So, in the annals of internet redundancy, is the ISG emphasis on mobility. It’s to the point that it’s frustrating in a way that calls to mind Shel Silverstein’s “Hector the Collector”, and leaves the impression on me that I’m presenting my junk as if it were treasure.
The other day, Jake was cruel enough to send me a video from Brassfacts giving his take on vehicle preparedness. I really have zero interest in commenting on it, in the same way I have no interest in celebrity gossip. With that said, he issued one bold declarative that’s such a stinking pile of …incorrectness, that I want to make it clear not only that I disagree, by why I disagree.
Short version of his position:
1. Overlanding is not preparedness.
2. Random magazines in your console is.
3. He got the wrong fire extinguisher.
First off, I don’t want to drop another million photos you’ve probably already seen. Or repeat old articles, like this Mythbusting: Bug Out Vehicles, which already make most of the important points.
I want to start with the more personal side of this take, which I generally don’t give outside of a class or friendship, and that is: I’ve been stranded in post disaster environments without mobility, in several spheres of violence, and in several contexts. The first time was Hurricane Katrina, and while I wasn’t there for the landfall, the aftermath was serious enough for long enough that you had to have layers to your plan for movement… especially if you wanted to get to where the aid was needed. It seems common sense, but necessarily, the people who need the most help are generally the least accessible. During Katrina, that often meant boats, but how do you get a boat to the flood?
Similarly, getting help (often supplies) to people are no longer in the Type 1, but still have the lingering Type 2 to contend with means having a vehicle that can get you in close enough to walk the supplies to the needy. It also means that you might be contending with downed trees, battered infrastructure, power poles lying down, flood waters, and other stranded vehicles blocking the way. There are ALL realities I’ve dealt with while working disasters. And, oddly enough, all except the power poles show up on vehicle based expeditions.
A point to be taken
There’s a trend here with this thinking that you’ve probably noticed, and dudes like BrassTacks probably haven’t:
Our goal isn’t to run away and hide someplace. It’s to help our communities.
Our other goal is to live full, adventurous lives, enriched by travel, friendship, and exploration.
So if the goal is running away, he gets a solid point correct: your vehicle isn’t always that important… but he doesn’t really emphasize the important why: because of planning.
Before we dive into some further thoughts, let’s loop back around to “overlanding”, and start with the ambiguousness of that term. It’s like saying “shooting”. It encompasses everything from 70 year old boomers sighting in their their deer rifle while wearing orange glasses, to Tacticon spinning rifles on their fingers doing reloads before mag dumping into trash. Like many things, the word doesn’t mean a whole lot anymore.
In it’s classic sense, “Overlanding” requires several elements:
The critical point to the term overland travel is that the purpose is to include at least two or more of the following:
1. Remote locations,
2. Cultures other than your own,
3. Under-explored or under-documented regions,
4. Self-reliance in unfamiliar territories for multiple days, weeks or months.
So, it’s prima facie that overlanding is NOT bugging out. No dip.
However, there IS often enough overlap in the Venn to observe that there are some strong similarities. Since we have to be our own Sn(n=1…9) this can fill a gap in our transportation section.
Let’s focus first on point 4. Self reliance in unfamiliar territories for multiple days, weeks, or months.
Assuming that your planning is accounting for these things, you’ll quickly find that the packing lists are pretty much identical whether your looking to go explore, or duck out ahead of a hurricane. This should trigger the question of “what if the disaster is something I can’t see coming?” such as an earthquake or flash flood. Well, that’s where we REALLY see the overlap and importance of having a capable vehicle. The idea of bugging out for an emergency you can plan for is true. We’ve been saying for years, if you’re able to plan, you can bug out in a Prius. But if you can’t, you’re at the mercy of your vehicles capability, or the chevrolegs. That’s the why of having the most capable vehicle possible.
Lil known facks
With all this talk, it probably sounds like car dudes trying to get other people into being car dudes. Car clubs are pretty insufferable, so that’s a vain effort.
It also looks like dudes with an expensive hobby stancing for the ‘gram. We don’t post prices, but let’s just take the 6 vehicles we’ve built between Jake, Gino, and Aaron in the last 4 years:
Not a single 1 cost upwards of $7500 to get on the road.
Gino’s Discovery 2 cost $200. With the repairs, and all in, I think we were at around $3200.
Aaron’s Disco 2 was $1250. After the rebuilt engine and all the mechanical preventative maintenance, he was at $3800.
Aaron’s FZJ80 was a mechanics special, and he took it home for $3750. After the rebuild, machining, and preventative maintenance, he was just shy of $7000.
The white rover and the FJ62 were both had for $3500, in running order (if a little ugly).
Jake’s 4Runner, a much newer ride, was $7500.
Now a couple points, because it is going to be easy to say “yeah, well, but…”
None of us are mechanics. We’re dudes with repair manuals, YouTube, and some basic tools. Before my (Aaron) HDJ81, I hadn’t change anything more than oil.
The second point is “that’s still a lot of money”, and it is/can be. But spread out over time, with the latitude to find deals and work as your able, its is pretty manageable, even on a budget. That said, you absolutely do NOT have to have a $180,000 investment in your vehicle to deal with emergencies or go get into some adventures. It can be done reasonably, on a budget, that a normal person can manage. Like anything, the more you can do yourself, the less it costs.
Another thing is that we often forget priorities. What’s it going to cost you to buy NVGs, mount, helmet, passive aiming, optic, and a laser/flood combo? Is it more useful to be able to don the same equipment as an operator, or hop a curb when traffic stops from road rage, a crash, or a protesting mob?
Said another way, your car is the mobility equivalent of your EDC.
End of the Line
Over the years, I’ve (Aaron) responded to a half dozen serious emergencies, and I’ve never once wished I had less vehicle, said “if only I didn’t have this winch!” or “damn this ground clearance!”, and I imagine no one else has either. I think you can make a really solid, logical argument for fuel consumption being a major weak link with this class of vehicles, but planning ahead can help us solve that.
There’s a real correlation with your mobility and your vehicles capability and while we can plan for some emergencies, we can’t plan for ALL of them. So even bugging out isn’t a certainty. Finally, Off-Road groups like Tollgate ORC do a TON of humanitarian aid, because they can. Personally I’d rather help people in need than just make a run for it.
We sketch this out in Understanding Emergencies, but the framework for many things in life is the same. We’ll eat food and drink water when on expeditions, as we will during emergencies. We’ll need a place to go to the bathroom and some reasonable hygienic safeguards in both instances. We will need a plan and ways of communicating it with our friends or loved ones. We will need some skills behind the wheel and under the hood to ensure our efforts go smoothly for both.
In short, vehicle based expeditions are an insanely applicable way of testing almost all of the elements you’ll experience trying to help in an emergency, in a way that’s enjoyable, productive, and can help form bonds with your team. Mobility is one of our Skill Pillars for a reason, and while overland/expeditions are a part of that, so is rally driving, motorcycle or motorboat operations, flying, and walking. Saying overlanding isn’t training for emergencies is like saying ‘hiking isn’t training for rucking’. It certainly can be, and it’s hard to find a more similar activity if you’re training.
So don’t overlook the viability of this concept because a dude who’s never done what’s he’s talking about says it’s so, and don’t let your friends, either. As always, bad practice travels at the speed of light.
If you ever want to talk shop, we’re always game. We can help find deals, talk about what to look for, and discuss the specifics and nuance of the (often frustrating) process of creating your own transpo for emergencies. The process can be maddening, but it’s also insanely enriching.