No topic has proved as divisive on prepper and survival forums as the choice to bug in or bug out. The reality is that the choice is not always clean cut, and whether you bug in or bug out may actually be forced upon you based on changing environmental factors.
Personally, I find the ability to adapt to be one of the key denominators in determining how well a prepper or survivalist does in bad situations. It’s ridiculous to get hung up on using a specific plan, as the future may not turn out how we imagine. Sometimes life throws a curveball in your direction, and in cases like those, you should be ready to change plans to whatever’s now best in a heartbeat.
With the understanding that both options are completely viable in their own ways, here is a quick overview illustrating the main differences between between bugging in and bugging out, also including each of the approaches’ pros and cons.
Bugging in is typically the most favourable options to those who have large stockpiles, underground bunkers, and self-sufficient food and water options in their own homes. You lose out on all those preps if you choose to bug out, which is why many who have a well built up home base feel it’s foolish to leave it.
But what happens if you come home one day and find looters have raided your house? They could even come back later if they feel there’s more to be had (ex, from a self-sufficient garden or livestock prep). Always weigh the benefits with any disadvantages when trying to decide what to do next. You may find it’s actually better to change your plans after all.
- Is your home adequately safe against environmental factors that could leave you trapped? Take floods, wildfires, etc. into account.
- Can you defend your home against desperate opportunists (looters)?
- Is your home off the grid and/or can you survive for an extended period of time without having to restock or using outside help?
Pros: Advantages of Bugging In
- Familiarity of your surroundings makes staging a defense easier, as its on your own turf. You’re already aware of your surroundings.
- Familiar environment reduces panic and fear.
- Can pre-emptively work on defensive structures, stockpiling, and self-sufficiency techniques (water collection, garden, livestock, renewable energy, etc).
- How prepared you are is ultimately up to you, not your environment.
- The elderly, children, those physically injured, and other family members who may not have the physical strength to handle bugging out can be kept safe.
- Avoiding the panicked rush as people clog the main highways to get away.
- Way more storage space for all types of preps.
Cons: Disadvantages of Bugging In
- Neighbors may come asking for help, especially if they remember you as being the “prepared” type.
- Limited opportunity to restock/gather more resources as the situation deteriorates.
- Hygiene is a major concern with staying put in a post-collapse environment; your home better have adequate sanitation in place or you’re likely to get sick.
- Once you’re bugged in, evasion will become much harder, as the remainder of society may be hostile to well-prepped people traveling through a city.
Bugging out is often the most preferable option to survivalists who feel they can make it out in the wilderness on their own. Yet the natural environment prevents many dangers and threats that would not exist until much later if a person bugged in. What if clean water becomes difficult to ascertain? What about wild animals? What if looters stumble upon your camp and steal what little gear you were carrying on your back?
You may want to reconsider bugging out until you’re absolutely sure you have to. It’s always beneficial to have wilderness survival skills, as even those bugging in may have to bug out if certain circumstances arise, but getting back home to a stockpile of food, medicine, and clean water is difficult if you’ve already jumped the gun and bugged out.
- Is your vehicle reliable enough to allow you to bug out? Do you have a plan B should your primary mode of transportation fail?
- Are you and your family/unit in sufficient physical health to go mobile should the need arise?
- Have you tried living in your bug out location to make sure you can actually survive there for a reasonable amount of time?
- Is your bug out location sufficiently stocked with supplies to warrant the risk of moving away from your home base?
- Is your area heavily populated, and as such, will you be able to bug out without getting stuck in a stampede of panic?
- If you’re planning on a specific bug out location, what guarantees do you have that no one else will be there?
Pros: Advantages of Bugging Out
- Opportunity to find superior environment in terms of safety and/or resources.
- There’s always the option to keep moving; you’re unlikely to be trapped.
- Dynamic structure of wilderness bug out locations allows you to respond to events/environmental factors faster.
- Away from urban environments and their associated risks (health concerns, looters, etc.)
- Your assets are with you, and you are always moving, which makes you a harder target for looters.
- More places to hide in the outbacks, thereby making you more difficult to find and be looted.
- If skill level is sufficient, can be self-sustaining/live off wilderness.
Cons: Disadvantages of Bugging Out
- Mobile aspect of your plan limits amount of resources you can have with you. You can’t carry everything in your house on your back.
- Fuel, food, and other necessities will eventually run out unless you have a way of gathering resources.
- There are risks associated with being on the road: you can be a very visible target, especially if armed or heavily encumbered by gear.
- Fall of society can bring out the worst in people; being around “the masses” as you’re bugging out can be hazardous (for instance, traffic jams where people panic could lead to physical altercations).
- Bugging out can be dangerous for many reasons. Accidents stemming from falls to panicked mobs are all a threat to your safety and well-being.
- No established defensive structures as you’re moving puts you in a temporarily weaker position against threats.
- Lack of professional/advanced health care, as well as a lack of a sterile or safe environment for medical care, should you or someone in your unit become injured.
- Difficult to go back “home” in case bugging out isn’t working out so well.
This is not an exhaustive list and I wrote this primarily to make you think about the risks and benefits associated with bugging in and bugging out. In our community, many get stuck with the mindset that once they have an established plan, they’ll have to stick with it to the very end, regardless of consequences. Yet this is no healthy way for a survivalist to think.
You should be ready and willing to adapt to any situation that may come your way. Stick to your plan only in so far as it is the most beneficial option to you. It’d be nice if life always worked out the way we hoped and planned for it to, but we preppers know better than anyone that that isn’t always going to be the case.