It is a romantic notion. The SHTF you grab your family and your bugout bag and you hit the road. Living off of the land until it all blows over…or not. You don’t care, because you prepared and you can live off of the land, right? Well, maybe. Let’s think this whole thing through for a minute. It may be better to just hunker down and shelter in place.
You should definitely have a bugout plan. A place to go in case it all goes bad. But how do you know that it’s “that bad?”. If you live in an area that is prone to flooding and you bugout every time it rains, you are going to run through your resources pretty quickly. Not to mention the strain you will put on your family dynamic. Honestly, I know my wife wouldn’t put up with it.
Why are you bugging out?
Bugging out should be a last resort. That’s right. I said it. On a survival website. You should only bugout if it is absolutely necessary. When is it absolutely necessary? When Law Enforcement instructs you to do so or you and your family are in imminent danger. Other than that, it is really better to hunker down and shelter in place. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why:
Where are you going to bug out to?
Unless you have a plot of land in the country or have made arrangements with a friend or member of your family, where are you going to go? I lived in Arkansas many years ago. I used to love to go camping at this little park outside of the city called Lake Sylvia. It was close enough to town, there were rustic sites as well as full hookups and a nice bathhouse facility. When Hurricane Katrina hit and all of the people from the gulf coast evacuated, Lake Sylvia became a refugee camp. Your local state park will likely be the same in a real emergency situation.
If you think every other weekend-camper doesn’t have this idea in the back of their head, you are wrong. The people will come in droves. If everyone hunts for food, the wildlife population will be depleted in days. Tempers will flare due to the stress of the situation. The camps will be too great of a temptation for the opportunistic criminals who will see them as an unguarded buffet for their thieving pleasure. Everyone will be under suspicion because you will all be strangers.
It may be a better idea to hunker down in your own house. It is more secure than a tent or a camper. You are familiar with the lay of the land. You already have a good idea of how to protect it and you know who your neighbors are. Neighbors will watch out for each other in the time of a crisis much more than strangers will.
How are you going to get there?
Depending on the situation, you may have time to leave ahead of everyone else, like in the case of a hurricane. With a Hurricane, you could have several days notice if you keep your eyes and ears open to the weather radio. Train derailments, earthquakes, tornados gas line ruptures and other events natural and man-made that could cause an evacuation, happen quickly.
Mass evacuations can get messy. The roads out of town get clogged because people aren’t as prepared as you. They run out of gas or break down or get freaked out and allow adrenaline to take over and cause an accident. Sure, there are other routes out of town, but how will you know which ones are still open and moving. Even with the best bug-out vehicle, you could still wind up a sitting duck. If the situation worsens and hours on the road turn into days, others stuck in traffic will see you have a load of supplies, you may as well be a food truck. As hunger sets in, people without food will be begging for food from people who do. Will you be able to turn the mother and her 2-year-old toddler away? How about the guy with the .45 pointed at your 9-year-old? Desperate times bring out desperate people.
How long are you going to stay?
Be a realist for a minute. Look at your bugout gear. How long can you last? Three days? Four? Maybe longer if you have a dedicated property or underground shelter off-site stocked for the occasion. The average survivalist doesn’t. You try to pack light, but by the time you gather all of your guns and ammo and food and water and flashlights and teddy bears that can’t stay behind the weight will add up quickly.
Speaking of teddy bears, how about your kids? Are they going to be able to keep up in a bugout situation? They will be scared and confused and not able to walk as fast as you. You will have one more load to carry. If you have kids, home may be a better option unless absolutely necessary. What do you do when supplies are gone and the danger isn’t? Your home is better stocked for long term survival than any bugout bag. Home is much more comfortable, too. Even if the power is out and you have to huddle in the living room for warmth, at least, you have a comfortable shelter and are able to be better rested than fighting the elements and sleeping on a rock. And rested survivalists are better survivalists.
The whole basis for being a “survivalist” or a “prepper”, or whatever anyone wants to call us is that we want to survive in an emergency situation. One of the best ways to survive any situation is to not put yourself or your family in harm’s way in the first place. Bugout gear is great. Putting together a plan of action for all possible situations is smart. Knowing when to bugout vs. hunker down is wise.