I recently relocated from a rural suburb in a purple state to a much smaller community in a very red state. I had long-term plans to make this move, but an unexpected career change enabled me to move sooner than expected. While my new home is not a compound deep in the woods, it does provide me with more security, more privacy, the ability to expand my gardening efforts, the option of raising some chickens and/or rabbits in the future, abundant wildlife, and a smaller community where people go to church and value their freedom.
When making our relocation decision, my wife and I decided that we wanted a location that would be our final home. This was an extremely important decision, so we visited the general area on many occasions, getting to know the area, visiting many towns, and looking at a large number of properties and houses. This was a multi-year research effort. One of our considerations was the proximity to hospitals and doctors. The area we were considering was rural and mountainous. Some of the specific locations that we considered were ruled out as we believed them to be too far from appropriate medical treatment if one of us had a dire health emergency. We settled on a location that was rural and private but was an acceptable distance from a good hospital.
We purchased our red state home several months ago and only recently sold our purple state home and moved to our new location. During that interim period during which we owned both houses, we moved some of our materials and belongings so that we could sort of camp out in the new home during many trips there to make repairs and updates on the new house.
Bugging out by vehicle
It occurred to me prior to one of these trips, that I could use that trip to test what it would be like to bug out by vehicle. I needed to move my preps to the new location anyway, so I killed two birds with one stone. I have a mid-sized SUV and a hitch-mounted cargo carrier. Many years ago, I had developed my bug-out strategy. That included storing preps in foot lockers and plastic totes that could be easily stacked in my vehicle, after folding down both rows of back seats. In addition to that, I had also earmarked many of my non-electric tools for a potential bug-out. Some of these were tools that I still used fairly often. So I left them in my tool shed while placing yellow stickers on them, so that I could easily spot and gather them in a hurry. Other items that I would take included my inventory of freeze-dried food and clothing, shoes, etc. In order to maintain OPSEC, my firearms were placed in flexible covers, which were then placed in a very large golf bag cover with wheels. I also keep all of my important papers in a small file tote in a location where I can quickly grab it when needed.
On the day of my bug-out by vehicle dry run, It was an easy matter to gather everything, and load it in the vehicle then attach the cargo carrier and strap down totes and a couple of 5 gallon gas cans. My new home is about 6 hours from my old home so I could easily get there on a ¾ of a tank of gas. However, if I was bugging out to another location, that extra gas in the cans would get me about 12 hours away, if needed. The loading of the vehicle took me 45 minutes, but I think I could easily do it in 20-30 minutes if I were pressed.
I then drove to the new location and unloaded everything. The unloading only took me 15 minutes.
This exercise confirmed that my basic bug-out by vehicle plan is feasible and will work well if everything is pre-packed and ready to load. The unrealistic part of this exercise is that it was not carried out during dangerous times:
- What if my community or home was under attack? I would need to bug out before this happens. Hopefully, I would see the signs of this ahead of time and leave before it became too dangerous to do so.
- What if all the roads had been clogged with traffic trying to get out of dodge? I did plot out two other routes that avoid main highways but would have taken considerably longer. That’s where the extra gas could be used.
- What if there were opportunistic thugs attacking and robbing vehicles. Hopefully, my firearms training would prove sufficient to protect us.
I did learn a couple of things from this exercise which I will incorporate into my plan going forward. When it comes to clothing and shoes, etc. I cheated, as I packed them the night before. One change that I will make to my plan going forward, is to have a foot locker of clothing, shoes, hats, coats and gloves pre-packed and always ready going forward. Another change is that I will pre-pack all of my bug-out hand tools in a tote so that I don’t have to gather them in a time of crisis. This means I will need to duplicate some of them so that I have a bug-out set and normal usage set.
If you need old-time hand tools, like hand drills, etc., then you might want to visit some flea markets and antique malls, as this is where I was able to obtain many of mine in very good condition at reasonable prices.
Bugging out by foot
I have always enjoyed spending time outdoors, including backpacking. I view backpacking as the most appropriate dry run for a bug-out-by-foot scenario. Backpacking long distances is much harder than most people realize. Only about 20-25% of the people who start a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail complete it each year. It is physically challenging to walk long distances with a heavy backpack even on fairly flat terrain.
You can only fit a very tiny subset of your prep items in a backpack as compared to what you can fit in a motor vehicle. When I backpack, I only carry the minimum amount of food that I will need for the trip, as the weight of the other gear adds up. You will need a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack stove, eating containers and utensils, food, water filtration system, water bottles, ropes, knives, bear spray (depending on where you are), etc. Add the weight of firearms and ammo and it would be quite a heavy load. If you are not an experienced soldier, marine or veteran who is used to carrying such a heavy load, you will likely struggle.
You also have to deal with injuries you might sustain while hiking. A couple of years ago, I was backpacking on the Appalachian Trail and had to abandon my hike after injuring my knee. Luckily, I was only a couple of miles from a heavily traveled road. So I hobbled to the road and called for my ride to come and get me. If this had happened in a more remote area in a grid-down situation, It could have been deadly.
I have considered what is a realistic distance that I could backpack without restocking food supplies in a wilderness situation and have concluded that, for me, I could likely make it about 100 to 150 miles, depending on trail conditions and assuming water is readily available on my hike. If you intend to bug out by foot via wilderness trails, it would be wise to preposition food and supply caches along the trail, in a manner that people and animals can’t find them.
If your bug-out by foot journey isn’t in wilderness areas, but rather on roads it would change some of the dynamics of the hike. The journey should be physically easier and water should be easier to obtain. I made a small addition to my preps a few years ago that would come in handy in this situation – a sillcock key, which can be used to operate various types of water spigots when the handle has been removed. Depending upon the situation at the time, you might be able to obtain food from people living in the communities you pass through, if you have some way of paying them or bartering with them. Perhaps they would accept silver coins or ammo or maybe you could barter your physical labor for food – chopping wood, etc. You could also preposition supply caches along the route as discussed previously.
Another dynamic that would change if hoofing it on roads is that it would be easier for thugs to attack you as you would be more accessible to them than in the wilderness. I think you would need to develop a hiking strategy that would minimize human contact. That might mean hiking at night and sleeping during the day.
Your chances of physical injury when walking on smoother surfaces whether paved, gravel or gassy medians are less than when hiking on wilderness trails where you can trip on tree roots or rocks and will likely have much more frequent and severe changes in grade and elevations. If you decide to bug out on roads, can avoid dangerous people, can obtain food and water when needed, and are in good shape, I think you could walk a very long distance.
In preparation for possible thug encounters, you should also hone your self-protection skills. Given the price of ammo currently, I purchased a dry-fire training system that I use to augment live-fire target practice.
Since I have now relocated to my new home which is in a better location, my default strategy in an emergency situation is to hunker down and not to bug out. However, I will be ready to bug out by vehicle or by foot, if needed. I do have a lot of work ahead of me:
- I need to build a network of like-minded people in the area
- I need to start my new gardens
- I need to develop a hunker down plan for my new location
- I need to identify a couple of potential bug out locations
- I need to decide my route of travel for potential bug out by foot situations and preposition caches at key points on those routes
- I need to exercise more frequently to get myself in better shape for a bugout by foot scenario
I believe that this dry run has added value to my bug out strategies as well as my overall prepping strategies. Have you developed detailed bug out plans for these two scenarios?