Bugging In vs Bugging Out: Have you Planned for Both Options?

One of the most commonly asked questions that I receive has to do with the topic of Bugging Out. While some of our readers have managed to escape the trappings of the big city, most of our readers still live in highly populated urban areas. Unfortunately, most of the emails that I receive from people who live in these Urban Death traps, often asks questions like “How do I Bug Out into the Wilderness once the SHTF.”

Hold the crazy train; you want to do what?

While bugging out is a real possibility that you may someday face, I would never advise anyone to just bug out into the wilderness. For even the most diehard outdoorsman, living in the wilderness full-time is something that most of us would never advise doing.  In my opinion, you’re setting yourself up for disaster, and it’s not a realistic survival plan that anyone should have in mind.

Bugging Out without a Place to go is Not a Plan, It’s a Death Sentence!

In the event you ever have to get the hell out of dodge, you must have a plan of action. I hear way too many people saying they are going to “head out into the wilderness” once the SHTF; sadly, most of these people haven’t spent a single night outdoors, and likely won’t last longer than 24 hours in a real-world wilderness survival situation.

Are you saying there’s never a good reason to Bug Out?

Not at all; in fact, I think the people who swear they will “shelter in place no matter what,” are just as foolish as those who believe that they are going to live out some extended episode of Survivorman.

The Pros & Cons of Bugging In Vs Bugging Out

Bugging Out and walking on railroad tracks

All too often, I see people get hung up on the notion of bugging out. Many people foolishly put themselves into one of two categories, those that believe bugging out is the only answer, and those that say sheltering in place is the only way to go.

In my opinion, you must be prepared for, and thoroughly understand the pros and cons of both options.

Bugging out considerations: When Getting Out of Dodge is your only option.

The moment you decide to bug out, you need to realize that you put yourself at immediate risk.  Your safety and security, your ability to sustain yourself, and your ability to protect yourself from the elements immediately become compromised.

In my opinion, bugging out is almost always a worst case scenario situation. To do it right you must have:

  • A detailed evacuation plan and you must know it like the back of your hand. This means regularly reviewing your route, practicing your get away, and knowing what things need to happen before you make the decision to bug out.
  • A bug out location: Leaving without a place to go is not a plan. If you plan on bugging out, you need to have a predetermined bug out location or emergency shelter already in place. Planning on living in the wild, unless you are an extremely experienced outdoorsman, is a recipe for disaster. Wilderness living should only be considered if you have an adequate shelter already in place.
  • A bug out bag filled with everything you need to make it to your Bug Out Location.
  • You must know your routes, and you need to have a plan B, C, D, etc… What if you’re routes are blocked or impassable? Do you know how to find food and water along your route? These are all thing you need to consider and plan for now.

Bugging in considerations: Staying safe by sheltering in place:

If at all possible, sheltering in place is usually the safest option. First, most of your supplies are probably going to be at your primary residence. Second, in most cases you will have a higher level of security inside your home than you will traveling out on the street.

While sheltering in place is often the safest bet, there are some considerations that you need to keep in mind.

  • You must always be prepared to leave. No matter how bad you want to stay, there will be times and situations that make it impossible to stay. If a category five hurricane is barreling towards your location, the last thing you want to do is shelter in place.
  • Home security needs to be a top priority. The ability to defend your home, from those that wish to do you harm, is one of the most important considerations that you need to prepare for. From Realistic Self Defense Training to fortifying your home, you must make home security a top priority.
  • Neighbors may come knocking. During a SHTF situation, you’re not so prepared neighbors are going to be in panic mode. While most of these people might not pose an immediate threat, if things get bad enough those once friendly neighbors will quickly become unpredictable. You must have a plan to deal with those that failed to prepare.
  • If you live in a high-density population center, you immediately put yourself in danger and make your chances of survival lower than if you lived in a rural area. While I’m not saying bugging in won’t work in an urban setting, it will become increasingly harder as the severity of the disaster increases. If you live in one of these urban areas, you need to seriously access your situation and understand the dangers associated with urban survival.
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  1. I have studied the native americans way of life for years now an yes they did live in groups…. an even in a group its not easy..our forefathers traveled across this land in the 1700s an 1800s but they did it in groups from the trappers to the settlers..even the cowboys traveled in small groups….I’ve spent an expanse of time in the deep woods gathering knowledge of what it takes to live there…My latest adventure was 48 days an nights alone in campan at 48 years of age it was not easy..the reggers of every day work took its tollstaying dry gathering wood cooking hunting for food even fishing was a chore…but most of all just the kindles of being alone weights heavy on a mans mind you see man is a social animal as is many other creatures on the planet..Not having some one to talk to hurts your mind..I know..this being said whit all the chores to be done leaves little time for security letalone when you sleep….there has to be a group at least four more is better but that means more food the dalema???do as you wish for you see I know what it is I’m gonna do….

      • @church, Of course there is a lot of details you would have to cover with your family. The key is to be prepared for any but better yet have your brain working so when the time comes you won’t be overwhelmed and freeze. Great article, thanks @OffGridSurvival.

  2. You will not know what night shade, poison oak, and the whole variety of poisonous plants will do to you.
    But I’m betting you will learn fast when wiping with any poison ivy, oak, sumac leaves after the first time taking a dump with out toilet paper.
    I’m trying to make a point with you know before you have to go whatbyour getting into.

  3. The hard part here will be non-prepping family. We have a lot of family around here. Some will be ready. Some will be a drain on everyone else’s resources. But family looks out for one another. That’s how it works here anyway. Bugging out on a small scale would mean moving a mile or two down the road. Plenty of relatives’ houses to choose from. A medium range bug out would mean heading to a cabin out in the woods. Long range would be problematic since our geographically distant relatives all live in big cities, and those are bad places in large scale disasters.

    I do not fancy heading off to try to live in the woods. Camping is great, but trying to survive out there would be grueling at best, and most likely end up in death. Assuming you have supplies, you’ll need to construct shelter, find a reliable water source, and food. Probably traps are the best way to catch animals. Edible wild plants aren’t too hard to find around here, but this time of year you could be dealing with snow and ice. If it weren’t for the cold, I think I’ve got enough skill and toughness to make is several days in the wilderness, but it would be unlikely to make it over a long duration. During Winter, I wouldn’t want to make any bets.

    Bugging in is my hope (if any bugging needs to be done). But bugging out is still an option. Bugging way out (into the woods) is a last ditch, and strictly temporary, possibility.

    • “During Winter, I wouldn’t want to make any bets.”

      “And pray ye that your flight not be in the winter. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.” Mark 13:18-19 KJV

  4. Bugging-In versus Bugging-Out decisions both have their advantages and disadvantages.

    By electing to stay, you continue to have your same level of security and supplies… for a while. The more people within your ‘bug-in’ group the better for security. If you have a good relationship with neighbors around you can also improve your longevity; at least until conditions are approaching the ‘grave’ side of the spectrum for any member of your collective group.

    You could ‘stay’ too long and conditions would no longer allow you to escape:
    Official ‘road-blocks’ have time to be placed between you and your intended BOL;
    Stranded vehicles block passage of the main roads forcing you to continue on foot (that includes bicycles and carts);
    Alternate routes may take you through neighborhoods that have established their own local militia also prohibiting your passage;
    You have depleted all your resources.

    If you elect to leave, you need to consider all of ‘your’ options and obstacles. Being alone or just you and your significant other is easier to make a decision than if you have kids or parents that you care for.

    Alone, your security becomes your biggest threat since you must sleep sometime.
    Sound discipline is crucial when traveling with children if you wish to remain stealthy.
    While carrying ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ may sound nice, your back and knees will probably give in before your mindset; you need to test your equipment and eliminate most of the ‘luxury’ or ‘comfort’ items.

    In my mind, fortifying the home front is the first step. I live close to one of the few exits from my area and can observe the flow of any exodus. Being close to an exit increases the need for security as people leaving start to look at your place as that ‘last gas for 200 miles’ facility. On the other hand, being that close to an exit may allow you to get out ahead of the crowd.

    Our early pioneers would gather at an exit point, i.e. Saint Louis, and create a wagon train with groups of families. I believe a bug-out situation would be similar where your extended family, so it may become, head out on a selected route with multiple vehicles; a scout vehicle out front with the main convoy and rear guard following. Having two-way radios would be a huge advantage.

    We have already committed to the fact, that if we must bug-out, it will be a condition where coming back may not be a possibility so we bring what we can. We test our gear and skills in all seasons. We believe we are as ready as we can be, while still refining plans.

    The scary part in my mind is the actual decision to leave; what if you leave too soon and it turns out to be a false alarm… your job may not be there when you come back. If it was not a false alarm, who cares about your job!

    What if you wait too long and get stopped by ‘official’ roadblocks then shuffled off in masses to the local FEMA farm?

    What are you going to do if there are squatters at your BOL? They don’t care if it is your property or not… haven’t you heard “Possession is 9/10 of the law”

    Regardless of your decision to stay or go, if it comes to that ultimate decision it will certainly be scary times for more people than just you… and the Darwin / Spencer saying “Survival of the fittest” becomes reality.

    Vaya con Dios

  5. bugging in or out makes no differance to me i live in the rural part of california by the rubicon trail my idea of fun is shooting and blowing shit up all day and passing out in the dirt by the bon fire way i was rased and while 2-3 week would not be so bad out there 2-3 months would be a lot harder butt you can allways come back and scrounge for basic supplys if needed and theres going to be somany people that sad to say just drope dead in a time like this or get shot that out here in the wilderness we will have no short stock of supplys we all know each other and look out for each other espesally in what we call up country remember how many of you say your headed to the wood well not many where i live are going the let people flood up from sacramento and take over are natral resources not tring to talk shit just speaking truths

    • The danger for those of us living in a rural area is that neighbors and friends don’t live all that close by. Someday, we might be faced with hordes of city folk bugging out, many of them criminals with weapons. Will us neighbors manage to coalesce into a protective group fast enough to survive? I don’t see that living in a rural area necessarily would make self defense easier than living in a suburb or city.

    • @ ammodepo,
      I think that tends to be the thought, about not letting outsiders come in after TSHT. People are pretty protective around here about whats theirs is theirs, and that includes their area and their natural resources.

    • Hi Lee,

      There is no secret rapture taking place. This is just one of Satan’s many lies. Read your Bible without these false teachings that started being perpetuated in the year 1830. We have to stick it out to the end my friend. Those that endure to the end will be caught up in the clouds with the resurrected and join Christ. If we don’t survive the faithful will be resurrected first to meet our Savior and the rest of us will join them. Thessalonians 4:17 is a great place to start but there are many bible verses that do not support a secret rapture. In the time of the end, knowledge will be increased and I believe if you start searching out just where some of these teachings originated you will be surprised at just how much false doctrine is out there. Blessings and God be with you brother.

      Take care!

  6. In 1977 I walked the Appalachian Trail alone. I met people along the way. Many nights I camped alone. Sometimes it was a good thing. The rest of those alone times it just flat sucked. I did not have a support crew. Fished when I could and carried a .22cal with cb and short.for small game. I had just got out of the USMC. You’ll want a team for Security.

  7. We came to the conclusion a while ago that there is little protection in the open.
    For our family bugging out is the last straw and unfortunately the loss of a lot of stores.
    With that in mind, we’ll probably dig in until the last second (which will probably be too late anyway).

  8. I liked your article. But like all the ones I have read before, they seem to be writen to those that live in the city or suburbs. I live in the country. I plan on bugging in. But if things get really bad, where do you go? All land is owned by somebody. It seems dangerous to tresspass. I really would like a bug out location but when your already in the country where do you go?

    • There are thousands of foreclosed houses on acerage within a few hours of most cities. Every couple of months go to Zillow and make a worst case list of places, in case all else fails and you need shelter for a short period. Just make sure you leave it better than you found it.

      That option is only a last resort. A better option is to find 5 acres, save money, and buy it. Then invite friends to camp and hang out there on the weekends.

    • One solution: make an inventory of nearby old mines. Join a local rockhounding group that knows which ones have bad air that will kill you, or learn form them how to get equipment that will enable you to detect bad air before it kills you. Learn how to keep from getting killed in the many other ways that old mines kill people, like those pits that look like they aren’t that deep but they suck you down like an ant in an antlion trap. OK, it’s a desperate solution, but you never know how desperate things might get. That was how my parents prepared for nuclear war — a relatively safe mine with a spring inside. Most mines have water, usually poisonous as heck, be sure to test it before drinking, or bring a reverse osmosis system to filter out the heavy metals etc. My parents planned to use bottled water for drinking, but that takes a lot of effort and planning to get it in place.

    • @ Garland,
      you can’t tell me that in the country you don’t have woods between you and your neighbors. There’s got to be some green belt around where you are. You may have to leave your house, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave your area. Do you spend any time in the woods? I know the woods around my farm well enough to hide out, take my time and pick off whomever, one by one. Or, to camp out for a while, with a water source, deer, squirrel or rabbit. That’s your area buddy, and YOU have the homefront advantage. I don’t know about you, but I could take off into my woods, hide out across several farms, and you’d never find me. I might smell like a barn when I get back, but at least I’d be in one piece ;)

  9. Excellent advice! I recently read about how some preppers are going as far as having a “lights out” weekend, where they turn the power off to their homes for an entire weekend to really test their skills and find out what they would need in the even their power really does go out.

    I have not done this myself, but was curious if anyone else has.

    • We had a “lights out” week end but it wasn’t by choice. The transformers in my area of S.Utah blew it’s gasket. And, it is over 100d. this time of year. However,we are a very well prepared family…we had LOTS of food, water, soft drinks and of course, beer. We also had our flashlights and our solar garden lights to rely on. Several years ago, we purchased battery operated fans. It wasn’t a cool as having a/c, but it was bearable.
      We also made it a point not to open the fridge and freezer unless absolutely necessary. BTW, the freezer kept the food frozen for the 48 hrs. that it wasn’t powered. How? With a little help from the ice packs that we keep in the freezer as well as frozen water bottles and frozen water in milk cartons…it pays to be prepared WELL IN ADVANCE….and people, you gotta think of the what ifs.

    • I live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We have lights out weekends every winter. The worst was for 13 days. Of course we know it will happen and are prepared with food,generators,fuel ect but it can still be a challenge as it usually means a large storm came through and we are dealing with a lot of snow also.

  10. We have been looking at it lately, take for instance that dorner guy that was killing the police, until they pinned him down in a house they didnt get him while he was mobile. Look at the little stick house you live in chances are its not made of brick but wood, it will burn, bullets will go right through it. Two neighbors could take you out one distracts you the other shoots you through a window your not monitoring. Or if they set the nieghbors house on fire you are screwed

    I have spent lots of time out of doors but I was younger once missed the trail head coming back from a elk hunt spent the night up in the mountains, hypothermic I walked out the next day.

    Now you have half the town out there with you there wont be game other than yourself people trying to take what you have. I can imagine trying to make it through the winter up here out of doors

    My thinking the best bet is to know someone semi rural that might be interested in prepping make a plan, get your stuff there ahead of time so you dont show up as a free loader. Six families have a lot better chance than a lone wolf. Consolidate Ideas such as at least buy the same caliber of weapons so ammo is less of a problem. Train and cross train

    Just my two bits I overheard the guy at seven eleven talking about it when I was standing in line to buy a bear claw

  11. Question ?

    What if you have to leave your home and your bug out location is compromised ………….(terroist attack)……ect. then what ??

    • … or there are squatters on your BOL property… I guess you have two options… 1) overpower them and take it back, or 2) find a new BOL

    • It is safer to go underground. Two feet underground is safe from a Hurricane and your neighbors don’t know you have an escape room with escape tunnels filled with survival gear, food and water right under your house. When SHTF just go down below. In case of flooding go to plan B and use your Paraglider to fly off to safty. Try thinking outside the box and don’t ever tell anyone about your Safe Room and Tunnels.

  12. I believe the most critical time will be the first one or two months after shtf. By then, the weak, the unprepared, and the criminal will be largely dispatched, … There will then begin an attempt at reorganization of society. I am prepared for a year or more, but the first two months are crucial.

  13. If you live in a culturally diverse urban area, I believe you are better off getting the heck out of town. Your chances are better in a rural area to be able to create a safe haven.

    • Let me inject a little common sense hear. When was the last time you people thinking of bugging out to a rural are tried walking 15 miles a day? Oh and when were you caring a 60 lb pack. What are you going to do for food,water ect. What about the people that already live in this rural area do you think they are going to welcome you? I live in the Sierra Nevada’s and I am sure that a lot of people in the valley’s of California and Nevada think they are coming up here but guess what WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE! We hunt and fish all the time and we come home empty at times so how do you think you will just come up and find the deer and fish? If it is winter and there is snow how many of you have tried moving around in 3 ft of snow? Let me say this without trying to be mean but for 99.9 % of the people that bug out to a rural area YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. You are better off staying where you are and hoping help arrives.

  14. I have no choice but to “bug in”. My health would keep me from being able to hike any distance and even if I knew a group of people that would be willing to take me on for my knowlege rather than being able to do anything physical I wouldn’t put them in the position of having to put themselves in harms way for me. Scarey but a fact of life. If the SHTF I’m probably not going to be a long term survivor.

    • If you are prepped in a semi rural area you stand a good chance of long term survival. If you live 30 miles from a large city and they have to walk it will take them 2 days of walking to get to you. They need water and food for the trip? I think they will stay in the city where there may be easier access to stuff.

  15. Nobody should blithely dismiss the idea of bugging out to a foreign country. Yes, it will be unfamiliar territory, but a) there will be others of your kind and nationality who will help you find your feet, and b) it’s a damn sight better than heading for the wilderness!

    Last September (2012) I posted two articles titled “Looking for bolt-holes” on my own blog. They are about places, not bug-out methods***, but they’re worth taking a few minutes to read.
    *** This offgridsurvival.com is far and away the best place to read about methods. I check in every few weeks.

  16. I live in a small city (less than 15,000) so i have some supplies tucked away BUT if i need to leave i have family 20-30 miles outside of town. Then within my immediate family we have 3 different cabins/hunting lodges in 3 different areas of the state withing 3 hours so the only decision is what location offers the best area for my family to live undetected and survive

  17. I have already bugged out due to a financial problem.Been out over 10 years now,not renting anyplace.I know the area.I get by.Help is always welcome though,with just little things like clothes,gift cards,or cash.I’m pretty much alone.Thanks if you can help. — Kenny H.

  18. Im getting new to this but I’ve learned lots of information on both subjects. over the next year or two I plain on going out for 3 days at a time to test skills and bug out bags. Im currently looking in to working on foraging skills and hunting skills just for the event of having to bug out and not having asses to stores or prepped food packs. I was thinking of digging holes and putting pods in them in the event I have to walk to my bol, including a off spot location not far from my house in the event I am unable to take much with me. I feel this is a in portent thing to do because I do have kids an as I see it if something did go wrong. I am able to equip a couple of emergency packs and extra food right off the bat. for buging in i plain on storing food and equipment in different places in and around my home and yard. just in case the house gets over ran I figure the people will go for what ever is most available and with a little bit out in the open they may not be interested in ripping up the floor boards and walls off. In the interest of medication Im looking in to growing my own garden and getting more information to provide just a few things that could be needed while I can stay on site. if any one thinks there is something I could add to ether buging in or buging out with different locations in mind plise let me know. I’ve only been at this a couple weeks

    • Having disinfectant is very important in your supplies and the one I have is called Blue Coat. Up to 15 years ago it didn’t have the warning (For veterinary use only)! This is an anti-fungal/disinfectant/antiseptic THAT farmers have used forever for cuts and whatever on cattle/pig/dogs/cats/sheep. These animals don’t stay clean, take regular showers and dirt/whatever gets into these cuts but Blue Coat protects the cut because this stuff uses indemnimal ink to draw it deep into the skin/cut. I have used it on myself when the cut/wound was not healing with regular methods. I once got ring worm and it disappeared when Blue Coat was applied. When you bug out have it in your bag. Tractor Supply carry’s it!

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