Thoughts on Planning Your Bug Out, by R.G.

Making a decision to bug out is always an individual choice, based on your own situation and local conditions. My wife and I live in the Virginia Beach area. While Virginia Beach may not come to mind when one makes a list of major metropolitan areas, the Hampton Roads area (Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News) has a population of more than 1.7 million people. The Elizabeth River, Nansemond River, James River, and several smaller rivers all empty into the Chesapeake Bay at Hampton Roads, necessitating highway bridges and tunnels with resulting traffic delays throughout the area. The population density and the numerous river crossing choke points makes it imperative for us to make our bug out decision early and act quickly to “head for the hills.”

We’ve made the assessment that our home will be virtually indefensible in a SHTF situation. Our single family, 2-story home is located in a large suburban community of upper middle class homes with lower income communities and apartment buildings only a couple of miles in any direction. Additionally, we are located at the front of the community with easy access to our property from three sides. Our home is a basic frame building with no basement and very little in the way of protection from rioters, looters, or marauders. As such, we belong to a well-planned, well-equipped survival community (retreat) in the North Carolina hills about 200 miles from home. We feel that things will work out for us when it hits the fan, if we can get to our bug out location; however, transiting from Hampton Roads to our retreat is our biggest concern. This article will touch on a few of our considerations for bugging out.

Have a good plan

A well-considered, thorough, flexible and detailed plan is the basis for any successful operation; be it a business start-up, a military strategy or a Boy Scout trip. The same is true for bugging out. Making decisions on the fly can result in forgotten items, missed opportunities, or unsafe situations that could have been easily avoided with a little advanced planning. We have a detailed written plan that we spent hours thinking through, more hours drafting, and even more hours rethinking and modifying. We review and modify our bug out plan regularly, as our personal requirements change, our preps change, or we learn more about various travel routes. The most obvious part of our plan is our route from home to the retreat. We decided that we need at least five routes out of the metropolitan area and three different routes that would get us safely the rest of the way to the retreat. We first checked maps, looked at Google Earth, and drove each route. Then, we took Google Maps screen shots of each route and combined them with Street View photos and satellite pictures of relevant turn points and rendezvous locations to give a combined map, satellite and photo description of each route. We also designated several rendezvous points along each route in case we get separated and have photos of each location included with the route info. A copy of our plan and all of our route info, along with state and local “paper” maps, is stored in each of our vehicles.

We decided early on to take both of our vehicles if the situation permits. We will weigh the pros and cons of using one or two vehicles as our local and national situation develops. If we get out early, as planned, using both vehicles with full gas tanks, should be no problem. Next, we made detailed lists of what we would keep in our bug-out-bags and what preps, equipment, tools, weapons, provisions, water, and other items we would pack into each vehicle. Bug-out-bags have been discussed many times in this blog, so I will not address that issue here. We feel that having a detailed list of what to pack into each vehicle will minimize our confusion and the time required to pack up, while reducing the chance of us omitting a critical item in our haste. It also reminds us to cover everything with a blanket or tarp, so that it isn’t quite as obvious what we are carrying. Here is a portion of our bug out vehicle packing list (with many personal items intentionally omitted):

Vehicle #1: Pick-up truck

Bug-out-bag #1

  • Glock 17 Glock 30
  • 12 gauge shot gun
  • Water and snacks for the drive
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Maps and bug-out plan
  • Truck first aid and emergency bin
  • half of stored ammo
  • C/B Radio
  • Two bins of camping gear
  • Mountain bikes and pump
  • ½ of stored provisions
  • Chainsaw
  • Portable generator
  • Two 5-gallon water containers
  • Two gallon cans of gas with Two cycle oil added
  • Three 5-gallon cans of gas
  • Garden tools
  • Coleman stove and fuel bottles
  • Tool pouch and tool box
  • Winter clothes
  • Extra clothes (one duffle bag each)
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Walkie Talkie

Vehicle #2: Small SUV

Bug-out-bag #2

  • .38 Special Ruger LCP
  • AR-15
  • Water and snacks for the drive
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Maps and bug-out plan
  • SUV first aid and emergency bin
  • ½ of stored ammo
  • ½ of stored provisions
  • One 5-gallon water container
  • Small tool box
  • Winter clothes
  • Extra clothes (one duffle bag each)
  • Pots and pans
  • Walkie Talkie
  • First aid kits from bathrooms
  • Current Rx Meds
  • Hygiene items from bathrooms and linen closet

Other items that are covered in our bug-out-plan include: important papers and documents prepackaged in a convenient carry case; a list of valuables to be gathered up and procedures for securing our residence prior to departing; communications using cellphones, walkie talkies, or light signals; food and water for the trip, if we are delayed; emergency actions enroute; rendezvous procedures if we get separated; weapons procedures, and contact information for our retreat community members.

Bug out goals and considerations: After much consideration, we settled on four goals for bugging out. 1. Arrive at our bug out location safely and together. 2. Attract as little attention from strangers as possible (OPSEC). 3. Arrive with as much provisions and ammunition as possible. 4. Arrive with as much fuel in our vehicle fuel tanks and gas cans as possible.

Goal #1: Arrive at bug out location safely and together. This is by far the most important consideration for us. Staying together, avoiding problems, and getting to our destination with as little trouble as possible are imperatives. All of our planning for after SHTF is for naught if we cannot get to our retreat community and our pre-positioned preps in North Carolina. We have a few weeks of provisions and preps at home, but the indefensibility of our home and its metropolitan location makes bugging out imperative in many situations.

Perhaps the most important decision will be to get out of town early. We want to be well ahead of the crowds and traffic jams that will surely clog the tunnel and bridge choke points in Hampton Roads at the start of all our routes. We will keep a close watch on the situation using all available means of gathering information and be alert for any changes that may affect or delay us. Local government web sites will be checked for road closures and construction that may force us to alter our route. If we get nervous, we will take the day off from work or call in sick to remain at home and be ready to hit the road. As things develop, we will prepare our home by boarding up the windows and securing the water, among other things. Additionally, we will gather all the items on our lists and pre-stage them all at a central location in the house so that packing will be easier and faster. (If you haven’t practiced packing up for a bug out, know that it will take much longer than you expect!) As the situation develops, we may even load up the vehicles and keep them securely out of sight to enable a hasty departure. If the situation doesn’t require an immediate departure, we will try to time our leaving home for the quietest time on our local roads (usually between 2 AM and 3 AM.)

Leaving our home unoccupied will be a tough decision; however, once we make the decision to bug out, we will not delay or procrastinate. We’ll change into bug out clothes (hiking boots & socks, hiking pants, tee shirt, hiking shirt, and jacket/coat as dictated by weather), arm up, pack up, secure our home as best we can, and get on the move. For added security, we’ll carry weapons in accordance with our concealed carry permits. If we haven’t already done so, we’ll fill our gas tanks at our local 24 hour gas station and not stop again until we get well past the Hampton Roads metro area.

Goal #2: Attract as little attention from strangers as possible (OPSEC). Nothing good can result from drawing unwanted attention to oneself during a bug out. Thieves, looters, gangs, and everyday thugs will attempt to acquire our survival items and vehicles, if given the chance. Also, we certainly don’t want anyone following us to our retreat. The best way to avoid problems will be by getting out early and packing things out of sight or covering them with tarps so that it isn’t obvious that we have a truck full of food and fuel. My truck has a cap with dark windows, but I still plan to cover everything. Next is getting out of the metropolitan area and into the rural areas along our route as soon as possible. Our routes avoid the local tunnels and other populated areas. However, we cannot avoid crossing two interstate highways, so all our routes attempt to cross them at very rural crossings with little in the way of amenities. We will minimize our stops along the way and attempt to drive straight through to the retreat. Another important consideration is to drive the speed limit and not give the local police any reason to stop us. I do not want to start the apocalypse in jail or try to bribe the local County Mounty with a box of ammo or a gold coin.

Goal #3: Arrive with as much provisions and ammunition as possible. We don’t have unlimited funds available and will never have everything we need or want stored up for TEOTWAWKI. As world or national events start to indicate that a bad situation is developing, we plan to make a final run to the local Costco or Sam’s Club to stock up on anything that we think is still needed. It would be silly to buy more than we can fit into our vehicles, so we won’t overdo it. Our local gun shop has a good return policy and we are known customers. If time permits, we will purchase any guns and ammo that are still required for our safety and the safety of our community group. We have emergency cash readily available (not in a bank) to pay for these last minute items if credit cards and bank ATMs go down. We will keep our receipts and will not open the boxes, so that we can return many of the last minute purchases, if the schumer doesn’t actually hit the fan. Finally, if we have actually gotten out of town early, security conditions permit, and we have space available in our vehicles, we may stop at a rural Walmart along our route to stock up as necessary on perishables, having an insulated chest available to store cold foods.

Goal #4: Arrive with as much fuel in our tanks as possible. Fuel will be critical in any SHTF situation. As world or national conditions start to indicate that everything is “going south,” we will fill our fuel tanks and attempt to keep them as full as practical. We can get from our home to the retreat with less than half a tank in our truck and about ¾ of a tank in our SUV. We also have about 20 gallons stored in gas cans in our garage. We will use these cans to top off our tanks and carry the extra fuel in the pickup for use as required. If the security situation allows, we will stop and fill up at a gas station within 30 miles of our destination to arrive with the maximum amount of fuel in our tanks and gas cans.

These are our goals, but yours will be different. This will hopefully generate some thoughts and ideas about your own personal bug out plan. Think your situation through, define the goals of your group, know your destination, evaluate possible bug out routes, plan your pack up, and plan for contingencies. Once you have a basic plan, write it all down, and review and modify it often with everyone in your family/team. When the SHTF, nothing is going to go as you think it will. Your personal situation, the local area situation and the national situation will be very fluid and constantly changing. Having a written plan that everyone understands will allow you to more easily deal with what is expected and give you more time and flexibility to adjust to the unexpected.

I don’t claim to be an expert in anything, so all comments and suggestions are very welcome! Good luck out there!

One Comment

  1. Thank you Mr. Latimer for all this great information you have given me. I am the single mother of a teenage daughter living in Hampton, and had no clue as to what to do if/when the SHTF. You really got me thinking about designing a much needed survival plan.

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