Evacuate with a customized bug-out boat

Many of America’s largest cities, including Manhattan, are paradoxically located in geographically isolated areas of the country. Although one in 38 Americans lives in New York City, much of the city is bound by water, making it only marginally connected to the mainland. Consequently, in the event of a major disaster, such as a grid outage, terrorist attack, or a national pandemic, the city’s eight million residents will be dependent on a few bridges for safe passage.

New York is not the only American city facing this geographical isolation. San Francisco, New Orleans, Portland, Charleston, Boston, and Seattle are among the many cities surrounded by water on multiple sides. This creates a precarious situation for evacuation planning, as few cities have considered their primary evacuation strategy or a backup plan in the event that reliable bridges and highways become inaccessible.

Thankfully, the same conditions that make these cities difficult to evacuate by car or on foot make them perfect for evacuation by boat. Evacuating by boat offers numerous advantages, including speed, the ability to travel further than land-based transportation, and the capacity to carry heavier loads. Additionally, boats rely on nature’s highways, such as coastlines, lakes, and rivers, rather than oil and gas.

However, navigating the sea comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles. Specialized gear, navigational skills, and safety precautions must be taken into account before embarking on a boat evacuation. While residents of New York may have only a few bridges to cross if evacuating by foot or car, a boat can be launched from almost anywhere and travel across the river to Newark, upstream along the Hudson to Albany, or out to sea.

Gearing Up

To increase your chances of survival in an emergency evacuation, it’s crucial to remain adaptable. Instead of creating multiple bug-out kits for different scenarios, consider crafting a flexible primary bag that caters to any disaster that may occur. After all, the fundamentals required to survive while evacuating on foot are not drastically different from what you would need while in a boat. Make sure to have a checklist prepared with the essential gear required for boat evacuations to avoid relying solely on memory during a critical situation.

Begin by scrutinizing the contents of your bug-out bag. It should already consist of several essentials necessary for your coastal evacuation, such as a first-aid kit, shelter, and a sleeping bag. Assess which items need to stay dry to be useful and which ones could be salvaged if your boat capsized. Sleeping bags, clothes, and first aid kits are crucial for survival and must remain dry. However, your cookware and sleeping pad can withstand a certain level of moisture.

You should avoid carrying any perishable food with you in a survival situation, but your meals can easily become unappetizing if they get submerged in water while in your boat. To keep your food dry at sea and prevent any unwanted critters, such as bears, from approaching your camp, consider using a Loksack or other food-grade storage that is smell-proof.

In addition, try to pack your bug-out bag in a way that maximizes its flexibility. Small adjustments can be a lifesaver during an emergency. Rather than storing fragile items like maps or electronics in a traditional stuff sack, consider placing them in a small dry bag or even a freezer zip-seal bag.

Another suggestion is to line your pack with a trash compactor bag, which can prevent water from seeping into your gear if you need to leave by boat quickly. Take a look around your home and think about which other household items could be repurposed during a disaster.

Lastly, ensure that each person in your group has a properly fitting life vest and attach a whistle to each one in case you become separated.

Bug-out boats

bug out boats

Reflect deeply on your specific circumstances when selecting a boat. What weather and tidal patterns are you likely to face? Will your vessel be easily accessible in the event of a disaster? Will it be easily accessible to unscrupulous individuals? If you don’t live near the water, how will you transport the boat there?

Numerous rural and suburban inhabitants already own watercraft for leisure or sports activities, and these can generally be easily adapted for survival situations. For instance, canoes in the Great Lakes area, white-water rafts in the Rockies, and sailboats on the coasts. Therefore, take the time to consider how you can modify the gear you already possess to fit the conditions you’ll face.

f this is your first time buying a boat, make sure to consider your limitations and needs. If space is limited or you lack sufficient indoor storage for a larger vessel, an inflatable raft may be a better option. These rafts have numerous benefits, including easy storage in your apartment alongside your bug-out bag and other survival gear, which allows for quick access in the event of an emergency.

In addition, they are lightweight, which means that even if you don’t live near the water, you can still carry your boat to the shore without the need for a vehicle. This feature is particularly helpful when you have to portage around a physical obstacle like Class 5 rapids or a collapsed bridge. If you decide to purchase an inflatable raft, make sure it has a reinforced hull made of high-pressure fabric, such as the Explorer series from Sea Eagle.

An inflatable raft’s size offers flexibility during a bug-out situation. If there is a portage longer than a few miles or if traveling by stealth is necessary for a section of coastline, a traditional boat may need to be abandoned. However, with an inflatable raft, you can simply pack it away, attach it to your bug-out bag, and quietly disappear into the woods.


Navigate To Safety

To simply gear up and launch into the water is not enough. It can be dangerous to aimlessly paddle out into open water. It’s crucial to have a safe location prepared and know how to reach it under various conditions and with multiple people in your group.

The importance of having the right maps cannot be overstated in any survival situation, including a boat bug-out. Make sure to keep maps of your local waterways close to your bug-out gear, and don’t forget to include maps of the entire river or coastline section that you may need to navigate to reach safety, not just the area that is within an overnight trip from your home.

If you’re planning to bug out by boat in canoe country, it’s crucial to know the best portage routes to reach your destination. Additionally, be aware of how white-water rapids can change from a Class 2 to a Class 4 based on the time of year. Knowing your endpoint is also important, so if you’re heading to a port, research in advance the best place to dock your boat. If you prefer to keep a low profile, explore river bends or ocean coves that could offer suitable shelter.

Before deciding on bugging out by boat, consider the risks specific to your area. White-water rapids are a common hazard throughout the country, so ensure that your boat can handle them and that you have enough experience to navigate them safely. Also, be mindful of predators that are unique to your local waterway. For example, if you live in the Southeast, carry an extra flashlight to watch for alligators at dusk. If you’re traveling on the Great Lakes, be aware of the dangers of rip tides. On the ocean, it’s advisable to carry hydrocortisone cream in case of a jellyfish sting.

Don’t overlook the importance of being prepared for the specific risks in your area when planning a boat bug-out. Knowing the best portage routes, understanding the changing conditions of white-water rapids, and being aware of local predators are crucial. Take the time to research and plan accordingly to ensure a safe and successful journey.

Family evacuation

family evacuation using a bug out boat

To prepare for a coastal evacuation plan, start by discussing it with your family. They should know the most efficient way to get to an agreed-upon meeting place from any place they go regularly, like school, work, or relatives’ houses. This will help ensure that everyone knows what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.

Assigning specific responsibilities to each family member can help keep everyone focused during a high-stress situation. Younger children can be responsible for gathering certain items, and older children can learn important skills like how to navigate and handle a boat. By assigning roles and responsibilities, each family member can feel like they have a purpose and are contributing to the group’s safety.

Finally, practicing your evacuation plan is critical to ensuring its success. Unannounced practice drills that simulate real-life emergency scenarios can help identify flaws in the plan and improve it before a disaster strikes. If any family member is uncomfortable with any aspect of the plan, it may be necessary to revise it to ensure that it is as effective as possible.

Bug-out boat on the go

If you’re looking for a space-saving and portable option for your bug-out boat, the all-purpose backpack from Sea Eagle might be just what you need. Included in the packages for their inflatable stand-up paddle boards and RazorLite kayaks, this backpack can also be purchased separately and fits other models as well. Here are six different options from Sea Eagle that can be packed in the backpack and carried on your back for easy transport and storage.

NeedleNose: This board provides increased flotation, rigidity and stability for different environmental conditions. It comes in three sizes: 11’6″, 12’6″ and 14′.

LongBoard: Designed for comfortable paddling on both flat water and surf, this board allows you to stand up or sit down. It comes in two sizes: 11′ and 12’6″.

Explorer: With a combination of buoyancy and durability, this kayak is designed to maneuver through the toughest whitewater, open-water and surf like a race car. It comes in three sizes: 9’10”, 12’6″ and 14′.

RazorLite: This inflatable kayak is the world’s first and only made entirely with Drop Stitch technology, making it super light and easy to maneuver. It can reach speeds up to 6 mph and cut through waves cleaner, straighter and sharper. It comes in two sizes: 12’10” and 15’6″.

SE9 Motormount Boat: If you already have your own boat motor or prefer to row, this lightweight inflatable fishing boat can hold up to four people and works great with small gas or electric motors. It comes in one size: 11′.

FastTrack: This kayak features a sharper, narrower, tapered bow for faster entry through wind, waves, current, and water, along with a rigid, inflatable keel for a faster, smoother paddling experience. It comes in two sizes: 12’6″ and 15’3″.



A catastrophic event is inevitable, and being prepared with survival bags filled with necessities for three days or more is crucial. Knowing the rendezvous point and having a route to safety marked on a map are also important, but in case the roads are unusable, having a backup plan is essential. For many Americans, this means preparing for a coastal evacuation.

Other Useful Resources:

Including An Inflatable Boat In Your Bug Out Plan

Learn how to Safeguard your Home against Looters

How To Buy A Canoe – Tips And Recommendations

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation during a major disaster

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