On Bug-Out Vehicles and What It Takes to Survive Extreme Situations
Jim DeLozier is a survival gear specialist whose renown company, Survivor Truck, has been featured in numerous American TV programs and Survivalist websites for the most stunning, custom truck conversions for hardcore, End-of-the-World survivability. You also get the coolest armored RV in your neighborhood for a Survivor Truck doubles as a regular overland adventuring.
Plenty of people in the U.S. and the world are now favoring custom armored overland adventuring vehicles for their personal use over camping trailer RVs or caravans as the Brits call them. With plenty of movies and books fueling the trend of Being-Ready-for-the-Apocalypse, rigging a survival vehicle off a base truck or choosing to spend good money on owning your own brand name bug-out vehicle is no longer some prepper's gear fetish but a real world concern for everyone.
Reach-unlimited was very fortunate to squeeze in an interview with Jim, in spite of his very busy schedule touring the country's various truck and custom overland adventuring exhibitions like SEMA.
We talk to him about Survivor Truck custom builds and survival tactics as well as overland adventuring tips for families and camping hobbyists.
REACH: Hello Jim! You have been featured in many media outlets for your first Survivor Truck conversion, which is both armored, Faraday-shielded, and contains water-and-air filtration systems as well as sophisticated navigation equipment and basic survival gear.
Survival trucks in general have in the past 5 years become very much in demand: from trailer systems, to outdoor vehicle conversions like your company. Even luxury vehicle manufacturers are offering survival trucks like the Knight XV and the Russian-flavored Pombron. Is it because overland adventuring is trending where you come from? Or do people just want to be safer in these uncertain times?
Jim DeLozier: I think both of those reasons are contributing to the popularity. But I also believe people want to have a bug-out or overland vehicle that they can use regularly and some people are choosing this type of vehicle over conventional motorcoaches (recreational vehicles called campers in the U.S. or caravans in the U.K.). With the vehicles that I build, you can take it camping or survive in severely austere environments. It is not just a bug-out vehicle, it is a family vehicle too.
REACH: How long does it take to convert any suitable outdoor vehicle fit enough to become a Survivor Truck? From basic protective rigging like armor conversions and Faraday-shield quality frames to the more extremist, survival safety rigging (EMP blasts and radiation), and other basic survival gear?
Jim DeLozier: When everything goes according to plan, I can get a truck built in 90- 120 days. Obviously, more sophisticated Survivor Truck vehicles can take a little longer.
REACH: Is the cost something that will go down over time for
survival gear and rigs or will upgrading from a pick-up or min-van to a dedicated survival vehicle always
cost a premium?
Jim DeLozier: We design each vehicle around the needs of the end user so each one is different. Each client has an idea of what they are trying to accomplish and we help them to achieve it. As such, most of my clients tend to have complex requirements and subsequently justify the premium. My clients often also have budget constraints so we design each Survivor Truck vehicle with their financial requirements in mind as well.
REACH: Why does an investment in a survival vehicle become almost essential these days compared to a decade ago?
Jim DeLozier: People are finally realizing that being prepared for the unexpected is something that every reasonable person did for centuries. A couple of generations forgot the lessons their grandparents taught them and now we are moving back toward that.
It isn’t crazy to have extra food or the ability to provide for your loved ones. In fact, it is crazy not to! My vehicles and consulting services provide peace of mind to those that want to take care of their families in challenging environments and they also have the coolest camper at the campground that they can use for weekend adventures.
REACH: You also teach survival tactics aside from custom vehicle conversions. Can you talk more about the kind of services, SurvivorTruck offers in this area?
Image Credit: Jim DeLozier, survivortruck.com The gear compartments in the cab of Survivor Truck 1 contain all the essentials of a post-apocalyptic survival situation-- water filters-purifiers, survival pantry, diesel generator, etc.
Jim DeLozier: We help people with almost every aspect of continuity planning. We can help you learn how to raise chickens or survive a home invasion and everything in between. We design bunkers, shelters, power generation, water filtration, green houses, hydroponics and many, many more things.
Obviously we design and build vehicles, trailers, boats and ATV’s along with communications, security, mesh networks and surveillance. We also teach all firearm disciplines from handgun to sniper, hand-to-hand combat, weapon and gear selection, hunting, fishing, trapping, evasion, tracking and more.
REACH: Does this concern overland adventuring tips, finding good places to stay off-grid, and camping tech as a jump-on point for survival training?
Jim DeLozier: Our goal is to provide the specific service that the client needs and we go to great lengths to satisfy our clients. We can help create solutions for off-grid, rural, semi-rural and densely populated areas.
REACH: Can you talk about the Survivor Truck 2 conversion...which seems like the more accessible Survivor Truck for most people looking for a basic conversion package: A roof-top tent and other inconspicuous features that make the pick-up truck just look like a weekend overland camping truck rigged out for the wilderness. What are the features of your new project compared with the max rig Survivor Truck 1.
Jim DeLozier: As I stated before, each vehicle is designed around the specific needs of the client. Some of the concerns of my clients are budget, height, weight, overt vs. covert design and others. I don’t try to make people like what I like. We begin each build by establishing a list of priorities by listing the needs of the client, followed by additional desires and especially finding out what they do not want as well. I am building a vehicle now for a client that has limits on all the above: height, weight and budget.
We are able to build him a vehicle that meets their budget and satisfies almost all of their requests. Of course, there are some things that are mutually exclusive of each other and can cause the priorities to be reassessed. For instance, armor is heavy and requires upgrades to the suspension and brakes so those costs need to be factored in and cannot be avoided.
The Survivor Truck 2 is built on Ford Excursion chassis, the largest SUV ever produced, with the extremely reliable Cummins 12 Valve diesel engine. It has a full exo-cage so it is not very covert. The Survivor Truck 3 is being built on Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab with very mild lift and very covert. It will have most of the complex systems and sub-systems but no one will know.
REACH: Are trailer systems any good? As opposed to integrating everything into the vehicle conversion itself? Would you custom build one? Or do you prefer truck-integrated survival systems over trailer systems like UEV from Australia?
Jim DeLozier: We design and build trailers too but some things need to be considered. One of my clients needed a trailer that could handle severe off-road conditions and be large enough to carry a side-by-side UTV and contain a mesh node, cameras, communications, solar array and water. We were able to design it!
Each application has its own challenges and we know that there is almost always a way to meet them. Unfortunately, sometimes the budgets do not allow us to do so. In fact the ST3 will be pulling one of our Survivor Trailers in the near future.
REACH: Talking about survival self-defense, we know that a SURVIVOR TRUCK would not be worth its salt if the owner had no options for self-defense. What would you recommend in this area--like gunports, or turret mounts? And even hand-to-hand weps like machetes or hunting crossbows?
Jim DeLozier: We believe in all forms of combat but the most valuable weapon is always your mind. We try to help our clients know how to think and not so much what to think. I am confident in my ability to survive with or without all the gear we have.
We focus on training people in every aspect of planning, training, execution and evaluation. We want to be sure that our clients have the right gear and are trained in the use of it. We know that going away for the weekend can present certain challenges but we also know that events lasting days, weeks, months and years present VERY different challenges. We also know that local, regional, national and international crises require different solutions as well. We understand these things and can help you to understand them too.
REACH: Thank you Jim for talking about Survivor Truck and everything we need to know about bug-out vehicles for camping and overland adventuring. We hope to see you make Survival Truck number 9, a survival bus or a survival train conversion in the near future too!