Introduction: So You're Gonna Bug Out or Maybe Bug in Huh?

About: Thought it was time to update the profile some so here goes... Still married to a wonderfully sweet beautiful woman, still have 5 kids 3-23, we live in the Rocky's about 60 or so miles West of Colorado Springs…

TSHTF and you have some choices to make, and make sooner rather than later. Are you going to "bug in" and hope the government comes to your rescue before things get too bad? Or do you plan on "bugging out" and getting away from the city as quickly as possible?

Bugging in or bugging out is truly a matter of personal choice and the situation on the ground at the time. I will offer a few tips on both scenarios and suggestions for making a bug out bag.

As we saw in Katrina, the federal government’s response to disaster is feeble to say the least. It only took 3 days after the storm for "civilization" to fall apart. Looting, murder, rape, and other violent crimes soared in the vacuum that followed the storm. It took another 7-10 days for FEMA to set up any kind of robust assistance programs.

If you are going to stay put then having 14-21 days of food, water, and medicines stocked is a good idea. FEMA recommends 72 hours of these supplies, but history has shown us this is not nearly enough.

I recommend that you don't broadcast to your neighbors that you are prepared to stay put for any amount of time. Your neighbor Joe who you BBQ with on the weekend, have a beer with in the garage is going to come knocking at your door as soon as it is evident TSHTF and he isn't going to be that nice guy he was before then if his family is hungry and he knows you have food.
It sounds harsh but if you plan on staying put you need to look out for you and your family and do what it take to keep them safe.

Use common sense, it won't take your neighbors too long to figure out you have a good supply of food and water if they see your kids playing in the yard like nothing is wrong, your lights are on when all theirs are out, they smell cooking food on the BBQ. Regardless of your ideas on firearms you may want to seriously consider getting one and learning how to use it.

The single best piece of advice for "Bugging In" is don't draw attention to yourself.

If "Bugging Out" is your choice then long before TSHTF you need to have a plan for “Bugging Out”. Simply saying, “I’m going to head to my favorite camping spot” or “I’m going to head to the country” is not a plan. Those of us who live in splendid isolation in the country do so because we have taken the time to gather the skills that will enable us to thrive under the worst conditions and most of us are willing to defend what we have. If you show up on my property if TSHTF uninvited, I can say it will not end well for you. I am not the only person up here who thinks along those lines. So you need to have a specific place to go long before TSHTF.

Even though we live 60 miles for the nearest city we know that eventually the frightened masses and roving gangs will make it to our house and there will come a time when we may have to bug out, so we have a place to go even further into the wilderness and a plan to get there.

We practice leaving our house with our vehicles and all our supplies 2-3 times a year, at various times of the day and night, staying off main roads and traveling by back country trails and old roads that aren’t well traveled and only known by the folks that live up here, with vehicles it takes about 2 hours. We also practice leaving on foot and heading cross country to our “Bug out site”. We make that trip 2-3 times a year as well under various conditions (rain, snow, fog, etc.) with our small children in tow. It takes 3 days, walking 8 hours a day to get there. If you are traveling with children make the walk as fun as possible without drawing attention to yourself or your family. We try to keep the kids occupied by playing name that bird, or name that tree types of games along the way. Our pace is set by the slowest member of our family, our 3 year old daughter, and she decides when we stop to rest. She can out walk most everyone else without getting tired for the first 2 -3 hours. After that my wife and I take turns carrying her, we carry her for 45 minutes, rest 15 minutes, and switch, until she insists on being put down. We always stop for the night about an hour before sunset and set up a camp and head out as soon as everyone has eaten breakfast and the camp is torn down and all traces of our passing have been eliminated, yet another game the kids can play.

My wife and I have made the trip ourselves to set up caches along the various routes we have found to get there so we don’t have to haul everything on our backs and have a place to resupply along the way. I suggest you do the same. I will post another Inscrutable on DIY burial tubes that won’t set you back more than $10 each or less that will hold everything you may need from food and water to firearms and ammo.

The main point is practice your bug out plan regularly; you need to know where you are going and how you are going to get there both by vehicle and on foot. If you are taking a vehicle find routes that keep you off of main roads; in all likelihood you aren’t going to be the only one on the road and you will probably hit major traffic jams on main roads. Practice packing your vehicle and leaving your house. Time how long it takes you to get to your bug out site. Leave at different times and get to know the traffic patterns in your area and what the best time to leave is. Avoid using a trailer if at all possible, if you must use a trailer use the smallest one possible to get the job done. If you plan on taking every prep supply you have, consider pre-positioning your preps at your bug out site to avoid using a trailer.

If you have to leave on foot or that is how you plan on bugging out practice at least 2-3 times a year, under various conditions, making the move from your house to your bug out site; If you can, avoid routes that take you through the “bad neighborhoods” that exist in virtually every city or town in America. If you can’t avoid those neighborhoods get through them as quickly as possible. Again don’t draw attention to yourself any more than is necessary to get out of Dodge.

Step 1: Bug Out Bag Lay-out

All that said what do you toss in your bug out bag? There are as many different ideas on what you should have as there are on ways things are going to go bad. I have put together bags for the adult members of my family that are identical in most respects, that are based on the area in which we live, experience, and availability of things like shelter, food, and water. There are some items in the bag shown that are not in each bag and I will point those items out as they come up.

Step 2: The Bag Itself

I chose the Camelback (TM) H.A.W.G Medic bag for our bug out bags. Their size, internal frame, and ability to hold up to a 108oz hydration bladder internally as well as being able to hook up to 2 more hydration bladders on the outside, and MOLLE straps make it the perfect bag for our needs. The bags, with a 108 oz. hydration bladder, run $99-130 depending where you shop for them. I recommend you find a bag that will work for you and your particular situation but don't skimp on quality; you don't want to load your bag and have to use it only to find out it won't do the job. You get what you pay for.

Step 3: Changing Clothes

You haven't truly lived until you have had your clothes literally rot off your body. I have been unfortunate enough to have been in the position that I have had to wear the same uniform until it was nothing more than a tattered bunch of string. Don't put yourself in that position by packing all your fancy gadgets only to be without a change of clothes. Make sure you have socks, undies, and at least one spare set of clothes in your bag.

Each bag has 2 complete sets of BDU's, 3 pairs of socks, 3 sets of underwear, 2 short sleeve t-shirts, 1 long sleeve t-shirt, 1 boonie hat, and 1 watch cap (knit cap), I have shown a sample of the clothing we pack in our bags. You should pack clothes that are appropriate to your area and circumstances.

Step 4: Hygiene

Unless you don't mind stench, packing products for your personal hygiene are not only polite but essential for your health both mental and physical.

The simple act of washing your face with and soap and water or wiping your bum with toilet paper can be huge psychological boosts in a bug out scenario. Not only does it allow some semblance of normalcy it will help prevent disease further down the road.

We each carry a roll of TP, a bar of soap (we use anti-bacterial, fragrance free Ivory soap), anti-bacterial baby wipes, a wash cloth (not shown) and a towel (not shown), and 3 disposable razors (not shown), tooth brush, and toothpaste (not shown). My wife carries feminine hygiene products in her bag in addition to those items already listed.

Step 5: Water and Water Purification

In addition to the hydration bladders in our packs we each carry 2 GI 1qt canteens with canteen cups. The water in the canteens is used for any cooking where water is required as well as hygiene needs like tooth brushing, hand washing, etc. The canteen cups are not only great drinking cups for coffee or hot cocoa but they can be used as pots for cooking your food if needed.

For water purification we each carry a Katadin water purifier with spare filter element and Potable Aqua water purification tablets. At $185-225 each the Katadin purifiers are pricey but well worth the investment. They can purify up to 500 liters of water each before the filter needs to be replaced and they make even the scummiest swamp water tasty good and safe to drink when used correctly. We have the Potable Aqua tablets as backup in case we run through all of our purification filters before we can reach a resupply.

Step 6: Cooking

As I said in the Intro, not all items listed are carried in each bag and this is one of those cases. Only 2 of the bags carry stoves, we use Coleman Apex stoves. I was able to get 3 of them at a swap meet a few years ago and I love them. They are small, lightweight, and compact. They use Coleman white gas, kerosene, or gasoline in a pinch (though they sputter with gasoline bit) carried in either a detachable 16 or 24 oz. bottle. Unfortunately they are no longer available that I have seen, you can still find them at swap meets and garage sales.

As I said, I carry one stove and my wife carries the other each with one 16 oz. bottle of fuel. Our son carries 4 additional 16oz bottles in his pack instead of a stove. We have used these little stoves to cook 2 hot meals a day (breakfast and dinner) for up to 5 days on one 16oz bottle of fuel.

Each pack also has a small mess kit that has a pan, 1.5qt pot with lid, plate, and small (6oz) cup. I was able to pick these little mess kits up at Wal-Mart for $5.99 each. They are lightweight aluminum and all the pieces fit snugly together so they don't take up much space. We also each carry a CRKT Guppy Eat-n-Tool (not shown) except for our 2 year old how has an extra set of her favorite Minnie Mouse dinnerware, as well as a set of compact backpacking cooking utensils (not shown).

Step 7: Let There Be Light

Light is another one of those things that can give you a huge psychological boost in a SHTF scenario. Light gives us a feeling of safety and security in the dark and protects us from those things that go bump in the night, most of the time. Light can also be a huge security risk if you use it at the wrong times. It can literally be a beacon in the night that screams out, "Here I am! Please come get me!" Light should be used only when you are sure there are not prying eyes that are going to see it, if you aren't sure your light won't be seen make sure you use red lens lights to see around your camp at night.

We each carry a small Bruton Glorb butane lantern and a spare 24oz butane bottle (not shown) for refills as needed. The little lanterns can be used with a mantle which produces about as much light as a 60 watt bulb when it is on high or without a mantle which puts out about as much light as 2-3 candles.

Each of also carry a small LED flashlight that has both white and red LED's with spare batteries (not shown) as well as two 8 hour Cylume light sticks.

Step 8: Gimme Shelter and a "woobie" and I Am Fine!

Each bag has a small two man trail tent for shelter while hiking to our bug out site. My wife, our 2 year old, and I share a tent, our two older kids (6&7) share a tent, and our oldest son sleeps alone in his tent. I was able to pick up all three tents for around $80 after a little bit of hunting for bargains. All the lines on the tents have been replaced with 550 cord for more durability and strength. I also used fabric safe paint to camouflage the tents and then sealed the paint with silicone Camp Dry.

We each carry a poncho as well; we can attach them together to create a hasty shelter if needed for a sudden down pour or for shade while we take a break.

We each carry a poncho liner (layed out on the floor) and a Sol brand bivibag (not shown) for keeping warm when we are sleeping. The bivibags run $20-25 depending on where you get them, they are heat refective, breathable, and rated to -5. You can pick up the poncho liniers for around $20, they make an great warm weather sleeping bag when tied into a poncho or used alone and when used with the bivibag they increase the rating by an extra 5 degrees or so.

We also have GI surplus cold weather sleep systems rated to -20 that are prepositioned at our bug out site.

Step 9: Fire and Notes

Each bag contains three means of starting a fire, flint and steel, storm (water-proof) matches, and Bic lighter (not shown) as well as tinder (not shown).

We each also carry a small Rite in the Rain note pad and pencil, you never know when you are going to want to jot down your thoughts, or you will need to leave a note for someone in your group.

Step 10: The Vest

All of the adults also have a vest that is used to carry the canteens, topo maps of our area, a compass, multi-tool, another LED flashlight, an IFAK, and ammo.

Having a compass and topo maps of your area and your bug out site are must have items, especially if you are moving on foot. Basic land nav skills are also a must. I have taught my 6 and 7 year olds how to navigate with map and compass and we practice those skills regularly in case we do have to bug out.

The IFAK we carry is the subject of a previous Instructable so I will not go into it in this one.

We each carry a "brick" plus one box of .22 cal ammo in our vest as well as a "combat load" for our personal weapon. For the shotgun (shown) we carry 50 rounds of 00 buck shot, 50 rounds of BB shot, and 25 rounds of rifled slugs (not all shown) in the pouches on the vest. You will have to determine what your loads out requirements are and what you will safely be able to carry in your area. Remember you don't want to be noticed so carrying a 12 ga down the street might not be a good idea for you.

Step 11: Sharp Stuff and Hand Protection

Edged weapons are another one of those things you just don't want to be without if TSHTF. We each carry multiple edged weapons, each with its own use.

Tomahawks have been around for a very very long time and have proven themselves time again on both the battlefield and survival situations. I have carried a tomahawk with me on every deployment I have ever been on since the 1980's. In Afghanistan, I cleared caves with a .45 HK SOCOM and the tomahawk pictured in this Instructable. I have used it on our bug out "hikes" for everything from chopping firewood to killing small game; it is a multi-use tool that no bug out bag should be without.

We also each carry a fixed bladed combat knife for those "just in case" moments when firing a weapon would bring too much unwanted attention. We practice combat knife skills on a regular basis as part of our bug out preparations and I recommend you do the same.

As well as the combat knife we each carry a Gerber fixed blade knife that is used for skinning game, making spears, and other sundry survival related tasks that require a knife.

Each bag also has a small Coleman backpack shovel that has been sharpened along one edge. It can double as a weapon if need be, again for those time when a firearm going off would draw too much attention.

We carry 2 sling shots as an adjunct to our ability to gather small game for food. It also is a great way for the kids to blow off steam after a long day of walking.

Though they aren't in the bag we each wear a pair of Nomex flight gloves to protect our hands. Each of the kids have gloves that fit their little hands, as well each of the adult packs has a pair of heavy duty work gloves (not shown) so we don't tear up the flight gloves doing the labor around the night position or at our bug out location.

Step 12: A Thought on Food

I am sure more than one of you has noticed that I didn’t include any pictures of food for your bug out bag. It is not that we don’t carry food or that I recommend you don’t carry any food I can assure you I do.

I didn’t include it in this Instructable because what type and how much food you carry is a matter of personal choice, the size of the bag you choose, your skill at foraging for food, etc.

We each carry 4 of the DIY MRE’s from my Instructable, MRE’s on the cheap; as well we have spent a lot of time setting up caches along all our possible routes of travel so we wouldn’t have to pack all of our bug out supplies on our backs if we have to leave on foot. The caches are set at the points have determined are stopping points along those various routes. Each cache has enough food for 3 meals per person, first aid supplies, and ammo for our various weapons systems. If we don’t need them we don’t touch them but if we have to expend a lot of ammo or we have to hold up in one position for more than a day we have the ability to resupply on route to our bug out site.

If you have the time and resources I highly recommend you scout locations and place caches along your potential bug out routes.
I will make an Instructable on making cache burial tubes we use in the near future.

Step 13: AR-7 Survival Rifle... a Great Small Game Getter

This is another one of those times that not everyone carries the exact same thing in their bag. My wife and I each carry an AR-7 Survival Rifle tucked away in our bags. A few months ago I did an Instructable on the AR-7 and since that writing I was able to find another one for my wife’s bag at a pawn shop for $75. I decided to replace the stocks that came with the rifles with collapsible stocks from because the original stocks were both showing signs of their age (cracks, loose fit, etc.). The collapsible stocks can be removed from the receiver by means of two screws if you want but it is not necessary to have a compact take down rifle. I gave each of the rifles a coat of camo paint to give them a slightly more durable finsh and beacause I have never been overly fond of your typical black rifle.

We have four 8 round magazines and three 15 round magazines (not all shown) for each rifle. I was able to get the spare magazines from Sportsman’s Guide for a total of $45 for each rifle.

Our oldest son carries one of the new Ruger 10/22 take down rifles (not shown) in his bag with three 10 round stock magazines and four Butler Creek 25 round magazines. The Ruger 10/22 take down was $225 NIB from a local gun dealer.

The .22 cal rifles are our small game getters. They are great for taking everything from squirrel to opossum and in a pinch they can be used as a defensive weapon, though I would not recommend relying on a .22 cal alone.

Step 14: Weapons for Personal Defense and Larger Game Animals

We each carry .45 1911A1 and five magazines as a side arm (not shown) as well as a personal defense weapon. I carry the 12 ga Mossberg Model 590 modified with a Blackhawk SpecOps collapsible stock and an 8+1 magazine tube. The only modification I have left for the shotgun is a camo paint job that will be the subject of another Instructable.

I carry a variety of different rounds for the shotgun to take advantage of its versatility. I have BB shot for small game and birds, 00 buck shot for dealing with two legged animals at close quarters if need be, and both sabot slugs and full size slugs for large game.

For most people a shotgun is the way to go. Of all the weapons systems you may be thinking of carrying in a bug out scenario, the pump action shotgun can be employed with the least amount of cost and training. The mere sound of a round being racked into the chamber of a 12 ga is unmistakable and one more than one occasion has been enough to scare off those intent on doing harm. If you do have to fire the weapon it can be devastating at close ranges. With the addition of slugs, especially sabot slugs, you can push the maximum effective range of the weapon out to around 150 yards.

My wife and son carry either an AR15 or Mini -14 as their personal defense weapon. And we train in safe handling of firearms, marksmanship, contact drills, failure drills, transition drills, and weapons maintenance at least twice a month, you don’t have to “live fire” at every training session, unless you have an unlimited budget and ammo it becomes too cost prohibitive really quick.
You will need to make your weapon choices based on your particular set of circumstances, budget, and the laws in your area.

Regardless of what weapons system you choose to employ, training on a regular basis is a must, you need to practice safe firearms handling, marksmanship, contact drills, and a host of other firearms related training before TSHTF so you aren’t a danger to yourself or the members of your family.

Step 15: Conclusion

The pack and vest combination weighs in at 35-40 lbs. (about 45 lbs. with weapons) , for some that is going to sound like a lot of weight and not an easy carry, others will think I could add even more weight and still be ok. I had to find a happy medium between what all I would like to have with me and weight that wouldn’t be too much for my wife, she’s 5’8” and 130lbs. I have carried 170lbs + between my ruck, weapons, vest, etc. while on patrols in the mountains of Afghanistan and I didn’t like it one bit and there is no way my wife could carry that for more than a few steps on a good day. I wanted to put  together a pack that most anyone could carry for hours without too much trouble and that if someone became injured it wouldn’t be so heavy that it would be impossible for one person to carry with it strapped to their chest. Again it boils down to you and your particular set of circumstances, you may have to carry all your bug out gear in one pack, or you may have to carry enough for two people as a matter of course. The bag I have put together works for us and it may work for you as well.

The key to finding out what works and what does not is to get out there and practice with your gear. If your plan is to get out of Dodge on foot you should practice walking out of Dodge. All the best gear in the world won’t do you any good in a bug out scenario if you can’t walk 2 blocks with it on your back. You’ll need to walk your potential bug out routes (without weapons, unless you can carry open where you are and even then be ready for some police attention) to see if there are obstacles that you may not be able to go around, thru, or over. If there are obstacles, are there other routes you can take?  Can you walk your route with just a vest and weapon with ease? If so, is there a secure area outside the city you can pre-position your bag? You should ask these questions and plan accordingly.

 If your plan is to drive out of Dodge then you need to practice loading your vehicle and driving out of town. You need to plan for traffic jams if TSHTF and have alternate routes ready to go to. Practice driving your routes at different times of the day and night to get a feel for the traffic patterns. If you are driving out it would be a good idea to have tools and some spare parts for your vehicle in case you break down. If you don’t have basic mechanic skills, get on that and learn as much as you can. What if you have to leave your vehicle, are you ready to walk the rest of the way? These are all questions you need to ask and have answered before TSHTF.

As with any skill, practice, practice, practice until you can do it in your sleep. When TSHTF whether from a zombie apocalypse, solar flare, financial meltdown, or any number of natural or man-made disasters you will react as you have trained. If you don’t make the time for training, and do so regularly, it will show when and if the time comes for you to use those skills. Unless we were out on patrol even in Afghanistan and Iraq we were training to keep our skills sharp, especially those we may not use on a regular basis,  even after being out of the suck for the last few years I still make the time to train 2-3 days a week. I try to focus on the “perishable skills” first (making fire, shooting, tracking, etc.) 1-2 times a month we practice those skills that are going to be there no matter what (pitching a tent, boiling water, cooking, etc.) we train as a family as often as we can so everyone knows what is not only expected but what they can do. Plus training together allows us to spend good quality time together away from video games and TV, since we have small kids (2,6, & 7) we keep the gloom and doom out of it as much as we can while training with our kids. except for the 2 year old, the kids each have "chores" to do when we are training everything from helping to make a fire to filling canteens to target shooting with a Cricket .22 rifle (under strict adult supervision), our 7 year old daughter is quite the squirel hunter with tha little rifle, when we stop for the night on our practice "bug out's" one of her "chores" is to go with me and get dinner. Include your kids, if you have them, in your training so they aren't as scared should you have to bug out, it will pay off in the long run..

There are a couple of things we carry that you can see in the lay-out and other pictures that I haven't mentioned before. We each carry a small flask with about 1/2 pint of Jack more as a psycological thing then anything else, though it can be used for an antiseptic. The little flask in the pictures has been with me for over 25 years and been around the world many times. It has nearly always come back more then half full. We each also have a "Shmegah", even the kids, that is another one of those handy things to have. I got hooked on them during me first deployment in Afghanistan and have had one ever since. They can be used for slings, totes, face wraps, bandages, camo, and about a thousand other things I can't thinnk of at this second.

As always I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.

Train to Survive!