Bug In vs Bug Out | When to Bug Out or Stay Inside

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As a prepper, one of the hardest decisions you have to make is whether you should bug in or bug out in the midst of a disaster.

While some people are dead set on bugging in and others on bugging out, it’s always best to be prepared for both. You never know if you’ll be forced to either hunker down or leave your home, so it’s not smart to only prepare for one or the other.

The main problem with only being prepared for one or the other is you never know what form of disaster could be coming your way. While your plan may be fine for the majority of disaster scenarios that are most likely to occur, you could always be taken by surprise.

Is It Better to Bug In or Bug Out?

Let’s say you’re preparing for social unrest and you’re fully committed to hunkering down in your home. You got all the supplies needed to board up the doors and windows, plenty of food and water, guns and ammo, first aid kits, antibiotics, and everything else you could possibly imagine. All stored and ready to go.

Then, out of nowhere, your town gets hit by a massive category 5 hurricane and your house is completely flooded and destroyed. And while you may not have to worry about hurricanes in your area, you could be at the mercy of wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, or even be forced out of your home by a roving gang of thugs.

Of course, the opposite could be true as well. You could live in an overpopulated area and be fully prepared to bug out when disaster strikes. Unfortunately, the disaster happens in the middle of the night while you’re asleep and you no longer have the opportunity to safely bug out. All of a sudden you’re forced to hunker down in your home and all you have is a week’s worth of food at most. Not good.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to be fully prepared to both bug in and bug out, but I would recommend that you take certain precautions to allow you to do both if the need arises.

Something as simple as buying a BOB (bug out bag) and filling it with the proper supplies will at least give you a few extra days of survival if you’re forced to bug out. Whereas stocking up on another week or two of food and buying a Water Bob may be just enough to last your family through a disaster if you’re forced to hunker down.

Since every disaster is going to be different, it’s best to prepare for as many different scenarios as you possibly can. However, if you’re still trying to decide whether you should mostly prepare to bug in or bug out, then maybe I can be of help.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you can decide whether to bug out or shelter in though, you first need to fully access your situation. This is known as being self-aware.

Not being self-aware as a prepper is one of the sure-fire ways to make a mistake when SHTF. You can have all the food, water, and supplies in the world, but if you’re not self-aware of your situation, you can easily make a vital mistake that can wound up costing your life.

This vital mistake could be something as simple as bugging out during a societal collapse without having an actual BOL to go to. While you may plan on bugging out to the woods and living off the land, you really need to ask yourself whether you have the knowledge and physical fitness to actually do so. And if you plan on bringing a family along with you, then you also need to be aware if they can handle the stress of living off the land.

There are many other factors you need to consider as well, so be prepared to do a fair bit of thinking on the different disasters that are likely to occur and the effects those disasters could cause around you. To help you get the thinking process started, I’ve listed some basic questions below that you may want to ask yourself before deciding whether to bug in or bug out.

  • Do you have a BOL to go too?
  • Do you have any family or friends that will welcome you in?
  • Are there any disaster scenarios that will cause your family or friends to not let you in?
  • Do you have anything to offer someone in return for letting you hunker down at their place?
  • Is the BOL you’re going to actually safer than your home?
  • Will anyone else try to go to the same BOL?
  • How do you plan on getting food and water if you run out?
  • Does everyone know where to go in case you’re separated when SHTF?
  • How are you going to stay up to date on the disaster at hand?
  • What is the population density around you?
  • How will the people around you act in a variety of disaster situations?
  • Is there an abundance of resources in your area?
  • How quickly will those resources be depleted?
  • Do you know how to fortify your home?
  • Do you have the knowledge and tools to hunt, fish or forage?
  • What kind of resources and supplies do you have?
  • How long can you and your family live off those resources and supplies?
  • Will the weather in your area make bugging out unbearable?
  • How well do you know the area around your home or BOL?
  • Can you fend off the wildlife in your area?
  • Are you skilled in bushcraft?
  • Do you have a detailed map of the area?
  • Do you have a working vehicle that can navigate the terrain to your BOL?
  • How far do you think you and your family members can walk carrying bug out gear?
  • What will you do if someone in your family gets injured?
  • Can you defend your home or BOL from intruders?
  • Can you defend yourself and your family if you bug out?
  • How will each member of your family handle themselves after SHTF?
  • What disasters will cause your plan to bug out or hunker down not to work?

While I’m sure this is only scratching the surface of questions you need to ask yourself before SHTF, it should at least give you a general knowledge of what you need to be aware of.

Reasons to Bug Out

The problem with the term bugging out is that it can have two completely different meanings. It can mean bugging out to the woods to live off the land or simply bugging out to another location where you plan to bug in.

If you don’t have a BOL of your own (which most people don’t) then you will need to find a family member or friend you can stay with in the case of a man-made or natural disaster. Finding someone that will welcome you in if a natural disaster hits your home is usually pretty easy, but man-made disasters can be a whole-nother story.

This is why you shouldn’t just assume that because you’re great friends or a close relative to someone that they’re going to welcome you in when SHTF. Even if they aren’t a prepper themselves, they may realize the danger of the situation and not want to waste their last bit of resources taking care of you and your family.

However, if you come prepared with plenty of food, water, and supplies that you can offer them, then your chances of being invited in are much more likely. Carrying supplies from one location to the next can be dangerous though, so always weigh out the risks when deciding whether to bug out or shelter in.

While I know I’m simply repeating many of the questions I already had you ask yourself, I felt it was important to delve a little deeper into the mindset of bugging out. And while bugging out may seem like a crazy idea to some of you, just remember that you may not always have a choice.

Here are some of the reasons why you may want to consider bugging out.

  • You don’t have enough food, water, and supplies.
  • Your home is destroyed by a natural disaster.
  • A wildfire is approaching your home.
  • People will come looking for your food and water.
  • You live in a bad or overpopulated area.
  • You’re forced out of your home by intruders.
  • A government takeover is happening and they’re going house to house.
  • You fear your our own government is going to come and take your supplies.
  • You have a BOL that’s safer than your home and worth going too.
  • There’s a chemical spill nearby.
  • A natural disaster causes a nuclear meltdown in your area.
  • Excessive looting and crime is taking place in your area.
  • You don’t want to be stuck in your home if the disaster is long term.

While some people may be under the impression that your home is an impenetrable fortress, chances are that you’re probably wrong. Unless you have an underground bunker with a heavily guarded entrance, all it takes is for a group of people to surround your home with brush and light it on fire and your house is completely destroyed. Taking all of your precious supplies with it.

This shouldn’t deter you from hunkering down though, as I still believe it’s the safest option for most people to do. Just don’t forget that you could be kicked out of your home at any second.

Reasons to Bug In

The main reason I believe hunkering down is the safest option for most people to do is because you’re still the one responsible for the safety of your family. If you decide to bug out, however, then you risk putting the safety of your family in the hands of someone other than yourself.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to let the members of my family be just another number at a refugee camp. And if you bug out without an actual BOL to go to, then a refugee is exactly what you and your family members will be.

Enough about my fears though, let’s get to some of the reasons why you may want to hunker down in the event of a disaster.

  • You have a pregnant wife, small children or elderly in your family.
  • You don’t think bugging out is a safe option for your family.
  • You have nowhere else to go.
  • You don’t have the survival skills to live off the land.
  • Your family won’t be able to handle the stress of bugging out.
  • Your home is where your family will feel most comfortable.
  • The weather in your area is unbearable and forcing you to stay inside.
  • You may be able to rely on your community (plan ahead).
  • Bugging out makes your family an easy target.
  • Your vehicle is unreliable or won’t be able to handle the terrain to your BOL.
  • You probably have better knowledge of your immediate surroundings than anyone else.
  • There’s no way to safely reach your BOL.
  • An EMP has fried the electronics of your BOV (bug out vehicle)
  • Martial law has been declared.
  • All routes to your BOL have been blocked by traffic (or worse).
  • Your area has been quarantined by the government due to a virus.
  • Someone in your family can’t bug out due to an injury.
  • War has been declared on your country and you’re afraid of an airborne chemical attack.

Once again, I know there are a lot of good reasons missing from this list (and the others), so help a fellow prepper out and list some of the reasons as to why you’ve decided to bug out or hunker down during a disaster. I’m interested to see what you have to say.