a good Samaritan or in case you need someone to be one for you.
  • Trac-Grabber Traction Devices – Something that can help you free your vehicle if you get stuck in snow, sand, or mud.

Emergency Navigation Gear & Maps: In today’s world of electronic gadgets and mapping Apps, navigation is something that most people don’t have to think about on a daily basis. But when it comes to emergency preparedness planning, the subject of navigation is something that needs to be taken into consideration. Make sure you have maps of your local area, maps of your evacuation routes, and a good nationwide road atlas in your vehicle.

Communication & Signaling Gear:

During most disasters, there is a very high likelihood that most communication channels will go down. Hopefully this will only be temporary; but either way, you need to plan for the worst case scenario and have multiple ways to communicate available in your vehicle.

  • Cell Phone & Car Charger: While this is the first thing that will probably go down, you should always have a fully charged phone and an extra car charger at all times.
  • Satellite Phones: If you can afford one, Sat Phones don’t rely on local cell networks, so they’re less likely to be affected by an increase in call volume or network outages.
  • CB Radios: A CB Radio is an excellent way to communicate if you’re traveling with a group of vehicles. They are also great for local communication and finding out local road conditions from truckers driving in the area.
  • Ham Radio: When everything else goes down, a good multi-band ham radio will allow you to hear broadcasts and communicate with people both locally and around the world.


  1. Great list; simple but effective. Thanks!

    I particularly like the distinction you make in the emergency kit and the bug out bag.


  2. Couple things I like to make sure that is in my vehicle’s emergency kit is 2 quarts of oil, gallon of antifreeze and a couple of quarts of transmission fluid. Oh and never forget the duct tape, bailing wire, and JB Weld or Quicksilver 2 part machineable epoxy. The epoxy has saved my rear more than once when I have had an issue in the middle of nowhere.

  3. Since most vehicles these days use serpentine belts, it is always a good idea to have a spare. Just hang on to the old one when putting a new on on, and you’re set. Obviously the wrench needed to move the tensioner is a must as well. Oddly enough the only time I have had a belt fail was when I put on a defective brand new one that failed within minutes of being installed.

  4. There’s probably a very high chance that when TSHFT all major highways and other roads will be gridlocked with numerous panicking, ill equipped and desperate individuals in there motor vehicles. Not to mention any possible military/police road blocks/check points to try and get through. Maybe there is another solution to getting your ass outta town? Or maybe evaluate your environment/geography and move on foot to safety near by?

  5. The car BOB is great, but in the summer our car gets so hot it can melt plastic, so keeping some stuff in there is not feasible. Water bottles get so hot you can’t drink them & food spoils or melts. Aside from blankets, a roadside kit, maps, etc., what do you recommend for food & water in this situation with the heat? Thanks!

  6. Jax I have ideal for your problem a cooler in a cooler
    put a cooler inside and put ice around it the ice can be used
    as drink water I know its not a leave and for get but if really in to this you should be rotating your supplies anyway

  7. My bug out vehicle is my feet. I hike all the time, and did the Appalachian Trail last year. I will use my car as much as possible, but it is a beater Taurus wagon, so it isn’t going off road or anything. Wouldn’t think twice about abandoning it if I had to and walking hundreds of miles.

  8. find a used gama goat they will go anywhere,get great milage,are easily repaired,are street legal,float,and will haul all your needed stuff plus some.

  9. I was wondering why no one ever puts outside spigot handles on their lists? Most building have outside spigot but may people remove the handles. It seems if you had a handle you could obtain water without leaving any trace as you might if you use a pair of pliers to open the spogit.

  10. J3

    There is a tool called a skill-cock, $8 at Home Depot. It’s a baseball sized wrench configured like a miniature tire iron X. It is designed to open spigots wherein the handles have been removed. It will open the four most common sized found.

    I have one attached to my backpack.

    Carry on,,

  11. Jax. You can purchase a cooler that plugs into a 12v outlet and will cool while you are driving around and remain cool enough when your engine is off. Just remember to keep your battery serviced otherwise it could drain your battery. Also, it is best to have a manual transmission that will start without a charged battery.

  12. Great list. Simple, easy to read and understand. Keeping the gas tank full is really a mind over matter thing. So many of us ride on half empty and it doesn’t cost any more to ride with it full.

  13. I have horses, quads, a 4×4 all ready at all times. I know some of you in major cities probably don’t have any of that but there is always the option of a place on the outskirts that will board a horse for you. A storage unit can hold a quad or 2 for cheap. Don’t always rely on a vehicle to get you mobile in a SHTF situation. Also exercise is important.

  14. Hi You seem to have thought of most all the stuff I have on my site. It is great to get the message out before it is really needed.

  15. Check your car as always for regular preventive maintenance check water, breaks baterry,and other that may cause accident. Never leave home without your first aid kits. always know your alternative route for a safe travel. Your always gives me a better idea in terms of safety. Thanks.

  16. Does anyone have any ideas how to keep water in your vehicle from freezind in winter climates where temperatures can get as low as 10-20 below zero?

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