Fast-track your preparedness with a trailer

There is always concern as to whether or not a disaster or crisis will bring about the need to decide to either stay in place or leave to go somewhere else; the classic bug-in vs. bug-out scenario. Staying in place and riding out the situation is a decision that comes with its own set of potential consequences, but making the decision to “get out of dodge” is an entirely different situation. Such a determination is made typically because the danger of leaving is less than that of staying put.

Once the decision is made to leave, a number of steps have to be completed before all the doors on the vehicle close and it pulls out of the driveway. One of the steps in this sequence is packing up everything that you may need to not only leave, but also survive until you arrive at your destination (perhaps even longer). A great variance in the time required to pack up is what all is going and how it will be packed. I have seen standardized packing lists with details all the way down to what gets packed in a particular spot and families that practice packing their vehicle to get the time it takes down to the lowest they can.

Overall, the best solution that I have seen to get this load-out time to an absolute minimum and still get moving quickly is through the use of a trailer. I will use the term “survival trailer” when referring to such a trailer, although some are purpose-built for emergency preparedness and others can be adapted for such purposes. Having a survival trailer that is pre-packed with most of the equipment and supplies that will be taken seems to be the best solution for bugging out with a vehicle.

To facilitate this rapid transition time, one must obviously have a trailer. I summarized the trailer options into the six sections that follow and while I realize that people must decide the best fit for themselves, I am personally drawn to the flexibility that they commercially produced cargo trailer offers. That said, each of these trailer types have their pros and cons and appear in no particular order.

Survival trailer

Due to the boom in the survival and preparedness market there has been an influx of purpose built survival trailers that have become available. Some of them are adventure trailers that were already on the market but were revamped for emergency preparedness purposes. Others have been specifically created to provide a solution to get out of dodge in an expedient manner.

BIBO Outfitters Survival Trailer

The BIBO (Bug-In/Bug-Out) survival trailer is designed to be the one trailer that anyone will ever need to bug-out with.

Based inside of a cargo trailer, the BIBO survival trailer is a well designed, well executed option for the prepper. Not only is there the cargo trailer portion for plenty of storage, the shelter provided comes from a roof-top tent.

While the price tag comes in at a higher point than one might expect, the value for the money is increased with the included features (supplies for two people):

  • 30 day supply of food
  • Water storage, hot water shower system and integrated filter system
  • Solar and wind electrical system
  • Propane system
  • Flexible storage
  • Medical kits (including trauma and dental)
  • NBC masks, clothing and decontamination fluids
  • Shower and restroom enclosure
  • Kitchen with stove, grill, refrigerator and pots/pans with dishware

There are also additional options that include a rough terrain package, air conditioner and propane-fueled generator as well as upgrades for additional people and pets.

Base Price (Fully Equipped): $27,900

The Survival Mule

The Survival Mule is essentially a steel wall locker that has a removable tongue and removable wheels. The wheels and tongue come off so that it can stand against a wall in the garage. When you need to move, the wheels reattach, the trailer lies down, and as soon as you can attach it to your vehicle you are ready to go.

As a wall locker, your gear and supplies can stay packed and ready to go for a quick exit.

One of the limiting factors of the Survival Mule is the smaller size and limited carrying capacity but it also makes it an ideal trailer for smaller cars.

Featuring a lockable door, easy one person operation and flexible use options, the Survival Mule can be a great survival trailer.

Base Price: $1,995

Adventure trailer

There has been a market for rough and tumble trailers that can go just about anywhere to provide a base of support for a couple of people for a while now. I would say that most of these trailers pre-date the latest survival/prepper boom that stirred up prior to the fun of Y2K. An adventure trailer typically features a rugged box design that is on larger, off-road tires. It is also common to see this type of trailer with external attachments for water and fuel cans, tools and even propane tanks.

Because of an adventure trailer’s specific purpose of providing a base of operations, in addition to the attached carrying capacity, these trailers often feature a built-in tent, additional storage, a simple kitchen area and sometimes even a bathroom area.

A few popular models that all feature off road capabilities, cargo boxes, integrated tents and multiple optional features include:

HEO T3 Overland Trailer

Base Price: $7,995

BushRanger 200 XT Off Road Trailer

Base Price: $9,295

AT Overland Equipment Chaser

Base Price: $7,672

MOAB Outpost

Base Price: $10,095

Cargo trailer

An enticing factor of the cargo trailer is the ability to obtain one on the used market for a very reasonable price. By doing some shopping on the used trailer market (especially private sellers), a cargo trailer can be picked up for as little as $1,000 (depending on the amount of work it may need). In addition to the low cost of entry for an enclosed trailer, a cargo trailer can be built out in accordance with personal desires to include wall shelves, bunk beds, etc.

A quick search on YouTube can provide a treasure trove of ideas from videos posted about cargo trailer conversions for survival, camping, etc.

Some of the most well known names in the industry include Wells Cargo, Haulmark, Interstate and Pace American.

In addition to flexibility and customization options, one of the best things about enclosed cargo trailers are the numerous size options allowing a lot of gear and supplies to be hauled if you have the right size vehicle.

B.Y.O.T. (Build Your Own Trailer)

A few options are available for those who may be most interested in building their own custom survival trailer.

Finish a Trailer — Some trailer manufacturers make trailer frames that can be finished as the purchaser wants. One of my favorite options is Harbor Freight Tools who makes a few different options of plain trailer frames. They run in the price range of $240-$400 for the frame. I like that they are pretty affordable and present the opportunity to make the trailer whatever you want it to be. This can serve as the base for a trailer similar to the survival and adventure trailers mentioned above.

Build up on a Flatbed Trailer — There are several companies that make flatbed trailers and they are easy to find at big box retail and hardware stores. They don’t have to cost a lot (some can be found starting at around $500) and as a flatbed trailer, these offer a blank canvas for your design. The biggest drawback to the flatbed trailer is that most people will build some type of box frame on it that essentially makes it a cargo trailer. Therefore, a cargo trailer may be a better starting point depending on what your end goal is.

Literally Build Your Own— If you or someone you know has the metalworking skills to build a trailer, that may be the best option because the cost of doing so can be limited to the cost of materials (and maybe the cost of the food or beverage bribe required).

Commercial RV

The things that I feel limits using an RV as a survival trailer are their portability, requirement to have a certain type of vehicle and the fact that RVs can often be very limited in the amount of weight they are rated to carry. Aside from those factors that I feel can be limiting, RVs can be a great solution because of the additional amenities they have like beds, bathrooms and kitchens.

A couple of specific RV trailers that are built for straying a little bit from the road include:

Jayco Jay Sport Baja Edition (An upgraded version of the Jay Sport pop-up line of campers.)

Base Price: $10,810

Roo by Rockwood (An awesome RV trailer with a flat deck for an ATV, additional gear, etc.)

Base Price: $34,618

Motorcycle and bike trailers

As a result of not everyone having a car or truck, and the fact that not every crisis will leave vehicles a viable option, a motorcycle or bicycle may be the best option available. If this ends up being the case, a motorcycle or bicycle trailer would be a valuable asset.

One of the single greatest drawbacks to these trailers is the fact that they are very limited in size and therefore have limited capacity. At the same time, limited capacity is better than no capacity at all. On a positive note, these trailers are highly portable and there are even some that include a built-in tent to provide shelter.

Final word

A common concern for all of these trailer options is the capacity of the trailer and the capability of the vehicle that will pull it. Many trailers are limited in the weight they can safely carry. Always consult the manufacturer’s recommendations of both the trailer and vehicle as to what can be safely transported. Some other concerns include:

Vehicle Types — Depending on what you are hoping to transport, the towing capability of vehicles can vary greatly. Cars can generally tow less than vans, vans can typically tow less than trucks and small trucks more often than not can tow less than big trucks.

Hitch Types — The towing hitch equipped on a vehicle will determine the amount of trailer that a vehicle can tow. Decide on a trailer based on what your vehicle hitch can handle or purchase the right vehicle to tow the trailer you would like to have.

Hitch classes are numbered from Roman numeral I to Roman numeral V and include a typical receiver size. They are as follows:

  • Class I — Rated up to 2,000 pounds with a 200 pound maximum trailer tongue weight and a 1-1/4” square receiver opening.
  • Class II — Rated up to 3,500 pounds with a 300 pound maximum trailer tongue weight and a 1-1/4” square receiver opening.
  • Class III — Rated up to 6,000 pounds with a 600 pound maximum trailer tongue weight and a 2” square receiver opening.
  • Class IV — Rated up to 10,000 pounds with a 1,000 pound maximum trailer tongue weight and a 2” square receiver opening.
  • Class V — Rated up to 12,000 pounds with a 1,200 pound maximum trailer tongue weight and a 2-1/2” square receiver opening.

Trailer ball sizes are also a factor. Make sure that you have the right ball on your hitch receiver to match. The three common trailer ball sizes are 1-7/8”, 2”, and 2-5/16”.

Other towing considerations when it comes to hitch types include weight distributing hitches versus standard trailer hitches. All trailers should be equipped with lights that require a wiring harness on the vehicle, and certain trailers require a trailer braking system to operate safely that may not be already installed on your vehicle.

Lastly, the maximum towing capacity of a vehicle does not change due to the type of trailer hitch that is installed on it. Installing a larger hitch size on a vehicle does not increase its safe towing capacity and vice versa.

Fuel Type — The two main vehicle fuel types for vehicles that will tow a trailer are gasoline and diesel. They are both capable of doing the same work, but if you find yourself looking for a vehicle to specifically tow a trailer, give some consideration to a vehicle with a diesel engine. Gasoline engine fuel mileage drastically decreases when towing a trailer where there is typically no detectable difference with a diesel engine. Also diesel engines tend to burn cleaner and more efficiently under a towing load than a gasoline engine.

Proper planning when relying on a trailer to carry the supplies you will rely on to sustain your life is important. This includes having at least one spare trailer and vehicle tire, the tools to change these tires and the knowledge required to do so. Always remember a basic tool kit when traveling anywhere.

More than anything, have a plan if you find yourself in a situation where you have to load up and make a run for it. Know where you are going to go and which route you are going to travel. This plan should include at least a primary and secondary route, if not a third and fourth option. Don’t forget to ensure that you either have enough fuel on hand or can get it along your route. When choosing a destination, if you will be traveling with a survival trailer, ensure that you will be able to reach your final destination with your trailer. Never underestimate what a slight change in terrain can mean for a trailer.

— Thomas Miller

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