Bugging In: What to Do When Bugging Out Is NOT An Option

Bugging In VS. Bugging Out

While our general focus here is on bugging out, true emergency preparedness requires you to be prepared for all eventualities—including the less exciting thought of bugging in.  In fact, bugging out should be your last option in most situations, not your primary plan.  Think about it like this—home is where the bulk of your supplies and gear are located, right?  


On top of that, there really aren’t that many potential scenarios where bugging out is going to be your best option.  By their very nature, most disasters, natural or manmade, will result in conditions that are decidedly unfavorable for travel.  Moving about, whether on foot or by vehicle, can make you a target, too.  If you’re the only person or group out on the roads, people are going to notice.  Even if there are other people out and about, they might decide you look much better equipped than the average refugee.



Therefore, bugging in (often referred to as sheltering in place) is going to be the best course of action in most situations. Of course, that means you need to prepare for doing so ahead of time…



And don’t hear me wrong and leave saying “Jim told me having a bug out bag isn’t a good idea.” I’m not saying that at all.


If anything, having bug out bags ready to go will make it easier for you to leave at a moment’s notice should you need to, and it will also make your gear easy to transport and locate when you have specific need. Just because it’s a bug out bag, doesn’t mean you can’t use it for bugging in as well.


So let’s run down the list of basic needs and what you can do to prepare in case you find yourself bugging in for a period of time.


(Editor’s Note: When sheltering in place, security is a major component, but far too involved for this article overview. Here are some practical, yet effective tips and solutions to secure your home from unwanted intruders.)


Bugging In Basics: Preparations and Survival Tips


Realistically, the more water you have stored, the better.  Various experts suggest one gallon of water per person per day of the crisis is sufficient.  Okay, but how do you know ahead of time how many days you’re going to be on your own?  And really, one gallon per person isn’t much, not when you consider that might be all the water you can access.  


Shoot for 1.5-2 gallons of water per person and start with at least one full week’s worth.  When you hit that point, extend it to two weeks.  One case of half-liter water bottles comes to roughly three gallons of water.  Storing cases of bottled water is cheap and easy.  Just keep them in a cool, dark corner and they’ll be fine until you need them.  Under beds or in the back of closets are great locations.


In an extreme pinch if the water gets shut off, you may also decide to use water from your water heater as well as tanks above the toilet bowl. Depending on its carrying capacity, a water heater alone could supply anywhere from 20 to 80 gallons of untapped water. Of course you’ll want to purify any water source before consuming…


This brings to thought, don’t overlook the necessity of a good water filtration system, too.  With it, you can make use of “wild” water, such as collected rainwater or water from nearby streams and rivers.  Boiling water is the best way to render it safe but that requires heat and fuel.



Similar to choosing the best bug out bag food, you don’t necessarily need to stockpile any *special* food to use in emergencies.  Instead, just stock up on the stuff you and your family like to eat, with an eye toward foods that will store well over lengths of time.  Examples include canned soups and stews and boxes of pasta with jars of sauce.  


In an emergency during a lengthy power outage, consume the perishables first.  Cook up meat before it goes bad and eat up the veggies in the refrigerator.  It makes little sense to let those resources go to waste.


If the power is out, the microwave isn’t going to be working.  Neither is the stove top if you have an electric one.  Gas ranges should still work, though you might need to light it with a match.  Either way, plan ahead for ways to cook food and boil water.  Patio grills work well for food, though they are very inefficient for boiling water or cooking small pots of soup.  Campfires in the backyard will work, too.  Picking up a small camp stove and the correct fuel for it might not be the worst idea, just in case.  


Don’t overlook the importance of comfort foods.  A little bit of junk food and sweets can go a long way toward raising spirits.


First Aid

Many homes don’t have much more than a half-full box of adhesive bandages and a bottle of ibuprofen.  You’re going to want a little bit more than that.  The most common injuries are likely to be cuts and scrapes, so you’re going to want plenty of gauze pads as well as disinfectant.  Pain relievers are going to be needed, too.  


On the illness side of the equation, stomach upset is a common reaction to stress and sudden diet changes.  Stock up on meds that will treat tummy troubles.  


If you have family members who rely upon prescription medications, be sure to have a supply of those meds on hand to last at least a couple of weeks.  An easy way to do that without incurring added expense is to refill the prescription as soon as possible every month.  Usually, there’s an overlap of a couple of days before the current supply will run out.  Use the doses from that overlap period for your stockpile.  Next month, do the same, but make sure you use the older doses and replace them from the new supply.  Over time, you’ll build up a small stash of medications.  Never skip a dose for the sake of stockpiling!



Most homes have adequate supplies of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and the like to last at least a week or two.  If you don’t fall into that category, consider stocking up when you find your preferred brands on sale.  


If the plumbing isn’t working due to the calamity at hand, you’re going to need an alternate method for disposing of waste.  Many restaurants, delis, and bakeries have empty 5 gallon buckets available either free for the asking or at a nominal cost.  Call around until you can secure one.  Then, get a pool noodle and a razor knife.  Cut the noodle down so it is just long enough to go about ¾ of the way around the bucket.  Then, slit it along one side and slip it over the lip of the bucket.  Say hi to your new commode.  When you need to use it for real, line it with a heavy-duty garbage bag.  Keep a box of baking soda or powdered laundry detergent nearby and sprinkle a bit in after each use.  Be sure to change the bag before it gets too full and thus heavy.


You might also consider stocking up on toilet paper.  While there are alternatives, such as cutting up old t-shirts, good ole TP is what we’re used to.



When the power goes out, so do the lights inside and out.  Invest in several good quality flashlights and a supply of batteries.  Crank powered flashlights are good for children’s bedrooms as they won’t run down the batteries and render the light useless.


Know where the water and gas shutoffs are for your home and invest in a gas shutoff wrench.  Remember, while you’re able to turn the gas off in an emergency, only the gas company is allowed to turn it back on.


Disasters often bring storm debris and such.  A good chainsaw and fuel will make short work of downed tree limbs.  Work gloves and safety glasses are a must when dealing with such things.  Be on the lookout for downed power lines and stay away from them.  Notify the authorities when you’re able to do so.



We often say on this site – “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”  While we have many communication tools at our fingertips, such as our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, we need to plan for the possibility that the Internet, texting, and such won’t be up and running.  A simple crank powered radio will allow us to still listen to news broadcasts and gather information about the situation.  Information is critical so we can make decisions based on facts rather than guesswork.



At first, this sounds like a frivolous category.  However, I guarantee you that about 2 hours into a power outage, if you have kids who aren’t able to access their favorite games or apps, they’ll be climbing the walls and driving you nuts.  


Board games can be found very inexpensively at thrift stores and garage sales.  Decks of cards are cheap, too.  Teach your kids that it is indeed possible to play solitaire without a computer.


Many preppers are avid readers and likely have plenty of unread books on hand already.  That said, library sales are great places to stock up on new reading material.  Storytelling is a lost art and something you might explore as a family when the power is out.  Pick a book and each read a chapter out loud.


For the younger crowd, arts and crafts can keep them busy for hours.  You can find construction paper, crayons, markers, glue, and all that other fun stuff on sale pretty cheap during back to school time.  


An added benefit of these family oriented activities is that it keeps everyone in one room.  In the dead of winter, keeping the family together like this will help to keep everyone a little warmer.  Cover the windows with blankets, close the door, and the room will warm up a fair amount in a short period of time.



Sheltering in place or hunkering down is likely going to be your best bet in the vast majority of disasters.  Of course, the circumstances will determine exactly what the safest course of action will be. As with any other area of preparedness, there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all solution.

Did we forget anything? Are you planning on bugging out or bugging in the event of an emergency?

If you enjoyed this article and want more like it, let us know by sharing, liking, and commenting on this post. Have questions you need answered or have an idea of what we should cover next? Let us know in the comments below!

Need to get started but don’t know where to begin? Check out our really popular (and FREE!) bug out bag PDF checklist here.

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.

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  • Mary says:

    I completely agree with Jeane’s comments. Thanks to your articles I now feel more competent and prepared as a senior aged woman. Keep it up!

    • Andrew says:

      So glad to hear it, Mary — be safe out there!

  • Terri Sue says:

    Awesome! Thanks!

    • Andrew says:

      You’re very welcome, Terri!

  • Jeane says:

    This is some of the most common sense and realistic emergency prep for those of us who do not have a Jeep filled with everything needed to set up a compound in the mountains. While I’m pretty well set up for sheltering-in-place, you’ve pointed out areas I could add to. Thanks!

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks so much, Jeane! We try to keep a pretty level head about preparedness and not sensationalize things. I’m glad to hear you’re set up and also found a few areas for improvement!

  • […] Bugging In: What to Do When Bugging Out Is NOT An Option […]

  • Heather Middaugh says:

    Any bug out bag lists that are specific basics of people whom live on the coasts?

  • […] Bugging In: What to Do When Bugging Out Is NOT An Option […]

  • Vic says:

    Interesting discussion about waste (human type). To emphasize it is a serious topic.

    Cannot say today how units are configured but for a very long time one Officer in Company was assigned as Vector Control Officer.. (That meant dealing with bugs , potential health hazards to the men) His other job… An Officer was required in the field to supervise the burning of human waste..
    On the move you just shit and get if possible you tossed dirt on it maybe kicked a little trench first. (in front of your friends of course. While privacy may be nice wandering off into the weeds is good way of never returning)
    If we were ever in one place for a time a truck brought cut down into a third size 55gal steel drums and an wooden box with holes cut for seats that was over it.. They would put some diesel fuel in there.. when it got full we would move the wooden box.. Toss in some Mogas (regular gasoline) and light the thing.. Think about this the Army takes this serious enough to require an Officer supervise the burning of the shit. (Never got that job fortunately) in any case Why would they be so serious? Well I did have the occasion to be one of the 6 out of maybe 300 in an area who did not get dysentery in the field. Limited facilities and nearly everyone with Montezuma’s Revenge, pretty much unable to care for themselves…..A fun time was had by all..

    The reason I tell this .. Figure it all out now and maybe even test your protocols, Be crazy crazy obsessed about hygiene, clean food, clean water and sanitation. When you wash your hands.. wash your hands… you get my drift …
    It will pay off.

    Lots of Lucks..

    • David Lee says:

      In Vietnam Poop burning was a daily event. Just don’t get down wind. Having a bag of powdered lime helps.

  • Brian Symons says:

    Mosquito Click, Mossie Zap
    A worthwhile small inexpensive addition to your bag & first aid kit is the small Mosquito Click or Mossie Zap devices.
    Available under various similar names for just a few dollars on eBay from China with free shipping, these devices give a small electric zap when you puch the button using a similar system to the piezo gas ignitors. We have found the cheapa ones seem to work as well as expensive ones so you may as well save your moner & just buy a few extra in case of a failure.
    You just click on & around any bite from mosquitos, midges (sand flies), leaches etc or even rashes from disease etc, & it reduces the inflamation (stops the histamine reaction) & stops the itching.
    My wife can literally tear her skin with itching from bites but she doesn’t have a major problem since we found these several years ago.
    We have them in her bag, the car glove box, car first aid kit, all our travel bags … They are so small & cheap there is no reason to just have one.

  • Brian Symons says:

    Max Axe, Max Multipurpose Tool

    If you want a strong fairly large tool for cutting, digging etc there is the Max Multipurpose Tool also called the Max Axe.
    This is an axe with a soket on the flat end to take extra tool bits.
    It is an axe, shovel, pick, rake, hoe (actually fireman style Rake Hoe), mattock … all in one.
    There is a civilian red & yellow version or military green type. It is used by the US military & various government agencies.
    Not cheap, sometimes you can get them with reasonable shipping on eBay too.
    There also appears to be a Chinese copy being made.

    While not as good as individual tools, The Max Axe is a lot smaller & lighter & comes with a carry case to carry all the extra parts.

    I have also recently found a 3 in one shovel used for 4wd users.
    This has a full size head with a shorter fibreglass handle with a metal threaded socket on the end. You can screw a standard spde handle on to it & have a spade, or an extra straight length & have a full size shovel. Very neat & very usefull for digging a vehicle from a bog or for “domestic” duties. Sometimes a spade is handy but othertimes a full shovel will save your back & energy so having both is a bonus.

    Of course, the old favorite, the folding military entrenching tool, etool or miniature shovel is also usefull especially if you are bugging out. You can get them with just a shovel end or a shovel & pick, & they come with just the end folding over or completely folding in three. Canvas or plastic covers are available for just the shovel end or for the complete tool to protect your pack & gear & various attachment sytems allow them to be fitted properly to any pack.
    I suggest a proper military version or one from a major recognised brand such as Gerber because there are numerous cheap chinese copies, but you may find anything is better than nothing. Again just do a good eBay search.


    • seminolerick says:

      The “Max” kit nears $300…butt…you can buy pieces of the kit , 1 at a time to soften the financial crush

  • Bill says:

    You want a good “unread book”, how about the Bible? If you’ve got little kids, stock Bible Story books. There’s something you can read out loud, a chapter at a time!

    • Andrew says:

      True words, Bill! Thanks for commenting and for the great suggestion!

  • Jay Parr says:

    Again, great advice. We usually critique our situations following any outage, short or long term as related to snow/ice or hurricane situations. We keep a running list of things to update to better prepare for the next time…and you know there will be a next time. Good luck to those not prepared!

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks, Jay! That’s a great strategy. We’re very rarely if ever going to have all our ducks in a row the first time. Constant tinkering and improving is the way to go to ensure a better experience the next time around.

    • Seminolerick says:

      Have secondary & tertiary backup methods for H2O purification, fire starting, and family protection. Don’t let 1 failure be your demise !

  • Uncle George says:

    A buried cache in the yard is a good idea. Let’s face it, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and looters do not hang around very long, and you can come back and get your supplies.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, George. I certainly wouldn’t put ALL your eggs in that one basket, but having access to several similar hidden caches could be a lifesaver in times of emergency.

  • Peggy Mitchell says:

    We are prepared to stay where we are especially in the beginning of an event.easier to defend what we know

  • Wes says:

    Great article! Lots of good information. One thing I don’t hear a lot of, is what to do with those bags of waste? What is the best way to dispose of in a long-term SHTF moment. Thanks for what you do!

    • Andrew says:

      Hey, Wes. I’m not too versed in this area, but maybe Jim will see your comment and weigh in. I have heard that some people will compost their human waste…but again, I’m not a expert on pooh by any means. 😉 Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words!

    • Seminolerick says:

      I have a well as 1 of my backup H20 sources. Burying waste would probably contaminate it. I am looking into composting toilets. A tad expensive so far, but perhaps a good long term investment.

    • Jesse says:

      In the Pacific NW, we’re mostly focused on the Cascadia subductive earthquakes. We recommend that people set up a pit for wet waste, and one for dry. Wet is sterile, but dry is best covered with a layer of saw dust or ash after each use. A cup or two is what we recommend.

  • Mark Cooley says:

    Sound advice, especially for novices and older people. I am 65 now and can’t do anything as well as I once could. I have moved through the years from a bug out mentality to one more akin to bunkering in. I still maintain a well stocked and current BOB but will stay put unless driven away from my supplies.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Mark. Let’s hope you won’t have to do either anytime soon!

  • I am glad someone brought this up. Because I have buried 300 gallons of water with in 200 yards of the house and I do not want to go to far from the house. Thanks