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How to Determine Whether to Bug-out or Bug-in

Bug-out or Bug-in ?

Should we stay or should we go? The decision to bug-out or bug-in can be difficult to make and unfortunately the answer is not always clear.

Lights Out - David CrawfordIn the excellent novel by David Crawford titled “Lights Out,” When most of the world went dark — because of an EMP attack — Mark Turner was able to stay-in-place in his small-town neighborhood and unite his neighbors to work together for the safety and survival of all. Hopefully, you will be able to do the same.

In stark contrast, Ken and Terry Layton from James Wesley Rawles “Founders,” had to bug-out of their Chicago home to their survival retreat nearly 1600 miles across the country and they nearly met their demise along the way. They also ended up having to walk much further when they lost their vehicle in a shoot-out with a gang — all, a result of Mark delaying getting out for too Founders - James Wesley Rawleslong.

Therefore, it seems prudent, when carefully considering the possibilities, to prepare for both bugging out and bugging in — if you can. And to do your best to ascertain the proper timing when you should get out.

Of course, bugging in is always preferable because it allows you to have all of your preparations at hand.

However, as Robert Burns said in “To a Mouse,”


Therefore, here are some things to consider that will help you make the decision.

What short-term and long-term effects will this disaster create?

Some emergencies come with warnings. Others do not. Whatever the case try to anticipate secondary problems such as civil unrest, poor road conditions, or water and food access issues. Also, try to estimate the scale of the catastrophe and the long-term effects.

For example, in the hot, humid regions of the country where hurricanes often knock out the power grid, it is only a matter of days before the drywall in homes begins to build up moisture. Extend that out to many weeks, or even months and the humidity alone can cause problems for modern construction.

Is My Home Prepared for This Disaster?

Can you stay in place if the water is shut off, or if the electricity is down for an extended period? Is your home retrofitted for earthquakes? Is it in a flood plain? Consider all of these issues in advance.

Is My Transportation Adequate?

What is your mode of transportation? Is your vehicle in good condition and do you have enough gas to get where you need to go? If you lose the car are you prepared to walk to your destination?

TIP: Try to make a habit of keeping your gas tank at least half full at all times.

Is it Safe?

Is it safe to be out? For instance, if a tornado is approaching, you probably don’t want to be out strolling down the road. And if everyone else is trying to get out, it might not be safe for you to go too. If you decide to get out, it is best to leave in advance of the crowds.

Likewise, is it safe to stay? Has your home, sustained structural damage? Are other people a threat?

Am I in Good Health and Able to Get Out?

Are you in good enough shape to walk for miles if necessary? Do you have young children or elderly parents with you?

TIP: Get in shape now. Read our article — How to Get Physically Fit for the Apocalypse: 6 Steps.

Plan in Advance

While it is optimal to shelter in place, you never know what situation might require you to leave, so prepare for that now.

If you had only 2-3 minutes to evacuate your home, for an undetermined amount of time — maybe even for good, would you be able to think clearly enough to figure out what to take with you?

Therefore, it is so important to prepare in advance and think through these things now.

Make sure your plans include, at least 72 hours worth of food and water, and keep a bug-out-bag available and a vehicle survival kit in your car.

In conclusion, as you wrestle with this issue you may find that your current location will not be a viable place for bugging in. If that is the case, it might be wise to start thinking about relocating when you can.

Stay safe my friends!

  • Show Comments

  • Padre

    This is one of the best articles I have read about this age old question. For some reason when people write on this topic they always come across so doctrinaire. Bugging in is easier and if all things are equal safer because you remove a moving part, the possibly dangerous journey, from the equation. However, if you fail to consider both the nature of the disaster AND the short to long term effects of any disaster then bugging in can prove far more risky.

    I know your list of long term effects is not all inclusive but the three that make me in my situation lean toward bugging out in any long term disaster scenario are: 1) population density–both because of the ramifications for security and the lack of resources per capita. 2) fire–without water or power many people are going to have to learn to use open fires and few are going to know how to control these fires if they get out of hand without modern apparatus and water pressure. 3) nuclear power–I doubt the ability of most plants to shut down completely and safely in the event of a long term grid failure.

    • Justin Cummins

      Thank you Padre! I concur with your sentiments completely. Press on friend!

  • Bobcat-Prepper

    The important question to ask yourself when encountering a disaster is: do I have enough at home to weather the storm (real or metaphoric), or have I prepared a bug-out location better suited, and is it worth the risk getting there?

    Leaving a well-prepared home for the unknown of the road, is a different story from leaving a poorly-prepared home for a bug-out retreat with a deep larder and supplies.

    • Justin Cummins

      Bobcat, you bring up a very good point. If you have no place to go, no retreat, or family to evacuate to, leaving home for the road is definitely a last resort and potentially dangerous option. Of course, people are all over the spectrum in their level of preparation and subsequently their options vary. My thought is thay the perfect setup is to have both a well prepared home in a safe location and a well prepared secondary location.

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