If you are new to the prepping world, you may have heard the term “bugging out.”
It is used a lot when talking about survival and prepping.
Bugging out is a term that has been borrowed from the military.
It basically means grabbing a prepared bag of gear and getting out of trouble in a hurry.
Bugging out is the term used to say you are leaving your house and heading out to try and survive elsewhere.
In non-military terms, bugging out typically means grabbing supplies and gear, and then evacuating a disaster zone or an imminent threat.
Ideally, if you are in position where you need to bug out, you will already have a plan and a pre-established safe location.
However, when bugging out most people think they know what will happen once they leave.
What the reality is that if you are done with planning your safe location, you might be escaping one disaster for another, one that may turn out even more disastrous.
Once you leave your home, you have much less control and without a plan, you are really at the mercy of the elements and surrounding threats.
Bugging-in is just the opposite.
It means you are going to stay home, hunker down and wait for whatever it is to pass in the safety and comfort of your home.
This is also referred to as sheltering in place.
You would be hiding out in your home and living off the supplies you have stored in the basement, pantry or wherever they have been stashed.
The key to any good survival plan is to make a plan for bugging out and bugging in.
You cannot possibly predict what disaster will befall you.
You need to be prepared either way.
It is all about hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst.
The prepared will survive.
Bugging in vs Bugging out
When Should You Bug In?
Bugging in is really your first, best choice if you think your area will remain relatively safe and you are able to survive with your current level of supplies.
Sticking in a familiar area with a roof over your head and a pantry full of supplies is always ideal.
Heading out into the woods or wilderness and being forced to deal with the elements and hunt for food is never the ideal situation.
Despite the excitement, it may actually become a must and being forced to live off the land is not quite as thrilling.
Whenever possible, shelter in place.
Don’t get caught up in the bug out hype.
The following list includes some scenarios that would be best for you to bug in:
- You have nowhere to go that is any safer
- You have a family member who cannot make the trip due to health or injury
- There are soldiers or violent people roaming the area ready to hurt you should you venture out
- Pandemic—if you can shelter in place and avoid exposure, do so
- You have family that haven’t made it home yet
- You have been locked in due to inclement weather i.e. snowstorm, hurricane
- You have been put into lockdown by the government
When Should You Bug Out?
No matter how prepared you are and how much you have worked on your bug in plan, there are times when it’s not possible to stay any longer.
Whether due to a natural disaster or because you can no longer defend your position from looters or attackers, there might come a time where as the military would describe it as, “your position is no longer tenable.”
Regardless of the reason, you need to be able to recognize that moment before it arrives.
Your bug out plan should include caches of supplies, bug out bags and a planned escape route.
Knowing when to put it into effect is the hardest decision any prepper has to make.
It is important you don’t get caught up in the bug out mentality.
Many preppers and survivalists automatically assume that when disaster strikes, they have to bug out.
Bugging out is not always going to be the best choice. Planning to bug out no matter the scenario could be extremely dangerous.
You must weigh your options carefully and quickly.
The following scenarios would require you to bug out if the family was capable of doing so:
- Your house has been seriously damaged and is not safe to be in
- Your home is in an area that is likely to be invaded by a foreign army
- Your home is in an area where rioting and looting is happening
- Chemicals have been released into the air, making unsafe to breathe
- Your home is in an area likely to be attacked or hit in an attack
- A natural disaster is headed your way i.e. hurricane
- A pandemic is in the area and your family is at risk
Bugging out should only be an option if your home is unsafe or you suspect it will become unsafe.
If you suspect there is going to be a gas shortage and there are already long lines at the gas stations that means everybody else is bugging out before a major disaster strikes and you should consider doing so before it is too late and there isn’t any more gas.
Bug Out Plan Basics
It is critical that you sit down and make a bug out plan with your family.
You need to have a route mapped out and a backup route, just in case your first route is blocked or impassable.
Ideally, you want to choose a route that is off the beaten path and doesn’t have bridges or other structures that could be easily damaged.
You don’t want to plan on taking the freeway with the thousands of other people who have the same idea.
Many preppers have a bug out vehicle that will enable them to go off road in order to get around some of the obstacles that a typical road will have.
A bug out vehicle, often referred to as a BOV, should have 4wd and enough engine power to climb steep hills and travel over rough terrain.
If you will be bugging out on foot, choose the shortest route possible.
Walking isn’t easy when you are packing heavy gear.
Plan paths that will keep you in the shadows. It is often best to travel at night so keep this in mind when planning your bug out route.
Timing Your Bug Out: 3 Stages Of An Evacuation
When it comes to evacuating from an area at risk, determining the timing of your evacuation can be the single most important step in your bug out plan.
In general, during a major disaster or a long term crisis there is likely going to be 3 stages of evacuations.
The key is to be able to recognize what stage is occurring and implement a course of action that corresponds the current stage.
1st Stage – Masses Unaware – Going Unnoticed
This stage encompasses the early warning signs and those who are on a very low threshold, just waiting for any small sign that a disaster is brewing.
It also includes a small number of people, either by gifted insight or blind luck, connect the dots early and come to the conclusion that a major SHTF event is approaching.
The number of people evacuating at this stage will be very low.
Here are the indicators and conditions at this stage:
- The majority of the population will fail to see the warnings at this stage or will not believe that there’s any danger
- The availability of essential supplies like food, water, fuel etc. will be at normal and if you are at this stage, you should make every effort to stock up with fresh supplies before leaving.
- Traffic will be light to normal with little or no additional law enforcement or government control issues.
- People in surrounding communities will likely not even notice you as you pass through, perhaps pausing for more supplies, refueling etc.
2nd Stage – Masses Take Notice – Partial Evacuation
This stage includes the presence and recognition of a more apparent threat.
This stage will be characterized by a much larger portion of the general public start leaving the affected area.
During this stage you can expect:
- Early signs of panic may be setting in too.
- Essentials supplies will start becoming noticeably harder to find
- Resupply to retailers will be slower.
- ATMs & bank branches will start running out of cash.
- Traffic will be much greater and nerves tenser.
- The availability of other means of transport (train tickets, bus tickets etc.) will be in greater demand and less available.
- There may be an increased law enforcement presence on the roads especially at bridges and tunnels, probably more for traffic control.
- Surrounding communities and even further out from the affected area will see a rapidly growing influx of out of area people.
3rd Stage – Panic & Mass Evacuation
In this wave all your neighbors, preppers or not, have reached the same conclusion:
Time to bug out!
At this point the danger is upon you.
The crisis is either imminent or has happened.
A full acknowledgement of the danger by the general public has occurred and almost everyone is on the run.
During this stage:
- Essential supplies will be very limited and nearly impossible to get.
- Store shelves will be empty.
- Fuel will probably be unavailable and resupply unlikely.
- There may even be fuel rationing.
- Bank branches will likely be closed and ATMs.
- The roads will likely be packed and tempers will be high.
- Fear and panic will set otherwise calm people off at any little provocation.
- Civil unrest may ensue
- The masses of evacuees will spread throughout the surrounding geography and likely overrun smaller surrounding communities
If you haven’t left it will be significantly harder and more dangerous to leave.
Determine the specific parameters that will prompt you to implement your bug out plan.
The threshold for evacuation is different for everyone and determining what that is for you is something that needs to be done before a crisis.
The threshold needs to be easy to identify, specific, reasonable, and based on reliable information.
It also comes down to your instincts and what you think is best with the available information.
If you decide to bug out and then nothing happens, you can just go back home to your normal life.
Build Your Bug out Bag
What is a Bug out Bag?
A bug-out bag is a portable container, stocked with enough items to ensure survival over a 72-hour window following a major disaster or crisis.
The focal point of a bug–out bag is its ability to aid in evacuation procedures.
Bug out bags are generally not intended to aid in long–term survival, as evidenced by their somewhat limited contents.
The idea of a bug out bag is that, when used correctly as part of you bug out plan, it provides the tools and supplies you need to escape immediate danger, navigate through possibly hostile environments and will sustain you long enough to get to a shelter or to another safe location such as a family member’s home, or a pre-established location.
This where the idea of a bug out bag comes into play, but we often get too dependent and focused on gear rather than focusing on what our needs are.
The average weight guidelines for a fully loaded backpack is about 20% of your overall body weight.
This means you want to make sure that what you put in your bag is lightweight.
Some would say it is a philosophical difference that I have with most survival and prepping “gurus” out there today who are selling the next, best piece of gear.
So before moving forward, let’s make sure we all understand what our needs are in the order of importance:
● Personal safety & security. This includes ways to not be in trouble in the first place, getting away from immediate danger, securing your surroundings, and first aid and medical gear.
○ Personal and group defense & security
○ First aid & medical
● Core body temp. Items that will help us keep a consistent and safe body temperature in cold or hot weather, clothes, blankets, shelter, and fire making materials.
● Hydration. Anything that will help us stay hydrated. Carrying plain water, water procurement and water purification.
● Food. Calories are energy, they come in many forms, pack what you can comfortably carry.
○ Personal hygiene
● Navigation and Communication.
○ Navigation during & after emergencies
■ Navigating to bug out location
■ Avoiding getting lost
■ Understanding location of nearby resources
■ Signaling to possible rescuers
■ Group communication
Before you buy gear for your bag, you need to buy a bag, which is basically a backpack.
Backpacks are your best option.
Avoid duffel bags or briefcases that will require you to carry the bag with your hand.
You need your hands freed up to hold a flashlight or help balance yourself as you climb over rocky terrain.
When looking for the perfect backpack for you bug out bag, look for the following qualities:
- Fits your body, don’t buy a bag that is too big or too small
- The pack should have a hip belt for better support and comfort
- Pick a bag that has plenty of padding in the shoulder and hip areas
- Durability is a big deal, don’t buy a bag that is cheap and will shred easily
- Internal frames are nice, but they can be expensive
- Bags with plenty of outside pockets and rings for clipping things to are ideal
What to Pack in a Bug Out Bag
A bug out bag is going to be full of supplies that get you from point A to point B.
Some people call it a getting home bag or a 72-hour bag.
It isn’t meant to be everything but the kitchen sink.
Your bug out bag will contain gear and essential supplies to keep you alive until you can set up shelter somewhere or get home.
Before we start listing supplies for your bug out bag, keep in mind you don’t want this bag to be too heavy.
Try and keep the bag weighing under 30 pounds.
Packing around anything more than that is going to exhaust you and make it difficult for you to keep going, which could be counterproductive to your survival.
Recommended gear is as follows:
● Flashlight—LED headlamps are the best
● Water purification tablets
● Rain poncho
● Emergency blanket—pack 2
● 2 fire-starting methods i.e. lighter, matches, magnesium stick
● Energy bars
● Paracord or some other cordage
● First aid kit
● Bug repellent
● Compass—GPS may not be functioning
● Toilet paper
● Wet wipes
● Hand sanitizer
● Glow sticks
● Wool socks
● Gloves/hat—for cold weather situations
● Large trash bags—2
● Pepper spray
If you still have room in your bag and it isn’t too heavy, you can add the following items.
● Duct tape
● Sewing kit
● Fishing kit
● Sleeping mat
● N95 face masks
It is a good idea to take advantage of the rings that are likely on the outside of your bag.
You can free up room inside your bug out bag by hanging your flashlight, whistle and canteen with a quick-release clip.
This also makes it easier for you to get to key items in a hurry.
Where to Store a Bug Out Bag
Your bug out bag needs to be easily accessible.
It is a good idea to have a couple of bags.
If you are at work when disaster strikes, you need the bag to get home.
Keeping a bug out bag at work if possible is an excellent idea.
If you can’t keep it in the office, then keep it in your car. Keep another bag at home as well.
Do not go to great lengths to hide your bag.
You may only have a few short seconds to grab it and run for your life.
Keep it in a hall closet, in closets near doors or hanging on a hook in your bedroom.
Make sure the entire family knows where the bug out bags are.
Ideally, if your children are older, you should create small bug out bags for them as well.
Every member of the family should have a bug out bag with the basic supplies.
It isn’t feasible for one person to carry everything necessary to keep a family of 4 alive.
Bugging Out With Pets
When disaster strikes, we can easily become overwhelmed.
Gathering our supplies and getting to safe ground with our family is an all-consuming thought.
It’s no surprise that our pets often suffer during this dishevel.
We panic, our pets panic, and no one is functioning very well.
That’s why it is so important to plan for your pets’ safety along with your own.
When our thoughts are scattered, we want a simple plan to fall back on so everyone, including our furry family members, are included and kept safe.
Here are some basic guidelines for planning your pets’ safety during an emergency situation.
Probably the most important thing to do for your pet is to be sure he or she wears a collar with identification tags.
Your pet will be scared during a disaster or emergency and may run away.
Pets without identification tags are rarely returned to their owners in the case of evacuation.
The stories of pets walking hundreds or thousands of miles to return to their home are extremely rare.
They make good headlines, but they don’t tell the story of the millions who never return because they don’t have any identification.
An even better method of identification for pets is the micro-chip.
This tiny identification chip is inserted under the skin via a hypodermic needle.
It’s relatively inexpensive. Ask your vet the next time you go and get a quote.
Many vets will do the micro-chip during another service at a reduced charge.
You register your pet’s micro-chip online.
Then, anyone who finds your pet can take him or her to any vet where they run a scanner over the skin, just like at the grocery store.
If there’s a micro-chip, the scanner will read the number, which will be sent to the online database which has your information.
They will then contact you with the whereabouts of your pet.
I like this service because it’s permanent, whereas collars and tags can get lost.
A Pet Pack
Its recommended have an emergency evacuation pack prepared for each member of your household, and your pet is no exception.
It’s a good idea to have a backup pet bag and leashes in a specific location of your home that is easily accessible, so you don’t have to run around looking for your pets’ equipment during an emergency.
Having this pack prepared will take the guess work out of what to grab if you need to evacuate in a hurry.
What should you put in an emergency evacuation pack for your pet?
This is a list of a few items I would recommend.
Of course, your pet may require other items, but these are just some reminders.
● Water – your pet may be smaller than you are, but they will need lots of water, especially since they will be stressed
● Food – pack several days’ worth of single servings of dry food in small plastic Ziploc bags
● Dishes for food and water – look for collapsible dishes if your budget permits
● Leash and harness – an emergency situation may make your pet panic, so keep a leash handy
● Pet carrier or kennel – you will do yourself and your pet a favor by having a carrier or kennel handy, keeping your pet safe and secure
● Towel – keeping dry is just as important to your pet as it is to you
● Blanket – have a warm blanket available to protect your pet in harsh weather conditions
● Toys and chewies – waiting out a disaster is stressful so having something to play with and chew on can help your pet relieve anxiety
● Medications and prescription copies
● Medical record copies, including rabies shots, etc.
Keep your pets’ emergency pack right along with your family’s packs.
This way you won’t have to think twice and worry about what to grab for your pet.
The confusion may create anxiety and turmoil in the house, and knowing that your pet will be safe will help alleviate some of the stress.
Remember, your pet can’t ask for what they need, so it’s your job to provide it by planning ahead.