If your emergency preparedness plan includes a bugout scenario, you should plan a mock bugout trip to test your strengths and weaknesses. Testing your bugout plan is a necessary step in order to identify if your family members will know what to do in a real life-threatening scenario.
You shouldn’t plan too much for it and you should do it over the weekend. On Saturday morning, tell everyone to grab their bug out bags and go to the car. Observe how they act and write down every detail that seems out of place. You will discuss about your notes when things get back to ‘normal’.
Drive to a nearby state park and leave your car in the parking lot. Everyone should assume that the road is blocked and the party will have to walk the rest of the way to get to the camping zone or bugout location. You should pick the location ahead of time and avoid wandering in the woods without a specific target. Once you get to the designated area, the real practice begins and you should test the following drills:
Setting up camp
Start by making a simple shelter (depending on the season) and set up a cooking area. Check how fast your family can help you build a sturdy shelter. You will need planning before building a shelter. There are many things to consider: number of people in the party, available resources, time zone, weather, etc. You will discover that people forget things that should be obvious. On our first drill we forgot to dig a latrine because nobody needed to do their business. Some of the family members will be eager to help, while others will prefer to enjoy nature and will be hesitant (or moody) to provide a helping hand. That’s just the reality and you will need to deal with it.
Suggested reading: Planning a shelter in the wild
Find a water source and purify the water
Finding a water source is a piece of cake if your camping area is near a water stream. However, things drastically change when a water hole is nowhere in sight. Try to identify proper water sources in your area and choose a party member to be in charge of purifying the water (using the available means). You will be able to plan your next actions based on how much time it takes to find water and bring it back to camp.
Make a fire
While it is much more practical to use a lighter or any other modern tool to start a fire, now would be the time to practice starting a fire using primitive methods. It’s much easier to test your fire making skills when you’re not stressed. You can experiment without affecting your safety if you fail. When you test your bugout plan, try to make various types of fires and make it harder for you to succeed as described in the article below.
Recommended reading: Starting a fire against all odds
Make dinner with the provisions you brought along and discover the joys and struggles of cooking over an open fire. If your meals require just heating, you’re in luck. If you need to cook your food for extended periods of time, to provide a constant flame and heat distribution, things will get tricky. Cooking over an open flame is difficult, especially if you haven’t done it before and if you lack the proper utensils.
Try to get some sleep
This may seem like common sense for some, but not many people manage to get a good night sleep while camping in the woods. Your tent or shelter is not soundproofed. All the noises the forests provide can keep you awake if you’re the anxious type of person. Sleeping outside requires some adjusting time. It will be a perfect occasion to see how your family deals with this situation.
Try to navigate at night
Although this may be dangerous for the inexperienced camper, traveling at night may be required in a SHTF scenario. If you test your bugout plan on familiar grounds, you should practice using a map and compass or GPS at night. You should also try to adjust your vision to the absence of light and check if you can remain calm under those circumstances.
A must read: How to develop night vision for survival
Hunt or fish for food (if the season allows it)
Imagine that you run out of food and you need to put something on the table. Would you be able to do it with the gear you have? Can you fish or hunt just to survive? This is the perfect time to find out, seeing that you can return to civilization if you fail to provide for your family. It is also a perfect occasion to teach your kids a thing or two about fishing and strengthen your bonds.
Try to identify the plants in your area, especially the dangerous ones
While becoming a forager takes time and practice, you might want to start by identifying plants such as poison ivy, sumac and oak. Being able to identify the plants from your area while testing your bugout plan is a real morale booster. It provides a self-confidence that is hard to explain. Once you know about the plants you should stay away from, you can try to identify the edible and medicinal ones using a practical field guide.
Practice first aid scenarios when testing your bugout plan
If you brought a first aid kit along, you might as well use it and test your first aid knowledge. It is up to you what first aid scenarios you practice and you should be curious enough to get out of your comfort zone. It is also a good occasion to see how your kids react to such scenario and if you can handle them as things will get much worse during a real first aid scenario.
Testing your bugout plan is an experience you have to try at least once if you want to make sure things will go as planned during a crisis. Even though it may seem like an enjoyable practice at first, it will still provide you with enough experiences and information to realize what you did wrong and how to do better next time.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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