Prepping to ride out the apocalypse in a CR-V

Phil Berg
Car Culture

I blame the Boy Scouts for turning me into a packing fanatic: On trips, I’m careful not to pack more than I can run with, yet I always bring backup batteries, wires, tools and spare parts just in case.

I have a selection of backpack luggage and messenger bags that have more pockets, partitions and straps than you’d need for an Everest expedition. This affliction led me to discover the so-called “prepper” community a few years ago. Preppers are folks who head for the hills with enough supplies that they can endure without society’s help after a storm such as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, or the Y2K scare of the new millennium. Or a pending “doomsday” event, as predicted by some reactions to last week’s election.

Being prepared for disaster survival isn’t too crazy an idea for Americans. A year ago famous newsman Ted Koppel published a book warning that Americans aren’t well prepared for a failing electrical grid and its resulting doomsday effects.

After writing “Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath”, Koppel revealed he keeps a couple months supply of freeze-dried food at his home for his three kids and seven grandkids, as well as two emergency generators, all just in case the power grid fails. In his book, Koppel estimates there are three million preppers in the U.S., and suggests that modern disaster preparation has been inspired by the Mormon church, which the book claims has large supply storehouses, its own dairies and farms, and even its own trucking operation to distribute goods after a disaster.

The process of prepping for a doomsday has caught our collective attention. The National Geographic channel introduced the “Doomsday Preppers” reality show in 2012 and it was quickly followed by Discovery channel’s “Doomsday Bunkers.” The preppers show featured people living in steel houses, storing 50,000 pounds of food for themselves and a couple dozen friends and family, and ran for four seasons, spawning terms such as “hacktivists,” which are political activists armed with laptops that could potentially disable the electric grid and cause other doomsday events.

So what do you drive to “bug out,” a term used by preppers meaning to escape the inevitable carnage of cities thrust into chaos after doomsday strikes?

A Honda CR-V was chosen by Argentinian Fernando Aguirre, author of “The Modern Survival Manual,” to avoid roads blocked by riot debris after experiencing the 2002 economic collapse in his home country. He praises the CR-V’s fuel economy as its most important feature during Argentina’s fallen-government doomsday.

“Having experienced all these roadblocks and knowing that the guys that have 4x4s and off-road capabilities just went off-road” to avoid problems, he explained, “I wanted a vehicle that would be able to go over the curb and on the sidewalk and have a good amount of ground clearance to avoid problems if I had to make an emergency U-turn somewhere, while not being so high that would not make it reasonable for everyday commuting and use.”

In addition to fuel economy and ground clearance, Aguirre said that the CR-V shares enough parts with the globally ubiquitous Civic that it would be easy to find parts for cheap repairs during an economic crisis. He also noted that being smaller than a Humvee or a more common American prepper’s full-size pickup, the CR-V would be capable of squeezing through blocked highways and urban alleyways where other doomsday vehicles would get stuck.

“For me it’s not about off-road,” added Aguirre, who says having a bug-out vehicle that works well in daily use means it’s there when you need it.

Aguirre says doomsday vehicle modifications he has seen include heavy plastic film on a vehicle’s glass so rocks and bricks don’t shatter the windows, and another necessity for a doomsday travel: run-flat tires. In Argentina during the 2002 crisis, he said, if a tire blew out, there was a good chance it was caused by car-jackers.

Here in the U.S., CR-V owners who are also preppers agree with Aguirre: YouTube member Mixflip said he likes CR-Vs because they are affordable, the engines are reliable, and the all-wheel-drive works well in mud, sand and snow.

“Sometimes smaller is better so you can squeeze in there and get away especially if there are obstacles in the road,” he said. Good fuel economy “means a lot when you are trying to get really far away.” He would, however, add a three-inch suspension lift and all-terrain tires to his CR-V.

Prepper fan and YouTube member LeonRFpoa, who also goes by the name East Coast Prepper, said his CR-V is full of cans of food, water, a propane heater, and extra power jacks for running phones, computers, a CB radio — for when the satellite and cell phone services fail — and flashlights. His CR-V also packs a large crow bar to smash out a window if the CR-V gets stuck in a ditch, and it has solar panels to charge batteries. Blending automotive and prepper lingo, he calls his CR-V a “Cross-Out Vehicle.”

To paraphrase the Boy Scout motto for preppers and everyone else who feels an urge to bug out: “Drive prepared.”

Phil Berg is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.