Choosing the Right Bug out Vehicle on a Budget

In my own crazy view of life I thought about a SHTF vehicle and came up with a simple conversion that if you already have one you can create yourself peace of mind.

What am I talking about? A cargo van, yes, a box on four wheels.

Cargo vans are sturdy workhorse machines with powerful engines and strong towing capacity and most important of all are the structural under carriages and rear wheel drive.

There are many manufacturers Ford, GMC and Chevrolet are the chief manufacturers in the USA and these same base models are sent to be turned into conversion vans and here is where I received my inspiration.

A cargo van is the ultimate business utility vehicle capable of towing several tons and ideal choice for my purpose.

Going on Craigslist to determine what it would cost for a decent cargo van was not a disappointment in my area I found 18 selling from $2,500 to $6,000; this I concluded would be my market and price range. It is possible to find dozens of them for sale from plumbing, electrical and utility companies too but it’s important to find them in good mechanical order. After all it’s the insides we are speaking about converting into bugout vehicle carrying all your supplies for sustaining your needs for at least two months.

I began my experiment with a 2007 Chevrolet Express G1500 Cargo Van



I cleared out the inside reversing one set of 54-inch long metal shelving to the opposite wall to hold tools, clothing and loose items I would need on a trip to escape danger whether from Mother Nature or the two-legged kind bent on creating chaos and dealing in death. For this you need a sturdy vehicle and a minivan or pickup truck will not suffice as well.


I bought a ¾-inch thick fitted rubber mat for the floor covering (about $160) if you have ever knelt down on a metal van floor your knees will never, ever forgive you.

Moving about inside a vehicle you cannot stand up in it’s important that being in a kneeling position or crawling about on your hands and knees that you are able to do so without bruising yourself on hard steel.


The next item of importance is installation of a three piece steel bulkhead (Online for $200 – do not cheap out here this item can save your life) with a convenience pass thru door behind the front seats to protect against items that may come loose from a sudden stop injuring the driver and passenger.

When you think of traveling or being able to pull off somewhere safe for the night you need rest from a long day of driving so a bed is called for. One that is lightweight, functional and one that can service a dual purpose sleep on it and storage below it so I chose a steel framed full or queen size futon capable of serving as a couch or a bed, I found what I needed for under $200.


I needed space below it and remembered when I helped my step-daughter set up her room at the University of central Florida and how we turned a low frame of a single bed into one with storage below by raising the bed with 7-1/2-inch platforms (about $20) under each leg raising the available storage space under the futon to 17-inches.

This added spacing of 75-inches long by 30-inches deep capable of storing fourteen (14) 3-gallon water bottles (42 gallons of drinking water – 1 person 2 months).

water-bottleWater is an essential component in any survival situation. The human body requires water and you cannot go without it for more than three day before its effects begin to show.

The 3-gallon bottle of water (Any water distributor in your area $120 total with deposit)

is 10 inches in diameter x 15 inches tall, laid on their side they can accommodate 14 bottles or 42 gallons of drinking water under the bed. Lay a thick cardboard sheet 30” x 75” on top and you also have a 7-inch by 75 inch space for blankets and other items. Frontal movement can be secured with a fixed in place front that can be removed easily allowing access to items under the futon.

Most cargo vans have large capacity fuel tanks exceeding 25 gallons, my particular van has a 31 gallon tank and to increase my available travel distance I will install an additional 24-gallon external tank (Northern Tool – $219) inside an enclosed compartment.


A marine fuel tank – dimensions are 29 ¼” x 19” x 12 ¼” (24-gal)

The combination of these two fuels sources extended my driving range without a fill-up to over 1,000 miles.

Another necessity is food and having a means to contain it at a constant temperature is important and we devised a safe and effective method again shopping with a budget in mind we got four (4) 50-quart Coleman coolers (Wal-mart $32 online) to store 200-250 pounds of assorted foods lasting 4-months.


50-quart Coleman cooler – dimensions 18” x 20” x 20” – 48 quart

A comfortable and practical bedding arrangement is a good quality sleeping bag good to 5+F/-15C degrees Everest Mummy +5F/-15C Degree Sleeping Bag (Wal-mart – $40)


Everest Mummy Sleeping Bag

We all know when you are using something mechanical that things break and when you can it becomes necessary to do the repairs yourself and a good steel tool box will last for decades as well as the tools inside – you choose the tools you need and know you can use.


Stanley Cantilever Metal Toolbox with a 30-piece Socket Set – Wal-Mart $20

When that van does come to a halt and you can no longer find parts in a remote location you need an alternative means of transportation and the best method is not walking but a bicycle.


26″ Huffy Rock Creek Men’s Mountain Bike – online under $200

In order to transport food and water filtration essentials you need a good backpack and essential survival gear.


High Sierra Explorer 45 Backpack – 2,750 cubic inches of storage found at Bass Pro or online for under $90 – Do not skimp on a quality backpack

For water when you are on the move which with exertion is essential till you have time to stop and use your Katadyne water filter to filter more a 2 – liter backpack insert can be a life saver.


Bass Pro Shops XPS 2L Hydration Pack – $35

We can talk about other essential gear but will do that in another article.


  1. […] you have a minivan, cargo van or pickup truck you can devise a place to spread out your sleeping bag and keep the night flying, […]

    • Reply
      Bilal July 18, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      Sir,I had a question. If you ddhaeryte fruits and vegetables properly, and store them using this method, how long would they last? I’m guessing the dehydrating process would remove most liquids and help slow/stop the product from becoming rancid. I have a local vineyard where I can pick apples for about 25 cents a lbs, and was wondering approximately how long they would last if they were ddhaeryted and properly stored in mylar?Thank you

  2. Reply
    JanettaWDomenick July 20, 2015 at 2:21 pm

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    DinahGToliver July 24, 2015 at 12:45 pm

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