Episode-401- RVs as a Survival Prep — 17 Comments

  1. Awesome program. The point floor space at a premium is so true. In 2002 I packed my wife and 4 kids in a 31 footer for 12 weeks. We hit 44 states, 17,000 miles and all 30 Major League Ball Parks. Yeah the space was limited and sometimes nerves got frayed, but what a blast.

  2. Jack,

    Thanks for mentioning my email about our experiences RVing full time and how I use it for prep work. For those who did not see the full email, I’ve posted it below.

    Be safe and well,



    I’ve been catching up on your podcasts today and found you bought a 27 foot travel trailer and that some of your listeners had questions about using RV’s. I thought I would share my experiences from a preppers point of view after nearly 6 months on the road with you and your listeners.

    I woke up last February of 2009 when Congress passed the stimulus bill against our wishes. Congress turned off their phones and emails and told the citizens we don’t need to listen to you. When governments stop listening to its citizens, bad things tend to come to the citizens as history has shown over and over again. That’s when I did a total 180 degree turn and started to learn about the economic history and prepping for bad things that may come.

    I got out of the market, reduced my withholding on my taxes and invested in my first gun (with more that came a few months later), and started to buy gold and silver bullion. I also started to stockpile food and gather as much education as I could both in college (I finished my B.S. and Masters) and online at sites like yours.

    With the Shuttle program ending, I took the first round of layoffs in October of 2009 and retired. Gypsy and I had always wanted to travel the nation in a RV, but I had ulterior motives for getting the RV by now. We researched RV’s and after about 3 months of research, we settled on a 2004 37 foot Class A Coachman Santara. I know a Class A may be a bit out of many of your listener’s price range, but there are many good deals out there right now. Some of the things we are doing may be of use to your listeners that own Class C, Fifth Wheels, or Travel Trailers. One note of caution: Be wary about buying a RV that the manufacturing company is no longer in business. That may affect your search in finding spare parts if needed. With that said, that kind of Orphan RV’s can be a sweet deal to purchase, if you are confident you can find spare parts.

    The RV has a 6,500 KW Onan Generator that can run everything on board while just sipping gasoline. Of course, if we are at a RV park, we just plug into the 50 amp outlet. We have a 75 gallon fresh water tank that I always keep full. I keep two water purification systems stored in the “basement” that can purify up to 150 gallons total of water. I also keep a 40 gallon fresh water “bladder” on board in case I need to take on extra water for a extended boon dock for pleasure or emergencies. I also have a 75 gallon gas tank that I always keep full. I also have two solar panels that keep my coach batteries charged. We have internet capabilities due to using the Verizon Mobile Me that links up all our computers into a secure network. We also keep multiple LED lighting systems, batteries, and lanterns stored in the basement.

    I also have a local Florida garage that I trust to keep my RV maintained in good shape. I would not advise using Camping World for your RV work. The old RV saying about Camping World is that they have $9/hr mechanics that do minimum wage work. In the beginning I used to have them do my work and learned I had to inspect the job before leaving the garage to ensure it was done correctly. It took time, but I found a local garage that is cheaper and does excellent work.

    We already had a year’s supply of food at home stored up. Each week I bought supplies in bulk and on sale, and Gypsy would just shake her head, but it saved us money when it came time to prep the RV for our travels. In the last 5 months, we have only bought perishables and a few treats from time to time at an expense of about $300. Gypsy and I were actually surprised at how much money we had saved on groceries by buying early, in bulk, and on sale when we were completing our preps at home.

    First I should describe the disadvantages of owning a RV. It’s damn expensive and like a regular home, requires maintenance that far exceeds what you do with a simple car or truck. It is your home after all, and has all the luxuries of home. You must take care of the sewage, waste water, fresh water, both engines, the one under the hood and the Onan generator, and the electrical system. Also you must care for the outside such as the awnings, slide outs, etc. You have to learn your RV and all its quirks, sounds, etc.

    Now the advantages from a prepper viewpoint. Our main home is near the coast in the Clearwater Florida area. Of course, that means hurricanes. I don’t know if you have ever evacuated from a hurricane, but if you leave too late, you find that I-4 becomes a parking lot as nearly 5-10 million people run inland towards Orlando or north towards Georgia. Most people try to travel hundreds of miles away due to panic or the fact they can’t find a place to stay closer to home. Most major damage from hurricanes only reaches 25 miles inland from where they come ashore. With the RV, we only have to drive 25-50 miles inland and boon dock in a Wal-Mart parking lot using the building as a large wind screen.

    Of course, if there is civil unrest, we can pack up our home and hopefully beat the mass exodus and drive to another place. Since our RV is self contained, I can take us to practically any friend or family’s home and not tax their resources or take up space in their home (of course I clear it with them first). Not only is the RV our home, it is our bug out location too. As we travel the nation, I keep my ear to the local and internet ground just in case. We keep a cash reserve (my rule is to always have enough cash to get us home no matter where in the country we are), bullion, and full tanks/supplies and I can have us loaded and leaving within 30 minutes or less. Our towed vehicle is also fully fueled at all times and has food reserves in it too.

    One note on weapons being carried in a RV, most campsites don’t allow guns and you may find your concealed carry license issued in your home state is no good in another state. On those things, it is well known in the RV community to just stay mum about weapons always. Though I will tell you one little secret, RV parks are probably the best armed communities around. RV’ers are not fools when it comes to traveling to distant parts and isolated camping sites.

    Though RV’s are expensive, there are money savings going on. I am not beholden to many of the taxes that people with homes in that area have to deal with. Most taxes I deal with are sales tax and fuel tax. Currently we are in CA and our tax footprint is extremely small. Places such as Oregon I understand have no sales tax and many of the RV’ers on the west coast go up there to make major purchases such as solar panels, etc.

    Is our plan foolproof? No. There are always possible problems you can encounter such as road blocks, police checkpoints, mechanical breakdowns that are too severe for me to fix, etc. But, can it work in most local or regional situations? Yes it can. Something as simple as the power going out in a city is no problem for us. We still have power, refrigeration, air conditioning, TV, computer, etc. If the power won’t return to the area for some time, then we can just pick up and move. Since my gas tank can get me 600 miles, we can find a location where there is no trouble going on before needing to refuel.

    Next up on the list is to purchase a vineyard/farm in the country in the near future.

    Be safe and well,

    Random63 on TheSurvivalPodcast forum
    Rocketman on my web site

    “Sometimes I feel like a mediocre man who has been blessed with an extraordinary life.” – GNC

  3. Listened to your podcast today. My husband and I live 100% in our 5th wheel so I really enjoyed your message today! Looking at your Shammrock I will note a security risk. The tent part of your setup concerns me as a female especially in a bugout situation. We have been to some “interesting” campsites an I am thankful we have a door to lock! Not that it is completely safe but it does give me a “barrier” that is more than a tent! Also it gets rather cold in Texas especially in Dallas this past February and we were very happy we had the insulation of the walls at night when we slept!

  4. @Greg, thanks for sharing! I also added a link to RV-103 to today’s show notes. I had intended to but today was a busy day and I simply forgot.

  5. My wife,self and 2 boys lived in a Coachman 27ft class c for 7 months. You are only limited by your imagination. Having a piece of dirt with water (spring,well,etc) is essential.

  6. In the summer I always used to listen to your show on my 40 minute commute to film school!
    I always loved to hear your show, and it gave me something to listen to on the road.
    Now I listen to your show at home, and all my family is listening to you!
    It’s nostalgic to hear the car noises somehow.

  7. Jack you kind of trailed off about teardrops at the end when you were distracted, but I can tell you that teardrops are a BLAST. But if you are looking for more comfort, a regular RV is the way to go. If you like primitive, get a tent. Teardrop camping is essentially outdoor camping but with an indoor bedroom. Though I love tent camping, I really love my teardrop. Oh, and all those \’extra\’ things you need to maintain with a regular RV are almost non-existent with a teardrop. Systems maintenence is extremely simple for there are no slide-outs, or furnaces, or heavy electrical draws. See my post on your Camping forum for more info…

  8. I listened to our show on the wa home this evening and was quite impressed. Mrs T and I have the tent, the popup tent camper and a 27 ft Dodge Coachmen in our arsenal.. All picked up at distressed prices over the last several ears. The 2 room tent was a ard sale find. The popup was bartered for a 12 pack of beer and the Coachmen was bought from soeone who needed to make a mortgage pament and needed cash.. All excellent deals.

  9. We started tent camping when my son started Cub Scouts. Last fall we bought a used (half price) 2006 Trailmanor 3023 (30 feet open, 23 feet closed). We can pull this thing with the mini-van which is why we bought it. Don’t have a truck.

    Starting next week it’ll be loaded for the next 6 month season. Clothes, gear, bedding. And until it stops freezing at night, the canned food will be in a rubbermaid bucket in the house. Pasta, rice, cereal etc. will live out there.
    My goal is to make getting ready time minimal.

    The trick with bugging out. If my husband isn’t home to hitch the thing, it’ll be a very expensive paperweight. It takes us more time to hitch than to set up. This isn’t unique to what we bought, just travel trailers in general. Takes practice as alot of backing up and trying again as you have to be lined up pretty precisely.
    I saw this guy who just backed up in the exact spot and asked him his secret – he’s a truck driver.

  10. @Christine

    Two things that will help.

    One a ground guide method. Have the person you are using as a guide avoid waving and crap like that. Make a thumbs up sign like the fonz used to on Happy Days. Strait up means strait back, left is left and right is right. The KEY, as you move from left towards strait your drive knows to correct and can visualize how much to compensate. With this method there is ZERO confusion as to how much correction to apply. In 3 to 4 attempts driver and guide learn each other well. Each FEELS IN CONTROL, that is the key. I may do a simple YouTube video on this, just with the hand signs to help.

    Two get a bicycle flag, the ones with the fiberglass stems that you put on a bike so the rider his highly visible. You can use anything these just work so well why use anything else? Put a magnet on the bottom so you can put it on the hitch and it will stand strait up. You then look at the tail gate and use the marks to find center. With that you can even get pretty close when you are alone.

    So how did I come up with these.

    The thumb method is from my underground construction days. We hired young guys with little experience and all had to drive trucks and toe stuff. I found it one day and taught them all to do it. It worked the key is getting people to do it and understand it. I had 7-10 crews a day loading up 14-20 tow trailers we needed a solution it was the best we could find.

    The flag with a magnet? I have a boat, I like to fish and mostly I am alone when I load up. I just thought well if I knew where the hitch was I could use the tail gate to know where the ball is. It just seemed logical.

  11. We are full time rv’ers and we are currently learning all the benefits of have alternative sources of power and water. During February in Dallas we had significant cold temps. Water pipes to the county park froze. Trees had snow and ice and froze and fell on electrical wires. So having our berkie filter and having water stored in our onboard storage tank (100 gallons) was great! Also having propane tanks kept us nice an toastie! Also we have been learning all about Dutch oven cooking and we have an assortment of pots and pans an cook about 90% on our outdoor setup of propane and charcoal!

  12. Great show Jack.

    I lived in a 1974 21′ Terry from 1988-1990 and again from 1994-1995 while I was going to school during the winters and working for the Forest Service during the summers. It was a perfect lifestyle for me since school and work were 200 miles apart and I quickly tired of the packing and moving gig between dorm room and bunk house. While with the Forest Service I had electricity and fresh water, but no dump, so I kept the cap loose on my big blue sewage caddy and left my grey water valve open. The grass was about 4′ deep by the end of summer, but no one was any the wiser. I managed to go the entire summer with just the 25 gallon black water tank by turning off the flush water and using it only in the middle of the night. I was also living alone.

    The winters were in a small RV park off campus in Carbondale, Colorado. Brrrr! Since the managers of the RV park didn’t have individuals meters, I used two small electric space heaters to heat the RV rather than spending money on gas. Generally I got by for about a month on two 35# propane tanks for cooking and domestic hot water. That said, I had to heat tape all my external plumbing and still managed to freeze the inside pipes about once every 3-5 weeks during the coldest parts of the winter (overnight lows would frequently reach -15F and occasionally dip to -35F).

    Anyway, they do offer a level of flexibility and utility that other lifestyles don’t afford. If you winter in one in a cold climate, you’ll be an expert CPVC plumber by the end of your first winter. You’ll also learn to leave lean and mean, getting rid of anything that’s not essential for daily life. I rebuilt the front bed so it concealed my 13 gun gun locker, I removed the loft bed to place more storage up there with cabinets to conceal the clutter, and I chopped down the 4 person table to a two person since I just wanted the extra floor space to move around.

    Happy motoring!


  13. I lived in a travel trailer for 2 years cheap living until you find out about the water leak that can get expensive quick.

  14. I’ll admit that I haven’t heard the podcast. However, the comments seem to be more about living in a RV afterwards. Thats all fine and good. I would think the problem would be getting out. What about having a snowstorm at the same time needing to bug out? Or any other of a million things that could happen at the same time. Murphy’s law indicates what could go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible moment.

    There are several possiblities of solving this, NONE of them cheap. For the ultimate in ideas one could look at an Earthroamer. They use only Diesel and solar cells for their power source. No propane in case that becomes unavailable. The have 4×4 capacity and can get an optional lift kit. The downside is its very, very expensive and its small considered a 2 adult + 2 children. But someone with a lot more mechanical knowledge than me might be able to use their ideas

  15. RE: PortUnknown

    Good post and comments.

    While some of these posts have dealt with living in a RV after some catastrophe, we live in ours full time. I pretty much agree with Jack\’s threat matrix where you look at things that are most likely to happen and how much damage it could do.

    Our main home is on the Florida Coast and right in the middle of hurricane country. The chances of a hurricane is more likely with local damage than lets say a country wide disaster such as a war or something else with widespread damage.

    The purpose of the RV, in my humble opinion, is to escape a more likely local disaster and be able to return home within a reasonable time. I can\’t begin to plan for Armageddon, but I can plan for something closer to home.

    Can things go wrong at the worst time? Of course! Murphy\’s law is an absolute in my book and all I can do is try to anticipate Murphy as much as possible.

    Take the hurricane example: We could end up waiting too long and be caught in the newly formed parking lot called I-4. I have had that happen before and learned to never allow it to happen again. We could have a mechanical breakdown during evac, but keeping up on routine maintenance can minimize that.

    To quote my previous post, \"Is our plan foolproof? No. There are always possible problems you can encounter such as road blocks, police checkpoints, mechanical breakdowns that are too severe for me to fix, etc. But, can it work in most local or regional situations? Yes it can. Something as simple as the power going out in a city is no problem for us. We still have power, refrigeration, air conditioning, TV, computer, etc. If the power won’t return to the area for some time, then we can just pick up and move. Since my gas tank can get me 600 miles, we can find a location where there is no trouble going on before needing to refuel.\"

    I don\’t know anything about Earth Roamers, but they sound good. The thing about RV\’s is there are always something better out there. For many people on this forum, having a Class A motorhome such as ours is beyond their means right now, let alone a Earth Roamer. I think it\’s best to work with the type of RV you can afford or some other type of way to bug out, bug in, or bug everywhere. Take the best ideas from folks, no matter what type of RV they own, and apply them to your situation as you see fit.

    Sorry about the ramblings. I keep getting distracted while trying to type this.

  16. are their any SMALL travel trailers set up for a survival situation? all the comforts of home but small enough for my 4X4 p.u. to pull in out of the way places w/o getting stuck