Why You Still Need a Bug-Out Bag Even if You Bug In

Unless you are a complete newbie to prepping, you are probably familiar with the concept of the bug out bag, seemingly every prepper’s favorite piece of equipment.

You can think of a bug-out bag as your survival parachute, a survival scuba tank if you will, representing that one prep that will let you survive an incredibly hostile situation and come out the other side.

green backpack with two water bottles in side pockets

A bug-out bag (BOB) contains all of the equipment, provisions, and other gear that one would anticipate needing when the time comes to get the heck out of dodge like your life depends on it. Spoiler warning: it might!

But as it turns out, some preppers have decided to bet everything on bugging in instead of bugging out.

This does make a lot of sense, due to the fact that having a home-field advantage provided by an actual structure, thorough knowledge of the surrounding terrain and ideally plenty of food, water and other supplies close at hand seems a lot better than taking off for parts unknown hauling your pantry, arms room and shelter on your back in the form of a BOB.

In fact, the idea is so appealing that preppers who plan to begin to the exclusion of everything else actually omit having a bug out bag in the first place. After all, you don’t need a backpack if you aren’t carrying anything anywhere!

This makes a certain amount of logical sense, but I assert that it is still a bad idea, and in this article I will make a case for having a bug-out bag even if all you plan on doing in response to a SHTF event is bugging in.

You Should Bug-In If You Can

Before we get too far down the rabbit hole, I do want to clarify that I believe you should bug in during an emergency or disaster if at all possible.

It just makes the most sense for all the reasons I mentioned above:

  • you’ll have the home-field advantage,
  • you should nominally have other people nearby in the form of friends and neighbors you can reach out to for help
  • you’ll be in a defensible position that will provide shelter and at least the opportunity to fortify,
  • and, perhaps most importantly, if you have been doing your job as a prepper you will have a ton of supplies on hand in the form of water, food, tools, ammo and everything else you need to take care of business.

I don’t think I need to explain the difference in capacity between a dwelling of any size and a simple backpack, no matter how big and impressive it is. Shelves and pantries bursting with goodies are always going to be better than the paltry amount you can carry in a backpack.

And notice I mentioned “carry”; everybody was a young prepper once upon a time who wanted to bring everything including the kitchen sink in their bug-out bag until that first, fateful outing when they had to haul dozens of pounds across the countryside.

Most of us learned the importance of keeping the load light and our packs lean, and then never looked back after that!

The load-bearing issue inherent to a BOB and its effect on your endurance, speed and what terrain you can safely cross is completely eliminated if you will just bug in during an emergency!

To be frank, most people living in most places and dealing with most typical problems that arise during a survival situation will be able to shelter in place so long as they have made some intelligent prior preparations.

Yes, some events are so devastating you have no choice but to run from them if you get the chance, and depending on what happens, you might have the misfortune to see your home or other dwelling completely destroyed before you can make use of it. That really sucks, but that is also, thankfully, rare.

So as I like to say, “Keep calm and bug in”. But, now as always, sometimes you don’t get a vote in the proceedings. Sometimes all you can do is hope to react to an evolving or unexpected situation.

For that reason, no matter how airtight and invincible your bug-in plan is you must be prepared to bug out, even if you’re able and planning on coming back.

Always Be Ready to Bug-Out

No matter how fortified your home, no matter how well-stocked and how well-positioned it is you might have cause to run out the door quickly if you want to save your life, or potentially someone else’s.

Don’t think so? A lot of other people have thought the same thing. No matter what kind of dwelling you have, even a state-of-the-art underground bunker, sometimes you run into problems that threaten the very integrity of your home and everything in it.

What kind of threat are we talking about? How about a fire, which perhaps might be the disaster itself in the form of a wildfire or a secondary hazard spawned off of some other disaster.

Chances are if your house catches fire it is not going to put itself out, and you won’t be able to count on the fire department showing up in the nick of time.

You know what that means: all of your preps and all of that preparation you put into accumulating them gone, in a flash – literally up in smoke.

How about a flood? Anywhere that it can rain it can flood, although some areas are far more susceptible than others.

If you have the misfortune to be living in a flood-prone area, or your number just comes up during the next great 100 or 200 year flood event, your house might quite literally be completely underwater. I mean up-to-the-gutters-and-gators-swimming-by underwater!

What do you think will happen to all your preps then, sodden and ruined as they are? Are you going to take your chances sitting on the roof, and wait for the waters to recede, or are you going to head for greener and, hopefully, dryer pastures?

Sure, you can take precaution measures against a flood. But you cannot overestimate the sheer, destructive power of a massive body of water submerging anything in its path.

Perhaps you aren’t dealing with a destructive natural disaster. Perhaps violence stemming from civil unrest or the action of political partisan groups is intensifying and spreading.

Without plenty of manpower and an excellent position you should not delude yourself that you can hold off a rampaging mob of dozens or hundreds without severe risk. Perhaps it is better to take your chances elsewhere, someplace quieter that is unlikely to be touched by internecine conflict.

Any of these events would mean that you need to grab your essentials, load up your family in your car or truck, and get out while the getting is good.

Even that is a gamble, but far too many people have obtained a negative outcome during a life-threatening situation by hanging on in deteriorating circumstances for too long believing erroneously that they could ride it out, that the event would miss them or otherwise pass them by.

When that time comes, you need a BOB packed and ready.

Why a BOB in the First Place?

Sure, as already mentioned, your house is well-stocked and entirely well-provisioned. If you have to leave in a hurry you can just grab what you need from the shelves and take off, right? Well, yes and no.

You must consider the fact that you probably will not be making the decision to leave days or weeks ahead of oncoming trouble.

That would surely allow you to create your packing list, loads of items that you need into suitable containers or luggage and from there into your vehicle and then head off in a fashion that is more akin to a family camping trip or vacation than a mad dash to get out the door in a time-is-life situation.

Chances are it isn’t going to work like that. If you are fortunate, you will have a couple of hours once the “balloon has gone up” and you have made the decision to flee.

Chances are actually better than average that when that time does come you will have minutes. Typically, when you’re prepping to bug in, you’ll have a hard time deciding to evacuate, all the more reason to think in advance about how bad things have to get before you make the decision to flee.

It does not take much imagination to envision the scene. The alert has come in, the clock is ticking, and now you must gather all the necessary items that you need for prolonged sustainment and survival away from your home for yourself, and all the other members of your family.

Even if you are packing using a checklist, and have all of your preps organized and tidy this is going to be pandemonium. Things will get missed. You won’t take enough or you will take too much.

There will be distractions aplenty as room in bags and vehicles is used up, items are jettisoned and repacked, and you are constantly interrupted by inquiries and questioning. Just chaos.

This time, pressure will increase stress and uncertainty. Stress and uncertainty decrease mental performance while increasing pressure further meaning you will make more mistakes, mistakes about things like which way you should go, where their biggest threat is, and what your next move should be.

Those mistakes, any single one of them, could result in a negative outcome including your death.

But let us compare the same scenario above if you have loaded bug out bags for every member of the family. All you have to do then is grab your family, grab their BOBs, load them in the car, and you are ready to go.

Of course, you might have to grab what few EDC items you don’t keep on your person while at home, but chances are those are staged in the same place you have always staged them and you’re unlikely to forget them when you grab your car keys, wallet and other accessories.

Since this has saved you a considerable amount of time in gathering all of the necessary items required for survival, you have a head start on getting out the door. Those minutes saved could make all the difference.

Even if you have a generous departure schedule, you now have extra time to clear your head, and think about what you were doing.

Will you use that time to gather more intel on the situation and perhaps inform your next decision? Will you spend it planning your next couple of moves or contingency plans in case the unimaginable happens? Time spent thinking clearly is never wasted!

Time savings matter and, you should never underestimate that. For that reason, you want BOB’s for every member of the family packed, stowed and ready in case you have to bug out of what was otherwise a certain bug-in response.

Other Advantages of Bug Out Bags

Consider that you don’t need to necessarily be running away, and never coming back for your BOB to come in handy. What if a situation develops, perhaps the rescue of a friend or family member, and you need to leave in a hurry?

Are you going to grab your keys and sprint out the door, facing the unknown with what is in your pockets and a prayer? Or would it, perhaps, be better to arm yourself with gear and other items that could aid you on your way?

If you are thinking that it would indeed be wise to grab your BOB, give yourself a pat on the back because it surely would be! The items that a BOB contains are not just useful when your life is on the line, or when you are fleeing from a disaster.

Survival gear is, ultimately, gear that will help you get work done easily and efficiently, and any BOB worth the name should contain the provisions and items you need to sustain yourself and complete the work that needs completing when you are away from home.

There is no reason why your BOB cannot be your “ready for business” bag also.

I would add the caveat that you don’t want to use it as your everyday go-bag and pillage from it at will because your BOB should fit that “parachute” mentality; it must be packed, perfect and ready to deploy when you really, really need it.

Also make sure you choose something of the highest quality. The BOB and everything in it should never-ever fail you when you need it most.

From the trusty lifestraw or sawyer mini water filter, to a solid backpach such as the 5.11 Rush 24 military backpack or the alice pack along with it’s super-useful mods, every single item you put in your BOB should be carefully researched, tested, chosen and then used periodically.

But responding to any legitimate emergency would certainly justify taking it along with you just in case you need something it carries.


Even if you have an airtight, foolproof bug-in plan you must be prepared to bug out or respond to some emergency that sees you leaving your carefully prepared home in a big hurry. The best way to do that is by keeping a properly packed and handily stored bug-out bag ready for just such an occasion.

Bugging in is a great idea so long as the situation at hand allows you to, but you’ll only have all bases covered if you are ready to bug out at the same time. No matter what your preferred response is you need a BOB to complement it!

BOB when bugging in Pinterest

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2 thoughts on “Why You Still Need a Bug-Out Bag Even if You Bug In”

  1. Excellent points. I have read articles about bugging in, bugging out, caches, etcetera….but never about sheltering effectively if you are forced to bug out to save your own life or those you love. In many unstable places, people retreat to the mountains, the jungle, the swamp, etc. to escape invading armies or raiders or marauders…..but does that mean that they huddle in misery to wait it out? Do they have prepared shelters to shelter from the elements? Are there cached supplies in case they had to flee at a moments notice? What if its winter time? Did they have simple spider holes big enough for a family for a month or three? Or out of sight to strike back at invaders from? Could you do an article on emergency shelters? Bolt holes? Possible locations and why? Thanks.


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