Thursday, March 30, 2017

Prepper Vehicle Choice?

Since our editrix Erin decided to make this a theme week, and the theme is “What is your choice in vehicles for preppers?”, I get a break from having to come up with a topic.

I tend to agree with David and Lokidude on their selection of a pickup truck as a good vehicle for preppers, because they're versatile and common. I've owned a pickup for all but a few years out of the last 35, so I'm a bit biased toward them (I'm comfortable working on Ford products from experience; GM and Chrysler make good ones as well). My current daily driver is a 1999 Ford F-250 2WD with a standard cab and full-size bed. My work truck is a 2008 Ford F-250 Super Duty, 4WD with a farm hitch, so 20,000+ lb trailers and dirt roads are normal parts of my days.

I also own an M35A2 2.5 ton retired Army truck.

Photo is mine, of my truck

  • Multi-fuel: diesel engine that will burn almost anything combustible.
  • 10-wheel drive: if the bumper clear the hill, it will go up it.
  • Bullet-proof drivetrain: the Rockwell axles have been a favorite of custom off-road shops for decades.
  • Twice the bed of a pickup: 8' x 12' on mine but the 5 ton version came with a 8' x 16' bed.
  • Three times the load capacity of a pickup: the 2.5 ton rating is for off-road; on-road they'll carry 5 tons.
  • No electronics (EMP hardened): the turn signals/brake lights and windshield wipers are about the only things electric on mine.
  • 50 gallon fuel tank.
  • Made out of real metal instead of recycled pop cans.

  • A royal pain to find parts for, as they stopped being made about 20 years ago.
  • Normal tools are not large enough to work on a lot of parts.
  • The tires are mounted on split-rim wheels, which can be dangerous to work on.
  • It gets 4 MPG on a good day.
  • The top speed is around 50 MPH.
  • It has no heater or air conditioner.
  • The steering column is a piece of steel pipe pointed at your chest.
  • The suspension is stiff as a brick unless you have a serious load in the back.
  • You need a ladder to get into the back if you're over 50 years old.
  • It runs on a 24V system, so lights and accessories are not easy to find.
  • The batteries (it has two 12V batteries in series to make 24V) cost over $200.00 each. Diesels take a lot of battery power to turn over when starting.
  • It stands out enough that I can drive it in parades.

It's a good vehicle for bugging out... but there's more to prepping than just bugging out.

My choice of vehicle for general prepping is influenced by what I am prepping for. My main concerns are natural disasters or weather related, with the serious threats that would require a vehicle being some long-term disruption of society. An EMP attack, Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) event, or some other cause of wide-spread loss of electricity would cripple the nation and lead to societal collapse. Wars we have dealt with; same for epidemics and crop failures. But losing the electrical grid would kick us back about 150 years in technology, so my prepper vehicle choice would look more like this.

Image is in the public domain.

I realize that not everyone has the resources to own horses; they take land and a moderate amount of care (the money is about equal to owning an automobile when you compare the two), and they're not as convenient as a car.

  • The power source is capable of self-replicating. Let's see your Cat diesel create another diesel engine!
  • The system is modular. If you don't need the cargo capacity of the wagon, you can leave it behind and just ride the horse. Need to drag a log off of the road? Hitch two horses together and they'll move it.
  • Roads are optional. A horse can get you places that not even a dirt bike can get into.
  • There is nothing on the wagon that can't be fixed or replaced with hand tools and simple skills. Wood and steel are easy to find and shape. Lots of old-timers used whatever animal grease they could find to lubricate their wagon wheels -- no special semi-synthetic oils needed.
  • A horse and wagon is a lot quieter than a pickup truck, especially a turbocharged diesel. The noise is also harder to pick up against a natural background of animal noises.
  • No need to buy a diagnostic code reader to figure out which 02 sensor/crank position sensor/throttle position sensor/etc. went bad.
  • Women seem to be drawn to horses, especially young ones. My grand-daughters would love to have a pony or three.
  • Horses can be taught; a pickup truck can't. It will vary by the breed and individual, but horses are fairly intelligent animals.
  • Fuel requires no chemistry to produce. Grass, hay for winter, and some grain (along with plenty of water) will take care of most of their needs. Salt and mineral supplements are simple to find and store.
  • If TSHTF for real and everything is worst case, can you eat your Dodge?

  • The narrow wheels don't like soft ground, they cut in. This means going off-road may be mandatory if the road is muddy.
  • Top speed is around 5-10 MPH, so long trips will mean sleeping along the way. Normal traveling speed will be lower, so you'll have to plan your trips more carefully.
  • Suspension is minimal (or missing),  which means rough roads will beat you up physically. The low speed will offset this to some extent.
  • Paved roads require good shoes on the horses. Farriers make good money because they practice a dying art.
  • Vet bills will be scary at first, but are in line with taking a newer car/truck to a dealer to get fixed. That $500 annual visit for vaccinations compares to having a new starter or alternator installed on a car. If you don't want to pay that much for either, learn to do it yourself and save a lot of money.
  • Horses are herd animals and are happier when they have other horses around. Keeping more than one horse gets expensive, but if your wagon is designed for two to begin with, it's something you'll have to deal with.

For long-term prepping, I'd take a couple of horses and a wagon. It would haul as much as a pickup (although not as fast) and be easier to maintain. There are plenty of uses for a horse besides transportation that a car or truck wouldn't be suited for, and working around another living thing feels different than working on metal and plastic.

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