Bug Out / Wilderness

4×4 Off-Road Vehicles Make Little Difference in a Bug Out

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Recently I linked to an article on bug out route planning that reminded me why it’s so important to have good alternate routes picked in advance of any significant disaster scenario.

There’s no doubt in my mind that ANY and ALL major roadways–be they highways or city streets–will become an impassable parking lot in no time flat. You really do need to have a better plan.

Of course, there are those very rare circumstances where the ability to go off-road is a benefit but, IMO, I’d say they’re far and few between. As such, the oft-touted advice that you should include a 4×4 for preparedness is overrated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have one than not, and I do, but I’d say that anyone who lives in a city or suburb shouldn’t make it a priority purchase. Focus on everything else first.


It’s simple really: most cities and suburbs that I’ve been through aren’t setup to allow for off-road driving whatsoever! Considering that they’re littered with an assortment of barriers, guard rails, drop-offs (or embankments), an assortment of annoying buildings, as well as the occasional tree or shrub… most people wouldn’t get very far. 😉 In fact, I’d say most people would get farther walking.

Think about it. Better yet, glance around as you drive along your normal routes on your way to and from work or wherever. Think: “What would I do if I came to a huge traffic jam right here, in this very spot?” Never mind that the nearest exit is within sight a quarter mile down the road… you’re stuck NOW! Could you get around it… even with four wheel drive? Could you backtrack to get around it? Now do this several times over and don’t just pick the spots where you have open space to maneuver… that’s cheating.

I should note that there’s obviously a huge difference in what each geographic region is like. In my former stomping grounds in the Midwest it wasn’t unheard of to see open spaces where off-roading would be possible but, of course, these same places probably wouldn’t be packed like a parking lot either. The roadways where traffic is often a mess in normal times are also the same places where it would be most difficult to get off-road.

On the other hand, where I now live in the Pacific Northwest, there’s often nothing but a path cut through the trees and many two-lane roads… good luck to anyone off-roading through that. 😉

In conclusion, I’m not saying a 4×4 will make no difference during a bug out; I’m just saying that it’s far less likely to be useful than most of use think. Obviously, as with more preps, the old adage still applies even to this: “I’d rather have one and not need it than to need one and not have it.”

By Damian Brindle

How To Effortlessly Get Prepared For Emergencies Of All Kinds In Only 5 Minutes A Day... Fast, Easy, And Inexpensively... In Less Than ONE Single Month... By Following An Expert In The Field: Discover My 5 Minute Survival Blueprint And Get Prepared Today.

7 replies on “4×4 Off-Road Vehicles Make Little Difference in a Bug Out”

That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard that wasn’t concerned with an election. Even a muddy median can stop a normal car. If traffic is stopped, those that can take medians to pass jams (or drive to the side of the highway nobody’s using), cut up a hill to miss an obstruction, or even just deal with snow better than others during winter are more likely to succeed. The difference in price isn’t sufficient to justify the exposure. Especially contrasted to the cost of additional firearms which everyone thinks is mandatory. During 9/11 I cut across one corner of the mall because I was going a different way than everyone else, and having a big car that could convince others to let me through was as big a deal as traction. I didn’t need 4×4 for that, but there’s a lot of space between open highway in your LTD and walking. A 4×4 means utility clearings, streams, and some hiking paths are an option. I’m completely willing to walk out of here and my plan includes the gear for it (a game cart and my bailout bag is a child carrier). has shown me how far I can go in a day, but if you can keep mechanized you can go that far in an hour. Not being able to cross snowy pass on a forest road means walking, driving through the snow to the sunny areas means driving. You don’t need a ’76 K5 Blazer on 46″ tires, but the difference between a 2wd and awd (which isn’t as good as 4×4) is huge when you need it. It doesn’t take much of an incline to turn snow or mud into impassible for 2wd, and not noticeable for 4wd. No matter your car, carry a metal shovel in it all year long. If you’re on snow, washed out road, mud, etc. with a good shovel I can build my way out and be back up to mechanized. Often the obstruction (mud, hill, etc.) is only 50′ long, but if you can’t do it you’re walking.

Hmmm… it’s been a while since I wrote this and I’m not willing to re-read all of what I wrote but if I remember right the entire point was that 4×4’s aren’t going to solve your bug out problems if/when SHTF and the roads have turned into parking lots. People mistakenly believe that because they have a 4×4 they can get around when needed but that’s just not the case when there’s simply nowhere to go.

For instance, you said that “During 9/11 I cut across one corner of the mall because I was going a different way than everyone else, and having a big car that could convince others to let me through was as big a deal as traction” which indicates you’re still working under the paradigm of “all things being (relatively) normal” which ain’t the same as when SHTF. If EVERYONE is trying to get out and you’re just a bit too late there simply won’t be anywhere to go. People WILL clog up any possible way to evacuate and eventually you will just not be able to move forward any further with your vehicle no matter whether it’s a 4×4 or not. That was the point.

Yes, you’re right that more clearance means more capabilities to maneuver in general which is why I stated at the end that I would “prefer to have one than not” but a 4×4 just won’t make any marked difference if you’re not among the first to get out in which case it probably doesn’t matter too much what kind of car you have IF you’re among the first to get out.

Do you see the difference I’m trying to make? Perhaps I’m wrong, I don’t know. I’ve never tried to bug out when SHTF but I’m willing to bet that for most of us I’m right. You go ahead and take your “big car” and see how far you get bugging out when SHTF and you’re a moment too late… I’ll bet it won’t be far.

Thing is once your out of the city or town you live in you will need one to get out farther than the yuppies without one. They are usually built better than a car and can be used for ramming vehicles or driving over curbs at speed. Try that with your honda civic. They also usually have more space and can be used as a base which holds a lot of stuff or actual comfortable sleeping quarters. Hell done that more than a few times myself. Sorry but your dead wrong.

I drive a small Toyota Tacoma 4×4 truck. Not because I need it but because it was one of my old company trucks, it’s very dependable and I got it very cheap. I’ve mapped out multiple BO routes to my location. We live in surburbia Tampa Bay, Fl area. These routes would generally be a blockage mess in the event of a major problem. And they do get clogged from time to time when hurricanes stray nearby. With this truck I can drive the uneven shoulders and medians if need be. Most road debris like tree branches and raised water levels doesn’t stop us. I don’t plan to go “muddin” through the thick. We don’t have much of that here anyway.

I have to believe that the best strategy is to get out as early as possible because there will inevitably be vehicles blocking nearly every part of a road as soon as people start panicking. If you truly plan on bugging out plan on doing it before everyone else thinks the same thought. 🙂

Good review on an untouched subject. But it’s a long road from here to there and that four-wheel drive may come in handy somewhere along the way.

Middle of that traffic jam? You’re SOL.

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