Camping & Survival

Survival Strategies: “Bugging In” vs. “BOV” vs. “Take A Hike”

The Road

A lot of post-apocalyptic fiction stories start with a massed exodus of people. Whether a nuke has gone off and radioactive fallout threatens, aliens are zapping the cities with invulnerable war machines, or a horrid disease decimates the population, the solution in these tales is always to get the heck out. Know why they do that? The “run for the hills” beginning takes the main character away from the known into the unknown, where they have no resources, thus making for a more dramatic story. Now they must scavenge for supplies, make difficult decisions, endure tremendous physical hardship, see exotic places, and barely make it out alive. Makes for a great movie or TV series, but as a practical plan, I’d prefer to “bug in” rather than “bug out,” if I had any choice in the matter at all.

The Road
“Dad, this isn’t as fun as Fallout 3…”

When things go terribly, horribly wrong, I prefer to let more excitable people run around in the streets shooting at each other, while I sit at my computer eating popcorn and posting, “Wow this is crazy huh?” on Facebook for as long as the Internet still works. I have enough food and water stashed away to put me on a terrorist watch list (according to Rand Paul at least). I have medical supplies sufficient to keep me healthy and treat a wide variety of injuries. I have enough guns and ammo to arm not only myself, but my friends and neighbors, too. I have cleaning supplies to maintain both my gear and myself; just because my world has been turned upside down doesn’t mean I’ll forget about personal hygiene. I have a clean queen-sized bed which I find very comfortable to sleep in at night, and I also have several excellent books which I haven’t found the time to read yet. Why would I want to leave? Flood, fire, radioactivity, mutated bird flu or other scary diseases come to mind. Otherwise, I’m staying put. I’ll fortify my place with a barricade behind the door and boarded up windows with only narrow firing ports to see out of, but it’ll be safe and warm inside. With popcorn.

Camper BOV
Awesome BOV! This river flash floods when it rains, don’t get stuck, OK?

Bugging “out” limits you to how much stuff you can carry. This is why dedicated “preppers” inevitably have a BOV, or Bug Out Vehicle, usually a full sized 4×4 SUV like a Chevy Suburban, or a large pickup truck with a camper shell. They’ll invest a lot of money in the BOV, hoping that they will have time to stock it up with a lot of the stuff they keep in their homes before hitting the road to somewhere else. Okay, it’s definitely cool to be mobile. If rioters set my apartment complex on fire and I have to get out with whatever I can carry on my back, I’ll wish I had invested in a BOV too! But taking a vehicle with you wherever you go carries many of the same obligations as simply staying put. You have an obvious stash of supplies that other people will want to take from you, so you’ll have to make sure the vehicle is never unguarded. You’ll have to find sources of fresh water, and of course, gasoline or diesel fuel. A breakdown, a wreck, or just plain getting stuck in a ditch means either leaving your stash or “bugging in” at a spot you didn’t choose.

If you are forced to leave your residence, or your residence-on-wheels, you’ll be in as much of a desperate situation as that guy in the apocalyptic Hollywood movie. Your supplies will be limited to what you can carry with you, all day every day. Food, water, shelter, personal protection—it’s all on your shoulders now. If you are lucky you’ll have some well-equipped friends to coordinate with and help share the load. Try to find ways to carry more than you can put on your back—I hate to cite a movie, but Viggo Mortensen used shopping carts to good effect in “The Road,” and I’ve seen homeless people do the same thing in real life. I always thought a sturdy bicycle would make a good way to carry extra supplies; I stole the idea from the Viet Cong, who used them to carry tons and tons of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail through some pretty rough terrain.

Crude, but effective– VC supply bicycles on the Ho Chi Minh trail

The bottom line is that your supplies will be more bulky than you think, and you’ll go through them faster than you think. As a simulation experiment, pack up as much stuff as you can carry into your backpack, duffel or whatever you would use if you had to “bug out,” and then live out of it for as long as possible. Nobody has to know but you—go to work every day, take a shower every morning in your bathroom and so on, but stow EVERYTHING you use in that bag, including your toothbrush. Drink your fluids from canteens, water pouches, or bottled water you stowed in the bag. Eat only food that comes from what you originally put in the bag. See how long you can make it last before you desperately need resupply. Three days? Five days? A week? I bet you’ll be surprised; I know I was.

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Comments (9)

  1. We had a once in 100 year freeze here in southern NM last year. Even the poser plants froze, While I was hearing about all the problems I was warm with my camping gear (lights. camp stove, catalytic heater, and fire place). You would be surprised how may people had all these things in their garage and didn’t even think of them.

  2. Bugging-in has always made more sense, if the tactical situation allows it. I think the key is flexibility, both in terms of supply/transport and in a careful and honest evaluation of the situation where you happen to reside. If you’re in a rural or relatively remote area, then bugging-out may be the worst thing you can do. You can’t live out of a backpack or even an SUV (stuffed with supplies) for very long. The “bug-out” in Houston, during hurricane Rita, (which happened because people decided to obey their government officials) stranded cars along the highway (within sight of my own home) with no fuel and no food except what they could carry in their vehicles. At one point, cars were backed up on US290 from the 610 Loop in Houston to Giddings, Texas (halfway to Austin). Even if you had extra fuel, there was no place to go and no stores had any stocks. The small towns along the way had no distribution capabilities to handle such numbers of people. Leaving one’s base of supplies and defense is an absolute last resort.

  3. I agree with the article. Most people have the idea that they’re going to “bug out” and “survive.” The reality is that’s not practical. I have a wife and 2 little ones I wouldn’t bug out unless I absolutely had to. And realistically I’d expect to have a black out for a few days, effects of a terrible hurricane (run on food and water at the grocery stores, and gas), ice storm shutting down the city for a couple days. Those are more plausible scenarios versus a Mad Max scenario going down. So after a few days or maybe even weeks most systems would be back online. It’s just wise to prep for all of that and that can be done on a reasonable budget and with out going crazy on the firearms and ammo.

  4. MadDog is right on; “shelter in place” also tunes one’s domicile up for localized issues like power outages or storm complications, any and all of which should be used as practice sessions for the “real thing.” Next step after your S-I-P is prepared should be securing the B-O-V, then fuel for same. Having a place to retreat seems the next logical action, which can be “prepped” to limit space in the B-O-V for critical supplies; food, water, ammo, tools, fundamental support gear, and weapons – and do NOT limit yourself to things that go “bang”. ’nuff said!

  5. I thought bugging in is called “Shelter in Place” and is the first step of any occurance. However you bug out when you or your shelter is threatened, such as nuclear plant meltdown, hurricane, flood waters. Then you grab your gear and go.

  6. I agree with bugging in but dont limit your planning to just bugging in. the main reason as i see it is fire…Those roving idiots shooting at each other will eventually stumble upon your fortress. Than what you shoot a few…Than more people will contuine to come all wanting things like your food, your water, your medical supplies. Having a starving child or a sick parent in desprite times will make people go to the extremes…whats to stop someone lets say a longbow and a flaming arrow, moltav cocktail, or a water ballon sling shot loaded with other burning devices just to burn you out. So you may want to have your exit route planned and bags packed.

  7. Bugging in is preferable, which makes a “Vacation” cabin, with tactical (secluded, high ground, etc…) And strategic (clean water, game acess, fishing) a good investment.

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