12 Tips to Pack Your Bug-Out Vehicle Like a Pro

ReadyNutrition Readers, this article is done on special request by one of the Readers.

Hi, really appreciate all the articles you and the others do on these websites! I’ve been searching for articles particularly on one would pack their vehicle mine being a truck in the event I had to get out. I know pallets that are shipped have a specific order on what goes on first comes off last. I have to factor in weight especially and usually pack the bed with the heaviest items over the axle or forward. I would also be interested in how you would organize backpacks as weight is also a major factor. Many Thanks.”

Well, we’re going to cover the vehicle loads in this article and follow up with one on backpacks and rucksacks in Part 2.  So, let’s jump into it!  One of the things that you must find out first regarding your particular vehicle is its load capacity.  How much weight can it hold?  How much can the axles take?  It is more than this, however: certain weight loads will shift with terrain and with the gradient driving upon.  A steep incline that tilts the bed of that pickup too far will end up turning that pickup into a dump truck.

In addition, you also need to assess what you’re transporting to minimize danger.  Ammo, flammable liquids, and so forth.  An accident with a power line can introduce electricity into the equation and create a secondary explosion that ends up being worse than the accident.  Let’s go through some basics.

  1. Strap down all your loads as best you can…and make this mandatory with anything that is liquid/fluids, such as water cans, fuel cans, etc.
  2. Make sure all your flammable liquids are in sealed and sturdy containers that do not leak and can hold up to rough handling.
  3. Pack those flammable liquids to the rear of the vehicle…the point being if they’re on fire, they’re away from the driver and passengers as far as possible. This will not stop gunfire, but that’s a different problem.
  4. Minimize those flammable liquids in the truck bed. Maybe one or two gas cans max.  If you need to haul that much, then you should have a trailer/cart of some kind.
  5. Stagger your load evenly…think of the term “Bilateral Symmetry” …that is a “mirrored” side…one water can on the left, and one water can on the right. Make the load even.
  6. Ammo in military-issue ammo cans. They’re water-tight with a rubber seal, and they can take a beating.  Pack these guys to the rear of a vehicle.  Use cargo straps to keep them from “hopping” around…tie them down as best you can, and stagger the load evenly.
  7. Whatever your maximum load capacity is, load up only to 90% of that at the most. Give yourself that “pad” either for extra items you may need to acquire, or changes in the loads if you have more than one vehicle in your entourage.
  8. All emergency gear (such as fire-starting equipment and pioneer tools – shovels, picks, a chainsaw, and rope/cables – needs to be stowed in the rear where it is accessible easily and quickly.
  9. Foodstuffs and food supplies: insulate them with pads, cardboard boxes, and Styrofoam for temperature controls, and pack them evenly toward the front.
  10. Weapons (besides the ones you’re carrying on you) should be accessible by the driver and the passenger in the cab or behind the seats.
  11. Medical supplies: in the middle of the bed, protected for temperature and packed to grab at a moment’s notice.
  12. Nest: Build a “nest” around these supplies of food and medicine with things such as blankets, sleeping bags, and rucksacks. The rucks should be packed to the rear, just forward of the ammo.

The reason ammo is packed in the rear is that if you must abandon the vehicle in a SHTF-scenario, you want to access the ammo and control the weapons (in the cab) and download these first.  They are a priority and sensitive items.

“Those who beat their rifles into plowshares will soon plow for those who do not.”

                                                      Ben Franklin

Weapons and ammo are vital to keep the other “B’s,” namely your beans and band-aids.  You can prioritize for yourself, but I mention this: if you’re just sitting around in a hide site for a week, unless you’re injured, you’ll need the food before the medical supplies.  The weapons?  If you have food and medical supplies and no means to defend them…you’re just holding onto them for someone else when it hits the fan.  Three B’s are “Bullets, Beans, and Band-Aids.”

Returning to the packing, if it is wintertime and you have water containers, make sure that you take out about ¼ out of your container to allow for expansion if the water freezes.  Don’t put in any additives such as “salt” or “alcohol,” as it will keep it from freezing but it pollutes your water supply and makes it either a “dehydrating solution” or a “diuretic.”  Both defeat the purpose.  Remember: water’s heavy, at 7.6 lbs. per gallon…you can use that figure to estimate the weight of any fuel you’re toting, as well.

Camouflage all that you have packed.  For your pickup truck (that’s what we’ve focused on here), if you stack supplies up on pallets and load the truck, ensure that everything is strapped down.  Make sure that you have a cap to smack on the back of the pickup.  If you don’t want to use it before SHTF, that’s fine.  Just make sure you can throw it on when it all collapses.  It will be worth its weight in gold to keep your supplies dry and shielded from the elements.

Get yourself a good bathroom scale and/or a hanging “hunting” scale.  Yes, you will want to inventory and weigh everything before packing.  Stick to that 80 to 90% of the load maximum, and you’ll do well.  Make a diagram for all that you’re loading up.  This will help you to place things properly and in a well-organized manner.  Cover your load and block off the inside by putting up cardboard in the windows of the cap.  Take the time to cut the window-blockers to form and duct taping them in place, so you can remove them if need be.  Don’t “spray paint” the windows, as you may need to use them in the future.

Practice placing all you will put into your vehicle in a “ready” posture…that is, in order ready to place into the vehicle.  Drilling it will make it smoother when the time comes to do it for real.  The better you are organized, the smoother a movement will go.  Finally, make sure your vehicle is in good working order with all fluids topped off and the tires in good shape.  Next part we’ll go over how to pack those rucksacks.  Stay in that good fight, and fight it smart!  JJ out!


Supplemental Reading:

Step-By-StepEmergencyy Planning Guide

Vehicle 72 Hour Kit Basics

15 Items That Should Be In Your Vehicle During the Winter

The Prepper Conundrum: Bugging Out

16 Things You Should Always Have In Your Car

Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published December 9th, 2017
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4 Responses to 12 Tips to Pack Your Bug-Out Vehicle Like a Pro

  1. Jean Saffell says:

    Since we live in the woods, we plan ahead for possible wildfire evacuations. We practice load our vehicle (s) until we have the best ‘fit’ for critical gear. This step could take some time. But once we are happy with the way gear is loaded, we take photos in steps as we unload. Then by looking at the photos in reverse order we can tell exactly what sequence to load items, and where to place them. With photos, anyone available can load the vehicle. Those with smart phones can keep the pics on their phones, otherwise, print out a list of the critical gear, and locations in the home to find the gear, and the photos of how to load the gear and put it in the vehicle along with the evac maps, instructions, etc. And hopefully, you’ll never need to do the real thing.

  2. quimb says:

    Water is 8.34 pounds per gallon.

  3. Wm Reich says:

    I suggest you look up the GVW on the data plate of your vehicle. Load out 75-80% of that capacity to include passengers. You can’t be maxing out the vehicles capacity.. bad idea.. You considerably reduce your maneuverability on and off road if you do.

    If you can .. leave it packed water food everything if you cannot pack everything in Plastic Tubs and make sure they all fit. Label and mark them by numbers .. have a master table (List of contents) inside the vehicle and a few more in the tubs..

    You also need BII.. a field mechanics tool box (include Mechanics Hammer, Torque Wrench Hack Saw with extra blades, Duct Tape (several of the good stuff) a couple of inexpensive utility ropes, Shovels. Picks, Axes (Hand and Full sized).. Wood Saw (Chain or/and Hand Saw). Tankers Bar, Crow bar one or two Farmers Jacks.
    Tow Cable… Electrical tool box. Two part Expoxy (Large Tubes from NAPA) Hand oil pump..

    Spare Starter, Alternator,
    Spark Plug wire set, Spark plugs
    Windshield wipers
    Radiator and heater hoses
    (the old sets if not ruined are fine)
    Spare external or internal fuel pump as required.
    Spare fuel Filter X 2 (and know how to install them)
    Tire Chains (That fit and you know how to put on)
    One fully charged extra battery.. (I would put it in the system engine compartment if will fit.. If not put it in a plastic case with a drip vent tube and wire it into using a one way diode and a 12ga positive cable from your current Alternator or battery.. (This means it will charge when the vehicle is running but cannot discharge unless you move it to the Starting Batteries and replace the Starting Battery.. If you can put it into your system in the engine compartment with diode you can get a mechanical switch to bring the powe back to your vehicles electrical system.. But that is more complex and you may need assistance to do that properly..

    One or more Metal 5 gallon fuel cans (mounted on outside the vehicle)
    Couple Gallons of Antifreeze
    Gallon of oil
    Gallon of Transmission Oil/Fluid
    Grease Gun and a couple tubes of the proper Grease for your vehicle if appropriate
    One can of regular bearing grease
    One can of high temp bearing grease
    Can of electrical dry
    Couple Cans of B12 Chem tool Cleaners or Equiv.
    5-6 bottles of the cheap gas treatments for emulsifying water in fuel ($1 a piece when on sale)

    Fill the tires to their max ideal max pressure settings for load.. (You can look this up or ask your Tire Store to give you the information if they have it). Fully fuel your vehicle including any additional fuel you may be carrying.

    Load everything up and look at the vehicle . It should sit level and even adjust your load accordingly….

    Now take a trip to a local Cross Country Truck Fueling Station that has a Vehicle Scale. For $20 or so you can go on the scale… Pull half way onto the scale and write down your readings for the single axle (Front), Then pull fully on and get the total vehicle load
    That will either print it out there or the Cashier will have it for you. Add your projected passenger load (to include their Go bags) and massage things to get to the 75-80% range.

    This is just off the top of my head so I am sure there is more…But this is good place to start from.

    Now you have something to actually work with.. At least once a month have a Stand To.. Change out the Water in your Supplies…Do a load out and have everyone show up with their ruck. 20 min max. Unload then take them for ice cream or Pizza.

  4. wdmca1720 says:

    When one gets their bug-out vehicle loaded just right, with everything properly placed where it should be…what if there’s an EMP attack and that trusty old SUV (along with all your electronics) is dead, then what?
    Are you prepared to “hump” your stuff out to wherever your bug-out local is?
    Where will you bug-out to even if that trusty old SUV works? Do you have a location, or do you plan on becoming a wandering nomad?
    Do you know how to navigate to get to your bug-out location when all you have are paper maps and a compass? Providing you have them in the first place to begin with.
    Whatever you do, don’t forget your survival deodorant.

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