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Self built campers as Bug Out Vehicles

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posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 03:48 AM

Currently growing in popularity in Europe, Australia and the USA is the trend for people to build and fit out their own campervans, not only is it far cheaper to do than buying a factory built model (being as much as 70% cheaper in many cases) but the builders can also tailor the specific design of the vehicle to exactly match their own requirements. All this is topped of with the fact that the self builders can also control 100% of the build quality of the vehicle. Of equal importance is the fact that if you build the thing yourself you can do most of the maintenance and repairs yourself as well.

Think about it for a minute, how often do survivalists and the preparedness community talk about wishing they could get a family vehicle that would double up as a recreation vehicle and as a bug out vehicle. So if Ford, GM, Chevrolet , Land Rover, or whoever not produce a vehicle that best suits your needs why not build your own ?.

To begin with you need a suitable base vehicle to meet your own personal criteria, for some folks it will be a panel van like a Ford Transit or Ford Econoline, Other people will prefer the attributes of a four wheeled drive jeep type vehicle, others will prefer a motor home type base. In the US ex school bus conversions are becoming popular, whilst in the UK panel van conversions dominate in a choice of two basic formats. First is to convert a panel van into a custom built camper, fitting it out almost identically as a factory built camper with windows, air con, fancy stripes, etc but in heavy duty format. The alternative is the “”Stealth Camper”“designed for wild camping. These stealth campers are plain panel vans externally, but fitted out internally with the full range of fittings needed to support you and family. Toilet, Shower, Kitchen sink, H & C Water, Cooker and Oven, Wardrobe and Storage space, Seating and Beds, Heating , Long range fuel tanks etc. Natural lighting is normally provided by fitting roof top windows instead of glazing the sides of the van. Some vans are also laid out internally to be able to accommodate a motorcycle or quad bike whilst still providing a full range of living facilities. In my humble opinion the stealth option gives the survivalist the best basic option to work with because practicality is more important than pretty stripes and chrome wheel trims.

In a Bug Out Vehicle that you may need to possibly live in for up to six months you will need to carry more logistical support than Joe Q Public does when he goes on vacation, So survivalists will need to plan far more storage capacity within their base vehicles than a conventional camper would.

The Survivalist primarily needs a large capacity engine supplied with fuel from extra large fuel tanks. The further he can go without refueling the less vulnerable he is to meeting trouble in gas stations along the way. He is also less affected by localised or short term shortages of fuel that could paralyze a conventional vehicle. Diesel is the preferred option in most European countries due to its cost and its safe handling characteristics.

You may need large fresh water tanks (usually mounted under the floor between the chassis rails) usually in 250 or 400 litres sized tanks, they will need to be insulated in northern climes

You may need dirty water receiving tanks so he does not foul your environment if you are stuck in one location.

You may need heating and hot water systems for cooking and hygiene

You may need cooking facilities, (Usually bottled gas fed cooker rings)

You may need seating that converts easily and readily into berths for his entire family group.

He / She will need storage for food, clothing, hygiene, tools, vehicle spares, weapons , books and maps, medical kit, recovery kit ( tow rope, axe, jack, etc), Refrigeration is also required for fresh foods, most camping fridges run on all three primary power sources, IE 12V DC, Mains Electric, and Bottled gas.

Many hot water systems also utilise all three power options.

In general you will benefit from a 12 volt electrical system, often supplied by a leisure battery, solar panel or micro turbine. A mains hook up is also often fitted to connect up on camp sites.

Those are the basics and can be adapted, omitted or altered to suit your own needs and budgets.

Do ensure your vehicle has more and adequate fresh air ventilation so you do not kill yourself with carbon monoxide poisoning from your heaters if they are diesel fuelled, and you can still also die from oxygen starvation from Butane / Propane heaters if a fresh air supply is not provided. is a good place to start if you decide to convert your own vehicle. I strongly recommend a copy of John Speeds book called TRAVEL VANS, it’s a great “How To” book on building your own Rugged RV.

posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 04:11 AM
Beautiful post. Quite impressive, thank you for taking the time to educate. I have long thought about going wild.

Don't forget the subzero sleeping blankets. Will cut down on your fuel/ventilation needs.

My legs and feet became shot 4 weeks ago. I will need hand control upgrades. I have an appt next week with the big boy drs.

posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 04:12 AM
The idea of a 'stealth transit' is a good 'un, as there are always spare parts available due to the 'interchangeability' of components throughout the Ford Transit range

If you can get your hands on one of the 4x4 versions that are used by the utility companies, even better!

(I'd certainly go this route if i had the student funds to spare)

I'd also include a bundle of scaffolding poles and clamps and as many plastic carrier bags as possible as the van could then be driven to a remote location, a hole dug to drive the vehicle into, and use the carrier bags filled with the spoil and scaffold poles to build retaining walls and roof structure..

voila, instant bunker!

[edit on 29-9-2008 by citizen smith]

posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 04:15 AM
In a perfect world. I'd go with a hitch and a secure box trailer to carry extra supplies.

posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 04:22 AM

Originally posted by jpm1602
Beautiful post. Quite impressive, thank you for taking the time to educate. I have long thought about going wild.

Don't forget the subzero sleeping blankets. Will cut down on your fuel/ventilation needs.

My legs and feet became shot 4 weeks ago. I will need hand control upgrades. I have an appt next week with the big boy drs.

My mate eric became confined to a heelchair for the last few years before he died, I thought he would give up on survivalism and mobility, God how wrong I was. He turned up in a converted van, Tail lift for his chair, wide isles right through so he could still drive, low level bed, even a nebuliser etc for his breathing. There are hundreds of design options for Bug out Vehicles and self built casmpers, Take a trip over to and trawl through the members photos.

posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 04:24 AM

Originally posted by jpm1602
In a perfect world. I'd go with a hitch and a secure box trailer to carry extra supplies.

I used to have a 6x4 trailer with all the kit in easily accessible side hatches, external gas and water containers and a Maggiliana Roof tent sat on top of it all

Got sick of packing and unpacking that why i swapped to a van with everything inside.

posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 04:36 AM
Thank you for the kind reply and enthusiasm. I almost took out a line of four cars at a light three weeks ago in my lexus because I could not find or feel the break. I had to physically look under my dash to find the bugger. Putting it in low gear gave me just enought time to avoid catastrophe. It's on the block for sale. '99 GS 400. Man did I love that car. But I still dream of my G20 chevy sportvan. She was a load. I used to go out at times and sleep in her just to hear the rain on the rooftop. For no other reason than that. reply to post by Northern Raider

[edit on 9/29/2008 by jpm1602]

posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 04:42 AM
Great post so don't let me dampen your spirit. BUT....
I have spent 20 years building caravans and motorhomes and during that time i have seen a few death traps that people have made for themselves.

Remember that you have to be a competent electrician, plumber, joiner, and way above average in the DIY department.

It's what you don't know that will get you into trouble. I have seen people fit the wrong gas regulators and wonder why they have no eyebrows left and wiring that goes beyond a joke.

By all means, make your own campervan but if in doubt about anything at all. Get someone who is proficiant to help you out.

Just try fitting a couple of bus seats in a transit van and getting that through an M.O.T. It's a nightmare of regulations about anchor points and sizes of metal brackets and high tensile bolts.
Then we come to the seatbelts.........

Anyway have fun and you can always ask me if you want any advice.

posted on Sep, 29 2008 @ 05:30 AM
reply to post by jon1

I agree you can end up in dangerous territory if you are careless, however a Bob does not have to be built dangerously if you give it a bit of thought and planning, and in many caes each stage of the build can be inspected by a specialist such as an LPG / Butane/ propane corgi inspector. My 12 V lighting system was fitted in under two hours by the local auto electrician, including a split chage relay, liesure battery tooped off by a mini solar panel. I agree with going along the safest route as possible when fitting out a vehicle, but in survivalism we are expected to find answers and methods of doing things ourselves.
Alternatavely you could buy John Speeds book Travel Vans & Build your own motorcaravan by John Wickersham, and join a werll organised club like the SBMCC ( Self Build Motorcaravan Club) and gets lots of expert help and advice.

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