The Prepper Conundrum: Bugging Out (Pt. 3)

This is the final installment of a series of articles on the Prepper’s Conundrum: To Bug In or Bug Out.

As preppers, we know that despite all of the planning and preparing, things don’t always go according to plan – that’s why we have backups. It’s just the nature of being a prepper to try and be ready for anything life throws at us. Making the decision to bug in or bug out is dependent on many factors and the more you familiarize yourself with what could go wrong, the post-disaster environment you would be living in, and the dangers that exist, the sooner you can make an informed decision on what is best for the circumstance your family is in.

Do you remember those two important questions I posed in the introduction to this series?

1. Do you have everything that you and your family need to survive?

2. Will you be safe until a recovery period occurs?

How you answer these questions ultimately determines whether you are in an ideal bug in or bug out situation. If you can no longer support your family on the supplies you have, and/or feel you are endangering your family by continuing to shelter in place, then you should consider bugging out as an option.

In part 2 of this series, we discussed sheltering in place and the benefits of having your supplies in your home and ready to go. In the same article, we also discussed the dangers of bugging in while living near high population densities. Because things can quickly go awry in shtf scenarios, our plans should be flexible and reflect contingencies. I want to emphasize that despite all the survival drama in the books and on the movie screen about bugging out as a first option, in my opinion, it should be your last resort.

Bug Out Scenarios

Making the decision to bug out will undoubtedly be different depending on the scenario you are facing. In fact, have you considered that due to extraneous circumstances, you may be left with no other option but to bug out by foot? Therefore, think about the different bug out situations you could be faced with.

  1. Mass evacuations due to natural or man-made disasters.
  2. Disasters with little or no warning.
  3. Massive infrastructure damage that will cause long term implications and road blocks.
  4. Widespread crime waves and lawlessness.

Each bug out scenario is different but they all have one similarity –  you are working against the clock. Bugging out is a time sensitive situation and if you don’t have your gear ready or wait too long to leave, then you could be stuck in grid lock with gas and supply  shortages, closed banks and irritated drivers. Therefore, early planning for these events is key and will all make all the difference in evacuating smoothly.

Since timing is important, you want to have everything planned out: Your evacuation plan, your bug out bags for each family member, your vehicle prepped – everything. Further, gas shortages will be a real threat in a mass evacuation. Therefore, have a portable gas container to fill up on gasoline in case you run into the mass exodus of people fleeing. Gasoline is a high commodity during an emergency and one of my largest concerns is bugging out by vehicle and running out of gas. In this case, you’re a sitting duck for looters.

On the other hand, evacuating by vehicle could pose a problem in certain situations. Because there are destabilizing events that could quickly cause our way of life to dramatically change, such as an EMP or even nuclear events, we should prepare ourselves for the possibility of having to evacuate on foot. The grid could be down for an extended amount of time thus propelling us into third world living conditions, or, perhaps extensive amounts of debris have blocked and closed the highway making it impossible to evacuate by car. Whatever the case, these disasters that suddenly occur could make it impossible for us to evacuate by vehicle and on foot is our only chance at survival. Therefore, keep the following in mind when planning your bug out by foot plan:

  • Find alternate ways out of the city. Typically, following the railroads will lead you out of the city. They may also be less populated with evacuees if you leave at the right time.
  • As well, ensure that you have a reliable mode of transportation. Besides vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles can also make reliable forms of transportation in a bug out situation.
  • In your bug out preparations, look for paths that have access to fresh water sources. This could help you cut down on pack weight.
  • Keep the terrain, weather and any seasonal factors in mind.
  • Since there may be a possibility of hostile activity think of security issues that may come up.

Known Dangers of Bugging Out

When you decide to bug out, there are dangers and considerations to be aware of in your preparations. That said, let me ask you a personal question – if it came down to it, are you physically fit enough to walk your way out where you are living to get to your bug out location? Let me pose the question another way, how is anyone going to walk 20 miles when they can’t even walk a mile with a full pack on their back? Let’s be honest, many of us are arm chair survivalists, or could have physical limitations that prevent us from being able to walk for long distances. I, myself have degenerative arthritis and can only walk a few short miles before I have to stop. Because of this physical limitation, I had to account for this in my family’s bug out plans. Some of the other dangers to keep in mind include:

  • Physical limitations or injury
  • Running out of resources (i.e., fuel, food, water)
  • Roads may be impassable
  • Weather may be life threatening
  • Ill prepared evacuees

Read in detail about the five bug out dangers.

Get Your 72 hour Bag in Order

Having things in order, as well as a plan in place, will expedite the process of leaving and assist in keeping things running as smoothly as possible. The main goal of having a 72 hour bag is to be equipped to survive a three day period. Therefore, the 72 hour bag should be pre-assembled and ready to go! Put thought into having a separate 72 hour bag for the vehicle as well.

Similar to bugging in, you still want to keep your basic survival needs in mind. But in this case, the survival items will need to be lightweight, multipurpose and be able to fit into a backpack. Each family member should have a pack of their own to carry. This also helps to distribute the weight of all the supplies needed by a family or group.

To learn more about what to add to your 72 hour bag, read this in depth article about the subject. Keep the following items in mind when creating your pack:

  • Shelter – Have a lightweight tarp, tent or bivvy sac to carry with you. Remember, your shelter should protect you from natural elements.
  • Water – Three days of water can be heavy. Therefore, cut your weight down and carry a large water travel water bottles and then carry water purification tablets or a water filter.
  • Food – Ensure that your foods are shelf stable and lightweight. When you are preparing your bug out bag, you want your diet to give you ample calories, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and some fats. Keep in mind that ages and genders will play a role in calorie consumption.
  • Sanitation – Keeping yourself clean is not only beneficial to those around you, but also to maintain health.
  • Health – As preppers, you need to plan for medical emergencies. Having a well-stocked first aid kit is essential in the case that someone gets injured.  Taking a basic first aid course to give the proper aid is an instrumental tool in providing the right type of care.
  • Power – If you are bugging out by vehicle, ensure you have ample fuel. Further, make sure you flashlights and ways to power up radios and cell phones when the grid comes up. Solar battery chargers are light weight and can come in handy.
  • Tools –  Meeting your basic needs during a disaster is key to survival, and having the right set of tools to fall back on is paramount in your preparedness endeavors. Keep these 10 tools in mind.
  • Communication – You will need a way to make and receive communications about the situation you find yourself in. Read more about shtf communication devices.
  • Security – Weapons are another way of maintaining safety. Having the ability to defend yourself is paramount in a bug out situation.
  • Personal records – When you are in a bug out situation, carrying around a bunch of paperwork (along with all of your other gear) is the last thing on your mind. Thanks to the power of technology, you have options for storing and backing up pertinent data.

Remember to keep weight in mind when packing your bag as you may be walking the distance in a bug out scenario. Too much weight will put a lot of stress on your body. Further, to condition your body for the extra load, practice walking in your fully packed bug out bag for short distances and slowly add more distance. Additionally, practice using your bug out supplies over a 72 hour period to ensure that you have adequate supplies. Sometimes you will find that you can compensate and use some items for other purposes, thus cutting down on added weight.

Your Bug Out Location

Take steps to ensure that your bug out location is well-supplied and will be able to meet your needs for the duration of the disaster. Some will evacuate to family or friend’s home who live close by and others will want to bug out to their retreats. Part of what makes a homestead perfect boils down to personal preferences and what you plan on doing with it. Learn more about ideal characteristics for retreats and bug out locations.

To Conclude

As you can see, the concept of bugging in or bugging out is not one to take lightly. If you are to ask me which of the two choices I would choose, I would advise you to plan for both. We never know what disasters will cause us to leave, but the threats and dangers are there and you should inform yourself and be ready for them. 

Read part 2 of this series, The Prepper Conundrum: Bugging In here.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published October 10th, 2013
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