BugOut Reality Check
You have surely tried many times to imagine what it will be like to bug out and stay out
- not return home - for an extended period, possibly never return. This is extremely useful, because you can
thereby form a picture of what it will be like on a daily basis, what gear you might need and other preparations
you might have to make. It is therefore important to get this 'picture' of a bugged-out lifestyle as clear as
possible. What will it be like? Perhaps like camping?
Actually, it won't be like a camping trip. When you go camping, you know that it will be a
temporary change of lifestyle, but you have a pretty good idea about what that is, you're mentally ready for
it, and you bring all the gear you need to make it an enjoyable experience. You also know that, if the
mosquitos and flies and chiggers and ticks become intolerable or the weather turns ugly, you can just pack your
stuff and drive to another location, or go back home. You always know that a hot shower or tub, a good meal and a
comfortable, warm bed are waiting for you. If you need more food, you know that it's just a drive to the nearest
grocery store to stock up again.
Bugging out is not like camping, not even like a long camping trip. Camping is a voluntary and
temporary break from your normal lifestyle for the purpose of relaxation, exploration, pleasure or all of the
above. Bugging out is also voluntary (like leaving a burning house), but usually in response to undesireable
circumstances which prompt you to evacuate a location of danger (actual or expected) and relocate to a place that's
safer, often for an unspecified length of time and possibly without the option of returning home soon or ever. In
other words, bugging out may force you to adopt a new lifestyle. This Bugout Reality Check is intended to
help you imagine what that new lifestyle is like, so you can better prepare for it, especially mentally, because it
is so different than camping.
The reality of living bugged out will probably be quite different than what you have imagined,
for several reasons: 1) Very few of us are 'reliably clairvoyant'. We might get a glimpse of the future
occasionally, but usually not on demand, so we really don't know what our future will look and feel like. 2) We
tend to favor certain 'crisis' scenarios over others, so our plans and preparations will also. 3) Having little
experience living as we will be living bugged out, we may not fully understand what our lifestyle and daily
experiences will be like. 4) We might tend to downplay the negatives and exaggerate the positives - we imagine a
world as we would like it to be, a world we feel confident we can deal with.
For example, I have been off the grid for over five years and have been living rough while preparing my survival
retreat in the desert. I have watched others come, stay for a short time and go from this area. During their stay,
they come face to face with the natural world, something they have not previously experienced with such intensity.
The summer heat (117 degrees is common) leaves some incapacitated, the biting gnats drive some crazy and others
indoors, and the frequent encounters with rattlesnakes, scorpions, aggressive honey bees and fire ants force many
to rethink their desire to continue their visit. What will they do when it is not a visit, but actually an
True, the desert presents some extreme 'encounters', but is there a place where nature is so mild and
non-invasive that one need not deal with anything more serious than some houseflies? Live in a place for a full
year, and you will have a better idea of what you have to deal with. However, some places I lived saw plagues of
grasshoppers - just like in the movies, billions of them eating everything green - and they don't come every year.
Juniper pollen some years is produced in such massive quantities that most people have alergic reactions, including
serious respiratory difficulties, and are hardly able to sleep. A year is often not enough to experience it
The point is that those who live in an air-conditioned world, dine out a lot and feel lost
without a cell phone, cable TV and pop tarts will face considerable adjustment difficulties when they are forced to
live close to nature and provide their own food and entertainment. The other day a tiny dog belonging to a couple
camping nearby was bitten by a few fire ants, couldn't breath or see, turned blue and nearly died. The husband
asked me for a .22 to shoot the dog. I told him to wait, the dog will probably recover from the ants, but it
won't recover from a head shot. The dog is now recovering. I asked the man whether he wanted me to shoot
him if he's ever bitten by fire ants, turns blue and has trouble breathing. Blank stare.
This brings up an important principle that I call 'Take care of business'. Here, I'm not
talking about money, I'm talking about being responsible for everything you need and all of your encounters with
others, including with animals. Out here in the bush, there are no police, no firemen, no doctors, ambulances or
hospitals and no AAA auto service. If you need the police, well you are the police - end of story. Deal with
it, whatever it is. You get sick or have an accident, you take care of it. A bear or a mountain lion or a burgler
in your house? Forget 911. The nearest sheriff is about two hours away, and there's no phone service anyway. So
what to do? Take care of business. Your only gun is far away in the house? Too bad, deal with it. Rattlesnake in
the shed? Take care of it. House on fire? Did you install a fire hose? Take care of it. Bitten by fire ants? Having
a heart attack? Deal with it. Your car's stuck in sand or snow or mud? Get yourself out. Be friendly and helpful to
neighbors - they are all you have.
Folks out here in the bush know that they have to take care of business, so most of them are prepared for the
above situations. Most have four-wheel-drive pickups and carry tow straps, jumper cables, shovel, tire pump and
some have a winch. Most or all have guns and know how to use them. Most will help you get your vehicle out of the
mud, sand or snow, if they happen to come by. Sailors and others in or on boats are morally bound to come to
the aid of others in distress. Breakdowns and accidents at sea can be and often are fatal, and they can happen to
anyone, so sailors are a sacrificing bunch. There is some of that in rural communities, probably more in
some areas than in others. Try to find a place where people are friendly.
When should I bug out? This may sound like a simple, straightforward question. But if you ask
around among preppers, you will get widely differing answers. For some, the time to bug out is just before
everyone panics, as if that 'moment' will even exist and one will know when it does. For others, the time to bug
out was twenty years ago. Reflect on what's happened in the last twenty years and notice how twisted and
corrupt our fedgov has become, totally controlled by greedy corporate mobsters. Can we really expect anything noble
from them, or even solutions to existing problems. That would be absurd, because it is they who
created most of the problems.
Ask yourself, "What am I waiting for?" Do you really enjoy the consumer society mess we have
been forced to accept? Do you trust your elected officials to do what's best for us, the people? Do you love your
job? Do you feel that you are making positive contributions to humanity? If you are answering 'yes' to these
questions, then you are indeed special, and you should probably continue with what you are doing. I believe there
are many people who could not answer 'yes' to any of those questions. The alternative, or at least one of them, is
to live elsewhere, away from the mess. Yes, there really is life outside the polluted and noisy, crime-ridden
cities, and many of us living out here can't understand why so many people still choose to suffer, crammed into
such tiny spaces with crowds of people. Perhaps they don't know any better. They don't know that they might learn
to like it here.
Let's assume that you plan to bug out before an economic collapse, where the dollar becomes worthless,
most people lose their jobs, many their homes, and stores are empty, their shelves having been cleaned out in the
first days of panic. You have prepared and stocked a 'survival retreat' in a rural or remote place that you feel
will keep you safe. The real question is: How will you know when to bug out? You're assuming that you will
be able to leave your city any time you want, but is that a safe assumption? Leave your home, yes, but leave the
city? Perhaps not. But it's a free country, right? Well, it used to be, but now TPTB have made a bunch of new laws
that give them the power to do pretty much anything they want with you, including arrest you without charge,
torture and kill you without due process, and yes, even keep you and everyone else prisoners in their city. Need
proof? Okay, look up The Patriot Act, NDAA (National Defense Administration Act) and the last several hundred
executive orders signed by the pres.
Look up 'Japanese Americans 1942' - 100,000 Americans born in the USA were forciby rounded up and put in
internment camps. Do some research and you might discover that a possible scenario involves TPTB sealing off all
cities, of course it's 'for our protection', we'll be told, when it's actually to make us easier to control.
Perhaps you already know about this, but you figure you will see the signs and get out early. And if there are no
signs or you miss them? What becomes of your Plan A when you get stuck inside your city? Most of your food and
supplies are at your retreat, and you can't get to them. Plan B should not include doing battle with the US Army,
because you will lose, and the whole point of prepping is survival.
The fact is, you may not be able to bug out to your retreat. We are frogs in a pot of
water getting hotter. TPTB are turning up the heat slowly so we don't panic and jump out. Wake up, Prepper, the
water is close to boiling. What possible good can you do remaining in a society of corporate-government-driven
consumerism and slavery? Make your retreat your new home, and get used to the idea that whatever you need,
you have to provide it - everything. No more Wal Marts and Trader Joes. The sooner you get out, the better
chance you will have of surviving the next pile of crap they shove at us. The point, after all, is to survive, and
in a city you are as good as dead meat, or a slave, take your pick.
What to pack? Obviously, you won't be taking all your consumer goodies with you - what would be
the point? Stay bugged out long enough and you'll be growing your own food and possibly fibers, like cotton,
preserving the surplus by drying and canning, making things you need from what's available. You probably won't have
much use for your huge plasma screen TV, microwave, lawn mower and many other unsustainable items This is a good
time to sell them (start with the mind-numbing TV) so you can buy things you will actually use, like hand saws,
flour mill, hand tools of all kinds and other low-tech things. In other words, instead of planning your escape
'just in time', escape now, and get your new lifestyle up-and-running, before everything collapses. That
way, the collapse will be far less disruptive of your lifestyle. Make the change before it is forced on you.
I know, it looks impossible. You might have a job in the city, and you are dependent on that job for the income
to do all your prepping. I'm not going to suggest that you quit your job, at least not immediately. I will
suggest that you explore a second income stream - a home business - preferably one that doesn't depend on you
staying in the city. If you are a prepper, you are probably intelligent and experienced enough to have more than
one skill that people will pay you for. Aim for a job that will survive the collapse. Perhaps you refinish cars -
great - but cars may not be running for long, and people tend to spend their limited money on necessities, not on a
new paint job. Can you build things or repair things? Those skills will always be needed, unless you can only
repair microwaves or TVs - probably no future in that.
If the thought of living without Wal Marts and Trader Joe's, Starbucks and McD's causes you
discomfort, you should probably not contemplate bugging out at all. If you still believe you need a
'consumer' lifestyle, then you will not find peace in a world where you have to be resourceful and create what you
"If I just buy enough stuff..." You do need to stock a lot of food, medical supplies and other things that are
difficult or impossible to find or fashion from available materials. However, sooner or later, your stocks will run
out - it's just a matter of time. So have a plan for when there isn't any rice or beans, no band-aids or butane
lighters. Things will also wear out, like clothes, shoes, tools, gloves. If you are wealthy, you could probably buy
enough of everything you will need until you die, including the warehouse you'll need to store all of it. I suppose
if I had that much money, I would try to stock a reasonable quantity of supplies. Most of the rest of us,
however, have limited resources and will eventually run out of things. As long as you still have some food, you may
resist the idea of growing your own, but eventually you will have to do something to create more food, so learn to
grow it. You'll need seeds.
There is a possibility that barter will replace currency, at least in the early stages after an
economic collapse. Having a surplus of things you can trade with others for things you need could save you from
starvation and/or discomfort and possibly from death, especially if you run out of ammo. Wal Mart (not my favorite
store) has a sale on school supplies every summer, and some of the items for sale are priced so low that I have
been tempted to buy more of them than I could ever use - I buy them for barter. One example is a spiral notebook of
lined paper, 70 sheets, for 17 cents. That's four pages for a penny. Paper in all forms could become scarce.
[Update: Wal Mart raised the price this year to 25 cents, but I found the same notebooks at Staples for 17 cents.]
Remember the movie Waterworld when Kevin Costner, the Mariner, is bartering with another sailor who has a
few sheets of printed paper - old magazine pages or such. He produces them from a container and smells them as if
they are roses in the desert. I don't know if we will ever behave that way about paper, but I'm stocking up
just in case, and by the case. That is, I buy a box of 24 notebooks at a time. I also buy sweatshirts, jackets,
sweaters and such at a local Goodwill thrift shop on one of their sale days (Thursday) - certain colored tags are
one dollar, regardless what the marked price is. I've gotten sleeping bags, comforters, blankets, sheets,
jeans and daypacks all for a dollar each. Storage space is becoming an issue! Note that they also have a half-price
sale every other Saturday, but half price is often a lot more than a dollar, so I go Thursday.
While I'm on the topic of storage space, and storage in general, I buy four-drawer filing
cabinets at thrift shops for $10 or $15 each, and $1 each on sale day. Why filing cabinets? 1) They are
steel, some thicker and more solid than others (military surplus the best). 2) They are big, strong and cheap - you
can't buy this much storage space for so little in any other form, and so strong. 3) They keep out mice and rats.
Some are even closed on the bottom, and the drawers on good ones fit so tight that a cockroach can't get in. 4) The
drawers are huge and roll on bearings and extension tracks, so the entire drawer comes out easily and stays there.
5) They are usually 52 inches high, so you can group them together and have level space on top of them. 6) Really
good ones have thumb latches on each drawer, and the best ones can lock all drawers. 7) The drawers hold a lot of
weight. They are made to hold many files full of papers, so imagine the weight of a drawer full of paper. 8) Each
drawer often still has the file racks and/or a drawer divider. The rack ends are 3/16" diameter steel rod, and the
flat file supports are about 3/8" wide steel bars. Both can be raw material for making tools, welding or other
steel projects. The divider can be pushed anywhere between the front and the back of the drawer to create two
spaces, or it can be removed. Do I love my ten steel filing cabinets? Absolutely. Note: They can be heavy. My
mil-surp cabinet weighs 155 lbs with drawers. It's the heaviest thing I have carried on my back a mile uphill to my
retreat. I know, I could have taken out the drawers. But then how could I, a 140-lb vegetarian senior citizen over
65, brag? Two and three drawer cabinets are also nice. There are two widths, one for letter size papers, another
for legal. Also, some are much deeper - front to back - than others. I screw MDF to the bottom of those not sealed
to keep mice out.
It may also be possible to produce (rather than buy and store) things that others need.
The obvious 'thing' that everyone will always need is food, so if you can produce a surplus, you might be able to
barter it for things you need but can't produce. One food, wheat, is a valuable crop that may grow in your area.
You can sow red winter wheat in the late summer or fall, just before a heavy rain, and if enough survives the
predations of birds, mice, deer and whatever else lives there, it could continue to re-seed itself year after year.
The heads will ripen the following spring. Garden and farm produce will always have value. I'm looking at other
kinds of plants that could survive in the wild, like cotton, flax, sunflowers, sesame, and so on - all have
valuable uses for people.
You might be a craftsman who can transform ordinary things, like wood, scrap metal, cans, rocks and bamboo into
useful things that others need and will barter for. There will probably be a lot of dead cars, just as there are
many now, and appliances, and if you can take out the alternator and cut the sheet metal body and make a wind
generator, or the tires and make sandals, you could set up a small business. If you have these skills, be sure to
have your tools with you and spare parts, blades, bits, etc.
Coming back to the days following 'D-Day' (D for Dachau, one of the Nazi concentration camps in
WW II, Bavaria, Germany), grocery store shelves are empty, in fact stores have been closed for days - now what?
Well, the answer is now you are on your own. Your prepping days are finally over! They have been replaced with days
where you have to provide everything you need, including a safe shelter. If you are still in the city, it's
probably safe to say that you waited too long for the 'signs' to bug out; there may have been no signs at all.
That's how to spring a really successful trap. Perhaps something like this:
TPTB release news of a terrorist threat or a virus outbreak, but intentionally don't cause
panic, they just plant information that people can reference later. They pretend all is well, keep gas prices low
enough to avoid outrage and a panic, and people will look around and see business as usual and remain calm. Then,
late one night, they set up checkpoints on all roads in and out of cities - that only requires a small number of
soldiers. "This is to keep everyone safe", they assure us; "we are really only searching for terrorists, so you
need not worry." Since people can't easily walk out of the city, they are trapped. Vehicles leaving the city are
searched and weapons and other contraband are confiscated. Neighborhoods are searched by small bands of armed
soldiers. Busloads of 'resistors' are whisked away to FEMA camps and not heard from again.
The packaged and sanitized evening news is cheerful. "127 terrorists were reportedly arrested
today while preparing to blow up all the power stations in this state - they are reportedly in those FEMA buses
over there. Among the contraband items seized were 3000 lbs of military-grade explosives and 427 assault weapons.
Rumors that these items were actually provided by the Army have not been confirmed. General Schwartzclot said he is
outraged by such accusations. Here you can see the main power plant which was reportedly wired and ready
to blow, but the Army's own bomb squad claims to have saved it. Security measures imposed last month will be
temporarily left in place, because many more terrorists are believed to be operating freely, and they could be
among us! Watch your neighbors and coworkers and report anything unusual. Suspicious behavior, like
using a cell phone, paying with cash, surfing the Internet and group discussions should be reported immediately by
calling the number on your screen. Operators are standing by. Home and vehicle searches will continue, as will the
X-ray, strip and rectal searches - we regret the inconvenience. RFID chips were today mandated for all residents,
dogs and vehicles. It's for your protection." Yada, yada. Unfortunately, many people still swallow that bullshit
about weapons of mass destruction and all these phony terrorists who are out to kill us. That's why we still hear
the same crap - some TV-numbed and brainwashed people actually believe it. Bush and Cheney appeared to be competing
with each other to see how many times they could cram the word 'terrorist' into one speech. I don't know who won,
but we the people obviously lost.