Before an urgent bug-out situation arises, you need to determine how you’re going to bring the most survival essential resources with you as efficiently as possible. In that kind of situation, you should really consider an option people sometimes forget about: trailers.
Trailers can give you increased cargo capacity, more comfort, better safety and security, and even a psychological sense of feeling “at home” even when you’re far from your house. They’re simply hard to beat when you have to go far, fast, and self-contained.
Why you should be considering a bug-out trailer
There are a lot of reasons why you should consider investing in a bug-out trailer as a significant part of your overall survival plan (and why they’re great to have for regular recreational use in the meantime).
- Hitch up and go: A trailer requires just a few minutes to hook up to your bug-out vehicle, and significantly expands your available resources with minimal additional time or effort.
- Increased cargo space: A trailer instantly upgrades your ability to bring necessary supplies with you, including gear, clothes, food, and—probably the most challenging part of any bug-out plan—water.
- Durable shelter and protection from the elements: Tents are compact and convenient, but if you’re envisioning a long-term bug out, you’ll want something that can hold up longer than a tent and provide better protection from sun, wind, rain, snow, and whatever else Mother Nature is going to throw at you.
- Comfortable sleep: It doesn’t take many nights on the ground for you to realize that a good night’s sleep can make all the difference in your psychological awareness, readiness, and response time. A trailer can make it significantly easier for you to rest well at night and be truly prepared for whatever happens the next day.
- Deployable base of operations: Once you find a secure location that suits your needs, you can detach and deploy your trailer as a home base while freeing up your towing vehicle to serve other purposes. This is particularly useful if you have multiple people in your party and can’t always do what you need to do with everyone and everything in the vehicle at the same time.
- Sense of “home”: Anyone can survive in their car or in a tent for a few days, but when as short-term bug-out ends up going longer than anyone ever expected, the idea of having a home-like structure to come home to at the end of the day can be more important than ever. Morale is a very real part of survival, and a trailer can provide some psychological peace and comfort that’ll help you keep going when everything else seems like it’s falling apart.
Evaluating your bug-out trailer options
Everyone’s situation is a little different, and it’s essential to think through what you really need from a bug-out trailer. There are no “best” trailers, just trailers optimized for different situations and considerations.
Before you start shopping (or start building), it’s worth spending some time thinking through what’s most important to you, so you can find the solution that best meets your criteria.
- Cargo capacity: How much gear will you need a trailer to carry?
- Sleeping arrangements: Is this trailer purely for cargo, or do you also plan to sleep in it? If the latter, you’ll want to consider options such as a roof-top tent, a pop-out, a teardrop, or a travel trailer.
- Daily living accommodations: It’s easy enough to put a bed inside a trailer for sleeping, but if you’re planning to spend a significant amount of time inside the trailer, you want to think about options such as toilets, sinks, stoves, and other accommodations for everyday life. This can make things complicated, but can also significantly increase the usefulness and versatility of your trailer selection.
- Transportability: A bigger trailer obviously provides more value when stationary, but can be significantly more challenging to transport, putting additional strain on your bug-out vehicle and making it harder to get where you’re going.
- Fuel efficiency: Fuel is a very real concern when thinking about bug-out trailers. In an emergency situation, supply chains are one of the first things to fail, and gas is going to be hard to come by. Unless your bug-out vehicle is an electric beast, you’re going to want to find a trailer that’s efficient enough to work with the fuel you’ve got available when you hit the road, with teardrop-style trailers being ideal in this area.
- Heating /cooling/insulation: Depending on the climate in which you expect to bug out, you may want to consider heating and cooling options, as well as the degree to which the trailer may need to be insulated.
- Off-road ability: If your bug-out plan takes you off the beaten path (which it probably should), you’re going to want to think about the trailer’s ability to survive possibly rough, rocky, washed-out trails. To accomplish this, look for (or upgrade to) characteristics such as a short wheel-base, durable axle (or independent wheels with no axle at all), strong all-terrain tires, shocks, and even a few inches of lift. You’ll also want to be careful about the width and weight of the trailer, which will get you stuck quickly in narrow or muddy trails.
- Handiness: If you’re a do-it-yourselfer who can wrench the trailer to your exact specifications (or build it entirely from scratch), that’s awesome. If not, you’ll want to find one that’s as close as possible to what you’re hoping for as a starting point, and then make additional modifications as needed from there.
- Budget: Yes, unfortunately, you have to think about cost as well. The perfect trailer isn’t perfect if you have to take out a home equity loan to buy it. Carefully consider your financial situation and determine what level of investment makes the most sense for you, even if that means it takes a little longer than you’d prefer to save up for it.
Best types of bug-out trailers (and some examples)
There are countless types of trailers available out there, but through experience (and plenty of trial and error), a few specific types have risen to the top as being the most practical and realistic options for a bug-out trailer.
A traditional travel trailer, with some considerations for possible off-road resilience, can be an excellent option for a bug-out vehicle and can give you many of the comforts of home regardless of where you find yourself. While these tend to be the bulkiest and most expensive options, you may find that they’re right for you depending on your specific needs.
Black Series HQ17 (around $45-50k)
The HQ17 family hauler by Black Series offers a surprisingly luxurious experience with a queen-size bed and two bunks (sleeps 5), modern appliances, solar panels, as well as quad shock design and a rugged diamond plate exterior.
Airstream Basecamp ($35-40k)
This compact Airstream “Bambi” travel trailer is tough enough to go where you need it to go while providing basic comforts, high-quality shelter from the elements, and a spectacular wraparound view.
Teardrop/compact travel trailer
A teardrop-style trailer (named for the aerodynamic shape they typically use) is a great balance of valuable attributes. Although light and compact, it still has a rugged structure to protect you from the elements and secure your belongings.
Boreas XT ($25-30k)
A rugged off-road camper with independent suspension, oversized tires, and 20 inches of ground clearance. Features an ARB side awning, hot water shower in a Pelican case, LED lighting with dimmer, 4-inch memory foam queen bed, and a galley with stove, sink, propane, fridge/freezer, and 20 gallons of water storage.
Schutt Industries XVenture XV-3 ($10-18k depending on features)
With an extensive history in the military and commercial sectors, Schutt Industries isn’t kidding when they say they’ve built one of the best and toughest off-road trailers out there.
Pop-up camper / tent trailer
Looks can be deceiving. While pop-up tent trailers aren’t always seen as “tough,” there are definitely some out there that have been ruggedized for harsher environments, and they can make excellent short-term bug-out trailers. (Be warned, though: they’re not intended for long-term regular use.)
Jayco Jay Sport Baja Travel Trailer (about $8-12k)
This little powerhouse features 13 inches of ground clearance, a heavy-duty suspension system, and 15-inch off-road tires, making it well equipped to follow you wherever you need to go. These were last made in 2006, so you might have to shop around a bit to find one.
Aliner Somerset Evolution (around $18-24k)
The Aliner Somerset comes in a variety of models, all of which are sturdy and easy to set up. The Evolution series is built to withstand more rugged terrain, including 15-inch off-road tires and alloy rims.
Is a bug-out trailer right for you?
Before taking the plunge, it’s worth doing your research and ideally even trying some trailers out for a few nights. Sometimes things don’t become evident until you’re right there dealing with them, and a real-world shakedown test will help you determine what kind of trailer option (if any) is right for you.
But whatever your situation, don’t quickly discount the possible advantages of a trailer in a serious bug-out situation. The benefits of extra cargo space, more comfortable living arrangements, and even the comfort of a sense of “home” can make a huge practical difference in your odds of making it through a bad situation.