In many prepping circles, the RVis considered an optimal bug-out vehicle. It is, in a way, and it is not in many other ways.
I am approaching this post with much experience under my belt. My family and I live in out 1997 Fleetwood Discovery (very similar to the model pictured to the left) “full time”. We have no house, except the Discovery. We also own our home, lock stock and two smoking tail pipes. So, no bank can take it from us. While there are many other folks living in their RV’s full time, few are preppers, because most are over retirement age, and are happily enjoying their retirement and seeing the nation.
That being said, I want to dispel a few illusions.
The systems are very compact, and there are very few things that a person wants for, as far as conveniences. However, storage space and living space is at a premium. Food storage and a deep pantry could be accomplished with an external towable trailer, but you will not get a reasonable storage pantry in an RV, at least not for a family of 5. Now, we have one “basement” compartment dedicated to food storage and holds about a month’s worth of food, and the remainder of our long term “pantry” is stored at our BOL, and is rotated regularly.
Surprisingly, I have adequate room to store sufficient long guns to satisfy me, and 1000 rounds each for my long guns and pistols. You get creative with space considerations.
I also recommend anyone buying storage solutions, kitchen gear etc. to consider buying from IKEA. Those folks specialize in small spaces.
A common fallacy is the “small space means crappy cramped accommodations”.
Not so. There is a full sized shower, vanity area, bathroom washer/dryer combo, refrigerator, freezer, three burner stove and combination convection oven/microwave. Again, storage and space are at a premium but using your noodle, you can stash quite a bit of stuff in a shoe organizer on the back of your bathroom door. We have one on the bedroom door too. The bathroom door has all of the kids school supplies (my kids jhome school). The one on the bedroom door holds all kinds of extra grooming items, OTC first aid items, hair grooming stuff, etc.
Our particular RV has two full sized fold down sofa beds, a four seat dining table (not a bench nook and table, but a real, honest to goodness table and chairs), and a full master suite with queen sized bed. We have upgraded the old tube televisions with inexpensive flat screen HD televisions, and I have re-wired the RV for high speed internet.
Now to address the systems.
The fresh water tank is relatively small, it will last an average family of five about 3 days, even under strict water rationing. As for the gray water tank, it fills up pretty quick. Day, day and a half maximum before needing to be dumped. The black water tank is sufficient to last a family of five about two weeks before needing to be dumped. So the RV is not entirely self contained and self sufficient. It needs some help to sustain itself. Also, the generator is propane, has a 24 gallon tank of it’s own but when the tank runs dry, which takes about 6 days under full load, the generator is useless.
This particular model has two ways to get fresh water into the tank. It has a standard connection, which will pull water up the hose with the standard house water pump (which is electric) or will allow the tank to be filled under standard “municipal” water pressure. It also has a manual fill connection, on the starboard side, which will allow me to connect my water line to a mechanical or manual pump and fill the tank under “boondock” conditions. We have triple water filtration on our system (all aftermarket). A gross filter, a reverse osmosis and a standard under sink system.
Now some other points to ponder. The hot water heater is dual electric/propane. It is a propane hog, and so when we are in a park, we use the electric portion of the heater. It is only 6 gallon capacity, so you learn to take cooler, short “Navy” showers. This hot water heater uses the same 24 gallon propane “main” tank that is used to cook with, run the central heating system, and power the refrigerator in propane mode.
So you have a dual tank propane system, a tank specifically for the generator, and a tank for the house systems. 24 gallons each, for a total of 48 gallons of propane. There are ways to get past the limitations of the tank, some aftermarket solutions, like Extend-a-stay. Using Extend-a-stay, however limits you to an external tank (or tanks) of finite size.
Additionally, this particular RV has installed solar power systems, and a small battery bank. The battery bank is large enough to run all the minor electrical systems, fans, lights (we upgraded all the bulbs to LED), and the electrical portion of the propane fired refrigerator for two days without any recharging.
The exposure to direct sunlight will significantly affect the interior temperature and the ability for the air conditioning to compensate. In the summertime, with a perfectly functional air conditioning system you can only expect a maximum of 30 degrees cooling versus outside temperature. Remember, the more the AC system runs, the more power it uses. In a hot, humid locale, the AC will run pretty much 24/7 during a majority of the year. In hot dry areas of the states, not so much.
Now, these things being covered, how good is an RV as a Bug Out Vehicle? Depends on your plans, your bug out location, and your needs. An RV is a large (in the case of my Fleetwood, 39 feet long,14 feet high) vehicle. Think city bus. It needs reasonable road conditions, but can fare decent on dirt or gravel secondary roads. The fact that you haul your house with you is priceless, but it may not fit in with a low profile bug out.
Additionally, you have to know where it is safe to dump your gray water and black water. Without a direct connection to a sewer hook up, or dump station, you are going to be really out of sorts. A typical dump hose is only 15′ long fully extended. You may want to consider building an outhouse hole or crap hole just for your RV black tank. Of course, the gray tank dumps out of the same hose, so consider this when building or installing the system to dump into.
I plan on doing another post on this subject in the near future. Stay tuned.
Got preps? Pray for the best, prepare for the worst.