Learn How To Customize Your Bug-Out Vehicle

The value of four-wheel drive in a Bug-Out Vehicle (BOV) cannot be overstated. Even the best off-road vehicles require assistance from time to time. Whether you have a 4×4 vehicle or not, various tools and modifications are necessary for off-road travel, especially in bad weather.

Some of these goods may appear excessive, but we are preparing for the worst-case situation; therefore, I have made every effort to leave no stone unturned.

Improvements and recommendations for a Bug-Out Vehicle

Tire selection

Tires are costly, and it’s difficult to justify purchasing new tires when you don’t need them. However, the next time your vehicle requires new tires, consider Bugging Out. Tires are essentially hiking boots for your vehicle, and you would never traverse rough terrain in slick loafers.

Low tread road tires are great for driving on well-kept blacktop roads, but they are less desirable in snowy, sandy, or muddy situations. Simultaneously, highly treaded tires can reduce gas mileage and make a vehicle difficult to handle at high speeds.

A moderately treaded tire that is good on and off the road is the perfect middle ground.

Because tires are so vital for my bug-out vehicle, I replaced the stock tires on my surplus pick-up with a set of insanely cool Super Swampers. This also necessitated a wheel upgrade, which I purchased on Craigslist for under $100.

A slightly larger tire can also provide a few inches of more ground clearance. Ground clearance is essential for a variety of reasons.

For starters, the more clearance you have, the less likely it is that you may harm the underneath of your car by running over rocks or twigs.

When fording high water, ground clearance is also important. When it comes to maintaining your air intake above a high waterline, every inch counts.

Air intake snorkel

air intake snorkel

The addition of a snorkel elevates your air intake aperture from around the engine level to towards the vehicle’s roof. This enables significantly deeper water fording while also preventing the engine from drawing in water and hydro-locking.

These are often quite expensive and reserved for dedicated off-road aficionados, but they are certainly worth considering when prepping a bug-out vehicle. If you live in a location with many rivers, streams, and creeks, or if flooding is a frequent occurrence, an air intake snorkel may be a worthwhile investment.

Brush guards


When smashing through scrub brush in the median of an expressway or rubble and other urban trash on packed city streets, a robust brush guard can protect your radiator and other front-facing engine parts. They also make it less perilous to blast through unpleasant roadblocks, fences, or gated entry.

My brother constantly says that the other people on the road are the ones to be concerned about. He is correct.

You have control over your own vehicle, but not over theirs. A safe driver is one who drives defensively, and a brush guard is similar to a vehicle helmet. It keeps it from suffering irreversible brain damage since even a little collision with another vehicle can put an end to your excursion.

I’ve seen large members of the canine family utterly disable vehicles, and deer can do the same.

Brush guards can be found at local welding shops and junkyards for a low-cost and do-it-yourself project. They may not be attractive, but remember that function takes precedence over form.

Hand tools

During an emergency, none of us should expect an unimpeded path of travel. The conditions will be unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed or attempted to travel through.

I recently spoke with a man who witnessed the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. It reminded him of “something out of a Hollywood movie,” he said.

To summarize, a Bug Out is not your typical trip away from home. These exceptional situations necessitate the use of instruments that are not typically found in our automobiles.

We require extraordinary cargo for extreme conditions. A basic hand tool can mean the difference between being stranded and moving forward, from fences and fallen trees to locked gates and ditches.

Below is a brief list of tools to consider including in your bug-out vehicle.

Gloves: Purchase a pair of heavy-duty work gloves. I’m wearing First Tactical Hard Knuckle Gloves during my wilderness adventures. They are an excellent combination of utility, working, and tactical gloves.

Shovel: Shovels have a variety of Bug Out applications. They are a highly flexible implement, capable of doing everything from scooping snow and muck to digging fire pits and latrines. Select the size that best fits your vehicle.

Wrecking Bar: A good wrecking bar can be used to pry and move any off-road impediment, from logs to rocks. They are also an excellent urban survival tool, providing tremendous leverage when prying open doors, cabinets, and manhole covers, as well as moving large chunks of concrete or construction rubble.

hand tools for your bug out vehicle

Hand Saw and Axe:  carry both a handsaw and an axe. If burning your own trail becomes required, both can make rapid work of branches and small trees. They are also extremely useful for gathering firewood, and the ax can also be used for self-defense.

Chainsaw: I know it seems extreme. When you come across a tree that is blocking a narrow length of the road, though, it is the only tool that will perform the job. My chainsaw is one of my last-minute “throw-in” equipment in case of a Bug Out. I don’t always keep it in the vehicle because an “extra’ chainsaw” isn’t in the budget.

Bolt and Heavy Wire Cutters: We all know that fences of various kinds line nearly every road in America. An inconvenient fence is the last thing I want between me and certain death.

Bolt cutters can not only cut livestock or chain link fences, but they can also break open padlocks on gates (or other security structures, storage containers, and cabinets).

Traction devices

It is often impossible to dislodge a stuck vehicle from mud, sand, or snow, no matter how much you dig.

A product called GoTreads is one of the simplest and most effective traction aids I’ve ever used. They may be utilized with almost any vehicle, including enormous semi-trucks. They are lightweight and fold up easily for storage.

The grooved surfaces not only dig into the slick surface (such as snow or sand) but also aid in keeping the track centered on your tire. They do not necessitate the use of any specific tools, training, or assembling time. Simply unfold, toss under your tire, and go.


A winch is a device that allows you to pull your car. Winches are often electric, hydraulic, or hand-crank.

You’ve probably seen a winch in action if you’ve ever seen a tow truck lift a vehicle out of a ditch. The most common type of off-road winch is one that is attached to the front or back bumpers with a mounting plate. Winches are usually always powered by the 12-volt electric system of the car.

Winches have a spool of cable or strong rope linked to something solid ahead along the trail, such as a tree or another vehicle. The winch slowly pulls your vehicle forward as it retracts the cable.

Winches that hook onto a tow hitch in the back can be purchased for less money. Jumper cable leads are powered by the vehicle’s battery. This type of winch is not permanently installed and is kept inside the vehicle until it is required.

A winch option in the front and back of a vehicle is unquestionably a bug-out vehicle luxury.

Come-Alongs and the Hi-Lift Jack

come alongs and the hi lift jack

The Hi-Lift Jack can be used to lift up your car for a tire change, but it can also be utilized as a hand crank winch.

You can use the Hi-Lift hand crank to slowly pull a vehicle toward a fixed item, such as a tree, by first securing the top of the Hi-Lift to your car with a chain or tow rope and then attaching the lifting snout of the jack to a fixed object, such as a tree.

Come-alongs are made expressly for this purpose. They consist of a cable with a hook on each end and a hand-crank ratcheting lever in the center. The cable retracts when the lever is cranked, assisting the thing to “move along.”

Come alongs are lightweight, weighing only approximately ten pounds. They’re an excellent low-cost backup winching solution for a bug-out vehicle.

They lack the lifting/pulling capacity of most electric winches; however, some are rated at 6000 pounds. That’s still quite astounding for such a little portable gadget.

Remember that winches, come alongs, and the Hi-Lift Jack can all also be used to move bulky objects out of the way. You may need to clear a route by moving a tree, a broken-down car, or a block of rubble. These are also multi-purpose tools for such jobs.

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Tow Straps, Chains, and Hitching Accessories

In an off-road situation, a nice strong piece of chain and/or tow strap can be a prepper’s best friend. To extend the reach of your come along, hi-lift jack, or electric winch, utilize a chain or tow strap. They can also be utilized to pull you out of a difficult circumstance by another vehicle.

A rapid tow by another vehicle is the simplest and quickest way out of a deadlock. This is one of the reasons why, wherever possible, I advocate traveling in a Bug Out Convoy with other cars.

Chains are graded in order to be classified based on their strength. Towing requires a chain with a Grade 43 or above. Even superior is Grade 70 (transportation chain). Because of the chromate plating, it is often a goldish tint.

Chain grade should be branded with a G and then a number every few links for easy identification.

Tow ropes are not all created equal. The cheap ones have broken just trying to pull a four-wheeler out of a ditch.

Snapping a tow rope is not only inconvenient, but also dangerous, and if it’s your final resort, it could mean game over.

The Bubba Rope is the best tow rope I’ve used. The Renegade Bubba Rope I carry has a breaking strength of 19,000 pounds, but they make ropes with breaking strengths of over 130,000 pounds for those of you driving monster rigs.

Many vehicles are outfitted with at least one towing hook in the front and rear. Just in case, I recommend including a set of heavy-duty shackles in your off-road outfit.

A shackle is sometimes the best way to attach a tow strap, chain, winch, or come along to a vehicle or other fixed object due to an inconvenient angle or other feature.

My truck has two shackle mounts on each bumper, which makes it simple; however, with previous BOVs, I simply stored my shackles in the backpack with my tow line or chain. Shackles are excellent tie-off points in a variety of situations.

Extra lighting

off road lights for bov

Electricity is frequently knocked out by natural disasters.

Have you ever traveled through a city late at night when the streetlights are turned off?

Or on a lonely country road when the moon is obscured by clouds?


Even with a good set of car headlights, driving in the dead of night can be difficult. Rain, snow, dirt, and flying debris will further add to your visual difficulties.

A few aftermarket off-road lights with high beams can greatly help illuminate potential hazards further ahead or even in a 360-degree radius of the vehicle (recommended). In less-than-ideal situations, reverse lights are nearly worthless, and a rear bumper mounted bulb can be a lifeline.

To engage or avoid your threats, you must be able to notice them first. A threat may be anything from a flooded trench ahead to a completely impenetrable fence or a gang of looters hiding in the bushes. Darkness is a hindrance, and more lights are the answer.

I installed IPF 968 Lights on my Bug-Out vehicle. When it comes to high-quality off-road lights, they are not only economical, but they also include a hybrid reflector that provides a combination spot and driving beam.

Off-road lights aren’t permitted to use when traveling on the highway, but they come in handy in a Bug Out scenario.


The need to customize your bug-out vehicle should be obvious if you plan to use said vehicle to reach a remote location. You have to make sure the vehicle is able to traverse rough terrain no matter the weather outside, but also to overpass any obstacle that may bring the average car to a stop.

The suggestions listed in this article should give your bug-out vehicle the needed advantage to overcome any obstacle it comes across.

Charles Houser has written this article for Prepper’s Will.

Other Useful Resources:

Find Out What’s the Closest Nuclear Bunker to Your Home

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

Learn how to Safeguard your Home against Looters

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation during a major disaster

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