Should You Bug Out or Shelter in Place?


You don’t have to stick around the prepping community long before you start hearing the term “bug out” being thrown around. You’ll hear people talking about bug out bags, bug out vehicles, but out retreats, bug out routes, and bug out plans. For those that are unfamiliar with the term, it merely means to evacuate your home in the face of a crisis.

Just looking at it on the surface, it would seem that most preppers have plans to bug out, the moment it looks like anything bad is going to happen. But while that might be the plans of a few people, it isn’t for the majority.

The problem for most of us is – where would we go?

There are a few preppers who have the financial resources to buy or build a survival retreat somewhere, the proverbial “cabin in the woods” that we’d all love to own. But those people are by far in the minority. Most of us just don’t have the kind of money it would take to own such a thing, as much as we would like to. So that means we don’t have a prepared survival retreat to head to if something goes wrong.

It makes sense for those people to bug out early, in the case of a disaster. They’ve probably put their stockpile of supplies at their survival shelter, as well as making other improvements to it to help guarantee their survival. In that case, their chances of survival are better in their shelter, than at home.

But most of the talk you hear about bugging out is either bugging out to an indeterminate location or bugging out to the woods somewhere. Neither is really a good idea. Anyone who is going to bug out needs a definite location, even if it’s just to the next city down the road. For some disasters, that may be all the farther you have to go to avoid the disaster and ride it out. But in other cases, especially those which affect the whole nation or which cause social unrest, that probably won’t be enough.

Bugging out to the woods isn’t a good idea either, although it does have a nice romantic ring to it. The problem is that it’s much harder to live off the land than most people think. Just because our predecessors in this great land were able to live off the land during the westward expansion, doesn’t mean that we can too. Not only is there much less game in the woods than there was back then, but there are many more people to hunt it.

In any situation where you are forced to bug out, you have to assume that many others will be leaving their homes as well. Most of these people won’t be as well prepared as you are. So they are also going to be thinking about living off the land, hunting that last bear and gathering whatever wild berries might grow in your area.

The last thing you want to do in a bug out is to end up in a confrontation with a starving hunter who is unprepared and wants your kill. Even if you were to win that confrontation, you could become injured in the process, and if you win it, you may have to live with the memory of killing that other person.

Fortunately, there are few situations which really force us into the position of having to bug out. Some natural disasters might, especially if there is going to be flooding. Those who lived in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina definitely should have bugged out. Severe social unrest might warrant a bug out as well, especially if gangs of people are attacking homes to see what they can get. But other than that, there is little reason to leave your home in an emergency.

Basically, the decision comes down to what is going to help you and your family survive the best. If it is too dangerous to stay at home, you may find yourself forced to bug out. But if you are not forced by circumstances to evacuate, then you probably stand the best chance of survival right there at home.

The thing is, your home can actually help you survive. It is shelter, one of the top things you need. If you leave your home to go anywhere else, you’re going to have to come up with some shelter that you can use. It’s doubtful that shelter will be as comfortable as your home is.

Not only is your home a comfortable shelter, but it contains pretty much everything you own. Leaving will mean leaving much of it behind, especially those things that are important to your family. You’ll also end up leaving things behind that could help you survive if you were able to take them with you. But the mere logistics of packing a vehicle will limit you severely in what you can take.

Another important aspect of staying home and sheltering in place is that as you prepare, you will probably do a number of things to your home, which will make it easier to survive there. Installing a rainwater collection system, putting in solar power, drilling a well, starting a garden and fortifying your home against attack are all costly time-consuming survival projects. Leaving your home would mean leaving all that behind as well, further reducing your chances at survival.

Having said that, you shouldn’t ignore the need to have a “bug out plan” in place, so that you are ready in case you are forced to flee. Don’t be like the people who don’t have a destination. Find someplace that you and your family can make it to safely, which will offer you the things you’ll need to survive. Then make the necessary plans and preparations to get there, even stockpiling some equipment and supplies at your destination if you can. That way, you have a Plan B in place, if your Plan A isn’t going to work.

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