I propose a "Survivalist Challenge" to prove the theory, concept and practical reality of what the survivalist movement calls "bugging out" to the wilderness. Whatever the "shtf" scenario that requires / demands of you to leave your home and disappear off into the woods, abandoning everything you haven't taken with you.
This challenge, in order to be realistic, must have certain rules to emulate a real "SHTF" scenario. They are intended to be as real-life as possible.
1) B.O.B - The "bugout bag" is permitted, containing only your gear. See instructions below on food and water. Gear, limited to a realistic 20 - 40 lbs is permitted. Pick what you like, but you must already own it. Weapons, knives, snares, books, etc., but be honest here -- select the gear you already have. You are not allowed to buy anything (see below). If you're bugging out -- shopping is not a realistic option in "bugout mode", so it is not permitted for this challenge.
Your starting water supply is limited only to what you can carry into the wilderness. A canteen, Camelbak or some such container. Just be honest here and carry what you would have had with your B.O.B.
Food in your B.O.B is limited to a 3-day supply, per person. Remember, you're going to be living off the land, unsupplied from civilization. For reality purposes, any food you might have had in your B.O.B. would be eaten fairly quickly anyway, and then it would be gone. To get to "reality conditions" quicker, only a 3 day food supply is allowed (time enough to get you to your bugout location), where you must find all your remaining food yourself. However, no shopping (anywhere) enroute or at anytime is permitted. You can only arrive at your wilderness spot with what you started with -- and what you still have left.
Oh, and if you're a 'patriot' preparing for the NWO resistance movement (soon to show up one of these days, or so I hear), then don't forget your SAPI Level IV body armor. Your loadout should include a full-combat load in your chosen caliber. I'll allow an additional 50 lbs for armor, ammo, rifle and sidearm in addition to your bugout bag. You are however not permitted to engage in any peace-time firefights, your survival 'life' in that situation is an entirely different issue then this particular challenge. Tactical wheelbarrows are prohibited.
2) You must take your immediate family with you (no child left behind). Every survivalists says they won't leave their family behind, so don't. Take them with you. The same rules for realism also apply to each of them.
3) You are to "bug out", so you are not permitted to tell your boss you are leaving. You cannot schedule a leave of absence, a vacation or even draw an advance paycheck. You are to virtually "disappear" without any notification of any sort to your employer, or your extended family or in fact, anyone at all. It's bug-out time, so keep this "real".
4) If you have children in school, the same "no announcement / scheduling" rule applies to them. They go with you, disappearing without any notification to anyone (family, friends, schools, doctors, the whole enchilada). Of course, the same applies to your spouse, "disappearance" with no prior announcement / arrangements being made.
I realize that 2, 3, 4 are only "real" in a real bugout scenario, but without taking them with you, the widely held claims made that a) you would really leave with your family; b) you could actually survive with your family; c) understand and experience the total consequences of taking your family with you -- would not be realized. Without taking them with you, then this challenge would not be realistic enough, and in fact, meaningless as proof of concept / theory of the "wilderness bugout".
For single people, none of the family requirements apply.
5) You are not allowed to buy anything you do not already have (nothing). No cheating. No fuel, no gear, no equipment, no food, no tires for your car, virtually "nothing". Bugging out to the wilderness does not mean you get to go shopping beforehand -- or enroute to your wilderness location. It means you can't, you are bugging out.
6) You are allowed 1 vehicle, with a tank of gas. It's hard to design into this challenge whether or not you would have more gasoline, or even any vehicle at all, but since you will eventually use it all up anyway, no matter how much you might have started with, to get to "realism" faster, let's limit this to just one tank of gas. Only 1 vehicle is permitted, carrying you and your family and the B.O.B's. You are not permitted to have an additional "stash" of food, water or gear in your vehicle to take with you into the wilderness. Only what is permitted in the B.O.B's. No wilderness "stashes" either (pre-cached food / equipment supplies). These too will run out quickly, so to get to the realism of living off the land, this is not permitted.
7) You cannot take any friends or compatriots with you, nor can you arrange for them to meet you in the wilderness, or even notify them what you are doing. This is for realism purposes too. Nobody knows who will make it there or not, or what kind of "time" they may have to get out of Dodge, or whether their partners or friends will be killed enroute, captured, trapped, nuked or whatever, so to keep this real, this is just going to be you and your family. You are on your own.
In a real bugout situation, this would admittedly be very unlikely, you would intermix with others, working with and challenging many strangers (think "highway of Death" for a apt description), all bugging out just like you are. However, it is simply not possible to simulate this for this challenge, with all the incredible unknown variables and everything that could go wrong, so the "go alone" rule with only your family will have to do. You may very well be going alone - since everyone seems to have a different "bugout threshold".
8) Obey (or not) any laws (this is purely at your own risk and responsibility) while enroute to your wilderness location. Since in a real bugout all bets are "off", and all morality and rules are "off", then do whatever you have to do to get you and your family to your wilderness location.
9) You get to pick the wilderness location. To make this real, it must be remote (no people, no towns, no villages or hamlets) where you can be alone (desert, forest, whatever suits your fancy). However, make it real, it should be by definition, meaning and intent a real wilderness.
10) You are not allowed crimes after your arrival at the wilderness location. Examples of crimes include stealing food, equipment, fuel from a cabin, farmer or anyone. To keep this real, you must actually "live off the land". Realism means the local farmers (if there are any) won't let you steal, nor will the remote cabin owner, vacant property owners and so forth, they will protect what is theirs. Since we cannot include them in this challenge, you will have to avoid committing any crimes against them. You can however, poach, fish and forage for your food in the wilderness (at your own risk of course).
I do realize that in a real bugout, crime will be extremely rampant (and important to every survivalist). But we're hoping you survive this challenge (stay alive and stay out of jail), how else can we prove the theory? In a real bugout, isn't staying alive and staying out of jail still valid? Isn't this always going to be valid, no matter how big of a collapse you've envisioned? Of course it is. Law and order may break down, but theft is still theft and crime is still crime. You most certainly COULD be held accountable by anyone. So committing crimes against others is not in your best long-term survival interests anyway, so don't do this for the duration of the challenge.
11) You must try and survive as long as you can. Six months would be a good test (two seasons) and prove beyond a doubt whether or not this is actually possible (survivable) as so widely embraced. If you fail (come back) sooner or die, then wilderness survival with your family in tow, living only off the land, is simply not possible as so widely believed. Skipping winter would also give you a huge "cheat" on reality, but you can pick the two seasons you want to do this for our challenge. A real proof-of-concept however, would include all seasons -- since each has its own particular challenges and would in all probability, have direct impact on your decision of "when, where, who, why and how" (WWWWH) you would bug out. Little is being said about how seasons will affect this, or how a single misjudgement on WWWWH could be instantly disastrous (fatal).
12) There will be no "reward" for the successful survivors of this challenge. No cash payments, nothing. This too would be "realistic" in a real bugout, since anybody that does this cannot actually expect to come back to anything. You left, remember? Life either did or did not go on for the rest of us. Civilization either collapsed entirely, partially or not at all. But you DID abandon everything, so it is very real to assume that for you, there is nothing left to come back to. No reward, no cash, no job, no house, virtually nothing.
Perhaps you could work out a book deal with a publisher to help you pay off your debts or reintegrate you back into civilization. Or not.
Don't be surprised at the "non-rewards" you will get upon your return (job loss, bankruptcy, family problems, homelessness and so forth). Since we're keeping this as real as we can, then "starting over" is what survivors can honestly expect (that is, if you believe any civilization will exist after a real bugout event).
If you don't believe anything of civilization will exist in a real bugout event, then you are going to be incredibly prepared to "bugout for real" when it finally does collapse, meeting your expectations. You might want to consider staying out there in the wilderness then, since you now "know" you can do it, and you've already taken the challenge and you'd have lost everything "back in the world". No need to bother and try to rebuild.
However, if you think some kind of civilization will exist after a real bugout event, then this will be a great way to find out how you might (if you choose) to reintegrate yourself back into society, and rebuild everything you've lost. Or not, but now you'll have both the experience and choice. It will no longer be an unproven theory, to be endlessly debated and argued about. It will be real.
And finally, all survivors of this challenge will learn the true and total consequences of their "wilderness escape" choice and beliefs, on themselves, on their families and on the rest of their lives, probably the most important reward of all. I've tried to pen many of these consequences down already.
Bugout to the wilderness is a one-way street for most people that would try this (what thousands if not millions are actually preparing for, what is surely to be crowded places).
13) If you don't, won't or can't take the challenge (maybe you've got a vacation coming up), but still somehow believe that this is a viable option in your future, then just contemplate the end-results in #12 and save yourself a lot of anguish.
Bugout to the wilderness is a lose-lose option in the end for everyone. I could count the many ways, but already have. Even if you survived this -- you will return to the world, in order that you might continue to survive. Indefinite subsistence existence in the wilderness is simply not going to happen there (nobody is doing this now as pointed out in Part II and with good reasons). This is an absolute fantasy.
But the world you left is gone, or you have lost your place so to speak, during your absence, whatever "it" was (the life you had), by walking away (the end result here is identical, it's still "gone").
The point of this challenge is to prove that this conclusion is in fact what everyone can expect by embracing the bugout to the wilderness myth. If you don't believe it -- then go do it, take the challenge and prove it.
Perhaps you think this challenge is foolish or unnecessary. But isn't this entire notion of wilderness bugout supposed to be a real life-or-death choice (versus recliner fantasy)? The above rules for the challenge will be almost as real without just killing you right off. Do you really want to base your bugout decision on just guesswork? Or do you really want to know for real if this is going to actually work or not?
The Better Choice
In closing -- there IS a much better option the bugging out to the wilderness. I've been living it for many years now.
I'm already at my bug out location, building, preparing and making ready for any contingency. Since I live here already, I'm "bugged in", and so is everyone around me. Going "somewhere else" simply makes no sense for us and probably never will. Population is incredibly low, the land is defensible if need be, the lifestyle is light years above hiding under a tree, and leaving / abandoning this virtually means to abandon everything that I am.
I am not a survivalist, not anymore, I've abandoned many of the preconceived myths and notions that go hand in hand with the survivalist movement -- and neither are none of you. A real survivalist wouldn't even be online. Nor need any of the trappings of civilization. You are what you are today -- engineers, scientists, teachers, boilermakers, nurses, students and so forth. That life may be "at risk" by some "event", but I'm talking about you. You are alive right now, because of what you are, and what civilization has done for you (provided you with the necessary sustenance and means to keep you alive). You applied your skills, training and experience to some place within society, in exchange for what you needed to stay alive.
That is not going to change. Not even in a total collapse. How do I know this? Because it is a historical fact. Displaced person, former scientist or professors or artists or whatever, become shoemakers or salesmen, surviving somewhere else after being displaced (or fleeing). The point here is they find a new place within civilization, "surviving". Nobody is going off into the wilderness (except a tiny few) to live off the land -- and those that do, come back, in order to survive. The American wilderness is not the "land of plenty" that seems to permeate these fantasies. If it was, thousands upon thousands of homeless would already be there, living the life, proving the concept. But they're not. Those that do exist "out there" are still living off civilization (read the labels if nothing else will convince you).
It's not an issue of "lawfulness" for the presently homeless (or would-be survivalist), but practicality and sustenance. It is not practical to try and live there. It does not contain sufficient levels of sustenance anymore except for a very few, hardy and skilled individuals.
So, if you are going to have to come back anyway -- then why leave at all? Why not choose a much better option in the first place?
I can't envision choosing leaving for any conceivable reason, thus no bug out bag for me. I don't leave, I don't drive, I don't go anywhere anymore, my life is here, I'm building a life on what is local, not what is fantasy or what is even beyond my ability to control, affect or influence. I had a B.O.B. (I've had several and could fill a dozen), but unpacked it, but if I traveled anywhere, then yeah, I'd have something to get me here.
I'm going to be one of those "locals" some of you are going to try and rob (do not attempt this), because quite frankly, I'm going to have everything you 'survivalists' are going to need when you run out. And run out you will, but don't come here -- you've not only been repeatedly warned, you've been given blueprints on how you might survive and make better decisions for your survival.
My family, my neighbors, my community come first, in that order. You are not even on the list. You SHOULD be doing the same, abandoning all these bullshit fantasies of the "end of the world" scenarios where you think your future lies in running away from everything. It's all crap, designed by ignorant profiteers and I challenge each and every one of you that believe this garbage to go do it -- prove yourselves. Run away and go 'survive' and see what happens. Do it without the support of the civilization you are abandoning, take the challenge.
Longtime readers well know that I am no fan of our present civilization. But I understand my dependency on it. Do you? I am alive because it exists, not in spite of it. Survivalist think they can live without it. They're unbelievably wrong. One of the first things that they will do, if they live, is to try and rebuild it; and then try and take advantage of it! They will swiftly come to realize how necessary it was all along. Yet many of them also intend to run away! If this is not a house divided, I don't know what is.
Personally, I'd like to see civilization "redone" with some big changes, but it's not realistic to think that it won't exist. Civilization has lasted over 10,000 years, surviving catastrophe and calamity, time and time again. Short of an extinction level global event, it's not going anywhere. It will be different, but not "over" as some claim. But maybe you will, turning your back on the very things that have kept you alive your entire lives. This makes no sense to me at all. Better to find a way to live here, safely, then out there, in the cold, cutoff, running out and faced with other hungry desperate people. Yes, the hungry will be here too, but I'm much better prepared for that here then I ever would have been there.
It is your choice. Fantasy or reality. Put up or shut up.