Imagine for a minute that the crap has hit the proverbial fan. What should you do? Is it safe to bug in or do you need to bug out? Are you prepared to do either? These are not easy questions to answer without knowing exactly what the situation is. There are a million different situations that can run through your mind and each one could have multiple “correct” answers. Let’s take a look at a few things to help assess the situation so you can determine your next steps.
Bug In or Bug Out?
Is it better to bug in or out?
That’s a question most preppers ask themselves when they try to make plans. Some people can come up with a ton of reasons to bug in while others can present just as many reasons to bug out.
The truth is that the answer depends on many factors such as:
- What kind of emergency is happening?
- Is this a localized event to your area or is it more widespread?
- Is it an act of Nature such as a hurricane, tornado, blizzard, ice storm, earthquake or volcano?
- Will there be an extended period of no electricity, water or trash service?
- Is it safe to stay in your home?
- Is your home stocked with enough food and other supplies that you can safely ride out the event?
- Do you have a place that you can bug out to?
- If so, how will you get there safely?
- Are you physically capable of walking long distances if necessary?
- How will you handle communications with other family members and friends?
Those are just a few scenarios that you need to prepare for! But the good news is that the basics of prepping will cover you for a good portion of each potential SHTF scenario.
In all situations we need clean water to drink, food to eat, shelter from the weather, basic medical supplies, alternate ways to communicate and defend ourselves. The more of those areas that we can cover, the better prepared we will be for an emergency.
Let’s start by looking at the scenario where things are bad but you can safely stay in your home. This could be a localized event or even something as simple as a job loss event. This is what bug in prepping is all about.
Bug In Prepping
Bug in prepping simply means that we have our supplies at our primary residence. This is where beginning preppers should look to get started. Stock your prepper pantry with canned meats and vegetables that you would eat even during normal times. This way you can rotate your food supply to insure your food is as fresh as possible. Build a supply of commonly used household items, cleaners, medical supplies, tools and anything else that will make your life easier on a daily basis. Having those items during an emergency will make your life a thousand times better!
Make sure that you have a way to filter water so that you have clean water to drink and cook with. This is an often overlooked area of preparedness but all you have to do is look at all of the illnesses worldwide due to contaminated water and you will realize that it is a vitally important area. Even having something as simple as a Lifestraw can be a life saver during a SHTF event.
Unless you have an unlimited budget it is best to start with the goal of building up a one month supply of these food items. Some people run to the grocery store and buy canned chicken, tuna, peanut butter and many other items that are shelf stable for many months. I prefer a more logical approach!
The 7 Meal Plan
This plan is one that I learned about when reading some articles from members of the LDS Church. They have always been in to long term food storage and preparedness so I thought they could probably offer some good advice in those areas. I’m glad I went to them before I ran to the grocery store as I found some ways to prepare that I had not considered like the 7 meal plan.
They recommend that you pick 7 meals that you and your family like. Then make a list of the ingredients needed for each meal. Once you have done this then your first goal is to buy enough ingredients to make each of the 7 meals and put it in your pantry. By following the 7 meal plan you can insure that you can prepare at least one meal a day for seven days.
As you make each meal, you replace the contents in your pantry. If you know that you will continue to make these meals then you can keep your eyes out for sales on those ingredients and slowly build up your pantry so that you have 2 weeks worth of ingredients on hand. Then go for 3 weeks, 4 weeks and so on until you have built up a three month supply.
For example, say that your family likes spaghetti. You know that you use (1) 1 pound box of pasta and 1 jar of spaghetti sauce each time you make the meal. Your goal would be to watch for supermarket specials on those 2 items and buy an extra one to stock in your pantry as your food budget allows. If you are trying to build a 3 month prepper pantry then you know that you need 12 boxes of pasta and 12 jars of sauce.
Repeat that process for each of the other 6 meals in your plan. The LDS Church recommends a one year pantry to their members. This is a great goal to have but can feel overwhelming to those that are just getting started. That’s why I say start with one week, increase your stock to weeks as you can, then three weeks and keep going as long as you can afford it and have room to properly store the food.
Common Use Items
I do the same thing with other items that we commonly use like toilet paper (you don’t want to be one of the people running from store to store looking for it like at the start of the pandemic do you?), paper towels, paper plates, plastic silverware, bath soap, toothpaste, deodorant, dish washing detergent, laundry detergent, aspirin, band-aids and anything else that you know you need on a regular basis.
If you buy a little extra at a time it doesn’t feel like you are breaking the bank. And think about how much time you will be saving when you run out of something in the future – you can just go to your pantry and get a refill!
Use Common Sense
You don’t have to go overboard and buy 10,000 rolls of toilet paper or hoard any other items. Buy what you know you will use when you can afford to buy it. Don’t rush out and buy long term storage food just because you saw a Youtube video where the guy said “if you don’t buy this you will die!”
Get the things that you know you and your family will eat, things that you will use daily before you look at long term options.
Now, let’s take a look at the worst case scenario – things are so bad that you have to leave your home. Things are so bad that you have no choice but to bug out.
Bug Out Prepping
Bugging out is something that all of us should hope we never have to do. It means, for whatever reason, that our home is no longer a safe place to live.
My take has always been to cover the bases for a bug in situation before you should even think about planning a bug out scenario. So for the sake of this article I am going to assume that you have the bug in situation well in hand. If that is the case, then there are quite a few things that you need to consider while developing a bug out plan:
- Where will you bug out to?
- How will you get there?
- How will you communicate with other family members?
- What supplies will you have at your bug out location?
- What will you be able to take with you?
- How will you protect your family and supplies along the way and once you het to your bug out location?
I’ve read lot’s of articles, stories and watched videos where people say “I’ll just go to X” when SHTF happens.
X could be the closest lake, river, beach, mountains, a friend or relatives house. If that’s what you are thinking then I have one question for you – “What if everyone else in your area does the same thing?”
What if everyone goes to that beach or those mountains? Do you think everyone will just magically get along and help each other? How will the people that already live in those areas act when all of these strangers suddenly show up in their area?
I could go on but I think you get the picture. You need a real plan, not a pipe dream.
Do you have a relative or friend that you can make arrangements with? They know you will be coming if something happens in your area and they know that they can come to you for help if something happens in their area. This is a great place to start for most people. But keep in mind that you will be a guest in their house. Their house, their rules.
The better option, if you can afford it, is to have a location that you own that is a safe distance from where you live. This way you can try to re-establish as close to a normal life as possible for your family as fast as possible.
In either situation you should have some pre-positioned supplies at your bug out location so that you are not empty handed when you arrive.
How Are You Getting To Your Bug Out Location?
Once you’ve made the decision that you have to leave and you know where you are going the question becomes “How do we get there safely?”
Will you be able to drive there or will you have to walk or ride a bicycle? Are you in good enough physical shape to walk, run or ride a bike that far?
What will you be able to take with you when you leave?
What Goes in a Bug Out Bag
This introduces us to the bug out bag. Some people refer to it as their BOB. There are many variations of this bag. The basic theory is that it will contain items that will help you to get to where you are going. Those items can include basic shelter, a way to filter water, a way to start a fire, a knife, an axe or hatchet, maps of the area, flashlights, food and basic medical supplies. Some people include blankets, clothes, clean socks, communication devices and other methods of personal protection. The point is you can customize your BOB to fit your expected needs but make sure that you don’t put so much stuff in it that you are unable to carry it. If the roads are unpassable then you may have to get out and walk. How far will you be able to carry it? What if you have to run for some reason? Will it be so heavy that you have to leave it behind and proceed with nothing?
It is a good idea to have a bug out bag for each family member that contains some of the items that they will need. But make sure to not overload them with so much stuff that the bag is too heavy for them to carry it.
Many people keep bug out bags in their vehicles as well as having one in their house positioned close to an exit in case they need to grab it and go.
The Bug Out Plan
As you are preparing for a bug out scenario, having a plan that all family members are familiar with is vital. Everyone needs to know what to do, where to meet up and how to communicate in case you are not all together when the event happens. This will keep you from having people going to random places looking for family and friends. It can also help to coordinate meetups along the way to the bug out location as well as provide the opportunity to use code words to warn of trouble ahead.
Some people like to over complicate everything, including their bug out plan. I prefer to keep things simple so that they are more likely to be remembered and followed. Everyone in your group should know what channels to use for open communication, what locations are good for meetups and any code words that indicate trouble and how it should be handled.
It is impossible to prepare for every scenario that can happen. But, by taking card of the basics like shelter, clean water, food, communications and self defense we can be better prepared than most.
I have always looked at preparedness as a form of insurance. But in this case, the insurance premiums and benefits go to me!
Whether it is from an act of Nature, a man made disaster or job loss, being prepared for SHTF can remove a lot of pressure from your life.