If you haven't read this already, please read The Fallacy of Bugging Out for important background information on this topic.
This is Part II, which expands on some of the assumptions and misconceptions on why bugging out is in nearly all cases, a very bad idea for the vast majority of people who might be considering this.
There are only a very few, extremely unlikely scenarios where attempting to disappear or escape into the wilderness for survival could be deemed necessary. This decision, should be essentially a last ditch, balls-to-the-wall, choice of "last resort" that offers extremely limited survival for the majority of people, yet receives an inordinate amount of attention and concern, probably through a serious lack of understanding of what this choice actually means.
Bugging out to the wilderness is in reality, a last ditch emergency survival decision, one which offers a very limited duration of survival -- with a very low chance of actual long-term success. Divorcing yourself from everything you actually need that is presently keeping you alive is a decision not to be taken lightly. You will have to come back -- a point that is chronically overlooked.
The mythology of bugging out, with its many adherents but few actual practitioners, somehow manages to overlook some absolutely critical needs that we all have on a daily basis. This critical need is simply described in the rest of this article as the need to resupply.
We all have the need to resupply ourselves with food, water, shelter and clothing, avoid hypothermia, sickness and injury, and then do this all over again, day in and day out, every single day of our lives. We take this essential need for granted because resupply is actually pretty easy these days. We are absolutely surrounded by stores, malls, supermarkets and shopping 'opportunities', where connedsumers can buy whatever they need, at nearly any hour of the day or night. The sheer abundance and 'plenty' that our just-in-time global delivery system has made available to us with millions of products makes our daily survival requirements something very much taken for granted.
Obviously, it won't be like that out in the wilderness. Strangely however, the lack of understanding on how to stay alive and resupply is largely absent from survival discussions. There is always the assumption that "I'll hunt and fish" as if this will be the end-all answer to this most desperate decision. This is actually a terrible "plan" (no plan at all in reality). In point of fact, if it were really that easy, thousands of homeless people would already be doing it right now. Yet they're NOT.
How can it be that so many thousands of 'survivalist' types miss this most important question? Wouldn't living off the land, if it were really possible and apparently so easy, choose to live in the woods out of their backpacks, rather then under a bridge?
I certainly would, in a heartbeat -- if it were possible and I were homeless. But it is not the fantasy existence that so many ill-informed 'survivalist' think it is. Not even close.
I've investigated this topic at some length years earlier on this blog. For years I've kept looking for the modern-day survivalist who is actually "living off the land". I've found a couple -- but only a couple (less then five) in the entire United States. I'm certain that there are more, but not many. Essentially what I found was they are NOT actually "living off the land" as is so widely assumed. They're still resupplying themselves from civilization. They do hunt and fish (poaching of course, not an important point with me personally), but they don't find enough nourishment without still begging, scrounging, working or buying more food. Even the homesteads I've visited, discussed and investigated aren't actually self-sufficient, producing all that they need. Everyone it seems, some more then others (Joe SixPack) is still heavily reliant upon buying enough food to stay alive.
Whoa! If this is true, then why does the survivalist community still think that they can go "live off the land"?
I have extensive outdoor, wilderness experience and training from a very early age. I'm also one of the hardest working people I know. I've learned that living off the land is only going to be possible for very small numbers of people, for very limited time spans, with the proper skills, location (critical), stamina and abilities (and don't forget "season"). Not a combination you're just going to pull off the shelf from some book or from Joe Sixpack's ass who decides he's ready to "head for the hills" because he doesn't like how things are going.
The "plan" it seems, is to take your bug-out bag (limited) and "pioneer" your way to survival by sheer will power and wishful thinking. Indefinitely apparently. An incredibly stupid idea, given the actual reality, which conveniently and consistently overlooks almost everything. Bugging out to the wilderness is an ABSOLUTE FANTASY. Sure, you can try this, but you will quickly find out the truth of the matter.
Wilderness survival is hard, taxing, and always results in just two things: return to civilization; or death.
Yet daily survival is really what it is all about, everywhere people are found. The need for food, clothing, shelter, water, medical care and safety are why all of civilization actually exists. It is the productive capacity of civilization, the ability to create, distribute and make available to us all (resupply), on a daily basis, all with the thing we need in order that we might live. These are the very things that are actually keeping every American alive today (thank a farmer, he's really the one that you owe your life to, every single day).
Bugging out to the wilderness, divorcing yourself from this productive capacity of civilization will only ensure that you will die much sooner. This is EXACTLY what happens in many forced survival situations. Incredibly, the essential need to resupply is somehow grossly overlooked in a bug-out situation and / or still very much taken for granted.
Everything that keeps us alive today, comes from the productive capacity of civilization. Notably, none of what we actually need comes the wilderness anymore, where so many erroneously think they're going to make a new home (I'm excluding things like logs and minerals found in forests and deserts, since these are not daily necessities for survival anyway). What we need to live and to exist day-by-day comes primarily from farms.
In every conceivable bug-out situation, for whatever reason, duration or requirement, you will still need to meet this essential need of daily resupply of the things that are presently keeping you alive. Otherwise, you will only last as long as your supplies last (and what you think you can glean from the wilderness, an amount of food energy that is far, far less then you think).
In truth, we are all presently 'survivors', a end-product of our civilization, without which, none of us would even be here today. It is the production of civilization that has made our daily existence a reality. The sustenance that we all need for survival has come from countless farms, villages and towns. None of it comes from the woods or wilderness anymore, except the occasional wild game, an amount that is absolutely minuscule (and woefully insufficient) to keep us all alive. We are all here, alive, in the present day precisely because of what this civilization has produced to keep us all alive -- and not because of what we can find, or think we can find in the wilderness.
It is the products of our civilization that actually sustains our population and keeps us all alive. Should civilization collapse, something that I believe that is well on its way, then the core issue of daily sustenance (adequate food) will become extremely critical, very quickly (mere days) across the nation, with a very high probability that the majority of people would succumb to starvation in just a few weeks. The farms may not go away, but it is possible the distribution will, or be hindered in some such way as to make things hard to get (or incredibly expensive).
Sure, lot of people will start poaching -- but how long do you think that will last? I've got about 6 - 8 pet deer here, the buggers are actually pests. But I've got lots of people to feed. Once they're eaten, then what? There are lots of people like me, but almost nobody else is actually preparing like I am. They'll eat everything in sight, very quickly, and now we're going to have a pretty big problem.
We also receive everything else we need from civilization -- shelter, clothing, water (or the ability to pump it), and medical care. All these other daily, life-essentials are also the products of civilization. You could obtain all of these yourself, through construction of a temporary shelter or inhabiting a cave, tanning hides or the weaving of fabric materials (cotton, flax or wool), drink surface water from creeks, rivers or streams (all water sources in the U.S. are known to contain Giardia and Crytospordium), and even self-treat your medical needs through herbalism and ancient plant-based medicine (provided you know how). But for how long? And for how many? What duration / season are you really considering a likely time frame? All of them?
Bugging out to the woods quickly becomes a problem of endurance and supply in mere days. Attempting to carry everything you would need is an impossibility with a very limited 'life'. You will run out (or something essential will break) -- and you will need to resupply very soon in order to stay alive. This is actually what civilization does for humans today -- it resupplies us all, whenever we need it, with all with the things we need to stay alive. When and if that were to stop, the vast majority of us would simply cease to exist quite quickly, dying from either hunger and malnutrition, injury or disease or simply exposure (notwithstanding the extreme violence that would spring up as survivors fought over the scraps that were still left).
You CAN live off the land, provided you are skilled enough, lucky enough and find enough, and do it at the right time of year, and importantly, have near-zero competition with your fellow humans, but this is almost never done with any success anymore. Books, videos and interviews with actual 'survivors' who have been somehow forced into this situation have ALL shown without exception that those that survive this experience, did so precisely because they either had food, tools, gear, clothing or implements from civilization to use (or found them), which gave them the critical edge they needed in order to only temporarily survive in the wilderness. All suffered extreme hardship, calorie deficiencies (malnourishment) and weight loss. None would have survived indefinitely or even through a single winter without resupply.
The most critical element for resupply is food, without which nobody can live very long. Food is constantly consumed, unlike shelter or even clothing. Water is more easily found then food in most wild settings, which makes sense, since neither plants or animals themselves can live without water. But you will die fairly quickly without adequate food to maintain your health and energy. The ability to fight off infection, recover from injury, or succumb to exhaustion or hypothermia is a food issue. Food is energy, and finding enough food energy in the wilderness becomes your #1 problem.
There are countless examples of survival to be examined. Even this guy, who claims he now lives without money in a Utah cave, is living off the production of civilization. Examine the video, the clothing, food, gear and implements he's using for 'surviving', which all comes from civilization. He's actually begging for his food, producing little to none of it himself. He's surviving, but it is not because of anything he is actually doing. He is surviving because civilization is still supporting him.
Every single one of these 'moneyless men' who are living without money are actually STILL living off the production of civilization (the human labor of others, and the ability to grow and distribute food), who are producing their food, clothing, sleeping supplies, gear, utensils, pots, pans, even discarded plastic bottles (ubiquitous in nearly every situation). Unfortunately, simply giving up money doesn't make you a survivalist, it actually makes you more dependent then ever upon civilization and what it produces to keep you alive. Only the truly self-sufficient homestead (something that does not actually exist, since all still require things from civilization) comes close to "no dependency" and self-survival and the ability to produce the daily nutrition you actually need.
In the days of the mountain men and the pioneers, when this land still had a huge abundance of wild game, fish and open spaces (and with a fraction of our current population), could you live off the land and actually prosper somewhat while doing so. Those days however are long gone, along with the millions of buffalo and endless herds of deer and elk and rivers full of fish, to be replaced with hundreds of millions of voracious humans eating everything in sight. Wilderness survival doesn't mean staying and living in the woods anymore -- it means finding your way back to civilization as fast as you can, where you can obtain the things you need to stay alive. The notion that we can run off to the woods and await the Rapture or hide from the New World Order while gnawing on tree bark may be fanciful and entertaining, but utterly unrealistic. You will die -- painfully, and far too slowly, even if you manage to survive your fellow humans who will be eying your emaciated flesh with hunger.
Why Bug Out?
There are various, but many reasons why bugging out receives so much attention, usually based upon ideology (politics), religion or a disaster. We can all envision a "reason", but this is clouding our judgement and understanding of the reality of what this would actually mean.
In the "shit-hit-the-fan" scenario, bugging out is assumed to be your best option (even if it is your last option, it is still considered by many to be better then staying put). Whether disaster or your beliefs "drove you" to head for the hills is however, actually completely irrelevant. The reason you left will be endlessly and uselessly debated among various groups with no complete agreement. But the reason you left however, whatever that may have been, will most definitely not be a factor in keeping you alive anymore. The truth is, the reason you left does not even factor in to your survival.
The reason you left is not and never has been the real issue, yet it does get an awful lot of inordinate attention these days, and this is what is clouding our judgement and understanding. We're focusing on reasons, but glossing over what the reality would be. If you've left, and headed for the hills, taking family and dog, this then becomes the reality that you must now deal with and try to survive and how soon you will be finding out what "hot dog" really means. For many of the reasons I've seen proposed online, this would be a self-made refugee reality, an incredibly bad idea with horrible results. Whatever reasons drove you to make this decision is now moot -- now you must try to survive the decision. I hope I've shown just how incredibly difficult this will be in these two articles -- and why bugging out needs to be completely reexamined.
But the mirror-opposite of bugging out, and what this will mean, will be just as true. If bugging out divorces you from civilization and essential resupply, what does staying put do for you? Staying put increases your chances of survival, except in the most dire circumstances (where staying put will cause you to be killed). If you must leave -- then leave to somewhere where you can be sufficiently and adequately resupplied. The middle of the wilderness is most definitely not the place to expect this to happen.
This is why "redefining bugging out" is such a critical need within the survival community. The reasons for bugging out are actually irrelevant, but where you should go if you must leave, and how you will manage to survive and find adequate nutrition, wherever "there" turns out to be, isn't. It is THE issue, and the only one that you really need to concern yourself with. The rest is just "fantasy discussion".
This then becomes the real issue of focus, where you can or should go in order to find survival. If you must leave -- leave to where you can survive, not to where you drastically lower your chances, or increase your risk of malnourishment, injury or violence from hordes of competitive humans. Competition for food will be extreme in any survival situation (everywhere, even within the confines of civilization) and this then becomes the #1 issue for everyone, everywhere. The larger the disaster, or the more refugees, the bigger the problem, the worse this issue of competition and resupply is going to get.
Food production (adequate nutrition) is the entire point to all civilizations. It is the driving factor behind everything humans have created. Large disasters (or large numbers of refugees) threaten this ability dramatically, sometimes fatally for large numbers of people. Historically, cities, towns and villages have all been built to help support (and take advantage of) food production and the division of labor. Modern farming with mega-sized farms, however, has replaced most of the nation's small family farms. Population dependency however, on all the food grown and produced someplace else, is higher then ever, due to increased population levels and fewer local farms. Yet it is still the productive capacity of civilization that is at the very core of our daily survival, whether we live in the woods, the city or in a small town.
This won't change. Until the wheels of 'progress' revert back to locally grown, locally produced (a situation we are still a very long ways from), over 95% of us are still entirely dependent upon the productive capacity of civilization to produce the food we need to eat in order to stay alive.
This is why bugging out to the woods makes little sense. The nutrition you need, multiplied by the number of survivalists planning on attempting this, with the bio-capacity that is now left in our depleted forests, is woefully inadequate. Conveniently overlooking the critical issue of resupply only compounds this problem, essentially making this a fatal decision for those who naively think this is their "answer" to their future. It may help the rest of us by winnowing the wheat from the chaff (morons die first), but it's going to be mighty hard to look your daughter in the eye as she dies in your arms from starvation.
Some are advising to "carry it all with you" -- which is a certain death sentence, unless you can somehow resupply. Without resupply, even the most well-prepared location will eventually run out, or something essential and critical will break or be lost, stolen, sold, traded or worn out, and you will be forced back to civilization (where in actuality, you will attempt to resupply). Even the most well prepared "cache" will run out of essentials (notwithstanding theft, spoil, or be ruined by accident, weather, fire, bugs or bears). Resupply then, in ALL situations, becomes a critical necessity for long-term survival irrespective of "where" you are.
Bugging out then, will always mean "short-term survival" with the expectation that the survivor will either return to the productive capacity of civilization out of necessity (survival), or alternatively (and least likely) find some way to take advantage of it (especially food) by hunting, farming, stealing, trading or gleaning the necessary calories to stay alive -- all while hoping sickness, injury, exhaustion, hypothermia, detection, violence and betrayal doesn't do you in first (most likely).
Forest gardening, while a nice thought, is not going to work very well for long-term survival and should not be considered your food source for resupply. The reasons and requirements and drawbacks are many: pests, bugs, depredation by animals, acidic soils, need for water, harvest and storage, spoilage, unpredictable weather and long lengths of time (months to harvest, which is difficult to process and store without proper equipment and shelter).
Here, where I live in the woods, the deer are major problem for any garden. I could slaughter all the deer around and solve that issue, but only temporarily. I still have birds, rabbits and rodents and bugs to deal with. But I would still have problems with storage and processing (preserving) the crops that survived. The same is true for any meat harvested. Smoking, drying, curing, pickling, canning are all possible, but they're ALL terribly unrealistic in a bug-out situation. If you're bugged-out, aren't you actually hiding in the woods? How do you propose to plant a garden, smoke meat or setup a canning operation while doing that? Nothing will announce your presence more then a smokey fire or cleared land (or row crops). You'd also be spending all your time and energy trying to keep every other creature from eating what you planted. And where are you going to get the supplies you would need? And exactly how would you manage to carry it all?
No, bugging out will not allow you to "farm and garden" in the woods, this notion is stillborn, because it overlooks the entire issue of logistics. Those of us who live in the woods now have fixed locations (no moving around trying to carry stuff), a constant source of resupply (critical to our survival), adequate nutrition (plenty of food), tools, equipment and gear (everything from tractors to shovels, which we do not have to carry far), and good shelter, including storage locations. Don't forget that we're all still depending on oil too -- which has produced, or made possible, our food, tractors, shovels, shelters, electricity and transportation. We could learn to live without these things, eventually, but years of research has shown me that nobody actually does. Not yet. Everyone alive today is benefiting in large ways from the productive capacity of civilization and oil, with the only exceptions being some indigenous tribes still living in the jungle. But our "jungle" (forest and wilderness) will no longer able support even a tiny fraction of our population, and if many of us tried this, we'd simply strip it bare in a matter of weeks.
There are tens of thousands, if not a few million -- would-be 'survivalists' that have bought into the notion that they can (and should) disappear into the wilderness and "bug-out", abandoning civilization and disappear. This is largely based upon the gross misconception of what it takes to stay alive, what kind of nutrition you actually need, why resupply would be such a critical short-term and long-term necessity (and how) for this to actually work, and how many people could be reasonably expected to successfully do this.
It's also pretty well known now among those that have actually lived the life, that you cannot guard and protect what you have and hope to farm / grow and harvest all by yourself. You don't / won't have the energy to do all of this. You WILL need help, and lots of it.
The common theme in every wilderness survival situation, whether plane crash, lost hiker, escape from the Soviet gulag, desperado, capsized canoeist, or escaped criminal, is food. There is not enough to eat. There is not enough game to hunt. There is not enough wild and edible plants to keep you in proper nutrition. Those that would willingly bug-out into this situation are facing either death by starvation or severe malnourishment, which will only be solved by their rescue or return to civilization and its productive capacity and ability to keep them alive, a concept which is often not even considered (or even deemed desirable by many). After all -- if you've left, why would you want to come back?
But come back you will, probably far sooner then many seem to realize. This is the other common, but unrecognized theme in every survival situation -- to return home. Civilization, and its ability to feed every single one of us, meeting our daily needs for nutrition, shelter, clothing, water, medical attention and many other essentials, may be something we take for granted, but it will become near-immediate evident when you are cut off and divorced from everything.
I mentioned that I do not have a bug-out bag anymore, because it is extremely unlikely that I will ever find myself in need of such a thing. Running off to hide in the forest is not a plan with any future -- it is an escape. I do not intend to escape. I have better plans then this.
Getting home will not be a problem for me (I can simply walk). I'm never far away. Leaving for the wilderness in "flee mode" will never be a viable, workable option for me either, because it is actually a death sentence. Rather, I have had made many extensive preparations to live here and to provide for myself and my family the things that I will need in order to endure here. I will be the first to admit that I cannot divorce myself from civilization, and even though I have now written thousands of articles on the evils of our present world, civilization and I (and you) are joined at the stomach, for life, whether we like it or not, and whether I / we disagree with it or not. It is now simply a fact of life, one of the 'requirements' of living in the modern age in a severely depleted and heavily occupied world.
I don't concern myself much anymore with what might happen. The years I've spent dwelling on this issue, investigating, researching and writing countless articles, have proven to be pretty non-productive, a near-total waste of my time, distracting me from the business of actually being properly prepared. If some cataclysm or regional disaster or some such event takes place, there is really nothing I can do about it. If it happens, it happens. I'm not going to waste my life worrying about the unfixable (and the unknowable). What I am going to do however, is focus on what I can do, right now.
Survival then, in reality, abandoning all the bullshit, all the hype, all propaganda and endless (and pointless) discussion, and all the sale ads trying to snag the dollars from your pocket, becomes identifying how you might survive long enough to return back to civilization -- or if you are already or still there, how you might endure longer if things go belly up. This has been the focus of this blog for years. Those of you that are still persuaded that you are going to turn your back on civilization, utterly divorcing yourselves are absolutely DELUDED. You have embraced a strong delusion and believe a lie. This is your opportunity to wake the hell up and get grounded in reality.
I currently have a ten-year food supply, and am building a large, near-commercial sized greenhouse (finally!) because even this amount of food is insufficient. This is hoped to give my family and I enough calorie "income" (we won't be selling anything) to meet a percentage of our daily calorie requirements. But we will still be dependent upon civilization and the need for other calories, equipment and supplies, fuel, transportation and many other things. Survival here will be far easier then survival anywhere else, but it is still going to be hard if the balloon goes up. But we won't be bugging out under any conceivable circumstances, because we already live in our survival retreat, something else I've long advocated (live there now). Bugging out to the wilderness is a non-option with no future, I can barely even conceive of a truly valid reason why choosing this would be better then choosing something else.
Something nobody seems to really consider is bugging out also leave you very ineffective to deal with why you bugged out. You'll be far too busy trying to stay alive to do much else, such as put up any resistance, fight back or try and solve the problem that "forced" you to abandon everything. Who are you going to resist, while far, far away off in the forest or wilderness? The nearest tree? Your cave mates? The inability to make a fire from wet wood? The game warden?
Resistance to the NWO or tyranny or whatever will not come from wilderness 'survivors'. You will be utterly USELESS while living off in the woods, except to yourselves, trying to stay alive (or leeching off the locals). Not a situation that will receive much appreciation or support from anyone.
Your decision to leave your situation is your business -- don't make it someone else's responsibility. I personally deeply resent it when someone tries to do this to me, because it shows a deep misunderstanding of personal responsibility and accountability. I am not responsible for your future or your food or your safety or your anything in reality. Only you are. We CAN work together, but only if we agree on some important points.
I don't agree that it is my responsibility to support you if you have made a terrible decision, i.e., self-made "refugee" because you thought that heading to the wilderness was going to be your best option. YOU are responsible for YOUR actions, as I am for MINE.
The truth is, those that depart for the wilderness will only be a threat to the locals that they will impinge upon. Nobody else is really going to care, not even the government. A few local "officials" may decide to route you out, but for the most part, you're off the radar. But as mentioned in Part I, even the locals should not be taken lightly, they're better prepared then you will be, having the advantage of civilization and its productive capacity at their back. They'll also probably have the law protecting them -- dissenter / defectors will probably be widely derided and / or hated and even hunted down if things get out of hand (start stealing livestock and see what happens).
The latter is not hard to envision, historically it is exactly what has happened all over the world. It is still illegal to live off the land in most of this country -- do not expect this to change much (except for the worst) if hordes of you decide to bug out and try your hand at "survival".
Don't expect a helping hand or a sympathetic ear to your political views or plight either, it's unlikely as hell that this will actually happen. You will be perceived as a serious, but local problem. We may agree with your decision to refuse to comply with a government that makes "anti-everything" a daily action item (freedom, liberty, economic equality, take your pick), but we're not going to be much help to you. Our advice to you is "go home", or pick a new one where you can actually do some good. Keep in mind that 'locals' do not really cotton too well to outsiders either. You will be perceived with suspicion and distrust, especially if things are bad all around.
There may be more justification to this latter point too. I've seen discussions where these self-made refugees think they're going to raid the locals for supplies, stealing whatever they need in order to survive. Sure, you might try that, but you'll also then declare yourselves absolute fair game to be shot and killed on sight, including anyone with you, at any time of the day or night. Anyone that is not known under those kind of conditions will be considered a dangerous threat to be eliminated. Thievery will be the same thing as deadly assault (which is what it really is when you start stealing the essential food and supplies keeping those people alive) -- and will be dealt with in kind, with absolutely no mercy, no questions asked. If you think you are going to live by the sword, be prepared to die by the sword.
There are many, many absolutely ridiculous notions and "plans" for how people are going to survive. Most are actually pretty stupid, inhabiting the empty barren landscape found all too often between empty ears. Novels, movies, forums and blogs, chock full of "answers" that have very little to do with reality. Speaking out against them isn't popular, but going along with all the mythological bullshit I've seen isn't survivable either.
The only thing you can actually do is to find ways to survive that will actually work -- based upon reality. The rest of the talk you read and hear online and elsewhere is pure absolute unadulterated bullshit. If you really intend to survive, and make it through tough times, then you are going to need to get grounded in reality, the sooner the better.