One of the biggest debates in preparedness is the bug out or bug in question. The question can’t be answered in a definite way because every situation is different, and everyone’s personal environment is specific to them. Where I have difficulty though are the absolutists on either end.
First, not every situation requires a full on, “head for the hills” response. It’s hard to know at the beginning of any incident or unrest how it will unfold, and there are so many variables that you can’t just say, “I’m bugging out no matter what.” Some factors to consider are: are you urban (then yes) or rural (then no), or somewhere in between (it depends). Your circumstances and living situation have to be considered, and it’s a decision only you can make. Gather the information and make an informed decision QUICKLY.
A lot of people think that bugging out means a grand adventure living out of your ruck. The truth is, it will SUCK, and you’ll always be struggling that way. You’ll be wet, uncomfortable, and cranky.
Second, the flip side is no better. These are the “I’m bugging in, no matter what happens crowd”. I get this, because my personal bug out location has been in our family for generations, and I wouldn’t want to leave.
An important note is one I make in my first book: You can only bug in as long as it is feasible. Remember our ultimate goal: SURVIVAL. You dying in a vain defense of your family home serves no purpose. Being completely inflexible does no one any good.
The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
A middle of the road solution is best. Have a plan to bug out temporarily, even if you plan on coming back. Let me explain.
If your plan is to leave your urban home and go to your cabin in the woods, you generally plan on remaining there and defending it, right? You start getting reports of strange people around, walking the roads. A few small groups have been seen camping in the woods. They have maps and binoculars. You and a few others decide to launch a patrol to see what’s out there, and you find a camp where these groups are all meeting. There are armed folks there, and they look sketchy. A few days later, reports begin to come in of isolated farms and houses being attacked. Then, they are heading your way. It’s just you and 3 others, against 30-35.
What’s better: Hiding our supplies in pre-planned caches and bugging out to a pre-planned hidden camp nearby, or trying to fight off a well-armed and organized gang? When they get to your house and find a “stash” of limited supplies that you left for them to find (your near dated stuff), they are likely to leave almost immediately over fear of others coming along to do the same thing to them. These are ideas found in TW-03 Defensive Operations.
Because of normalcy bias, most people tend to wait too long to take action. If you live in an urban area, make no mistake, bugging out is the best option. If your area suffered a 2002 level power outage (1/4 the US), you have a choice. You can wait and see if the power comes back on in a day or two or leave immediately and go to a pre-planned place. For me, I would immediately leave and go to the cabin, or a friend’s place. If the power comes back on, no worries – you can just come back.
On the other side of that coin, if I stayed in town 3 days and the power outage simply spread with no hints of it coming back on, I may no longer be able to leave, because of unrest or traffic jams from others trying to leave. It’s best to leave early and come back if things improve. This is the same with things like hurricanes or floods.
I talk a lot about having outdoor skills, but that’s not because I want to live out of my backpack for the next 10 years. I do want to be able to move on foot from one place to another, carrying what I need. I do want to be able to conduct a 3- or 4-day local security patrol to help keep my neighbors and family secure. I do want to have the ability, like our pioneer ancestors, to grab my stuff and go live in the woods for a few days until the savages have moved on from their raids. (Note: savages refers to French-Canadien raiders like Ya Arctic Boi).
Some of the feedback I get on Amazon is people saying, “But I don’t need these skills, I plan on staying in my house and I’m not fighting”. Listen, if the folks 3 towns over decide you are having a fight, you had better have the ability to resist them and change their thinking. You also need the skills to leave quickly and live out of a ruck for a few days to AVOID having to fight when evil visits. In a WROL situation, there is no calling the Sheriff.
You have to ultimately devise your own plan, but don’t be so rigid in its implementation that you don’t have room to alter it. No plan survives contact, and the ultimate goal is survival.
The bugging in idea is particularly strong in rural areas and I agree completely. However, on day 36 of the Collapse or whatever you call it, someone is going look over a map. They are going to agree that your place has easy access to water, arable land for growing food, and good access to wildlife for fishing and hunting. Once they do that, they’re going to head your way.
Yes, I know. Every person who lives rural will tell you all about their plan to defend their land, and me & my people are the same way. But if 150 looters come, my 20-30 neighbors and I are better served hiding what we can of our supplies and taking to the hills than we are dying in a glorious firefight. Choosing to engage on your own terms isn’t cowardice – it’s how the Viet Cong and the Taliban fought off the US military.
Better yet, by learning good outdoor and scouting skills (read TW-04 Scouting and Patrolling), we can take the fight to those 150 looters. We can get on their approach route and conduct a few small ambushes and set up some obstacles before they arrive. Bad guys like easy targets. If they’ve lost 30-35 guys on the road to your place, they could be convinced to seek entertainment elsewhere.
If they don’t take the hint and end up taking your place, take some advice from my friend Clay Martin’s Wrath of the Wendigo and “Be the Reason the Forest is Haunted”. If that group of looters camped out on your property loses 2-3 people each night, they will quickly decide to move on. The important thing is that you train for this NOW. There is no ‘on the job’ training. Clay Martin, NC Scout, Von Steuben Training, and many others offer courses on this.
Another course to look for now: Wilderness First Aid. Most first aid courses are designed for urban or suburban areas where an ambulance arrives within 30 minutes or less. You need more advanced skills.
These things don’t just matter in a full collapse, as my buddy Don Shift pointed out on Twitter the other day. Know where you can go stay if a hurricane or flood is coming to your area. Knowing ahead of time which friend can take you in is helpful. No amount of bugging in will save you in a flood or a hurricane, nor will just bugging out to a tent. Have a solid and well-thought-out plan.
A side note to all this is for the people who insist on only using primitive gear. Listen, I know how to start a fire with flint and steel, but I assure you that if Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett had access to a Bic lighter, they’d have used a Bic. Know how to do things old school but use whatever force multipliers you have. Use lighters until there are no more lighters. Simple. Use a rifle until you run out of ammo, then fix bayonets. Okay, I may have gotten carried away there (or did I?).
So, to recap, there is no hard and fast rule on bugging out versus bugging in. You have to decide for you and your people but decide ahead of time on what your triggers are for your plan. Remain flexible. Learn the skills to do both, in the hope that you never have to use them.
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13 thoughts on “Should I Stay or Should I go?”
Excellent points. I have no argument against them! 😉
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You actually said “run out of ammo”…
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Another excellent exercise to ask one’s self.
(imo) there are alot of folks …”in our sphere”that “Think” ..they are ready to GO.
But very few who are capable of it and Sustaining …Survival and Action(s).
To include Myself.
….God forbid being actively…pursued.
Stress/Shock (Inoculation) …of the Reality of the moment(s).
Seems like the kind of place/moments..Murphy, would do Very well.
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I have two points to make here.
The first is that there is an overall attitude of pacifism in the prepardness movement, patriot movement, MAGA movement, etc. I know it’s a lot of overlap, but there is still a huge element of that mentality. It is pushed and pushed hard by many in the grassroots media, primarily because their podcasts and businesses (Jones, Adams, Timcast, etc) are based off of hot air and they will never cross a line that threatens their wallet. See Mike Adams in particular now advocating that people in WA buy bolt carriers that convert their M4s into single shot, non cycling rifles. This after advocating people destroy their AR15 pistols.
The reason I bring that up is because whether you stay, or whether you go, you have a high probability that you are going to have to PHYSICALLY fight. It’s not just words and tweets and “information.” That means, no more of this pacifist nonsense.
The second point is that it’s really a 50/50 judgment call. You might be better off being highly mobile, or you might be better off hunkering down for a short period of time. Having friends and safe houses is probably a better bet. You going to go to a FEMA center like Don Shift advocated for? I’m not. Oh, in these type of situations, DO NOT TRUST LAW ENFORCEMENT. I’ll even throw in this dirty trick.. if you’re going to leave supplies behind, and you know, vale tudo in a real fight.. it’d be a shame is there were foreign chemicals in the food you left behind for the enemy raiding party.
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This is all true. And you probably saw me publicly disagree with Don on that one. No FEMA for me.
I ruck to be able to get out on foot and for the obvious fitness reasons.
But while waking my dog, I saw a guy on a bike and it occurred to me that I could get a whole lot farther, faster using one. On my list to plan to…
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Yes. They make good trailers for them too. But, there are places you can go on foot that you can’t on a bike.
I think you have produced an excellent essay here on the subject and carried it out to some worthwhile considerations about the likelihood of armed rural land pirates roaming and raiding the countryside. I am reminded of Danmorgan76’s unfinished “The Patrol” novel that was building toward a confrontation with such a group.
I would like to broaden the discussion in this area since you and Dmorgan have both estimated a similar composition, (I believe) and numbers. Let me suggest we call 15 or so up to 40 being a medium sized group and over that being large. While you may well be exactly right in your projections here, I have a few thoughts I would like to throw out there. In the area of composition, I see a distinction between the urban dweller raiders leaving the reservations looking for sustainment and loot and the rural land pirates who are doing the same thing, but who originated in the rural areas instead of migrating from the cities. I think the urban sourced raiders will be racially motivated at first and will possibly operate in the numbers you suggest or even much more, at least initially. On the other hand, I have a hard time envisioning the rural land pirates expanding in numbers to medium group status, and some serious doubts they can get to or stay in the large group category at all. I see the RLP groups being composed of societal dregs for the most part, who will have the same approach to survival that they utilized in peacetime life, which is taking the easy way out and expending as little effort as possible. The problems they will have in conducting this type of survival strategy are many and they are only amplified by adding more headcount to the group. These types come from a low trust world and the activity they are engaged in suggests to me that their numbers will decline over time from whatever they started with rather than the other way around. The logistics of distributing weapons, ammo, food, loot, and anything else of value they come to possess will require sound decision making and leadership. These are qualities most likely to be lacking in most off them. I think logistical problems, battle attrition, and difficult group dynamics over leadership and division of spoils, abandoning wounded, etc will keep the headcount of such groups under 20 for the most part and make them much less capable in the long run.
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Good points. This is why even rural folks need to be plugged into local news and intel gathering. You should already know exactly who you RLP’s will be.