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Bugging Out in an RV: Pros and Cons (With Video)

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Have you seen the movie World War Z?

In it, hordes of zombies stream through the city streets, bringing down one victim after another. The character played by Brad Pitt sees an abandoned RV and rushes his family inside. Racing away from the danger and chaos, the family has its own little cocoon, at least for a while.

A short time later, Brad Pitt makes the statement, “Movement is life.”

So when preppers plan for bugging out in the event of our own version of a zombie apocalypse or when the S otherwise hits the fan, some talk of using an RV.

It sounds like the perfect solution and in some ways, it is. I would rather have an RV as a bug-out or emergency shelter than nothing. However, sometimes we romanticize things we’ve never done, so in this article, we’ll examine the reality of RV Life as a prepper.

Image: rv traveling down a remote road in the reality of rv life

The Advantages of an RV Prepper Lifestyle

There are many reasons bugging out in an RV is a solid option. Here’s a roundup of the some of them:

  • With an RV, you have mobility and can move quickly to safer locations.
  • Your RV is comforting in its familiarity. This would be especially important if you have children.
  • You have a place to sleep, a kitchen, toilet, shower, seating, and transportation all in one.
  • Your bug-out location is wherever you park your RV.
  • It’s large enough to provide housing for 8-10 people, more if you have tents and additional bedding and supplies.
  • An RV is large enough to carry weeks’ worth of food, supplies, and gear.
  • You’ll have many of the comforts of home — a TV, hot water, a microwave, internet connection, refrigerator, freezer — as long as you have power.
  • solar generator can provide power in case your gas generator runs out of fuel.
  • You can carry off-grid options as part of your prepping for no fuel. Think of things like a solar oven, rocket stove, a Lavario for laundry, battery-powered fans, etc.
  • If you have room, you can carry with you additional water tanks.
  • The RV community can be very helpful and supportive.
  • You can drain water into a gray water tank and reuse it.
  • There are thousands of campgrounds around the country. They provide an immediate safe place to stay for a short or extended period of time. This can also help with anonymity as your vehicle will be parked in the same vicinity as dozens of similar-looking RVs.
  • You can live a very frugal life in an RV. If you find a free or very inexpensive place to stay, your only expenses will be food and living supplies and an occasional refill of fuel for your generator.
  • If you park the RV someplace long-term, you could create your own homestead. A small garden or even a couple of chickens might be an option.
  • You can take your pets with you as you travel.

If you have an RV, it’s a good choice for a full-blown, SHTF bug out or for use as a temporary shelter in many different circumstances. In my town, some victims of Hurricane Harvey parked their RVs in their driveways or front yards. They lived there while their homes were being mucked out and rebuilt.

The Disadvantages of an RV

Bugging out by RV isn’t a foolproof plan, though.

If you’re seriously considering this, be sure to consider the disadvantages also. In some cases, you can make plans and prep to work around these, but in some cases, you can’t. That’s just the reality of RV life.

  • An RV relies completely on fuel for its mobility. Without gasoline or diesel, you won’t get very far. In fact, you find yourself stranded somewhere very unsafe and unable to leave. Yes, you can store fuel canisters, but at some point, you’ll need a way to refuel. An Easy Siphon hose will come in handy if there are abandoned vehicles in the vicinity.
  • The RV generator also requires fuel. Again, you can stock up and store it, but eventually, it will run out.
  • Fuel is expensive, whether it’s gas, diesel, or generator fuel.
  • RVs are large and easy to see. If you were hoping to disappear in the aftermath of a worst-case scenario, a bigger rig makes it tougher to do.
  • It won’t take long before sanitation becomes an issue. If you begin dumping the RV holding tank onto the ground, you’ll have your own contaminated breeding ground of dangerous bacteria, not to mention the smell and the flies.
  • You always have to be near a source of water. Of course, this is true for everyone else.
  • It’s highly likely the electrical system of your RV will be fried in the case of an EMP. You can check out this book for some definitive information about how to prepare for an EMP and how it might affect vehicles. Or, if you don’t already have it, request my free EMP Survival e-Book.
  • It will be very difficult if not impossible to find mechanical help and parts if your RV breaks down.
  • Should you run out of gas and are stranded somewhere, you’re a sitting duck for every nefarious person who wants what you have.
  • As long as the rule of law is in place, carrying firearms through different states may or may not be legal. A multi-state concealed carry license is desirable.
  • Living in an RV could become deadly in a severe winter. Although some are better insulated than others, the assumption is that you’ll have the power to run a heating system. Without power, you’ll be living in a very cold metal box.
  • This applies to summer heat as well. Battery-powered fans can help, along with tips for staying cool in primitive conditions. However, the fact is that overwhelming heat is deadly.
  • Although an RV does give you great mobility, the size of the vehicle makes it difficult to maneuver through small streets, busy traffic, and roadblocks.
  • RV parking in campgrounds can be expensive.

So what is long-term RV life really like? The Survival Mom interviews an expert.

Recently, I had the chance to interview author Gary Collins, who lives part of the year on his off-grid homestead and part of the year on the road in his RV. He’s a guy who understands the reality of RV life.

In his book, The Simple Life: Guide to RV Living, Gary explains in detail how to position yourself and your life for the RV lifestyle, whether that’s year round RV living or part-time. (He’s done both!) He warns against rushing into it. Instead, take your time to research the right vehicle and simplify your life.

Here is the complete 47-minute interview.

An RV definitely provides the mobility you need to escape a dire situation. It provides the ability to quickly move away from a dangerous part of town, the outbreak of a riot or pandemic, escape a natural disaster, or just become a shelter in an everyday emergency situation.

Do your homework ahead of time to understand the realities of RV life. Then you’ll have an easier time if you do ever need to survive in an RV. If you decide you want to give it a test run, do it using the seven S’s framework of prepping.

What other pros and cons can you think of?

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I’m the original Survival Mom and for more than 11 years, I’ve been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more with my commonsense prepping advice.

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