10 Reasons Bugging Out May Not Be for You

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It is the rare prepper who will not have a plan for bugging out when a situation turns against them or looks unendurable from the beginning.

Having a bug-out plan is something of a “graduation exercise” in prepping, an obvious indicator that you are serious about what you are doing, and are ready for the worst of eventualities.

man in the woods

It is tough to argue with the logic of having a bug-out plan and being prepared to execute that plan at a moment’s notice, but if there is one thing that any seasoned prepper will tell a young gun or inexperienced, new adherents is that assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.

Assuming that bugging out will be the only choice you have, or even a correct choice, during a disaster might be the last assumption you ever make.

There are plenty of reasons why bugging out might not be right for you in the instant, for a period of time or even in the context of your life in general.

Knowing when you should attempt to bug out and just as importantly when you shouldn’t is the mark of a prepper who is objective-oriented and wise.

In this article I will provide you with a frame of reference for why you should not let bugging out be your only possible response to a disaster.

Bugging Out isn’t an Ejector Seat

As it turns out, bugging out is often going to be a supremely difficult task in and of itself. I can tell you, based on my own conversations and consultations with preppers who were trying to put together a comprehensive and holistic bug out plan, that more than a few of them think exactly the opposite.

Some preppers believe that, thanks to their fastidious preparation, study, self improvement and contingency planning that when the time comes to hit the road and get clear of whatever is troubling them that it will be a walk in the park if not a literal jaunt through the woods. An ejector seat, if you will; pull the lever and your problems are over!

If only! I hope you kept the receipt for those hopes and dreams because chances are conducting any bug-out operation is going to be a task of enormous strain and uncertainty.

No matter if you are going by vehicle or by foot you will face many challenges; from obstacles and exposure to the carrying of heavy loads through difficult circumstances. Bugging out ain’t easy, and if it is what you are actually doing is camping!

Bugging out is simply going to be dangerous: You could become stranded, overtaken by bandits, brigands or throngs of desperate people, caught out by severe weather, you could get lost, you could become injured, either stalling or even halting your progress.

More than anything else, leaving the safety, security and shelter of an actual structure, even if traveling by vehicle, places you at considerable risk of exposure, nature’s most certain and frequent killer.

Any of these potential fates could happen to the most experienced prepper with a high level of fitness, the best equipment and the most comprehensive plan. As it turns out the event still gets a vote in the outcome!

Imagine how much more difficult any bug-out activity could be if you are not in ideal conditions, ideal terrain or weather, or possessed of ideal fitness. Might you be leaving a reasonably safe and secure if uncertain setting for one that is most likely to see you laid low and stranded, waiting for death?

It is possible, and will feel all the more grievous knowing that you could have stayed put! That is why knowing when you should avoid bugging out, or why bugging out is not right for you as an individual is crucial in order to obtain a happy ending when disaster strikes.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

At its most fundamental, I think where some preppers go wrong on this topic is when they start treating the bug out, or rather preparing for the bug out, as the objective in itself. This is a mistake.

The bug out is not the objective; survival is the objective, bugging out is a tactic to help you achieve your objective! Said another way, you should employ the tactic that is most likely to obtain the outcome that you want. That is all that matters.

With just a little bit of genuine assessment, along with a greater awareness and understanding of the situation you are facing, it is possible to discern whether or not a bug out is the sub-optimal, acceptable, or ideal option for responding to an emergency situation.

But the situation at hand is only part of it; the other part of it is you and whoever else is going to be bugging out with you. Someone cannot bug out for you, and you cannot bug out for anyone else!

If there are personal factors involved which will greatly reduce your chance of success it is time to start looking at plans B, C and so on.

This is a highly personal decision, and furthermore one that is not guaranteed no matter how much information you have, and how smart you are.

Ultimately, you will have to read the situation, your resources, and your team as best you can, make the call and then stick with it. Just don’t ever lose sight of the fact that a winning move for our purposes is anything that will keep you and yours alive.

10 Reasons Bugging Out Might Not be for You

1. Terrain

If you live in or around an area where the terrain is especially inhospitable or difficult to traverse, this should affect your willingness to bug out in any given circumstances, especially if your home is well-stocked, secure and fortified.

Steep mountains with roads that are easy to block, slow to travel and generally perilous are one such example, as are urban areas that are typically slow going in the very best of times which will be made dependably into parking lots when things go bad.

Suffice to say you will not be trying to get out of a city in the best of times if you are bugging out!

You should consider the suitability of the terrain for traversal both on foot and by vehicle. You shouldn’t necessarily put all your eggs in one basket, as it is entirely possible that a vehicular bug out could face a show-stopping event like a crash or completely impassable road or trail that will see you taking off on foot to either head back or press on.

Always remember to consider the worst-case scenario when it comes to terrain.

On the other hand, don’t discount creative solutions to difficult terrain. Rivers will make for little-used and high-speed thoroughfares if you have a suitable watercraft, allowing you to completely circumvent the invariably jammed and packed roadways if you were otherwise traveling by automobile, or save a tremendous amount of both time and labor compared to moving around on foot.

Though traveling by river has its own hazards, other solutions abound if you have the right equipment and a little ingenuity.

2. Lack of Resources

Bugging out entails a certain amount of material preparation. At least it does if you are smart! For all but the most independent and seasoned outdoor survivalists, bugging out without ample supplies might spell certain death no matter where you are heading.

While it is true that a person with enough skills and experience when it comes to scavenging and living off the land can take off into the wild blue yonder with a knife and little else and wind up constructing a pretty respectable campsite, you would be a fool to disregard the advantages afforded to you by going properly prepared.

You might think of your supplies needed for bugging out (your BOB and all its contents) as something like an air tank for a scuba diver. So long as the tank has air the diver can stay down in an environment that will otherwise certainly kill him. When the tank runs out of air, the driver must surface (and resupply) or die.

Bugging out is not quite as lethal as that example, but I think you take my meaning. When you run out of the supplies and tools you need, or lack them to begin with, you’ll be in danger wherever you happen to be unless you are truly the stuff of mountain man legends.

Ultimately, you might lack some essential piece of equipment or conveyance that will make a bug-out feasible, all things considered.

In your area, considering where you need to go to reach a given bug-out location, lacking a vehicle might mean the prospect is too dangerous or just too grueling to be worthwhile. That is okay.

While it does not mean you should completely fail to plan for a “hail Mary” bug out on foot, you should indeed file it away as the desperate measure it is, and not as your first choice.

3. Poor Fitness

Adequate fitness is one prep that quite a few preppers want to tap dance around and pretend does not exist or is not important the greater context of prepping.

The bottom line is this: The single greatest thing you can do to improve your personal readiness, safety and security is to be fit. Survival is almost always hard work. You had better believe a bug out will be an arduous task, and potentially grueling if you have to bug out on foot.

Even if you are going by vehicle, you might be driving on high alert for a very long time for you can rest and other mishaps can result in great exertion besides.

If you are bugging out on foot, you’ll be hauling a heavy backpack across terrain that is anywhere from unpaved to steep and broken.

This is definitely going to be hard going, and is exhausting even for people who are in good shape. If you aren’t in good shape it will be somewhere between life-threatening and impossible.

If you are trying to flee something that has a real, legitimate deadline there is no second-place winner in this particular race! And that discounts all the other threats from nature and people that you might have to deal with besides.

If you get winded going up a flight of stairs or carrying in the groceries, you can forget trying to bug out in general, and especially on foot.

Your first tool, and indeed your first weapon and vehicle, is your body and if it is soft, flabby, slow and weak it is not suited for the rigors of bugging out in the gravest extreme. Think long and hard about your decision to bug out if you are not particularly fit.

4. Family Concerns

None of what we do as preppers happens in a vacuum. Though some of us are, indeed, single with no one but ourselves to worry about, that is not the reality for most of us.

Most of us have family members that we are immediately responsible for, and barring family members we have loved ones, friends, potentially even neighbors who we don’t want to turn our backs on.

In times of trouble, most people band together not just to increase their chances of success, but to be mutually supportive.

This is not to say you should stay on a sinking ship just because someone else won’t get off, but you shouldn’t necessarily abandon them either without a damn good reason.

For those of us who have immediate family members or other dependents we might be entirely prevented from bugging out with them for a host of reasons.

For all the tough talk and bluster I hear coming out of some preppers about Darwin and the “law of the jungle” I don’t think one in a hundred would actually leave someone they care about behind.

If you aren’t there for your family, and cannot expect them to be there for you, you have bigger problems. Assuming you are responsible to your family you need not think you will have the desperate resolve to run off and leave them to their fate, alone, even if you have determined that is the “correct” course of action.

Sometimes we have to put our lot in with others and take our chances. If you have family members that are unable or completely unwilling to bug out for whatever reason, that is what you might have to do.

5. Bad Timing

Sometimes things just don’t go to plan. Your bug-out plan might be excellent, you might have amiable routes plotted, destinations double-checked, and all the gear you need to successfully complete the journey. You know what to expect, what you are likely to be facing, and how long it will take you to get there.

Unfortunately, something goes wrong, or rather it does not go the way you hoped! The event kicks off too early, you are seriously delayed for some reason, or you simply get overtaken by successive piddling mishaps that see you running way behind schedule.

Whatever it is and however it happens, your timetable is blown. This means you might no longer be able to make it to your destination as safely and as surely as you thought.

A blown travel itinerary could see you overtaken by bad weather, human threats or just trying to make movement during a dangerous time. Simply stated, you might be better off staying put.

If that is the case, then so be it. Making a decision and taking action is all about weighing the risks when it comes to responding to emergencies.

One stratagem might be a “sure thing” one day and completely untenable the next depending on changing circumstances. It all depends, and if you cannot complete a bug out in the prescribed timetable or get underway in good order you might be better off staying put.

6. Weather or Climate

Bugging out on foot or by vehicle inherently means you’re going to be leaving a place of safety, or at least nominal safety, for the unknown. Much of the time, this means you’ll be leaving behind a proper shelter, which is your house, apartment or whatever.

You should never underestimate the potential danger this act alone can place you in, particularly when you are dealing with bad weather or a hostile climate.

As luck might have it, you might be dealing with flat-out crappy weather when the time comes for you to bug out. It could be raining cats and dogs, storming fit to shake the earth, piling on snow, visibility blocking dust storms or something else.

Any of these events is threatening enough in and of itself, and if you are forced to tackle them in the high-stakes context of a bug out things could become downright perilous.

Also, the climate where you live might be hostile or plumb dangerous year-round. Folks who live in the desert, swamp or in frozen northern areas know all too well what they will be dealing with as soon as they step out the door.

Before you are so sure you can bug out and solve all of your problems, you have to take precautions that you can survive your bug out if something goes wrong and you wind up stranded or delayed in the interim.

Bugging out might be your “low percentage” option if you live in any area with such a climate or are faced with severe weather during the event.

Don’t get cocky just because you think any of these threats are beneath you or that you have lived so long in these areas you have nothing to worry about; remind yourself that exposure is the single biggest killer (and one of the quickest) in nature when you are out of doors.

7. Lack of Skills

Surviving is definitely not easy, and neither is bugging out. Again, don’t assume that just because you can pile into the car right away or head out on foot in a timely fashion with your pack on your back that you’re going to have an easy go of things from then on.

Put another way you will be surviving from the word “go”, and you had better be up to snuff mentally, physically and practically.

Any prepper who is serious will do far more than just accumulate gear. They will acquire, sharpen, and refine skills over the course of their lifetime.

Your mind is your first tool, and if that particular tool box is empty when it is time to put up or shut up you are just a casualty waiting to happen.

I cannot tell you the number of mishaps and tragedies I have learned of over the years that happened to people who were extremely well equipped, even highly motivated, but didn’t have the practical experience or expertise needed to deal with the situation at hand.

Be honest with yourself: Do you know what you are doing? Do you know how to get to where you are going even without a GPS? How about without a map or even road signs?

You know how to properly set up a camp, build and extinguish a fire, and do all the other myriad tasks that could be required of you in case things don’t go smoothly?

If the answer is “no” more often than it is “yes”, listen up; you need a new plan! Your theoretical knowledge is still worth something, but you do need to focus on skills, as you will need every advantage you can get when surviving.

Much of the time, you will find you have more advantages in more situations by bugging in, and holding on to the home-field advantage. Bugging out might not be the best idea unless you have no other choice.

8. Illness or Injury

Any pre-existing injury or disease that you are suffering from could spell the end of your bug out before you have even begun.

Any major physical infirmity or hindrance is going to dramatically slow down your bug out, or make it so agonizing that you run out of willpower. This is not something that should be taken lightly.

Likewise, diseases and ailments of all kinds, from diabetes to heart failure, nervous system ailments to the flu can all complicate your bug out, increasing risk and chance of failure.

Some people will be dealing with permanent or lifelong disabilities. Being confined to a wheelchair does not mean that bugging out is not for you, but it does mean that a cross-country bug out without the use of a vehicle is going to be nigh impossible, especially as the terrain gets rough or becomes clogged with debris and people.

If you have lost the use of even a single limb this might significantly affect your ability to deal with emergencies and curveballs.

I am not saying that you should not attempt a bug out or even plan a bug out as your first choice option just because you were dealing with a permanent or semi-permanent disability; I am merely advising caution since you have another disadvantage you’ll have to deal with from the outset.

Remember what I said about planning around your objective? That planning entails accounting for every advantage but also every disadvantage you have, whether you have been dealing with it for most of your life or it is a “day of” impairment.

Don’t convince yourself that you must bug out or face even worse consequences.

Especially if you are already dealing with some ailment, the correct answer might be to improve your circumstances where you are to better accommodate that impairment versus risking everything on a comparative unknown.

9. Nature of the Event

A bug-out is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every emergency, disaster or situation. In fact, there are some situations where a bug out might put you in even more jeopardy no matter what you are facing in a fixed location.

Once again, this is dependent upon where you live and the nature of the event that has you executing on your contingency plan.

One great example is something like a dirty bomb, nuclear power plant meltdown or, God forbid, a nuclear warhead detonation.

Any event that results in radiological fallout is likely to be best countered by sheltering in place and taking the appropriate precautions to keep the fallout from entering the home via your HVAC system, chimney and other passages through which dangerous particles could pass.

Choosing to bug out on foot in the same circumstances would be absolutely disastrous and likely fatal, and you will fare little better in a car.

Another instance could be a natural disaster like a tornado. You might have notice via a tornado watch alert that a storm system capable of spawning them is in the area, or you might learn that one has formed via a tornado warning.

Either of those notifications are an indicator that you should seek the best possible shelter as rapidly and as surely as you can, and suffice to say you should never, ever be caught in a vehicle or on foot when a tornado draws close. With very few exceptions almost any structure is better than either of those two eventualities.

If your default and only reaction to any kind of disaster or other event is the hop in the car and go or grab your BOB, and take off you could very likely be putting yourself and potentially your loved ones in harm’s way, not saving them from it.

10. Poor or No Bug Out Locations

Inherent to the concept of bugging out is having a place to bug out to! These pre-selected destinations, called bug-out locations or BOLs, are a crucial element of any well-designed bug-out plan.

The purpose of bugging out is not merely to scramble and get out of the way of approaching danger or an untenable situation by heading any which way, though in the worst of circumstances that might be exactly what you have to do.

Instead and ideally, you want to go directly to a place where you know you will be safe, or at least safer from a given threat, a place where you can catch your breath, rest, regroup and hopefully resupply.

Depending upon your anticipated threats, resources and strategy, this BOL could be a location in nature where you will set up a camp, an alternate dwelling that you own or one that belongs to family or friends, or potentially just another settled area where you believe chances will be good you can obtain aid and supplies.

Again, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but it is absolutely essential that your bug-out locations are able to support you, service your plan, and give you some much needed direction when the time comes to bug out. They need to be a pin on a map that you can orient yourself toward.

If, for whatever reason, you just don’t have any good bug-out locations to choose from within a reasonable distance, you probably don’t want to plan on bugging out at all, reserving instead a bug out as a true, last-ditch, last-gasp evacuation from a situation that has become so untenable and unsurvivable as to mean certain death.

This might result as a consequence of where you live, the event you are dealing with or any other personal issues that prevent you from making use of typical BOLs. Whatever the case, there is not much use in bugging out without a BOL to head towards.

Conclusion

For preppers, bugging out is often seen as a first response, or the ideal option when the time comes to deal with an impending disaster that will disrupt their way of life.

While bugging out definitely has its place among all of your options, it is not a panacea, and for preppers whose lives are complicated by internal and external factors, including the specifics of the event itself, bugging out might not be the first choice, or even a choice at all.

Only by assessing your life, your circumstances and the characteristics of the event you are dealing with in totality can you make an informed and intelligent decision about bugging out.

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4 thoughts on “10 Reasons Bugging Out May Not Be for You”

  1. 10 is my greatest issue. Not that I can’t find a BOL; I can. I have many possible spots. But I don’t OWN any of them, and that could be a serious issue (ask any hobo).

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  2. The only thing that could cause me to Bug Out would be a fire. Living where I do floods , hurricanes storms ect are not an issue. Due to age I’m not really in shape to be traipsing off into the woods to try and survive ( I live in the mountains ) and 90 percent of people that try that route are going to die anyway so I would rathe die in comfort at home. For the people that think they are going to bug out to the woods , understand , the folks that are there are NOT going to welcome you. Hunting and fishing to provide your food is sketchy at best and even if you are successful you still have to figure out how to preserve what you have.

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  3. #10 is the most important. Realistically, bugging out is getting out of a bad place and TO a better one. Some consider the boonies of a state park that better place. Personal choice.

    Most of the rest of the list are examples of not planning or preparing properly for the event (bugging out). If someone lived in rugged terrain, or a place prone to rough weather, or had less-than-mobile family members, these would all be well-known quantities. Plan for them.

    The whole point of bugging out is that your original location was no longer safe/tenible. You cite an ejection-seat metaphor. That’s pretty apt. If the plane is on fire and about to crash, you’re going to eject. It’s not that ejecting is easy or fun or what you do if the pretzles are stale. You eject because the plane is on fire and you’ll die if you don’t.

    Rational people plan to bug out when staying put is not an option. Bugging out won’t be easy but it’s better than staying home to be burned alive by mostly-peaceful protestors, or burned alive by a forest fire, etc. Compared to being burned alive, or shot, beaten and then burned alive, a cold, hungry, uncomfortable week in the woods is still the better option.

    Take this list as a challenge to improve your planning, skills, fitness, etc. rather than justification to stay put (and die.)

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  4. Great article, some issues that I was blind to. I am solving the issues with spaced bucket caches every 5 miles to the BOL. Might add another bucket to every cache with clothing re-supply: poncho, jacket, shoes. hat. If I cant use it then someone else can. One route done, two more to set-up! Thanks again!

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