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Bug In Or Bug Out? Why Conventional Wisdom May Be Wrong

Image source: Politico

Image source: Politico

During a serious threat or disaster, all of your prepping and preparedness will come into play. But you will immediately be confronted with a major decision to make: Do you bug in, or bug out?

Each one has its advantages and disadvantages.

Bugging in is very similar to digging in or fortifying. You simply remain in your home and decide to hold out.

Bugging out means that you decide to book it; you pack up and evacuate your home as soon as possible.

Whether you bug in or bug out could be a life-and-death decision not only for you, but for your family as well.

The world we live in today is filled with threats and risks. The economy could tank. Terrorists could strike. The grid could go down. A natural disaster could wipe out nearly everything in your area.

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It’s a fact: Fewer and fewer people trust the government or the “system.” As a result, many of those people have turned to survival and preparation. They’re not the stereotypical preppers seen on reality TV. They’re simply neighbors who are buying a gun or setting some supplies back for what they think could be the inevitable.

So, should you bug in or bug out? There is no definitive answer to that question in general, but there is a definitive answer for you. You must carefully evaluate your specific circumstances in the event of a disaster, and then make that snap decision.

First, evaluate what limitations and dilemmas you face regardless of bugging in or bugging out.  Are you and your family in very good health? What is the age of each member of the family? What is the climate outside? What geographical location are you in? What is the population of the local area? Do you have any strong relationships with local friends or family members? Is your local area under immediate threat? Is your home easily defensible?

Bugging in may be a better option if the current weather outside is harsh, if your children are too young to travel, or if you have strong bonds with local friends and family members.

But if there is an immediate threat to your area, then bugging out may seem more viable.

There are risks and rewards with both bugging in and bugging out. For instance, if you bug in, then you already know the area, you have all of your supplies with you, and you can form strong alliances with your neighbors or your friends and family. But at the same time, your area could be dangerous and under immediate threat. For all you know, you could be right in the middle of the chaos.

If you bug out, you can link up with friends and family outside of your local area, and can also make it to an area more supplied and more easily defensible than your home. But traveling is very risky. Not to mention the endless lines of traffic, a lot of desperate people, and you can’t control what goes on around you.

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With the risks and rewards of bugging in and bugging out defined, you still may be undecided at which is the better option.

Here is a general rule of thumb when it comes to bugging in vs. bugging out: You should only bug out if staying in your home is likely to bring imminent injury or death to you and your family, and if you are more likely to survive on the open road than fortified in your home.

How do you know if you are more likely to survive on the open road than fortified in your home? Ask these questions:

  • Is my home easily defensible?
  • Do I have a safe room in my home or property?
  • Do I have a good mode of transportation if bugging out is necessary?
  • Do I have adequate supplies of fuel at my home to last at least a month?
  • Do I have an alternative source of electricity at my home?
  • Do I have enough food to provide each member of my family (or group) with 2,000 calories a day for at least a month?
  • Do I have adequate supplies of drinking water (at least one gallon per day) and cleaning water to last for at least a month, and the ability to purify new water?
  • Do I have weapons at home?
  • Do I live in a more rural setting, away from urbanized areas, but close enough to town?
  • Do I have strong support and good relations with the rest of my community?

If you have answered yes to many of these questions, then bugging in may be a more viable option to bugging out. But once again, only you are aware of the circumstances that pertain to your particular situation, and therefore, only you can decide.

When disaster strikes, are you more likely to bug in or bug out? Share your tips in the section below:   

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7 comments

  1. I’ve noticed that so many rely on an alternative source of electricity. My family and I are prepping to do w/o electricity. I grew up with very limited use and plan to return to none or little if the SHTF. Our prepping is geared that way and don’t plan to spend huge amts. of $ doing otherwise.

  2. The author of this article has obviously put some thought into it. However there are a couple points that may not have been considered; Do I have adequate supplies of fuel at my home to last at least a month? It doesn’t matter. If you “bug out” you will have only the supplies you can carry fuel or other. If you “bug in” you will have what you have on hand period. Do I have an alternative source of electricity at my home? A convenience for sure but not a necessity. Enough food? Again it doesn’t matter. If you do not have enough supplies, food or other, “bugging out” is certainly not going to provide you with them. Water? Same as before, if you do not have it, “bugging out” isn’t likely to make safe water available. The author is correct; the decision to “bug in” or “bug out” is one that needs to be considered rationally before the necessity occurs, and all options should be considered. “Bugging out” in most instances will be a death sentence.

    • Many people have already thought ahead and have a place to go. They either have property, family living out in the middle of nowhere or they know about a place that is far enough away from main roads and/or houses where they have been burying supplies for when they need them.
      The main thing is to think about alternate routes. You should figure highways and major thruways will be nothing more than real long parking lots. Of course if there are only limited ways out of your area, the back way will be the same. Know the limitations of your community, or as you stated “Bugging out could be a death sentence”
      Personally, I will probably “Bug In” for at least a week if possible, then try to get out when things calm down a little. If that is a no go, then make my place look like it’s already been ransacked for when the looters & mobs start coming thru. As log as they don’t start razing the neighborhoods, I won’t have to start…

  3. In many cases many of us don’t have a place to bug out to. Our only option is bugging in. In this case we need to look at our space and see how much we can store back in case of emergency and what we have in order to either box garden or in some way micro-farm in and around our residence. We also need to look at our neighborhoods with a more tactical eye as to how to defend it from those with ill intent. We should break the years long isolation many of us have and get to know our neighbors too. We need to build micro-communities within our neighborhoods to the point we are looking our for each other and watching out for those who would do each of us harm. As with bugging out we need to remain situationally aware at all times before, during and after a crisis.

  4. The great American philosopher Casey Stengel, when confronted with choices, often said, ‘ I made up my mind both ways.” The question is not” will I bug in or bug out,” but rather, “can I bug in or must I bug out?” Make plans for both, if you’re smart.

  5. On any given day,on any given road in America, you have grid lock.Driving just a few miles can be daunting and nerve racking for so many drivers.Before jumping on to any road,you might want to review your strategy and give some thoughts on getting from point A to point B. Some of the questions I would ask myself might be,Can I transport my family, survival goods and enough gasoline to get where I’m going? there.
    What would I do if someone attacked my vehicle and tried to take my vehicle and supplies from. Am I ready to fight to the death to protect what I have? How about my family, should I put them in arms way. Can they help to defend our caravan.
    These were some question’s I was asking myself, when I discuss what a bug out might look like to my family. You need to be prepared for just about anything these day’s. Try not to wait until a crises happens,it may be to late then!
    If I’m just driving to granddad’s farm,2-hours away, that might be one thing. Any thing else, I’d question if we could get there in one piece, if at all. Good luck, anyway you go! One last thought for your survival,get yourself a Boy’s Scout handbook. Read it! Your life may depend on it. Take care. Be prepared for what’s to come. SP

  6. A good article to get people thinking. Many rush to the idea of bugging out with out thinking things through. If you plan to bug out: Where are you going? Do you have supplied stored there? Do you know several alternate routes to get to your location? What if you have to abandon your vehicle? How far can you and your family/group members travel with a 35-60 pound pack? Do you have enough fuel to get there allowing for delays due to traffic/accidents and possibly having to divert to alternate route? On this point let me say this, what may be a 3-5 hour drive to your bug out location today, could, in an emergency, take 3,4 or 10 times as long. Another point is that in an emergency, travel may be restricted. There is a lot to consider and plan for. I feel you need to plan for both. Here’s a point also, at what point do you deside to bug out and can you walk away from any local commitments you have, i.e. a job or a family member that has special needs. If you’re in an urban area, if you wait too long, bugging out may no longer be an option, but if you take off early and things don’t get as bad as you thought, do you still have a job when you come back a week or more later? A lot to think about, good luck.

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