What Does it Mean to 'Bug Out'?

To leave a dangerous place in favor of some place safer. 'Strategic Relocation' is the term used by Joel Skousen (see below), a noted expert in the field of survival and secure home/retreat-building. It's just another way of saying 'escape' or 'evacuate'. There are two types of bugout:

1. Emergency: Trouble erupts suddenly (disaster, attack, 'Red Dawn', EMP, sudden dollar collapse, nuke ...) and there is no time to plan anything, so you grab your BOB (Bug Out Bag/Backpack) and depart now. This urgent evacuation I will refer to as a 'Bug Out'.

2. Pre-planned: You see the signs of trouble months, even years before it gets really ugly and decide you want to be someplace else before it becomes difficult or impossible to leave (or live). This pre-planned 'departure' I will call 'Strategic Relocation'. Both types of escape can be called 'strategic', but you are much more able to be strategic when you have time to plan. This web site deals with both types of bugout.

Let's look at the Emergency example first.

Example 1. You're living in (or visiting) New Orleans, Louisiana, and a category 5 hurricane, like Katrina, is swirling in the warm water of the Gulf, and it is expected to hit land in one or two days. You board up your windows, grab your survival gear and leave town - you Bug Out. With so little time, you have to prepare for this kind of bugout in advance.

Example 2. You live in Wichita, Kansas, and you see a huge tornado heading your way. You grab your BOB (Bug Out Bag/Backpack), get in your car and leave town - you Bug Out. No need (or time) to board up the windows. If your house is hit, it may be gone when you return. Again, no time to make preparations, you grab your stuff and escape.

Example 3. You live in Los angeles, California and experience an 8.5 level earthquake. When the shaking stops, you have no power, no water and your house is ruins. Streets are full of fallen debris, so you can't drive, so you pack your survival gear on your mountain bike and ride out of town - you Bug Out. In this example, your bike is your BOV (Bug Out Vehicle).

Bug Out means to evacuate a dangerous place and go to a safer place. It is also called G.O.O.D - Get Out Of Dodge [here, Dodge probably means Dodge City, not your Dodge pickup.] It's the same as Bug Out - get out of town.

Note that in all three examples, you have a bag or backpack prepared in advance which contains essentials for survival. This BOB - Bug Out Bag/Backpack - is of extreme importance and will be given much attention at this web site, starting here. If you bugout early enough, you can probably drive to your shelter with a lot more than your BOB. The emphasis at this web site is not gear or gadgets, but rather planning and skills.

Why Bug Out?

Very simply, to avoid extreme hardship or death or both. Note that in Example 1 and 2 above, the disaster is coming, but in Example 3 it has already happened (earthquake). You may want to bug out anyway, because the earthquake has created another dangerous situation which may threaten your safety or life: no water, limited food, no power, house unlivable, possible gas leaks and danger of fire and explosion. In Examples 1 and 2, you may return to find that you have no house, and so may opt to remain bugged out elsewhere.

The main characteristic of the 'emergency' type of situation is the lack of time to plan and carry out that plan. For this reason, it is absolutely critical that you plan now and prepare for these situations, by having a plan and a bugout bag. There simply won't be time to do anything but escape (bug out) when these situations occur, so have your plan ready and your gear packed.

How Do I Bug Out? - Bug Out Plan A

Have a plan! This web site is dedicated to helping you prepare for hard times, disaster and worse. Bugging out successfully is not simply a matter of accumulating a bag of gear and food and then leaving town with it. Your bug out plan must consider the following:

1. What kind of hardship/disaster am I preparing for? (see SHTF or TEOTWAWKI and BOB/Defense, Who is the Enemy and Survival Retreat)
2. Where can I go which will be safer? (see Survival Retreat and Where Can I Bug Out?
3. How will I get myself and my gear to a safer place? (see Bug Out Vehicle)
4. What will I need to take with me? (see What Do I Need? and Bug Out Backpack)
5. What time period am I planning for... how long do I plan to remain bugged out? (see FAQ)
6. What will signal to me that I can return? (see FAQ)
7. Whom can I count on to bug out with me? (see FAQ)
8. What is my plan if I can't return? (see FAQ)
9. I have a good BOB, but I've never used most of the stuff in it. (see Bug Out Events)
10. Are there any good books or web sites about this stuff? (see Resources)
11. Should I make a shelter someplace where I can bug out to? (see Survival Retreat)
12. What if someone takes my vehicle, my gear or my retreat? see Bury Extra Gear and Plan B
13. What do I do if my Plan A fails? (see Plan B and Bury Extra Gear)

Second example: Pre-Planned Strategic Relocation

This is a huge subject, dealt with specifically at my other web site at SurvivalRetreatPlans.com. The main idea here is to prepare long in advance of trouble, because the signs of trouble have been obvious to some of us for a long time. The main characteristic of this approach is that you have time to plan, strategize, prepare, gather your gear, make a safe shelter and be ready, possibly even move to your retreat in advance of disaster.

It is probable that survival in and around cities and towns will be difficult or impossible, so a safer shelter is required in another location. To prepare such a safe shelter is a major undertaking and worthy of considerable planning and research, and hence the separate web site dealing with strategic relocation to a survival retreat. Yes, it is a type of bugout, but the amount of preparation and work involved warrants dealing with it at another web site.

Technically, you bug out to a survival retreat (or other safe shelter), so they are two different but related aspects of survival. If you have no survival retreat or shelter to bugout to, you will be looking for natural shelters, like caves, overhangs, forests or other places where you can either use existing protection or make something from local resources. It is imperative that you do NOT rob others of their shelter and resources, and thereby become the very type of person against whom you have been preparing: looters and thieves.

If you made no plan to team up with friends, trying to make new friends when you and they are desperate is risky, but not impossible. Groups are safer than individuals and couples, but make sure you can trust members of your group. You are safer alone than in the company of people you can't trust. Make alliances cautiously, and preferably before an emergency.

To summarize the difference between a bugout and a strategic relocation, to bugout means to deal immediately with a threat to your safety by evacuating a place of danger and going to a safer place, with enough gear and supplies (limited to what you can stuff in your vehicle or carry and possibly run with) to last a short time; a strategic relocation is a planned and executed departure from a place that looks like it will become and/or is becoming more dangerous to a place you have specifically prepared to shelter and sustain you for the forseeable future, possibly for longer.

See the topic Prepper or Survivalist for the different approaches to strategic relocation. Some people feel comfortable bugging out with a fanny pack full of gear, whereas others consider a backpack the bare minimum required. Similarly, those opting for strategic relocation - the 'preppers' and 'survivalists' - have quite different approaches to what they foresee happening.

What This Web Site Offers

This web site deals with things I know well, not from reading what others say but from personal experience. This web site cannot replace a handfull of excellent books on disaster preparedness, written by people with experience. It also cannot do your planning for you. It does have a lot of information gained from my own experience and study which will help you in your planning and preparations. You will also find a list of resources, like books and web sites, which I found useful, where you can find additional information.

Books are written by people with various skills and experience. In one area of preparedness I consider all books (that I have seen) lacking: food. They almost unanimously give terrible advice on what to eat and what food to carry and store. I have a lot to say about food, from many years of experience, so this web site can help you on that where books, I believe, have failed miserably. See BOB/Food

This web site also hosts events which are open to the public. If you are in or near Arizona, you may like to participate in a Bug Out. Here's why:

Most preppers (as they are called) have collected a pile of gear, dried food, clothes and survival stuff in their own version of a BOB (Bug Out Bag/Backpack), but few have ever actually put that collection of things to a test in a realistic situation. Setting up a tent in the living room is not the same as in the bush. Does that crank radio/flashlight really work? Is that food really edible? Does my tent smell like plastic and give me a headache? Can I carry all this stuff comfortable for hours? What if it's raining? Is an MRE good food?

So, a Bug Out Event is simply a practice Bug Out - to make sure preppers are familiar with their gear and to swap information with other preppers. What I want to offer is a 'trial run' to make sure all goes reasonably well, if and when you actually have to bug out. That is not the time to discover that you don't know how to use your water filter, or that your batteries are dead or are the wrong type, or you forgot your matches, tent stakes, rope, compass, band-aids or whatever. See BugOut Event for details.

Joel M. Skousen is a political scientist by training, and a political commentator, non-fiction survivlaist author, and retreat consultant who specializes in preparedness topics, particularly survival retreat and fallout shelter design and construction, as well as in what he calls "strategic relocation." (from Wikipedia) Watch a video of Joel Skousen about WW3 and the dollar collapse at Video of the Week.

About Me

Who am I to talk about survival? I have some experience in disaster situations and have been teaching related subjects for many years. See About Me for more information.

I am also currently building and stocking a self-sufficient Survival Retreat of my own design in the desert. See www.SurvivalRetreatPlans.com for more information. Topics there include: Site Evaluation, Shelter/House, Water System, Heating, Cooling, Greywater, Security, Transport, etc.

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