6 Issues with Bugging Out: Should You Do It?

Plans never go according to their design. No matter what a wrench always gets thrown into the mix. For people that actively prepare for emergencies, there are generally two types of plans.

One for bugging in and one for bugging out

Bugging in vs Bugging Out

bugging out

In case you are unfamiliar with these terms here is a quick rundown of what they mean, at least in the survival community. 

Bugging in: You can think of this as sheltering in place. An event happens that dictates you would be safest staying at home or in the immediate area you are in. 

Bugging out:  This is when you leave an area because it has become or will become too dangerous to stay. 

Check out this video on how to bug in on afternoon.

Now that I have those definitions out of the way I can get into the meat and potatoes of the article. I am sure there will be some hurt feelings about this but take a seat and get ready for why I think bugging out is not as easy as people think it is. 


The Hard Truths About Bugging Out: 6 Issues

Supplies

Unless you have the finances, knowledge, and discipline, most people do not have a sufficient bug out location. A bugout location is a secondary location from your home where you can ride out an emergency. Ideally, it will be properly stocked with supplies. As I said, I do not believe the average person has such a setup.

There is a thought process out there that when any emergency happens a person will jump into their vehicle and get out of dodge. This makes no sense to me because a person’s home is their primary location of safety. This means that the majority of their supplies are in the house. Without a properly setup bugout location, there is no way a person is going to be able to load all of the needed supplies into a one vehicle. Unless of course they have a huge trailer that has been preloaded.  

Physical Fitness

I think physical fitness is incredibly important but is easily overlooked for most people. It is easy to think we are more physically able than we may actually be. I am certainly not putting myself on a pedestal here as I know I should be in better shape. 

We can have the greatest gear in the world packed away in our bags but what good is it if we can’t carry it? I would bet that the average person is not capable of strapping on a pack weighing upwards of 70lbs and walking for miles and miles with it. 

Then you have all of the other aspects of survival when you are away from home. Collecting firewood, hunting, fishing, shelter construction, pulling security duties, etc. These will become all day, everyday activities. Be honest with yourself, are you really capable of that kind of 24/7 physical activity?

Loved Ones

I find this category an interesting one to discuss. I would wager that many people have family, loved ones, friends, or even pets that they care for deeply. 

For years now, one subject matter has been how to get loved ones on board with preparing for emergency events. And the answer is that sometimes you just can’t. Some people are set in their ways and convincing them otherwise is next to impossible. Does that mean we love them any less? Absolutely not. 

So, when an event happens, I find it interesting that people believe they will be swayed into leaving those they love as easily as grabbing a bag and walking out of the door. 

Also what about those that will not be able to bug out at the same skill level as you? Say the elderly, the sick, or young kids? We like to think about bugging out as grabbing our bag and running off into the woods but some people who want to follow you simply cannot do it. What happens to them?

Skill Level?

This is an area where I believe everyone needs to be brutally honest with themselves. Sure we read a book, watch a show, or a video tutorial but how honed are your outdoor or survival skills? Do you practice these skills every day, weekly, monthly, yearly? Can you replicate these skills without looking at a reference source such as a book or a smartphone?

I challenge you with the following. Pick out five skills that cover procuring food, water, making a fire, building shelter, and solving a first aid problem in a long term setting. If you are not able to physically accomplish these tasks without looking at reference material, then you are not ready to bug out. 

Comfort Zone

This section is going to be somewhat of an extension of the above skills category.

I wanted to discuss one aspect of outdoor skills that is not brought up very often. Skillsets are easily transferred from one region to another but how those skills are used can be very different between regions. To put this simply, most of us are “experts” in our small regions. Some people have the luxury to purchase a bug out property, which allows them to practice for that environment.

But what if you have to travel further than initially planned to escape danger? Do you know how to use those skills, or I should say do you know how to modify that skillset to work in a different environment? 

Here in the United States, we have a wide range of different environments. To skim the surface we have coastal zones, deserts, mountains, swamps, prairies, and woodlands. Some areas are very calm while others can be hammered by dangerous storms, tornados, and hurricanes. Some areas have pleasant year-round temperatures while others can have huge swings from dangerously hot to dangerously cold. This means your skills will need to be able to adapt across different regions. 

To give a more specific example let’s take a look at the ability to make fire. In a relatively dry region, your ability to make fire may be very good, even with friction methods. But try transferring those skills to a region that receives a lot of rain and has high humidity. Everything is wet. Different materials may need to be used, methods tweaked, and the time put into the task will increase.

Take the skills that you know and think about what needs to be modified for them to work in different regions. A survival situation is not comfortable so get out of your comfort zone.

Security  

Bugging out can be a security nightmare. A home is relatively easy to defend and provides a physical structure that offers protection. Another advantage that a home gives is plenty of physical cover.

An outside threat cannot tell how many people are inside, where they are, what they have, or what they are doing. 

A home can also be easily fortified to provide further protection or at a minimum, several early warning systems. Why is this important? Because at some point you will have to sleep. A lone individual cannot pull 24/7 security. Even if you have a group, I will venture to say the average person in a group (most likely a family) is not accustomed to security detail. 

When bugging out by foot or in a vehicle, you will have none of these advantages. Threats will be able to quickly determine whether or not they can overwhelm you or your group. I would feel incredibly unprotected sitting in a vehicle or walking through an area not knowing how many eyes were on my group. 


Bugging in may be a better option for many…

With all I covered with bugging out, you may be better of (in some situations) to just bug in at your current location. Your home, where you spend the most time, can be fortified and stockpiled with supplies. It’s just easier…

Our friends put together a video on how to bug in in on afternoon. Click below to watch it:


Wrap Up

The above opinions are some of the issues I have with the idea of bugging out. I am sure there will be some that completely disagree with what I have laid out and that is just fine.  I also, unfortunately, feel the need to say that in no way, shape or form am I saying that bugging out is never an option. That would be ridiculous.

I hope that people will be brutally honest with themselves about their plans so that when the time does come to bug out, they will be confident in making a safe decision.



Bryan Lynch
Written by 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. Recently, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. Read more of Bryan's articles.

2 thoughts on “6 Issues with Bugging Out: Should You Do It?”

  1. Bugging out is extremely difficult, especially if one wants to take a lot of possessions. We prep primarily for hurricanes, which given the construction quality of our house requires short term bugging out to a friend’s place.

    Taking enough food, water, medical supplies, defensive items, etc isn’t hard with a pick up truck. Taking valued possessions? We can take some, but FAR from all. One work around: over several years we accumulated several 164 quart coolers, two big military Surplus aluminum shipping crates, and some sturdy wooden chests, bubble pack, a pile of newspapers, and a lot of cardboard boxes.

    When there was a major hurricane scare a couple weeks ago, we bugged out to the house of a friend who had recently had her knee replaced, not to the friend we have a long standing ‘hurricane reservation’ with. If she had needed to escape a damaged house, she couldn’t have done so under her own power.

    We packed the most important items, put them in the truck and cable locked them to the tie downs, followed with food, water, etc at the very back for access.

    The rest went into the remaining crates, which we sealed with strapping tape, and were left to the mercy of the storm. We lucked out: it missed us.

    Long term solution to long term threat of short term disaster: while selling our house and moving to better structural quality housing nearby is an option, that would be very expensive in brokerage fees, moving expenses, and areas. We are planning to move from the area entirely. Same expenses, but no more hurricanes. Every place has natural disasters, some places, as the recent urban riots have demonstrated, are subject to manmade disasters as well.

    To the extent practical, one should take those into account when deciding where to live. I used to live in cities and loved it, but it is pretty clear that if one can avoid them nowadays, one is better off in suburbs or rural areas.

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  2. Truth. I agree that if you don't have the resources to build and stock a second residence, bugging-in is the best option for most people. I am 66 and have to admit that I'm just not as capable, physically, as I was thirty or even ten years ago. I live in an apartment in a big city and my whole life is contained in this city and this place. While grabbing my BOB and evacuating is an option I would use in an extreme emergency, truth is I have no place within a radius of hundreds of miles that I could evacuate to. I used to think I would grab my gear and drive to a national forest and try to survive there. I know now that that option is completely unrealistic. I am not part of a prepper community (I follow the good advice not to share my prepping with anyone) and I probably wouldn't last a week in the woods. I didn't start prepping until about sixteen years ago and the outlook I had back then saw me heading away from large groups of people and setting up a camp in as isolated and secure a place as I could find. I know today that the first night I go to sleep in my perfect tent in my perfect sleeping bag with all my carefully purchased gear I could be robbed blind or worse. In a couple of minutes all my planning would go down the drain and I would be left with nothing, if I survived at all. Not an inviting prospect. I plan to move in the next year to a sturdier and more defensible residence. If TEOTWAWKI ever happened, and I pray that it never does, live or die, I will make my stand there.

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