The Fantasy & Reality of Bugging Out
I don’t know about you, but as part of my career I spend a fair amount of time discussing Bugging Out on “prepper” and “survival” related forums.
Not surprisingly, it’s is one of the most popular discussion topics.
On any given day, there are lively debates on everything Bug Out related.
Topics ranging from:
– What is the Best Bug Out Bag (BOB)
– What to Put in a Bug Out Bag
– Bug Out Vehicles (BOVs)
– Bug Out Locations (BOLs)
– And even what to wear when bugging out
And, oh my, the plans people have made, too.
My primary BOL is 147 miles from my home. It’s an old cabin deep in the forest I stumbled upon when I was 12. I’m hoping I can drive most of the way, but I’ll probably ditch the truck about 30 miles out so no one hears me coming. I’ll hike in the rest of the way and hunker down at the cabin, and wait for everything to blow over.
Then I peek at their personal Facebook profile only to see they’ve made several contradicting posts in the last year. Comments about their back problems, bad knees, COPD, and other health issues to name a few.
In reality, for this person a 3 mile walk isn’t that realistic, let alone 30+ miles with a loaded pack.
Reality Versus Fantasy
So if such a plan isn’t realistic or reasonable, then what’s the point? Now this one might ruffle some feathers, but I assure you that’s not what I’m trying to do here.
For some reason, it’s all too easy for us to get caught up in the fantasy world of post disaster survival rather than the raw truth we face.
The reality is, things like health issues and physical limitations are a fact of life. It’s best that we be honest with ourselves so we’re able to realistically face our situation and aren’t caught unprepared.
On the flip side, let’s say you’re in peak physical condition and can hike 30 miles a day for several days. That’s great, but how about the other members of your family who will be with you when bugging out?
You can only move as fast as the slowest person in the group.
If you have young children, elderly parents, or anyone in less than ideal health, they will no doubt slow you down. That 30 miles per day speed might downshift to 3 miles. Or even less.
When you take a look at the facts facing your situation, something like bugging in might be a better first option.
Another “plan” I often see is to stockpile a ton of tobacco, booze, matches or whatever. The plan is to use these as barter to buy what they need later.
I’m not suggesting you ditch any plans for trade and barter. More so that stocking your BOB with piles of trade goods might not be the best use of space.
A better plan is to work on making sure you have everything you’ll need. In times of survival, rather than counting on the rare chance of someone else to come to your aid, it is far better to be self-reliant.
Many survivalists also have plans for extensive gardens once they reach their bug out location.
That’s awesome, more power to them. But, an awful lot of these same folks, by their own admission, have little-to-no actual experience gardening. They figure they’ll toss some seeds into the ground and, in a few weeks, harvest bushels full of goodness.
It reality, it doesn’t work like that.
Even an experienced gardener can attest to the difficulties of establishing a garden the first season.
Very few places have soil that is ready-made for growing massive amounts of food. Soil amendments like manure need to be added and mixed in. Plus you need to know what vegetables and fruits will actually grow in your area.
Also, don’t buy prepackaged bags of heirloom seeds without even knowing whether any of them will grow in your region. I see this one a lot…
Especially troubling is the one where some folks are acquiring large quantities of firearms and ammunition so they can take what they want from those who survive the initial disaster.
Yes, these people are out there, moving through life unsupervised…
Fortunately, I suspect the majority are armchair commandos and about as dangerous as a bag of potato chips.
Keep Bug Out Plans Realistic
That said, with any sort of survival planning, whether we’re talking about bugging out or sheltering in place, it’s important to keep the plans realistic. There are many factors that need consideration, including:
-Physical fitness of all family members
Critical thinking is an important component of survival. You need to be able to think fast and on your feet. And if you hope to keep your wits about you, you also need to be grounded in reality.
Outlined below are 3 of the most common Bug Out reality checks I think people would do well to take to heart.
Bug Out Reality Check #1 – Fitness Matters
If you can’t walk to your mailbox and back without having to sit down and take a break, planning to bug out on foot to a location hundreds of miles away isn’t going to end well for you.
Improve your physical condition or adjust your plans to suit what you are capable of doing. Drop excess weight through a proven proper diet and exercise program. Good nutrition can help mitigate many health problems. It isn’t a cure all, of course, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Bug Out Reality Check #2 – Skills Matter
If you’ve never hunted, trapped, or fished before, you cannot count on learning those skills on the fly while bugging out. It doesn’t work that way.
Get out there now and practice these skills. Get the necessary licenses/permits first. Always do everything you can to remain in compliance with existing laws. To do otherwise is to risk fines or worse. Any funds you end up having to pay to resolve legal issues means there’s less in the wallet for preps, right?
Bug Out Reality Check #3 – Knowledge Matters
Planning to bring a book that has a few pictures in it and learn how to forage wild edibles as you go is planning to fail.
Find a competent instructor in your area who teaches wild edible identification. Ask your local county extension office who they recommend. These are the folks who typically manage the local Master Gardener programs. They can point you to the right people. If that is a dead end, watch videos online from reputable instructors and check out books with full-color photos. Learn 3-5 common wild edibles in your area. Once you feel confident with those, expand to a few more. You don’t need to know 87 different plants. A handful common to your area is a great start.
In summary, I want to encourage you to be honest with yourself about your current capabilities and those you would be bugging out with. Identify the weak spots and seek to improve on a daily basis, not only your own skills and knowledge, but those you are responsible for.
If you need help, join community groups like Bug Out Bag Academy and Survival Weekly where we share helpful tips and advice based in reality. Surround yourself with good, like-minded people that can help get you to where you’re headed. And then, most importantly, get out there and put into practice what you’re learning!
What skills are you currently working on? What lessons have you learned that can help someone else?
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About the Author
We are pleased and excited to welcome the highly esteemed Jim Cobb to Bug Out Bag Academy ranks. Jim is the owner and lead trainer for DisasterPrepConsultants.com. His seasoned experience and witty, well articulated articles on preparedness have been published in national magazines such as OFFGRID, American Survival Guide, Survivor’s Edge, and Boy’s Life. You can find him online at SurvivalWeekly.com.
His growing stack of accomplished books on emergency preparedness include Prepper’s Home Defense, Prepper’s Financial Guide, and Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide, among others. Jim lives in the Upper Midwest with his beautiful wife and their three adolescent weapons of mass destruction.