The Bugging In Or Out Dilemma

When a natural or man-made disaster strikes, you basically have two choices: you either stay inside until it’s all over or you take your stuff and get as far away as possible. Though most preppers have a choice in mind, bugging in or bugging out may not, in fact, be up to them. They might be forced to do one or the other.

I would say about 80% would rather bug in and for very good reasons. They have large food and water stockpiles, their home defenses are in place, but the most important thing is that they don’t have to risk their lives going out into the unknown.

On the other hand, no matter how well you prepared for a bug-in, if your town or city is compromised, you won’t have a choice but to bug out. In such cases, your home may become a death trap and hunkering down could prove fatal.

So, even if you do decide to bug in initially, you might have to bug out at some point when things are taking a turn for the worse. So how do you know whether you’ll be bugging in or out?

Well – and this is very important – the right decision is not something you make now, it’s something you will make when it happens. The best things you can do right now are:

  • to prepare for both
  • and to learn how to quickly make the right decision as soon as you hear news that it’s happening.

You see…

Bugging In Is Easy

My take on it is (one that you might not like) that you should prepare for both. You see, bugging in is easy. It’s comfortable. THAT”S WHY PEOPLE PREP FOR IT. Think about it:

  • you mostly have to buy food and gear (we all love shopping, right?)
  • you don’t need to learn new skills such as starting a fire, building shelter, hunting, fishing etc. (well, you do need some skills because you’re going to need to raise farm animals or start a survival garden but most people don’t realize that)
  • you don’t have to be in very good shape because you won’t have to run for your life (though you will need to be fit for the post-SHTF life)
  • you don’t have that much planning to do, the most complicated thing being rotating your food stockpile

My concern is that people who prep primarily to bug in tend to overlook all of these aspects, survival fitness being one of them. So if they do have to bug out, they probably won’t make it very far. In a survival situation, if something can go wrong, it will. The rule of law may be suspended but Murphy’s Law sure won’t.

OK, let’s first figure out when you should bug in and when you should bug out

When to Bug In Or Out

You may want to bug in if you’re dealing with:

  • riots and social unrest
  • an economic collapse
  • an EMP
  • heavy snow
  • a heat wave
  • a food crisis
  • extended power outages

Note that if you don’t have large stockpile or the means to live self-sufficiently, you may want to leave your location at some point and get to a place that can sustain you.

In case of a long-term disaster, you’re gonna need a way to sustain yourself and your family. If your home can’t do that, you may have to find another location.

You may want to bug out if you’re dealing with:

  • war
  • pandemic
  • an area that becomes radioactive
  • a hurricane
  • a chemical spill
  • an area near where Yellowstone erupts
  • any other reason that would make your area uninhabitable for a long period

OK, let’s talk about some specific things to do in both scenarios…

Preparing to Bug In

Now, I said bugging in is easy but it’s still a lot of work. Here are some of the things you should do:

  • start a food and water stockpile and rotate it every 6 months;
  • consider alternate ways to light your home in a grid-down situation;
  • think about ways to keep trash to a minimum;
  • focus primarily on foods that require little or no cooking. You don’t want to attract hungry neighbors;
  • have alternate ways of keeping warm;
  • have means to generate and store electricity;
  • focus on home defense. Establish a safe room to hide as a last resort;
  • think about alternate ways of cooking for the long term;
  • also for the long term, consider a survival garden, an aquaponics system, or raising farm animals such as chicken, sheep and goats;

Preparing to Bug Out

Here are some of the things you can do in case you need to bug out:

  • Have a bug out bag or an INCH bag ready for each member of your family and your pets.
  • Know all the ways to get out of your town or city, particularly the ones less traveled. You may even consider the train tracks as a bug out route.
  • Print detailed maps of the area and either laminate them or store them in Ziploc bags.
  • Learn bush-craft skills such as making a shelter, starting a fire, fishing, and hunting.
  • Get into shape, you’re gonna need it.
  • Establish rally points for your family since some of them may not be home when it happens.
  • Focus on becoming a gray man. When you’re out there, you need to keep a low profile, you need to cover your tracks, to make sure you’re not spotted as you’re cooking outdoors, etc.
  • Have a bug out vehicle and even a back-up to it. For example, your primary vehicle can be a 4X4 bugout truck while your secondary one can be a fold-able bike inside the trunk. Expect to abandon your primary vehicle if needed to keep moving.
  • Speaking of which, make sure you have a car bug out bag and that your vehicle is properly equipped for a journey full of perils.
  • Take your bug out bag for a test drive to see how long you can walk with it on your back. Even better, bring your groceries home in a backpack instead of taking the car.
  • Make sure you know what to do if you or a loved one gets separated from your group.
  • Know where to camp and how to set up perimeter defenses.
  • Learn how to find water and several ways to filter and purify it.
  • Mark various “bug out locations”on your map that could shelter you for a few hours or even overnight if need be.
  • Know which plants are edible and which are poisonous.
  • Learn how to protect yourself from wild animals as well as people.
  • Wear the right clothes and shoes to keep you warm (hiking boots, the right fabrics such as wool and polyester, long-sleeved tops and pants to keep bugs and the stinging nettle from harming you or, on the contrary, have shorts, t-shirts, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a baseball cap or a bandanna to bug out in extreme heat).

What If You Can Do Either One?

What if you can choose between bugging in or out? Say you’ll face Martial Law. In this case, you can bug in or out but it all boils down to where you’ll be more comfortable and safe, well fed, and protected. To figure it out, let me give you a few scenarios:

  • If you’re pregnant or you have a toddler, it’s probably best to bug in.
  • If your secondary location will allow you to live a cheaper life (because it’s self-sustainable), you may want to move there.
  • If your home is easy to defend and you have enough guns, ammo, and willpower, you’ll probably want to stay.
  • If you’re a very good driver, have a great car, know all the routes in and out of your town or city, bugging out might be easier for you than for most preppers.
  • If you have means to live self-sufficiently + a big food stockpile, you should probably bug in.
  • If your home is in the middle of a crowded city, it may become a target. You should probably leave.
  • If you estimate the disaster won’t last more than 1-2 weeks and your life isn’t in any kind of danger, you should stay.
  • If you know a lot of preppers in your town and you have close ties with them, you may want to bug in. You’ll be able to help each other and even protect each other if need be.

One More Thing…

Just because you bugged in, that doesn’t mean it’s all over. You may be forced to bug out eventually because, oftentimes, just when you thought things are getting better, they take a turn for the worse.

What are YOUR plans, do you think you’re most likely to bug in or out when it hits?

About Dan F. Sullivan

My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.

One comment

  1. Avatar

    Hello Dan Sullivan, enjoyed your article and here’s why. Although I’m pretty well set in my preps I always like to read these types of posts to insure that I have dotted my I’s and crossed my T’s.

    I’m about 90% there in my preps.

    I don’t really anticipate a long SHTF event but I could be mistaken on that and have tried to prep for the long term.

    I will bug in for two reasons. At 53 YRO my body has been beat up by a life long work of carpentry/millwright work and I doubt if I would have the stamina to run a mile or two. Oh, I could walk a couple of miles at a good ciip and do fine but at a run, no way! And i’m not fat either. At 6’3″ and 200 lbs you’d think I’d be in better shape but the type two diabetes really takes it’s toll.

    And secondly, I am a ornery SOB and prefer to stick and fight for my property.

    I do have other contingency plans where there is water, freeze dried food and fuel hidden close by that I can access within a short 5 minute walk but I worry about my fellow preppers who live in a much more urban environment.

    To me, those are the persons who really need to be prepared with a bug out bag although I do think it’s prudent to have some water, extra clothing, flashlight, fire making material and dehydrated food or MRE’s in a knapsack to get you where you are going in a pinch. Oh, and don’t forget some extra dried dog food in you BOB if you have a dog. Don’t worry about the cats, they can forage for themselves but a dog is a super good early warning system.

    Again, thanks for posting your thoughts!


    Snake Plisken

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *