American Survival Guide|March 2021
Forest fires rage through the West. The most powerful hurricanes in recorded history ravage the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic. Arctic cold and blinding snows strike the Northeast and the Midwest.

What do these disasters all have in common? They all make people—ordinary people—leave their homes, often very quickly, in the name of safety.

In order to get your family out of harm’s way, you need a reliable vehicle; one that’s always prepared to move at a moment’s notice.

This article discusses items I keep in my vehicles at all times and steps I’d follow in my situation. If something were to happen and I had time, I would load the vehicles with other items as well. Also, keep in mind that you might face circumstances that I don’t in my home state of New Hampshire. If that’s the case, you should carry items better suited to your area. This is just a suggested guide about what should always be carried.


When it comes to an emergency situation, your type of bug-out vehicle doesn’t matter. The goal is to get to safety, not win a “pretty car contest.” We’ve all seen the articles featuring huge 4X4s outfitted with all the gadgets; and, honestly, some of them look pretty cool. Others look like war wagons right out of a Mad Max movie.

In reality, most of the people escaping forest fires and massive flooding will be driving their minivans or SUVs loaded up with their kids and the dog. I have two vehicles. One is a 2007 Ford F-150 pickup, and the other is my wife’s 2014 Subaru Forester. Both are set up to leave quickly if necessary. If we had the time, I’d go with the truck, because it can hold more gear and supplies. But time isn’t always on your side. If we have to bug out quickly, the Forester is the vehicle we’d take.

The bottom line is that whatever you’re driving, your vehicle needs to be ready to go when you need to “beat feet.” When you have to evacuate, you might only have a matter of minutes to get moving.

For that reason, you must have a plan that covers everything from your escape route​ to what you need to carry in your vehicle for a successful exit from the area. I always emphasize that survival revolves around good plans. This situation is no different. Without a plan, you have panic ... and panicking can kill you.


Your vehicle is no help if it’s in bad shape. Make sure all required maintenance is up to date. Check all the fluids at least once each week; more often if you regularly drive a lot of miles. Make sure the tires are in good shape and that the brakes are not on their last legs. If anything needs to be fixed, now is the time to do it.

Breaking down in the middle of an evacuation is our worst fear, but it can be prevented: Make sure to carry a well-stocked toolbox. Check the spare and the jack. Carry extra belts, hoses, wiper blades, oil and antifreeze, as well as jumper cables and road flares. Last, but not least: Keep your gas tank full. Once you get going, you might not be able to stop.


When planning your route, you need to look at a few different aspects: What’s the direct route out of the situation? What’s the safest route out (the two are not always the same)? Which route is best for the vehicle you’re driving?

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