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    How to Build a Bug Out Trailer

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    Bugging out is a hot topic in the survival community, and I think it gets a lot of attention for a couple of reasons. First, the act of bugging out causes us to leave our safe space, our box, our little bubble of a world that we feel safe and comfortable in. Secondly, it is discussed a lot because most people have never really had to do it, at least not in the way that it is talked about and honestly, I hope that you never have to. 

    I have a bit of a problem with the mentality surrounding bug-out situations, but to understand that I first need to quickly explain what bugging out really is. 

    Like many things in the survival community, the term bug-out was taken from the military. When an opposing force quickly advances and it appears that they will take over an established position, the people in that position will grab the necessities that they can carry, and they will bug out, or leave the area when there is an immediate threat present. 

    This is also where we get the term bug out bag which is a bag that is prepared with enough tools and supplies to last a person a few days. Now, this is the important thing to understand. When military personnel bug out, they have limited or finite supplies because the expectation is that they will make their way to a friendly area where they can be resupplied. 

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    It's my opinion that when we talk about bugging out in the survival community, it's not always as cut and dry as it is sometimes made out to be. Sure, some people discuss having a pre-supplied bug out location or some other safe area that they can go to, but much of the scenarios that are talked about are pretty serious and could prove to be widespread. 

    Also, in my opinion, bugging out is one of the last options to choose. It is a pretty serious decision to make to leave your home with limited supplies and to put yourself into a dangerous and chaotic situation. 

    Having said that, I understand that the time will come when there will be an imminent threat to the area you live in, and you will have to leave. The issue comes down to the duration of the event and the number of supplies a person has. A bug-out bag is really only intended to last a person roughly three days before they are resupplied. However, I do not believe we have the luxury of thinking that there is a guaranteed opportunity of resupply during all bug-out events. 

    For example, let's say you have a bug out bag (BOB) and a bug out location (BOL) to go to when a disaster happens. On your way to the BOL, you realize that you are no longer able to get to that location (pick one of a million reasons why, and remember that nothing ever goes according to plan).

    You only have three days of supplies in your BOB and are probably surrounded by other people who are trying to leave the area with limited supplies, and this event is bigger than you thought it would be. What would you do? I guess the person would have to ration what they could, rely on their knowledge, and continue moving towards a safe area. 

    The above situation could have been better for the person if they had built themselves a bug-out trailer. What’s that you ask?

    Bug Out Trailer

    A bug out trailer (BOT) is nothing more than a trailer that is loaded with supplies and pulled behind a vehicle during an emergency. There are lots of different styles of trailers available that can be hauled by cars, vans, trucks, SUVs, bicycles, and even other alternative modes of transportation like an ATV.

    There are two general types of trailers to consider. The first type only carries supplies which are going to be the most important aspect to consider. The second type is a trailer/camper that can not only carry supplies but can also be used to house people. I don’t think the second option is talked about much because some people don’t view them as a traditional trailer, and they can be more expensive. However, for this article I will be discussing them. 

    Getting Started

    Choose Your Vehicle

    The first order of business is to decide what vehicle you want to use and determine that vehicle’s capabilities. Are you going to be driving a family mini van, a full-sized truck, or an alternative vehicle such as a bicycle?

    It is important to know your vehicle because this will tell you how much it can haul and if there's a chance of driving off-road with the trailer, which could also change the type of trailer you use. 

    Some people think that since they do not have the “ideal” bug-out vehicle, they shouldn’t get a trailer. We never know where or when a disaster can strike, so it is my recommendation to always be preparing. I cannot stress enough that having something now is better than waiting for an ideal situation that may never happen. 

    Choose Your Trailer 

    Once you have chosen the vehicle, you can start looking at a range of different trailers that would work for that vehicle. I know that budget is always a concern, but here are a few things to consider when choosing a trailer: 

    • Size. Larger doesn’t always mean better, but being able to carry as many supplies as possible will allow you to go longer without resupplying. 
    • Covered vs. Uncovered. Some trailers are open while others are fully enclosed, meaning they have a roof and doors. Both have their pros and cons, but a fully enclosed trailer with lockable doors will provide the best protection for your supplies. 
    • Durability. When investing in this type of equipment, you are going to want to make sure it is up to the task when you need it. This means checking into the types of materials the trailer is constructed from, where it was made, and if it can withstand being taken off-road. During a disaster is a bad time to find out that a trailer full of supplies cannot handle even the slightest bit of rough terrain. 
    • Camouflage. I don’t mean to literally camouflage the trailer unless that is something you want to do, but instead do consider the aesthetics of the exterior. Try to keep it as low-key as possible in terms of color and overall appearance. Think about the times you have seen a trailer going down the road. What goes through your head about one that looks a bit run down versus one that is shiny, brand new, or stands out in some other way?

    Trailer Options 

    There are a lot of different types of trailers on the market, and I cannot speak for every single one of them. Instead, I will briefly discuss two general types of trailers and two other popular options. 

    Open Trailer 

    Open Trailer

    This is by far the most inexpensive type of trailer to purchase, and they are widely available. Open trailers may have small or longer sidewalls, but they will not have a roof or doors, although they do sometimes come with a ramp.

    Other than affordability, open trailers are easier to load and unload supplies into, provide quicker access to those items, and the trailer itself weighs less. 

    The biggest downfall is that since the trailer does not have a roof, walls, or door, it does not provide very much protection from the elements and other threats. 


    • Affordable 
    • Lightweight 
    • Easy to load/unload 
    • Quick access to supplies 


    • The type of supplies being hauled are easily seen from the outside.
    • The trailer doesn’t provide a lot of protection.

    Enclosed Trailer 

    Enclosed Trailer

    This type of trailer has sidewalls, a roof, and doors. Depending on what the trailer is supposed to be used for, the upper portion can be solid, have gaps, or even windows. 

    Enclosed trailers are typically more expensive and can also be more difficult to navigate or pull behind a vehicle given their size and shape. The upside is that they offer much more protection from the elements, and any curious bystanders will have a difficult time seeing your stuff.   


    • Better protection from the elements.
    • More difficult for bystanders to see or get inside.


    • More expensive 
    • Can be more difficult to haul

    Pop Up Camper

    At first glance, this type of trailer may seem like a good option because they are compact, offer some storage space, and fold out, which gives the user some living space while on the road. 

    While I do not have much personal experience with this type of trailer, I have not heard a lot of great things about them for this specific purpose. This primarily has to do with their cost versus the amount of living and more importantly, storage space.


    • Provides some storage 
    • Provides some living space 
    • Compact 


    • Pricier 
    • Requires some work to set up 
    • Doesn’t provide a lot of storage for supplies 


    Full Size Camper

    A camper seems to combine the best of both worlds. In one aspect it is great because you can bring with you the comforts of home such as numerous places to sleep, a toilet, shower, refrigerator, and a kitchen to prepare food in. 

    Most campers also have adequate storage space so that supplies are not in the way. However, if you want to haul more supplies, they can simply be put in areas of the camper that will not be used as much, such as the dining area or in unused sleeping quarters. 

    A camper may sound great but there are a few downsides to consider. First, you will need a plan to deal with waste, water, and power. Secondly, there are affordable campers available, but even these can be quite the investment. Thirdly, not all vehicles can pull a camper, so getting one will depend on the type of vehicle that you have.

    The last thing to consider is the size. Campers do come in different shapes and sizes, but on average they can be quite large. For the inexperienced, this can make them difficult to tow, and they can also prove to be problematic when traversing uneven or rough terrain.   


    • Protects supplies 
    • Ample storage space 
    • Provides protection and living space for individuals 


    • One of the more expensive choices.
    • Can be difficult to tow, especially over questionable terrain or around obstacles, all of which can drastically reduce travel time.
    • Requires outside resources for the camper to operate effectively.

    What Should Be in a Bug Out Trailer?

    The type of supplies that a person loads into a bug-out trailer will depend on the region in which they live, what they expect or don’t expect to encounter, and their abilities. The number of supplies loaded will depend on how long a person plans on being on their own and how many people are in the group. 

    Having said that, start with supplies that cover the basics. Be sure to have plenty of food, water, and ways to purify water. These will probably be the two hardest items to come by in a bugout situation, and you do not want to find yourself running out.

    Having medical supplies is always important and during a bugout situation, medical services could be chaotic. Have enough medical supplies for each person in the group and the knowledge to use those supplies. The last base to cover is maintaining body warmth. Be sure to pack weather-appropriate clothing, footwear, sleeping bags, emergency blankets and the means to create a shelter with tarps, duct tape, cordage, or a tent. 

    Once you feel comfortable that you have enough of the above items, you can then start to load in any other gear, tools, or supplies you deem necessary. 


    As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I hope that you never have to bug out, but should that moment come, you will want to be as ready as possible. Taking the time to research, plan, and personalize a bug-out trailer will give you the ability to take a lot more supplies with than just your BOB. This will hopefully give you the extra time that you need to get through a bad situation.

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