One only has to look at the chaos around an evacuation during a natural or unnatural disaster to be able to appreciate the idea of a handy bugout vehicle. It is a sad fact of life that it is not always possible to live away from disasters, or to escape the area of a disaster in a timely fashion.

Now, there are all manners of ways to escape. You could try heading out on foot, but that is probably ill advised unless you just need to get a few miles away and can carry enough gear with you. Driving out is traditional, but leaves you facing clogged roads. If you are near the ocean, a boat might work. A bicycle has a lot going for it, including not requiring fuel – but does need the survivor to be in good physical shape, which excludes the disabled, elderly, etc… But what about a motorcycle?

“But I can’t fit my enormous super bugout kit on a motorcycle” you wail. Well I can’t fit my enormous… you know what, never mind. You have a point. But you know what you can fit on a motorcycle? Yourself.

A basic kit in saddlebags, and your three day kit in a nice easy to carry backpack on your back. And you can take that motorcycle places cars can’t go. And if you are a decent rider, you might even be able to make your way through roads that are clogged with people in their cars trying to get out of town. Heck, if you use a dirt bike, you can go where there are barely any roads at all.

But how do you choose a good bugout motorcycle? How do you put one together? And is it really worthwhile? Those are all good questions, and deserve good answers.

Choosing the Bugout Motorcycle


The earliest motorcycle from the late 1860’s was this steam powered contraption. Not very useful for the modern prepper!

Not all motorcycles are created equally. However, what you need from a bugout motorcycle is highly subjective and depends heavily on your unique needs and plans. With that in mind, there are still a few criteria that universally apply.

  • The bugout motorcycle should be powerful enough to carry you and your basic kit. No lightweight engines and small frames should apply here.
  • Parts must be readily available. If you are bugging out, you need to know that you can get parts if something goes wrong.
  • You should be able to easily work on the bugout motorcycle yourself. Naturally this depends on your level of mechanical skill and comfort with your particular motorcycle. Buy one you can work on.
  • Buy a popular model of bike to increase the availability of used or post-SHTF scavenged parts.
  • The bugout motorcycle should be suitable for the terrain you are bugging out from or to. If you can reasonably expect to stay on maintained pavement, then a zippy little commuter bike might be just the ticket. If you are expecting rougher conditions, then your motorcycle should reflect that.
  • The bugout motorcycle should be comfortable to operate. Too many people equate prepping and survival with some sort of romantic idea of roughing it and being needlessly uncomfortable. Screw that. Get a motorcycle that is comfortable. Being miserable is for suckers.
  • You need to be able to afford the bugout motorcycle.
motorcycle vacationers

You can carry enough gear on your motorcycle for a proper bugout – or vacation.

Now what bike meets all those criteria? It is impossible to say. If you are looking for a magic bullet of “buy this bike” you won’t find it here.

YOU, the self reliant prepper must step up to the plate here and go “hmm, I live in Seattle, and if things go south, I plan to head south and stay with my crazy hippie friends on their small farm outside of Olympia.”

In a scenario like that, you need a bugout bike that you can take down the freeway or along the side roads. You might be bugging out in rain or cold, wet weather. You aren’t going far, so you just need an easy to carry kit. There are plenty of motorcycles that will work in this case.

The number of scenarios to bike combinations likely are infinite, or close to it. Look to your needs, and match them to the bugout bike.

Putting the Bugout Motorcycle Together

ww1 motorcycle machine gun

How to assemble a bugout motorcycle WWI style.

Let’s say you’ve got a motorcycle. Or have decided on which one you need. Great! Now what? Well, you could sit on your theoretically well prepared butt waiting for disaster to strike, and then smugly ride off into the sunset. Or you could make sure that you are ready to make use of your bugout motorcycle.

We all know the amount of gear that can be carried on a motorcycle is limited. We also know adding things like trailers or sidecars increases the cargo and passenger carrying capacity, but also adds to the complexity of operating the bugout motorcycle. For instance, you might not be able to work your way through clogged freeways with a sidecar or trailer in tow. Or that might not matter. You have to decide if those choices are worthwhile for yourself.

But let us assume we are working with a motorcycle without a trailer or sidecar. What are your choices for transporting your survival kit on it?

Well, there are all manner of saddlebags you could make use of.  As the name suggests, these are simply bags that strap to either side of the back of your motorcycle, typically over the rear fender. The size varies, but you can readily pack a pretty good kit into them. While you’ll need to dedicate some space to tools and small spare parts, you still should be able to store plenty of survival gear in them.


Along with saddlebags, you can often strap a tent and/or sleeping bag to the back of your seat (assuming you are riding alone.) The clever prepper will immediately see the chance to insert any number of additional small objects into their bedroll, like a spare knife, some small food packets, or whatever else you might want to roll up in there.

There are also motorcycle luggage boxes you can get. Mounting behind the rider, they offer additional storage space, and can be used in conjunction with saddlebags. Their main benefit is keeping things dry, and also adding a layer of lockable security to whatever is in them.

What about carrying a rifle with you? Well, some guns like an AR-15 style rifle might be broken down enough to fit into your bedroll, or maybe saddlebags. Or you can strap it across your back with or without a case if you aren’t worried about people reacting to that. Or you can get a hard case that straps to the side of your motorcycle. You’ll have to decide which one is the best choice for your needs.

And naturally you’ll be carrying some sort of backpack on your back. Right? Now this one is tricky, because too large a backpack could be dangerous. The best choice would be some sort of “assault” pack – duplicating the smaller USGI style packs that carry a basic 72-hour loadout. Between the backpack, saddlebags, and a luggage box, you should have plenty of gear to get you where you are going, and to setup comfortably once you arrive.

Using the Bugout Motorcycle

Patriotic Motorcycle

Equipped with extra storage, this patriotic bike is ready to cruise – or bugout. ‘Murica. Heck yeah!

There is no right way to use your bugout motorcycle. We’ll assume at this point you’ve evaluated your needs and selected the most suitable bike. You’ve put your kit together, and added any storage solutions, trailer or sidecar. You are ready for the fecal matter to hit the proverbial oscillating blades. Now what?

In an ideal world, you’ll only use that bike for having fun and transportation. Your careful plans, and preparations will never be put to use, and someday your children or grandchildren will inherit a wicked cool survival bike.

But we don’t live in an ideal world do we? We live in a post industrial society that is undergoing serious social upheavals. Natural disaster can strike at any time, and most people are only a paycheck or few days without food away from losing the thin veneer of Western civilization and reverting to a more violent and desperate lifestyle.

Your bugout motorcycle is an edge against terrorism, natural disaster, or anti civil liberties zombie hordes bent on remaking the United States into some sort of sick parody of Venezuela where everyone is equally free to starve.

The classic bugout strategies apply here. Get out early if you can. If you can’t, take the easiest way out. If you are in a city or urban environment, the main roads and arterials will be clogged. You might be able to zip through those clogged streets by riding on the shoulder, or between lanes. Odds are there won’t be anyone enforcing traffic laws if it comes to that. Once you break free of gridlock, you are home free and good to go for as long as your fuel holds out. You are carrying spare fuel right? Good.


There is a lot more that could be addressed, but that is the case with most survival topics. A prepper should read this article and start asking themselves, “what did the mad historian leave out?”

Well, I left out a lot. The tools and spare parts to carry are something you should meditate closely on. The tactics of using a trailer or sidecar add a layer of complexity to the situation and may violate the KISS principle we all should adhere to.

What you should carry in your various kits (and that really is how you should look at how you equip your bike. Each saddlebag or case is a kit unto itself.) You need to consider security as well. Motorcycles can be easily stolen or loaded into a larger vehicle. Equipment and weapons strapped to it can be a tempting target for thieves. You are a rolling supply cache, and at times that can inspire criminals to try and take what you have put aside for yourself.

Safety gear is something else you need to consider. All your bugout plans will be worthless if your brains are smeared across the asphalt because you were too proud or stubborn to wear a helmet, or bought a cheap one.

The smart survivor will wear safety gear when bugging out, because that is part of a survival strategy too. Choose gear sufficient for what you will use it for, and is comfortable to wear. Don’t skimp on it. Just like nobody ever wished they had a smaller caliber gun in a fight, nobody wishes for less safety gear in an accident.

A well equipped bugout motorcycle can be an invaluable addition to your survival plans. It isn’t for everyone, but if it is for you, then the time to start putting one together is now. Street bikes probably works better for urban and city dwelling preppers, and dirt bikes can better aid rural preppers.

But wildfires across the American west show us just how at risk even rural preppers are. When you have little time to escape, a fast and agile motorcycle might be what you need to survive a forest fire. Make your choices carefully, and wisely, and then hope you never have to face the scenarios you’ve planned for. And until then, enjoy your bike!