Tesla’s armor-clad Cybertruck arrived on the scene in November with an open provocation to the F-150s, Rams and Silverados of the world. Outside-the-box thinking has always been a trademark of the California carmaker. However, disaster-proof trucks were around long before Elon Musk was selling flamethrowers and building cave submarines.
You don’t have to wait years to receive your apocalypse-ready truck. Build one yourself with a little elbow grease instead!
This guide will cover everything you need to know to build a vehicle you can bug-out in. Let’s get started…
Start With a Good Truck
You might choose to build a bug-out vehicle using your favorite classic truck, like a Dodge RAM 1500 or Ford F-250. Reliability is, however, a critical quality for something intended to endure the end of the world. As such, you may be better off starting with a truck you know won’t need too much TLC.
You don’t necessarily need to use something late-model. You can find some decent examples of stout, practical vehicles dating back to the 1970s, such as a Ford E-350 van or Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6.
The Ford van, for example, is capable of tackling off-road terrain while also offering a mobile home experience. You can equip it with everything you need to survive, from water and food supplies to bikes and batteries. The Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, is an SUV-like vehicle with six wheels to master difficult terrain. While the Benz is massive, with an 8,400 curb weight, it’s 5.5-liter V8 engine makes it quite agile. But these might be too much for most of us.
When picking out a vehicle look for something with four-wheel-drive, plenty of power and enough suspension to tow a trailer. Size is critical, too, as you’re going to put the whole family in the thing. Plus, you’ll also need room for all your gear and supplies. Consider something with a roof rack, which allows you to strap items down without taking up inside space.
In the diesel vs. gas debate, it’s a toss-up. While diesel vehicles are famously stout, you could encounter trouble finding enough fuel in a dystopian future. Gasoline, on the other hand, is widespread and may be more likely to be found post-SHTF.
Another option is a truck that runs on biodiesel, which is a fuel you can make yourself. According to experts, you can whip up a batch for as little as $0.70 per gallon. To start, you’ll need to get your hands on some old frying oil. Some people get it from the tanks behind restaurants. Then, you’ll need to mix it with lye and methanol before pouring it into a water heater.
After two hours, open the valve at the bottom of the heater. A black ooze will drain out, this is glycerin. Once fully drained, it will give way to a thin, clear amber liquid ?— biodiesel. You can use this fuel to power your truck with.
[Editor’s note: do your research and consult a knowledgeable adviser before attempting to make your own biodiesel.]
Be Obsessive About Maintenance
Finding out that something needs fixing when you’re in a crisis situation is unacceptable. Keep a close watch on the maintenance of your chosen apocalypse vehicle. Something as simple as not having fuel could mean the difference between getting out in time and having a VERY bad day.
Because many bug-out vehicles sit for long stretches of time, you need to make it a habit to check their condition periodically. Look at tires, spark plugs, fuel, oil and air filters, timing and serpentine belts, windshield washer blades, fuses and light bulbs. It’s critical that each component is in proper working order. If you don’t have much mechanical know-how, stop by a qualified mechanic for routine inspection. And it can’t hurt to stock a few items that will go bad over time, such as belts, plugs, filters, and so on.
Also, if your vehicle is one you don’t use regularly, consider adding notes on your calendar to do so. For example, on the first day of every month, add a note to go outside and turn the engine over. Maybe occasionally you’ll drive it around the block… you get the idea.
Consider the Basic Necessities
In an end-of-the-world situation, you’re not going to have time to gather supplies from the pantry. You’ll need to plan ahead. That is, place enough water, food and medical supplies in your truck for the whole family. For example, you should have one liter of water per person per day. While this is enough to drink, it doesn’t account for hygiene, like brushing teeth and minimal showering. And, of course, including a quality water filter system is a must.
Don’t stock up on perishable food items. Instead, look for supplies that can stand the test of time. Consider dry goods that don’t require tons of effort to cook, like cereal, nutrition bars, canned veggies and protein shakes. Rice, oats and freeze-dried noodles are also ideal.
A small, portable camping stove and a backup supply of fuel can do wonders when it comes to expanding your potential menu. You can cook up fresh-caught fish and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee. If you bring along a bow and plenty of arrows, you can also hunt for small game, like rabbits and squirrels.
You’ll also want to stock up on the essential elements of a good first-aid kit, including:
- Alcohol wipes
- Pain medication
- Antibacterial ointment
[Editor’s note: You’ll find dozens of medical guides and first aid recommendations for disasters or worse here.]
You should also include a back-up of family-specific medications, but this is likely only plausible for shelf-stable medications. In any case, ask your doctor for an extra prescription to keep on-hand in case of emergencies. If someone becomes ill during an apocalypse-situation, you’ll have the supplied needed to manage through.
Don’t forget to make high-quality copies of any relevant paperwork, including passports, government IDs, marriage licenses and social security cards. You should also scan documents related to your family’s medical history, including proof of diagnoses.
Stock Up on Extra Supplies
It’s essential to carry additional supplies in your bug-out truck. Consider installing an extra fuel tank in the bed to improve range or installing an extra battery to power survival gear. After all, in an emergency, you might get stranded for some time and you will be running devices that will draw more power from the battery, possibly leaving you stranded if you didn’t plan ahead.
Plus, remember to bring along a set of jumper cables, a few tarps and some small tools for minor repairs since you’ll need to take care of any problems which arise on your own.
Some preppers like to use the expression WTSHTF (when the sh*t hits the fan) to reference an old saying synonymous with a crisis. You might already know that, in an emergency, picking up your cell phone and reaching out for help might be impossible. It’s vital to have multiple forms of communication available in your truck. Nevertheless, don’t throw that phone charger out as you never know when you might need it.
[Editor’s note: your smartphone can actually do a lot more for you during an emergency than most people realize. Reference the book I wrote on the topic here.]
In addition to a quality smartphone, your truck should include a two-way radio. When looking at CB radios for your truck, you must decide between three general types:
- Base stations: A radio designed for a fixed location.
- Mobile radios: Made for installation in vehicles.
- Handheld CBs: An all-in-one handset radio.
Radios come with a multitude of features, several of which could be helpful in a disaster situation. Some come with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stations, which offer updates on weather reporting. With squelch, you can eliminate background noise from static between transmissions. Plus, a backlit display makes it easy to stay connected 24/7, even when daylight is waning.
In addition to the high-tech solutions, look for some primitive means of getting people’s attention, such as a road triangle, signal flares and a reflecting mirror. These are basic survival items you should have in your vehicles anyway.
5 Additional Mods
Do you want to transform your vehicle into an apocalypse-ready behemoth? If so, consider a few upgrades that will have your truck pulling double-duty…
1. Towing Capacity
Can your truck tow a small trailer? To determine the payload capacity — how much it can carry — subtract the curb weight from the gross combined vehicle weight rating (GVRW). For instance, say you have a truck with a GVWR 9,000 pounds and a curb weight of 6,000 pounds. Your payload capacity would be 3,000 pounds.
If you don’t have towing abilities, invest in an easy-to-install kit. Some kits require welding, which means you might need to set up an appointment with a mechanic. Others are simple enough to install on your own. Once you’re ready to tow, you might chose to prepare a small trailer with some of the supplies discussed above to free up space from inside the vehicle, leaving more room for the family and probably more supplies.
2. Upgraded Tires
Opt for a full-sized spare tire or two to ensure you can push through any situation, whether it’s rocky terrain or a murky swamp. If money isn’t an object, consider mounting an air compressor on the bed to fill up low tires too.
Speaking of tires, you’ll want to install some meaty ones. Plus, consider adding some more ground clearance if your vehicle will likely head off-road. A functional lift kit, larger tires and some underbody armor are all practical upgrades for this endeavor.
3. Winch System
You can’t always rely on others to pull you out of a bad situation, so consider installing a sturdy winch system to pull yourself out of ditches or mud, for instance.
4. Extra Lights
Lighting is another component you should upgrade before the zombie apocalypse. Higher-output hardware could prove ideal when navigating areas with low or no lighting. You can also install an aftermarket light bar with enough lumens to turn the darkened of night into near daylight!
5. Add-on Shelter
You may have to camp out for days, weeks or longer in a bad situation. You’ll find plenty of viable options for shelters that install atop your vehicle. These rugged additions to your bug-out vehicle are popular overseas in places like Europe and Australia.
Since they don’t have to be as light as backpacking options, car-top tents tend to be durable and private thanks to heavyweight materials. Of course, you could always carry a traditional tent in your vehicle, if you prefer.
Act Now to Prepare Your Truck for TEOTWAWKI
People frequently joke about how they might cope with an end-of-the-world situation. Realistically, we might not see a meteor wipe out all major life on the planet. That said, weather conditions and the political climate are becoming more severe.
Life-changing events do happen, and the only way to ensure you can protect your family is to prepare. Take our advice and, when zero-hour arrives, you’ll be ready to go. In the meantime, you’ll sleep more soundly and be more prepared for whatever disaster comes your way.
[Note: This was a guest post.]