The Simple Truth About Bugging Out: A Case for Being Self Sufficient

What is Bugging Out?

I am the type of person that constantly searches for and reads articles concerning self-sufficiency, homesteading, green living, etc.  I often come across some interesting discussions that catch my interest. One of the things I repeatedly come across is the term bugging out. This term is usually related to some survival or disaster scenario.

Even though the subject of this blog is not really about survival and prepping, I thought is was appropriate to at least address this issue of bugging out.  In many ways it is actually related to self-sufficiency. Certainly if you decided that “bugging out” was necessary, it is in your best interest to know how to take care of yourself and your family.

The term “bugging out” comes from military jargon and may have originated as far back as the Korean War. Sometimes military personnel found themselves in a position that was no longer defensible or was likely to be overrun by enemy forces. In this case they were instructed to “bug-out”. They would then rapidly deploy to a predesignated defensive position.

In non-military terms, bugging out typically refers to grabbing a bag of essentials, known as a bug-out bag, and rapidly leaving the area.  Typically this was be done in the event of  a disaster.  Presumably the destination would be a pre-designated safe haven. Keep in mind that the key concept here is “heading out to a pre-designated safe haven”. Obviously this means there is some forethought and planning involved.

Making Money on Bugging Out

There are numerous websites and businesses that make a healthy living on selling folks survival gear including bug out bags. They are more than happy to convince you that you should be prepared for a disaster or for the complete down fall of our culture at any moment.

I am not dismiss any of these possibilities. Nor am I being critical of those businesses. However, if something such as this were to happen and you are thinking of “bugging out”, what happens next?

Do you actually have a plan in place?

What Is Your Plan?

Most of us have some sort of ambiguous plan as to what we would do in an emergency. This is even true for those that live in areas that are prone to such things as tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes. They have some sort of ambiguous plan.

Even if we are of a mind to think ahead about disasters and emergency situations, our typical version of preparation is inadequate. Most people purchase some sort of pre-made product for bugging out  that may or may not be appropriate. You have to think through the process and put together something that is tailored to their specific needs. To make matters worse, many of the proponents of survival and bugging out scenarios are more than happy to sell you a “bug out bag” . These bags of essentials are simply an inadequate security blanket that puts a bandaid on a much larger issue.

Is Bugging Out Really Advisable?

Then the question becomes is bugging out really an advisable plan? If you are dependent on your three day bug out bag as your survival plan, what are you going to do after three days. Now you are homeless.  You no longer have any of your personal possessions. Nothing around you is familiar and you have nothing that can actually give you a measure of comfort during a very stressful time.

You must realize that if bugging out becomes necessary, once you leave the confines of your own four walls, you can no longer control what happens to you. You may have left one disaster and be headed into a much worse situation. Therefore, in times of emergency, shelter in place if at all possible.

But, what happens if bugging out becomes necessary?  If it ever does come to that, forethought and planning will be your best friend.

What is common with all disaster victims?

What has been proven over and over again is that all disaster victims crave the same basic things. They crave routine, familiarity, and some resemblance of normalcy. Additionally, research reveals that the adverse psychological affects experienced by disaster victims are primarily related to the extent of stress experienced before, during and after a disaster. The availability of resources to deal with the situation also comes into play.  This is actually good news.  What this means is that with a little planning, a lot of this can be avoided.

Instead of Bugging Out Your Home Should Be Your Retreat

Your home should be your retreat and should be stocked with ample supplies. This can easily be accomplished by spending a few extra dollars at the supermarket each week. This will prevent spending hundreds of dollars on long-term food storage items that you have never tried. In no time at all, you will notice that you have a very comfortable amount of extra food around the house.

Commercially canned foods, if stored properly, have an almost indefinite shelf life. It is important to stock only what you normally eat. Every prep item that you store should be things that you use everyday. Do not depend on some mystery MRE or some other food that you have never tried. This will assure that you do not change your diet during an emergency situation or if bugging out becomes necessary.

As part of your preparation, have a full compliment of basic camping gear, including tents, sleeping bags, gas stove for cooking (propane, butane, or white gas). Drinking water and food that can be prepared without heat are essential items. First aid kits, over the counter medications, and personal hygiene items are essential. A means of purifying water is imperative.

If you think there is a possibility you may be forced out of your home, have a pre-stocked place to go.  You also need a plan to get there quickly. A great alternative plan is to stay with family, friends, or other people that are of the same mind-set as you. Then truly bugging out may not be necessary. 

Take advantage of modern technology. Have a small alternative power source that can supply enough electricity to run lights and some basic tools. Do not depend on candles, and oil lamps that are expendable. These need to be replaced and will be impossible to find after a disaster. Purchase a small plug-and-play solar electric system that will provide a renewable source of light. Also consider obtaining a high efficiency refrigerator that runs off of DC power. These are easily available and consume far less electricity in 24 hours than even a 50 watt light bulb.

Learn to Provide Things for Yourself

If you watch the news with regularity, you are familiar with what happens after a disaster. It typically takes a significant amount of time for vital supplies to actually reach the disaster zone and be distributed to those that need it. Learn to provide these needs and services for yourself. Even if you are able to provide 50% of your needs, this will have a huge impact on the stress you experience during such events.

Learn to take care of yourself and be as self sufficient as possible.

In my opinion, it is imperative that you learn to be responsible for yourself. You must realize that you are responsible for everything that you do and everything that you do not do. This is at the heart of being self sufficient.

Our modern culture with it’s complicated infrastructure serves up our daily needs at the click of a button, the flip of a switch, the turn of the tap, or a quick trip to the local market. Most of us would not know how to survive even a few days without easy access to our daily needs. With a little forethought and planning, this can be easily changed.

Take the time and effort to provide and manage as much of your own resources as you can. This does take a little forethought and planning and may dictate that you learn a new skill. During times of personal, state or even national emergencies, this will save you a lot of worry and stress.

What I Do

For years I’ve been in the habit of trying to be prepared for any sort of unexpected event or emergency. This is how I was taught to think. Additionally,  my cabin is isolated and private enough that it is entirely feasible for me to have an emergency and have nothing to rely on except my own ingenuity. I did not even have cell phone reception until 2015.

I do a lot of home canning and have a small stock pile of goods that I rotate on a regular basis.  Because of my location, high altitude and close to the Continental Divide, I experience a fair amount of unpredictable weather.  There have been several times that major storms have moved in and all major utilities were off grid for days. During such times, I rarely ventured out to the market for any reason. IF I did I was always amazed at the number of angry people standing in line for some wanted or needed item that was out of stock.  Most of the time I headed back to the cabin and wondered why I ventered out in the first place.

It has taken great effort to set up the cabin to be as self sufficient as possible. At this point, I could stay there for months and never want for anything.

So, why should I bug out?

Additional Posts of Interest

Establishing an Emergency Food Supply

Building an Emergency Kit: an Important Part of Self Sufficiency

Food Storage for Self Reliance

Go off grid and live well,



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