Camping As Practice for a Bug-Out

A couple of notes first…

Download the latest LDS Preparedness Manual here if you’re interested.

Also, you can read an interview with your favorite Jarhead Survivor over to Joe and Laura’s blog here.

On to the post!


This summer Mrs. Jarhead and I decided to get back out there with the kids and do some camping.  I’m not talking about the type of camping where you hike fifteen miles out into the back country and set up a tent or lean-to (much as I’d like to.)  I’m talking about the type of camping where we hook up the 26 foot camper to the big gas guzzling truck and head off to the campground.

Honestly, I don’t really even consider this to be camping as I lived in a camper for a couple of years and never considered it to be a hardship.  Of course I was single at the time.  Having said that, it is fun to get the kids out there in a different environment where they’re outside simply because the inside is so small.

It’s an older camper built somewhere in the late 90’s, but the previous owners kept it up pretty well and we’re putting a little money into making sure everything works.

One of the things I like about the camper is that it’s small enough for my old 350 V8 Dodge to pull.  It has a small bathroom with shower and toilet and a holding tank for both black and gray water.  If you were in the Navy you’ll know what “ship shower” means:  basically turn on the water and get wet, turn it off and soap up, then turn it on and spray yourself down.  That way you don’t fill up the holding tank too fast.

It’s got a water heater, fifty gallon holding tank for fresh water if camping off the grid and a 12 volt water pump to move the water.  It has lights, a propane stove and oven, propane furnace, and a small sink.  The refrigerator can run on either propane or electricity.  Another feature I like is that it can run off a battery backup, which I intend to hook up to some solar panels for off-grid camping.

It’s basically a small apartment on wheels.

Off Grid vs Campground Camping

If you’ve never been to a campground before let me explain what they’re like.  Generally, they’re divided up into small lots that you can rent for a day, several days, weeks, or even for a season.  If you rent for a season you’re called – oddly enough – a Seasonal Camper.

Depending on the campground these sites can be practically on top of each other or have a little space in between so you can’t hear your neighbor take a whiz in the morning.  The sites come in different sizes:  from tent sites to the big RV size.  The camper sites usually have water and electric, and sometimes septic, which is nice because then you can run the poopie hose right to the pipe and not worry about draining the tanks later.

Campgrounds come in all sizes with different offerings.  For example:  we just stayed in a midsized campground that had a playground for the kids, a small beach, and a dock the kids could jump off as well as weekend activities for kids like a cupcake decorating contest.  There is usually a place to rent a canoe or a boat, or you can bring your own, and a laundry in case you’re staying for awhile.  Some have a store, so if you want to buy a pizza or some hotdogs and fries you can do that too.

At night (Friday or Saturday) they usually have a classic rock or country band come in so the adults can have a little fun.

The more commercial campgrounds can have pools, saunas, big game and tv rooms for the kids, train rides, etc.  It depends on the campground.

Other campgrounds, like the one we’re going to visit this weekend, are far more oriented towards a quiet family experience.  No bands or game rooms – just a quiet beach and a playground for the kids and you bring your own entertainment, plus good-sized sites for your camper, so we won’t be crowded up next to the neighbors.  Just my speed!

I find some of it can be a little irritating like the loud music on a Saturday night, but I keep an open mind and always have fun.  One of the things I really like is the diversity of people.  I’m a pretty easy going guy, so I usually strike up a conversation with the neighbors and we wind up trading stories and experiences.  Also, we usually camp close enough to home that my family can come visit, so we get together and have a cookout and a fire.  It’s awesome when we’re all together and having a good time.

Off grid camping is just that.  You drive your camper out into the middle of nowhere and set it up.  That’s when you really depend on your propane system and your battery backup (and lanterns and other old standbys.)  I haven’t done that with this camper yet, but I really want to get out there and try it to see how long we can camp before systems start to die.

What Does This Have To Do With a Bug-Out?

 First, if we ever do have to bug-out and there’s time we can hook the camper up and take it with us.  Like I said earlier, it’s a mobile apartment.  As long as we have time to hook it up we’ll have a place to stay no matter where we wind up.

Everything we need is already stored in the camper and I don’t let the propane tanks drop below half full, which would last several weeks if used full time.

Another thing, and probably the most important, is that the family gets used to traveling as a team.  Mrs Jarhead is in charge of everything inside the camper and I’m in charge of external systems and driving.  The kids get used to moving around and if we had to leave in a hurry all I’d have to say is, “We’re going camping!” and they’d know what to expect and what is expected of them.  Instead of a thousand questions we’re in the truck and rolling in a half hour or less.

When we go camping now we look like the Clampetts rolling down the road with chairs, a grill, toys, etc, but in case of emergency I’d pack a lot less stuff for a leaner get away.

In the end it’s a great family experience.  Some of my favorite memories growing up are of the family camping or at the beach and that’s what I hope to pass on to our kids.  I’d like them to look back and tell their kids, “Yeah, your grandpa and grandma loved to take us kids camping.  I remember one time when…”

Do you take your family camping?

-Jarhead Survivor



20 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. June 8, 2012, 7:45 am

    That sounds like a great way to spend a vacation, especially with family. I’m sure your kids will remember these times later on and reminesce of what good times were had. You are an awesome Dad.

  • Sandy Livesay, June 8, 2012, 8:27 am

    Yes, we’ve spent many of nights camping. We use tents and prefer hiking for several miles where there are no people and the place is quiet. My husband and I are planning on buying a trailer. See as we get older our bodies have problems dealing with sleeping on the ground or extreme temperatures. The travel trailer would make life a little easier than a tent. The trailer would make for a great bug out home. I would make some minor changes, like the color of the trailer. We would want to change the color so it would blend into our environment. It’s just a thought.
    Enjoy your bug out trailer :-)

  • Westie June 8, 2012, 9:20 am

    I hope you don’t mind my changing the subject slightly. I’ve been prepping for over 30 years, but I now live alone in the suburbs of a medium sized city. There’s so much “bugging out” talk, but I don’t plan to go anywhere when the SHTF. My supplies are all here, I have good neighbors and I have nowhere to go. I’m looking for reasons why I should have a bug out bag and be prepared to use it.

    • Spook45 June 8, 2012, 9:27 am

      I agree, you should, more than likely, stay put. THere are some threats though tat may require you move away from a threat or issue that could require you to move fast and get out of dodge. And what if you are away from home whe things happen and perhaps the roads are jammed up or your car ceases to operate etc. ots f varables, havng a BOB with a few things in it and Weaps(of coarse within local by-laws) gives you options to get from where ever ou are to where you want to be. Not so much that whole”living off of the land” oad of crap but more just having some tools and skills to carry you over if you et stuck in a jam, something that could happen anytime anyway regardless of larger threats from without or within.

    • AilimD'SilverFir June 8, 2012, 9:35 am

      Even if you are not planning on Bugging Out, you may still end up having to. Plus just keeping a BOG in your vehicle could be useful if something happens while you are away from your home, you do want to get back. And for the more mundane, the BOG is usefel if you get stranded while traveling, I grew up with vehicles that seemed to know when we traveld and would intentionally break down, so even as a small child I had started to pack a bag, just incase. BOG’s don’t have to be just for leaving, they can be for getting back. Remember that

      • AilimD'SilverFir June 8, 2012, 9:36 am

        *BOB not BOG…

    • irishdutchuncle June 10, 2012, 12:45 pm

      yeh, what Ailim said.

      if your place becomes un-inhabitable, for any reason, it’s nice to know where you might be able to stay.
      i’m thinking: floods, brush fires, train derailments, with a chemical spill, things like that. i keep a “spontaneous weekend getaway bag” packed all the time. (also useful during hunting season, if my friends invite me along…)

    • KBRO June 10, 2012, 2:11 pm


  • Spook45 June 8, 2012, 9:20 am

    I hv to play Devila advocate here. Camping is no where NEAR what you need to be doing in a bug out situation. With camping you can practice some rudimentory skills like fire building, fishing etc but in a bugout situation you will likely be on the run, under duress or threat of some type(depending on threat assessment IE why yu are bugging to begin with) and truth be known you hv NO GEAR. Thats right folks you cant carry around your BOB everywhere you go and Murphy strikes when you least expect him and least want to see him. If you want to practice bugging out, go to tom BRowns Tracker school for a wk. Find an URban Survival school and learn ow to blend i that environment, how to escape handcuffs, duct tape and zip ties, learn some martial arts, for those of you wit no traditional interest in MA I suggest Krav MEga(Isreali HTH Combataives training) its fast and easy to learn and very street aplicble. LEarn some skills that will help you in tose situations and in your everyday life because as much as we love our gear, and as hard as we work on our BOBs and no matter WHAT kind of preaps you make, in the end you could end up i a bad way withnoting but your whits ad MAYBE whats in your pockets t get by on. Skill is far better than gear.

    • Jason June 8, 2012, 10:59 am

      Ah, yes …. and to every silver lining there is a dark cloud …

  • JL June 8, 2012, 10:01 am

    We would go camping and hunting alot as kids. We have not taken the kids camping, but we are planning a trip this year. When i was a child we would go camping on the beach in Mexico, what a great time. It can be great practice for bugging out under certain circumstances. I really need to make bug out bags, storm season is coming. I hate the idea of waking up to a tornado siren and having no shoes ready in the basement. Or my “mom” purse.

  • Ray June 8, 2012, 10:32 am

    Jarhead, Dude looks like fun! Now while your out in the wood and all comphy like; teach the kiddies how to make fish traps, start a fire with a bow drill & flints, set snares, build a brush shelter ECT. lot and LOTs of thing to do While Its Fun and not crazy stay alive work.(more of it soaks in when its play) and They’ll LOVE the time with dady teachin’ skills. Ray in Ky PS, My wife thinks Camp Out is a rental at the beach where she has to cook . BUT I can get her to go fishin’ if I clean em’

  • Jason June 8, 2012, 11:36 am

    My parents were pretty lean money wise but took us 3 kids camping quite often – it was cheap entertainment. My dad bought this WW II surplus tent that was so heavy you needed a crane to lift it out of the trunk. Then the assembly, with the scratchy ropes, metal stakes & poles required an hour of daylight & a commander (dad) directing traffic. Once assembled, he cracked a cheap beer & toasted a job well done!

    I still have the sensory memories of the oil smell of the canvass & if you scraped your fingernail on the roof when it rained, you created an immediate leak & a whack on the back of the head from dad. Kids in sleeping bags on the floor & the king & queen on cots. No bikes, just fishing poles with Velveeta cheese for bait & a kid’s limitless imagination.

    We all loved these outings & I have camped ever since.

    In my late 30’s I bought a nice & slightly used class C RV (van front end) & took my kids out from civilization. We started from their birth until they were in their late teens & they absolutely loved the adventures – even if they were “stay-cations” (a new term describing going on a wild adventure in the woods just minutes from your home).

    Today, I take my adopted 7 year old camping in a tent since I sold the motorhomes & he LOVES it …. and why not, it is an adventure!

    BTW Jarhead, you have the exact setup I will get soon. One value to the truck & trailer vs a fully self-contained motorhome is you can unhook & drive around whereas to do so in the motorhome, is a big, big pain in the butt!

    Here’s a point I’d like to make & relate to the whole SHTF mindset –

    In life there are conditions with which we cannot control BUT we can control how we view or hold them. Some may see bugging out for something other than a natural disaster as a fear driven process,
    while that may be in your mind due to the uncertainty of the condition, I believe if one continues to focus & look ahead, instead of the rear view mirror, things can be far easier to handle & far less stressful.

    Life is meant to be an adventure & that can ONLY happen when you look forward in my opinion.

  • gat31 June 8, 2012, 2:16 pm

    As a child my parents took me camping all over the state of Florida. My mother continued that even after the divorce. My best advice if tent camping, is put the tent together at home, get colored electrical tape, and mark connecting poles with same tape combinations. Add an extra color for inside poles and it will be super easy in the “wild” to assemble in a hurry. (best time was 13 minutes from trunk to done)
    We have been practicing here with the smaller grandkids by letting them “camp” in the yard on weekends. They love it and will be more acclimated to sleeping outside if it ever comes up in the future.
    Camping is always fun and never hurts to have outdoor skills regardless.

  • Jason June 8, 2012, 7:09 pm

    BTW – that LDS Preparedness Manual (link) that you referenced in the first sentence is really great & quite comprehensive. The Mormons really have their SHTF stuff together.

  • Schatzie Ohio June 10, 2012, 8:36 am

    My family wasn’t the camping type when I was growing up. My first camping experiences came from the Girl Scouts. My ex husband and I went camping the first time with nothing but a purchased tent and borrowed sleeping bags. on that trip we bought a Coleman lantern and a Styrofoam cooler. Later when I married my current husband of 39 years I talked him in to camping with our blended family of 7. We have been camping ever since. We tent camped, borrowed motorhome camped and even backpacked in the Sierra Wilderness. Some of the now older kids still camp with their families. Now in our older age we still camp but now with a small truck camper. I love camping.

  • T.R. June 10, 2012, 6:05 pm

    Good article , Camping is a great way to practice skills , test equipment , and build confidence and a comfort levels , just in case the worst should happen .

  • lee June 10, 2012, 6:09 pm

    Dodge dose not have a 350 V8 it’s a 360 mag.

  • carl June 10, 2012, 8:30 pm

    Back in the ancient 50’s and 60’s my parents took me to every state in the CONUS, camping all the way. They scrimped and saved all year long to take a 2 or 3 week vacation in the trusty Chevy Station Wagon. Granted it wouldn’t be stylish today, but They gave me many many memories and I have seen every state. Unfortunaely I didn’t really appreciate thier gift until many years later.

  • Survival Foods June 25, 2012, 3:06 am

    Its always a pleasurable experience to go out on a holiday with your entire family. It releases the stress built up all through the week.


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