The Ultimate Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

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Like most of my peers, I don’t plan on sticking around if SHTF.  As much as I love my home, I plan on getting out of dodge as quickly as possible.  To make this happen, I have:

  1. Bug Out Bags packed and ready to go (see my BOB checklist)
  2. An emergency communication plan so I can quickly get my family together.
  3. Practiced a step-by-step bugging out plan with my family.
  4. A reliable bug out vehicle (here’s how I chose my BOV)

But let’s take things a step further.  Once you’ve chosen your Bug Out Vehicle, it is time to get it ready for bugging out.

Why Prepare Your Bug Out Vehicle?

Honestly, prepping your vehicle for bugging out doesn’t take much time.  Many of the items on this Bug Out Vehicle Checklist should be in your vehicle anyway.

Doomsday may never happen, but breakdowns inevitably will!

But in the event that something terrible does occur, you want to make sure your vehicle is ready to go.

As numerous disasters have taught us, the key to survival is fleeing early.

Each minute you save beating the crowds, road blocks, and looters drastically increases your chances of actually getting out unscathed.

Here’s some more tips on bugging out by vehicle.

Guidelines for Packing Your Bug Out Vehicle

packing a bug out vehicle

Guideline 1. You Need More than Your Bug Out Bag

It is highly recommended that you keep one Bug Out Bag at home and keep another in your vehicle.  The reasoning for this is that disaster could strike while you aren’t at home.

A lot of people also keep BOBs at work too.

But just because you’ve got a BOB in your vehicle, it doesn’t mean your vehicle is “ready.”

The whole benefit of bugging out by vehicle is that you get to carry tons more gear with you.  Why the heck would you limit yourself to what’s in your BOB when you can load more?

So pack as much survival gear in your vehicle as is reasonable!

Guideline 2. Don’t Touch Your Bug Out Bag Items

Consider your Bug Out Bag items completely separate from your Bug Out Vehicle items.  The only time you should use your BOB items is if you abandon your vehicle and have to set off on foot.

Why? Consider this scenario:

A major terrorist attack has just occurred and you flee by car. Your BOB is on the seat next to you.  You’ve got 50 gallons of water in the car, but it is all the way in the trunk and in large jugs.  So, you decide to drink the bottled water from your BOB.  “I’ll refill them later,” you tell yourself.

But then you notice an overturned car on the road in front of you.  You are forced to stop.  Seconds later, it becomes apparent that the road block was put there by a gang of masked hoodlums who are quickly approaching your vehicle…

You grab your BOB, abandon the vehicle, and set off on foot through your Route B.

The problem is that your Bug Out Bag is now lacking water.  If only you’d drunk the water in your trunk instead of depleting your limited BOB supplies!

Guideline 3. You’ll Have Some Duplicate Items

Because you are treating your BOB items as separate from your vehicle items, you will end up with some duplicates.

For example, I’ve got a survival knife in my glove box and one in my Bug Out Bag.  I’ve also got duplicates of survival food and water – there’s just tons more of it in my trunk than in my BOB.

I get that not everyone will be able to afford duplicates to keep in their BOV and BOB.  Since you should keep a BOB at home and in your car, and you need additional items for your vehicle, you can end up with triple of some items.

When budget is an issue, then you can remove items from your BOB to use – just put them back right away.

Or, better yet, focus on everyday carry survival items so you always have survival gear on you.

Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

Bug out vehicle gear

This Bug Out Vehicle checklist is made for people who plan on fleeing in a car, truck, SUV, or other “traditional” vehicle.  At the end, you’ll see some items for alternative Bug Out Vehicles too.

You might not need everything on the checklist but do start thinking about Worst Case Scenarios, such as if your BOV got a flat tire or you ran out of gas.

These types of thought processes are what help us get prepared!

Vehicle Emergency Items (with Amazon Links)

*If you are going to transport extra fuel, the safest way is on your roof rack or a rack on the back of your vehicle.  Never leave extra fuel inside your vehicle.

Signaling and Communication Gear

Shelter, Warmth, and Clothing Items

Navigation Items


  • License
  • Registration
  • Vehicle repair manual
  • Contact list with phone numbers
  • Firearm CWP permit

Water and Food

Survival and Personal Protection Items

Personal Hygiene Items

Items for Alternative Vehicles

  • Bike or motorcycle helmet
  • Life jackets
  • Paddles
  • Life raft
  • Dry sacks

Bug Out Vehicle To-Do Checklist

Yes, there is more!  You will need to make sure your Bug Out Vehicle is always ready to go.

  • Keep tank at least half full at all times
  • Service your vehicle regularly
  • Learn how to do vehicle maintenance
  • Rotate the food in your vehicle
  • Rotate the water too. Water bottles leak after about 6-12 months, especially when in a hot car trunk.

Is there anything I missed on the BOV checklist? Let me know!


Disaster Unknown: The Ultimate Guide to Building a BOB

Want more information about building the best bug out bag possible?

Learn how to choose the right bug out location, options for getting there, and which gear you absolutely need.

Follow the guidelines and you’ll be ready to go during any major disaster.

Buy Now

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  1. A good list of all the stuff you “should” have. “BUT”—-how about a minimum list of what is absolutely necessary. Have you calculated the weight/volume of you ideal list? Would definitely not fit in a Rav4 SUV ( and have room for passengers) —-unless you pull a cargo trailer!

    • As always you must prepare for your own individual situation. This is a general list – not everything is required – decide what you need for your own needs and priorities and go from there.

  2. I have a for wheel drive pickup and a all wheel drive toyota highlander and a 7 X 14 motorcycle trailer. Which vehicle would be best and should I pull the trailer to put supplies in, and should I bring the motorcycle (Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic limited) or leave it behind.

    • Hi Gary – totally depends on the situation. If you have the time and can plan ahead\travel back roads etc then bring as much as you can. If you need to get out of dodge quick then the Harley and a BOB might be your best option.

      Think about the most likely scenarios in your area and plan the best response.

  3. I have an extra BOB in the car, and a Get Home Bag with water and extra food, just in case. The GHB sits right where I can grab it if need be. The BOB is in the trunk along with a emergency tent. Many items are duplicate but it will be worth it. Additionally I have an extra US Army sustainment bag with food and condiments to supliment my two bags. Overall I have about five days worth of food and water for two. Instead of filled water bottles in the back I have 1 liter pre packed and sealed packages of water with a five year shelf life. No leakage with these so far. Overall my car preps are still a work in progress. I do worry about being able to get into or have access to the trunk under certain conditions. I might move the extra BOB to the back seat for better access since the front passenger seat might be occupied if we can’t take my wife’s car also.

  4. If you’re going to have anything of value, including a BOB, visible in your vehicle, consider storing it in an empty dog food (or goat chow or horse food, etc) bag. Having a bag of bunny chow in the backseat of your vehicle isn’t nearly as attractive as a well-stocked BOB. 😉

  5. Oh, and about that siphon & pump… please realize that most cars have anti-siphon technology in place that will prevent you from siphoning fuel from a vehicle.

    If there is truly a dire need to do so, and you have the manpower (at least two people, but three is much better) and tools (an awl or screwdriver, a rubber mallet, vinyl gloves, a drain pan or like container in addition to a gas container), you c-o-u-l-d punch two holes in a gas tank from under the vehicle, one hole up high to be the air hole and one hole down low to drain the fuel into the drain pan. When the drain pan is fairly full, have person #2 pour the fuel into your gas can while you’re plugging the lower hole in the gas tank. Repeat the draining/plugging/pouring process until your gas can is full or the gas tank is empty.

    Of course, person #3 is your look-out/security.

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