Getting Real About Bugging Out, by R.G.

Ragnar Benson wrote the book “The Survival Retreat: A Total Plan For Retreat Defense” many years ago, but one of the things he discussed has stayed with me for a long time.  Reading this blog influenced me to read it again recently.  A great many of the things in the book don’t apply to my situation, but his discussion of the insights into the conditions during a disruption of normal society influenced my decision to “bunker in place.”  His descriptions of the situations of refugees especially affected me.  Refugees are basically at the mercy of whichever authority is controlling the area they are moving through, or temporarily residing in, at the time.  More than anything, what I have taken from this section of his book, and I have paraphrased here is, die if you must but never become a refugee.  In the broad sense a refugee is anyone who is not residing in a permanent, sustainable, and defendable location; and has no intention of moving from it in the foreseeable future.  The qualities of your location may be dependent on your means at the time, but they are necessary.  By this definition, if you have to commute to and from work through an area that could become dangerous during any societal disruption, during the time you are moving through this area you are a refugee.  You have limited resources, you have to move through territory that may have unknown dangers from obstructions, you have no fixed defenses, and you may have a limited time to reach your destination.  This is especially true if you are truly “bugging out”, moving you, your family, or your group from an area which is not any of the above requirements for a retreat.    Most probably even though you are a “prepper” and have made many preparations for eventualities you do not live permanently at your retreat location.  Even if you do, most of you have to work somewhere else, and very few of you stay within a few miles away from you retreat every minute of every day.  You take vacations, shopping trips, visits to the relatives, etc.  I don’t think any disruption will be sudden enough that you won’t have 2 or 3 days to get to your retreat, but that doesn’t mean something like a war or major volcanic eruption in Yellowstone can’t happen. Even so, some difficulties will be manifest during a slow slide to oblivion.  Unless you are part of a military armored column with close air support and adequate recon capabilities you are a refugee.  You are vulnerable.  To maximize your chances of reaching your destination safely you have to think and act like a refugee, a smart refugee.

When you are moving you are extremely vulnerable.  Anyone who has hunted knows that the best time to find game such as deer and elk is when they are moving and you can “lieth in wait” as the Bible says.  When they are bedded you have to move to find them, and that gives them the advantage.  Every moment you are on the move or stopped in some questionable camp you are vulnerable to the predators that will be waiting or moving in search of prey, and it won’t take much movement to attract their attention.  In a true “fan” situation, and even in a temporary local disruption if it happens to be your local, every thing beyond your line of sight including intervening obstructions such as gulleys must be considered “Bandit Country.”  If you live in a city this includes down to the corner and around the block.  Any place that could hide a hunter or a group of hunters is suspect.  Your status as a refugee may be extremely temporary, but it can take no time at all to put you in grave peril.  As a refugee you want to be as inconspicuous as possible.  Any attention you attract is probably not good, and in a total meltdown can be deadly.  You need to avoid all contact with anyone outside your trusted group.  This includes the neighbor you’ve known casually for many years.  Trust no one outside your group, and have no one in your group you don’t trust. Everyone must know and act according to plans and instructions.  Bugging out is no place for a debating society.  Since it may not be possible to avoid all contact you want to blend in as much as possible.  Don’t look too rich or too poor.  Most of the people you meet will not be prepared for this and will look rundown, ragged, and discouraged.  If you look too rich by being prepared they will try to latch onto you either to make you responsible for them by association or to steal what they need.  The same goes for looking too weak or too powerful.  The larger the group the more attention it will draw; and the harder it is to stay out of the spotlight as it were.  The individual or single family with a child will be very attractive to just about anyone.  As to the logistics of bugging out there are a number of things which must be considered to maximize your chance of reaching your retreat successfully.  These are based on your having to move after a fan situation, but can be applied any time you are away from your retreat.

If you live east of the Mississippi river your retreat should be on the east side also unless you live somewhere in Minnesota near the headwaters.  It’s a big river and there are a limited number of bridges over it and they are well known to every local.  They make great choke points for movement.  The same goes for any of the major mountain ranges, or other major geographical features which funnel movement through limited avenues.

If you are less than 50 miles away from your permanent retreat, why haven’t you moved there already?  Move now and commute.  Buy a cheap car that gets good gas mileage and never let it get below three quarters full.  Keep good tires on it and keep it in good condition.  It may be a pain to commute, but it is much easier for one person in a small car to negotiate hostile territory than 2 or 3 loaded vehicles to do so.

If you live more than 100 miles from your retreat you should allow for at least one night on the road somewhere.  The reasons for this assumption will be itemized and explained below.  They are based on worst case scenario premises and a realistic assessment of conditions during a total fan situation.


  1. If you are out of fuel you are going nowhere and thence a truly desperate refugee, so saving fuel is a high priority. Drive the optimal speed for fuel economy. (Research this for your particular vehicle.)
  2. Every thing past the end of your block is bandit country even if you were on the same route this morning.  Yesterday was a lifetime ago.  It is a brand new unknown country and you have to treat it that way to survive.  Every blind turn, sharp curve, overpass, underpass, bridge, tunnel, hill, or even stretch of road with dense vegetation close to the edge must be investigated prior to driving through.  Ditty-bopping along at 60 mph and topping an overpass to see a sawtooth log barricade across the road or a massive pileup at the bottom could be very embarrassing.  Might even be deadly.
  3. Any vehicle will be much quieter at 25 or 30 than at 55 or 60.  I live in quiet country away from any major paved road and the whine and roar of a car or truck on a paved road can be heard for quite a few miles.  Remember, you’re a refugee and you don’t want the attention of the hunters.  Also, remember the other really desperate refugees that will also be on the move, going nowhere.  While not that dangerous in themselves, the larger the group the greater the consumption of limited resources and the harder it is to stay out of the spotlight.  Dissension in the ranks can be increased tremendously.
  4. If you have to travel on unpaved roads the dust trail of a vehicle at speed can be quite impressive and highly visible if the weather conditions are right.  If not, say unplowed snow, traveling at speed is dangerous in itself.

Travel time.

  1. You will only be able to travel during daylight hours.  The reasons should be obvious.  If they aren’t you have no business attempting this sort of a bug out.  If you have to travel during the winter you may have only 6 to 8 hours of daylight to travel in.  The following requirements will reduce this to only 4 or so hours of actual time.
  2. Since you will have to spend at least 1 day on the road depending on the distance you have to travel you have to find a safe camp to spend the night in.  Even if you have a number of possible sites picked out which have all the requirements, water-seclusion-defendability-space-accessibility, others may have the same locales in mind.  Desperate refugees hue to the even a blind monkey can occasionally find a banana philosophy.  Local hunters may also know of these locations as good places for harvesting whatever.  You will have to start looking for and find a suitable place long before dark because your camp will have to be set up, members fed, children bedded, defenses and sentries set, and light and noise security established long before full dark, which can be as early as 4:30 in the winter.
  3. In a real TOTWAWKI it will have to be a cold camp.  Cooking food smells can travel for miles and smoke and light from a fire even further.  Even the heat from a furnace in a trailer can be detected, and the noise of a fan can be quite loud if it is the only noise for miles around.
  4. Light and noise security must be maintained until full daylight which is usually 8:30 or 9:00 in the winter depending on the weather.  Patrols must be sent out to determine the operational situation since last patrol the night before.  Only then can the camp be allowed to stir, members fed, and camp packed up for the days travel.  Set up and tear down must be done with the utmost quiet to prevent attracting the oft mentioned attention.

There are many other requirements which could be listed here, where to have the noon meal, how to keep small children quiet, what to do with human waste to prevent propagation of the smells, which roads should be the primary route, when to leave, who and how many to trust, and on and on.  These itemized here should be sufficient to convince anyone intending to travel any distance to a permanent retreat to be “getting real” about “bugging out” before they actually have to.  As for me, I am bunkering in place for as long as I can, and have discussed with my closest neighbor, not too close, how we can support each other.  I may have to die in place also, but I have decided I won’t become a refugee.  My children are all grown, though I don’t think it would change my thinking if I did have small children, or if my grandchildren were living with me.  If you are a Christian death is not the end.  That, and a quick death can be a blessing compared to what some small children have been subjected to.

One other item, and it is off on a tangent towards equipment, but is part of the mindset.  Remember, you are a refugee; if you can hide, hide by all means.  Never initiate contact with anyone you don’t have to.  Especially combat contact.  You will probably be carrying a precious cargo of non-combatants.  If the hunters, or others, are 50 yards away and they haven’t seen you, keep quiet and stay in hiding.  Don’t under any circumstances initiate contact unless you know they have discovered your location and appear to have evil intentions.  You have set up your camp to be as advantageous to you as possible.  You want them as close as possible before initiating an engagement so you can neutralize the threat as quickly as possible with the least amount of damage to your personnel and equipment.  Remember, they have to move to get to you and that makes them vulnerable.  Therefore, the battle rifle in 7.62×51 caliber which can hit a target at 800 yards won’t be of any real advantage.  The 5.56 caliber weapon can be just as effective at 200 yard or less, especially with the XM855 ammo.  You can only carry so much stuff in or on any vehicle and you can carry more rounds of the smaller caliber.  Any engagement will be very short in duration, absolutely terrifying, unbelievably violent, gut-wrenchingly horrifying to your group’s psyche, deadly in effect, and quickly final one way or another.  Number of deadly projectiles downrange per second will be very important and the smaller caliber is easier to fire with combat accuracy by the inexperienced.  Right now you can’t afford to take any casualties since you don’t have a MASH unit traveling with you and you can’t depend on the locals or they wouldn’t be hunting you.  Once you get to your retreat being able to reach out and touch someone or something, like an elk, at long range will be much more important.  I have both for the reasons stated above; and other large bore calibers also. Just because I can I suppose.

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