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To Bug in or Out? That is the Question

If you were smart enough to stick to prepping for the long term, then you’ve seen the matrix: tools and gear are not enough to protect you from a potential disaster or emergency.

Things get tricky as your minds starts to wonder about all the possible scenarios you may have to face. Questions pop up, such as how will you feed and protect your family, where will you go and how will you be able to cope with the aftermath?

Today I want to talk about one of the most important questions in preparedness. It is this:

When disaster strikes, will you bug in or will you bug out?

As with most debates, I can tell you from the start that there is no right answer. The reason is simple: there are too many variables involved. Fortunately, once you know them, the odds of you making the right decision when the time comes greatly increase.

Make the wrong move and you could either:

  • bug in and get killed when your home is invaded / bombarded / burned to the ground, or
  • bug out and risk the same thing because you’ll be vulnerable to all sorts of dangers

Now, before we talk about what to do based on your unique situation, let’s see the pros and cons of the two.

Bugging in

Pros: you’re inside your own home, you don’t need to spend time and money on a fully-equipped bug out location, you won’t have to risk your life bugging out with the rest, you won’t need bushcraft skills because you already have a stockpile and ways to grow your own food and acquire water.

Cons: you can get easily trapped inside, your assailants can take you by surprise, some you out ,burn down your house or just wait until you run out of supplies, or your home could be destroyed for some other reason.

Bugging out

Pros: you’re mobile and free to go anywhere you want, you can do this with less money provided that you know bushcraft.

Cons: you’re vulnerable to everything, you always have to look for food and water, you need good bushcraft skills, driving skills and people skills to get others to help you

If you’re old or if you have certain conditions such as arthritis, you should BUG IN.

If this is you, then bugging out is going to be extremely hard. You won’t be able to move fast, especially without a car. People will take notice that you’re older and, if they figure out you have supplies, they will see you as easy prey.

Even if you have a gun, you won’t be able to take 3 or 4 of them at a time by yourself, unless you’re aware of your surroundings and have good reflexes.

If you’re dependent on certain medication such as insulin shots, then you’ll need to take some with you. These are hard to keep in your bug out bag as insulin should not be stored in extreme conditions. Plus, you’ll have limited supplies with you on the go and, in addition, you should worry about having some more at your BOL.

Read on, though, because I’ll explain why everyone also needs to prep to bug out.

If you live in a small town or in or near the wilderness, you should obviously BUG IN

Obviously. The head count is low, meaning it’s less likely to be invaded by people fleeing disaster. You probably know a lot of folks in your town or village, maybe even have a few prepper friends. If you don’t, I suggest you figure out if any of them are, so you can work together to make more sustainable survival plans.


If you’re military or a navy SEAL, you should still BUG IN.

Why? Because you’re not immune to dangers. You’re not superman and you also have a family to protect.

Your military experience is a definite plus:

  • You have discipline in your bloodstream, meaning you’ll be an ace at planning and coordinating survival drills.
  • You know what it takes to be in the field as well as staying defending your “base”. You’ll quickly find security vulnerabilities in your home and yard.
  • You may have colleagues or ex-colleagues who could join your prepper group. You may be surprised to find out they’re already preparing.

If you have children, pets, if you’re a single mom or if you prep alone, you should bug IN.

Obvious, right? Children are tough to take care of and have many needs. They take away from your mobility, but this doesn’t just mean you should invest more time, money and effort into bugging in. It may also mean you need a bigger car, a bigger bug out location, maybe even a trailer for you to carry more stuff as you’re bugging out.

Understand this: your unique situation doesn’t dictate just whether you’ll hunker down or evacuate. It may also be an alarm sign that you need to do more than the average guy to prepare.

Yes, bugging in should be plan A, bugging out should be plan B

Bugging out is way more dangerous than hunkering down if we put the actual disaster aside for a moment. You’ve got other preppers, thugs, gangs to worry about, then there’s hypothermia, lack of food, lack of water. I’m not saying you won’t have food or water if you’ve done a good job prepping but it can get stolen, and let’s not forget that whatever you have in your backpack won’t last you more than a few days.

So, the big takeaway is this:

  • Bugging in: plan A
  • Bugging out: plan B

Ask yourself this: if you have the option to stay, will things be better when you arrive at your BOL? If not, why go there in the first place?

If you are in ANY of the situations above (even if you’re in a WHEELCHAIR) you should STILL prepare to bug OUT.

I don’t care if your wheelchair is your bug out vehicle, figure out ways to

Why? Well, because just like you’re not Superman to be immune to dangers, your home is no Fortress of Solitude. Any location can be compromised:

  • looters will find it
  • a wildfire can burn it down to the ground
  • a flood can fully drown it
  • a gang of home invaders will do anything to get inside
  • a landslide or an avalanche can bury it and completely destroy it’s structural integrity in the process

So when your house is compromised, will you be so stubborn as to stay inside? I think not. Even if plan A is to bug in (as it should be), you still need a bug out plan, you still need a bug out bag, you still need a bug out location and bug out vehicle.

As Graywolf put it, if you’re not planning to bug out, when your house is destroyed, you’re screwed.

You may have to bug in, then out, then in again

Remember when I told you that no one call tell you whether you’ll hunker down or bug out? That’s because you’ll have to make the call right there and then. You have to put together what you learned about survival with what you’ll learn right there and then.

What this means is that there are a number of scenarios that could unfold, one of them being that you may have to bug in for a few hours to a few days, then bug out. If you can’t escape your town or city, you might as well until things calm down a little bit. You should also gather intel about what’s going on outside; this is even better than making educated guesses.

What if your family is not prepping, what should you do then?

You should mind your own business, of course. Do as much as you can for both scenarios, in the order which, by now, is obvious. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that should something happen, you will have to take care of them too. Like it or not, they are your family and you don’t want to lose them.

Do you really need a “bug in plan”?

I think by now it’s clear that bugging in should be plan A for pretty much everyone, while bugging out should be plan B. But this is where another trap awaits you: some people think that they don’t need a bug in plan.

In theory, you don’t but it’s better if you have one, the main reason being, you will avoid holes and mistakes. This is beyond the scope of this article but the best way to go about it is to start with the basics: bulletproofing your “shelter”, food, water, first aid, self-defense and communications.

So yes, start a bug in plan and don’t forget to keep track of your expenses.

It’s not about bugging in versus bugging out, it’s about priorities

In the end, it’s not about picking one over the other. In an SHTF event, one you can expect is for things NOT to go as planned.

It’s not about choosing between the two, it’s about prepping to bug in FIRST and prepping to bug out second. Even if you live in the city, you should still focus on hunkering down, because smaller emergencies are likely to happen sooner than a total collapse.

If you want, you don’t even have to think in terms of bugging in and out. You can make a survival plan and focus on your needs, in order. These may be:

  1. Having food and water to last you a week.
  2. Having means to stay warm and defend yourself for a week.
  3. Having a car to evacuate in case of an emergency
  4. Having a garden or some other renewable food source
  5. … and so on.

This is just an example. The way you build and then check these priorities is you make your own list, keep adding to it, move them around expanding on them. A computer program such as notepad will make it easy to do all of these things.

Should you bug out if you don’t have a bug out location?

If that’s the only reason you don’t WANT to evacuate but you HAVE to, then yes. If anywhere is safer than your home, do it. A bug out location doesn’t have to be this huge property with a log cabin and defenses. Any place where you can make shelter even for a few hours is a BOL. Your cam site when you bug out is such an example.

How to make the right call when the time comes?

This decision will probably one of the most important ones you will ever make. You loved ones and your valuables depend on it. I wish I could give you the two lists, one with disasters to bug in, the other with disasters to bug out, but that just won’t do.

Here’s what I mean… if your house burns down, one prepper might have to bug out, but another prepper may have a shed or some other dependency nearby where he could move. That way, the first one will bug out while the second one will bug in.

I hope this clear things up a bit. 🙂

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