In Part 1, I described why I believe it is impossible to bugout into the woods with just a rifle and a backpack when you have young children in tow. In Part 2 I’ll be offering suggestions on what can be done to get your children to safety when you have no choice but to leave home.
Before I get into that though, let me stress that by far the best advice when you have kids (or even if you don’t) is to live at your bugout location if at all possible. Besides the many reasons outlined by JWR in his writings, let me add that it will be much easier on your children. A disaster is a traumatic event, and kids will be much better able to cope if they can stay in their normal environment and maintain at least some of their normal routines.
However, if you must go, here are some important tips:
- You must have a place where you are going, not a part of the country or an area with which you are familiar but a specific address. If you don’t own the property, make sure the residents of that address know you, expect you, and will welcome you in. Ideally this should be the home/homestead of a like-minded family member or a close friend. Helpful hint: They’ll be much more likely to welcome you if you’ve pre-positioned a large amount of supplies at their location.
Unfortunately, young children are not very helpful. Kids may earn you a bit of charity here and there, but it would be unreasonable to expect a stranger to take in a family of five refugees knowing that only one of them will actually be able to give back in the form of meaningful labor. (Remember the other parent is taking care of the kids full time.)
- Bring help if you can. If you know any others who are heading to the same destination (such as your parents or a sibling), try to meet up with them and travel together. To some extent there is safety in numbers, and it will also spread out the burden of carrying and caring for your children among other adults.
- Travel in your vehicle as far as possible. Remember, children on foot will potentially only be traveling about three miles a day. Even if you have to wait in your vehicle three days until the traffic clears, it will take only a few minutes to make up the distance you would otherwise have walked. Try to get out early and plan your route to avoid bridges, cities or towns, and any other choke point that might prevent you from driving to your final destination. A vehicle is the best way to carry all the supplies you’ll need to keep your family going while evacuating. Abandon it only as a very last resort.
- If you must leave your vehicle, you need some other means of conveyance. As I mentioned, you can’t carry both a backpack full of supplies and a child. There are many options that will let you pull both when needed. These will also allow you to move much faster than a child’s walking pace, although keep in mind that they will still slow you down quite a bit from your single-adult walking pace. A heavy duty jogging stroller can carry a child over fairly rough terrain and has the bonus feature of doubling as a bed for your little ones. I recommend a folding double stroller even if you only have one child, so that you can transport more supplies. Other options could be a sturdy garden cart (very useful even after you reach your destination), a deer cart (easy to maneuver through wooded areas), or a sturdy child’s wagon (avoid the cheap plastic ones that can’t really go off road). I would even consider using a large recycling cart on wheels if you can get your hands on one. Just make sure it is clean. (I wouldn’t recommend using a used trash cart because of the smell and risk of bacteria/mold/etc that may be growing inside.) A recycling cart could even provide a simple shelter for one adult or two small children in a pinch.
- Bring a serious tent if there is any chance you will spend the night outdoors. As I mentioned above, you can’t throw together an emergency shelter for five people made out of all natural materials just before nightfall. Because you’ll have your vehicle or another means of conveyance with you, you can carry a serious tent. I would recommend buying a tent sized for one or two more people than will be traveling with you. That way you’ll have room to keep some supplies and equipment out of the rain as well.
- Bring food that your kids will actually eat. Never assume that if kids are hungry enough they’ll eat anything. That’s just not how most of them work. One box of cheerios will be worth a lot more than a #10 can of beef jerky, even if it doesn’t have nearly as many calories. With very young children, what they are willing and able to eat can change pretty rapidly. In those cases you might not want to rely entirely on a pre-packed supply of food in a bugout bag that gets rotated every six months. Instead (or in addition to that), plan to run to the pantry with a shopping bag and throw in whatever it is they’ve been eating well for the last couple of weeks.
- Avoid trouble at all costs. This means avoiding crowds, refugee camps, and pretty much all other travelers as much as possible. It will quickly become apparent to anyone watching you that you’ve got resources. Children are vulnerable, and they make an easy target for anyone who wants to “negotiate” for your supplies. The best way to protect your children is to avoid desperate/unprepared people altogether.
As uncomfortable as it will be, I also recommend thinking ahead of time about potential scenarios in which someone does try to harm your children. You and your spouse should really spend time talking together about the best course of action. To whatever extent you can, create a plan now for how you will react and make those tough moral choices ahead of time. When someone has a knife to your daughter’s throat, it is not the time to think through the implications of negotiation vs. opening fire.
- Teach your children everything you can now. Children are constantly learning. In age-appropriate ways, introduce them to survival skills. It might start out with teaching a 2-year-old that fire is hot; don’t touch. At four, he might be ready to learn that matches and lighters create fire; don’t play with them. By six, your child could probably learn to safely add wood to a fire and roast a hotdog, and by eight he may be able to start a campfire with matches on his own. A similar process can take place for any skills you want to pass on to your children, but the timing and the exact steps involved will likely be unique for each child. Teaching children can be difficult and slow, but it is also extremely rewarding. Everything they can do for themselves makes the burden that much less on you.
As a final thought, I’d like to encourage those who haven’t yet read it to get a copy of JWR’s novel Liberators. In that book, he describes a successful bugout by a young family. The family utilizes many of the tips I’ve described here. They are heading for a specific location (a friend’s house in another state), they stay in their vehicle as long as possible, when forced to abandon their vehicle they obtain two deer carts to carry supplies, and they wisely strike off on their own rather than head toward a known refugee camp.
If you don’t already have kids, you may have read this article and concluded, “I don’t ever want to become a parent. Why would I willingly take responsibility for a group of slow, heavy, picky, loud, curious, unhelpful, vulnerable little people?” The answer lies in the other things that children are. They are also precious, lovely, funny, wonderful gifts from God. They stretch us in so many ways, causing us to grow. They inspire us, motivate us, and fill us with indescribable joy. Some of the most fulfilling moments of my life have involved passing on my faith and my skills to my children. There is truly nothing like it. And in a real sense, raising the next generation of godly, self-sufficient men and women is the ultimate goal of survival in the first place.
– Soli Deo Gloria (All for the Glory of God)