Many websites, blogs and forums have covered the topic of bugging out in excruciating detail, all under the assumption that this will be a necessary escape plan for many of us when the proverbial shit hits the fan. This notion is predicated upon the belief that escape and evasion, necessary for your immediate survival will be a (likely) event that you must plan and prepare for now.
However, nothing could be further from the real and actual truth. This cherished myth is a deceptive and dangerous notion that has little place in reality. I've long held a stance against this notion because in nearly all cases and all situations, this is a very bad idea with oftentimes fatal consequences. Bugging out is embracing the refugee lifestyle - a very bad idea. Refugees throughout history have fared very badly, suffered extreme hardship and deprivation, with many not surviving the experience. There is a far better alternative to this.
The rejection of the "bug out" mythology flies in the face of the so-called 'expert advice' and theory being proposed by many websites and authors, who are also very active in selling products and gear specifically oriented around this concept. You could say quite rightly, that there is indeed a agenda at work here, but it is not one in your best interests. Hold onto your pockets and read on.
Bugging out entails leaving everything you are, and everything you own, and everything you use, day in and day out, and everything you cannot carry or transport with you, behind. Not only behind, but inaccessible, unusable and abandoned. Potentially forever.
How much of our lives, and the things within our lives, do we truly want to abandon? You will also leaving behind all rules of normalcy, the concept of "plenty" and abundance (which also means replacements and repair), all laws, rules, behavior and expectations that we have come to expect from each other and within our society, both good and bad.
Let's make a list of these things to put this reality into perspective:
You will be leaving behind your job (income), perhaps your family (wife, kids), your home (shelter), your friends (support network), your contacts (other people you know), your bank accounts (money), your credit (ruined), your retirement (pension), your property and everything you own (everything you cannot carry with you), your vehicles (except perhaps one, at least until the gas tank is empty), your future (prospects, employment, credibility, integrity). Don't forget things also left behind, such as electricity, running water, Internet access, news and information, communications, telephone and even cell service, a warm, dry bed and other 'essentials', some more then others.
You will also leave behind all expectations of normalcy, decency, morality and expectations, i.e., a "normal life", forever -- more on that below.
If you were dependent upon a job, it will be gone. You will have either been fired or laid off with a ruined reference for any future employment. You would not be able to pay your rent or your mortgage, your utility bills or any of your monthly obligations. If they've lapsed far enough, then you would be facing bankruptcy and / or forfeiture of your (remaining) assets, or at the very least, their liquidation (if you still have them) in order to survive a few more weeks.
It's possible your kids or your wife could be gone, having abandoned you for abandoning them or sucked up into the system by the welfare state or child protective services. Your marriage could be in ruins, your family and friends could disown you, but in any case, what would be left of your relationships could potentially be in complete tatters. Worthwhile? You decide.
Your connections to society and civilization would also be destroyed, or certainly damaged, perhaps beyond repair. In effect, you'd be "cashing out" completely and perhaps forever, of the life you've lived and starting over. Worthwhile? You decide.
But you'd be alive! (supposedly).
In effect, bugging out will mean you will be totally abandoning your present life in exchange for huddling under a tree in the woods, trying to avoid hypothermia and starvation, wondering where you next meal will come from, and how long you can hold out in your new 'reality'. And whatever it was that you chose to run away from -- will still be there. This is perhaps the most overlooked point of all.
How long could you hold out? Not long. The reasons are many, but they are sound.
The need to bug out is an exceedingly tiny reality -- a future event that will probably never happen. But it is not a zero possibility (nothing is, not even an alien invasion). Yet this topic still receives a ridiculous amount of attention despite its extremely low probability, which makes no sense at all. The reason is because escapism is thought to be a 'solution' versus contributing to the problem. It's not, as the points above demonstrate.
Running -- from whatever the problem is, usually ensures that you are taking your problems with you. Only if your life is in immediate danger does running offer a better opportunity then staying put and dealing with the problem. Running does not make problems go away, it will very often make them much worse.
Running is also thought of as being romantic, adventurous and even 'brave' in some circles. Taking on the world all by yourself while you're on the run is a common theme in movies and books, but has nothing to do with real life. Running means you're in full-blown survival mode and all bets are off, including all notions of morality, right and wrong, doing the "right thing" and what you can even reasonably expect to happen. Anything can happen if you run, and often does, because you are replacing all of your security for a whole series of things unknown (and insecure).
Did you know that if you abandon the system, then the system will also abandon you? Nobody much talks about this point, but it is true. You will find yourself outside of society, unhelped and unhelpable, unknown, disconnected and even hated for being what you have now become. With no address, connections, no references, no family or friends, nothing with which to help connect you back into society, society will turn its back upon you in fear, and you will be outside of all normal channels of help and assistance, effectively cut off. This is a huge issue, but nobody ever mentions it.
To The Woods
Bugging out is usually assumed to mean "to the woods" where survivors, patriots, militia, end-timers and others will be making "their last stand" (apparently together, whether they like it or not) while roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. Instead, it will be the last man standing over a pile of rotted and half-eaten corpses, since the food and supplies and the notions of 'living off the land' will have died out with the last slaughtered deer to be found. And every 'survivor' will have been hoping all along that nobody has turned them in for poaching.
Campsites, caves and hidey-holes will have become armed, dirty and infested encampments of hungry and desperate men (the surviving women would have long since been forced into prostitution and slavery), all fighting over the remaining scraps to be found (and newcomers showing up) necessary for their survival. Informants, traitors, thieves, murderers, rapists and thugs will quickly become the defining characteristic, with the strongest ruling (or eating) the weak. Those who arrive "first" will potentially be better prepared to prey upon the late-comers or the weak, so if you are still planning on trying this, get your seat at the table early.
Think not? This is exactly what happens during civil wars and internal conflicts when a country turns against itself. The war in Bosnia saw tens of thousands of murders, rapes and thefts as the people turned on each other. It was a fight for survival, for food, for weapons, for money, for women.
It has happened all over the world, and it will happen again. Whenever there is not enough to go around, and whenever there is strife, secrecy and conflict, those involved will resort to whatever methods of survival that they have to in order that they might live another day by whatever means possible. It will be no picnic, no romantic "retreat into the woods" where faith, truth, righteousness or rebellion will flourish and grow. Instead, it will be a bloodbath where the young, old and the weak succumb the quickest. I suggest you bring lots of Tabasco sauce, as it does make the meat taste better.
Bugging out also means you are leaving the norms of society behind. These are the rules, laws, restrictions and expectations that you have come to expect (and largely appreciate) that govern human behavior. Would-be dictators and gang leaders will spring forth from unlikely sources. Since there is nothing to hinder them, then they will allow themselves to be unhindered. Unrestrained, you will find the true nature of what your "friends" can really be. You'll soon regret not locking up the mad caps among you and taking away their weapons. If food or medical supplies are in short supply, then expect gang on gang, tribe on tribe warfare to begin. Expect slavery, torture, imprisonment and rape. Also expect the nearby communities (cities, towns, villages) to become their prey, as theft, robbery and murder to go hand in hand with their (daily) need for food and other things like fuel and medical supplies.
Inversely, you could also expect smart and prepared communities to expel, exterminate and hunt down these refugees if things get way out of hand, exacerbating an already bad situation. Forget for a moment the military or law enforcement going after these woodland refugees (a topic unto itself), the locals themselves will not be the helping hand that you may have naively come to expect, especially if you or your gang have already trod upon their welcome mat. They're trying to survive too, and live normal, unfettered lives as best they can. They don't need nor appreciate you coming along and messing things up. Camping out in their back yard or nearby forests will often pit you against them in violent and lethal ways. And they will be far more adept then you are outlasting you because they will have the infrastructure and support network to do so.
Survivalism is only rarely about 'surviving in the woods'. Rather, survivalism is about living, and staying alive, and how you might do that while experiencing as few hardships as you can. Bugging out to the woods to survive your end-time fantasies is going to be a quick path to death for the majority of people that try this route. There is a better alternative to this.
Bugging out is never quite what everyone seems to think it is, where living off the land and finding adequate nutrition and staying healthy is grossly overlooked. Many people claim that they can "do it", yet return year after year from hunting season empty handed. When the beer runs out, they head home. Or when the food is bland or gone, they're beating tracks as fast as they can to the nearest restaurant. These 'survivalists' and 'outdoorsman' will not survive their voluntary refugee status by bugging out, but they will (if they show up, far from home) be a serious problem for the locals.
You will burn up a tremendous amount of calories (as much as 3 - 4 times as normal) while trying to live off the land. Finding and building shelter, hunting and gathering for food and water, providing heat, establishing security and working and waking / walking for long hours at a time, will cause you to expend far more calories then you will be taking in. Even if you are very well supplied, you won't be for long (you cannot carry enough). Foraging for food will very rarely provide enough calories versus what you are expending while looking. You will quickly go into a calorie deficit, burning off fats and muscles as your body adapts to your new environment and demands.
I've seen lot of ill-informed discussion of 'nomadic lifestyle' whereas the individual or group is roaming about, living off the land. This notion is pure b.s., as it is calorie-deficient, ill-advised for security reasons and will increase the risk of injury and health issues. You will need to preserve calories -- not expend them (if you can).
Calorie deficiency cannot last very long (mere days in most cases) before your health diminishes and your strength drops. You risk hypothermia, vitamin deficiencies and a higher risk of contracting illness and injury due to your weakened condition. Unless your nutritional needs are met and you are able to also stay warm and dry, avoiding hypothermia (core temperature drop) and frostbite / exposure, then it is just a matter of time before you become incapacitated, unable to effectively help yourself.
There are countless examples of 'modern day survivalists' who have found this out, believing that they too could live off the land and survive, but lacking the skills and experience to do so. Additionaly, our forests are not the cornucopia of food waiting to be plucked many seem to think, they're vastly depleted monocultures of trees, lacking sufficient edible foods and wildlife. Some of these people wound up dead, others were found or rescued. All of them learned that foraging for sufficient nutrition and calories is why we have modern farms -- it is the most efficient way of meeting our nutritional needs. Even growing your own food at home in a controlled environment (garden) with a plentiful supply of soils, seeds, water, tools and time is extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible for most of us (really) to meet all your daily nutritional needs, all while leading a far less demanding lifestyle then living off in the woods in survival mode. I've long been advocating sustainable living and raising your own food, but here in the woods where I live, I cannot even grow half of the food I need to stay alive and healthy, let alone expect to hunt it down. Nor can I grow enough to feed my family, compounding the nutritional needs required.
Bugging out is in nearly all cases, a very bad idea, fraught with danger and pitfalls, destined for failure and doom for those that believe that this will be "their answer" to whatever they're running away from. It would only be necessary in the most extreme circumstances (extremely rare) and for very extremely short periods of time and for extremely few (skilled) people. This rules out almost everyone else. You would need to return to civilization far sooner then many seem to be planning for. If you did run off into the woods, you'd soon be back (as many Y2K refugees found out). Wouldn't it then be a better solution to avoid this unnecessary step altogether if you could?
Ultimately, this then is the far better solution -- bugging in, back to safety, food, heat, clothing, medical attention and survival. If you truly think that you foresee a need to bug out -- then revise your plans to bug in to a new location within civilization where you can find (or work for) food, clothing, shelter, safety and security (including an income) where your survival is a far more sure thing. This is the only long-term answer there really is. You will also be in a much better situation to deal with whatever the problem was in the first place that caused you to leave.
I do not have a bug out bag anymore, since it no longer makes any sense to me to have one. I do have cash, toys, tools, vehicles and other things of interest at my disposal. Disappearing off into the woods is a dead end and it will not work for the vast majority of people that would try this. You would have to come out sooner then you think (if you survive) and return to life within civilization somewhere. You're not going to live off the land indefinitely, and not even as long as you may think, so it makes far more sense in your 'escape plan' to prepare for living someplace else instead.
The entire concept of bugging out truly needs to be redefined to fit within the parameters of reality and how this would really work for the vast majority of people. Leaving for reasons of safety, security, natural disasters or some other valid reason is perfectly acceptable -- but where you go and how you will plan on surviving while you are there seems to be where this theory falls flat on its face against reality. Having the means to leave, but having some place to go, where you can find safety, food, shelter and sustainability is key to a true "bug out" plan. Planning on disappearing into the woods is in all probability one of the worst ideas you could attempt. You would have to come out sooner or later, weakened, possibly sick or injured, broke, destitute and impoverished -- a true self-made refugee. Basically, a dumb idea all around, one that should only be tried in the most extreme circumstances and only for the adept.
Also see the follow up articles on this topic:
The Fallacy of Bugging Out - Part II
B.O.B. - The Reality
Surviving the Horde