To Bug Out or Bug In – Factors to Consider

How to bug out

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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