4 Types Of RV To Help You Survive When SHTF

Last Updated: October 14, 2019

What makes a truly great survival RV?

If your ride’s appearance screams, “I’m prepared for anything,” sooner or later someone less prepared will try to take it from you.

That said, consider a mobile survival platform that’s common enough to blend in, spacious enough to be comfortable, and tough enough to use for years without repairs.

Fortunately, there’s a type of vehicle that’s readily available and meets all these criteria — the recreational vehicle, or RV.

Here are the four main categories of RV: motorhomes, trailers, campers and expedition vehicules.

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RV #1: Motorhomes

rv class B

The first and most common type of RV is the motorhome.

These vehicles are characterized by the powertrain and living quarters integrated together into a single package. Many motorhomes simply replace the rear section of a truck or van’s body with living quarters, retaining the original chassis, engine, and driving position.

Class C

These vehicles are known as Class C or midsize motorhomes, and can be identified by an extended section over the cab that often contains a bed.

Class B

The second category of motorhomes is the smallest, known as Class B (also called camper vans or conversion vans). These vehicles don’t feature an extended section over the cab, resulting in a lower-profile roof. Often, Class-B motorhomes are based on passenger vans, like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford E-Series, or Chevrolet Express.

The biggest upside to this design is its appearance — some Class-B motorhomes aren’t easily recognizable as RVs, and therefore avoid unwanted attention in a survival scenario.

From a cost standpoint, motorhomes run the gamut from tens of thousands to several million dollars.

In a survival scenario, keeping a low profile is more important than having a fancy built-in jacuzzi or movie theater, so it’s probably wise to avoid the more luxurious and expensive models.

We recommend sticking to the smaller Class B and C motorhomes when SHTF instead of the large Class-A motorhomes than can be more diffucult to maneuver and much more conspicuous on the road.

Related post: The Ultimate SHTF Survival Plan

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RV #2: Trailers

Trailer Fifth wheel

The second type of RV is the travel trailer or caravan.

Just as the name implies, travel trailers are living quarters that attach to a car or truck via a tow hitch, and can only move when towed. These are relatively mechanically simple due to their dependence on a tow vehicle.

Travel trailers can be much smaller than a compact car, nearly as big as a city bus, or anywhere in between. Smaller trailers can be towed by an ordinary car, while the larger 30- to 40-foot trailers may require a purpose-built tow rig.

For the purposes of survival, small and mid-size trailers shorter than 25 feet in length are ideal, as they can be towed by common pickups and SUVs.

Within the trailer category, there are several sub-groups to be aware of.


Pop-ups, or expandable trailers, are handy for survival due to their low profile on the road and abundance of space when parked. 


Teardrops are small, aerodynamic, and lightweight.

Toy haulers

Toy haulers feature a fold-down rear ramp and storage space for ATVs or motorcycles.


Finally, fifth-wheel trailers attach to an in-bed hitch (much like that of a semi truck) instead of a bumper hitch, resulting in improved on-road stability.

However, fifth-wheel trailers are often larger and require specialized tow vehicles, so they may be less than ideal for survival.

The biggest advantage of a trailer is its ability to be disconnected from the tow vehicle. This enables establishing a home base far away from prying eyes, leaving the area in your vehicle to go on supply runs, and returning to your living quarters unnoticed.

It’s wise not to put all your eggs in one basket, and travel trailers make this easier than it would be in any other type of RV.

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RV #3: Campers

RV Campers

The third type of RV is the camper.

Also called slide-in, dismountable, or truck campers, these RVs are removable living quarters that sit inside the bed of an ordinary pickup truck.

Campers benefit from the compact size of trailers, but feature even better mobility since they don’t require towing experience — if you can drive a regular pickup truck, you can drive a truck with a camper.

Like trailers, truck campers can also be removed from your vehicle temporarily, although it will take longer than simply unhitching a trailer. 

Modern truck campers have most of the amenities of a comparable motorhome or trailer, including refrigerators, ovens, bathrooms, and showers. Some campers feature pop-up or expandable sections that provide extra space when parked and a lower profile on the road.

In a survival situation, an ordinary 4×4 diesel truck with a compact pop-up camper would be an excellent choice.

This setup won’t draw as much attention on the roads as other RVs, is highly capable off-road, and will provide more than enough space for two adults and their supplies.

It won’t be as spacious as a motorhome, or as modular as a trailer, but it’s certainly a nice happy medium.

Related post: 19 Camping Hacks & Tips

RV #4: Expedition Vehicules

Expedition vehicules

Aside from the three classes of motorhomes listed in the main story, there’s an important sub-group to be aware of: expedition vehicles, or off-road motorhomes.

These vehicles are designed specifically with extreme conditions in mind, and often have heavy-duty suspensions, large tires, four-wheel drive, and other off-road-oriented upgrades.

If you need to go just about anywhere, be totally self-reliant, and truly prepare for the worst, you’ll want one of these monsters.

So, in a bug-out scenario where you’re heading into isolated wilderness for an extended period, an expedition vehicle would be ideal.

However, in a situation where you may need to frequently use public roads or leave your vehicle exposed to gather supplies, these vehicles may cause more problems than they solve.

Related post: Bug-Out-Bag List: 43 Survival Items To Pack Before SHTF

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Given these four categories of RVs, you must choose what’s best for your location and conditions.  

If you need to survive in the tough terrain of the Sierra Nevada mountains, an expedition vehicle or 4×4 truck with a slide-in camper would probably serve you best.

You must also take into consideration the number of occupants and quantity of supplies you’ll be transporting. 

Consider this guide a primer on choosing an RV for survival — there’s still plenty to learn before you actually bring one home. 

What do you think? We would love to have your opinion! Tell us what type of RV would you have and why below in the comment section.

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