To Bug Out or Bug In – Factors to Consider

One of the first things new preppers want to know and old preppers often think about is:  When do we bug-out?  Some people Top Survival Bloglive in an area where they can bug-in, or remain in place during whatever emergency might be happening, while others will have to determine when to leave.  Here are several “If’s” for you…  If you live the city and if there is an emergency that will cause you to bug-out and if there are a lot of people trying to do the same thing you’re probably going to be in trouble.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Traffic jams, panic, herd mentality, a “screw the other guy” way of thinking, and vehicle breakdowns could and will cause serious problems for a large scale evacuation.  Who knows, everything might just flow smoothly, but seeing the condition of some cars on the road and people’s attitude for their fellow man I’d be surprised if there weren’t some problems.

Here are a list of factors that could influence whether or not to bug out.  Below the list I discuss each in a little more detail.

  1. Situation – does it make sense to bug out?
  2. Location – where are you?  Where do you want to go?
  3. Weather – is it feasible to leave your present location?
  4. Fitness Level – can you drive or are you on foot?
  5. Medical Condition
  6. Family/Pets
  7. How prepared are you to bug out?
  8. Bug Out Bag
  9. Defense


The key is to figure out what the risk is if you stay or leave.  You’ll need to assess the situation and figure out what makes the most sense for you. For example:  if there’ a tsunami approaching grab your gear (if it’s packed and sitting near the door) and get out ASAP, but if there’s a blizzard coming get home and stay there.  Assuming of course that you’ve got your preps in place for a sustained power outage.  What about a terrorist threat of a nuclear attack on your city?  How good is the information?  What are the authorities saying? If they believe the threat level is high enough and call for evacuation then you might want to get out while you can.  What if there’s no threat of attack, but people are invovled in rioting for whatever reason?  Will you have to walk through a mob or a bunch of rioters?  If so you might want to stay home and see if the situation improves.


Let’s say the power has gone out, maybe for good – a favorite prepper scenario. Should you bug out or stick around and see if things get better?  First of all do you live in the city?  If so, do you have food and water stocked and ready to go?  If you do maybe you should stick around a couple of days and see if leaving is necessary.  After all, the power might come back on and if you have dependents that can’t travel this might be the best option for you and leaving your preps behind is never a good idea.  Unless, of course,  you have a bug-out destination fully stocked and waiting for you and a way of transporting those that can’t travel on their own.

Imagine if you were on the way out of town and hit  a massive traffic jam or had a breakdown with no one to come to your aid.  Would you be able to transport your elderly parents or infant children from where you are to where you’re going?


If you have enough warning  you might be able to leave a city before the hurricane (or whatever) comes in, but if you decide to ride it out make sure you have enough food, water, candles, etc for a long stay without electricity.  If there’s a blizzard on the way your best bet is to get home and hunker down.  Like many people living in the northern half of the country I’ve ridden out many snow storms at my house.


Are you physically able to bug out if you wanted to?  Walking out of a city is no mean feat.  You could end up walking thirty miles or more depending on where you are in the metro area and your destination.  Do you even have a destination?  Most people who think they’re going to bug-out to the woods might be ok until their food runs out, but after that I highly doubt they’d be able to survive any length of time on their own.

Outside the Superdome after Katrina

Medical Condition

Are there any medical conditions or medications that need to be considered in your family for an emergency evacuation?  If so, you need to do some planning around those issues.  Have a good supply of extra medications for those who need them and make sure the expiration dates are good.  Some meds lose potency and others are downright deadly after they’ve sat too long.


Do you have family with elderly or very young members?  This is going to add to the problem of movement.  If you’re a single person, in good shape and don’t have to worry about any of these things then it will probably be a fairly simple evacuation procedure, but the rest of us will have plenty to worry about.  And don’t forget your pets.  Cats can possible fend for themselves for a few days if need be, but dogs need you to be there for them.  Make sure that you have room for them in your vehicle or a good plan for them.  And don’t forget the mice, ferrets, parakeets, and whatever else you might have in the animal kingdom you call your home.

How Prepared Are You to Bug-Out?

 Do you have a bug-out bag ready to go?  If the fire department knocked on your door and said, “Get out now!  There’s a flood coming!” how long would it take to get you and your family and pets out the door?  Would you be scurrying around looking for clothes, baby stuff, dog leashes, money and other items or would you just throw your bug-out bags in the truck and bail out before the water trapped you on the roof?

Now here’s the thing… you might never need that bug-out bag.  It might be that a situation never arises that will require you leave your home in a rush just ahead of the breaking dam or through a rioting mob.  But in my mind a little preparation goes a long way.


So it’s happened.  The fecal matter has hit the rotating wind device and you’ve got to bug-out.  Your bug-out bags are in order, your vehicle is topped off, the kids and grandma are in the truck along with the dog and goldfish and you’re heading out of town.  You hit a traffic jam and suddenly a couple of gangstas are waving guns at you through the glass and you have no choice but to let them have the vehicle and all the gear that was going to keep you and the family alive.

It might surprise you to know that I’m not a huge gun advocate and I don’t encourage every single person to go out and buy one.  I believe everybody has the right to bear arms, so long as they know how to use them properly.  Unfortunately there are a lot of people who don’t take the time to learn safety and handling and wind up killing others accidentally or worse, through stupidity.  (There’s a recent case here in Maine where a nineteen year old shot his friend in the neck with a shotgun.  He thought it was empty and was trying to scare him.   The young man who was shot died.)  But that’s a whole different topic for another day.

Back to my scenario, if I were in this situation I would definitely be carrying a weapon and wouldn’t hesitate to use it to protect my family.  My wife also carries and would have no problem shooting someone to protect our son – or me for that matter.  The best situation, of course, is not to get into this situation in the first place.  Scouting a good route, traveling so that you don’t have to come to a dead stop if possible, alternate routes, having a plan if you’re attacked, traveling with another family in convoy, are all ways that you can minimize these risks.


In conclusion, the decision to bug-out will depend on many different factors that you will have to perceive, assimilate, and make decisions on, possibly in a short period of time.  Know what situations might arise where you live and familiarize yourself with them and what their indicators are.

The last thing I would advise is to not panic.  Keep a calm head and view the events as dispassionately as possible before making the decision to bug-out.  Take a couple of extra minutes if necessary to think the situation through because the decision to bug-out may very well put you in as much danger as bugging-in.

-Jarhead Survivor

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24 comments… add one
  • Spook45 February 27, 2011, 8:50 pm

    This is a good one! In my lil group we discuss all of these things amongst ourselves. We only have one of two who are not in the appropriate physical condition to bug out under required circumstances. They will not TRIAN(PT I mean) and they smoke like freight trains. I went thru this before I and I decided a long time ago that I WILL SURVIVE no matter what other boneheaded people decide to do. We function and train as a group of individuals so if they cant hang, heh, well MAYBE they will catch up. I will help people up to the point where it endangers MY SURVIVAL and then they are ON THEIR ON!

  • Spook45 February 27, 2011, 9:05 pm

    On a further note; many of these issuues are personal pet peaves. I am a stickler for noise and light discipline. I love to go out an train with regular folks( I say that like im super human or something) becuase they dont train, they dont HONE thier skills and developl them. There is nothing better than going into the bush with a bunch of guys that you can not only hear coming a mile away bet see easily and smell before they get to you. They are too stupid not to put on cologne or smelly deoderant. Most of them have never studied about or been taught how to properly paint thier faces so they just…….DONT. I can see thier white faces glowing like a neon sign half a mile away thru the brush. When the wind shifts they smell like french whores on saturday night and in the dark the glow off of thier cigs will illuminate thier faces at four hundred yards and makes the perfect window of opertunity to snipe them in the face with one clean shot. It utterly AMAZES ME that people are this stupid. IF you dont study and you dont train then you will have nothing to bitch about when you end up dead. Please buy the VERY BEST GEAR ypu can find so that when I scavenge your dead bodies I find cool shit:)

  • sanityjones February 27, 2011, 10:06 pm

    We have recently had a spell of cold (25 below Fahrenheit) which has made even the simplest of outdoor chores a royal pain in the arse. This provided me with a rare opportunity to shoot, hike, and do other activities that put excessive strain on man, beast, and gear. I wonder how many people have developed a bug out plan that revolves around a reasonable amount of physical comfort rather than a midnight run in the dark, on foot, in a January blizzard with subzero temperatures. A lot of folks around here were complaining about the severe cold while standing around the fire in the comfort of their living rooms when they should have been testing their cold weather gear in order to find out what works and what doesn’t.

    • Spook45 February 27, 2011, 10:46 pm

      Didnt get quite that cold in my AO this year, but we did have more snow than I have seen sense my childhood. We have always played fotball in it, hunted in it even fished in it as long as the water wasnt frozen over. You are write and I have no sympathy for fair weather warriors who wont trek into the unknown. When I get miserable cold and feel like i dont want to be there, I think about our boys in the BAttle of The Bulge! Frost bite, ground so hard they had trouble building foxholes and fortifying positions. Those guys were IT MAN! I have a few friends that were in WW II and Vietnam and the reality of information from them is invaluable. Lately the weather has been a lil warmer here and we have doing a lot of handgunning.

    • Jarhead Survivor February 28, 2011, 8:11 am

      That’s why I make it a point to get out at least once every winter for a campout. I like testing my gear and reminding myself just how harsh it can be outside in the winter. It’s nice to have a reality check every so often, although my winter campout this year was a lot of fun.

  • Mountain Rifleman February 28, 2011, 12:43 am

    Jarhead, I sure wish you’d take another look at your view of firearms. Who’s going to check to see who knows how to use a firearm properly? And further, where did the checker get the right? I’ve never read in the Constitution where it says you have to know how to use something properly in order to keep and bear it whether that’s a firearm, newspaper, pocket knife, or a bayonet. I only comment because you put the issue in italics. “so long as they know how to use them properly.” 20,000,000 of us, living today, have served in the armed forces. My very elderly grandmother didn’t serve in the armed forces. She has a single barrel 12 gauge and she’s strong enough to cock the hammer.
    Semper Fi
    Mountain Rifleman

    • Spook45 February 28, 2011, 4:12 pm

      I whole heartedly agree with you about your view of the rights issue. However; I am a pistol instructor and I have traveld a bit and trained with whole bunch of different people. On the latter note, if some non-gun idiot chooses not to learn how to use his gun I could care less as long as Idont have to stand next to his muzzle-sweeping ass on the firing line. The safety issue is important when working in groups or with other people. IF some bonehead wants to shoot himself in the foot, far be it for me to deprive him of such joy, I just dont want to stand next to him when he does it:)

    • Jarhead Survivor March 1, 2011, 8:16 am

      Hi Mountain Rifleman – I thought that comment might draw some interest. Thanks for bringing it up. First of all and just to clear the record, I never said I was an anti-gun advocate either. It’s like Spook said, if some dumbass doesn’t want to own a gun that’s fine by me. I’ve seen people in the service who shouldn’t have been allowed to carry weapons and I’m sure you saw similar things as well. There’s a Youtube video out there of a veteran cop who shoots himself in the foot with a weapon in front of a classroom of kids.

      There was a young Lance Corporal who went to Ft. Bragg on a FIREX back in the early 80’s and came back a private. Why? IN the field she came back from guard duty one night and was waving her .45 around like it was a big joke and assured everybody that it wasn’t loaded. She then let the pistol rest alongside her leg and shot herself in the foot! And she was an armorer!! This is not something I heard – I knew her.

      Again, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to have guns and I’m not even saying that they should be mandated to go through a weapons training course if they want to buy one. (Although I think heard stats somewhere that you’re more likely to kill a family member with that new weapon than you to shoot someone breaking into your house.) Having a deer rifle in the house is one thing, having a loaded Glock is something else again, especially if you have kids.

      What I’m saying is that I don’t encourage everybody to go out and buy a firearm. It’s their right to do so and I don’t question that, but there are enough dangers in the world today without putting a firearm in everybody’s hands.

  • Rushman February 28, 2011, 9:23 am

    Bug out or Bug in? To tell you the truth unless forced out due to what is going on my plan is to bug in. I don’t have money for a bug out location myself and the only place to go is a few hours by car away. I choose to supply my current location. Yes I live is a major city and there is that risk. But I am only a few miles from a national guard post and most everyone around me has the ability to deal with the thugs. Does it have its risks? Hell yes but so does leaving and possibly have to foot it to a locations that would be more streched on supplies then my current location… each there own

  • Presager Buddy February 28, 2011, 9:50 am

    There are very few circumstances that would prompt me to bug out. Any event short of fire, hurricane (if I were to live along a shoreline) or tsunami (if I lived along a shoreline) would have me bug in. Personally, I feel most plans to bug out are based on fantasy.

    Unless you have a well-stocked retreat in the hills, have the means and certainty that you can get there and have the time to do it, bugging out could mean failure in survival. Most of us survivalists/preppers have planned well in our own homes. Home is a familiar place where we know our defenses and our resources. It is also a place where we can set aside enough assets to ride out a prolonged event. Particularly, if you have a family, bugging out is an enormously risky action. There are just too many uncertainties. Bugging out exposes the survivalist/prepper to far more dangers with fewer resouces than bugging in (except for the events I mentioned).

    Because we are survivalists or preppers, we naturally should plan and prepare for bugging out, but it should be the last option in my option after very careful thought.

  • noisynick February 28, 2011, 10:15 am

    We were forced to bug out due to a tornado destroying our home and most of our outbuildings. I think most things that would will cause a BO are or a catastrophic nature and happen immediately. which all ow for little immediate planning but if you have preps in place they will help.
    Our home was totaled but in the ruble we salvage 98% of our food storage intact fuel storage for generators intact which ran our generators for 72 plus hrs. Our BOV which happens to be a converted bus became our home for a short time till we made other arrangements.
    We salvaged much and were able to store it under tarps we had in our preps.
    Keep in mind we live on 200 acres although we still make preps for BO because some things will force you from your home perhaps indefinitely.
    Our choice has always been to bug in but circumstances forced us into the opposite. Point being WTSHTF one never know which way it will blow or how much will Land on YOU.

  • irishdutchuncle February 28, 2011, 10:16 am

    my philosophy on “bug out” is a little different. i keep a heavy duty “duffel” packed for a “spontaneous weekend getaway”. (3 to 5 days) i strongly suggest to the wife and son that they do the same. they both have some “preps” in place, but i don’t nag them about it. i do my best to keep the “wifemobile” in shape, it would be our main BOV. i’m not “bugging out” anywhere, unless my building is actually on fire. (it’s a good idea to have a “naked bag” for each family member in that case)

    i do stash a few “shelter in place” items in my locker at work. i keep a few survivalist items in my cargo pockets, coat pockets etc. i have lots of “gear” that i lug around in a “get home bag”, but i think of it as my “day hike bag”. (mostly stuff it would be prudent to carry if i was taking a walk in the woods, or “hunting”)

    we are also preparing a small “INCH” bag. (I’m Never Coming Home bag) important papers, photo album, etc. on “thumb drives”. (and some cash) we may go away sometime as tourists, but i never intend to become a refugee.

  • russell1200 February 28, 2011, 12:17 pm

    My thinking at the moment, is that outside of a few locations that have a big target painted on them, there are arguments to made for bug-in or out for almost any location.

    Most of the prepper online community (as far as I can tell) are pushing closer to 50 than 20. As you get older, the idea of wandering around the countryside is going to be less and less attractive.

    • Spook45 February 28, 2011, 10:39 pm

      Thats because between the dumbing down and the age gap most of the 20 somethings are to dumb to se the corilation btween what is happening here how and what happened in the 30s and 40s with Hitlers rise to power and the onset of the 1st and 2nd world wars. How quikly people forget. Hitler was elected by popular vote, took ove the banking industry(chk) took over the medical industry(chk) took over the auto industry(chk) the list goes on and all of the same things have happened under the current admin. all you have to do to get really freaked out is to look at whats next on the list. Those of us who fail to learn fro mhistory are dommed to repeat it….

      • ChefBear58 March 2, 2011, 1:35 am

        Spook- I certainly agree with your comment “those of us who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”… I will even go so far as to agree with you that there are quite a few of the 20-something folks who think that their world could never change for the worst…

        However, I am one of those 20-something guy’s (29), my girl is mid 20’s, my brother is 23, most of my friends are preppers and they *for the most part* are in their 20’s/early 30’s. I am not trying to start an argument by any means, I am simply saying that folks shouldn’t count us younger guys out just yet! Who knows, you might someday find yourself struggling along side a guy like me to keep both of your families safe and fed! Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to have a younger fella around to carry the heavy stuff? Or gut/skin the deer (or whatever animals are harvested)? Scale and gut the fish? You might even find one like me, so you would have a Chef on board!

  • Michelle February 28, 2011, 2:22 pm

    Being in Florida makes bugging out complicated. Any major natural disaster (hurricanes) people clog up the roads so bad that cars run out of gas on the interstate. No thank you, I will be bugging in, unless my home is on fire.

  • Jason February 28, 2011, 3:51 pm

    There are only 3 conditions that will cause me to bug out:

    1. Firestorm – somewhat popular here in Southern California and only if the smoke gets bad. Last year we housed a couple of families that had to evacuate but never had to do so in all of my years here.

    2. A natural disaster like an earthquake or severe weather (I’ve lived in So Cal for over 50 years and not one has caused any damage or reason to leave the homes I’ve lived in).

    3. The sun quits shinning at the beach.

    I live in an area with a population of 350,000+ fellow rats within 10 square miles. I will stay put and live off of the fat of my preps because the traffic impact caused by the bugger outers will be far more dangerous in my opinion.

    Most people in my immediate area have their heads on straight & those that demonstrate otherwise will be met with significant resistance. There is safety in like-minded numbers.

    I prefer the safety of numbers and the ability to hide within the confusion. I have been in more remote conditions many times and found that they feel less safe because you can be that lone zebra on the horizon … no thanks – I’d rather be the hunter than the hunted.

  • Suburban Survivalist February 28, 2011, 9:19 pm

    If a total collapse, I think the most important thing to consider is population density, especially if you live in a metro area (leave). Unless you have a fortified position and have shifts of folks with crew served weapons, it’s best to leave. Large numbers of starving people will do whatever they can to get food; if you’re holed up and have it, it can’t end well.

    As noted in comments above, bugging out can/will be dangerous as well. However if TEOTWAWKI, bugging out later may not be an option due to marital law, road blocks (federal, local, militia, etc.). Time not on our side in such a situation.

    My bug out location is my parents farm in Nebraska. But we have to plan to bug out even from there, if the situation dictated.

    IMO the key to bugging out is avoiding the main routes. I’ve mapped out secondary and tertiary roads away from interstates I’d need to travel, and have hard copy gazetteers for all states I might need to transit (and all those adjacent).

    • Jason March 1, 2011, 12:17 am

      The problem with auxiliary roads is every local & GPS picks them up as well.

      I grew up in Los Angeles and knew, better than any cab driver, every possible road and alley way around any city congestion (and L.A. is a huge, conglomerate of cities) but so did the other cast of thousands. It was a constant mini survivalist big city driving mentality – that’s why I left 20 years ago (25 years on those roads was enough).

      You make a good point however, I think the key to bugging out is anticipating events and be on the leading edge out but remember, if all heck breaks loose, people will be driving on all sides of the streets & emergency lanes which, will apply to going into Nebraska.

      I think an excellent back-up vehicle in case you get gridlocked is a motorcycle. By the way, I’ve been in many gridlocks and it’s just like the movies depict – you are just dead in one place which is why I chose to stay as my option.

      Also, growing up in a big city to me is easier to cover your back with a few well fortified friends. Some of the neighborhoods that I knew would be a bad place to go to try to leverage for food or what have you. Those places lock down tighter than an army base. The mentality is simple – it’s far better to move on than to get a Tec 9 lead snow cone – no kidding, I’ve been in those areas.

  • ChefBear58 March 2, 2011, 1:59 am

    I have had to “bug out” in the past, well it was more like an extraction… But I have plans in place, along with kit needed to “bug out” relatively safe/easily. I live in a location where flooding is not an issue, unless there is a MASSIVE wave that comes in from the Atlantic and takes out about 1/2 of VA… possible, but probably wouldn’t have the time needed to leave in that case anyway! We have had a few tornado’s, hurricane’s and other nasty storms, but again the area where my home is has yet to be effected in any serious way. We are in a somewhat densely populated area, but our area would be pretty easy to fortify and defend with a few of the neighbors helping out (we have made plans for this). I like how somebody mentioned the “crew served weapons”, we have a National Guard armory within a 1/2hr walk where we might be able to “liberate” a couple “toys” if things get bad enough and the opportunity presented itself (almost wish it would, I have wanted to man a SAW since I was a kid!). If we face a national/global issue however, I am gonna help get things started here and then head out in my JEEP (if it still works), or on foot to bring back my girl and some family members. I know that it will likely be a difficult/dangerous option, but even if hell comes to earth I am gonna go get my girl and keep her safe as best I can… NO MATTER WHAT THE COST! Some folks would probably call me foolish or stupid for planning to travel 600mi (one way) to get my girl/family, but those folks must not have people they care about that much, and I feel sorry for them!

    • Jason March 2, 2011, 7:51 am


      “What you think of me is none of my business” is something I have embraced for years. Traveling 6 miles or 600 miles does not matter, it is the choice you are making to protect those you deeply care for & why not? Whether it is realistic & safe enough to keep you effective when arrive is the only part to analyze & sometimes those choices are quite sobering.

      Remember, grabbing a gun & pointing it is one thing, actually pulling the trigger and dropping someone is something else entirely different & a totally unnatural act for a human being.

      I think that, if you (collective noun) think that situation were ever to present itself to you, then it is imperative NOW to run every possible scenario in your mind as to what is the acceptable criteria to pulling the trigger AND completing the task.

      For myself I have done that and am clear but also know there will still be some hesitation – my goal is to control the emotion & eliminate the threat.

    • irishdutchuncle March 2, 2011, 9:17 am

      Bear, a 600 mile trip is almost suicidal, if things really go bad. (especially when the average vehicle has less than a 300 mi. range) do you have a plan? do they know to sit tight and wait for you? (do you have “preps” stashed with them? have you all agreed on a plan?) maybe the time to move is now, before it hits.

  • Jason March 4, 2011, 8:15 pm

    Bugging out Japanese style!

    Don’t forget your deodorant!

  • stew2710 December 3, 2015, 1:29 am

    I agree with the common thread of being cool headed. Most people are quite prepared without them even knowing it. Panic and its mentality is exponential. Take a few more steps into getting prepared and you will; be OK. Main thing , is to have water (Lots of clean stuff)


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