Should You Bug Out or Bug In? It Depends…

bug out or bug in_Mind4Survival_prepper classesBug out or bug in? When it comes to your decision to bug out or bug in, the work that happens before true emergencies occur and the preparation for as many possibilities, including the ability to bug out or bug in, is paramount. Many preppers combine a mix of bugging in and bugging out, but at what point do you make a judgment call between both choices without it turning into a frog in boiling water situation?

Bugging Out

According to Merriam Webster, Bugging Out is to retreat during a military action especially: to flee in panic. 2. To depart, especially in a hurry. It is a term coined during the Korean War where units or personnel were ordered to flee if the enemy was overrunning their defensive positions.

When to Bug Out

There are situations beyond military actions that probably did not occur to the people who first coined the term, but apply to bugging out. Calamities such as Hurricane Katrina, Typhoon Haiyan, or the Haiti earthquake prove that the preparing before bugging out is essential.

For example, perhaps you live in an area below sea level and have to move to higher ground during a storm surge. Or in the event of a nuclear disaster, or an earthquake. Bugging out provides an opportunity to move to a better location in terms of safety or resources.

Additionally, there’s always the option to keep moving if a bug out location is compromised, or proves to be undesirable. You’re ready and prepared for travel, so you’re less likely to be stuck in one spot. For example, if your initial bug out shelter is compromised, you still have your gear with you. So, you can move on to a secondary bug out location.

You did plan your secondary bug out location, right?

Another benefit to bugging out into less populated areas is, in many cases, more abundant availability of life-sustaining resources. For example, during disasters, you may have limited access to running water in urban areas. By bugging out, you may also avoid being sealed off in an unsustainable urban environment, possibly cut off from assistance, additional resources, and family.

Choosing Your Bug Out Location

Should you pick a rural bug out location, you will be more likely to avoid disaster-related risks. Risks such as civil unrest, disease, etc. If you do bug out, it’s critical to make sure that you always keep your gear with you and think about how you move. Also, consider varying your routes, changing up your rest patterns, and working to be as unpredictable as possible. When you do, you will become a more difficult target for others who may be less prepared and need your stuff for themselves and their families.

One additional advantage of bugging out in rural areas is the ability to conceal your movement more easily. Hiding your movement makes you more difficult to find and less likely to encounter problems of the two-legged variety. While bugging out will not always be a walk in the park, with the right skills and preparations, you may be able to survive the disaster. Plus, if the catastrophe goes on long enough, you’re self-reliant and are lucky enough, you may be able to chop out an existence.

While many people plan on bugging out, there are other factors to consider. Factors that might make bugging out a less realistic option. The reality is that many people within the prepping community argue that bugging out should be regarded as ONLY as a last resort.

Dangers of Bugging Out

Bugging out can be dangerous for many reasons. During the rush to move from one place to another, you’re more likely to be noticed by others. It only takes one person to cause you problems. Unfortunately, when a significant disaster enters the mix, there could be plenty of people out, creating plenty of problems. For instance, think about the traffic jams that may happen. What about the insanity that comes with countless people stranded on the highway, many miles away from home?

When planning to bug out, you will also want to consider whether people perceive you as weak or someone to avoid. Don’t forget, having fancy gear, a lot of food, or standing out in any way increases your chances of having a negative encounter with someone. So, remember to think like the gray man and blend into your environment.

Even without the vulnerability that goes with bugging out, your limited resources make bugging out an iffy proposition at best. In the end, you can’t carry everything in your house on your back. Fuel, food, and other necessities will eventually run out, often sooner than expected, unless you have a way of gathering more.

Next, even if you make it to your bug out shelter, your access to adequate and sustainable healthcare may be limited. Because of that even minor health issues to become life-threatening problems.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that once you leave your home and bug out, returning may not be an option. At a minimum, once you leave your home, you should avoid it and consider it to be a danger. If however, you do need to return, do so only with the greatest caution.

Bugging In

Bugging in is securing your home or another location as a shelter when a disaster or other difficult times occur. By bugging in, your tools, gear, food, and other resources should be with you. Not only should they be with you, but they should be present in enough quantities to survive over time. Therefore, bugging in reduces the need to move outside of your sphere of influence. Doing so also reduces the risks associated with the movement to your bug out location.

The familiarity of knowing your surroundings makes defending your home and family easier. Additionally, because it’s on your turf, your uncertainty and fear should decrease. You’re already aware of your surroundings. In turn, this allows time to prepare defenses, store supplies, and prepare other self-sufficiency techniques (water collection, garden, livestock, renewable energy, etc.). Ultimately, how you make yourself ready is up to you, and the effort that you put in.

Also, the young and old, plus the sick and injured, along with any others who may not have the physical strength to handle bugging out may be safer when bugging in. Avoiding the potential rush of people as they clog the streets and highways to get away from the problems is another consideration for bugging in. Then, there is always the common-sense point in that there is way more storage space for all types of preps.

Bugging In Pitfalls

Bugging in, however, is not without its pitfalls. If neighbors know you as the “prepared” type, they may come asking for help. When this happens, you can find yourself in a very compromising position. Either you help by giving away your family’s resources, or you can say “no.” However, saying “no” sentences them to struggle under some possibly challenging circumstances. The other pitfall of saying “no” is that by doing so, your neighbor could become a problem down the road.

On that note, if the situation deteriorates enough, there may be few opportunities to restock if your supplies run out. Also, the minute you bug in, you become a stationary target that may be attractive to others.

Hygiene and health are significant concerns with hunkering down during a long-term disaster or post-collapse environment. During these difficult times, the potential for exposure to sickness and disease increases. In turn, this increase makes adequate sanitation in the home an essential part of your preparedness plan.

Bug Out or Bug In?

The decision to bug out or bug in each have their pros and their cons. Both are possible actions that you may consider during a disaster or other emergency situations. They both require forethought, planning, and preparation – preparing ahead and having a plan on how to deal with an emergency. Both are meant to protect you and your loved ones.

Both require the stockpiling of resources. They both also require familiarisation with your equipment, others within your group, your overall situation, and disaster procedures. Both are also susceptible to attacks from hungry neighbors or random strangers, and neither option is foolproof.

However, whether you decide to bug out or bug in, both will reward your efforts to prepare by increasing self-confidence, self-reliance, and safety for your family and friends. In the end, both also require knowledge, skills, training, motivation, and planning to be effective.

The differences between your decision to bug out or bug in are in the number of supplies you have on hand; the safety offered by your shelter; and your ability to avoid conflict.

In the end, each of us must decide upon our course of action, bug out or bug in. We should base our decision on the factors discussed here, along with others specific to your situation.

Here’s one last crumb for you to chew on. It can be useful and worth considering to set up both to bug out or bug in. That way, you’re ready for whatever your situation dictates and can make a sound judgment call when push comes to shove.



Never forget, you’re just one prep away.

If you have any other thoughts or questions about whether to bug out or bug in, please leave a comment below.

Stay safe, secure, and prepared!

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Brian Duff

Brian began his preparedness life at the age of three after surviving the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake. The prepping path led Brian to become a boy scout, lifeguard, firefighter-paramedic, army ranger, tactical-medicine training center director, and international security director. Adding to his time helping save lives here in the United States, Brian spent over a decade protecting others in countries like Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. In addition to his bachelor's degree in security management and a master's of business administration, Brian holds numerous certifications from the safety, security, and emergency medical industries.

1 Comment

  1. Greg Chabot on July 24, 2019 at 6:34 am

    Very well written and excellent points.

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