Guest Post: A Discussion on “Bugging Out”, by Max Alexander

Let’s have a discussion today about “bugging out”. This is in fact a huge topic and often discussed across the prepper-sphere. There are many aspects to this and a detailed discussion, including the debate about “to stay or to go” is written up in “Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival. The issues, pros, cons, and mistakes around this are further illustrated in the collapse-novel Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises.

Foolhardy Bugging Out On Foot

Given the breadth of the topic, my plan today is to focus on the idea of bugging out on foot with a “never coming back’ mindset. Much has been discussed before about the problems of trying to survive in the woods, or of becoming a refugee, and I think that there are a number of issues with the idea of trying to bug out from your home base carrying a huge load on your back. So much so that I believe the idea of trying to bug out on foot with a huge load is foolhardy. Let us examine why.

None of us know what form and extent a collapse, or event, will take. For the purposes of this post, let us assume that something serious has happened that has us staying in place at a location that is our home base, or retreat location. Thus, we have already gone through the decision making process of an initial “get home” or “bug out” to a retreat, or attempt to stay in the suburbs, et cetera. Related to this is the idea of attempting to use whatever vehicles we have available for any sort of move that we make. We still do not know exactly what will befall us, but our assumption here is that we are now at our prepared location and we are surviving in place.

Thus, something will happen that will force us out of that location and into a move on foot scenario to escape. Let us assume for the purposes of this article that the threat displacing us is a determined gang of aggressors who are moving through the area cleaning out survivors. We cannot know the reality until we get there, but we can examine why planning to ruck out with a huge load on our backs is not a good idea.

Basics of Home Defense

The basics of a defense of a home base is to attempt to have patrols and observation posts out that will give you early warning of enemy approach. To do this you need a trained team. This is something that many lack. Worst case, you do not have sufficient security in place and thus you will be taken by surprise. In this case, it may already be too late for you, and you may be fixed in place to die there. If you are defending a house, it is best to do so from outside of that house.

You need to be able to maneuver on the enemy to disrupt their attack, and you should aim to not be fixed in place. Your ability to do that will depend on a function of whether or not you have a trained team, the element of surprise the enemy has, their tactical skill and numbers, and whether or not you were fixed in place by the initial surprise attack. One thing to seriously consider here is what will happen with your non-combatants.

These are your protected personnel, such as children and the elderly, and their guardians/close protection, such as (most likely) wives et cetera (who need to be trained, of course). Given sufficient warning, you could get these people out of the house and move them to an offset location where they could await the results of the fight. If the fight is lost, they could continue the bug out from this rally point “in the woods”. If it is won, they could be collected to return.

Alternatively, you could have a safe room in the house where you move people to as the fight goes on outside. However, if the fight is lost, they will be captured or killed. When you are taken by surprise, you may have no choice but to centralize non-combatants at a location inside the structure, simply because it is now too late to run. If you are caught unaware asleep in the house, a lot will depend on the skill and proximity of the enemy and the terrain at and around your house.

If the enemy has not set up the attack well, then you may have both time and space to bug out to a nearby rally point. However, you need to be sure that if they move out, for example, of the back door, that the enemy does not have that covered by fire, for example by an assault or support by fire group. Thus, there is a lot to be said for having a rehearsed tactical contingency plan and to make efforts to not be taken by surprise.

Family and Non-Combatants

This raises the next point, that of family and non-combatants. Much is talked about bugging out with huge rucks. To where? You will need resupply at some point anyway, unless you have a specific place to go. And are we all single men doing this? Or a young fit couple? Who is carrying the rucks for the kids? You need to do the planning to move this beyond a survivalist fantasy.

I have written much on the need to ensure that you do not carry too much gear and that you carry the right gear to be able to effectively maneuver under enemy fire. You can find the rest of the links in this first link here: “Gear: The MVT Lite Fight Concept.” If you are bugging out on foot because you have been forced out, this may well be a break contact under enemy fire, then the last thing you want to do is carry too much gear. And, the rest of the group? And what if you have to carry kids at times? This also goes to the level of physical fitness you have, and it ties back in to the use of vehicles, maybe UTV/ATV, as written in the linked articles on gear. You may actually have vehicles and gear stashed out at that rally point in case you need to bug out.

Be sure that it falls under your security plan, and you have an alternative in case that is where the enemy comes from that day. You cannot assume an enemy will always be dumb and will come up your driveway. Do not underestimate the enemy, and try to think like they would, if they were conducting a raid on your house. For that, of course, you need to be tactically trained to understand that process.

Yes, it may simply be the worst case time and you have just been forced out. If that happens, however, what guarantee do you have that you will even be able to get all that gear? Yes, you must retain the flexibility of mind and option to ensure that you do not die in place, simply because all your eggs are in one basket with that pile of dried food and prepper supplies. But if you do bug out with that ruck, where to, and where is that resupply coming from once you eat the rations you packed?

Planning Options

So let us look at a few planning options:

  1. It is true that where most of us live, we do not live in a wilderness vacuum. The more of a wilderness you live in, of course, the less likely this will be to happen to you anyway. Suffice to say, there are hundreds of buildings and structures out there, and who knows what the situation with habitation will be if this sort of crisis is ongoing. Thus, there are shelter options if you conduct a prudent check/clearance of the place before walking up to it. Of course, this may even consist of a friendly neighbor option, who you planned a mutual bug-to plan with. This will help with the reality of the situation where you are not likely to be wearing 120lbs of gear and will more likely be dressed in your Lite Fight Concept, having conducted a fighting withdrawal, or at least one in haste with sufficient warning of the approaching threat.
  2. Caches: a few points on these. This is a way of establishing supply on a planned evacuation route. You do of course need to ensure that they are put in places where they will still be there when you need them, and they not controlled by others. So on what land? This can be problematic. Another way to look at this is to have close-in caches collocated at your primary and alternate close rally-points. This will allow those bugging out of the house in a hurry to equip, and fighters meeting up with them there before the bug-out to resupply with ammunition, food, and water. This will help if the enemy had surprise and caught you with your pants down. Such a proximity cache needs to be hidden but easily accessible. You could also use neighboring houses at sufficient distance, in a mutual bug-to support agreement if you had good relations with them in the collapse environment.
  3. Consider that you may not bug-out at all. You may simply bug-to a nearby rally point or neighbor and then re-take the house. How this works exactly depends on the enemy and their intent. If it is a quick raid, then they may be ransacking and leaving, or maybe staying a night and moving on. If you are out there at a rally point at sufficient distance to avoid any patrols they may put out, you can get eyes-on via an observation post and move back in. You may also decide to retake the house by force, which could take the form of a counter attack, if you have sufficient trained personnel, or simply harassing by fire, depending on the enemy and what you think their reaction might be. You may not want them chasing you into the woods in large numbers. Alternatively, you could set up an ambush on the egress from your house, and kill them as they leave in their vehicles. Many options there. The key thing is what you are planning if you do move back into a ransacked house, maybe even burned down. This is where close-in caches would have utility to ensure the enemy does not get all your supplies. At this time you can assess the situation and decide whether to stay or collect gear and equipment and then follow a bug-out plan.
  4. Vehicles: It makes sense to use vehicles any time you can, if you are tactically able. Even if you cannot use cars on roads due to the situation, any bug-out plan would be better if you could include some sort of all-terrain vehicles in it. This is true both for logistics and also the carriage of personnel.


In summary here:

  • Be tactically trained, physically fit, and with a team.
  • Do not plan to carry too much gear.
  • Ensure that you are not taken by surprise.
  • Ensure you are not fixed mentally or physically in place and do not die in place as a result.
  • Defend by maneuver outside of any building you are defending.
  • If you have to bug out, consider your options and plan in advance to avoid ending up in the woods for any more than a short period of time.
  • Consider the use of pre-positioning supplies, including options on all-terrain vehicles,  to support either an extraction, or a temporary stay out at a rally point before moving back into the house.
  • If there is no option other than to continue the bug out, by pre-positioning/caching you will have additional supplies, equipment, and vehicles to support a more survivable bug-out.
  • You must plan for non-combatants, such as children and the elderly, and avoid thinking this is just a man’s game with single guys bugging out into the woods to live there indefinitely.
  • If you have network in the areas via community, you may be able to establish a mutual support bug-to plan to temporarily move to the houses of others. This may also work to centralize at one location while an enemy threat is known to be in the area, for better defense of a single location.
  • Most of us do not live in true wilderness, and there are many structures and resources out there that can be utilized for shelter and survival.

Making Decisions Under Extreme Pressure

One aspect that is not covered here, and is assumed but often overlooked, is the ability to gather information and make decisions under extreme pressure with imperfect knowledge. Prior planning, physical conditioning, and tactical training will help with this. You may well be exhausted and dehydrated after a fight where some of your people were killed or wounded. You need to be able to make rational decisions about the best course of action. Planning and pre-positioning will give you more options and make those decisions easier.

I wrote about the issues surrounding decision-making in “Making Decisions“.

About The Author

Max Alexander is a tactical trainer and author. He is a lifelong professional soldier with extensive military experience. He served with British Special Operations Forces, both enlisted and as a commissioned officer; a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Max served on numerous operational deployments, and also served as a recruit instructor. Max spent five years serving as a paramilitary contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This included working on contract for the U.S. Government in Iraq, a year of which was based out of Fallujah, and also two years working for the British Government in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He operates Max Velocity Tactical (MVT).


  1. Good article, thank you!

    “Making decisions”- this is the hard one for “preppers” as many feel they have to “research” things for a few years before making a decision. There isn’t time for that in a fight. We have to learn to exercise our decision making muscles now, or risk losing all from inaction in a fight.

    This is one of many lessons played out time and time again in training like the Force on force team tactics training with the UTM man marker rounds. The team or the team leader that sits on the “X” thinking about what to do next is usually rolled up quickly. Hence why you need the shorter decision making process.

    “Have a team”- another lesson that is drilled in at Force on force team tactics. One of the classes last year involved one squad that clearly trained together regularly and one ad hoc thrown together there at class team. In other words, one crew used to working together and one ad hoc crew similar to most prepper’s fantasies about throwing in with some unknown people from their subdivision at the last minute.

    The results? Near absolute slaughter. The crew that was used to working together rolled up the ad hoc crew handily 75% of the time. Even with a few experienced people and some pushing from the leadership the ad hoc crew prevailed just a small portion of the time.

    Analysis on that for the “prepper”- the thrown together at the last minute group of people you barely know from your subdivision with varying levels of experience stands little chance against a real crew that is organized and trains together regularly. That’s reality, not a cute fiction story that makes you think you don’t have to go to the work of grouping up with like minded people ahead of time.

  2. A good article, but for me, this is not an option at this time. I might have a location to get to, about 3 hours away with relations, but no answer on being able to show up. There is room, and they would need it, but…..we shall see.

  3. Wise advice. The enormity and risk of “bugging out” can be seen in the LDS recommended quantity of grain for a year. How are you going to move 2000 lbs of grain for a family of 5-6?

  4. Excellent article. The big thing for me is team building. Be neighborly, get to know like minded neighbors, start a dialogue on the subject as stated by Mr. Alexander, then train together. Best to get professional training. I know, professional training is expensive, but it needs to be considered as part of your preps. The team fighting does not come naturally, even if all your buddies are hunters.

  5. I’m not bugging anywhere. The last 9 years of my life have been all about making sure I don’t have to. First step was move out of the city. Second was become self sufficient. Mission accomplished.
    If somebody wants my place more than I do they can “try” to take it.
    I’m 60 years old, worked hard all my life and my body is falling apart. Constant surgical repair seems to be the norm. There is no way I’m going to be able to walk a long distance let alone carry enough on my back to keep me alive more than three or four days.

  6. Carrying a pack in an evacuation is not a good idea. In S. America, they will use a razor blade to cut the bottom of your pack and make off with the contents. A belly pack and skills might prove more valuable than a lot of “stuff” in a heavy pack.

  7. I think if one is to hunker down, numbers are a huge advantage. If one can get a crew with enough capable men that can create an outer perimeter, a mid perimeter and a stand your ground inner crew, they can ward off many intruders with sniper fire located in the strategic locations, elevated if possible. Have some situated at a greater distance that can be called in to hit the intruders from the rear. Set the trap, fight to their deaths. Escape routes with protected fire from the other blinds. Fox holes, tree stands and other natural blinds depending on terrain of course. Crossing fields of fire. Some older men who shoot well, could create a very effective shooting force. The younger out the furthest, the oldest back protecting the homestead. At that point, booby traps could have a significant roll. All this would benefit greatly from a lot of sand bags, etc. Dig in, wisely.

    Great article. Love all his works.

  8. Max, the difficulty I have with your article is how you suggest that a discussion would ensue. Yet you front-load your piece with ideas to shutter any disagreement with the status quo perspective on this site. Most “city slickers” don’t have the training or skills to survive and thrive in the woods. Some trainers of this skill-set include Tom Brown, Dave Canterbury, Mors Kochanski(?) in Canada, among others.
    If the group in “Patriots” didn’t evac to the woods and “live off the land,” they wouldn’t have made it!
    A different viewpoint would argue that the USA is daughter Babylon (as in Rev. 18) due to the overwhelming match with current practices here. Maybe we need to listen for the Spirit and/or the end-times Elijah to beckon us to depart totally from America before it’s burned up! Thus, a retreat may be a waste of time and money. Better to develop bushcraft skills to enjoy God’s creation, etc. as well as prepare spiritually for a post-tribulation rapture.
    Cheers, Dave from Texas

    1. “A different viewpoint would argue that the USA is daughter Babylon (as in Rev. 18) due to the overwhelming match with current practices here. Maybe we need to listen for the Spirit and/or the end-times Elijah to beckon us to depart totally from America before it’s burned up! Thus, a retreat may be a waste of time and money.” – Precisely what I have been thinking. But I have no real meaningful solution due to financial limitations.

      1. PJPrepper–I’m one who holds to the view that Rev. 12 may teach that the “woman” given the 2 wings of the great eagle refers to the earthly bride of Christ. And that a place in the wilderness will be prepared and protected by God for the duration of the last 3.5 years of Great Tribulation. He will beckon us to “come out of her My people”(Rev. 18:4).The location may be in Israel or western Jordan region, and He’ll help us to get there!
        Dave from Texas

  9. Good article, however I think the author is just thinking in terms of modern conflict. Conflict would most likely devolve to a late 19th century one. In that atmosphere if you have hardened your house ballistically and have strong points around it, such as hardened fighting positions, that have watchers in place you can fight and win. Remember these guys attacking in reality will not have air support and artillery to root you out. Just like forts and blockhouses worked in the 18th and 19th century so would this. You would still need a disciplined group to hold it and still a need a plan to fall back and maybe counter attack if possible though or bug out.

  10. The first obstacle to defending your neighborhood, will probably be [persons] with their hands on their hips, obstructing and questioning your every instruction. That is generally why there is no Neighborhood Protection Plan in place where I live. These shrieking harpies inhabit large swaths of these plains, and feel both entitled and in charge, based on their mouthy and limited experience. They really don’t know anything about survival, and are dedicated to their own comfort. I don’t intend to bug out and die with the thousands of these wasteoids, of either violence, or dehydration. My bugging out will come AFTER the mass die off of these “people”. I carried a 110-130 lb. rucksack when I was 19, in VN, nearly fifty years ago. No illusions.I might make it a block with that now. My progeny are youthful, and somewhat skillful. We’ll adapt to what needs to be done, in place,or on the march.

  11. The biggest problem with all these bugging out scenarios is the timing. If you wait for an event to occur that could put you in harms way before you decide to bug out, you have probably reduced your chances of survival by at least 50%.

    It will reduce further if you have family members that are not physically capable of providing much help along the way. After an event, the military will likely assume control of an area…especially if it is a large city. Their objective in the beginning will be containment.

    If you have to get through military checkpoints, you may as well stay home. They would likely take everything of use from you before they turn you back.

    The time to bug out i before the need arises…but therein lies the rub. No one wants to give up their lifestyle for an unknown…because doubt remains if the potential event will really occur. On the other hand, if you choose to bug in…and remain seemingly in good health while outside, the multitudes are starving and drifting aimlessly from trash can to trash can looking for food, you will be faced with hundreds if not more people doing everything they can to get at your supplies.

    Its a no win situation.

  12. 1. Not a prepper or Military person.
    But found the article interesting and informative. But growing up on the prairies, we dealt with natural disasters. These came in the form of tornados, hail, flood, draught and of course fire. But the thing is the next farm over was a good distance away and what was happening, was right on top of you in very short order most times. But we seem to get through it or not in some cases. So allot of preplanning was undertaken by adults and older siblings, but quite a few things where decided as the crisis unfolded. Then normally a discussion between interested parties decided how things maybe could have done better or gone more smoothly afterwards.
    I understand the point of the article, about arm maunders coming for you and your families. But for most people like the ones in southern Texas, it is not. There is another storm on its way and where it impacts no one knows right now, so maybe prepare for the worst and hope for the bes

  13. Max,
    I learned a lot from your article. Almost 60 years old, with many children and grandchildren, through much hard work and discipline I’m more fit than most 30 year olds. Am hardening a home in the country, raising livestock, starting to garden, and getting to know all the neighbors around me. It’s a start. Now I need to work on putting a “team” together.

  14. I major drawback to this article is the known fact most survivalists do not want to know each other, are leary of everyone, and prefer the lone wolf mentality. I have tried three separate times to start basic preparedness groups in three separate states. They all ended with just one meeting and no one talking to each other. Most only wanted what they could get out of it and had no sense or desire to become a part of any “team”. So this whole concept needs to be forgotten. In modern America no one cares to be a part of any team. They only think of themselves. Those days are over.

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