Some people might consider a bug-out bag and a 72-hour kit as essentially the same thing. For the purposes of this article, we will consider them as two separate kits. The 72-hour kit is more of a “stay at home and ride out the short-term disaster” kit, while the bug-out bag described below is more of a “grab and go” kit.
The very idea of leaving the security of your home to “bug out” to the woods has never set well with me.
In nearly every instance, it is better to hunker down or “bug in” than to bug out. Why leave the safety and familiar surroundings of your home for the open and unforgiving wilderness? For many people, fleeing is their first line of preparation against disaster.
Unfortunately, most will end up joining the multitude of other refugees freezing in a cave; dying from exposure, starvation, or violence at the hands of the mob; or becoming wards of whatever government entity is still functioning.
I live in a fairly safe area and have prepared to survive at home. I can conceive of only a few scenarios that would force me to leave. Even then, I would go to the house of an out-of-state relative with whom I have an agreement: if need be, he can come to my place or I can go to his after a disaster.
I know what you’re thinking: what about an “end of the world as we know it” type of event? Well, if such an event does take place, there will be no 100 percent safe place for most of us anyway, and do you really think you would be better off trying to hide in the open wilderness than hunkering down at home?
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying you should never bug out; you should keep all options open because you never know what you’re going to have to do to survive until the time comes to make that decision.
What I am saying is that there are better ways to survive most disasters than heading into the bush. You need to weigh the risks of bugging out vs. hunkering down and make your final decision based on logic and type of threat.
That’s the way decisions should be made. Unfortunately, when making survival decisions, many people rely on emotion (to run and hide) rather than more tried-and-true logic. Relying on emotion instead of logic can make for some interesting adventures.
However, without sound planning, those adventures are likely to be short-lived. For example, I recently asked a fellow in his late 30s what he would do if disaster struck his area. He thought for a moment and said he would gather his family and all the food, guns, and ammunition he could find and head for the mountains that lie some 75 miles north of his home.
Depending on the type of disaster, his “plan” might work short-term for a lone survivor or a small group of individuals in good physical condition and equipped with proper gear and mindset. But he is the father of a newborn, and his wife thinks missing an appointment at the nail salon is the end of the world as she knows it.
Making matters worse, the young father has no outdoor survival training or skills other than watching reruns of Les Stroud’s Survivorman television show and camping at a national park campground with all the utilities and hookups provided.
Why he thinks he can survive in the wilderness while dragging his young family along, I don’t know. He isn’t thinking logically, and if he ever has to put his plan to the test during a real emergency, his family will likely suffer or possibly even die.
Unfortunately, this “Batman in the boondocks” mentality will continue to be the chosen survival plan for many who haven’t thought survival through logically and come up with a realistic plan.
When making survival plans for your family, you have to honestly weigh the risks of your decision based on logic. In almost every disaster scenario, it is better to stay put (bugging in) or head to a prearranged safe place at an out-of-town relative’s or friend’s house than it is to head to the woods to eat twigs and pine bark.
Therefore, for most people, an evacuation bag is a better choice than a bug-out bag. An evacuation bag should contain the gear necessary to get you from point A to point B, whereas a bug-out bag (in most cases) is geared more toward wilderness survival. I have both, but admittedly my bug-out bag is an option of last resort. Knowing when to go is much more important than the contents of your survival pack or even where you will go.
You don’t want to jump and run before you need to, but if you wait too long you may never reach your destination. If you wait for the authorities to give the order to evacuate, it may already be too late.
The roads leading to safety could be blocked or impassable by motor vehicle, and walking to your destination may be impossible or too dangerous to attempt. On the other hand, if you jump and run in response to every potential disaster, you’ll soon deplete your resources and the patience of your family, school, and employers.
For example, say you live in an area prone to tornadoes, like Texas, and you evacuate to Arkansas (which has also suffered its share of killer tornados over the years) every time the clouds turn dark or the wind shakes the leaves.
You would be on the road nonstop during tornado season—which seems to be most of the time in Texas. But waiting until the twister is at your door will also put you at an unnecessary risk. There are no easy answers.
All you can do is weigh the dangers of bugging out vs. hunkering down logically based on the situation at hand. You have to consider the nature of the threat and ask yourself which option gives you the better chance of surviving the type of disaster you are facing.
Of course, there are times when evacuation is a no-brainer. Say, for example, you live on the Florida coast and a category 5 hurricane has been predicted to hit your area within 72 hours.
In that case, you would be foolish not to go as soon as possible, even if you have no prearranged bug-out location. On the other hand, let’s say there is a snowstorm heading your way and you have food, water, heat, and a way to cook even if the power goes out for an extended time.
Then you are probably better off to hunker down where you are. In my opinion, the bugging out vs. hunkering down debate is moot because it all comes down to the type of threat you face, your personal situation, and your preparedness level. In the end, you’ll have to decide what to do on a case-by-case basis.
Survival Go Bag Checklist
Please note that the following list is intended only as a suggestion. Your bug-out bag should be customized to suit your
individual needs, plans, and location.
- ❏ Antibacterial hand wipes
- ❏ Cash—$100 in ones, fives, and tens
- ❏ Cell phone and charger
- ❏ Change of clothes
- ❏ First aid tactical trauma kit
- ❏ Fishing kit
- ❏ Fixed-blade knife (the linked to knife is the best survival knife available in my opinion)
- ❏ GPS navigator (handheld)
- ❏ Handgun and 200+ rounds of ammunition
- ❏ LED flashlight (small) with extra batteries, as well as a crank-type flashlight that doesn’t require batteries
- ❏ Lighters – two
- ❏ Map of area and compass
- ❏ Multitool (the one linked to is the best multi-tool available in my opinion)
- ❏ OC spray
- ❏ Paracord, 25 feet
- ❏ Prepaid calling card
- ❏ Prescription medications, as needed
- ❏ Sewing kit (small)
- ❏ Space blanket
❏ Sterno folding stove (less than $15 on Amazon)
- ❏ Trail mix, a box of energy bars (15), and electrolyte packets
- ❏ Wooden matches in a waterproof container
- ❏ Water filter or bottle
Special Considerations For Children
In stressful situations, it is important for you to appear relaxed, confident, and in control—even if you are a trembling bag of nerves on the inside. The last thing children need is extra stress brought on by a panicked parent. Another consideration concerning children is familiarity.
During a bug-out situation, you will be away from home, and this can be extremely stressful for children. It is important to eliminate as much of the stress as possible. One way to do this is by bringing along items that are familiar to them. If they have a favorite blanket, pillow, stuffed toy, or other objects that comfort them, be sure to pack it before heading out the door.
This is very important. Children tend to bore easily, so adding items to forestall or extinguish their boredom will make the time away from home much easier for all of you. You may want to put together a pack just for them consisting of toys, books, cards, writing/drawing materials, and games.
Don’t forget extra batteries for those games and toys that need them. Of course, children aren’t the only ones who get bored; include things that will keep your boredom in check as well.