Guest Post: The Bogus Bug-Out-Bag Argument

by L.M.

“If you can’t evacuate your house in 5 minutes flat then stop what you’re doing right now and…”   Ever heard that before?   Did it scare you?  Make you think, oh my gosh I better get prepared!


Most people who have been in the “survival” or “preparation” mode for any period of time have either read such a statement, or made a similar one themselves.  The only problem is that the concept of leaving your home in 5 minutes flat with only what you can carry, or jam in your car is actually a very dangerous proposition.


The “bug-out-bag” is perhaps the most highly regarded sources of “prepper” lore around.  Discussions on what goes in it, where it should be stored, how often it should be inventoried, and even what kind of material it should be made from take up a multitude of room in many articles, blog posts, and conversations.


The only problem is that this seeming fascination with the “Art of the Bug out Bag “ is actually one of the most dangerous and potentially damaging discussions in the Prepper community right now. (IMHO)


Why would I say such a thing?  Well let me start by saying that I am not categorically against having a bug-out-bag packed and ready to go in the event that an emergency evacuation is actually called for.  In fact mine is ready to go even as I write this.  The problem is what the bug-out-bag actually does to you mentally.


Let me give you an example.  Last week I attended an Emergency Preparation Meeting that was held and sponsored by a local church in our community.  Among the many “experts” present was a former employee of FEMA who had great expertise in survival planning.  A question about bug-out-bags and their contents was put to him and he dutifully answered with his opinion on the appropriate contents of a bug-out-bag.  I then raised my hand and asked him under what circumstances he would actually use his bug-out-bag.  He immediately answered and said anytime he had to evacuate his home quickly.  I pressed for further clarification and asked if he could recount for us any specific circumstances under which he would find it necessary, or wise to leave his home in the event of an emergency.  At this point he smiled and said, (and I quote) “Well, now that you actually mention it, I can think of very few circumstances where I would ever leave my home in a hurry.  It’s still a good idea to have one though.”


My point exactly!   Ask yourself this question.  When you grab your bug-out-bag, leap into your 4WD get-away vehicle and leave your house, where are you going?  I would argue that in the vast majority of cases the answer is – no-where fast.  I recently was driving north in I-95 in Virginia.  A paving operation during the middle of the day that closed 1 lane of the interstate for approximately 2 miles caused a thirteen mile back up that took approximately 140 minutes to get through.  Now think about this, if a paving operation can basically shut down an interstate in the middle of the day what do you think is going to happen in the event of a real emergency?  Does the word Gridlock come to mind?


The problem with the focus on bugging-out is that it puts people in the mindset of getting away from their home – the place where they have: food, water, shelter, and the ability to defend themselves.  It puts them in the mindset of being on the road, and in the escape mode.  Again the problem here is that the last place you want to be during an actual emergency (let’s categorize that as: terrorist attack, weather event, nuclear meltdown event, societal breakdown, TEOTWAWKI) is in a car, most likely backed up on some highway with very little in the way of water, food, or protection.  (Oh, and did I mention surrounded by hundreds of enraged and frightened other people who all, within about 90 minutes need to go to the bathroom.)


The idea of having an off the grid getaway tucked away in a holler’ in the mountains that hasn’t been seen by anyone but the Indians for the last hundred years is certainly appealing.  It has it’s own fresh water spring inside a cave that can double as a refrigerator.  You’ve already stocked the cabin with a supply of food.  Your heirloom seed vault is there ready to produce the ultimate garden within 120 days of your arrival and your pre-positioned arms and ammunition cache is in place and carefully concealed.  All you have to do is get there… and your bug-out-bag is just the thing to tide you over until you actually do get there.


Believe me I get it!


But please don’t underestimate the potential difficulty of that trip.  My contention, as well as the contention of the guy from FEMA is that – in the event of a real, unexpected emergency, your best and safest place is in your own well stocked and prepared home.


Get your home ready to withstand the rigors of a catastrophic event before you do anything else, and remember, perhaps the very worst place you can be in the event of a real TEOTWAWKI event is stuck in a car on the highway surrounded by a bunch of angry scared sheeple.

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  1. Great article….I have what would be normally described as a “Bug out bag”…..But really its a “Bub-in bag” . It stays in my truck and has all the basics to tide me over until I can get back to my home (from work or where ever I might be) where I have all my food, guns, dogs, Ammo, Water stored away.

  2. I agree that the best place to be is your own home.

    A bug-out bag may be more essential, depending on where you live. For example, I would consider a bug-out bag critical for anyone living in areas known to be susceptible to hurricanes, especially when faced with mandatory evacuation under threat of criminal prosecution (see the Governor of Virginia’s executive order ).

    On a side note, the fact that such an order can take place honestly scares me, and makes me wonder if there will be a time when we are “evacuated” to camps. After all, it’s been done before…


  3. I agree, mostly. Having had the “home in the burbs, hideaway in the woods” bugout plan previously, I placed great importance on my bugout bag contents. Since building a home/retreat, not so much now, as very few situations would necessitate bugging out now.

    But, for those planning it and with the financial means: a 4X4 truck, a dual-sport/enduro motorcycle, and a motorcycle carrier (such as this:
    might offer a much better chance of getting 2 persons to their retreat than a truck alone. That was my plan anyway. I kept a “bike BOB” packed, with the intent of abandoning the truck on the highway and continuing on with the bike on pre-planned alternate side routes should it be necessary. The enduro was a requirement, as the first goal was to get off the highway/expressway between exits. Driving the shoulder/median on a bike past miles of stopped vehicles wouldn’t be a good idea IMO.

    Never got the evac time under 5 minutes, but I did consider haste a necessity for two reasons – avoid the mass exodus and get as far away as quickly as possible, and to avoid quarantines/road blocks that might imposed by the authorities. If I was unable to avoid being stopped by authorities en route, I carried proof of ownership of my hideaway/destination, professional crendentials, my former military ID card, cash, and a couple ounces of gold.

    Everyone’s in a different situation, this was just the best plan I could come up with for getting me and the Mrs. to our retreat if sheltering in place wasn’t a good idea. Now, instead of bugout plans/bags, I focus on how to best use the hours between an ‘event’ and the arrival of city folks. Kinda funny, huh?

  4. I agree that most folks don’t need the wilderness survival gear that some sites recommend but If you’re wondering why you should have a go-bag just do a news search using the word “evacuate”. There are hundreds of small scale evacs occuring in this country weekly. Crime, chemical spills, infrastructure failures plus more could put you and your family out on the street or in a Red Cross shelter for a day or a week with little or no advanced warning at all.

  5. In general I would agree but it might be worth while to add that IF we do use it, we should use it sooner rather than later. A five minute evacuation is really the worse case senario. In contrast any prepper who is serious about prepping should be ready to bug out hours and days before most disasters making the five minutes irrelevant. If you’ve only got five minutes then you have been caught flat footed, and in that case if you are thinking about evacuation then so is everyone else!!!

    I might also add that in this case if you want/need to bug out in such a situation you may want to start thinking now outside the box. Personally, though I would hate to leave my truck I have considered both small aircraft and sail boat as potential means of bugging out– no lines no waiting!

  6. The only thing “bogus” about the “Bug Out Bag” is its moniker. It is an incredibly useful tool for a variety of situations. I use mine regularly hiking and hunting. I’ve raided its food, water and clothing supplies when my way home was delayed or shut down which made the situation much more comfortable. I’ve used it during a severe weather event to check on my Grandmother when driving wasn’t possible, once there I was able to resolve some issues she was having with the help of some of the tools I had in my BOB. I’ve also used it to chop a fallen tree out of the way that was blocking a road. Though my hatchet wasn’t my first choice for a tree of that size NONE of the other travelers had anything better capable of removing the obstruction. I could go on and on…

    I view my BOB as a collection of tools that provides a number of options to remedy whatever situation I may have to deal with. I don’t live in a city so I can’t just swing over to a store and buy what I need or ask/call someone else for help. I find it extraordinarily convenient to have a day pack, fully stocked and ready to go that can (and does) tackle a multitude of unplanned situations I might and do come across.

  7. Best piece you have EVER posted, maybe the best ever posted nod ANY prepper website. Good solid advice. The only thing that would make me leave my home on short notice would be a chemical spill on the RR tracks with a west wind. We NEVER have a west wind and we live three miles from the tracks or if they dropped a nuke on Corpus Christi TX (Southeast 40 miles and the wind is out of the Southeast 99% of the time.) Anything else and you would have some time to think and plan.

  8. I have a “bug-out-bag” only for the purpose of getting home if the need arises – so it is really a GHB instead of a BOB. The contents are essentially the same: i.e. 72 hour kit with the supplies, shelter, water, and tools to best assure that I will be able to make it to my home where the long-term supplies are. I carry one in each vehicle.
    Since we live in a suburban to rural area, and I know all the roads in and out of each town, as well as several alternate routes along power line clearings, utility easements, etc. I believe I would make it home somehow in spite of some physical challenges.

    What concerns me is that we love to travel out of the area to visit our grandkids – six to twelve hours by car. If the stuff hits the fan while we are so far away, our chances of getting home are greatly diminished. I guess it is pretty much the same as trying to get to a “retreat” some distance away, but I surely would not want to have to walk that far.

  9. My bugout bag is my backpacking bag which is quite complete and would easily see me through an extended bugout. I have a sack next to it of winter clothing and another for summer clothing and I would grab the appropriate one to consolidate into my bag. I have traveled everywhere in this country and can give you three (obvious) tricks for traffic. One is to drive through large cities in the early AM between midnight and 6:00 am. The second, since I traveled extensively with a motorcycle, is get a motorcycle. When all the cars are stopped you either drive past them or go offroad. Third start using backroad. I love backroads, so much more to see. Know at least two and preferable 3 or more backroad routes to your destination. Freeways are faster usually until the day they become parking lots. Backroads are rarely clogged with traffic.

  10. Great article. I agree completely.

    All the Bug-Out-Bag hype has never meant much to me. I have no nearby cave, fortress, invisible cabin or other such ideal fantasy destination to bugout to.

    If the S is H’ing the F and I can’t handle it from my house – well then, I’m just not gonna make it.

    But I won’t go down easy.

  11. In most cases, I agree that bugging in place is the best solution, however, don’t discount the value of a BOB.

    Several years ago, I was watching the national news on television and a former Marine stated that he heard a knock on his door and the fire officials told him he had 5 minutes to evacuate. He was going to lose his house to fire. Now maybe he had staged a lot of his belongs to “bug out” because he knew there was a fire in his area, and then maybe he didn’t. But it sure got me thinking about the status of my BOB and helped me realize that what I was leaving behind might not be available when I came back. Besides water, food, shelter and defense tools, I begin to look at personal and financial documents in a new light. I believe a BOB is a good tool to have in the toolbox.

  12. There 2 schools of thought on the subject. Bug in, or bug out. Given what i have seen first hand what humans are capable of, I prefer to bug out. I must qualify my statement, I live where it is fairly easy to bug out to somewhere to. Given what we lived through with hurricanes in Florida and looting and rioting, Katrina and all such manner of calamities. I have a spot to relocate to that I can get to 3 different ways.

  13. For us a five minute bug out is quite a possibility due to fire, especially for those who live on the edges of the city or up in the hills for those of us in Western Australia. And if we are bugging out then it is only for a comparative few, and only a smallish area. If a large bush fire is coming, or if we have been given a catastrophic fire warning then it is worth bugging out unless you have extraordinary fire precautions in place. But this is usually for less than a 100, or 1000 people and roads don’t get too clogged at all. So a BOB is important.

    However I would very much agree that the BOB focus of preppers seems somewhat unhelpful to me. For most the biggest problem is likely to be a sudden loss of income due to unemployment or the gradual loss of buying power due to fixed income and inflation. These scenarios are nowhere near as fun to prepare for. It doesn’t sound as good to say “I saved an extra $12 on my shopping and paid this down on my $3500 credit card bill,” as saying, “I bought X for my supplies, this week.” Unless you are intending bankruptcy in the short term then focussing on accumulating stuff rather than on overall financial health (with some acquisition) would seem to me to be short sighted in a different way.

    Back in the 1980s I went through a financial EOTWAWKI when the country we lived in went bankrupt in 1984. It was 8 years of financial hell and we ended up leaving the country and coming to Australia to start again – a great decision we should have made decades before. What caught us out was not not having enough food, but was not having our finances in order. There were no riots in the streets, or burglaries as the community made sure we all had food, but it was humiliation at losing one’s job, worrying about whether you could afford to keep the phone which you needed to be contacted for the phone, and staying warm during cold winters.

  14. Your concern over our- A: mental ability to determine whether a situation is “bug-out” worthy or not and B: our planning apparently ending at our driveway is both touching and disappointing.


    I had the sad privilege of interacting with some of the refugees and emergency responders from that little cluster-&^%$.

    Those people pretty much had only a few minutes warning at best, and about 30-45 seconds at worst. It was grab the kids, grab the keys to the car, and run. Many of them with their shoeless kids in tow, couldn’t buy any new clothes or food because all their cash, and credit-debit cards, along with the driver’s licenses, and medical insurance information, were at the bottom of a smoldering crater, surrounded by 1000+ degrees of flaming rubble.

    One emergency responder told me, after putting in a lot more overtime that he ever wanted to, that he came across the bodies of an entire family at dinner time that were all sitting at the same table, totally caught off guard when all hell broke loose.

    I saw people come in to our store with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, buying new clothing and food to get them through the week.

    Obviously, that was the worst-case scenario, but that’s what I prefer to prep for.

    I have a BOB. It’s full of extra pants, socks, shirts, bags of trail mix, two bottles of gatorade, some shaving cream, a razor, a small revolver, and a box of ammo. In addition, I also have copies of my health insurance, passport, driver’s license, as well as some extra cash. Sooner or later, I’m going to add a small backpacker’s tent to it as well.

    It’s right by my desk as I type this.

  16. Great post!

    We don’t have Bug Out Bags, we have Get Home Bags – several in fact. I have my basic bag for my everyday commute (12 miles to and from home), a bigger bag for when we go see the in-laws (5 hours by Intersate and State Highways), and a large plastic tub of stuff which I thought might be handy in a real emergency (never used it, mostly just empty it and refill it every 3 months as an exercise in what ifs).

    Given 5 minutes, I would grab our large packs (7 to 10 days of food, water, clothes, medicine, some basic survival tools, sleeping bags, ground mats, radios, and some personal items), our rifle cases (rifle, 5 loaded mags, cleaning equipment), our gear belts (pistols, spare mags, flash light, multi-tool, fixed blade knife, and first aid kit), our brief cases (computers, cameras, and other personal items), and the dogs. I have a large plastic tub with our tactical vests, ceramic plates, and gas masks which would probably be included if I perceived the situation was really dire. All that would eat up about 3 minutes, so I would probably make 2 more trips for stuff which I don’t need, but wife insists we absolutely cannot exisit without for the next 3 days. I suppose it would really depend if my 5 minutes was under fire, outrunning a fire, in a storm, or skipping out from some irate father or husband who tracked me down from some previous indescretion in my youth.

  17. Actually, I can think of lots of reasons why one may need to “bug out” quickly – wildfires, toxic spills (are there train tracks or an industrial complex near you?), nuclear accident (I’m only 16 miles from a nuclear plant), terrorist attack using a dirty bomb or chemical/biological agents (I’m in the suburbs of a big city that is a potential target), and the outbreak of riots or civil unrest (see recent events in London & Athens).

    I agree that for many situations, hunkering down at home is the best. But one should always be prepared to bug out if the need arises.

    Besides, the supplies in a bug out bag can always be used at home in a hunker down situation if needed.

  18. Whether or not to have an bug-out or a bug-in bag and what it consists of is soley your own personal choice! The supplies can be used in any emergency, at home or on the go! I keep one due to traveling for work in the hurricane afflicted areas and may have to get home via alternate means (walking or bicycling).

  19. A clear winner. Challenging conventional theory with well thought out scenario’s and poking them full of holes. A real eye opener. Thanks.

  20. I have read a lot of things and what people would do in a bug out plan or SHTF or what ever the case maybe, from hauling a 52 foot trailer with a semi to a little tin with stuff in it.

    It kills me about what the weight should be of packs from to heavy to light. I have 2 kids and a wife that I need to also think about and being the man of the house I need to carry weight (boy is 2 and the daughter is 10 months and yes the wife will have a pack too). If you cant carry weight then you need to get up off you fat @ss and lose some weight or if you are a bean pole then hit some weights and get a little stronger and be a man. That is what we are built for. To work and and take care of the family.

    Then you hear carry light so you can move fast..Well that might be OK but I’m not going to go running into another problem. Need to move at a OK speed so that you can see and plan for what you might be getting yourself into and where I can scout out to make sure it is OK for the night.

    I would go to another house and bug in if I could not stay at my own house if I could and if not then I would begin hiking. Hiking with a plan of what happens if somebody is going the other way with their light weight pack that is empty and wants what your family has. If I was running at full speed with my light pack I might miss that and might not be-able to defend my family. Don’t get me wrong you don’t need 1500#s of stuff but you need to be prepared.

    Have what you need to survive from hot to cold weather. From rainy to dry weather. If everything was that bad and you needed to leave like this then it is going to be longer the 72 hours. Plan for that.

    I would die for my family but not because I was a p***y and could not handle a few extra pounds to keep myself and the rest of the family alive. It would not be a easy task so to all the people with the pull behind camper it is not going to be like that if it gets as bad as what people are planing for. This is not a picnic it is survival and people like me would kill or do what I needed to do to survive and keep my family alive.

  21. I agree with the “gotta go potty” sheeple on the road analogy!!! your first priority is to STAY PUT where you know the lay of the land, have neighbors you can trust and lots more tools and supplies than you can carry. In Colorado flooding, wild fires and tornadoes happen all the time. for the most part you gotta get out for 72 hours, stay in a shelter and hope your house is still there when you get back. most evacs here are less than 15-30 miles where you get packed in like rats in a church or sports stadium. I keep basic tools and other things in my truck all the time. I have used them many times. a friend who can’t fix his sink or my alternator goes out on a road trip. certainly some of the stuff in a bug out bag is for “emergencies” but I use allot of it every day. Being a capable person is having the tools and supplies that allow you to use your skills to cope with un-planned problems like getting stuck in the snow, digging your car out, flat tire, etc… while I abhor the philosophy of running for the hills… having a small tent and sleeping bags not only allows a shelter to use their blankets and red cross donuts for other people but your flashlight and radio may be what they need to help others who aren’t so fortunate.

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