Bugging In or Bugging Out?


One of the biggest questions in the prepping and survival community is whether to bug in or bug out when a disaster is coming. The general opinion has trended back and forth on this through the years, as ideas about survival have evolved. But making decisions based upon what’s trendy is not a good way to ensure your family’s survival. You’ve got to figure out what’s best for your family and your situation.

Let me start by saying that like many things in survival, there is no black and white answer to this question. It is dependent on your situation, as well as what sort of bug out we’re talking about. Not all bug outs are created equal and some will work better for you than others.

So let’s define what the different sort of bug outs might be:

  • Government mandated evacuation – These are usually only done for natural disasters, but might also be done in the case of a chemical spill or a nuclear accident. You definitely want to bug out, as the government wouldn’t be calling for it unless it was expected to be unsafe to remain.
  • Bugging out to your own survival shelter – This is the ideal, the dream many of us have, where we own a cabin in the woods that’s set up to be our survival shelter. If you are fortunate enough to have one, this greatly increases the “yes” on bugging out.
  • Bugging out to a government or non-profit shelter – The Red Cross and other non-profit organizations establish refugee shelters during times of disasters; so does FEMA. By and large, you want to avoid going to such shelters, because they end up being dangerous, with the criminal element preying on other refugees. You are not allowed to bring weapons into such shelters, so you have no way of defending your family.
  • Bugging out to friend or family member – If you have a family member or friend who lives out in the country, their home might be a good bug out location, if they agree. You might be able to establish a survival retreat on their property, by building a cabin or parking a travel trailer there.
  • Bugging out to a hotel or motel – A good idea if you can, but if there’s a general evacuation, every motel and hotel will be filled. Works best if you have a hotel where you are known and they will hold a room for you.
  • Bugging out to the wild – Requires more preparation and pre-positioned supplies. Only to be undertaken if you’re out of other options.

The hardest time to bug out is when the government mandates it, even though it is usually necessary to obey their dictate and bug out. The big problem though, is that everyone else will be bugging out too, clogging the roads and filling up hotel rooms. Ideally you want to beat the rush and make your own bug out decision before the government declares an evacuation. If you don’t do that, then you’re better off waiting until pretty much everyone else is gone and the roads start clearing up, so that you don’t have to sit in a 100 mile long parking lot.

As you do your survival planning, you’ll need to make a decision as to what sort of bug out you’ll undertake, if and when you have to. It might even be a good idea to have a couple of alternative plans, so that you still have someplace you can go, if you can’t go to your primary destination. How you prepare to bug out, is then determined by what that plan is.

But we’re still left with the decision about whether or not to bug out. Which is better? That all depends on whether bugging out or bugging in gives your family the best chances of survival.

By and large, most people are better off staying at home and bugging in, if they can. For most of us, our home not only provides us shelter, but is where we have our prepping stockpile and survival equipment. Additionally, everything else you own is there, making it so that you can use those things in your survival as well. Unless you have some alternative location where you have all that, your home is going to be the easiest place you have to survive.

However, there may come a time where it is no longer safe to stay home. Had the people of Paradise, California insisted on bugging in, they would have burned to death when their houses burnt down. They had to bug out. Likewise, if you live along the coast and the storm surge from a hurricane is projected to be high enough to flood your home; it really doesn’t make sense to stay there.

Another situation where it might make more sense to bug out than bug in is a total breakdown of law and order. If there are roving gangs who are breaking into homes, killing and burning the homes down, then it might be better to bug out. While most of us would probably want to stay and defend our home, we have to decide what makes the most sense for our family. Will they be more likely to survive if we stay home or if we bug out?

As you can see, for most of us this isn’t a one-time decision that we make and stick with. As the situation changes and develops we may find that we reach a point where it makes sense to bug out, even if we had previously decided to bug in. Flexibility is key, as we constantly reevaluate our decision.

However, that can be quite different for those who have the proverbial cabin in the woods, where we can go to ride out the disaster. If that cabin is prepared as a survival retreat, with the equipment and supplies we’ll need, than our chances of survival would probably be greater there, than staying at home. The same could be said for any other prepared survival retreat, even if it isn’t in the woods.

What makes these a better option is the word “prepared.” It doesn’t matter what you have or where you have it, if it’s not prepared to be a survival retreat, than you probably shouldn’t go there, unless you have to. Without proper preparation, any location is nothing more than a shelter. It is the preparation that we do to that location, which makes it a viable survival shelter; someplace where it is safe for our family to bug out to.