Things To Consider Before Bugging Out

Guest Post by Michael

pic bugging out to forestA year or so ago, I became interested in preparing for a disaster, so I went to the Internet to see what other folks are doing to prepare. I was surprised to learn the number of people who have been preparing for quite some time, and also at the level of their preparations; purchasing remote properties, building up a personal arsenal, and buying and storing food stocks for their families.

I figured I needed to ‘get on board’ and start my own preparations. I had a lot to do and a lot to consider; food stocks, weapons and ammunition, off-the-grid living, communications, tools, skills, bug out bag, get home bag, maps, cash, precious metals, and much more. Whew!

I am a planning-type person, and I don’t usually do anything without careful consideration and a solid plan. I like to think through what I will do, what I might need in the way of tools, parts, etc., and what my desired results are before I begin a project. Like all my projects, whether they be a family vacation, changing the brakes on my car, or preparing for a disaster, I feel a need to plan.

I decided to work on my preparedness tasks in parallel. As I was building up my food stocks, I also built up my weapons and ammo stock, and continued to read and learn about preparedness and survival. When I began to tackle a bug out plan, I found the task quite difficult as I thought through the three elements of how I tackle projects:

  1. What is the task or tasks involved?
  2. What items and tools will I need?
  3. What are my desired results?

Right away, I knew the answer to question three. In a bug out situation, I desired to stay alive and have the best quality of life possible for the situation. Answering questions one and two were not so easy. The planning gene in my head caused me to think about what actually is involved with pre and post “bugging out” in order to answer the first two questions. As I thought about making my plan, a sound solution to bugging out became quite murky.

There are many websites, blogs, and videos available via the Internet that provide information, ideas, and examples of bug out situations, bug out equipment, and bug out strategies, and I eagerly studied as much as a I could. I initially thought bugging out was a mighty fine idea when the SHTF. After careful consideration, though, I have concluded that bugging out should be my last resort, my “plan Z”, and only after I’ve tried every possible way to avoid it. I offer these bug out cons for your consideration:

The Plan

Everyone should have a plan and equipment for bugging out for those extreme situations when your back is to the wall, or marauding gangs are torching every house on your street. If you must bug out, have a pre-planned destination, and you must get there before your supplies run out. Essential to your bug out plan is to clearly define the condition(s) that would trigger your “got to bug out” alarm.

Remember, though, you’ll be quitting your job, abandoning your house, and your bills will pile up in your overflowing mailbox and remain unpaid. When a crisis occurs, you will not have time to make a successful bug out plan, so you must make your plan now. Anyone can make a plan, but it takes careful thought and consideration to make a successful plan.

Quality of Life

The notion of bugging out is quite simple; grab your stuff and go. However, after bugging out and arriving “somewhere”, then what? What will you do and what will be your quality of life? When you are at home, all your equipment, food stocks, weapons, and gear are basically within easy reach.

If you have prepared and planned well, you can stay indoors for quite some time and enjoy a high quality of life. You can continue to sleep in your bed, have a bathroom down the hall, and even keep up with current events and what’s happening in your neighborhood.

The act of bugging out brings on its own set of potentially dangerous problems that you will have to deal with and suffer through “on the fly.” In all of my Internet travels, I have yet to see a bug out bag that was stocked and equipped as well my home. Bug out bags usually provide basic survival-type equipment and rations for up to 7 days.

The prospect that my situation would become that much more precarious after my rations ran out is none too appealing. Can I really depend upon hunting, fishing, and berry scavenging?

Land Mines

You are much safer in your own home in most situations. With adequate planning and supplies, you can hunker down and survive through chemical and even biological gas clouds. You can still call the police who might be able to assist you. You and your neighbors might band together to improve your collective security. Think long and hard before you engage in bugging out.

On your way to your pre-determined bug out destination, you need to avoid being ambushed, injured, robbed, or worse. You will not know who is friend or foe, and you must remain as inconspicuous and “normal” as possible.

I think it is unwise to assume you can and will homestead in the forest, hunting and fishing like Daniel Boone until “someone” gives an “all clear” and you can return home. You will not be the only person in the forest, and any food that is available will quickly be hunted or scared away. Your forest will soon be overrun with survivalist who claim hunting territories, and battles will ensue. Gangs will form and if you’re a loner, you will not survive.

Under such conditions, it would be nearly impossible for you to rest or sleep. You’d have to be on your guard 24/7. You couldn’t leave your camp to hunt or fish for fear of coming back to nothing, or a pack of squatters who have taken over your camp and everything you depend upon.

If you knew or sensed that others were in your forest, having a camp fire would be a bad idea because it would give away your location. How would you stay warm, or cook your kill? What if someone off in the distance sees smoke and calls 911 to report a forest fire? What about the winter cold or the summer mosquitos?

What would you do? Remember, you took only your bug out bag which did not have a sleeping bag or multi-season clothing. Sure, you have your big bowie-knife, your .22 rifle, and your length of para cord, but what about those other hundred items you need now that are back home?

Remote Hideaway

If you are one of the fortunate individuals who has some land in a remote location that you have already set up to be your bugged out location, great! The difficult task for you is to know when to bug out and before the crisis or disaster occurs. Timing will be critical. Bugging out after the crisis only increases your chances that you’ll be stuck in gridlock traffic, apprehended, robbed, or again, even worse.

Predicting when and where a disaster or crisis will occur is anyone’s guess. If you guess wrong, then you would have bugged out for nothing, and increased your chances of coming home to a looted and ransacked house.

Abort! Abort!

If you decide to return home, your immediate task would be to navigate your way through or around newly formed gangs and other non-friendlies you might encounter. If you bugged out with your get home bag, it is safe to say that any food you had in your get home bag would have already been eaten a long time ago.

You might arrive home only to find that your house has been looted, and all the food, gear, weapons, and supplies you didn’t take with you when you bugged out are gone. Your windows are broken, your electronics have disappeared, and you quickly discover thieves stole all the copper wires and pipes in your house, along with your refrigerator.

We all know that thieves are not a considerate lot. Since they took your copper pipes and left the water turned on, your house is now flooded, and your water bill is over $1,000. To add insult to injury, every thread of clothing, shoes, tools, and anything of any value that you had is now gone. Was it bugging out or going home that was the wrong decision?


I am unable to convince myself that I, after being so dependent upon grocery stores, utilities on demand, and sound shelter for decades, could just set up camp in the forest for an unknown length of time with only a bug out bag. You know, I am not the MacGyver type.

What do you think is “bugging out” a better plan than “bugging in”?

Image by JB Foster


  1. Good article by a good guest writer. I think one context to look at this situation would be New Orleans/Katrina. Many there did not want to or felt it would be more difficult if they did leave. Thus they stayed. I’m not sure if staying was the right idea then. I think a good way to look at “bugging out” is to compare the siutation to contemporary disasters: hurricanes, etc. Is it better to leave or stay? I suggest thinking whether you can “ride out” (pardon the pun) the storm for a few days or weeks or not. Look at the current unrest in Egypt. If you were in Cairo, would it be worth it to stay or leave? Take a look at the earthquake in Hati. Would it have been better to stay in Port-Au-Prince or leave? You have to make that call. It’s true that food, water, and comfort is better than heading out, but if the circumstances call for it, be prepared to leave and be prepared to do what refugees do: do a lot of waiting, and keep your fingers crossed at the refugee camps/shelters/etc. I think in the end, you do what you to do to survive, and the first thing you ditch is your pride.

  2. I’ll be staying put thank you very much. Leaving the city was the best thing I ever did. People who plan to leave cities once things get bad enough may be in for a surprise. I urge everyone to please go rural now, ASAP. Even without any sort of crisis event, the lifestyle is so much more rewarding than urban life.

    • templar knight says:

      I never lived in a city, muddome, so it was no problem for me to move from the plains of West Texas to the mountains of No. Arkansas. But many city folks I’ve met struggle with the rural lifestyle, always wanting something to do, as if sitting in my swing on the back porch drinking coffee and watching the sun go down isn’t enough.

      And since I’ve never lived in a city, or anyplace, for that matter, that had over 3,000 people, I don’t know how city folk feel, but many I’ve met are not happy in a rural setting. Maybe a city dweller would chime in here and tell us their thoughts on this subject. It would be enlightening for me.

      • OhioPrepper says:

        templar knight,
        One of the things that makes me chuckle and then shake my head is city folk who buy their 5 acres of farmland, plant a house, plant some trees, and then plant the rest in grass. You see them now & then in the summer mowing & mowing & mowing. I just don’t understand it either.

        • but,but,but,,,,, i love to mow my 5 acres. i love the sun on me and its the only time a fat man can get away with sun bathing is while he is on the mower.

          • OhioPrepper says:

            LOL! Fair enough, just so I don’t hear any complaints about how we used to see deer around here and now they’re all gone. D*mn hunters!!!

      • where in the plains of west tex?

        • templar knight says:

          Near Snyder, Tx.

          • Oh yes. I’m very familiar with that area. I used to haul Sheetrock out of sweetwater and lived in Odessa for a year while I opened a truck terminal and hired drivers to hau l from a plant called rexene. It’s a hunstman plan now. The closest I’ve ever came to passing out from heat was while tarping a load of Sheetrock in sweetwater. That part if Texas knows some.

            • templar knight says:

              Sweetwater. Yep, I’ve been to the Rattlesnake Roundup many times, and the water ain’t that sweet if you asked me. My daddy was born and raised in Kerrville, my mother is from a little town in Arkansas, and I grew up on a little cattle ranch near Snyder. I can’t imagine a better life for a youngster than growing up where and how I did, but some would say I wasn’t introduced to civilization till I went to Dallas to visit every summer. I hated it.

              Good luck to you, Bctruck, and thanks for what you do. You truckers get the job done.

          • It’s nice to see some West Texas comments, my family has a ranch in Rotan TX, and I grew up in Hereford. Driven through Snyder many times.

            • templar knight says:

              Best people I ever met anywhere I’ve ever been are the Texicans who inhabit the plains of West Texas. Friendliest, most helpful, gracious and charitable bunch that ever was, at least in my opinion.

  3. Rev.Chance says:

    All I have read about congested traffic/ choke points, everyone heading to the woods to hunt for food, gangs of thieves or worse, we have focused more on bugging in. While we do have bug out bags, op-sec would be much easier to retain in our neighborhood. Since we already are suspicious of unfamiliar vehicles traveling down our dead end culdesac, most of our neighbors really watch out for others and do not hesitate to contact one another. Also, defending familiar area would seem to be easier. Creating a roadblock and perimeter is a part of our plan. I’m not talking about dropping the water tower across the road with binary charges, but an atmosphere that appears from the outside to be chaotic (burning tires or parked vehicles in the road without wheels) is less inviting to would be looters. They might think we have nothing left. We do have extensive woods with wildlife and a secondary water source which is why a perimeter has been decided on.
    One room will be an infirmary which is not possible should we choose to bugout. And we could not possibly take all of our supplies with us.
    Take good care and keep prepping!

    • Rev.Chance
      Reads like you and your neighbors are really well prepared. Good going!

      Wife & I are former urbanites who got a 5-acre farm. Yes we mow grass, but I don’t mind it as it winds up as mulch for the garden. It’s only about a 3-hour per week chore at high grass time. We also have free roaming chickens and thereby wonderful eggs.

      What I have discovered though is that one acre, maybe even a half acre, could work as well. So in your neighborhood, if you went in together and got a cow or so, and some chickens, you could weather about anything.
      I am happy with the rural lifestyle, though. Like templar knight, the sunset from the back porch is great. Also, I wouldn’t need to bug out. My home on 5 acres is my bug out as well.

  4. SurvivalistWoman says:

    I will be staying in my home bugging out as a last resort only and do have multiple plans b,c,d,e ,f for certain emergencies, earthquake, tornado, fire, flood, biological, etc. I have an emergency planner for each of these emergencies should something happen to me the family can use . I do believe there to be safety in numbers whether its family,friends or neighbors. I am watching Eygpt with great intent as I too believe this can give us all a look into what this type of situation may bring. Thanks for bringing up this topic Michael. May God bless you all.

  5. I agree that bugging out should be the last possible resort and only if you are certain that you will not be safe in your home.

  6. Thanks Tom and wife for your kind offer. May you and yours be very blessed. I live in Maryland by the way.

  7. I like to think in a layered approach with this. 1) Stay Home unless absolutely forced out. If forced out, try to have a place to hide as much of the important stuff as you can- so if you return one day, you can “dig it back up”. Be ready to leave, and maybe go a to a family or friend’s place in a better location ( worked out in advance) Now you are teaming up and they likely will be glad to have you there to help. I see very little written about this option. Of course you can house hop as you go, build the team and collective knowledge until you are at a better somehwere together. 3) Next / final layer, Bug out to the wilderness. Depending on the size of the area, that is not as bad as some make it out (gangs, hunting etc). In our local State Forest, it may be an issue. In a vast National Wilderness area, nature will get you first. So it all boils down to wilderness self relienace and primitive living skills – not “camping”. You will study/practice that if at all really serious about surviving a really serious scenario. Maintaining a cache in potential wilderness area retreat locations is not a bad idea – though I am admittedly afraid to leave a bunch of stuff hidden in the woods.

  8. So a key bug-in question I have is what do you do when the “authorities” order a mandatory evacuation for your area?

    My understanding is that you CAN refuse to evacuate, but in return you will NOT be receiving any services such are fire, ambulance, police. In Cali, its a finable misdemeanor offense to refuse to evacuate, but in a real situation I doubt that really matters.

    As preppers we may (or may not) know your evacuation rights, but what about the local cop on the beat? In Cali wildfires, the firefighters get pissed because they feel you are putting them at risk by saying. And we all saw how in Katrina how self-sufficient folks were harassed for not leaving, especially if they were armed. I also heard that some Katrina rescuers were a little non-plussed when preppers refused to be rescued…this resulted in a few tense conversations.

    I would be interested in other folks thoughts on refusing to evacuate.

  9. SrvivlSally says:

    Thinking about the gangs and others that you have mentioned, you would be far better off leaving and not staying unless you are absolutely certain that your home is not going to be ambushed from outside while at home. If your walls are thin enough like those of a travel trailer, then a few good hits from a gun will be all that is needed to penetrate. Is it worth risking your life or escaping where you will at least have a chance to walk until you find safety in a very, very, very, very, very remote location where not too many people will be looking, living or ?. High up in the mountains during summer, lower during winter, or the other way around. I would rather deal with bear, cougar and other critters than man because he is far more difficult to predict than a forest-dwelling hairball. It just depends upon where you live and where you can go. I would suggest setting a plan of where you will go when the rogues are about and the vampires and zombies are seeking what they will. In defending one’s territory, home, etc., if the 24-hour rogues are around you are still not going to get a lot of sleep because with enough of them they would be capable of taking it in shifts. Not to mention, they would be stealing the citizen’s guns and ammo and probably be able to outlast you (anyone) quite easily. I would rather take a gun, my quick bag and a coat and have nothing more than that to try to save what I would likely not be able to keep anyway. Concealment of goods right now, cacheing tomorrow, and final preparations the day after and all will, hopefully, be set. I can go hungry but if rogues or others find me then I am toast. Do you think that most people would taste good with butter or peanut butter and jelly? I hope that if I am faced with gangs that I taste worse than a loaf of Limburger, rotten (maggot infested) meat or something worse. My choice would be to run for it and wait it out. At least, not for six to twelve months or so. By then, most goods should be pretty depleted and maybe some sicknesses or starvations will have taken them over. I think I will get some sealed up seeds packed into a small carry out so I will be able to eat sprouts to stay alive for while. A few types of seeds are high in protein and a person, if they eat only those every day, can live off of the them indefinitely.

  10. First I want to say that you had a very well put together piece. I am an instructor and a practitioner in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. I did find some issues with the premise on your security at home.

    “Remember, though, you’ll be quitting your job, abandoning your house, and your bills will pile up in your overflowing mailbox and remain unpaid. When a crisis occurs, you will not have time to make a successful bug out plan, so you must make your plan now. ”
    If this is a large event like “Katrina” or Egypt, all services will be stopped for a period of time.

    You can still call the police who might be able to assist you. In a large event there is no guaranteeing that the police will be there to respond. Again I point to Katrina.

    Bugging in should always be your first option though, if you have information in your network (this is key, never be an army of one) and you see the situation going down hill…leave earlier then latter. Have a place to go. You should have a gear at home and you secondary location. Drill your skill and go to your bug-out location via different routs and times of day.

    Good luck and stay safe!

  11. Hi. Any info on travelling with small kids and/or fido…I’m guessing cats and rodents get left behind or turned into dinner…..we are in a suburban area so the roads will be dicy.

    Another question: gas. Going any distance will require fill-ups. Is there a good plan for safe fuel storage?

    Any thoughts on how far to bug-out to? We have a couple of options available deep in remote forrest areas-where known cabins /water, etc are. However walking is out. Driving would take 8 hrs with light traffic.

    I’m wanting to hunker down at home. It’s a rental so not sure if I dare nailing boards across the slider door…

    Thanks everyone!