Monday, January 20, 2020

Emergency Tiny Trailer Bug-out Readiness

tiny trailer emergency camping bug-out procedures
The "Disaster Wagon." (Photo Larry Woodman)

Recently I wrote about how tiny trailer owners keep their rigs stocked, and I also received quite a few comments about owners who keep their tiny trailers ready to go because of the possibility of an emergency disaster situation. Owners mentioned maintaining some preparedness for all kinds of emergencies--tsunamis, earthquakes, fire, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Even with this geographic and type-of-disaster diversity, it seemed that many of the bug-out procedures were either for fire or hurricane.

The interesting reality is that not much additional preparations were required to make that shift from "prepped for camping" to "prepped for a bug-out." Most campers mentioned coming home after a trip and then cleaning and restocking the permanent trailer supplies after removing perishables. Most disaster preparations just went a bit further by including water and non-perishable foodstuffs either in the trailer or on a shelf in a box right next to the trailer. One camper uses recreational camping as a way to test equipment that could be used for an emergency. "Every outing is used to evaluate the preparedness level of the 'Disaster Wagon.' The latest upgrade is the tow vehicle and maybe lifting the trailer an inch or two."

"Ready to roll in an hour." (Photo Diane Ewoldt)
"I keep my galley loaded with trailer specific pots/pans/coffee press, utensils and foil/zip lock bags," says one camper. "The water jug and cooler are stored in the galley ready to be filled (often happens closer to our destination for short trips). I have two large plastic weatherproof locking bins that live in the trailer--a white one for food storage, and a black one for tools/propane tanks, electric extension cord, rope, bungees, tarp, hammer, shovel, fire starters, the 'dirty' supplies. I have a canvas tool bag that has a contents list that I always pack for any trip (wrench, sockets, screwdriver, fuses for the trailer). I keep a spice box in the house that is ready to fill with fresh supplies. I have an index card that has the non-perishables listed to include, like oil, sugar, flour, tea/coffee, and condiments. I can be ready to roll in an hour because I don't need to hunt for any camping supplies since they are all stored on the roof rack or in the trailer."
Bugging out would then consist of quickly loading the camper--tossing in two or three boxes--or taking a bit more time if possible and adding a few non-essentials and/or perishables. As one camper said: "My trailer is always ready. It is also for emergencies. I rotate the food and water in it." The goal for these campers is to get the rig ready to camp, and then have a few "also" necessities nearby.

Below are some examples of tiny trailer owners from several FB groups who have upped their preparedness for a bug-out.
  • "We live in California earthquake zone, so we keep ours ready with some water; full propane tanks; some basic food, such as rice and beans (mouse proof containers); and bathroom gear, towels and basic meds. In the event we need to hustle out we’re pretty ready to roll! It’s sort of our earthquake or fire prep kit! Also our little TT has its own set of dishes and pots and pans, and towels and blankets, which makes getting ready for camp trips a breeze."
  • "The 'Disaster Wagon' was built with the idea of being a lifeboat in case the house becomes unlivable. So having a staged tote full of MRE and Mountain House meals inside is needed, and if I'm late setting up, a battle ration is ok for freshness testing and a meal familiarization exercise (not in the mood for dishes). My goal is to be able to 'bug out' in the event of a level 2 or 3 evacuation notice within twenty minutes."
  • "We live in a National Forest in California. Our teardrop is part of our emergency plan. It's always packed and ready to go: grab a few boxes of important stuff, food from the freezer, and then hook up and go! During the summer we had a fire start about six miles from our home. It took us fifteen minutes to load up and be ready to go. Fortunately, CalFire hit it hard with aircraft and retardant, so the fire was contained to 25 acres or so. It was a good drill for us, testing our preparedness. Our trailer is easy to access and hook up. Easy to tow and handles the backroads great! We also used it to help get through the power outages. The solar panel charged our cell phones and flashlights. Our Yeti cooler kept our food cold, and we have a stove for cooking. Our teardrop is a great asset to have!"
  • "When we had the hurricane in Florida a couple of years ago, our teardrop was perfect for evacuation, and when we returned home without electricity, we slept great with the generator running the a/c in it."
  • "Bug out ready!! All of our dishes and sheets stay in, along with some MREs. If we decide to be spontaneous on a weekend, then I only throw together some fresh food and we hit the road!"
Some tiny trailer owners, as noted in the last comment in the above list, don't necessarily bug-out but do find their camping-ready trailer a great alternative when local utilities fail. Then what they find themselves doing is camping out in their own driveway or backyard. Sometimes the bug-out becomes more like an "enforced" fun camping trip!
  • "We’re in earthquake country, and our utility companies shut down every time there’s a gusty wind." 
  • "I evacuated from the Sonoma County Kincade fire and took my home with me to the beautiful beach in Fort Bragg, California. Thank god for my teardrop! She saved me and my fur babies." 
  • "We're always ready to roll over here, sans food. I grew up like that, too. It's a good lifestyle. Another perk living in California, we had it ready for evacuation last year when fires got too close. It was seriously awesome knowing we wouldn't have been displaced and I could pack all my photos and such in the car and still have room."
  • "Closing out day three with no electricity at home due to horrible storms in central Wisconsin. The great thing about being a teardrop owner is that you can 'camp' with the best of them with little to no power! We’ve pulled out our camping supplies and made this a fun three-day staycation so far!" 
  • "I know I have [disaster readiness] in mind, since my son had to set himself up for off-grid living in his apartment in Puerto Rico. He can charge his phone, collect and filter water, run a small fan, and keep food cold. It's reassuring to know I can do the same if necessary." 
One comment made by someone who had to bug out confessed to being completely reader except for not expecting to pick up a couple of extra folks who needed a way out! Another point of interest was that one camper had once bugged out with a big rig, but now feels even more prepared for an emergency with a smaller trailer. Tiny trailers with rear hatches and galleys seem to be easily stocked and maintained.

tiny trailer emergency camping bug-out procedures
"Everything breakable is already packed away for traveling." (Photo Nacy Mackey)
"[We have not evacuated] with our current teardrop, but when we had our larger 27-foot trailer. It was summer, and the camper was already stocked. We evacuated for a week due to wildfire. We had two hours to leave, and were glad we had the camper. We went to a KOA in area without fire danger and had to leave because the campground could not handle the electric load (they were full to capacity and everyone was running AC). We ended up in our church parking lot, then at a friends' home. I would feel much more prepared now with our T@b, which is better equipped for boondocking." 
Most tiny trailer owners who have planned and prepared to some degree for an emergency evacuation commented that they haven't actually had to bug-out. And, needless to say, they are okay with that. "I was packed and ready for evacuation during fire season a couple of years ago, and realizing that we'd be okay if we had to leave for a while. Thankfully, we didn't have to go, but it was good knowing that we could." For those who have medicines that require refrigeration or medical devices that require electricity, having a bug-out rig that includes solar and perhaps a generator could literally be a lifesaver.

I'm fortunate that, living in SE Iowa, I don't have to worry about many disasters except tornadoes, not even from flooding where I live. For tornadoes, my basement is the safest shelter, and bugging out really isn't a viable option. In the winter, there is always the possibility of power outage; however, my house has a woodstove to keep up warm. If there were an extended power outage, though, I'm sure our Coleman stove might find some service! Our neighborhood joke is that if there is ever a long-term power outage in the winter, all our neighbors have an evacuation plan--heading over to our house!

On the basis of campers who have considered the need for preparing for natural disasters and have taken precautions, I think keeping some readiness can be a good idea, especially since the difference between "ready to go camping" and "bug-out ready" is not great in terms of preparation. Oh, and be sure to keep your tow vehicle full of gas!

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  1. I could get ready to go in an hour or less. I fear there would not be much room for pictures. Fire would be a concern in Oregon. If at home for other emergencies, it would be a mistake to leave home. Even for fire, I could go sit in the creek if necessary.

    In a campground, I could be ready to leave before most, but the roads would be jammed with cars. I am often at the coast, but so are a million others. There are tsunami route signs but a person would need to be one of the first to get out or be hung up in traffic. In those cases, I could be out very quickly. I rarely unhook the trailer, and I don't unload a bunch of stuff at the campground. I would only have enough food for less than a week, and dog food, however. All I'd have to do is throw the dog in the car and go. The Clam shelter could be left behind if necessary. So, yeah I've thought about it. I have extra propane. The cooler stays on front of trailer. Food and miscellaneous is in back of car. To be away from home in a disaster would be scary.

    When I get near the campground, I fill the gas tank and usually have two gallons extra with me,

    There are earthquakes off the coast, and a lot of people do not live where they could survive a tsunami, schools would be in trouble, etc. If a tsunami happened at night, it could wipe out a lot of people, including those in campgrounds.

    Earthquakes would be very interesting. They say everything between the I5 freeway and the coast would be in danger, which could include me. I think there should be some drills to see what it would be like.

    1. Thanks for your detailed response! I think a lot of tiny trailer owners are like you in that it wouldn't take long to leave a campground. I agree with you that the biggest obstacle to evacuation would be having the rig ready but with traffic jams on the road.

  2. We have a teardrop with a rear kitchen and our tow vehicle is an off-road capable 4x4 Toyota Tacoma pickup with a canopy and a roof-top tent. I'm in process of building a kitchen slide in the pickup bed. This will give us the flexabilty to use the right tool for the trip (when traveling together we mainly base camp; when I'm solo I prefer a more overland style). We're thinking of making the pickup kitchen our one and only to simplify things; after all, the truck will always be along when we're teardrop camping. We'll experiment with that this summer. Our teardrop is somewhat buried in our one car garage, so hooking up does take some time. Having the truck with RTT and kitchen will make it easy to bug out in a hurry since we won't have to deal with the teardrop.

    We didn't really plan it that way, but as you said, there's not much difference between a planned outing and an emergeny bug out.

    1. It sounds like you have a flexible set-up. I'm still learning about rooftop tents. The slide-out kitchen with the truck sounds like a good idea. You will have it wherever you go, trailer or not. Having a shelter that fits over the kitchen might be pretty easy. I know Batwing Awnings has some interesting designs.