Bugging Out or Bugging In: Your Lifesaving Response to The Unthinkable.

When it comes to bugging out or bugging in during a disaster, there is no shortage of opinions.

In fact, just about any time two preppers get together, the conversation eventually turns to what each would do when SHTF.

One person may opt to bug out, citing his well-stocked bug out bag and detailed plans of where to go and how to get there.

Another may swear by bugging in, pointing out his massive survival pantry filled with all sorts of emergency foods, medicines and supplies.

Which is right? In a threatening national or even local emergency, where are you safer: on the road to your prearranged safe place, or buttoned down at home surrounded by all the essentials?

Some people lean toward immediate action—grab the family, toss the bugout bag in the back of the truck and head on out.

They feel doing something is better than just sitting there. But history often disagrees.

Experienced survival experts have a phrase: “Don’t just do something, sit there!”

In other words, it’s smarter to choose a situation you do know (remaining at home) than to run headlong into a situation you do not know (out on the highway with thousands of other fleeing, panicky citizens).

Bugging in is the opposite of bugging out. It means sheltering in place, and unless your home is in imminent danger of destruction, it may be your best first response until you have more information.  

Naturally, if a massive fire is racing down the hillside toward your home, it’s bugout time.

A sensible prepper prepares for both.

You can go either way. But your home should always be your default choice. You bug out only if circumstances make that the less safe option.

What would you do?

In a pandemic: Imagine a biohazard or pandemic far worse than Covid. People are dropping left and right. Your next door neighbors are infected. Do you bug in or bug out?

bugging out or bugging in
Father carrying his child, both wearing face masks, Cologne, NRW, Germany

In a war: A foreign power just attacked our fleet in the Pacific. A few minutes ago, civil defense sirens just went off—first time you can remember. Cell phone service is suddenly disconnected as is the Internet. You have no clue what’s going on. Do you bug in or bug out?

In a nationwide food shortage: Dwindling supplies at the food store have resulted in long isles of bare shelves. The nation’s food supply chain is in chaos. You hear of “food mobs” at a mall 30 miles from you. Making it worse, a few minutes ago you heard gun shots in the distance. Do you bug in or bug out?

These are decisions you need to be prepared for. If you cannot handle one or the other, you are not sufficiently prepared. You need to go either way.

Pros and Cons of bugging in:

Most instances of bugging in happen as a result of a short term emergency, such as a bad storm, floods or other natural disasters.

Your home is where you’re the most comfortable and where, usually, you have stored up the most supplies:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Medical Supplies
  • Tools
  • Sanitation Supplies

With these all in place and accounted for, here are the pros of bugging in:

  • The comforts of being in your own home
  • Shelter and protection
  • Access to short and long-term supplies

On the other hand, here are the Cons of bugging in:

  • You may get so comfortable that you don’t leave when  you should
  • If you’re isolated, your mental and physical health could be affected
  • As the emergency evolves, your home may change from safe to threatened due to circumstances.
  • Eventually, your supplies could run out.

Pros and Cons of Bugging Out

Bugging out should always be your last resort. What could trigger that decision? It might be a sudden change in the situation from “possible danger” to “imminent danger.”

It could be something as simple as when first responders or FEMA personnel no longer show up for work or answer your calls for assistance.

You need to prepare to bug out in advance so that, when necessary, you can do it in a few minutes.

Pros of Bugging Out

  • It gives you a survival option that others who remain in place may not have.
  • It gets you quickly and safely away from approaching danger.
  • It brings peace of mind should the unimaginable become reality. You’re ready for anything.
  • It gives you a survivalist, live-off-the-land mentality that could mean the difference between life or death.


  • You may need a vehicle to transport yourself and  your family, and in some emergencies, a vehicle either will not work (e.g., an EMP attack) or the roads are not drivable (as in a flood).
  • Your bugout destination may be unreachable or even destroyed. Roads may be shut down or crowded with refugees, impeding your passage.
  • Your supplies will be limited and will eventually run out.
  • Some in your group may be ill or disabled, and not able to travel with you.

Bugging Out or Bugging In, Be Ready for Anything.

When that major event happens,  you’ll have no time to run down to the local food or hardware store for supplies. Preparations must begin well before that happens.

Here are some of our suggestions for both bugging in and bugging out:

1. If you haven’t already started storing up supplies, begin now…today.

2. Write an emergency supplies list, both for things you can store at home and those that will go into your bugout bag.

3. Make a plan for leaving. Find a good destination that will be safe and accessible, even in the worst kind of disaster.

4. Map out several escape routes to your bugout location. Assume some roads will be shut down or jam packed with refugees.

5. If bugging in, keep adding on to your food and water supplies (if possible) during the emergency to ensure you won’t run out.

6. If bugging out, make sure you have a bag or backpack that is transportable should your vehicle have to be abandoned. Think about how you might disperse the weight among others in your party.

7. Do trial runs of your bugout operation. Involve your entire family.

8. Create meetup locations so, if one person gets parted from your group, you can all safely rendezvous.

Summary: Shelter in place, but be ready to move out.

The question of whether to bug in or bug out is really one of common sense. Get real about the dangers of any natural or man-made disaster, and prepare in advance for both options.

If you can do that, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that, whatever happens, you and your family will be ready for anything.

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