A Few Tips For Bugging-Out In Winter

Ever wondered about how your family’s journey could be affected if you had to bug out in winter? Winter weather needs a bit of different planning compared to our usual summer trips. If you don’t put enough thought, resources, and strategy into it, your bug out trip might turn into a disaster instead of leading you to a safer place.

Navigating the roads during winter is a reality for many, and it can go south quickly, especially if you’re not accustomed to or ready for such situations. Reflecting on some lessons from my past camping experiences, I thought I’d share some simple tips to keep warm and safely reach your destination when bugging out in winter. And speaking of bugging-out in winter, being prepared for the cold is just the beginning.

Get it Right from the Start

There’s a saying that goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail,” and it holds true, especially when it comes to bugging out in winter. Having a solid bug out plan is crucial because there are countless factors to consider, and time or stress can easily lead to overlooking important details.

Another critical aspect is that you might not always have the luxury of time to carefully prepare and load your bug out vehicles. You might find yourself fleeing with just the clothes on your back. While we hope for the best, some of the items mentioned below can help ensure your vehicle is ready for bugging out in winter.

Making sure all the essentials are in check before leaving your home can make all the difference between a successful trip and a potential disaster. What should you think about before hitting the road? It’s essential to figure this out now, before the possibility of leaving in the middle of the night in harsh winter weather becomes a reality. And speaking of bugging out in winter, early preparation is key.

Know where are you going when you are bugging out in winter

Before delving into the nitty-gritty of planning your bug out trip, take a thoughtful pause to consider the specifics of your destination while packing your supplies. Are you bound for a remote, isolated area, or is your destination closer to civilization?

Another critical factor to ponder is the anticipated weather conditions—will your bug out location be blanketed in snow or encased in ice? It might seem like common sense, but these considerations carry significant weight because your needs and preparations will vastly differ based on whether you’re positioning yourself amidst a bustling community or embarking on the solitary journey down the Moab Road, hundreds of miles away from any semblance of civilization.

The intricacies of your preparation become even more pronounced when contemplating bugging out in winter. The chilling temperatures, potential snow-covered landscapes, and the isolation of your chosen path can significantly impact the supplies and gear you need to ensure a successful and safe journey. So, take the time to assess the unique characteristics of your bug out destination before setting out, especially when winter conditions add an extra layer of complexity to your planning.

Consider the Environment: Fueling Your Fire for Survival

consider the environment fueling your fire for survival

Think about your surroundings—are you in an area where you can gather materials for a fire? Is it a forest or a desert landscape? Assess the shelter options available to you.

Will you be camping under the open sky or finding refuge in a home with operational utilities?

Have weather conditions been relentless, with two weeks of non-stop rain or snow, potentially rendering all available materials drenched or buried?

The practicalities of your fire plan extend further. Do you anticipate needing to transport a week’s worth of firewood, or should you equip yourself with, at the very least, a hand saw or chainsaw for on-site harvesting?

Once your firewood strategy is in place, consider the importance of redundancy—do you have multiple foolproof methods for starting a fire?

A personal anecdote might drive this point home: during a camping trip last January, with temperatures plummeting to 17 degrees, everyone huddled closely to the fire for warmth, emphasizing the critical role of fire-making in winter survival scenarios. So, in contemplating your bug out plan, factor in not just the need for fire but the diverse means to ignite it, especially when bugging out in winter.

Weather Wisdom: Dressing Right and Forecasting Smart

Start your bug out preparations by ensuring you have an accurate weather forecast. With the abundance of weather apps available today, obtaining a reasonable forecast for your destination should be a breeze. However, it’s crucial to plan based on the weather at your intended location, not the comfort of your home. The variation in weather conditions over just a few dozen miles is noteworthy.

Equally important is the attire you choose. Dress for walking, not merely for riding in a vehicle. Anticipate the possibility of having to travel on foot, and make sure your attire is suitable for such a scenario. Imagine being forced to navigate on foot, and you certainly wouldn’t want your kids donned in pajamas and slippers.

This has been a lesson my nephews have heard from me for years—leaving the house dressed appropriately for the weather is a non-negotiable part of being prepared. So, when plotting your bug out strategy, don’t overlook the significance of accurate weather forecasts and the practicality of dressing right, particularly in the context of bugging out in winter.

Navigational Savvy: Charting Alternate Paths for Your Bug Out

When gearing up for remote journeys, standard driving directions won’t cut it. It’s not just about reaching your destination; it’s about having a backup plan in case your primary route hits a roadblock—be it due to weather, accidents, or intentional roadblocks obstructing town entry. What if a fallen tree obstructs your way?

Consider this: the route you took in might not be viable for the return journey, especially if the roads are frozen and the risk of sliding down a mountain is too great. In such cases, forest service roads could serve as a safer alternative to lead you back to safety.

To ensure your navigation is foolproof, it’s wise to rely on both paper maps and a robust GPS-enabled backup like Gaia Maps. If you opt for Gaia, make sure to download the maps onto your device before venturing beyond the pavement. Personally, I’ve prepped by downloading comprehensive state maps, complete with multiple layers displaying public land and MVUM.

And let’s not forget about the company you’re keeping during this bug out adventure. If you’re traveling with individuals you don’t know well, which can be the case on certain trips, it’s crucial to ensure everyone is as prepared as you are.

Travelling with unfamiliar faces warrants a bit of extra caution and communication to guarantee a smooth journey, especially when considering the nuances of bugging out in winter.

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Vehicle Readiness: More Than Just Winter Survival Gear

Ensuring your vehicle is winter-ready involves more than just stocking basic survival gear; we’ve even dedicated an entire article to crafting the perfect winter emergency vehicle kit. However, when it comes to bugging out, additional considerations come into play.

Recovery Gear is paramount. Imagine a scenario where a group struggles to extract a vehicle from the snow, only to realize they lack a proper tow rope, leading to potentially disastrous consequences. Don’t find yourself in a similar situation—equip your vehicle with a solid recovery kit, as something as simple as a tow rope could make all the difference.

Fuel is a critical concern, especially before venturing away from civilization. Maintaining at least half a tank of fuel is a good rule of thumb. For bug out locations spanning hundreds of miles, a refueling plan becomes essential, as you can’t rely on gas stations being operational.

Consider the vital role of Maintenance/Fluids. While regularly serviced vehicles may only need a quick check, more extreme trips call for backup fluids in case of unexpected breakdowns. Don’t overlook windshield washing fluid, especially the antifreeze variant, which becomes crucial in colder climates.

Tire readiness is often underestimated. Assess whether your tires are equipped to handle the expected terrain or weather conditions. Depending on your journey, you might need all-season tires, snow tires, or even tire chains—items that should find their way onto your comprehensive packing list. Your vehicle’s preparedness is a cornerstone of successful bug outs, especially when navigating winter challenges.

Dress Smart: Winter Apparel Essentials for Bug Out Success

Selecting the right clothing is a critical aspect of bug out planning, and having versatile layers suitable for all activities can be a game-changer. When bugging out by vehicle, you generally have more space to pack essential items compared to being on foot. A cautionary tale from a scenario depicted involved a character who had to leave in haste and lacked a winter coat—a potentially deadly oversight that emphasizes the importance of adequate clothing.

Drawing from personal experience, I once went camping with what I thought was sufficient warm clothing—four layers, to be precise. However, I found myself still chilly, prompting a return to the truck for an additional and different set that finally provided the needed warmth. This underscores the necessity of being prepared with appropriate layers, especially in unpredictable winter conditions.

Planning for your entire party is crucial, particularly if you’re with individuals who might not instinctively consider the cold. I’ve often had to insist that my nephews layer up for outdoor activities, as they tend to leave the house with just a t-shirt and jacket. Ensuring everyone is equipped with the right clothing layers is fundamental to a successful bug out.

Don’t overlook the importance of spare clothing, especially in winter. Socks and shirts can become sweaty, and without dry replacements, warming up becomes a significant challenge. Avoid layers of cotton; opt for wool, a superior insulator that retains heat even when wet.

Accessories like gloves, hats, and sunglasses are often forgotten but can be crucial. Cold hands make tasks difficult, so invest in good gloves and hats that retain heat. Sunglasses aren’t just for the sun; they come in handy in snowy conditions as well.

When it comes to boots and socks, prioritize warm, sturdy footwear designed to withstand the elements. Wool socks outperform cotton, providing better insulation and comfort. Paying attention to these clothing considerations is indispensable for a successful bug out, especially when confronting the challenges of winter.

Keeping Cozy in Winter Bug Outs: Essential Tips

buddy heater

In the realm of winter bug outs, staying warm is a non-negotiable priority, and key considerations revolve around your sleeping arrangements and sustenance.

Firstly, investing in a well-rated sleeping bag is crucial. It serves as your last line of defense in survival situations, so opting for a bag rated well below the forecasted weather is a wise move. Personally, I’ve found success with a military sleep system—an inner sleeping bag within another, both enclosed in a waterproof shell. This combination kept me warm in 17-degree temperatures. It’s essential to note that sleeping bags vary widely in cost, and you don’t have to break the bank; diligent research and reading reviews can help you find a reasonably priced option without compromising comfort.

For those bugging out in winter or engaging in vehicle-dependent travel, a Buddy Heater is a popular accessory. This propane heater can be brought into your tent, elevating the comfort of your sleeping quarters. Safety features, such as automatic shut-off in case of tipping or low oxygen levels, add an extra layer of reassurance. I haven personally tried one in a tent and I consider this to be an crucial comfort item when it comes to winter camping.

Consider the value of survival blankets, particularly Mylar bags. These budget-friendly yet highly effective gear pieces trap body heat, providing a reliable means to keep warm. If someone is experiencing extreme cold, placing them in one of these bags prevents body heat from escaping. An upgraded option is a Bivvy sack, offering enhanced durability.

In terms of sustenance, prioritize high-calorie foods, especially in winter conditions. While overlanders often enjoy hearty meals, winter demands a focus on calorically dense options that generate warmth and provide essential energy. Think hot stews over salads in a winter survival situation.

By integrating these strategies into your winter bug out plan, you can ensure that staying warm is a manageable and effective part of your overall survival strategy.

Connecting in Crisis: Navigating Communication Challenges

Communication is often a lifeline in emergency situations, and the reliability of our cell phones isn’t something we should take for granted. It’s crucial to assess whether you’ll have service at your bug out destination. Traditional prepper communication options include CB, FRS, GMRS radio, and Ham radio. However, it’s vital to understand their limitations and choose the best fit for your needs.

When it comes to long-distance communication, Ham radio emerges as the standout option. If you’re bugging out, having a reliable means to communicate over significant distances is essential. While CB, FRS, and GMRS radios have limited ranges, having any of these can still serve as a vital link to others in case of an emergency. In such scenarios, your concern may extend beyond communicating within your group to reaching out to external parties for assistance.

When crafting your bug out plan, carefully consider your communication strategy. Assess the capabilities and limitations of each radio option, and choose one that aligns with your specific needs and the potential challenges you might face. By doing so, you’ll enhance your overall preparedness and ensure that you have a reliable means to connect with others during critical times.


Navigating the intricacies of winter bug-outs requires meticulous planning across various fronts. From clothing layers to communication tools, every detail plays a pivotal role in ensuring a safe journey. Key considerations encompass vehicle readiness, strategic navigation, and the art of staying warm amidst the winter chill.

In the symphony of survival, foresight becomes our guiding light. Winter bug-outs, with their unique challenges, necessitate a delicate balance of anticipation and adaptability. Armed with comprehensive preparations, bugging out in winter transforms from a daunting challenge into a manageable feat—a testament to our readiness in the face of the unknown.

LostWaysB3Recommended resources:

Securing the best wood for fire and shelter

The #1 food of Americans during the Great Depression

How to create a proper winter shelter

How To Build The Invisible Root Cellar

1 thought on “A Few Tips For Bugging-Out In Winter”

  1. My view on bugging out in cold winter weather is don’t, if you can at all avoid it. I grew up in Michigan and spent 21-years in the military (active and reserve) and spent quite a bit of time in the field during winter. I also came down with a case of hypothermia once. Cold weather sucks at the best of times and it takes a lot of prep and gear to survive in it.

    I live in Florida now and bitch and complain when the temps go into the 40s (as they did the other night, most unusual for November in FL). I still have the gear to manage. Good thing as I had to sleep out once in 19-degree weather as a Scout Leader. I was comfy enough, but the native Floridians weren’t. I also checked the weather forecast before I packed for the weekend (hint, hint).


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