Creating a Bug-Out or Bug-In Plan

You’ve looked around at the state of the world today and decided you don’t like the way things are looking.  You’re researching web sites that give you all kinds of conflicting information about what to do and what not to do.  Some advise you to bug-out, others advise you to bug-in.  Who’s right?

Canoe tipped up for shelter
Canoe tipped up for shelter

Here’s the bottom line:  what course of action you take during an SHTF event depends on your personal situation.  There is no boilerplate solution that covers everybody.  If you’re fit, have gear and a location to bug-out to, and there’s a situation that warrants it then you might want to bug-out.  However, if you have physical disabilities, aren’t physically fit, can’t afford a bug-out kit, have young children, no destination, and no way of traveling then you might want to think about the best way to fortify your house or apartment and bug-in for the duration or as long as you can.  I did an informal Facebook poll recently and about 90% of the people who responded said they would bug-in during an emergency.

Keep in mind that there are some emergencies mother nature will throw at you that will force you out of your house.  At the time of this writing Kilauea in Hawaii is causing thousand of people to flee to shelters and other locations.



You need to make an assessment of your situation and then plan for it.

In most cases it will be easier to stay at home during a crisis; however, the type of emergency will usually dictate whether or not you have to bug-out or stay home, so you’ll need to keep that in mind.

City dwellers take note:  if you live in a city and decide to bug-in you’ll have a lot of things to think about.  For example – if you live on the twentieth floor of an apartment building and the power goes out for any length of time you’ll have to think about getting water, walking up and down the stairs every time you need something, waste disposal (toilets won’t flush without water), etc.

If you’ve thought ahead and have a weeks worth of food and water or (hopefully) more, then you’ll be set for that amount of time.  This will give you time to figure out what’s going on and to determine whether or not you’ll need to think about leaving town.  If there’s been a big blizzard and the power is down for a week you’ll be ok.  However, if there’s been an EMP attack and the power isn’t going to come back on for a year then you’ll need to look at what’s going on and figure out what to do.


Let’s say you’re a young family with two young children ages two and four.  You’re fit, but don’t have much money for gear, live in a small apartment on the top floor of a ten story apartment building on the edge of a city.  You live in a not-so-great part of town, but so far you’ve managed to scrape by without incident.  You have one vehicle that’s in okay shape, but wouldn’t trust it on a long trip.

How would you plan for an emergency situation?

First, let’s explore staying at home during a crisis.  What are some of the things you’ll need to think about?

In no particular order:

  • Shelter
  • Water
  • Food
  • Security
  • Type of emergency
  • Community
  • Health
  • Ability to travel (kids, health, weather, etc)


Shelter is taken care of because you’ll be home.


Check out this handy water storage calculator to figure out how much water you need for an emergency if you decide to bug-in where you live.


For a bug-in canned goods would be a good way to store food.  If you’re going to bug-out you’ll need your food to be as light as possible.  Dehydrated food, jerky, GORP (good old raisins and peanut) are good sources of energy.

Don’t forget a stove!


Depending on the type of emergency having a gun in the group might be a good idea.  A handgun would be the easiest to carry, but this is totally up to you.  If you’re not comfortable with firearms or haven’t had the training avoid confrontation at all costs.  Don’t be afraid to run and hide if necessary.  It’s not about who’s the bigger man, it’s about keeping you and your loved ones alive.

Type of Emergency

A short term emergency like a hurricane evacuation might mean you’re gone for a few days.  A long term emergency like a CME or EMP with the grid down would be a lot more dire and could possibly mean you’re bugging out and never coming home again.  Do your best to figure out realistically how well you’re prepared to bug-out, or not, and plan accordingly as best you can.


If you’re sick, elderly, or have other physical problems, putting on a sixty-five pound pack and walking a hundred miles is most likely not going to happen.  However, you can plan to have any food, water, and medications you need on-hand to make sure you don’t succumb to illness right away.

You need to ask yourself what kind of emergencies would be most likely to affect where you live.

Are you in an area that could be hit by a wildfire?  Earthquake?  Hurricane?  Blizzard?  Volcano? An EMP or CME will hit everybody the same, but for the most part your plans should center around the electric grid going down.

Electricity is the lifeblood our society runs on and if we are forced to go without it for any length of time – anywhere from several months to years – you can expect there to be many thousands of deaths.  With this as the baseline of your planning you can start to plan.

As George Carlin so eloquently put it:


What advantages and disadvantages do you have?  In the case above the people are young and healthy, but have two young children and a vehicle that is unlikely to prove dependable during a bug-out.  The last thing they want is to be broken down on the side of the road during a mass exodus at the mercy of the elements and other people trying to get out of the affected zone.  Unless they had a lot of notice that something was going to happen, such as a huge hurricane coming a week out, their best bet is to plan on bugging in.  Have enough food and water for a couple of weeks, or better yet a few months.  Candle’s, flashlight, batteries, sleeping bags, and other gear would be other things to have on-hand during the crisis.

A middle-aged couple that are very fit and have proper gear ready to go might be ideally situated to bug-out.  Again – assess your situation as honestly as possible.

Don’t just bug-out with nowhere in mind to go.  

You will need to have a destination in mind.  Maybe it’s your Aunt Sally’s house in the next state, or a camp ground you’ve been to before, or a hotel that you’ve called ahead and made reservations at; you should have a definite location in mind.  If you’re on the road without a destination you’re a refugee and that’s the last thing you want to be.

Have a communications plan.  An emergency probably won’t occur when you’re at home with family and fully stocked bug-out bags handy.  You might be at work in one part of the city and your spouse on the other while your three kids might be scattered across three different schools.  Everybody should know exactly what to do if there’s an emergency.  Just like drilling for a fire you should go over your plan with the people involved working on it into them until they remember.

Have Alternate Routes

Look at a map or get on Google Maps and plan your route.  Once you have your main route planned scout it looking for things that could slow you down.  If your route is on a main highway will traffic play a factor?  Imagine millions of people trying to use that same road.  Have an alternate route or two.  Is there anything that could cause problems on those routes?  Bridges, streams, intersections, towns, etc, should all be carefully looked at and planned for.

Practice Your Bug-Out

At some point you should practice your bug-out route.  Get in your car and drive it, or put on your pack and walk it, or get on your bicycle or motorcycle or whatever your plan calls for and go over it asking yourself what there might be for potential bottlenecks and roadblocks.


In the end there’s no guarantee that you’ll survive a SHTF situation; however, if you have a plan to bug-in or bug-out and have prepared for it by stocking food, water, self-protection such as a firearm, and have practiced and communicated the plan with others, then you’ll have a better chance than those who have ignored the warning signs mother nature and society is throwing at us.

Think of your plan as insurance.  Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do you’ll be happy that you have it.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

3 thoughts on “Creating a Bug-Out or Bug-In Plan

Add yours

  1. the closest thing to a boilerplate solution is the “Red Cross” advisory:
    “prepare as you would for a winter storm”.

    in real life, I am a disgruntled postal employee. I notice that people are still mailing lots of generators to Puerto Rico, so, an adequate generator may be an almost universal preparedness need. if you don’t live in a tropical paradise, then blankets and tarps have to be high on your “must have” list. (oh yeh, and lots of paracord)


  2. Bugging in is probably the stupidest thing you can do. Get away from the most dandgerous animal in the world, OTHER PEOPLE.


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