Deciding When To Bug Out

This is a question I get asked fairly regularly — when should I bug out? Unfortunately, there are so many factors that come into play, it is difficult if not impossible to give just one pat answer.

First, let me define what I mean by “bugging out.” There’s a difference, to my mind at least, between bugging out and evacuating. If, for example, you live in an area where a hurricane is predicted to hit in the next few days and you make the wise decision to head inland during that time, that’s not bugging out, that’s evacuating. Bugging out, to me, is leaving your present location with little to no expectation of ever returning.

Fairly often, I see a survivalist or prepper post a message online saying that they plan to just bug out if ever the SHTF. What is left unsaid is, what sorts of S could HTF to prompt them to bug out? I mean, we prep for all sorts of catastrophes, from bad weather to terrorist attack.

I do believe every prepper should have a bug out plan. It is just a way to cover all the bases, so to speak. You never know what could happen that might prompt you to feel you need to bail. However, as I’ve said over and over here and elsewhere, bugging out should be your last ditch plan, not your primary plan.

Remember too that bugging out without a specific destination in mind just makes you a refugee. A possibly well-equipped refugee, but a refugee nonetheless.

Ok, so back to the main question. What I suggest is you plan to bug out if and only if your location becomes unsafe. This could mean different things to different preppers. For example, an urban home might become more dangerous much sooner than a rural one, all other things being equal, in the face of disaster.

Added to this is the fact that you can’t predict what the future will bring. Could be, disaster hits your area and for the most part, you, your family, and your home survive relatively intact. Then, during the recovery process, things start to get a little dicey. You obviously would want to get out ahead of the crowd but it becomes a guessing game. Will it eventually get bad enough here where I’d not want to be around? How long until that happens? How bad will it get?

Like I said, there is no pat answer. The best advice I can give is to have a bug out plan ready to go, practice it on a regular basis, and be prepared to head out if/when the need arises.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

2 thoughts on “Deciding When To Bug Out”

  1. if you live in or near a city with a lrge population then finding a friend or relative with a more remote or safer enviroment is very important especially with a challenged individual. getting out of a burning aprtment or Running from a bad situeation is most likely out of the question.. Look at your friends/relatives and see if there is a place you can go and be an asset to their long term survval.

  2. I have a few thoughts that I would like to share about evacuations.

    If you know that a crisis is coming (examples are hurricanes and forest fires) panic early and beat the rush. Get to your well-stocked bug-out location several days before the roadways are clogged with evacuees.

    If the crisis was sudden and unexpected, then you have to make your decisions quickly. On day 3 of any crisis, you can reasonably assume that water becomes an issue. You should be out of your residence on day 1 or before noon on day 2. Sometime on day 3 or 4, your neighbor’s children are going to get thirsty and someone will remember that you used to talk about prepping. Your neighbors will start lumbering toward your house like zombies in a movie.

    Either get out before the crisis arrives, or get out before noon of day 2 after a crisis starts—either way, your bug out destination is stocked and waiting for you because you’re not planning to be at home during a crisis of any kind.

    Sheltering in place might require plenty of bullets—and you personally *know* each zombie who is lumbering toward your house. Are you sure you want to deal with that?

    God bless all preppers.

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