Bugging Out in an RV: Do You REALLY Understand the Reality of RV Life? (With Video)

Some of the links in this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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?

16 thoughts on “Bugging Out in an RV: Do You REALLY Understand the Reality of RV Life? (With Video)”

  1. MN winters are nice and toasty with a Me. Heater Bug Buddy. Sanitation can be as simple as a bucket with small plastic bags (triple bag) for solids, and a milk jug with funnel for liquids. If you can be parked somewhere long term, things packed in lidded plastic totes can be scooted right under the rv for extra storage.

  2. We have often discussed using our RV for a bug out. Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros. While it is true that there are many advantages of the RV, the aspects of limited or no fuel, sanitation, HVAC, repairs and such, really pose a serious problem. In my opinion the best use of an RV is setting it up on a place where you can provide gas, electricity, water and septic. Being more or less static the ability of construction decks, porches and storage are a real plus,

  3. The link to the Easy Siphon Hose is the same as the EMP book. Not that it’s a big deal, but I love links! 🙂

  4. Well if you believe Collins all I can say is start over find the facts. We have lived a rv, 15 years!!! This one 5 th. wheel. We have read his books and giggle heartily. We have lived all over the usa, are, and wintered 3 years in Ohio snow belt. I keep saying I should teach classes. This is a grand easy style life. Whether a house or apt. Or rv every place has its ups and downs. Cooking on a open fire is the joy of food. Sooooooo many people miss understand rv living. I will never own a house again. Lisa love your info and blog your very right in many survival ways. I have and could explain more. Collins is a part timer. thanks take care!!

      1. LISA thank you. On your topic, people need to think out what is the disaster and what is my situation. If its a emp everyone is left immediately to survival mode. If its a disaster what kind. Is it like NC people right now forced out of there homes, is it tornadoes, floods, fire, or www3. Be calm think it out do I bug out or stay put. Me. Im staying put. Panic will kill many. And Im not getting caught in traffic, that’s just stupid. Yes you may need or have a time evacuation that’s different. But in today’s world, if you feel something is coming what who knows, be in that place you feel is right. Truth city people are going to be the panic and death of many. There not prepared nor do many think anything is coming or will happen. I will never live by any huge city like LV, Houston, Chicago, etc. Those are the people coming to take from you because they were not prepared. Again depending on what disaster. Happens everyone should be prepared and these weather disasters are huge anymore. Im ready yes in my rv, Im by a lake, so I have water. Im hooked to a huge septic system. I need only bucket water to flush. If something happens most these people will never show up here. They come camp to get away. Emp happens they won’t show. Something else ?? We use very. Little elec. And we are very comfortable. Now anyone who looses elec is immediately in a situation because they depend on it. Your in a house example you can’t use anything, no water no toilet, etc. We can cook, we have 200 gals of water in a holding tank ready, and a lake right out side. Of course you do things in daylight, at night, campfire, candles, oil lamp, or off to bed. Well I could go on and on, but people need to be were they are ready if they feel some major disaster is coming, not weather events, major issues. Yes our truck is always on full and cans ready if I were ever to be forced to go from here. And Im prepared in many ways. Would love to chat with about more, but I realize your a busy lady. Keep up the great job I do feel what your trying to do and prepare people is right. But they too need to step up and do right. Sooooooo many think people like us are crazy, time will tell. But I’d rather be prepared than left empty. Take care god bless. Thank for your reply.

  5. My biggest concern is the obvious perception of affluence and potential security that an RV represents. People in dire straits will see RV’s as a resource for everything they lack. especially visible as the RV goes traveling by. It’s conceivable one might flee to a really secure location and at that point be fairly comfortable and have a reduced likelihood that anyone will find you. It’s the getting there that makes you a target.
    The other comments about fuel and sanitation are far less an issue, in my estimation, so long as you have sufficient fuel and traction to endure jammed up roads, detours, and other such serious impediments. (My first vehicle was a 1941 GMC pickup. It was a conversation piece. People mocked it. But I assured them that it would go anywhere the trees grew wide enough, and I carried a chain saw to help the trees grow wide enough. That might be a useful inclusion in bugging out.)
    We will all have to figure out reasonable recourse to dispose of waste, and with enough fuel to get where you need to be despite all the unavoidable delays, worst case is that you’ll have to dress really warmly in winter, and sleep outside in the summer. Again, it’s the getting there that presents the greatest risk, both from the point of view of physical obstacles to travel and from the greedy, jealous folks who perceive your RV as their road to freedom.

  6. Not to rain on the parade, but we need to be aware of our ‘recency bias’ that things will always be the way they are now.

    When it hits the fan, will we still have intact bridges and gas stations? Will there be roads clogged with debris and broken and abandoned vehicles, checkpoints manned with armed marauders or locals trying to keep the hordes out, and snowdrifts after winter storms? These are just a few of the things we may need to contend with.

    An RV may be a good way to get to a bug-out location before it hits the fan, but once there it may be permanent.

    1. BugInorOutPrepper

      I agree that we cannot count on having safe or usable roads or gas stations, depending on what the disaster is. If bugging out is your safest bet, it’s important to get out of dodge as soon as you can- perhaps while most people are still frozen in shock, or at the first warning of a hurricane or wildfire headed your way.

      You are absolutely right, you may very well end up stuck in your bug out location. A truck will a full tank of gas can take your RV pretty far, giving you more options as to where you want your final location to be. And once you’re at that location, you have a solid shelter.

      Bugging out in an RV is not the best option for every situation. It is, however, a great option for certain situations. Since we can’t predict what sort of SHTF event we’ll be faced with, I try to be prepared for all sorts of different situations.

      All the best to you!

  7. We live in the Cascadia earthquake zone, so we are preparing for something a bit different than collapse. I really hope our house is habitable after the Big One. But knowing I have a place for my family to lay their heads, stay clean, and be dry if it isn’t is almost as great as the vacations we take in our camp trailer!

  8. We evacuated from coastal Carolina for Florence in our 32’ MH. It was truly a blessing to have it. We were comfortable, safe and had everything we needed. I keep it ready to leave all the time, it has enough food and water for three days with a range of 450 miles. I never let it get below 1/2 tank of gas while traveling. The best investment we’ve made.

  9. Pingback: Living the RV Life as a Prepper: The Pros and Cons - RV Nova

  10. Most calamities are regional. I’d be glad to have an RV if I had to flee my area, whether it be temporarily (i.e. hurricane) or permanently (nuke plant accident). For those who intend to bug out, it’s a place to store a lot of the stuff you’ll bug with.

  11. We live in an area where we already stay alert for straight line winds, intense lightning, large hail, and tornadoes. we feel we are better off where we can be sheltered from those!

  12. BugInorOutPrepper

    I think the right RV can be a great option for a bug-out vehicle. Many natural disasters happen in specific regions at specific times. If a wildfire or a hurricane is predicted to come to my town, having an RV ready to go gives me fresh water, solar-powered electricity, a generator, and shelter-on-wheels.
    I agree that RVs will be targets for desperate people, but honestly, all homes will be. Depending on the size of the RV and how cozy you’re willing to get, you can sleep quite a number of people in the RV. Having your mutual assistance group with you allows you to take shifts guarding the RV. Additionally, RVs designed for camping off-grid can be parked in remote areas for increased safety.
    Yes, you will eventually need more water and fuel. Everyone will. If bugging out is my best option, I like the ability to relocate my MAG to a safer location and to bring along a lot more supplies than I could using just cars.
    If the emergency is temporary and you can find space in a campground, you can hook up the RV to water, electricity, and a sewer drain. If the RV spaces in a campground are full, you can still use a dump station at an RV park, national forest, rest area, or truck stop to dump your waste and refill your water tank.
    In a TEOTWAWKI situation, if I need to bug out, I’d much rather be in a well-insulated RV than in a tent or at a FEMA camp.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *