Bug-Out or Bug-In ?

Bug Out Bug In when SHTF or grid-downnote: first appeared in December 2015

I am not crazy about the terms, but they are recognized in the “prepper” community so I will use them here a well. Actually I am OK with “bug-out” but I like “shelter in-place” a little more than “bug-in.” But you will get the information here no matter which term is used. So let me describe to you what I feel is the correct definition of “bug-out.”


Bug-Out –

An act of leaving your current location during an emergency.

Shelter In-Place –

An act of staying in your current location during an emergency.

Background –

Both acts are driven by a concern for safety. In the first option you are thinking that the current location is not safe. You may or may not think a destination is safe, but you know that your current location is not safe, and/or it is not going to be safe at some future time. Conversely, with the latter option you feel you are generally safer in your current location than at some other potential location or the on the trip to get to another location.

So which is the best option during disasters, emergencies and especially in “grid-down” situations?

Great question! Tough answer. And it is all dependent on the situation itself. But let me share a few guidelines and thoughts with you that might help you think through your decision process.

Making the Distinction –

First thing I ask people is where are your prep items? Items such as food, water, weapons, ammo, and all that other gear Food Storage - bug out bug in - why do you want to leave all that stuff?and equipment. Undoubtedly they answer that it is all somewhere in their house, on their property, in the garage or shed, etc. Great! The follow-up question is almost insulting in nature, “Why would you want to leave all that great stuff?” That usually gets me a blank stare or a look of disillusionment.

But it is a serious, maybe the most serious, question to ask yourself.

Doing It –

You spent a lot of money, a tremendous amount of time, and untold frustration acquiring a great set of preparations for you and your family to weather out the storm. Now you are actually considering leaving it all, or most of it, behind? Or do you plan on taking it all with you? Unless you own a large moving truck please don’t try and convince me that you can take it all with you. You can’t.

I did a little experiment a number of years ago that helped open my eyes a whole lot. I decided I would make a plan to bug-out and I wanted to take as much stuff as I possibly could. It was hilarious to say the least. I checked and validated the Bug out vehicle overloaded with all the gearweight and space of each case of food I had. Then I went and did the same for my guns & ammo. By that time I was already depressed. I had exceeded the weight and space capacity of my 1-ton truck by a large margin. And I hadn’t assessed any camping, cooking, communications, or other survival gear yet. It was bad…very, very bad.

So the first thing I did was stop my idiotic bug-out planning. I developed a brand new food storage methodology <click here to read more>, then rearranged my guns & ammo, developed my communications gear storage plan, and began working on redoing my whole storage concept on all my other gear. I will share all of that in the near future, but for now I just want you to know that I realized, rather clearly, that I would only be able to take a small fraction of my “stuff” , even in our one-ton truck.

Oh, I gotta tell you that there was one intermediate step, I started upgrading my plan using my wife’s Explorer in the mix. Yeah, I am an idiot! Twice the problems with gas, breakdowns, security, etc. I only went down that rabbit hole for a couple hours before I abandoned that dumb decision.

So back to bugging-out. For the most part, in most situations it will make absolutely no sense at all to bug-out; nada, zip, zero, none. But you better have a bug-out plan anyways. But before we go there let me explain my no bug-out thought.

Bugging - In Bugg-in bug-in shelter in place shelter-in-placeSo you have all this wonderful gear, lots of food, water, communications gear, blankets, sleeping bags, roof, windows, doors, and AC & Heat as long as the power stays on. Yeah! Now I am talking…great way to live through an apocalypse!

No, seriously, all your stuff is in your house, or at least on your property, why in the world would you want to take a small fraction of it and load it into a vehicle and drive away? Or worse yet, load a tiny, tiny fraction of it into a GOOD BOB and walk away?

So my first thought is to really reinforce your home and make it your “shelter-in-place” castle. But there may come a time when you must bug-out. What would drive you to do that?

Safety, pure and simple. Conditions would get so bad that it was safer to leave your home than stay in it. But you better have a plan to do so…and a couple alternatives.

But let’s talk for a minute about what would possibly be so bad that it would drive you from your home. Try the following:

  1. Imminent attack by a large mob and no neighborhood defense force, or no mutual fire support with your neighbors.
  2. Hazardous substance headed towards your house that could cause death or injury. This would be something like chlorine gas.
  3. Unstoppable and indefensible fire spreading towards your house.
  4. House-to-house looting or rounding up of citizens and lacking defenses mentioned in #1.

I am sure there are more that you can come up with but these are the top four in my mind. What I would suggest is that you identify “trigger points” for each scenario. In other words, define the threat severity and relationship to your home that would trigger you taking your family away from your home. Doing this simple exercise will help you when the stress is high and you aren’t thinking clearly. Just follow the plan. And yes, you must always remain flexible and adaptable to the changing conditions around you. But this is a good starting point to get your mind in the game.

Bug-out destination bug out destinationOf course you need a destination. And exactly where you go depends on what is near you. But there are two major categories of destinations, interim and final. The final destination is the one that you can plan for the most, the interim will present the most dangers and obstacles.

Let me briefly address the “interim” destination(s). Yes, you might have more than one; possible many more. But this is a location that is probably better known as a “stop-over” or “lay-over” location. This is simply a location where you will stop along the way to your final destination for some amount of time. You may only stay overnight, or maybe for days at a time. Ultimately there will be only one major guideline as to how long you stay – safety. Is it safe for you and your family or group to continue moving to your final destination will be your guiding principle.

So what makes a good interim location? I would suggest the following:

  1. Low-profile, well-hidden.
  2. Water is available.
  3. Little likelihood of other occupants.
  4. Can be safely observed from a distance before you enter.
  5. Access can be controlled.
  6. Defensible.

I would suggest looking for interim locations that are about 50 miles apart all along your route. This is of course assuming you are driving. If you must walk then you have to look at interim location about every 10 – 15 miles. Why so low for driving interim locations? You simply don’t know how far you will be able to travel in any given day. Some days you might go 700 miles, other days you may only go 7 due to roadblocks, weather, roadbed condition, vehicle condition, bad guys, etc. Better to have too many interim locations scouted then not enough.

You will want to employ basic security tactics when approaching an interim location to ensure no one is already there. And then those same tactics will hopefully keep you safe while you are there. Remember, to let your guard down for one minute is to invite disaster for you and your family. Generally speaking…observe the potential location for a minimum of 30 minutes before approaching…and hour is better. Only have 1 – 2 people approach. Keep a reserve and blocking security team in-place ready to respond.

Moving on to your final destination. As you should already know if you have been reading my articles or books, I advocate small community survival destination, not single person, single family, or even small groups for ultimate survival. You simply have to have enough people around you to provide skills that you and your group don’t have. Example: Doctor, gunsmith, electrical engineer, car mechanic, etc.

cabin in rural location for bug-out bug out location destinationBased on that I would suggest considering these options:

  • Your cabin or vacation home in a small, rural, potentially self-sustaining community.
  • A relative’s home, cabin or vacation home in a small, rural, potentially self-sustaining community.
  • A friend’s home, cabin or vacation home in a small, rural, potentially self-sustaining community.

Wherever you decide to go, it MUST have a water supply. And I don’t care if you think it is “safe” or not, there has to be a water supply of some kind. Regardless of whether you think it is safe or not, you will filter and purify it no matter what. You simply can’t trust a water supply under these circumstances. But not to worry! You have multiple layers of water filtration and purification. <click here to read more about making water safe to drink>

In the next post in this series I will go over more details on picking the right final destination.


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2 thoughts on “Bug-Out or Bug-In ?

  1. Pingback: Check List – Misc. | A.H. Trimble - Emergency preparedness information for disasters and grid-down

  2. Pingback: Brand new to prepping…where do I start? | A.H. Trimble - Emergency preparedness information for disasters and grid-down

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