Deciding if you will bug out or bug in is a personal choice. However, that choice should not be made lightly as it may be the most important decision you make following a collapse.
Many people already have it in their mind that they will bug out or bug in. The choice isn’t that cut and dry. Based on the situation, you should be prepared to bug out or bug in.
Ultimately, your decision to bug out or bug in will be influenced by many things. Do you live in a city, or do you live in a rural setting? Do you have family members that you need to meet up with? Are you part of a preparedness group? Do you have family members that cannot bug out? Do you have anywhere to bug out to?
All of these questions and more will drive you toward your final decision.
I would argue that you should bug in under most circumstances. If you currently live in an area that will force you to bug out immediately after a collapse, you should move NOW.
I understand that it is not always possible for any number of reasons. However, if you are serious about preparedness, you should do everything possible to escape that situation. You have already met the conditions for bugging out!
If you’re stuck living in an area that will immediately cause you to bug out in the event of a major disaster, then you need to prioritize building a bug-out bag.
Our article on putting together the perfect bug-out bag list will get you thinking about what’s important for your situation and help you choose the right gear.
When should you bug out? It comes down to one thing…if you can no longer stay in place, you need to move.
This can mean that your bug in location is under immediate threat of getting overrun by a hostile force; it can be the spread of nuclear fallout or other things.
Your Location Impacts the Decision
Bugging in should be an easy decision for rural preppers. If you are already off on your own, you should have some more time to fully assess the situation before needing to bug out.
Living in a small town, or even a suburban area, could be ideal. Gardening will be easier than in the city, and you are probably far enough away from the city’s interior not to suffer the drawbacks of that environment. A small town also builds a true community capable of defending itself and producing for itself.
The Length of the Event Could Force you to Bug Out
Modern cities only exist because of our current transport and agricultural capabilities. This means that as the grid-down situation progresses, it will become more likely that you will need to bug out of a city.
If you prescribe to the train of thought that there will be a mass exodus of people from the cities, then that could cause the suburban and rural preppers to need to bug out. This assumes that conditions will deteriorate so that everyone will leave for food, water, and stability.
Even though the people outside of the city may be unaffected to this point, the flood of people could push them out of their homes.
The Type of Disaster/Event May Impact Your Choice
A pandemic or other type of event exacerbated by large populations is an obvious losing situation for those bugging in inside the city.
Man-made events (conflict, economic collapse, etc.) will probably take on a different look. In these situations, the collapse could come on gradually as banks run out of money or other events slowly unfold.
A slow collapse event could bring martial law or the enhanced rule of law. I think the chances of martial law affecting everyone are roughly equal unless you live in a remote area.
Advantages of Bugging Out
If your family is spread out across a state or several states, you could travel to one predetermined place following a collapse.
Similarly, a group of like-minded people could all bug out to a predetermined location. This would benefit those who cannot find other preppers in their local area.
Bugging out is the only way to escape an event directly affecting your bug location.
Disadvantages of Bugging Out
In my mind, the disadvantages of bugging out far outweigh the advantages.
When you bug out, you give up everything that you cannot take with you until you arrive at your bug-out location.
Your bug-out location needs to be stocked, or you will still only have what you brought.
Deciding what to take can increase the time it takes to bug out. A solid checklist should be part of your bug-out plan.
You and your family are relatively unprotected until you arrive at your bug-out location.
Most people will try to bug out after it is too late. If bugging out is your plan, you should be ready to leave before a major event occurs. Trying to time could lead to false alarms or not leaving early enough.
Roads could easily get bogged down with traffic, leaving you stuck on highways and access roads. If this happens, you cannot return home to your bug-out location.
When you bug out in a vehicle, you’re reliant on fuel. Bugging out on foot is limited by physical abilities and what can be carried.
The sick, injured, disabled, and elderly may be unable to bug out.
Advantages of Bugging In
You have all of your stores available to you.
The area is already familiar to you. This greatly increases your ability to secure your home and the surrounding area. Defending from the door is not an option!
If you have networked with your neighbors, you can use those relationships to your advantage.
For the sick, injured, disabled and elderly, this may be the only option.
Disadvantages of Bugging In
If your home or neighborhood is directly affected by the event, staying in the area may not be the best idea. Of course, this will vary depending on the type of event.
Staying in place will be bad if you live in a high-crime neighborhood. With limited police presence, crime will most likely skyrocket.
Bugging in can make you, your family, and your stores an easy target if you don’t have a solid security plan. Trying to hide in your home without finding out what is happening outside could be a death sentence.
There is much more to surviving a catastrophic event than simply bugging in or out.