Survival, Prepping, & Homesteading Experts

Bug In vs Bug Out – Which Should I Do When The SHTF?

In a SHTF scenario it may not be so easy to know when it’s time to hunker down or when it’s time to fly the coop. Here’s some tips to help you decide…

bug in vs bug out which should i do when the shtf

We get asked this one a lot, “If the SHTF should I bug in or bug out?”

Bugging out is one of the most talked about topics when it comes to survival preparedness. So many people say they would bug out, but that may not be the best idea…

But it may be the best thing you could do.

Contrary to what a lot of others say, I believe you should only consider bugging out as a last option. Home is where the majority of your survival supplies are located.

And trying to load it all into your bug out vehicle and driving to your bug out location may not be a viable option. Roads could be impassable, be filled with debris or be dangerous in some circumstances.

Other times it may become necessary to load up your bug out vehicle and head towards your bug out location.

It all depends on what disaster or disasters are happening.

Bug in or Bug Out?

Examples of disasters in which you may want to bug in:

  • Temporary civil unrest
  • A pandemic
  • An economic collapse (though some people will disagree with me)
  • Grid collapse

Examples of disasters in which you may want to bug out:

  • Home catches fire
  • A hurricane or wildfire is heading towards your home
  • It is unsafe to return to your home after a disaster
  • Rioters and looters are headed in your direction. You know they’re coming for you

Pros and Cons

The pros of bugging in is that you will still be home. You will already be more comfortable. You will have your whole food & water stockpile and all your gear there with you. And you will have a good secure shelter over your head.

The cons though are you could run out of food and water, you could get trapped in your home by whatever’s out there getting too close, rioters and looters could come to your door before you know it, and it may be too dangerous to make your presence known or to go outside for a while.

The pros of bugging out is that you can get out of danger and head to a safer place, obviously. With a proper bug out bag you’ll have everything you need with you and can up and go at a moments notice and always be on the move if needed.

The cons is that you will not be in the comforts of your own home. Life will be tough, and whatever danger you’re running from could catch up to you one way or another.

Things To Consider

  • Is it safer being in my home instead of bugging out to my bug out location?
  • Do I have access to water if I bug in and run out of my water supplies?
  • Do I have enough food stored in case I run out and it is not safe to be outside for long periods?
  • Do I have enough ammo to protect myself, my family and my home?

So how can you tell when to bug out or bug in?

My best answer is look at your surroundings and what is going on around you and use your best judgement to decide.

If your home is in the middle of a large city and it becomes dangerous to go out after the SHTF, you may not want to leave. If you live in a rural area and have all the supplies you need, then hunkering down seems like the best option.

It is all based on what is going on around you and how stocked your food and water supplies are.

Final Thoughts

The best thing you can do now is prepare, and I’m not just talking about your gear and stockpile. Knowledge weighs nothing so learn, practice, and make a plan.

Ask yourself, at what point it would be best to go. What would it take to get you out of your home? Think about it now and make it a part of your plan before the SHTF.

Have supplies for bugging in (like extra food that you couldn’t take but is worth having) and bugging out (like a bug out bag). Have your bug out bags somewhere close and safe, but have your bug in supplies as well.

Always keep some survival gear in your vehicle too in case something where to happen when you are not home.

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Meet The Author

Robert Rickman

Robert Rickman

I have been practicing survival and prepping skills since the 70's through backpacking across the USA and outdoor living in the wild, and also at my off-grid homestead with my family of four.

1 Comment

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  1. Unless the situation really requires it I would suggest starting by “bugging in” and assessing the situation. Panic kills and you don’t want to go down that road. Now, obviously there are situations where you’re gonna need to leave NOW, like a flood caused by the imminent breaking a levy or something and in those situations just go.

    Generally however I would “bug in” for a bit. How long that is depends on what happens but this does a fair number of things for you.

    First, it lets you calm down a bit in a familiar setting and get your bearings. Like I said, panic kills and no matter how prepared you think you are if something truly major happens you’re going to be at least a flustered/excited which can rapidly spill over into panic when things go wrong (they will). That’s where mistakes get made.

    Second, if at all possible you can begin to collect information and see what, if any, infrastructure is still working. Radio, TV, Internet etc. You may find that one or more of these is still working which means you can collect more information on what is going on to make the best decision possible. This is on multiple fronts. To leave or not, when to leave if you’re going to, what route is best etc.

    Third, final organization. No matter how good you think your organization is there ARE holes in it and moving to quickly will make these holes larger and more obvious (later, after you left and you can’t fix them). So staying back, even for an hour, means you can really run through that list and make sure you’re not forgetting something small but important (like gramp’s heart pills).

    Forth, this extra bit of time allows other people to either make it home or make it to a meeting point. Personally, I’m not a TEOTWAWKI type but if you do have to leave and meet somewhere you don’t want to be sitting there as a potential robbery victim or someone who arouses the suspicion of law enforcement because you’ve been sitting there in your vehicle for an hour+ waiting for someone else to show up. It just attracts all the wrong attention in amounts you don’t want. If you gotta wait the wait at home if at all possible.

    Fifth, you can use this time to make sure everything really is good to go. You shouldn’t store electronics with batteries in them so use this time to put batteries in your radios or crank on your hand crank emergency radio so it’s charged up. Check the status of your solar chargers and other battery backups. Make sure your watch is set correctly or that your hydration hose hangs over your car seat the right way so you’re not screwing with it while driving later. All the small things that are last minute by necessity, do those now and before you start to move.

    Sixth, if you have been able to gather more information this is the time to use it to alter your plans if necessary. Alter routes, ditch unneeded gear, add needed gear, siphon your neighbor’s gas tank, add pre-mixed gas/oil for your chainsaw (and add the chainsaw) or whatever the case may be.

    That’s just my $0.02

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Bug In vs Bug Out - Which Should I Do When The SHTF?


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