Bug Out Boat: How to Bug Out on a Boat, Types of Boats

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By Bryan Lynch •  15 min read

There are a lot of articles and videos on bugging out and how to do it on foot, by packing into the family minivan, and by alternative means such as a bicycle or  by spending your life savings on some monster off-road vehicle. 

However, most of our planet is covered in water so all the above vehicles would not be all that helpful in a wet environment. 

For as long as I have been involved in survival topics, I am still surprised that I hear so little about using a boat for travel when the SHTF. A large portion of the human population (almost half) leaves along coastal regions or near large bodies of water. 

Considering that, it only seems logical to have a bug-out plan that includes a boat, yet a lot of people do not have one. 

Reasons People Do Not Have a Boat 

No Water, No Boat 

Even though many people do live near water, there are obvious locations that may not have a large enough body of water to travel on. If there is no water around, it makes sense not to have a boat. 


There are affordable boating options available, but, purchasing a boat for a bug-out vehicle is going to hit your pocketbook hard. 

Even on the low end, a good boat is probably going to cost north of five hundred dollars and on the high end, well, the sky is the limit. 

A sailboat on the cheap end, for example, is going to cost on average between $10,000-$20,000 for a small one. 

Additional costs of owning a boat include:

And the above does not include the gear, supplies, or possible modifications required to turn a boat into a floating home. 


Just like any vehicle, you will need a place to store a boat when it is not in use. Some people may not haven the space or the budget to pay for storage.

3 Reasons to Have a Boat 

Blocked Routes 

Depending on the emergency and your location, a boat can provide a means of escape when all other land routes are blocked. 

High Fuel Efficiency 

A boat’s fuel efficiency is going to depend on several factors. Engine size, the amount of weight being carried, the boat’s design, and weather, just to name a few. 

But all that only matters when the engine is running. Boats can be moved by other means such as push poles, oars, or through riding the currents and the use of wind sails. This can save a lot of fuel while still covering a lot of distance. 

Silent Running 

Boat engines can be extremely loud but when they are not being used a boat can also be an extremely silent way of movement. Traveling while remaining silent will be less likely to draw attention to yourself which can make a huge difference if the SHTF.

Choosing a Boat 

Nowadays, there are a ton of different boat sizes, styles, and each of them has customizable options. A quick internet search on this topic will give you an idea of the variety of options available. From small one-person crafts up to multimillion-dollar floating palaces. 

When looking at a range like that, it can be confusing trying to decide what to get but here are some questions to ask yourself that should help to narrow those options down. 

If you are one person then you are going to have more options of what kind of watercraft you can get versus if you have several people in your group. 

It will also be important to consider what type of environment you will primarily be traveling in. This is because some boats are better suited over others in certain kinds of waters.

For example, flat-bottom boats do well in shallow water that also may have plant life and other obstacles on or just below the surface. Whereas a sailboat does well on the ocean or a large lake but probably not so well on a small river.   

Different Kinds of Boats

There are, of course, a lot of different kinds of boats available. They come in all shapes, sizes, and budget ranges. The below list is not a comprehensive one, but it does cover some of the most common and popular choices. 


A kayak typically has a small, narrow frame, and most of the deck is covered. In the middle of a kayak is an opening for a person to sit and from which they propel the boat by using a double-bladed paddle. Depending on the design it can carry more than one person, although it is usually a one-person craft. 

The profile of a kayak is sleek and very low to the water which enables it to glide almost effortlessly through the water. This also makes it vulnerable to tipping but due to their design, they are easily turned back over while dealing with minimal water onboard. This allows them to operate in calm or rough waters.  

They are also a lightweight boat option. Single-person kayaks can weigh as little as twenty pounds, but larger ones can weigh north of one hundred pounds. This makes it feasible for a kayak to be easily moved around obstacles and dragged over land. 

While in the water they are commonly propelled by using a double-bladed paddle, however, some can accommodate a small electric motor. Either option allows this type of craft to move silently.

Kayaks can be purchased for as low as a few hundred dollars making them an extremely affordable option, especially if multiple ones are needed. 

The main downside to a kayak is its limited space. Few people can ride in them and there is almost no room for movement. Supplies will also have to be carefully thought out to maximize the limited storage space. 




Canoes are somewhat like kayaks in that they are narrow and sit low in the water. However, they are different in that canoes tend to be longer and do not have covered decks. 

They are propelled through paddling which can be done with as few as one person. The most popular canoes are ones that can carry two people although some models can carry four or more. 

Small, one-person canoes can be purchased for a few hundred dollars, but larger, traditional canoes are most likely going to cost over five hundred dollars. 

Because their decks are uncovered, a canoe offers a decent amount of space for carrying gear. On average a canoe can carry between seven hundred and nine hundred pounds. 

Canoes have a little more stability than kayaks but not a lot and there is more room to move about. But a person and supplies can easily fall overboard if you are not careful when moving around the deck. 

Just like a kayak, since a canoe is propelled through paddling, it is a very silent means of transportation. Small motors can also be attached.

The average weight of a canoe is between fifty and seventy-five pounds. Although gear and supplies may need to be taken out, a canoe can be carried or dragged around obstacles and over land. 

Canoes do not have walls or roofs, so they do not provide any protection from the sun or bad weather.

Canoes can travel in all sorts of water but due to their stability and being propelled by paddle power, they are best suited for calm rivers and lakes. Traveling upstream in a canoe is possible but travel will take longer and will require more effort. 



Jon Boat 

This is a flat bottom boat that can be constructed of wood, fiberglass, or more commonly, aluminum. Depending on the size, they can have one to three bench seats and can accommodate several people and a good amount of supplies.

Their decks are uncovered but enclosures can be constructed onto the frame. This is a popular boat among hunters who often construct blinds onto the frames. 

Depending on its size, this type of boat can carry up to a thousand pounds, including people and gear.

Their flat bottoms allow the boat to ride higher on the surface of the water rather than below it. This makes them well suited in shallow water and for dealing with floating obstacles. This design also makes them quite stable and allows for people to move around. 

This type of boat can be moved by using a push pole or paddles, but they are commonly used with an outboard motor but this makes them quite loud. 

A Jon boat’s weight will depend on what kind of material it is constructed from, its size, and if it has a motor. But generally, they can weigh several hundred pounds which makes them more difficult to move or drag over land by a single person. 




A pontoon has a flat deck that sits on two or more large floats. Their design makes them quite different than most options on this list because they are incredibly stable and can be customized.

This design also makes them incredibly difficult to tip over and fulling sinking a pontoon is equally unlikely.

Pontoon boats often have awnings that provide overhead protection though their large frame and stability allow additional modifications to be made which can further enclose the deck. 

Pontoons can provide a lot of space for storing supplies and carrying people. They can carry several thousands of pounds. They also are somewhat known as summertime rental boats because many people can comfortably relax on board while fishing or even cooking out in the middle of a lake. 

The downside is that a pontoon boat is bulky, awkward, and heavy. On average they can weigh upwards of two thousand pounds. This means if you run into a problem, it may be extremely difficult or impossible to move the boat around obstacles or over land.

It is possible to move a pontoon by manual means but to move it effectively, it is going to require a motor. 



Speed Boats 

This is a type of motorboat that is propelled by an inboard or outboard engine. As their name suggests, the design and construction materials of a speedboat allow them to easily cut through the water at high speeds.

These come in a variety of different sizes and can comfortably carry several people and some supplies.

This type of boat can operate in all kinds of waters from lakes, rivers, and oceans. Specialized speed boats can handle environments where there is debris in the water such as plant life and logs, but they work better in the absence of those obstacles. 

Oftentimes, these boats do not offer a lot of protection from the elements so operating them in bad weather is not so great. 

Depending on the model, some supplies and people can be loaded on board but remember that these boats are built for speed and not for transporting excessive cargo. 

Additionally, their speed can be both positive and negative. They can get you away from a dangerous situation quickly and traverse large distances in a short timeframe. High speeds also increase the risk of danger as there is less time to react to a threat and a higher potential of flipping the boat over.  



Sail Boats 

This type of boat can be propelled entirely by wind. A mast and large sails catch the wind, which moves the boat through the water. Most modern sailboats are also equipped with a motor for moving the boat when there is no wind or when the boat is in shallower waters close to shore. 

Because they come in all different sizes and offer various features, the price range of a sailboat is quite large. But even on the low end, a cheap sailboat may run several thousand dollars. 

Sailboats are mostly used in seas, oceans, and large lakes so they are built to withstand rough waters. Even though they can rock back and forth a lot while riding waves, it takes pretty bad conditions to flip a sailboat over. 

the size of a sailboat will determine how many people and supplies it can carry but creative uses of space will need to be employed to maximize the storage of supplies. However, sailboats can carry enough supplies to allow a person to remain on board for several months at a time. 

Larger sailboats usually have an above deck and a below deck section that offers living quarters and protection from the elements.

Sailboats are meant for open waters which means moving them around obstacles will be a difficulty and carrying them across the land will not be an option.  

One of the biggest downsides of a sailboat is in its operation. There is a learning curve to operating a sailboat so it is not a vehicle that anyone can jump in and immediately start using.  



How to Bug Out on a Boat

At this point, you have probably gone over the ins and out of having a boat and maybe have even decided which one you want to get. 

Bugging out on a boat is not as difficult as it may seem, but it is certainly different than leaving an area on foot or in a car.

If you are reading this article, then I am sure you already have evacuation plans that involve driving or walking to safety. A bug-out boat plan will need to be just as detailed and prepared for.

You will first need to decide how the boat is going to be used in your plan. There are basically two options. 

The first is that the boat will primarily be used as a vehicle to move you from an unsafe location to a safer location. 

The second way is that the boat will not only serve as a vehicle but as a floating home for a certain amount of time. 

In either case, you will first need to decide where the boat is going to be kept and whether supplies will already be on board. Bugging out can be a spur-of-the-moment thing, so having the boat nearby and preloaded would best. 

Depending on the type of boat and where it is stored, security may be an issue. Take the appropriate steps needed to ensure the boat and any equipment on board remain safe and secure.

If the boat is primarily serving as a vehicle to only go a short distance, say across a river or a few miles downstream, it is unlikely that you will need a lot of supplies. Your bug-out bag should suffice. 

Using the boat for shelter or as a place to live is going to be quite different and will require more planning. While on a boat you will need to be able to handle the following.

Along with the above supplies, a boat should have an emergency kit that is always in the vessel. The kit should include items that are specific to a boat and the environment it operates in. More information on a boat survival kit can be viewed here. 

It would be advisable that all members on a boat are familiar with its operations as well as their role while on board. 

Wrap Up 

Given the right location, a boat can offer a lot of benefits during an emergency. It can be used as a primary vehicle or a secondary one should land routes become congested or blocked. 

Many of them can be used with or without a motor which makes them fuel-efficient and silent. They are also capable of going where many vehicles cannot go, can cover large distances, remain in one location, or give you the option of being nomadic.

I highly encourage you to take a good look at the region you live in because having a bug-out boat could make a lot of sense.  

Do you have a bug-out boat or what are your thoughts on them? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.