As a prepper, I always knew that bugging in is not an option for all of us. No matter how well you prepare and how many stuff you stockpile, there’s always the unknown factor you have to deal with. You may be lucky enough to ride the storm in the comfort of your own home, or you may be forced to evacuate. For most people that means heading for the hills or into the woods and those journeys won’t be possible without proper planning.
Hunkering down is not a viable long-term survival solution and you will sooner or later be forced to evacuate. A natural disaster can affect the integrity of your shelter, the social element may try to break in, or you could run out of supplies or could require professional medical aid. There are many reasons why you should have a plan B and figure out how and where to bug out. The following tips should help you plan your bug out plan.
Where to go and what to do?
This is the first thing you have to figure out and once you get the right answer, you should start planning. Your plans for bugging out will change and formulate as you learn more about your options. The importance of a safe haven is not up for debate when a long-term crisis arises. However, the “where to” aspect needs to be clarified since you basically have two options.
Go to friends and family
If you have trustworthy friends or family connections in another region, you may be luckier than others. You could go to them when it hits the fan and you will be able to outlast the crisis in a familiar and safe environment. The first thing you need to do when starting the bugging out planning is talking with your connections. Let those people know that you might visit them when the world starts to boil. You will not catch them off guard and everyone will know what to expect.
The second thing you need to do is make sure you will not become a burden for others. Sure, they are your friends and family, but if things go bad, you should be able to bring something to the table. Think about how to bring some of your supplies (if not all) with you. Maybe you have a truck, or maybe you have a large stash that could be accessed when things turn bad. And if you can’t bring enough supplies with you, just make sure you put your skills and knowledge to good use. A prepper’s mind is non-stop working tool and they might benefit from it as well.
And last but not least, make sure you can get there. As I said it many times before, a good bug out planning needs to take into account alternative routes to get out of the danger zone and reach the safe haven. Besides alternative routes, think about what you will do if you run out of fuel and if you can use other means of transportation.
Go into the wilderness
Unfortunately, this will be the option for many of the people out there and most of them don’t see this as a problem. Some people are used to go camping and they see it as an extended camping trip. This is a wrong assumption and you simply cannot live for an extended period of time in the wilderness without proper planning.
Related reading: A Few Considerations Before Bugging Out Into The Woods
Bugging out into the woods will eventually force you to live off the land, and you will pay greatly if you’re not prepared for such change. This topic often attracts a lot of information since it’s one of the most popular ones. However, not everything shared out there could be classified as good information. Let’s say you reach your safe heaven or camping site deep into the wilderness, but what will happen next? Do you have the means to survive there once your supplies run out? Do you know how to conceal your presence and avoid unwelcome guests?
Making the plan real
Getting in touch with friends and family and letting them know about your bugging out plan and how it includes them is not complicated. Picking a spot into the wilderness to call your home for the next months requires planning and a little bit of experience in exploring the great outdoors.
As a prepper, you should learn everything you can about your living area. How populated it gets during the holidays or hunting season. How densely populated it is and how the social elements acted in the past during various scenarios (riots, blackouts, natural disasters, etc.).
If there are only a few people that know the forests around you, chances are you can bug out into the woods and stay there undisturbed for as long as you can. If it’s a region with a vast hunting heritage and people patrol the woods on a daily/weekly basis, you may have a hard time setting up camp without people stumbling in.
Do some prospecting and check if the region is safe for bugging out. Most people will look for government assistance when it hits the fan, and few of them will have the courage of venturing out into the unknown. Even more, nowadays people have become so lazy or preoccupied to compete in the rat race that hiking and camping are no longer activities of general interest. If that’s the case in your living area, make sure you have your routes map out and check out various camping sites that you could use in case of need.
Dealing with your survival bag
A common occurrence in the prepping community is making a bug out bag and forgetting about it. This is more common for people that are new to prepping, and they miss out on obvious things. I’m not going to talk here about what a survival bag should contain, how to organize it and other stuff like that. The topic I want to cover is the one about keeping your bug out bag useful.
Your bug out bag grows and adapts just like the way you do. Everything you put in there has more or less an expiration date. Every gear you carry should be tested and analyzed from time to time. You will find multi-use tools that could replace a few items in your bag. You will make it lighter in time as you figure out what you can properly use and what you have no use for.
Related article: Ask Yourself This About Your Emergency Supplies
The bug out bag you make should be adapted for the road, season and climate. Even the clothes you put in it should be carefully picked. If you prepared your bug out bag in the summer and you have to bug out during the winter season, you will have a hard time dressing up properly. If the food or medicine you packed expired or got destroyed after improper storage (mold, humidity, etc.), you will have to find alternative ways of dealing with hunger or health issues.
Just because you made a bug out bag, doesn’t mean everything is in order and you are covered for anything. Check your bug out bag from time to time if you want it to save your life when s*** hits the fan.
Pack the stuff you need
When you are planning for an extended wilderness stay, you should bring all the stuff you need for a comfortable stay. This often means that you will not be able to carry everything in just your bug out bag. Your transportation vehicle will become an invaluable item during a long-term scenario. It will become both a shelter and storage if needed.
The things you pack in your vehicle should follow a few key selection factors such as durability, weight, size and of course performance or extended use. For example, if you pack snacks for the kids and you pick up chips (yes some pack comfort foods to keep kids happy) you will waste a lot of space. You could maybe pack some energy bars that will temper their moods and provide them with valuable nutrients. The same goes for your survival gear, you can pack a lifestraw filter for every member of your party, but they won’t last for long compared to a professional Berkey water filter that you can safely store in your car.
You need to make a difference between the stuff needed and the stuff wanted and appreciate the true value of an item. Good practice makes permanent and you won’t know how good or durable your gear is whiteout testing it. You won’t figure out if you know to operate your kit and learning how to do it when stress is building up and the crisis prolongs is not recommended.
Feeding the machines
Another important aspect of long wilderness journeys is feeding the power machines that make things possible… you and your family. Understanding what works best for your bodies is an important aspect of survival. You are faced with a variety of options when it comes to food and you need to pick carefully. Fresh food has a limited lifespan and range while dehydrated foods require water. On the other hand, wet foods or MREs require cooking and you will only be able to do that at the camping site.
The problem here is that you are expected to burn a lot of calories when functioning in the wilderness. This becomes even a bigger problem during the harsh climate and you need to find a balance between calorie burn and the gain or advantages you get from burning those calories. Even when walking through the wilderness at 2mph you could be burning 100-140 calories per hour.
If you spend all your day walking and looking for things to forage, the amount of calories you burn will not be replaced by the foods you manage to forage. It’s not like in the movies, the wilderness can feed you, but you require a lot of experience and practice before you are able to sustain yourself out there.
Maintenance and survival skills
You will stretch out your comfort zones when you change the operating environment. You will have to figure out how to repair and fix your stuff if they break down. If you aren’t able to tie a knot or if you can’t figure out ingenious ways to use zip-ties you will have a hard time functioning in the wilderness.
If you are carrying a comprehensive repair kit with you, make sure you know how to use it. Knowing how to fix equipment, format electronic products, repair stoves, or jury-rig snowshoes, canoes and other kit becomes critical during an extended wilderness skill.
Your survival skills will also help you prolong the lifetime of your supplies and gear. If you know how to set snares, you won’t be using ammo to hunt. If you know how to start a fire using primitive skills, you won’t be using your matches or kindle you brought from home. The same goes for shelter making, if you know how to build a shelter from natural materials, you could be using your tarp to camouflage your vehicle. The idea here is that you should be using all the skills you have in order to save up some of the consumables you have.
Identifying hazards and managing risks when planning
Chances are you will experience new risks, hazards and scenarios when living in the wilderness. This is not necessarily a bad thing and it will help you grow as an individual and survivalist. However, you will need to use your brain and skills to stay safe out there.
Firstly, considering the hazards in the first place is important to implement some control measures. Planning and running through a checklist is a good place to tarts. On some of my extended wilderness stays my topics included: inclement weather, personal injury, wild animals, heat considerations and human interaction (or the lack of it).
The learning curve can appear steep in some scenarios and to put it simply, you don’t know what you don’t know. That being said, try to seek advice or professional help from other like-minded individuals. Even turning to the internet or perhaps reading the appropriate bushcraft book can help.
Suggested reading: Prepper’s Threat Analysis – Establishing Prepping Priorities
No one sets out to have an accident or serious incident. It usually can be traced to a series of factors colliding. Several elements combine to create a more serious incident. Examples of this include broken or wrong kit, fatigue or illness within the team, storms or bad weather, inexperience of the conditions and so on. Anyone of these, when combined with a second or third factor, can result in a serious incident.
Knowing about this effect and recognizing it before it happens and applying good judgment can avoid accidents or worse.
A final word of advice on bug out planning
Bugging out into the woods and hoping to have a safe, extended wilderness stay without proper planning is just not possible. You need to have experience in exploring the great outdoors and the region you live in or the one you plan to bug out to. Bringing the proper gear and making the best use of it becomes law and learning how to identify risks becomes a religion. The situation complicates even more when you have to deal with other party members and you need to manage your team. You may have your s*** together, but how about others? An extended wilderness stay requires a good planning and field test run.