Avoiding Bugging Out, by Steve M.

One core tenet of the Survival and Preparation (S&P) culture that is often misunderstood, misapplied and has a high probability of failing, and that is “the bug-out”.  I am prompted to write this after reading so many S&P-related books, blogs and forums where individuals are indicating that their primary plan, and the focus of their preparations, is bugging-out.  The common discussion topics of bug-out vehicles (BOV), bug-out bags (BOB), bug-out land, etc, and the overall S&P lexicon confirm the importance placed on the bug-out concept.   Although well organized and executed, a 1,600 mile bug-out is portrayed by some of “The Group” in the novel “Patriots”.

Don’t misunderstand, bugging-out does have a role in S&P: if your residence becomes completely uninhabitable, for any number of reasons (earthquake, radiation, toxins, fire, destruction, war, etc.), then relocation is mandatory.  In these cases, being prepared to mobilize and relocate yourself, your family, and some resources is vitally important.  Such situations force the prepper to implement Plan B.  The problems with bugging-out are both numerous and severe, and are to be avoided or countered, if possible:

  • Only a small, finite quantity of supplies can be transported
  • Dependency on replenishing supplies is created
  • A good place to relocate may not be found or actually available even if prearranged.
  • It may not be possible to travel (impassable roads, vehicle failure)
  • You may not be welcomed by the residents of where you relocate or in the territory that you pass through
  • An operational BOV creates an attractive target if it appears to be transporting anything of value and due to the minimal security that can be provided

It has been well established by this blog and many S&P de facto leaders that outside of a few specific circumstances, the primary plan, Plan A, should always be to bug-in.  Staying at your primary home has many advantages:

  • More food/fuel/shelter resources can be available
  • The facility can be better maintained due to your frequent access
  • Better established social connections and greater access to shared resources
  • Less need for transportation and transportation fuel
  • Avoids health and safety risks associated with travel
  • Higher levels of security are possible

The problem arises when lack of adequate, fundamental preparation results in the need to bug-out, when it otherwise could have been avoided.  In other words, Plan A (bugging-in at your primary home) must be abandoned unnecessarily and prematurely, and Plan B (the secondary and far worse choice) becomes the only option, due to the prepper’s own actions or inactions.

People frequently write about how their urban home would be unsustainable, over-ran, or likely destroyed in many potential scenarios.  Therefore their preps focus on bugging-out.  When times are good and relative tranquility prevails, there are many attractions to an urban lifestyle, with job availability at the top of the list.  Recognizing the added risk and difficulty of post-SHTF survival in the urban setting, preppers often abandon bug-in preparations, relegating themselves to bugging-out.  Different life choices, such as small town or rural living, or taking extraordinary efforts to prepare their urban home, increase the viability of Plan A.  For me and many others, the post-SHTF advantages of rural life are secondary to the quality of life enjoyed in these slower-paced environs. 

The math doesn’t support bugging-out.  If one assumes that there are 305 million Americans and about 2.3 billion acres within the US, it sounds promising that there are 7.4 acres available to each American to which to bug-out.  So a family of four should get almost 30 acres, right?  Taking a closer look, inhospitable open cultivated farmland, open pasture, desert, wet lands, and bodies of water can largely be eliminated as places to which to relocate. Although these places could be inhabited, they are less attractive than “heading for the hills” as is often cited as the bug-out plan.  What about the nation’s forests? There are about 747 million acres of forest that appear to be available for relocation.  Data suggest there are 50 million “rural” Americans, and 255 million “urban” Americans.  So we have some part of 255 million people that currently reside in about 60 million urban acres, looking to relocate on something like 757 million forested acres, which is about 3 acres per refugee. Not only is this not much space in which to live and forage, but:

  • There will be great demand  for suitable locations close to urban centers
  • Space will not be assigned, so there will be competition for choice space
  • In a hunting-gathering mode, refugees will be forced to cover a wide area (hundreds of acres) in search of sustenance
  • Rural folks already are there, feel (and have legal) ownership, and are willing to protect their Plan A bug-in position

In conclusion, I advise that one of two actions be taken to reduce the need for depending on a bug-out strategy:

  • Commit to and prepare for bugging-in, regardless of your current residency.  Fortify your home, stock up on supplies there, and implement countermeasures to unique urban challenges. “Improvise, adapt, overcome” as necessary.
  • Relocate to a place where bugging-in can be more practically implemented in as many scenarios as possible.