My Recent Experience Bugging Into A Disaster- Part 1, by J.W.

I had a recent experience of traveling into a situation where everyone else was leaving due to Hurricane Irma. I learned some valuable lessons during the process.

Homes in Both Florida and Midwest

My home is in Florida, and my bug out location is in the Midwest. I spend most of my time during the summer at the BOL due to the climate, the gardening opportunities, and most of all the simple peace and quiet living. Two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma was seven days out in the Atlantic and on a track that may bring it closer to Florida. When this happens, it’s time to load up needed items and travel home to secure everything and also to be there for the aftermath if there is anything to clean up and repair.

My Florida home is a log home. It’s well built to withstand the winds of a hurricane, but it’s not so great if the power is out for weeks in that humidity. Mold can be an issue for any home in Florida, and wood homes seem to draw moisture first. Part of my everyday living and being prepared is the notion that having two places means twice the work, twice the cost, and lots of travel in between. All of this is possible on a small budget if you think things through.

My Travel Vehicle and Contents

My travel vehicle is a 10 year old one ton GMC dually. It has an enclosed topper with a locking (as in padlock) back top glass. The side and rear window are blacked out to keep anyone from viewing all the contents. The truck has been well maintained, though it has over 200K miles, and looks very common on the highway or in a parking lot. The fuel mileage is reasonable no matter the load, and it will pull any trailer. It also can remain loaded down with tools, supplies, and spares at all times so you are reasonably prepared for situations when traveling across country, like I do often, or just out for the day.

Yes, I’m fortunate to be able to fix whatever usually happens, but that came from learning, preparing, and keeping the right things in the vehicle. Some people carry a credit card for situations and expect someone else to resolve the problem. I choose not to and instead be self sufficient. You can scale the supplies and spares to fit any car, truck, or even motorcycle as required. Match your skills and try and learn each year.

Necessary Items to Address Common Issues

The bottom line is having the necessary items to address common issues when traveling in a situation when help or a credit card might not resolve things.

I carry the following at minimum:

  • Two spare tires matched to what is currently on the truck, plus the jacks, blocks, and tools necessary to change them.
  • Spare oil transmission and fuel filters along with the proper fluids and lubricants.
  • A serpentine belt and fuel filter assy also as there are “known frequent failures” on my truck regardless of recent replacement.
  • Forty gallons of diesel in jerry cans, plus a spout and a funnel that fits the angle to fill the truck.
  • Potable water in bottles and a five gal potable water jerry can.
  • Portable lighting, because many bad things happen after dark.
  • Complete set of hand tools for side of the road repairs, and on and on.

Hundreds of Pounds of Stuff in Topper Covered Bed

Yes, I carry about 800 lbs of stuff in the topper covered bed. But like I said earlier, the truck will haul it, and it makes things easier when problems arise. Scale it to your ability and vehicle. Prepping is not about having everything for every situation. For me, it’s about having the right level of whatever to meet my needs and the way I live.

Power Was An Issue

On this trip, I knew power in Florida would be an issue. Tree damage would also be prevalent. I had to bring a small cargo trailer with me to haul what I needed. The trailer has add on industrial truck hinges, door locks (padlock) ventilation side windows, and an opening vent in the roof. It’s just 5×10 but rugged, reinforced, and I’m able to leave it unattended for a short time anywhere without fear of anyone having an easy time to break into. Again, it’s clean and well maintained. Law enforcement never gives my truck or trailer a second look. Bad hombres that I spot looking, think twice. It’s well balanced for my needs and how I want to be perceived, while still hauling the goods so to speak.

Remember your trailer needs serviced after every trip. Check the lugs, grease the wheel bearings, check lights, et cetera. It’s far easier to replace bearings in the backyard on a weekend than on the side of the interstate in the rain or heat. I loaded two generators– one Honda 3000eu and a big Onan 6500KW for the home A/C, if needed. Remember, portable generators are not for replacing your homes electric no matter how large the gen set may be. Unless you have a pre-wired transfer switch in the home, a 22kw gen set, and two weeks of fuel, there is no way to have on demand electric like what you’re used to. Pick the few basic items you need electric for. Accept it will only be for a few hours a day due to fuel availability, and go from there.

The Small Honda Generator

The small Honda was for a fan, charging cell phones or tool batteries, and a light at night. It would power a small dorm fridge or very small room A/C if needed, but that’s it. It’s quiet, stealthy, very fuel efficient, and could provide the basics all night when no one else had electric.

The Big, Loud, Obnoxious Onan Generator

The big, loud, obnoxious Onan generator was to be wired in to the home A/C package unit, if needed. It was not for the house system but the individual AC unit. You can kill lineman with electric back feeds, so never attach a gen set to your home’s wiring. Only after a week or so of no power would I do that to run the whole house AC for a few hours a day to remove moisture. You don’t open windows in Florida in the summer if you can help it. There’s too much moisture in the air, and it permeates everything in your home, and you will never get rid of it in a power compromised situation. You will have mold. I also brought proper sized extension cords.


I chose two coolers– one super large for ice storage, and a smaller one for in the house to use as the “replacement fridge”. I purchased Ice and filled the large cooler before I left the farm up north, knowing ice may be in short supply when I got to Florida. It was a good thing I did. With the hurricane seven days out, there was no ice to be found and very little available over the next week and a half.

You must wrap the large ice storage cooler with insulation of some type to keep ice in a hot climate regardless of how good the cooler is. I used heavy moving pads that they use to wrap furniture, and my initial ice supply lasted 12 days! Yes, you do have to drain the water every other day to maintain the ice. Remember, in the past, people would cut ice blocks from frozen ponds during winter, store in earthen coolers (ice houses) covered in thick layers of sawdust, and then they had ice in their drinks in the dead of summer. Planning ice storage and use is more intensive than just buying a cooler and few bags of ice. Educate yourself on this, and you will appreciate the rewards greatly.

DeWalt Battery Operated Hand Tools

Having a set of battery operated hand tools makes sense if you’re a prepper. I chose the DeWalt line of 20v saws, drills, and impact driver. The flashlight is one of the best. The 20v batteries charge quickly and last a long time. You must be able to cut wood, metal, and other things, and also drill and have a means to drive bits and small sockets. They’re inexpensive to own and very valuable in all situations.

Other Items

Some other items were needed, as backups or for comfort and to keep other items running. So, I also loaded two chainsaws, oil, extra blades, and took along gas for the saws. I took gas for the generators and carried all fuel in rugged jerry cans, so it was safe to carry that far. I took one, large, strong fan. Lastly, I took food, the bug out bag of survival stuff, the right clothing, and what I call my medicine bag. There’s no actual medicine, just personal toiletries and OTC comfort treatments.

The truck has an extensive first aid kit already. Remember, I’m going to a furnished and equipped home, not a remote campsite or cabin. Even though I have all these things there, I can’t bring myself to travel without them due to the distance I have to go. One never knows, and boy would I be fit to be tied if it all goes south one day and I’m 600 miles in either direction from where all my stuff is!

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a two part entry for Round 72 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

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Round 72 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. My takeaway from this article is somewhat different. Please do not take it as a “dig” at the author as it is in no way my intention. My comment is with one’s choice of climate to live in. I live in SWFla. I’m now convinced that in a situation where the power is off and will remain off the population will match Idaho if not less. Due to die offor people beating feet north. People here make no attempt to acclimate to the area’s climate. In their own habits or the homes they buy. With good air flow mold is not a problem. I haven’t shut my Windows maybe ten times in the past fifteen years. Granted I do enjoy my overhead fans. If the power goes out I move to the porch, like people here have always done. If you’re a prepper up North and are looking for a house to buy, do you look for one without a fireplace? The point I’m poorly trying to make is that if you can’t acclimate yourself to your climate without power, as a prepper your first act if at all possiple is to move where you can.

    1. I agree; having grown up in SWFL without air conditioning, I’m amazed how many think it can’t be done. Yes, humidity is high, bugs outnumber people, and mold in the shower always needs cleaning without ac. But I wouldn’t live in a log home or central Florida (it must be located up in north Florida, and he’s used to Idahos cool, low-humidity nights, which is only a Floridians dream). stuccoed concrete with rebar and hurricane windows are probably the best choice for Florida. In the event of no power (my brother was out for 9 days after Irma), I’m more concerned about water and flushing the toilet than heat and humidity. (This is where pool water comes in handy.)

    2. Excellent point about acclimating,get used to where you are and not in a bubble. Ice is still sold in the blocks(2 ice houses in area(24 hr vending machines) and will last considerably longer than small cubes,just make sure you have a ice pick. Hurricane construction (reinforced concrete) or filled block is the only way to go within 20 miles of the coast and would need almost no heating in the winter if built properly(solar heat gain). Population die off will be spectacular in these areas in a grid down situation and provide a opportunity for native type population

        1. It is a myth that dead bodies mean disease. It’s only true IF THEY DIED OF DISEASE, and then someplace where bodily fluids can drain into a shallow well’s aquifer.

          Dead bodies stink. That’s about it. In a warm humid place like Florida they don’t last long, due to scavenging animals, insects and mold. There may be health issues resulting from the well-fed rats, raccoons and flies.

    3. Good points! My point on the ac was my log home has unfinished logs on the interior. Moisture ravages unfinished Eastern white pine that has been waterproofed on the outside and the inside is now the wick. If it was to become a BOL in a permanent grid down situation, changes would have to be made for sure. Just as in any home. So far….and I’ve been there 36 years surrounded by SWFWMD land ( swamp). Worked outside 34 of those years. You made excellent points and they would apply to many who have moved here in the last 15 or so years.

  2. I read with interest as having someone in Florida, a transplant from the north. I like the info, everyone is different, we travel minimalist. We can go from the Mississippi river to the east coast with only one gas stop. Avoid using ice, make your own ice bags from vacuum sealed bags or freeze water bottles so you don’t discard precious water and keep the cooler dry. We depend on truck stops for showers, free ice (from pop dispensers kept in foam cup in cooler), microwave ovens to cook our 90 second meals. We can sleep in the vehicle. Also one could make use of 12 volt appliances found at truck-stops.

  3. I am glad people can live in high humidity states with all of the associated problems that high humidity can create. I am not one of them. I like the Pacific Northwest.

    I have done the math for 2 places and it just doesn’t pencil out for me.
    Also the idea of squatters taken over one of your homes in a national emergency is a high probability and one would have a impossible task to retain your asset.

    But thanks for your story and how you manage duel properties.

  4. JW,
    Thank you for your article, looking forward to Part II. I’m interested in your experience of living in Florida surrounded by swamps for thirty six years.
    Some simple thoughts for out of towners looking to build heah.
    Florida is the opposite of the rest of the U.S.. Think reverse passive design. Shade and breeze is good. A wraparound house porch will cool incoming air as it travels up and out a roof ridge vent or small side wall gable vent. It’s the Venturi principle used in carburetors. Applied horizontally, the old Cracker Dog Trot breezeway between two single depth rooms will pull hot air out of the house if room windows are open. Pivatol casements windows control the breeze. See Ken Kerns’ classic book “The Owner Built Home”. So, basically little or none AC is used, perhaps a small fan.
    Get a ‘Rose’ wind map of your area along with a Plant Hardiness Map to illustrate which one of three Floridian temperture zones you plan to locate. The USDA Extension Office has a wealth of free knownledge.
    Study indigneous designs such as the “Chickee” pole frame structure or Wadell’s 1940/50s “Bubble House”. Curved structures tend to be more hurricance resistance as angular ninety degree corners create negative pressures that pull things apart. (The Bank/Mortage Holders do not care for domes as they are hard to resell.)
    More breeze, less mosquitoes.
    Keep a low building profile as Florida is probably the “Lighting Capital of the World”.
    Don’t build on the coastal barrier islands or sandbars as that is what dampens the effects of hurricances. Besides cutting down the orginal Floridian Longleaf Pine forests settlers destroyed the mangroves holding the barriers together and then build on them, only to run when a hurricance approached. Go figure, man is his own worst enemy.

    Ps. Perhaps Longleaf Pine pith wood could replace White Pine, that is if it is still available. Then again Florida being lighting prone would explain why there are few turpentine wood made Cracker houses around.

  5. So, you are well equipped and well supplied. If people (politicians) start screaming about “hording” I think the cops will look closer at you and your equipment. So I hope your rig is “low profile”.

  6. Can’t recommend enough and sure the author is aware — but if constantly hauling around a 1k+ lb load above factory, be certain to upgrade your brake rotors and pads (and/or drums and shoes) to premium option brake pads and drilled and slotted rotors… The loss in fuel economy is what it is when running heavy, but needlessly losing your vehicle by rear ending someone and/or risking safety due to reduced mobility/maneuverability (critical for survivability when bad things happen including just stupid drivers) can both be largely mitigated by spending a little more on quality parts. And if budget limited prioritize front brakes over rear. There are often also upgrades to brake components such as larger brake calipers, cylinders, etc, as well available for greater complexity and cost.

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