Camping & Survival

Modding a Bug-Out Vehicle for the Apocalypse

If the worst happens and the world ends, you’re not going to navigate the wasteland in a soccer-mom minivan.

You need something that’s able to withstand the rigors of off-road travel while protecting you from anything that might cross your path.

With that in mind, what do you need to know to mod a car for the apocalypse?

Useful Car Modifications for a Bug-Out Vehicle

First, let’s take a closer look at the modifications you might want to consider when you’re planning your ideal apocalypse vehicle.

1. Armor

The stock body panels on your car aren’t going to cut it if you need to muscle your way through abandoned vehicles or run down hostiles that might stand in your way.

Body armor for your vehicle will increase its weight and decrease your fuel efficiency, but it can help protect you and keep your apocalypse ride on the road.

2. Snowplow

A snowplow attached to the front end of your vehicle isn’t just good for moving snow.

It can also help you move obstacles or, again, mow down hostiles.

If you’re handy with wiring and electronics, you can design it so you can lift and lower the plow, so it’s only on the ground when you need it.

It doesn’t reduce the weight, but it will help to lessen the drag.

3. Suspension

You’ll need heavy-duty suspension to handle off-road travel and obstacles.

That’s why options like the Mustang are so popular — not only are they easy to modify, but there are also a lot of stock and aftermarket options available.

Choose something that can stand up to the unpaved wilderness and wastelands you might end up facing during the apocalypse.

4x4 bug-out vehicle on the beach

4. Supercharger

If mowing down your enemies isn’t an option, a quick getaway should be.

With that in mind, adding a supercharger to your apocalypse vehicle can do just that.

It won’t do anything for your fuel economy, but it can give you that extra boost you need to leave any hostiles in the dust.

5. Biodiesel Conversion

You won’t be able to drive to the gas station for a fill-up once the apocalypse starts. Gasoline might be hard to come by and even harder to make.

If you’re concerned about fuel, consider converting your apocalypse vehicle to a system that runs on biodiesel.

This is a fuel source you can make, even if the world has fallen apart, and will ensure you can keep moving after other fuel sources run dry.

This is a lot easier if you start with a vehicle that already runs on diesel, but you can convert nearly any car on the market.

6. Snorkel

The last thing you want to do in a SHTF scenario is to drive through a deep puddle and ruin your engine.

A snorkel seals your air intake, putting it above the water line and keeping water from damaging or destroying your engine.

They’re fairly easy to install and can save you a lot of trouble if you’re sheltering in a swampy area or one that gets a lot of rain.

7. Weaponry

You also need to protect yourself once the world ends. Mounting large-caliber firearms on your vehicle can be a deterrent for human enemies.

For anything else, you have a stable firing platform for your passenger.

Under normal circumstances, the average shopper doesn’t have access to the kind of weapons you might mount on a vehicle, but we’re talking about the apocalypse here.

So as far as we’re concerned, anything goes.

bug-out vehicle on a dirt road

Picking Perfect Automotive Storage

If you’re bugging out in your vehicle, you’re going to need to carry everything with you. That means you need efficient storage.

Choose something that fits in your vehicle without taking up too much space, is easily accessible without exiting the vehicle, and carries everything you need.

Supply Storage

You’ll need somewhere to store your supplies in your vehicle, from food and water to survival gear.

The exact options you choose will depend on the make and model of your bug-out vehicle and the available storage space within, but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

First, keep your rig organized. You’ll be able to store more. Plus, you don’t want to have to dig through a chest of stuff to find one specific item.

Next, make sure you keep your items secure. You don’t want them rolling around — especially if you have items stored in glass jars or containers.

Finally, make everything easily accessible, preferably without leaving your vehicle.

Fuel Storage

Gas stations aren’t going to be an option. If you’re making a long trip, you’ll need to store fuel to make sure you can reach your destination.

Hanging fuel tanks on the exterior of your vehicle is a great option as long as no one is shooting at you, partially because it frees up interior storage and also because it prevents fumes from building up in your vehicle.

If you do not want to store fuel on the outside, make sure it is properly sealed on the inside.

Off road camper as a bug-out vehicle

Survival Gear for Your Bug-Out Vehicle

Finally, let’s briefly talk about the kind of equipment and survival gear you’ll need in your apocalypse vehicle.

1. Food and Water

Food and water are essential for survival, so you should have a space dedicated for them in your bug-out vehicle.

Things like MREs (meals ready to eat) are ideal for prepping your apocalypse vehicle because they don’t take up a lot of space, they last for a long time, and provide you with all the nutrients you need to survive.

If you don’t have space for lots of water, stock up on water purification supplies.

2. First Aid

Build a first-aid kit and keep it in your apocalypse vehicle at all times.

You can also buy a pre-built first-aid kit, but make sure it has all the supplies you need to stay alive.

3. Survival Supplies

Matches. Batteries. Spare clothes. Weapons and ammo. Everything you need to survive will need to fit into your apocalypse vehicle. Choose wisely.

4. Car-Specific Items

You’ll probably want to stick a few car-specific survival items in your bug out vehicle as well, from tire chains and repair kits to a CB radio to help you communicate with other survivors.

Bug-Out Vehicle: Be Ready

If things go south and the world ends, having an apocalypse-ready bug-out vehicle could mean the difference between life and death.

Start prepping now, so you’re ready if things start going pear-shaped. Being ready for anything means nothing can ever surprise you.

How would you prepare a bug-out vehicle? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Oscar Collins

Oscar Collins is the managing editor at Modded where he writes about gear, the outdoors, survivalism and more. Whether you're interested in ice fishing, building a rooftop tent or the best hiking trails, Oscar has you covered. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates!
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. Great ideas in the comments. I have a 2500 Dodge Diesel truck which I think is ideal, cab and a half, long wheel base and 4 wheel drive and winch but I shouldn’t have to venture out often where I live. I don’t have the “up armor” or scrape blade. I would like to have a railroad iron front and rear bumper. I can manufacture ammo and have plenty of weapons for the entire family. We can fortify the property since many would want to take it. We can grow and can our food. Deer are plentiful until they would all be shot out. We would need a large amount of salt to salt down meat, that was a problem during the war of Northern Aggression, LOL. Salt supply was interrupted during that conflict, not many mention the need to preserve meat. We have a water supply and land, couple of tractors, wood for fuel. We grew up in survival mode, a country boy can survive and we are not an easy target.

  2. My pick would be a Ford Excursion or Chevrolet Suburban with a diesel motor and 4wd. They can be a bit large and cumbersome for off-roading such as crawling along a trail; but otherwise you’ve got plenty of storage space, the size/weight makes them virtually unstoppable to anything except a land mine; and they borrow axles and suspension from 3/4ton pickups, making them incredibly durable. My biggest fear is not so much a zombie apocalypse but a tyrant-government takeover and declaring martial law simply to erase all sense of individual freedom (much like we’re starting to witness now with the massive government overreach using the pandemic as an excuse). With that in mind, diesel fuel will remain available to power military vehicles. It might get a bit difficult for us to buy it however. Carry extra fuel, weapons, and food; and plan on hiding out somewhere safe for the duration.

  3. I have to agree with Richard Meyer on here. EMP from weapons or a solar flare will kill any vehicle on the road today. All modern vehicles from the 1990’s to present will be knocked out. You need a vehicle from the 1980’s or older that still uses a carburetor and does not rely on computers to control the engine. Also, they are built better and stronger then the modern vehicles. Most of the older vehicles have metal bodies, which will help a little with the armor. You still need to add some type of armor to back up the body. You also want a vehicle that has some ground clearance and not sit low like a mustang. If you can’t get AWD or 4×4, be real careful in rough terrain. Rear wheel and front wheel have their ups and downs. Just try to stay out of areas where you could get stuck. In other words, No mud dobbing. I myself would like to get my hands on and old M151 (military Jeep). They are tried and true. Just my two cents worth…..

  4. It would also be a great idea to take some classes beforehand. A basic CPR First Aid class would help. If you have the free time and money a Basic EMT class would be exceptional. Some are taught at Vocational Technical Schools and Community College’s. There are also Wilderness Medicine classes that are excellent for survival type situations. Check out books on Veterinary medicines. Some are usable on human’s and there are Rx meds that you just can’t get because you want them like antibiotics, pain, and wound healing meds.
    If you aren’t familiar with guns then a gun class would be good to attend. Regular practice to build up muscle memory would be very helpful. Find a gun range where you can practice or build your own if you can.
    I was a Paramedic for 31 years working out of the Reginal Level 1 Trauma Center. I organized the SWAT Medic program for the Police and Sheriff’s Departments. After retiring and moving to Colorado I became a County Ranger where my training continued constantly.
    The old saying “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war” (General George Patton) is very true. Good luck and stay safe!

  5. Disagreements and expansion.
    Diesel or biodiesel rules the apocalypse – it will not explode or ignite if carried in external tanks. Gasoline in the passenger area (including trunk) will ignite and burn you to death. Bad idea.
    BTW to make biodiesel you need massive amounts of feed stock and chemicals that will be unavailable in the apocalype. Better to have a generator and pump that can lift fuel 10 feet out of gas in underground station tanks. Be advised gasoline only lasts 6-12 month untreated, 18-24 if treated as soon as “purchased”. Diesel or kerosene can be filtered and used up to 5 years post apocalypse. It is virtually impossible to recondition gasoline. Think flex fuel vehicle that can burn straight up alcohol which can be had by fermentation and relatively easy evaporation. Alcohol (fuel) is less dangerous than gasoline too (explosive). You can also burn alcohol in camp stoves and lanterns with less fumes than gasoline.
    Matches can get wet. Get a box of Bic lighters and a couple old fashion lighters that can be refueled (add a can of lighter fluid) plus extra flints for them.
    Medical kits off the shelf are a joke! Get a good list and put together your own. Make sure to have a minimal surgical kit too. I’ve had to dig out “things” from my body with a pocket knife and it did not go well and they were in shallow!
    Getting out of an urban area – know where the closest construction sight is and how to run a bull dozer! (Busses or semi-cabs work too.) Or stay the heck out of cities they are crime ridden death traps. BTW back yards with stockade fences are easy going for an off roader with a blade (or cattle pusher) up front. Cattle pushers are cheap and available even in the south where snow is unknown and thus no snow blades. Beware chain link fences, each one needs to to be cut open, not pushed through like stockade.
    Snow plow blade with a lift – if you have one, raising it is not just a drag/ground clearance advantage. Raised up it will shield the engine, pumps and passengers from direct frontal fire!
    Look at the glass armor covers on some old WW II vehicles or a mad max movie.
    Whine – I can dimple the “body” on new cars with my thumb. The safety glass is probably more bullet resistant than the panels. The passenger/engine and trunk compartments really need armor. Trunk? What good is escaping a kill zone just to have all your supplies shot to pieces?
    This is fun, I could go on for hours. 🙂

  6. A Mustang, a snowplow, you must be kidding? You could never put a snowplow on a Mustand, and try going off-road with a two-wheel-drive vehicle with no ground clearance.

    Forget about the snowplow! Invest you time learning how to get out of snow/mud/sand etc. while off-road.

    You show an image of a VW and a Defender. Both of which are going to be next to impossible to find parts for.

    porker is correct! You will be off-road in the first mile!

    Purchase a diesel Jeep, the engine will get great milage, and you’ll be able to find parts for the vehicle almost anywhere.

  7. What about EMP disabling the vehicle. How does one harden a modern vehicle to continue operation after an EMP event?

  8. An electronic magnetic pulse or low-yield/distant nuke will fry your computerized car, not to mention gasoline pumps. Good luck with that. You might want to look at buying a horse or bicycle (solar or pedal). And if you live in a major metropolitan area, you might want to move and bone up on living off the land because it ain’t going to be pretty.

  9. it’s hardly worth worrying about “bug-out” vehicles. If you are planning on fleeing from an urban area to avoid Zombies, well, good luck with that

    The roads leading away from almost any city or major urban area will be completely congested and packed with cars, trucks and civilians.

    You will need off-road capability from the start.

    You will need Night Vision.

    You should have at least two (2) examples of the most popular weapons; e.g. AR-15 ,etc., AK-47, etc. and 12 gauge shotguns. Also, if possible, either a pistol caliber carbine or pistol in the following calibers: 9mm, 10mm, .45,.357mag.

    A long-range “stand-off”weapon, such as a 6.5 mm Creedmore precision rifle with telescopic sight.

    LOTS of ammo…they wont be making any more. Lots of batteries, candles, lighters, matches and any and all means of making light and fire.

    Shelter…waterproof. A good quality camping or mountaineering tent with dual vestibules,if possible.

    Clothing: Lightweight, waterproof ,warm. Medicine, if you need it. (At least a 6-month supply or longer)

    First aid. Lots of possibilities for kits and supplies…make your own, with the stuff you know you will need.Find a good First Aid Manual. Learn CPR.

    Lots of different kinds of water filters, purifies, etc. Water will be a No. 1 concern.

    US Military Survival Manuals (FREE-Here:

    A plan to meet at a secret location when the SHTF. A plan to divide up the responsibilities…who will be responsible for food, who for weapons, etc. Each person must also have a back-up assignment…just in case. Plans are only good if agreed upon in advance.

    ALL plans need a “B” and “C” alternate.

    Have something for BARTER…currency will quickly become worthless.

    DO NOT TRUST ANYONE YOU DO NOT KNOW! Now is the time to beware of people who want to make new friends….and maybe travel along with you. “Strength in numbers” and all that BS they will tell you. And rob you in your sleep…or worse.

    Stock up NOW…while you still can.Do not give in to fear. Proper preparation will help ensure survival…as will a little help from your friends.(IF THEY REALLY ARE).
    Good luck!

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