The S has HTF and you’re ready to bug-out. You grab your stuff and hit the road and ride off into the sunset, happy to be alive. Right? Hold on a minute. Let’s make sure you’re not making a mistake that could derail your bug-out. Here are seven reasons your bug-out might not go as well as you hoped.
1. Failure to Act
The first one is a failure to act. You might have the best bug-out plan ready to go, but if you miss the cues of when to leave you might be trapped in your current location with bad things about to happen. Recognize when it’s time to get out of dodge. Some of this is going to come from the media in the case of a natural disaster. Listen to the radio and news stations and if they say it’s time to get out of Dodge you better load up the truck and move out.
In the case of something like civil unrest, a market or money collapse, rioting, or anything caused by your fellow man you’ll have to keep a close eye on the situation. It comes down to what you can bear. If you have a low threshold for danger it might be a good idea for you to leave as soon as you suspect something is going to happen. For those of you who have work and/or family pressures or a spouse that doesn’t believe in prepping and thinks you’re foolish for even considering moving out, you’ll have to have a higher tolerance. At some point there will be a kick-off event that will decide for you when to leave. Let’s hope it’s not too late at that point.
Just remember that the longer you wait the more likely you are to be sharing the roads out of town with a bunch of other scared refugees.
When you decide it’s time to leave don’t screw around. Get moving! In the case of a quick bug-out you need to be prepared to move fast. During my time in the service we used to bug-out when the CO went around and started yelling CSMO! That stands for Close Station March Order and it meant to pack up all the gear and get out of the current position as fast as we could.
If you have your plan laid out and your BOB’s are ready to go then it’s just a matter of throwing stuff in the BOV (bug-out vehicle) and exiting stage left.
2. Inadequate BOV
The BOV you use should depend on the situation. I’ve heard folks saying they’ll bug-out using a bicycle, which is fine. But if you’re trying to get out of a city on a bicycle and there’s a tsunami coming, or you’re trying to move through a riot in progress you might be in trouble. Make sure the BOV you choose is adequate to the task.
Having said that not everybody has a HMMVW in the garage waiting for the day the economy collapses causing you to flee the city with the ring-mounted .50 cal M2 blazing away from the gun port. Most of you reading this are ordinary Americans driving minivans, passenger cars, or any one of the thousands of passenger cars out there. This means you need to adapt your bug-out plan to whatever vehicle you’ll be driving, which can be a compromise to the situation.
If you look around the area in which you live you can probably come up with a few likely scenarios of why you might have to bug-out. For example: if you live near a railroad maybe one of your scenarios revolves around a chemical leak. If it’s a small town your car is probably more than adequate for this type of situation. Or maybe you live in hurricane country along the coast, in which case you’ll want to avoid any Katrina type storms like the plague. In most bug-out situations you’ll want to move fast, unless you’ve exercised your judgment to leave early.
However, living in a city will present a whole other list of issues and I’ll address this is another post.
3. Poor Route Planning
Do you have a plan for your bug-out? Have you thought through all the possible scenarios? If you’re getting out of Dodge in your vehicle have you prepared a good route and a few alternate routes? Because if you’re in a city and you’re taking the main artery out of town guess what? A million other people will be doing the same thing. My idea of surviving is not being stuck in traffic when the tsunami rolls in destroying everything in its path.
Make a detailed plan of your escape route and have it written down along with some alternate routes. Take the time to actually drive the route and make notes in a notebook about what you see. “Big bridge six miles out of town over fast moving water. It might collapse or cause a jam up during an ice out. Or maybe it’s a tactical situation where some group is holding the bridge and not letting anybody through. (Don’t think that would happen here in the U.S. Did you forget about the bridge into Gretna and how the cops shut it down to refugees?) There’s a less traveled bridge two miles south in case of emergency. Take Route 3 south to Old Town Road to bypass.” If you don’t make notes there’s a good chance you’ll forget about it when you have to use it. Or maybe you’ll be incapacitated and your significant other or a friend will be at the wheel. If they have good notes to go by they might just save your butt.
Make sure your BOV is up to the route. As you do a dry run over the escape route ask yourself questions as you go depending on the various scenarios you could expect. I might ask myself, “If I had to move during a blizzard would my vehicle make it to the next town over?” Answer: in my minivan hell no, but in my pickup with the plow attachment I just might be able to get the ten miles in order to save myself and the family. Maybe you live in a flood zone and might have to drive through water up to your hub caps. Could your vehicle make it?
4. Tactical Negligence
This is a tough one and not a lot of people think a lot about it. What I mean by tactical is the ability to move you or a group of people safely through an area without being deterred by your fellow man. During a disaster of any kind there will be people looking out for each other because there are a lot of good people out there, but there are always a few scumbags looking to capitalize on others. Or sometimes it could just come down to a family that hasn’t prepped deciding to go next door to the family that has and taking their stuff at gun point. People will do bad things when desperate.
One of the big ones is OPSEC or Operational Security. It’s a military term that means don’t go blabbing your plans to anybody. If you tell one person, that person will tell someone else. And that someone else might mention it to another someone else and so on. OPSEC can also be compromised by having a truckload of freeze dried food delivered to your house in the middle of a busy neighborhood. People notice things that go on in tight communities. I’m not saying don’t get prepared, just use a little discretion when doing so. And don’t go telling your neighbors about your preps either. Friends have seen my pantry and invariably they’ll say, “Well, if anything ever happens I’m coming over here.” Guess what, I won’t be rolling out the welcome mat to any schmoe that shows up on my doorstep.
Another area you might have to worry about is armament. Americans love guns and sometimes it seems like everybody and their little sister has one. Having a great bug-out vehicle and lots of preps might be for nothing if you get held up before you can get out of town. Be prepared to defend your family, yourself, and your stuff if necessary. Some people might ask if you’d really shoot someone for a vehicle or a sleeping bag. Here’s what I say about that. If that vehicle or sleeping bag is critical to keeping you and your family alive and someone is trying to take it from you then you have the obligation to defend it. It may sound stupid, but your gear may what is standing between you and death. If that’s the case and you have the means and skill to protect it I’d say it’s your right. Having said that, if it means putting yourself or your family in mortal danger don’t be afraid to bail and let them have the stuff. You can always attempt to get more, but if you’re dead you won’t be able to try.
5. Poor Planning
When you plan for a bug-out you have to take into account all the variables that your situation brings with it. Do you have young kids? Pets? Older people to look after? Special medical needs? Special fuel requirements for you BOV?
I have two small kids and walking any distance with them is a pain. The oldest can walk by himself for a while, but the 2 ½ year old can’t go any significant distance. Last year I took the family up a mountain with a full bug-out bag on my back (about 50 lbs for me) and we set up a little camp, made a fire, heated up some noodles and coffee, and generally chilled out for an afternoon. It was a lot of fun. Then came the hike down mountain. My wife carried the baby and then my son (4 at the time) needed to be carried after walking a short distance. I picked him up and carried him in my arms while wearing the back pack and we made it down the mountain. This type of activity uses a lot of calories and you need to be in good shape to do it. It would be exceedingly difficult to do this for any amount of time.
At that point I decided it would be very difficult for us to do any kind of bug-out on foot and re-thought the whole situation. The gear I carried was enough for me and the missus for a day or two, but have you ever taken two or three young kids to the beach for a day? Baby bags, diapers, bottles, wipes, extra clothes, toys, etc. And that’s just for the afternoon! Imagine trying to do this for a week, on foot and moving through harsh terrain and weather, with two or more little ones.
This meant I’d have to find a way to move my family without moving on foot if at all possible. I have a four door 4 wheel drive pickup that I’d use in most situations. The worst scenario for me would be having to move after a CME or some other event has fried all the electronics. Ironically, it would be easier for me to move the whole family in the winter on sleds than in any other season. My wife and I are quite skilled on snow shoes and pulling a couple of sleds would be manageable. Other than that we’d probably be reduced to pulling a crude cart like they do in “The Road.” We might be able to bicycle once the kids are a little older, but until then I’m just crossing my fingers that nothing bad happens. (And even then I’ll be keeping them crossed.)
For older people you have to take into account meds, their ability to move, their mental state, and things like that. If someone has Alzheimer’s disease it will be very difficult to move them. If they have heart disease or diabetes or any other condition that needs constant medication you’ll have to make sure there’s a way to carry that medication while keeping it cold, or whatever conditions it might need to be stored in.
Do they have a cane or walker? Are they confined to a wheel chair? Plan, plan, plan
6. Bug-Out Location
Many people think they’ll bug-out to the woods and live off the land for a few weeks until things blow over. Let me put this notion to rest for you right now. You won’t be able to survive off the land for very long. Very few of you reading this might have the skills to do this, but the vast majority will starve to death in a relatively short period of time. Do yourself a favor and find a relative, or friend, or a shelter, or a camp, or some place you can go to in case of an emergency. Have some cash on-hand in case you need to stay at a hotel. Whatever it is don’t try and convince yourself that you can survive in the woods for an unrealistic amount of time.
An ideal bug-out location would have a source of running water, be fairly well hidden, easily defendable, and if you have neighbors that think the same way you do there’s always strength in numbers. Another good idea is to know exactly what resources you have on the property, which means you’ll need to get out and recon on it. I know the woods behind my house like the back of my hand. If things went to Hell and I was driven out of my house and had to hit the woods there are many good spots to hole up for awhile until I can get a plan together to get the house back. If you haven’t hiked an area it’s just a great big black hole until you get out there. I’ve gone so far as to draw rough maps of resources such as camps I’ve set up, streams, bogs, old logging roads, etc. It’s nice to have something like this so you can look at it and know exactly where things are.
Do you plan to cut off any roads in to your area if the balloon goes up? Do you have the resources to do it? How many people can you rely on to help you out? Or are you going it alone and hope not to be discovered?
7. Unrealistic Expectation Of What Camping Out Is
Let’s say that worst comes to worst and you have nowhere else to go, but to the woods. Many people have no idea what an extended stay in the field is actually like. Many of you with military backgrounds probably get it. Ever hiked the Appalachian Trail? Then you know what I’m talking about. But if your idea of getting outdoors experience is watching back to back episodes of Dual Survivor you have a tragic wakeup call ahead of you. Get out there and test your gear. Spend a weekend, or better yet a week, in the bush. I’m not talking about camping at the local campground, I’m talking about hitting the back woods with a backpack and doing it Alpine Style. Not only is this a good test of your gear you’ll also start to appreciate what it takes to live in the woods. It’s hard, folks. Living without electricity and running water sucks.
You’ll also get a good idea of just how far you can hike that heavy BOB you have in the closet. If you try to hike a 70 lb. bag any distance when you’ve never done it before it will likely kill you before you’ve gone a mile. Get realistic about what you need for gear and pack only what you need.
Now you have a few things to look at when planning your bug-out. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should get you started in the right direction. Remember the 5 P’s (Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance) and you’ll be head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to a real exodus from your area.
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