Ideal Bug Out Boat For Preparedness

Bug Out Boat

Guest post by “Bogan”

Boat To Safety.

The images of the flooding in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey are everywhere in the media these days. They are filled with pictures of boats of one kind or another which are being deployed to get the living to safety, among other tasks.

The Cajun Navy and other flotillas are out in force and Bass Pro, among others, has donated boats to the cause. Every imaginable kind of boat seems to be out there ranging from small kayaks to bass boats to air boats to ski boats, speed boats and party barges (pontoon boats) and more. All are doing good work.

And why not? After all, boats have a storied history (starting with Noah!) of getting people to safety.

With the Hurricane Harvey flooding experience etched into people’s minds if you were to ask a Gulf Coast resident today “if you knew a worst case scenario was coming to your neighborhood what kind of boat would you have to get you (and who and what are important to you), to safety?”, I expect you would get a variety of opinions.

The question is not a purely academic one; rather it invites a practical assessment.

Even though I don’t live in Houston, I have family and business associates that live there, so have special interest when looking at the scenario presented. So how would I answer that question?

Looking at it from afar, for a small family in Houston or anywhere near the Gulf Coast for that matter, I suspect an ideal craft would be something like a wide beamed johnboat with a sturdy hull, with some sort of jet-drive motor or “mud” motor.

The reason for the flat bottom and the motor type is to enable the boat to run in shallow water. The sturdy hull is to maintain integrity with hidden objects and stay afloat.

The motor types (actually there are several variants of “mud motors”) are designed to run with impunity in shallow water.

This type of boat would designed to allow a small family a good chance at escape to safety in a flooding scenario, even if it meant launching from your driveway in the face of rising water.

(Keeping with practicalities: If you boat, fish or hunt in the good times, a boat like this would see a lot of use in that region, so it would not be an expensive lawn ornament gathering dust waiting for the thousand year flood or other Armageddon event.)

The same question could also be asked of any of the readers of this blog in their unique situations, wherever located.

For example, my worst case scenario doesn’t involve flooding, as our home is on a hill, but rather a need to reposition my family from the outskirts of a major eastern metropolis to a designated location some 50 miles away. If the need to move arises, I estimate the roads will be clogged or otherwise dangerous. A boat is an option — my starting point and destination are in the same drainage.

(If you are located inland, since rivers are the “road” for a boat, one can easily find maps of drainages to see what their own route to safety might be.)

The path I need to follow is to wrestle a boat approximately one mile (mostly downhill) where I can put it into a sizeable feeder stream, and from there navigate it to a river and then to a large lake.

My designated location is at the far end of the lake, and a mile or so back in the woods.

I have picked a light and narrow 14’ semi-vee aluminum boat with a fairly flat bottom near the stern, which drafts very little water (i.e. it floats high).

Light because it has to be carried – and at 115 lbs, a thirty something or two fifty somethings can carry it.

Semi-vee because the hull type handles large water better than a flatbottom, and narrow prow helps to thread through narrow spots, and past “sweepers” in the river.

It will hold three people, plus emergency gear, plus a small but strong outboard (15hp) that can scoot us quickly to safety once the water depth permits.

Finding a suitable aluminum boat used is not an expensive proposition – sometimes they are available for free. I picked up mine on craigslist for $100 a few years ago – the amount is not unusual for a used boat, although new it would be around $1,800.

Some tweaks I have made to it are to fortify the carry handles, paint it camo inside and out to reduce its visibility, coat the bottom with a special paint to withstand rock damage, and install an extra set of oarlocks so two sets of oars can row at once (EMP proof!).

Everybody’s scenario is different, though. For some, open water like the great lakes or the ocean might be a factor, for others a boat might be just one of several options on a multi-platform contingency plan (motor home, boat, motorcycle, bicycle).

Any scenario drives different boat choices, and the possibilities are wide ranging.

What is your worst case scenario, and is a boat one of your solutions? What is the reasoning behind your choices?



  1. I would think that an air boat would be ideal considering all the debris in the water including cars just below the surface. If you hit any of those with a motor you are likely going to need rescue yourself if your motor is no longer operable. I agree with the wide flat bottom boat for stability. Of course any boat using oars will be slow going but I would think safer. Then again, any boat in a flood is better than nothing. Good article Bogan.

  2. If i were looking for a bug out boat it would be a small trimaran, the corsair is real nice, they are small but one man can sail them and they are fast.
    I aint bugging anywhere, i wouldnt even evac if the government ordered us to, short of Haleakala erupting theres nothing that could compel me to leave my AO

    1. Let me clarify,,, for myself, we live on an island, we dont get standing water where i live, in the low lands yes, but not up here, if its a catastrophy that would necessitate a bug out it would be a bit more complex than needing a flat bottom boat to get across town, hence a fast trimaran that can run open ocean. Anything that requires fuel is a no go! A dingy would be useless.

      1. Problem with Corsairs is they cost as much as a small bunker! Our pocket cruiser is currently on her trailer in the backyard. Not much of a chance of flooding here but the Cascadia fault is nearby. We are not in the projected inundation zone but who really knows. If we get a big quake I’m heading for the boat!

        With the typical torrential rain type floods I agree, big and flat bottom is probably the best way to go. Lots to be said for pontoon boats as also mentioned. Heck you can pitch a tent on them.

        For smaller boats consider folding dingy wheels. About $80.00 and they mount on the transom. A lot to be said about inflatables and you should probably stay away from the Wallyworld/Chinamart stuff but better than nothing if that’s all your budget can afford. Hypalon is tougher than PVC and I’m talking about the Zodiac type boats here. Kind of like saying Xerox for copiers as I wouldn’t own a Zodiac.

        They are PVC and just don’t hold up as well as Hypalon. Mine is an Achilles, It’s a bit a bit bigger than a couple of suitcases and can fit in a closet. Outboard motors are available with jet drives. I can’t really see a need for a huge motor in most flooding situations.

        Got to run as the smoke is down today and we are painting. for all those in the east coast you’re in my prayers with Irma. Now Category 5 with sustained winds over 180 mph.

        1. I like those aluminum flat bottom boats, we used to use those for setting nets, are great in shallow water

  3. I agree with Peanut Galley on the airboat. I would also dare to say a wide platform pontoon boat. Draft would be the biggest issue so make sure you got oars if the motor won’t clear the bottom/debris. Either way, keep a rubber mallet, pieces of aluminum sheet and caulk/resin for repairs if you do. Pontoons have the advantage of canopies, more storage and their great for sleeping on if in calm enough waters. Disadvantages of speed and pushing in higher winds.

  4. You will probably have to do some walking in shallow water with a boat too, so don’t forget waders. Wouldn’t want to walk through any water (chemicals, poop, etc) after a storm. Also, if you’ve never worn waders before, learn what to do if your waders begin to get “swamped”. I’ve been taught to pull your knees up and hopefully trap some air so you can float a little. Don’t forget life jackets! I wear a life jacket when wearing waders also. p.s. my doggy has a life jacket too.

    The trucks are loaded and we’re headed to Idaho!!! Thanks for the invite ya’ll, Beach’n :D

  5. We live just outside Houston in the NW ide of town. Our pastures flooded all around us but the house stayed drying, even after a final rain total of 34″.

    We do not currently have a boat, but after going through Harvey, we will be getting one soon.

    We felt bad that we did not have the resource of a boat to try and help people during this storm and if it happens again (which it will since Houston floods) we will be ready.

    A few things we did learn is the currents were very swift at some locations and a lot of the smaller boats & kayaks were turned away for safety reasons and debris is a big factor.

    So, we are going to probably go with a larger flat bottom boat with at least a 75 hp engine.

  6. I live in Houston and am thinking of getting a “bateau”, flat bottom, aluminum, skiff 10 to 14 foot, with small outboard motor. This will work for bayou evacuation but risky for the bay because low sides.

    Ken when I was a boy we lived on Trinity Bay and had a 14 foot v stem ,flat bottom fiberglass boat and never had a problem in rough water but recommend you have life preservers for everybody on board. Higher sides are better for lakes and bays.

    By the way my home did not flood but water filled the streets up to my door. Never seen any thing like it. Neighbors flooded closer to Brays Bayou they had several feet of water. We bought our home based on elevation.

  7. I could see our democrap gov doing that here,,, would be the last thing they would ever do

  8. Bogan
    Well written article, much better than that old fart writing about TP, HAHAHA
    Honestly I have given little or no thoughts to a Bugout Boat, since I live in the middle of the Desert about 300 feet above the nearest river. I will guarantee ya if that floods that much, the world has a lot more problems that me having a Boat.

  9. Glad I don’t live there, I would be a criminal or maybe worse. But, we have a damucrap governor here in Washington also. His only saving grace might be he know what he would be up against with all the hunters, farmers and ranchers in the state.

    Praying for all in Irma’s path to have sane heads and safety.

  10. Perhaps new homes on a flood plain could include some type of water conveyance, such as rubber life raft, etc. There’s no one size fits all, however, something is better than nothing. Perhaps emergency mgmt. could possibly plan ahead where people could go for evacuation. And how those who have no means to evacuate could get there. Something has to be done in order to reduce gridlock during an evacuation. If by chance a missile were to find it’s way to a major metro area, I think that a lot of people will be getting out of Dodge, evacuation order, or not.

    1. In Oregon last Saturday, an alert came on about evacuating from fires in the mountains. After the PSA, a reporter interviewed folks affected by the fires. One woman whined “Where are we supposed to go!”

      Lady, you are supposed to be an adult. You are supposed to take care of you and yours.

      Relying on the government agents got us into this mess. So forget about ’emergency mgmt’. The government agents are busy taking care of the government agents. You can read all about it in ‘Continuation Of The Government Agents Plan’ at a library (a government library) or on the Internet. Obviously, their only goal is advancing their careers. If they cared about you, they wouldn’t be government agents.

  11. We are at the top of the hill! You all know the saying “You either be at the top of the hill or the bottom of the hill”. This works for snow or high water. If it backs up to my door it be Arkie, Arkie time. As a Jewish carpenter the big Boss has sent no work order so I think we be O.K. If I was getting a boat it would be a John Boat from Bass Pro Shop’s. Only thing I would get different is the outboard motor with a water jet lower. Have used this set up in Alaska and the Northwest and never had a problem in rivers or around sandbar.

  12. I use an aluminum puddle jumper made by Montgomery Wards, and it is like yours with a shallow 6 HP motor which carries 650 lbs. It is low enough for the dogs to jump in and I put a board and carpet on the bottom, it is flatter in the mid to back and perfect for shallow channels. It floats in 6 inches of water loaded with 2 people. Never got stuck.

    1. Lots to be said about lifejackets, The type 3 wrap around ones that you wear like a vest are the least protective but most popular. The type 2 typically orange and worn on the front with a yoke over the shoulders and behind the head offer much better protection and cost less. It should be a no brainer in choosing between the 2 and the 3. I still see the older type 2’s in thrift stores. they have a rounded look to them (the newer ones look squared off) Stay away from them! They are filled with kapok and the plastic bags are prone to failure as are the stitches that hold them together. Type 1s are required on commercial boats and are probably more than needed for a flood but they do provide more protection at a much heftier price. A lot to be said for inflatables but the too are pricey.

      1. me

        good info to provide. Myself, I know almost nothing about them, except they are “supposed” to keep one’s head above water.

        more info/more detailed might be useful…surely there are others like myself..

        also, I am wondering with the two big hurricanes/severe flooding….
        how about those “survival” suits…? is it feasible? or are they entirely too priced?

        1. @ Anon….check out the US Coast Guard site. It will give you all the info you need. And yes, survival suits are kinda pricey.

        2. Available on Ebay in very good condition for less than a $100. I bought a couple form a guy in India. He works in ship breaking yard where old ships are tuned into scrap. Most of these ships make it to the yard under their own power and as such are supplied with the needed equipment for going offshore. The ships are stripped off usable equipment and the stuff is sold. Go to eBay and search for immersion suits.

      2. me
        just watching the news, and one woman said
        they had helmets and lifejackets….

    1. Amen! Maybe not even cold but surely dead!

      Congress passed a law after the mayor of New Orleans did the same thing after Katrina, Made it illegal to resend our 2nd amendment rights. Went on line and checked it out yeaterday after I read this post. The NRA filed suit then and is filing suit again. They never learn and they walk among us, worst they reproduce and they vote.

  13. Flat bottom aluminum boat with a 35-hp motor and oars. The motor will move you around quickly and the oars will get you through too-shallow water. OR a canoe with paddles and a small motor. The aluminum boat is more stable though.
    The thing is, take a tent and camping supplies with you when you go because no hotel rooms will be available and who knows if you’ll find any other shelter?
    – Extra fuel for the motor
    – Tent
    – Cots (to stay up off the cold ground)
    – Gas camping stove
    – Your own stored water (flood water is deadly even if boiled because you can’t boil or filter liquid chemicals out)
    – Freeze-dried meals
    – Pot, skillet and utensils
    – Flashlights/lantern
    – Handheld CBs in case cell service is out
    – Small battery-powered AM/FM radio
    – Batteries
    – Extra clothes
    – ID and important documents in water-tight containers
    – Cash/silver
    – Firearms/ammo in water-tight cases (except for your carry gun). I put this one last because to me it’s the most obvious.

    1. Oh yeah, take a couple of old pails to bail out your boat if necessary.

  14. I’m thinking a canoe would make a great craft to bug out in. You will likely have to portage out every now and again and a jon boat would likely require several people to help accomplish this.

  15. 14′ to 16′ aluminum Jon Boat would be my pick. A 2.5 -5 hp 4 stroke class gas motor will move you faster then one would think. A trolling motor and a solar set up to recharge your battery(s) is another option. My reasoning for a small motor is weight and fuel efficiency. Remember this doesn’t need to be high speed tournament fishing rig. This boat should be rigged with oars, small anchor, and lights. You could go all out and add a Marine Radio, cheap depth finder, and bilge pump. The last modification would be putting foam blocking under the seats. Makes the boat almost unsinkable.

    One other thought is that you should have epoxy, Bondo, or 100 silicone caulk to fix minor leaks. Never tried that wonder rubber that they advertise on late night tv. Between disasters you can permanently fix leaks by welding them.

    Disclaimer: We currently have a 12′ aluminum Jon Boat with welds, oars, trolling motor, and a small anchor.

  16. For my personal use, I like canoes and kayaks though a beater Jon boat with flat bottom, oar locks and sturdy transom to hold an electric motor or small gas engine would be good as well. Heck, if it floats, I can generally make it work. Any boat can be modified.

    I discovered the pontoon boats are difficult to maneuver in the wind. I like the sit-on-top kayaks because of their self-bailing design and plenty of tie-down points for dry bags along sides of the open cockpit. They are too small to evacuate a non-ambulatory person or stretcher case. ( hence my choice of the Jon boat.).

    In order to move across short hauls of dry land, all of the above can be moved with a small wheeled boat cart or modified dolly which can be carried on board when you are on the water between portages. A set of wheels on your canoe or kayak turns it into a load bearing wheelbarrow which has saved time and my back at the crowded marina. Portaging from lake to lake has also placed me in some spectacular fishing because the bigger boats do not try to access the areas.

    Depending on where I was traveling, I generally carried a beater pump shotgun with me when traveling by boat. Slugs for bears and pigs, #8 trap loads for water moccasins and appropriate sized steel shot for ducks during season. Lastly, do not try firing a slug or heavy duck load while seated in a canoe or kayak. You will find yourself in the water using your PFD. The only other gun I found handy in a boat was an accurate 22 pistol in which to head-shoot squirrels. They seem to be real curious about people in a boat and I’ve been able to make some really close approaches while on a float trip.

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