Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Basic Prepping - Transportation


Transportation: means of conveyance or travel from one place to another

In the event our civil society goes sideways in a big way – you may well find yourself in the situation where you simply need to “get outta Dodge”. Mother Nature can also play her hand and strongly encourage you to move to safer ground as well. Your “permanent shelter” is gone and you must seek an area to migrate to and regroup.

This place may well be a redoubt of some kind – remote cabin or trailer. Or it may be a camping area that can provide some level of security and a reliable source of drinking water. It may be an individual family shelter or a joint encampment comprised of multiple groups. We’ll work on some of the details in future posts. Or . . . . it may simply be “away” . . . . away from your current location to give you time to search for some place safer.

You means of getting “away” is your “transportation”. In preparing for a broad range of possibilities, I want to take some time to define “transportation”, break it down into a couple different common modes and then chat about the requirements of each of these modes. I could categorize the major categories of transportation as:

Vehicular – large framed: I would define these as cars, trucks, SUVs, RVs – any large framed motor vehicle capable of carrying multiple passengers and pulling a trailer with equipment and food.

Vehicular – motorized 2/3 wheeled: The most obvious examples would be motorcycles, dirt bikes, tricycles, motor cycles with side cars – all equipped to tow a small trailer.

Bicycles: A bicycle designed for trail riding and equipped to tow a small trailer.

Animal: A “beast of burden” – horse, mule, donkey, lama (don’t laugh, we have a lot of lama in Iowa!).

On-Foot: This is typically your “last resort” or your only choice at the moment you must leave.

Each mode of transportation has specific consideration that must be accounted for. Failure to do this can drastically reduce the effectiveness of your transportation and may well deposit you in the middle of a very bad day rather than deliver you from disaster. Let’s take a closer look at each in turn.

Vehicular – large framed

As I watch some of the “prepper” shows on cable, there seems to be a fondness for large trucks towing big trailers with everything you would need to survive a disaster for months on end. There is nothing wrong with this as an option as long as you consider the numerous elements required to use this mode of transportation.

Fuel: I pointed out in an earlier post that the average vehicle get about 20 mph. Large framed vehicles may well get only 6-8 mph. This means you will need large fuel tanks, ready access to fuel when you have reached your maximum range, and a substantial supply of fuel for continued operations past the initial “bug out” phase.

For natural events – storms, floods – once you are clear of the affected area, fuel will probably not be an issue. In the case of societal issues – the probability of access to fuel diminishes drastically.

Security: Protecting a large framed vehicle that is carrying your entire kit of supplies may well be impossible. Your best protection – leave early! Before everyone else in your community comes to the realization that the storm is much bigger than expected (Katrina or Sandy come to mind), or the fires burning in the hillsides are moving quicker than they expected, or the fragile threads that hold our communities together are much more frayed than they’d dared believe.

Desperate folks will take desperate measured for their own survival – including taking what you have to provide for their families. Again, the solution is to leave early – have a secure destination pre-defined and a plan in place to get you from “here” to “there”. Prolonged travel over large distances will become more and more difficult as fuel sources dwindle and folks begin to look elsewhere for their basic survival needs of food and supplies.

Eggs . . . Basket . . .: In this type scenario all your eggs are in one basket . . . literally. Any breakdown, any system failure – whether in your own vehicle or the infrastructure you are traveling through – and you may well have to “shelter in place”. Depending on the reason for the move and your final resting place – that could be a real “treat”.

Repairs: A given – with any of these systems of transportation – is that you have a well stocked repair kit. Do your research, find out the most common failures for your vehicle and then create a repair kit. This will consist of both parts and the appropriate tools. And . . . a knowledge base that will allow you to actually do the repairs. Seldom is it as easy as depicted on TV or in the movies where a simple pocket knife and an assortment of components that are lying around are all that’s needed to get you back on the road. You have all the time in the world – NOW – to prepare to repair your vehicle . . .

So, am I saying to abandon the use of large framed vehicles all together? No, just be aware of these issues in particular – and probably another dozen that spin off from these – and adjust/adapt accordingly.

Vehicular – motorized 2/3 wheeled

I suspect that the majority of the world moves through the use of 2 or 3 wheeled vehicles. Motorbikes, motorcycles, scooters, dirt bikes, and motorcycles with sidecars . . . they are found in abundance throughout the planet. Their biggest single advantage – lower initial costs and lower overall operating costs. Their increased gas mileage provides real cost benefits in both developed nations and developing nations.

When considering such a mode of transportation as part of your transportation system there are tradeoffs to be made:

Mileage: The average mileage of a motorcycle is 40 mpg or more, roughly double (or more) that of a large framed vehicle such as a car. So where a 5-gallon “jerry can” of gas will get you and extra 100 miles of range for a car, it represents 200 miles for a motorcycle.

Maneuverability: Highways that would be congested with large framed vehicles are much more passable on a motorcycle – even if it is pulling a small trailer. So, while fellow evacuees may well be stuck in traffic, someone on a motorcycle may well fine multiple ways round blocked roads.

Redundancy: A family would be much more likely to have multiple motorcycles available than multiple cars/trucks/SUVs. And, it is much more likely that you could keep together as you travel than in a large framed vehicle – especially as travel conditions begin to deteriorate. And, should one of the motorcycles fail – you have the option of abandoning it and traveling together on your second bike.

Off-road travel: Depending on the type of motorcycle – it may well be easier to exit the main roads and travel secondary – and perhaps even cross country – on a motorcycle. Again, as choke points build during an evacuation – the ability to go around them is a real benefit.

Disadvantages: Of course, there are downsides to consider as well. Weather – heavy rain, cold, deep snow – all can make travel uncomfortable or impossible on a motorcycle. Your ability to carry equipment is also part of the equation – a small trailer in pretty much a certainty with supplies carefully chosen.


Bicycles are also an enormous component of the global transportation system. And, should certainly be part of your transportation equation. When your large framed vehicles and 2 or 3 wheeled motorized vehicles quit – a sturdy mountain bike will be able to take you as far as you are physically able to peddle.

Fuel: Obviously – the fuel needed to run this mode of transportation is your personal food store. Keep in mind this means that your food intake will increase significantly. Checking various sources on biking – “moderate” speeds – 12 mph or so – require approximately 50 calories per mile. If you travel 50 miles per day – that’s an additional 2,500 calories you need to add to your food supplies.

Conditioning: You are relying on physical exertion to move your body. If you spend most of your time in a recliner . . . . your “range” will be significantly reduced. If a bike is to be part of your transportation system – spend a sufficient amount of time riding it to allow you to have a reasonable range should you need to make an exit from your home or community.

Trailers: Since biking is such a popular sport/leisure activity – there are a number of pull-behind trailers available that will allow you to pack camping equipment as food sufficient to exit your area. Here too, redundancy should be part of the equation with each family member having a bike and trailer. This will increase your quantity of supplies and extend your ultimate “range”


Beasts of burden have been part of human’s transportation system since man first began to settle in community settings. They have been used to haul carts, carry people, pull coaches, draw farm equipment . . . . for the vast majority of our time as a civilization. Depending on your geographical location – they may well serve a purpose as part of your transportation system. And, they have special needs as well.

Fuel: They too require “fuel” – about ½ small square bale of hay a day. You can easily double that amount if you are considering a large work animal – plough horse, ox, large mule. And while it is tempting to think that you will simply allow the animal to eat along the way – depending on the time of year and the local environment – there may not be any food available.

Health Care: While consideration for human’s physical health is just second nature – unless you have worked with large animals – it’s pretty easy to overlook their health needs. During long periods of travel or work – their feet and lower legs need constant attention. Sharp rocks, shards of metal or hard surfaces can quickly damage a horse enough that they simply become unusable. It is simply imperative that if such an animal is to become part of your transportation system – that you take the time necessary to know how to properly ride, use and care for the animal.


Traveling significant distances on foot is simply not done much in our “civilized” society much anymore. And our waist lines show it. Yet, this may well become part of your transportation system. There are a couple major considerations to this mode of travel.

Your home is on your back: I wrote a post quite some time back about my “boogie bag” for when it’s time to leave. It is essential my base kit for treks and paddles. It has everything contained within a 6500 cu backpack including house, kitchen, camp equipment with a base weight of 25 pounds. Add to that 2 pounds of food per day and 2 pounds per quart of water (3-quart minimum per day) and you end up with a typical pack weight of around 55 pounds for the start of a 5-day trip.

Physical conditioning: Obviously carrying 55 pounds or so on your back for a day requires an elevated level of conditioning. In preparation for a trek I will increase my walks without the pack a couple month in advance and then work up to local “walks” with a full pack up until a couple days before the start of the trek when I return to just walking to allow my body to repair any “kinks” here and there. It was easier 30-40 years ago. Age does play part in your overall equation if you plan on having On-Foot travel as part of your transportation system.

Feet: I remember 4+ decades in the past when my feet popped glorious blisters after only a few days at boot camp. I also remember the butt chewing I got for going to the medics to have them taken care of. That said, I learned a lot about foot care, proper types of socks and lacing boots during that period of my life. Lessons I still use today.

Your feet are your ultimate bottom-line method of transport. If you can get in a car, drive through your evacuation zone and then stop 10 miles short of your final destination and cannot walk that last 10 miles – you have a problem. Feet – as any tool – must be used properly and cared for properly.

Socks: I use a polypropylene liner sock inside Smartwool socks. This will reduce friction between your foot, sock and boot as well as good wicking of moisture away from your foot keeping your foot dry. And, should your foot become wet, the reduction in friction helps prevent blisters from forming even though your feet are wet.

Boots: While there are a myriad of options out there – I still prefer leather boots coated periodically with mink oil for waterproofing. The pair I am wearing even as I am typing this are going on 13 year old, have hundreds of miles on them and simply fit like a glove. It’s hard to beat leather.

“Jungle Boots”: The exception to the above statement on leather boots are “Jungle Boots” when I paddle. I am a “wet footer” meaning that I make no attempt to keep my feet dry during portages. I will walk a canoe into the water to transfer it from a portage position to the water to insure I don’t hit the bottom on a rock and make a hole in it. Jungle boots are typically canvas uppers, leather on toe and heal with a good sole in the boot. There are small ports on the side of the boot that allow any water to be “pumped” out by the action of your foot as you walk. Of course, at the end of the day I do carry camp shoes that I put on so my boots and socks have a chance to dry.

Sandals: Conditioning your feet by exposing them to the elements and sun light will help keep them in shape between treks. I find I like some of the Teva sandals with solid soles. I am not much of a flip-flop kind of guy. One consideration – on a trek or a paddle – there is no place for sandals IMHO. Typically you are a long way from assistance and your feet are your primary means of travel. Take care of them. Boots will do much more to protect them on a trip that sandals.

Bare footed travel: I don’t. Ever.

In the event that things go sideways in a big way – through natural causes or through the foolishness of your fellow man – you may well find yourself in the position where you need to leave . . . . now!

I have given you my thoughts as to what I see as the major types of transportation systems you may choose to use to make your exit. It was not meant as a solution to this issue – merely as a starting point for your consideration as you begin to “prepare”.

You have all the time you need . . . NOW . . . to begin initial preparations of your transportation system. You never know . . . .

. . . . when it may be time to leave.


  1. Leave EARLY, have a set of roll downs, that at the lowest level end up as a backpack, and yes a bike IS a practical item (matter of fact, I'd strap one on the top of the SUV).

    1. Yep, agree . . . early is much better and a bike doesn't have to take up much space.

  2. I have learned so much from these posts, I have also learned that I have A LOT to learn. Thank You!

    Now for my question (she always has Questions...sigh). How do you handle being prepared when you are traveling, day trip or long distances,(via car for instance) with someone who is not?

    1. I must confess my go bag is kinda "fat" - more than enough to get 2 people by for 3 days. But, a good question. Some thoughts.

      Ask if they have a go bag along. Will give you a chance at educating them and let them know the average prepper isn't some kind of nut-case.

      Play "what if" in your head. Where could you stop for a quick kit? My go-to stuff for food is jerkey, cliff bars, some hard candy. Couple bags/boxes of each will get you a long way.

      If you feel things going "south" - trust yourself and stop, gather supplies and fill your traveling partner in on what you're doing and why.

      You should also know if they're armed. I simply ask. They may not know the laws of the cities/counties/states you're traveling through and you don't need surprises.

      I'm sure there's more but that's what came to mind.

      Thanks for stopping by - have a good one!

    2. Thanks, I want to get them used to the idea that "where she goes her go bag goes", with as little hassle as possible. I'm the only granny in this crowd that even thinks about being prepared, too many years of taking care of myself I guess...

  3. Back in my running days, I used to get massive blisters on the arches of my feet, especially as my distances reached 10 miles a day or so. Then I discovered the "second sock" trick. I found that the thin black dress socks we wore with dress uniform in the Navy work wonders when put on the foot, and my regular cotton socks pulled over them, followed by shoe. Any friction now is between the socks, not sock and skin. The next time I got a massive blister was when I was training for a marathon, and was doing 20 miles on Saturday mornings. At that point I discovered the joys of moleskin...another small, easily-stashed item that I recommend in any BOB. Apply before a long day of hiking, or gently over the top of a blister before continuing. Also handy is a small bottle of baby powder or Vaseline...I've seen more than one hike/jog/trip to SixFlags cut short placed chafing. This one usually requires pre-application, as post-application may not help the issue any.

  4. On trucks/cars:

    THink diesel if possible. And have a pump with a 15 foor hose.

    Likely Gasoline will be sold out quickly...But diesel?....Not so much.

    Diesel keeps practically forever, (with a biocide, we are talking tens of years) and is less volatile than gasoline. Diesel is a LOT safer to transport and carry, even inside a vehicle. You can carry diesel in plastic cans without fearing an explosion.

    If you have a pump, you can likely get(steal, borrow)diesel (or fuel oil from empty homes, depending on where you are) from abandoned construction equipment, farmers(maybe), abandoned semis, and even locomotives.

    If you do go with diesel, the only thing you DO NEED to have is a spare fuel filter.


  5. B - thanks for the info in diesel, I suspect your thoughts on improved availability if folks needed to move is spot on.