How To Turn Your Camper Into A Survival RV
When COVID-19 first hit in early 2020, many of us with RVs commented, somewhat jokingly, that we already had a great bug out vehicle. For the first few weeks of quarantine when uncertainty was high, we thought about stocking up on water and fuel, and perhaps some freeze-dried emergency food. Certainly, as quarantine took hold and it looked like we weren’t going anywhere for a while, many did in fact prep their RVs as a survival RV of sorts.
COVID settled in and Americans that couldn’t travel any other way decided to go RVing. Those of us in the business suddenly didn’t have time for creating that survival RV and got to work helping RVers and providing the RV resources we are known for. Panic had subsided a bit and 2020 was, initially, just a theme for humorous memes on the internet. Until it wasn’t.
Why you might need a survival RV
Suddenly, in addition to the COVID crisis, we saw riots, looting, and political upheaval. The mood around the nation was tense, and remains so. Other real threats made the headlines, and further set the tone for 2020. Murder hornets, hurricanes, floods, fires, and locust plagues were very real.
The upcoming presidential election has every American on edge. It seems that regardless of which side wins, there will be negative fallout. Depending on where you live, the need to escape any one of these threats is also very real. Californians know this all too well. If you are already an RV owner, you might consider transforming your recreational vehicle into more of a survival RV.
RVs can be a great bug out vehicle
An RV is essentially a bug out vehicle already. It is a home on wheels, as thousands of full time RVers prove every day. The main difference between the two is the focus.
Right now your RV is focused on recreation and relaxation. The challenge is to change a few things to bring the focus up to one that is more about safety and preparation, even survival. Your recreational bug out vehicle can be an RV survival vehicle.
Turn your camper into an RV survival vehicle
If 2020 will get any worse is anyone’s guess. We still have to get through November. Regardless, being armed with information you can use if your situation requires it is never a bad thing. To truly turn your current RV or camper into more of a survival RV, even temporarily, here are some things you can do.
Stock up on food and water
This seems obvious, and it is. We list it first with the caveat that you’ll likely need to make room for the additional provisions. You should utilize and refill your fresh water tank as often as possible. Be sure to keep some water purifier on hand to treat the tank as needed. You’ll also want to store as much bottled water as possible. Finally, keep a water filtration pitcher or a personal water filter handy for emergencies.
Canned and dry goods are obvious choices for foodstuffs. A supply of survival foods from sources such as My Patriot Supply, Augason Farms, and Wise Company (now called ReadyWise) can provide weeks or months of food and nourishment for your whole family. These supplies were wiped out when COVID first hit and are finally starting to replenish again. If you don’t already have any quality survival foods, now would be a good time to try them out.
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Stock up on medications for your survival RV
It won’t do any good to get away in your survival RV if you can’t get the prescription drugs you need to stay alive. In working with your doctor and your insurance company, you can usually get enough to hold you over during a difficult time. This is no more true than right now, during the COVID crisis. Said Ilisa Bernstein, senior vice president of pharmacy practice and government affairs at the American Pharmacists Association in this article:
“We’re getting the message out to the insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers that they need to look at their procedures and help these patients who want to make sure that they have an adequate supply”
In discussing how much spare medication you should have, Brett P. Giroir, an assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adds:
“Make sure you have, if you can, a good month or more of medications — a couple of months — to keep you out of the doctor’s office”
Make room for more important items
You can, at least temporarily, ditch anything that’s taking up unnecessary needed space in your survival RV. It may be lawn chairs, kayaks, or a Corn-Hole set that’s taking up space in your RV basement.
Your survival RV needs that space for the aforementioned food and water. You can pare down your dishes and cookware, books and DVDs, and all those silly pillows that came on the master bed of your new RV.
Have an escape route plan
Be sure that you have a couple of escape routes planned, based on wherever your survival RV is parked. Whatever you are trying to flee, make sure you have a couple of routes lined up to get out of town. Whether you are avoiding a flood zone, a riot zone, or a construction zone, it is important to have a plan.
You can use almost anything to find routes, and Google is certainly great for that. However, if you have a larger RV, you should consider an RV specific planning and mapping tool such as RV Trip Wizard. You don’t want your only available route to go under a railroad bridge that’s lower than your survival RV’s roofline.
Alter how you camp when needed
As RVers, we all have our load out checklists. Bring in the awning, disconnect the electric and the sewer hose, bring up the levelers, and bring in the slides. You may have more than that depending on how much camp equipment you set up and what type of RV you have.
You may find it best however to limit your exposure and thus your vulnerability during uncertain times or locations. How fast could you get away if you need to? If you saw a threatening situation approaching, how quickly could you be on the road?
If you are using survival RV techniques, you’ll want to make sure you can pack up and leave quickly if needed. If a fire suddenly turns in your direction or flood waters rise faster than expected, how fast can you get away? You may need to consider a minimalistic approach, much like you would with Walmart Camping, only with a higher state of alertness.
RV door locks and alarms
Upgrading your RV door locks is a simple step to give you a bit more peace of mind if you find yourself holed up in your RV. There are a variety of options discussed in this article.
Adding a simple magnetic door alarm will alert you and potentially frighten off would-be intruders. You can also invest in a more elaborate alarm system, as outlined by Chad and Tara from Changing Lanes.
Have a spare wheel and tire
For many travel trailer owners, this is a no-brainer and something you already have. Large, Class A motorhome owners on the other hand typically never have a complete spare. Some motorhome owners will keep a spare tire available, without the wheel. They rely on roadside assistance to mount the tire to an existing wheel, should the need arise.
Storing just a tire isn’t normally too much of a weight or space penalty in a large motorhome. When you add the wheel, however, it changes the dynamics not only for the weight but in available space as well. All that miscellaneous junk you crammed into that empty tire space now needs a new home. Still, can you count on roadside assistance if things get bad enough?
Getting a full mounted spare for a large Class A motorhome is a big ask. Under extreme circumstances, however, it should be considered. If you don’t have room in a storage bay, they can be stored in or on a tow vehicle, or on a hitch-mounted carrier as described in this video from We’re The Russos.
Have a self-protection strategy
What you choose for the protection of you and your loved ones in your survival RV is entirely up to you. The important thing is to have a strategy and to implement it.
If it’s activating a loud alarm and exterior strobe lights, then know where those buttons are and test them periodically. If it’s access to a firearm, make sure that the firearm is cleaned, oiled, and you know exactly how to get to it, and the ammunition. Be sure to follow state and local laws when using and storing your firearm.
The COVID-19 crisis has seen well over 5 million new gun owners join the ranks of those wishing to invoke their 2nd Amendment rights. Firearms and ammunition are at a premium right now. Election years are also notorious for seeing surges in first-time gun owners and ammunition stockpiling.
If gun ownership is something you are considering, you would be advised not to delay this any further. If guns aren’t your thing, figure out what is. It may be pepper spray, or loud alarms or sirens. The point is to have a plan of self-protection when camping or driving your survival RV.
Safety in numbers
The old adage of there being safety in numbers is true here too. If you know other RVers or family members with RVs that are nearby, agree on a meetup location in advance. Practice getting there and dole out responsibilities and first steps.
Hopefully, they’ll never be used and you can look back on that time and laugh. Should it be necessary though, you’ll be glad you planned ahead. Stick together, and park buddy style, passenger side to passenger side, like you would at a buddy campsite. When traveling together, having a set of FRS radios ensures communication if cell coverage is bad or down for some reason.
Planning versus paranoia
There is a fine line between planning and paranoia. Each person is affected differently by what’s going on in the world and what is portrayed in the media. Everyone must decide for themselves what level of alert they want to be on.
As RV owners, we are already well vested in our home on wheels. Without a lot of extra work, our recreational vehicle can also be a survival RV. We all hope that day doesn’t come, but how much more effort is it really to prepare, just in case?