The Top 5 Lessons Learned On Building A BugOut Vehicle: Notes From The GoRig Challenge
1. PAYLOAD CAPACITY MATTERS: The Average payload capacity including passengers is around 1,000lbs for SUV’s in America. Now think about that, a family of 3, dogs, all your gear and you’re nearly there and we haven’t even started with the modifications. In the industry, there is a tendency to get all the gear and widgets in building out the dream GoRig. Steel is amazing for rugged full-size trucks, but maybe not the best option if your load capacity is around 1,000lbs. So what happens when you are over your load capacity? Well if its only a hundred pounds you are pretty safe, most companies that advertise their load capacity ratings are underestimated and there is room to wiggle. If you overload your vehicle with hundreds of pounds you run the risk of compromising the safety of the vehicle, which is especially important off-road. The brakes, the suspension, and the weight distribution can all be stressed and compromise safety. Less is more when you are limited by load capacity. The reason we opted to use a full-size diesel truck is the payload capacity went from 1500lbs in a smaller SUV to around 4000lbs with a full-size truck, a whole hell of a lot of wiggle room.
2. WITHOUT FUEL YOU CAN’T GO VERY FAR: We often forget that fuel is the lifeline of your vehicles capability. You can have the most capable rig on the planet, but the true capability is how much fuel you have on board or stored elsewhere. If you have to hastily bug out your current fuel tank is the range of your mobility, and really your security. So if you had to include weight added to your load capacity, save it for that fuel. A gallon of gas weighs in around 6lbs, with a 100-gallon reserve tank you can easily see how weight can start to add up. We added a “Transfer Flow” 75-gallon tank that allowed us to travel nearly 2k miles in one tank of fuel, which is a game changer in bugging out and it's really convenient. With the average round trip commute at around 50 miles for most Americans you are looking at driving more than a month without refueling, now that's convenient and prepared.
3. POWER WITH THE SUN: When considering your bug out vehicle you need to consider power. Not just the power that powers the vehicle, but the power you will need to power all your accessories on the go. Your electric heaters, GPS devices, lights, etc. solely depending on your vehicle's power as the main power source is asking for trouble. Remember in the worst case scenario our vehicle is our only way of getting mobile with a consideration we may have to stay mobile for an extended period of time. On the GoRig challenge, we used OffGridTrek 200W and 28W solar panels to charge everything from computers, and cameras, to phones and GPS devices. It's important to partition your accessory power from your main power compartment. We used a dual battery setup from National Luna that charges your Auxiliary off your main and allows you to tap your accessories into the spare. The great thing is if you every have main battery issues you always have a spare and an emergency plan to charge either harnessing the free power from the sun. You can’t beat free.
4. INSULATE TO SURVIVE THE ELEMENTS: Have you ever spent a cold night inside your vehicle? It's not very fun, especially if you aren’t prepared. It's important to understand that a car is not insulated for heat, at least very well. With a metal shell, a small amount of insulation and sound deadening, your vehicle is built to insulate the heat that's running from your heater, not necessarily the elements. If you want to build out a bug out vehicle prepared for the elements that you can live out of you have to add insulation. On our GoRig challenge, we chose a BestTop soft top for the truck bed, this allowed for cover from the elements but not insulation. For insulation, we added KillMat sound deadening strips, reflect insulation, and plywood subfloor. It also helped that the insulation was on a rhino lined surface as opposed to bare metal. With an electric heater in the truck bed, it created enough heat to survive a blistering North Montana night.
5. YOUR TIRES ARE LIKE YOUR SHOES: You ever run a marathon in the snow in flip flops? Probably not, the point is you need to wear the appropriate shoes for the conditions and the same goes for your tire selection. For the GoRig challenge, we opted to keep the current wheels and tires on the truck. We were running 20-inch wheels with 37 inch M/T’s made for the mud. A few issues-First of all running a large wheel we received a chip on the wheel, which caused a leak in the tire pressure that couldn’t be fixed without running a full-size spare. Second, the M/T’s aren't designed for the snow and they didn’t perform well. If snow is the worst case scenario because you live somewhere in the frigid north of the country it's important to run seasonal tires and always have a spare. We changed out to an 18-inch wheel giving us less wheel and less chance of receiving damage. We decided to run a Falken Wildpeak AT3W, which is the best tire we’ve tested and made for the snow.