One of the challenges in discussing preparedness with other folks is the lack of commonly accepted definitions for many terms. I mean, when you are talking to a mechanic and you say that the brakes seem soft, you can be fairly certain you both know what you mean, right? When you talk to another survivalist about bugging out though, the meaning might not be quite so clear. For some people, bugging out means to head for the hills, live off the land, and build a new life from the ground up. For others, it might involve a rushed trip to an established survival retreat. Still others might think of bugging out as nothing more than a drive to Grandma’s to wait out the trouble.
The field of preparedness isn’t standardized with accepted and understood definitions, best practices, and such. This lack of standards often leads to misunderstandings, especially online. It isn’t that one person is right and one is wrong, at least that’s not always the case. What happens though, is people who could learn from one another end up talking around each other.
Here is how I personally look at bugging out. For starters, evacuating home for any serious length of time should generally be seen as your last resort, not your primary plan. In some situations, such as a hurricane giving your part of the country the stinky eyeball, by all means beat feet and seek higher ground at your earliest possible convenience. Another immediate evac scenario would be a wildfire such as those out on the left coast see with increasing regularity. As a basic rule though, you should plan to hunker down at home until or unless home is no longer a safe place.
The reality is this — the vast majority of disasters that would cause you to head out of town with a quickness will be:
For example, if your part of town gets flooded after massive storms, driving 15 miles away will probably find you a room at a Super 8 where you can dry out, get a decent night’s sleep, and plan your next move. Odds are you’ll be returning home when the floodwater recede and salvage what you can. I doubt many people would just grab their trusty bug out bag and head for the wilderness in such a situation.
Pro Tip: If you have pets, call around now and find out which motels in your area are pet friendly. If you do end up bailing from home, you really don’t want to have to visit 87 different no-tell motels until you find one that will allow Fido to stay in your room with you.
An even better option than a motel is to make arrangements ahead of time with family and friends such that, if you need to evacuate, you’ll be welcome at their home for the duration. You, of course, agree to do the same for them.
Even the dreaded TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It, just another of those pain in the ass acronyms so popular among the prepping crowd) scenarios don’t necessarily require running off to the wilderness to build some sort of half-assed log cabin. In many cases, you’re likely going to be better off banding together in a group for mutual support and defense. Many hands make light work and all that, y’know?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I fully believe in having a well-stocked bug out bag ready to go, just in case. Hell, I wrote a 12-part series on how to build a bug out bag. I even go so far as to recommend you actually know how to use everything in that pack and practice with the gear from time to time to stay proficient. Yeah, I know, what a concept.
That said, evacuating or bugging out without a specific destination is a fool’s game. You’re just another refugee on the road at that point and that’s exactly what you don’t want to be. Know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there before you run off.
The thing is, though, that I believe that in 99.999% of likely scenarios, your situation will not be improved by bugging out to the wilderness. Well, let me rephrase that a bit. I don’t think your survival will depend upon you bugging out to the forest or fields. I could see some people, upon facing some rather stressful circumstances, saying, “Screw this” and heading off to the family cabin or something for an impromptu vacation. But, I also think that, barring any unforseen deaths or injuries sustained whilst on said vacation, those folks are coming back home at some point, probably sooner rather than later.
Be realistic with your planning. Think it through and apply both logic and common sense. Work on mitigating the most likely scenarios first and work your way up the ladder from there. Play the odds, so to speak, and work on the sure things before worrying about the low-percentage possibilities.