To Bug-In or To Bug-Out


During a serious threat situation or disaster, and while enacting your emergency / preparedness plan of action, you may decide to either ‘bug-in‘ or ‘bug-out‘.

To ‘dig in’ and remain where you are (or at your normal place of residence)

To ‘get the heck out’ and leave your location (or your normal place of residence)

Most people don’t think about, or plan, for what they would do if presented with a serious threat situation or disaster. For many people in that group, a hasty decision will be made, and some will get it wrong.

We live in a world filled with risks, more than ever before, and many of them quite serious. Some of the more serious risks are entirely unseen and unknown to most because of a subconscious trust that exists… a trust in the current system the way it is, and complete faith that this system will continue to function the way we expect it to.

Having had modern conveniences and technologies for so long now, we have been raising generations of young and middle-aged people who mostly would not be able to adequately take care of themselves should some of the key conveniences and technologies disappear for a time. The fundamentals of survival are becoming lost with our grandparents.

This very fact alone has tremendously increased the level of risk – because should events unfold in a bad enough way, the result could be millions and millions of desperate people within a very short period of time. Desperate people do desperate things, and life as we know it could quickly become very dangerous indeed.

Getting back to the question, to ‘bug-in’ or to ‘bug-out’… It is ‘automatic’ for most people to head for home during a disaster. After all, home is our refuge, our stronghold, the place we come together with our family.

In many, if not most typical disaster scenarios, heading for home (bug-in) is probably the best first choice. Home is where your supplies are, a place where you may find support from your immediate neighbors or community. A familiar base of operations.

There are disaster scenarios though, where I believe that to ‘bug-in’ at home could be the absolute worst thing to do. Here is an example. You live in ‘the city’ and the city has lost power. If you are sure that the power loss will be temporary due to the circumstances that led up to it, then OK, you’re probably fine at home there. But, if the electricity remains out of service in a city region for too long, say, 3 days, then the city will very likely erupt into chaos. You will then be in a very dangerous predicament, even if you yourself had enough supplies to make it through. In this example, a ‘bug-out’ would probably have been the wiser choice.

A ‘bug-out’ does not necessarily require that you have a ready-stocked Retreat located 150 miles outside of the city tucked away in the countryside. Sure, if the disaster situation is serious enough, that is, very wide reaching geographically along with a very long time-line to recovery, then a temporary ‘bug-out’ to a hotel some miles away may not be the best solution. Maybe a friends house or other family member that lives in a safer location, assuming they will have you.

Discussing the many different disaster scenarios, ‘what-if’s’ and ‘what-to-do’, is not the point here. Instead we simply encourage you to put some thought around the subject. Start thinking about what you would do if this… or what would do if that…, you get the idea.

Think about where you live, the population density, the natural risks, the man-made risks, your current preparedness supplies at your residence, your plans ‘if’ you had to ‘bug-out’ or evacuate.

Stay ahead of the pack. Be prepared.

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  1. Thanks Ken, as a family, we are getting together to talk about our plans, see if there is room for improvment in different areas, also to make sure everyone knows what we/they are doing and ensure each person is happy. we also have a ‘B’ plan, because there are so many situations going on around the world at the same time, it would not take much to ‘tip the scales’ and off we go!
    I started telling my family about ‘being prepared’ over a year ago, in fact, I drove them nuts! but guess what? now things are happening, there is no panic, no running around like a headless chicken! everyone has fallen into their roles! of course there is some concern but its a ‘calm’ concern so, be encouraged, kept telling your loved ones, get them involved, make plans together, tell them about this site, it will help tons!. Ken, I have learned so much on here, found encouragement, advice and great ideas, thank you so much for all your time, keep up the good work, stay safe, stay prepared!:)

  2. The most common disaster for most families can strike anyone, anywhere, at anytime. It’s not war, fire, flood, or earthquake. It leaves families with food insecurity, no shelter to live in and limited choices for hygiene and toiletry. This disaster is Financial Disaster.

    When planning for other natural or man-made disaster families need to prepare for the day when they may lose their job and be unemployed for an extended length of time.

    If you were unemployed for 6 months or longer would you be able to keep your house? Your car? Provide food for your family? Would you rather live in the city or out in the country? What would YOU do? Where would you go?

    I have people that we are serving in our crisis assistance ministry that have been unemployed since 2008. Are you prepared? Do you know what to do?

  3. Since I live in an apartment, space is at a premium. I barely have enough space to keep the stuff I use on a daily basis!

    My strategy for folks in my situation is this: have a camping pack with 30 lb for men and 25 lb for women filled with supplies: hand crank radio, light, batteries, fire starter, pillow, sleeping bag, tent, gun and ammunition (NOTE: if you do not know how to shoot a gun, get a taser or stun gun!), hunter’s knife (stainless steel), flint, charcoal, a sturdy straw, water, and dried packed food. My wife and I planned to basically “grab and go” in the event of a disaster. Fleeing to friends and family is “easy” for us as I have a network of friends, family, and colleagues who would be willing to shelter us at least temporarily in each corner of the nation (by luck, I didn’t plan my friends on my survival needs LOL).

    Eventually, I will want to build or buy a cabin in the woods somewhere, probably in a low population area, with people who live off the land. I’d have enough for a year stashed away. An alternative is an underground bunker (because in my view, it isn’t a matter of IF World War III will happen, but WHEN, and trust me on this, WHEN it happens, it WILL go nuclear).

    You can pack this into a hiking backpack and

  4. Firstly, fantastic site Ken :)Thanks for your time and effort.
    Has anyone experimented with power and heated water from the compost – like Jean Pain’s set up?
    and if so what kind of success or failure did you have?

  5. Ken, (or others)

    I’m curious why you believe that a city would be more dangerous to stay in than traversing to the countryside in a total SHTF situation?

    Most people claim cities/suburbs will be dangerous because of all of the desperate people there when they realize the power won’t come on and there is no food.

    The reason I am skeptical, however, is the standard belief (that I’ve seen anyhow) of a mass migration out of the cities (the so called Golden Horde, to quote another well-known blogger) of these same desperate people into the countryside.

    Seems to me that if the Golden Horde theory is true, the country side will be just as dangerous a place as the suburbs. More so, in my opinion, because you are also on the move and therefore have limited resources at your disposal.

    In fact, one could argue that cities/suburbs will be safer, because all the bad folks will head out of town searching for food in the country, because they think that’s where the food is grown, so it must still be there, and then therefore the cities/suburbs will be deserted.

    All of this is speculation of course, but I am curious to hear other peoples thoughts on the matter.


    1. @Kang, It all makes for good discussion. There are quite a number of scenarios, and time-line possibilities, each with their own probable outcome, in my opinion.

      If we’re talking about a worst-case-scenario (grid down for the foreseeable future), then, initially I believe that most city dwellers will stay, because we are all creatures of habit, and besides – if the grid is down everywhere, then most will say to themselves “whats the sense of going somewhere else where it is only going to be just as bad”.

      Once the situation worsens substantially, lets say one or two weeks later, then I do suspect somewhat of a ‘Golden Horde’ exodus – but only after resources within the city are drained. I do not believe that the ‘majority’ will get too far, because fuel be will gone or in very short supply. I’ve surmised in a previous post that on average, people won’t get much beyond 150 miles based on avg. amount in one’s gas tank and avg. mpg. By the time it gets really bad however, no doubt there will be road blocks of thugs, and one wouldn’t get very far at all.

      You could also argue that if there is to be any government assistance – bringing in food and water for example (how long did it take them for Katrina though??), the assistance would go to the major population centers first. On the other hand, if the situation that we’re hypothesizing is a worst-case-scenario, then I would suspect that most responders (police – national guard, etc…) will be more concerned about their own family survival.

      In general, I believe in a worst-case-scenario, one would be much less likely to encounter violence or looting the further away from population-dense cities or regions. Most people that live in further outlying areas tend to be better prepared too, while not relying on all of the services that city folks are accustomed to. This would further reduce the likelihood of desperation by country folks, in my opinion.

      Like I said, there are so many “what if’s”, that who’s to say what might actually take place. Interesting to think about though.

      1. Great blog. Makes me think of sequence of events.

        I live between new suburbs and farms, on ny own farm 1/2 away from a main road. If the golden horde were to cone out it would be from city to suburb to the country side. Ive laid out plans for my parents to come to my place. They live 8 miles from DC. If worse came to worse regarding gas, I’d take the horses over and back. Not worried about food or security. My worry is water. So I’m getting a hand pump (even if against county guidelines) which I’d install if i run out of propane. Just wish if i knew of a prepper advisor to review my checklist.

    2. Personaly for us we are doing both, we have a bug out spot, and the city will be the worst off in my opinion because when people are hungry they will do anything to servive. For instance a disaster happens and your family is starving, where will you go for food, wander outside of town looking or break in to somewere to steal it. My family is preparing for both when shtf we bug in untill we feel ether the economy is not going up or we will shorty have to start fighting to keep the suplies we have, or the on hand runs out. We have two bug out spots, one is close but off the beeten path that most will go, and one about 3 hrs away. But my segestion is prepare for both. Better safe than sorry and yes people will head out of town, mostly the people that have a plan in place and the people in town dont leave because they dont have anywere else to go, i would prefer not to be around when the unprepared masses start fighting for scraps

    3. A suburban neighborhood looks a lot like early colonial villages (except for the useless lawns, which would quickly disappear in a extended crisis).

  6. “In general, I believe in a worst-case-scenario, one would be much less likely to encounter violence or looting the further away from population-dense cities or regions.”

    I agree with this quote, but with the caveat that the violence would really only decline greatly after you get approx. 1 gas tank’s worth of distance from a metropolitan area.

    Thanks for your insight. The choice of bugging in or out is one that requires much thought for the majority of city dwellers / suburbanites (such as myself).


  7. Thank you for your excellent blog, it is greatly appreciated. Bugging out is a great concern. I live in city surrounded by a lot of desert and would have to travel through a lot of barren area to find safety. All of my family members live in cities and we do not have anywhere to go at this time that would be considered rural. How can you easily travel with supplies that are so heavy such as canned goods? Would leaving your home and heading out to live in a tent somewhere leave you as vunerable as staying in the city with your supplies? It is a difficult situation, one that I believe many of us face.

  8. While I live on the outer edges of Phoenix, I still have a plan for Bugging In AND Bugging Out. I don’t necessarily believe one is safer than the other (city v. country); it all depends on the scenario. My plan is to Bugin until ‘they’ kick the doors down, I run out of ammo, or ???

    After recently completing a 7-Day, 30 mile Bugout exercise with 50+lbs in my pack, I can tell you that 90+% of the public won’t make it very far on foot unless they are fit. Most will be in for a huge eye-opener…especially if your family has youngsters or elderly. I’m fit, and it was tough on me day to day; I highly recommend all preppers try this to understand what you’d be in for. So that needs to be taken into consideration as a part of your preps; get your cardio in order, and practice carrying and using your gear. What do you stand to lose?

    Hopefully you won’t be relying on your vehicle to get you all of the way to your retreat location. In a true SHTF scenario, road blocks, fuel shortages, and ambushes will be real concerns to factor in. I firmly believe conducting your own dry-run of a Bugout ON FOOT will better help you re-evaluate your Bugout/Bugin plan. It’s one thing to fantasize about hiking through the hills to your location, and a totally different one to actually put the weight on your back and make it happen.

    You simply have to ask yourself if Bugging Out will make your situation better or worse, and are you mentally + physically prepared, and gear-equipped for the trek.

    As for the evil in man…one simply has to look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It’s disgusting to hear the personal stories that didn’t make the mainstream media news (rape, murder, violence, stealing other people’s water/ food). If you can’t defend yourself you’d better travel with someone who can, or else hunker down and stay out of sight.

    SHTF scenarios can be very real, and more people should take time out of their lives to consider as many angles to it that are realistic.

    Thanks for writing the article, and hosting this Blog. I continue to learn a lot from it.
    Be safe everyone.

    1. When ‘bugging out’, what do you do when the supplies you can carry run out? Take pictures of (and weigh) the groceries you buy and consume during a month. When military units ‘bug out’ they tend to try to take everything they have with them. Anything else is retreating.

  9. In the last coupla years my home state here in Australia has gone from worst drought in 100yrs to bushfires, several cyclones in the north and worst floods in recorded history (mind you the floods beat the ones from my young childhood). I’m disabled and live alone, in the floods all of my immediate family was affected and in several cases stranded or required to leave their home due to rising water and power outage. Me, i lost power for 3 hours :), but my normal method of groceries was cut off..

    I have no choice really but to bug in, i could go to a couple of family members but retrieving me would potentially put them in danger (in a bad situation ie floods again).

    I’ve made the decision that if something happens they are not to come get me. and have gone a long way towards prepping for at least a 7-10 day stretch without power or water. Lemme tell ya, prepping when u can’t walk far or drive or even stand at times for more than about 10-20 mins is interesting.

    I’ve gotten the usual candles, bottled water, canned and packet food (all of which i eat regularly so rotation no probs) dynamo/solar torch, lantern, phone charger, batteries for extra torch, butane cooker, first aid kit is getting there. Got water for washing and flushing, buckets and bags if the toilets back up. And i’m investing in cooling options for summer cause the heat n humidity sucks here (winter i just rug up, usb charger for AA’s, battery fans and a solar fan. Also i have a mini digital tv/fm radio, other radio. Also getting electronic media eg music, books/stories i read all the time and tv shows/movies onto mem cards for a mp3/media player – that recharges from the dynamo torch or solar lantern.

    Not the highest priority on a preppers usual list but if i’m gunna be without internet or normal tv for a few days i’m gunna be as cool as i can and have entertainment :)

    Urban bug in preps for the “physically challenged” low budget, low access to stores lol. Time was i coulda done the whole BOB/survival kit in the bush thing. now i physically can’t. So you prep for what you can.

  10. For the last couple years, I have shared my thoughts and suggestions about prepping to family and friends…Yet, Im not sure if Im getting through to the ones who live the closest to me…Im a single male who lives out in the country. At this time I have enough food, supplies and weapons to last two or three months if not longer. However, the scenerio that I worry about more than anything else is what I will do if the downfall happens and I have 6 family members that only live a couple of miles away from me knocking on my door looking for food and supplies. This thought alone makes me wonder if I would do better by hiding most of my supplies away from my home and just plan on bugging out to the wilderness to avoid my family members.. Unfortunatley, I believe that this would be my only option of successfully saving myself…Id love to hear the thoughts of others.

  11. Just a thought that might help. 4get freeze dried food. If your bugging out. 14 ozs. of water min. for each entree, then you need to boil the water (fuel requirements) 12 – 20 min boil time another 8-9 min soak time. So the water you need, the fuel it takes and a 1/2 an hr prep time is really not an option when your on the move and trying to travel light.

    1. That’s good advice regarding freeze-dried food during a Bug-Out situation (keyword: “Out”). Other foods while on-the-go will serve you better. Having said that, IF you have a proper water source and means to cook, freeze-dried food arguably offers the best nutritional balance (and taste) compared to many others.

      With regards to general food storage and bugging IN, a balanced approach to food storage is a good one, including freeze-dried if one chooses…

  12. All this talk about the mass murder of city folk is just the country folk jerking off to their smug, self-assured sense of superiority. It only takes several people with guns to hold off a large amount of no-guns people, especially if they’re in a defensible position. Just look at the LA riots. Meanwhile, only the stupid will starve to death in an emergency as it’s insanely easy to prep for at least several months of food and water(under $100) if you don’t care about weight. The only thing you have to worry about are fires and since most cities are designed with that in mind, I think city folk will be fine in any realistic SHTF scenario. Really, telling people who have no experience with field craft to “go innawoods” with nothing but a bag is borderline irresponsible.

  13. For one, where do most bad guys live in the city. That’s where your drug dealers live, your prisons, and you are not getting out some way or another when power goes out. I believe if you’re in the city and you don’t want to get killed have a plan to go somewhere there is not a lot of people. Look at what happens when just a little thing happens. Just imagine if the @#$% really hit the fan. Don’t bug out to no woods either unless you’re Les Stroud and Rambo tied in to one. Start a fire in the woods and every crazy slob will home in on you real quick because you’re not going to be the only one out there. If you live in the city and it’s one of the bigger ones have somewhere to go and get gone. The one’s that don’t have a plan will be killed or maybe the bad gangs will let you join. I don’t even want to think what will happen to the women. 70% of men think of women as a piece’s of meat anyway. If you have a house not in town you’re better off. But if you’re not prepared you’ll have to move out and about sooner or later to find food and water and in the beginning that will be a good thing. So this is what I have done. Turned my den which used to be a garage into a bullet taking strong hold. I have 3 rifles and 3 hand guns. Now one rifle is a sks for the lead I can send down stream. Two 30-06s. Two 45 acps one 357 mag. Reason for the mag is it will go though car doors and kill what’s inside or though walls. Now I hear people with 10 guns but all different cals. That’s no good. You want most of your guns to share ammo. And you will need lots of ammo. No telling how many fire fights you will be in. Need at least 5000 rounds per gun or cal. I have done all this on a budget. But still have your bug out bags just In case you’re forced out of your house.

    1. There are plenty of druggies and EBT layabouts in the country. Oxycontin is nicknamed ‘Hillbilly Heroin’ for a reason.

  14. Africa is largely dependant on western aid, and many Africans are still barely surviving.

    1. “largely dependant on western aid”

      suspect that is WHY they are barely / not surviving.

      that is why there are folks, on this blog and elsewhere, who are concerned to get their supplies in order/stored

      one is needed to NOT be dependent on western aid.

  15. All these opinions are well taken. Please think and be prepared for all possible threats. If martial law is established…….I am long gone.

  16. My opinion is the “gangs of knuckleheads” will go door to door breaking in and looting whatever and whoever is there. HAVING A SHOOTOUT is pointless as you will run out of ammo or they will,like the Westerns burn you out. Better to do some dry runs on escape routes. If you’re in LA real tough one, too many folks and 3-4 days supplies at markets etc. Better to have an off road motorcycle, you can go down flood control channels or off road to avoid the Zombies. I’m still working on it. Good luck to you all and don’t trust easily. Woman with child crying setup to burn you. Remember movies scenario. Denzel Washington The book of Eli. Mad Max etc

  17. In the UK it,s not too bad at the moment (i.e. terrorists and nutters) My tenet is keep it simple. At home water is the biggest thing you need. Store a lot and ensure it is potable. Triple redundancy, (lighter, matches flint) Wind up torches, radio etc. Tinned and dried storage food to your taste. Personally, I keep a 40 litre rucksack ready to go and (remember triple redundancy) a 90 litre sack with a range of tents. Look online for bivvy bags, bashas, thermal wraps and the like that can be a boon for the car or can be popped into your pocket. You do not need to be Rambo. all you need is a modicum of gear, common sense and a good water supply.

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