Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thoughts on transportation

Unless you're a work-from-home, Bug-In type of prepper you'll need to consider your forms of transportation. Most of us work a job outside of home or at least travel once in a while, so we could be away from the place we want to be when things go bad. How are you going to get from point A to point B?

Erin has written about her Get Home Bag and you'll find all kinds of options and opinions about such things on the internet, but have you thought about the transport methods available to you?

Depending on where you live and what type of crisis you're preparing for there may some options to explore. I'll try to cover some options going from low tech to high tech as a way of sparking your imagination.

Human powered

At the most basic level you have your two feet (if you're lucky).
  • Boots and shoes: The old information is still good information. You are going to need comfortable, broken-in, sensible shoes or boots if you're looking at travelling any distance. Leave the heels at home ladies, if they hurt your feet to wear while standing they will kill you if you have to walk very far.
  • Foot care: Keep your feet warm and dry. Carry extra socks and change them out when you take a break. Keep your toenails trimmed down to where they won't wear holes in your socks. Learn how to treat blisters and corns- both signs that your shoes aren't fitting you properly.
  •  Speed and distance: An average adult human being can walk at 3 to 3.5 mph. In good weather and on flat ground a person in good health carrying a suitable load can cover as much as 30 miles in a day. Broken terrain, bad weather, poor health, security concerns, and a host of other things will slow you down.


Bikes can carry you and your pack faster than walking but require a different set of muscles. Expect to be sore if you are out of practice in riding a bike. Bicycles are quiet and easy to maintain. Unless you're an avid bike rider, don't expect to travel much more than 40 to 60 miles in a day, again taking into consideration the terrain, weather, etc. Many cities have bike paths that cover much of the same area as the roads do.
  • Mountain bikes: Rugged and designed to carry you around in rough terrain, mountain bikes can get expensive. Normally geared for more power than speed. Panniers or saddle bags are easily attached for carrying more gear and keeping your center of gravity low.
  • Street bikes: Not as rugged as a mountain bike but easier to find and afford on a budget. Usually geared for more speed than power. Keep an eye open for the kiddie-carts that attach to a bike- that's a ready made wagon for carrying more gear.


  • Skis and skates: If you live where it gets below freezing in winter you have probably seen ice skates, snow shoes, and cross-country skis. Skates will let you take advantage of frozen ponds, lakes, and rivers and the snow shoes and skis are a great aid to moving through deep snow. 
  • Wheelchairs: If you're confined to a wheelchair, you're going to need assistance getting over any terrain that isn't paved. Same with the mobility scooters - if you're unable to walk you need to start looking for alternate means of transportation. If there is a spare wheelchair around, it could be pressed into service as a pushcart or attached to a bike as a wagon. 
  • Carts: Hand carts were used to move a lot of people and goods in the American Westward expansion of the 1800s. They can be as simple as a wheelbarrow or two bike tires and a box with handles attached. Remember that larger wheels allow you to go over larger bumps more easily (e.g., shopping cart vs. wheelbarrow).

Animal powered

Horses, mules, camels, donkeys, cows, and dogs have all been used through the years to haul people, wagons, carts, and sleds. Llamas and alpacas are more along the lines of pack animals. Four-footed transport requires more planning ahead of time, but is also the only form that can reproduce.

Nature powered

Do you live on the water? Have you ever thought about a small sailboat as an escape vehicle? Most cities grow up around water. That's just the way humans operate, so think of it as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. A kayak or canoe will get you into and out of places that a powered boat won't (and a lot quieter). Kayaks and canoes also make for an easy place to store your bug-out gear to save space.

Fuel powered

Gasoline  vs. Diesel

Both have their good points and bad points. Gasoline provides better starting in cold weather and is (generally) cheaper and more available than diesel fuel. Gasoline poses a much higher fire hazard than diesel. Gas also deteriorates faster, usually within 3 months if not treated with some form of stabilizer. Diesel fuel lasts longer but will harbor bacterial growth and also requires treatment for long term storage. Avoid storing ethanol blended gasoline (if you have the option), as the alcohol content makes it unsuitable for use in small engines. I can show you proof of it eating the gaskets and seals out of motorcycles and other small engines despite what you may have heard on TV or the internet.

  • Motorcyles/ATVs/UTVs: A sport bike will get you there fast, but a cruiser can carry more (on pavement). Sport bikes and certain popular cruisers are also quite loud, not always a good thing if you're running away from something. Sport and cruiser bikes don't handle well on gravel and sand without proper tires. Dirt bikes and ATVs/UTVs will allow you to go off-road and still get where you want to go.
  • Cars: Cars are generally limited to paved roads. Taking the minivan onto even a dirt road should be avoided due to narrow tires and low ground clearance. They are small, comfortable, and have good mileage, but some have limited cargo space and they all get stuck easily.
  • Trucks: Large and small. A 4X4 pickup is just a large UTV. They will allow you to get stuck in even more remote places than a 2-wheel-drive truck will. Pickups are great for hauling the entire household to your bug-out location, but lousy on mileage. Larger trucks (true mid-sized trucks, >1 ton capacity) lose even more miles per gallon but generally make up for it with larger tanks. They're also more expensive to maintain. If you're in a semi or dump truck sized vehicle you're limited only by fuel capacity and road conditions. Many large trucks can handle loose dirt well (farm fields, construction sites, and such) and they'll haul literally tons of stuff.
  • Boats: I touched on these when I mentioned kayaks and canoes.A power boat will haul more and go further, faster than a canoe and should be considered if you have a body of water to cross in order to get to your destination. Look at maps of your routes ( and see how many bodies of water lay between where you may be and where you want to be. If you live on a large lake or bay you might be able to avoid using roads to get "home" altogether by using a boat.
  • Aircraft: If you're looking at aircraft as a suitable form of transport, you're on the wrong blog. Any aircraft that could carry you and your supplies will cost more than a suitable ground vehicle.
  • Unconventional 
    • Industrial vehicles: The variety of industrial vehicles out there is enormous. Slow but with large fuel capacities, they may still be enough to get you from point A to point B in an emergency. They generally have the power to make their own paths if need be.
    • Tractor and trailer: Think hay-rack ride. Lots of attractions use farm tractors and modified hay wagons to haul their customers around. Slow and somewhat noisy, they will still get a load from A to B and will be handy to have around after the move.
    • Lawn tractor: Drop the mower deck, hook up a trailer, and plop grandma or grandpa in the seat. It'll move faster than you can walk and will be a lot more comfortable for them. Load the little kids into the trailer and you'll have removed another obstacle to travelling faster.
    • Golf cart: They're already designed for carrying moderate loads over moderate terrains all day long. Ditch the golf bags, strap your packs on the back and carry some extra fuel if you need to. 

Nothing says you have to own the biggest and baddest monster truck in your state just to bug out or even get home. Look around your area (situational awareness isn't just for threats) and see what is available. Say the roads are out due to a pile-up/ earthquake/ roadblock. Is there a river, stream, or railroad track that will take you in the same direction? Walking or biking alongside one of those may be an option to explore.

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