Do It Yourself
Surviving At Home: From Bugging In To Bugging Out (Pt. 1)
When it comes to disaster preparedness, most people think immediately of a “bug-out” bag, or even a “get home” bag, or any of the other variations one finds of the general concept of having to put gear on your back and make your way from point A to point B. It’s much simpler to think about just that initial process of “bugging out” when things go bad, than staying put.
However, the harsh reality is that bugging out is the last thing you should ever want to do. The entire concept of bugging out requires that you be willing to sacrifice the known for the unknown. In order to be willing to take this step you should have no other option available to you. In contrast to bugging out, if you have spent any time or money prepping your home (or even if you haven’t), your odds of making it through a disaster by “bugging in” to your own (or even a friend’s or loved one’s) home are far better than biking, driving or walking to a destination that may even be worse than the one you are trying to escape.
In this article I would like to give you a brief overview of how to bug-in to your home, all the way up to the point where you may not have any other choice than to bug out. Bear in mind that the bug-out situation is far less likely to happen than the need to bug-in, so put your primary resources to prepping your home base first.
At my survival school, we run (among many other things) many urban survival courses that start with what we call the “Urban Core Basic,” which is 50 hours of hands-on skills training and scenarios to introduce all students to the same level of basic urban survival skills. The very first thing we do as a class, is focus on securing the 5-acre portion of our training facility that we hold this course on, and then create some kind of secure shelter(s) for our class as a group. This is the “nesting instinct” and there’s a reason for it. Having a home or even just home base to work with greatly increases your chances of survival. It also greatly helps overall morale and attitude, which – make no mistake about it – are every bit as important as all of the other necessities combined.
If you don’t believe me on this, take the “homeless challenge,” which is another training scenario we put some of our more advanced urban survival students through. Forcing yourself to live on the street with nothing more than the clothes on your back (especially in an unknown area) will wear you down very quickly. This is no different than having to bug out through different areas to reach a destination. In a bugout situation you are essentially in unknown territory, having to walk many miles every day, deal with hunger, thirst, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, illness and security issues.
While this may seem to be a romantic notion that is idealized by Hollywood fantasy, the actual reality of bugging out in a post-SHTF environment is that unless you have seriously trained for it at least weekly if not daily, and are working with other people who have done the same, it is most likely a quick way to become nothing more than a walking re-supply for people who were smart or more fortunate than you and stuck to their own home base rather than bugging out, and who don’t mind taking everything you have, to include your body or life.
So while it is obviously a very sound idea to have a planned bug-out destination (or even several), along with a “get-home” bag in the car and/or office, the purpose of this article is to walk through a more important step of prepping your own home and neighborhood (i.e. “home base”) for a post-disaster situation.
Prepping your Home Base
As with everything in the realm of disaster preparedness, it’s best to start and stick with the simplest concepts. We already know the basic necessities of almost any survival situation: Fire, Water, Food, Shelter and Security. In an urban environment, or any environment that involves our home, we can break these 5 necessities down in several different ways, and in doing so the essential concepts expand just a little bit into sub-areas. I like to break it down as follows: Water, Food, Heat/Cold, Power, Communication, Light, Health and Security. As an example of this break-down of needs, rather than just the basic necessity of “fire” we ideally need to be able to both heat and cool things like food or possibly even our living environment.
This is one of the areas where many people miscalculate, and it is really one of the simplest and most crucial needs. My advice is to tackle the issue of water before you try to take on anything else, because it is so easy to take care of and doesn’t require a lot of financial investment. The biggest mistake most people make is that they woefully underestimate the amount of water they need because they don’t take into consideration exactly how much and for how many things we use water.
- Water to drink – This is of course the most obvious need. But how much, exactly? Plan on a minimum of 1 gallon per day, per person for your hydration needs. This is probably more than you need to survive at a bare minimum inside your home base, but plan on using that much drinking water anyway. Firstly because it doesn’t take that much room or money to plan for that amount and also because you’ll be glad you overestimated a little. As an additional backup water plan, you should also invest in at least one water filtration system (for example: Berkey water filters), and also invest in one or more of the numerous and inexpensive, portable bugout-bag type systems.
However the first and most important necessity to start with is having a supply of water that does not need filtration or purifying. It is very simple to buy several 55-gallon, food-grade plastic barrels. The prices for these range from about $25 – $50, depending on whether they are new or used, and also depending on whether they already have a spout installed at the bottom or not. Alternatively, the 5-7 gallon plastic water containers you can buy for under $10 will work as well. They are usually square and stack neatly.
- Water for sanitation – Most people don’t consider this aspect, so let’s think about it here: Disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes create an huge mess of sewage, salt-water (near the coast), agricultural waste, and much more. This means that even a minor cut, abrasion or laceration can become life or limb threatening, especially if medical care is limited. Proper sanitation means that we need water for washing off (shower), cleaning our teeth, cleaning out wounds and other first aid needs. Also we need water for helping clean and take care of toilet needs, whether that amounts to 5-gallon buckets, trash bags, or even a trench in your back yard.
- Water for food – If you’re growing your own food (and you should be), then of course you will need water for that. In most urban areas it is rare to find very much water supply that is gravity-fed. This means that a power outage results in no water supply for your home, garden, greenhouse, etc. How much water does it take to keep your food growing? Do you know? One way to track this is to set up a gravity drip system with PVC pipe drip irrigation (drill holes in it) and a 35 or 55 gallon drum. It doesn’t cost much to create this and saves a lot of water even when your water supply isn’t restricted. Rainwater collection or other sources of gray water are also a very good plan. Rainwater collection, depending on where you live, is a good plan for drinking water too, but requires specific filtration in that case as well. Bear in mind that there are some states where rainwater collection is actually illegal. The constitutionality of this kind of regulatory practice is outside the scope of this article, but it is something to be aware of before you start building your own system.
Disaster food prepping should be thought of in at least two categories. Short-term and long-term food supply. By “short term” I am talking about time periods of two weeks or less. What a lot of prepper-type suppliers will try to sell you on is the concept of MRE’s and freeze-dried food-storage solutions like Mountain House for your home food supply. While it’s true that these have calories to keep you alive for a short-term disaster (less than a few weeks) they are not any kind of real food for the medium or long haul. The only real advantage you get from those short-term foods is portability and weight. So I’d recommend having Mountain House or MRE’s in a small supply that you can either pack into your car or bugout bag very quickly (if not already pre-packed), in case you have to become mobile. Otherwise use real food for your home-base prepping and stay away from prepackaged food entirely for that purpose.
You can very easily and inexpensively take care of all of your food supplies. Start with extremely inexpensive with foods like beans (red beans, lentils, etc.) and rice. Then build up from that starting point by using food drying (dehydrators like the Excaliber brand, for instance, can be bought starting at around $100) dry canning, wet canning, mylar and food-grade storage buckets to package and store your food. The important thing is to store your long-term food in vacuum sealed containers that will allow your food supplies to keep for several years. Storing your food in this manner is a skill, but one that is very easily learned. We teach these skills at my school, but you can also learn many of them on your own through “YouTube University” or through good books.
One very important concept to keep in mind however is that “food fatigue” is a very real and imminent concept if you are planning on living on stored food for months or even years. To really understand how to work with stored food, you must also change your lifestyle as a part of your prepping. What I mean by this is that you must begin using and cooking with your stored food on some kind of regular basis. Doing this will allow you to rotate through your long-term food stores as well as understanding what kinds of flavorings, spices and sauces you also need to avoid food fatigue. This will help keep both your own and your loved ones’ morale and attitude sharp.
Finally, any real long-term food storage plan is incomplete without the talking about gardening and backyard livestock such as chickens, rabbits, ducks, goats, etc. Again in reference to the myths that are propagated by prepping-supply stores, this does not mean simply buying a can of heirloom seeds and storing them at the back of your pantry, thinking you’re all ready to grow your own food after society collapses. This means actively gardening right now. Raising food to live on takes work and most of all experience and time. You have to fail for at least a few years at gardening to get good at it. Understanding soil health, composting, vermiculture, droughts, insects, disease, harvesting, winter gardening, seed harvesting and so forth are all necessary aspects of growing your own food that you can only learn from experience. Not from books. A good analogy to this would be:
Not having any experience in growing a garden for actual food you need to live off of and expecting your non-hybrid seeds to fulfill this part of your plan is similar to reading about starting a friction fire using a hand-drill and then assuming you can do it on that day when it’s 40 degrees Fahrenheit, raining and you’re almost hypothermic. Some of the related subjects (and of course also subjects we teach at my school) are: Raised bed gardening, “guerilla” gardening, wicking beds, aquaponics, permaculture, vertical and forest gardening. If you are interested in herbalism, I highly suggest you start growing those kinds of plants as well, while also learning to identify those that grow naturally in your surroundings whether urban or rural. I also talk (and interview many other experts) a lot about herbalism and growing your own food, urban survival and a myriad of other preparedness topics on my podcast, if you are looking for more information on these subjects.
Until then, what would you say is the most important thing to have on hand when bugging in?
Let me know below.
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December 16, 2013 at 9:50 AM
THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE! Saved me a bunch of time to read this awesome info instead of waiting on a long video! THANK YOU!
December 16, 2013 at 10:25 AM
I totally agree with the concept of it is better bugging in is wiser rather then bugging out. Bugging out should only be a last resort. Keeping your family and your goods safe should be your number one concern. If you are fortunate enough to have a bunker or a safe room, your chances for successfully bugging in are far greater. An underground bunker will keep your loot safe from looters, in addition to keeping your family safe. There are underground bunkers out there that allow you to keep your most precious items safe while helping you live an off the grid lifestyle. Browse around this page for excellent examples of the different underground bunkers available:
December 16, 2013 at 10:26 AM
My number one concern right now is to harden my quarters to make them very difficult to break in to. No matter what supplies I have, if criminals or desperate people or “law enforcement” agents can easily get in, the value of any other preparations becomes very questionable. In fact you may even attract trouble if you are showing lights, smoke, or other signs of semi-normal life, especially in urban areas. I want to sleep at night without fear of waking up to the sound of my door being kicked in. I want at least a few minutes to get ready to defend myself. On the other hand, if the doors don’t respond to a kick, and the windows are secured, and attempts at breaking in can be met with a warning shot, the would be attackers will most likely go looking for a softer target.
December 16, 2013 at 7:11 PM
December 16, 2013 at 10:32 AM
If you shut the intake valve on your water heater BEFORE the water pressure drops, you’ll have at least 30 gallons of drinkable water on tap. Test the valve at the bottom of the tank to ensure it’s working.
Storing canned soups and canned vegetables which are packed in water means you need less water for cooking.
If there is a swimming pool in your yard or in your community, fill as many bottles as you can. This water is chlorinated, so it will keep, but it should be filtered before drinking.
Left Coast Chuck
December 16, 2013 at 9:38 PM
Yes, shut the intake valve to prevent getting degraded water, but also shut off the gas the hot water heater. You don’t want to leave the heater lit with the intake valve closed otherwise you may well have a high pressure water canon out of the pressure relief valve. Nothing like a high pressure hot water canon to liven up your day. To drain the hot water heater if you don’t open the pressure relief valve at the top of the tank, it will drain veeerrry sloooowly or not at all.
December 16, 2013 at 10:43 AM
My scenario is bi-coastal. I plan for either a earthquake here in LA and surviving until I can relocate the the Midwest where I have family and 2 secure compounds. The other is a SARS like event then the word bug-out applies to my internal systems which I can only hope will survive along with the stored food sources for long term then leaving is not an option. We have a community of 400 that have enough weapons/food/supplies medical/military personnel for 1 yr. Join the Mormons or 7th day Adventist as they have been ready for decades for 7 yrs of famine. I also pray a lot.
December 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM
Bugging in is a fine concept and for most probably the best route. But there are many who not only choose to bug out, but have one or more areas that are fully stocked for the long haul. For those folks bugging out is most certainly the better option. As For your question I would think the first priority would be defense. No matter what you get in the way of supplies if you live in an urban area especially, you are guaranteed to have hostile forces coming for your supplies eventually. At that point if you can’t defend those supplies and yourself all your preparation was for naught. And you may lose your life as well. So I would think the equipment to defend yourself and the training, the ability to use that equipment would be number one priority. In a real all or nothing SHTF situation even if you have no supplies, you would be able to hire yourself out as a guard to those who do. Its not a perfect plan but one you can certainly rely on as there will always be those who put supplies above defense. That gives you an edge as long as you are willing to devote yourself to that goal.
December 16, 2013 at 2:42 PM
Great article. Like you said, water is one of the best places to start when it comes to “prepping” or bugging in, due primarily to the cost factor. Trust me (from experience), you can’t have enough water. A hurricane almost proved disastrous for me and my fiance. Imagine if it was an even more dire situation.
In response to your ending question, I feel there are many things that are extremely important for a bugging in scenario. But the most valuable thing I would recommend is a “don’t stick”! I obviously mean a firearm. Unless you live in a castle on a rocky sloped mountain peak in the middle of 500 privately owned acres in Montana, the chances are you are susceptible to invasion or attack. And unless you have a way of permanently stopping it, the most horrible things you can imagine can and have come true. Just think about all the stories you hear about on the news about home invasions, burglaries, rapes…and this happens in everyday life! It won’t matter how much food, water, candles, or gas powered generators you have if someone with a gun decides they want it and you don’t have one (preferably more) to stop them. I don’t expect a novice to go out and buy an M-2 Browning machine gun, but then I don’t expect a novice to buy ANY gun and not also get proper training with it. Get armed, get ammo, and get to the range. If you need help, get training from people you trust or any number of instructors out there. But I whole heartily believe that if you want to prevent another person from taking “everything” from you, there is truly only ONE great equalizer! The armed man is not voluntarily a victim.
December 16, 2013 at 4:53 PM
Rather than storing a bunch of water, I have a well. I also have a Diesel genset that also runs the well pump and as a last resort, I have a hand pump setup that sits onto the well head to manually pump water. You have a great article that helps me out a lot. I just thought you should add a note about the plus of having a well and backup power for it. Cheers from Alaska!
December 16, 2013 at 5:08 PM
Most important thing I’d take is my wife —- I realy hate my own cooking. Just kidding of course.
I’d take my Gerber machete with the saw back. That would be most important. I’m 71 next month and of course would like to carry at least a 22 as well but with the Gerber or any good sized knife (4inch or better) I’d be comfortable.
Left Coast Chuck
December 16, 2013 at 9:34 PM
Jim I hate to rain on your parade, but a machete does not beat any type of firearm. If you are unfamiliar with firearms and don’t intend to practice, I would recommend a Ruger GP100 revolver in .357 magnum with a 4 inch barrel or a S&W revolver n the same configuration. I believe the Smith & Wesson holds 7 shots as compared to a Ruger which is 6 shots. I believe the Ruger is more durable which is important in a long term situation, although I would not feel underarmed with a S&W. I have a S&W .38 special which has somewhere between 7500 and 10,000 rounds through it. Granted they are soft shooting target loads, but it has certainly been cycled more than 10K times in its almost 50 year life. It still locks up tight and shoots way better than I do. Why a revolver? Well, easier to clean. Take the grips off and you can soak it in any solvent, shake it dry, put the grips back on and it is ready to go. The manual of arms is much simpler than a semi-automatic. Taking a semi-automatic apart for cleaning is more complicated. Without the magazine, you have a nifty single shot gun and the magazine is the most vulnerable part. I could go on, but to get to the meat of it. I don’t care how good you are with the machete, any schlub with a gun can take you. There is a good reason why the samurai, perhaps the best swordsmen of all time anywhere quickly adopted firearms while at the same time decrying how they degraded the profession. While, with a .22, if I shoot you in the leg and more precisely, in the knee, there is no doubt I can run faster than even the best miler around, even with my 110 year old knees (they are much older than I am) however many situations may arise where even if you are able to drill both kneecaps dead center, the monster can still move, albeit not as easily and still overcome you to your family’s detriment. The 125 grain .357 magnum bullet has a fine reputation as a fight stopper. I won’t take any more space to buttress my recommendations, but I would sincerely hope that you would rethink your defense choice. And hey, you may be a real studly 71 y.o., but a 30 y.o. maybe not quite as studly dude can probably handle you quite easily. Sorry about that, it is just a reality check.
December 24, 2013 at 10:53 AM
Sorry it has taken so long to respond. I do agree a firearm would be much better than just a machete but I can also make a bow and arrows which wouldn’t take that long to get back into. However that said I do carry a 45 Ruger almost everywhere. and when it’s not with me I have a Phoenix 22 auto.
Yes even there! I’d like to have my M1 with me in a bug out but can’t find anyone that has info on getting better performence out of that round.Yes I know it’s just a pistol round but the arm is light manuverable and Ruger makes a Blackhawk in 30/carbine rather have double action though.I am a little to old for bugging out though but get no help with bugging in either.So it’s as if I’m on my own no matter which way I turn.I just do the best I can and still work part time so I’m trying to get my junky old pick-up set up just in case I can’t make it home without a bit of difficulty.
December 16, 2013 at 6:12 PM
Sam, a great and interesting article as usual. Thought provoking and beneficial in understanding the subject better. You Rock!
December 17, 2013 at 11:30 AM
A Berkey Filter because having clean water is the number one need to survive. A Berkey Filter will filter dirty water from any source, even a ditch.
Survival Gear Prep
December 17, 2013 at 8:04 PM
Hopefully no one will have to bug out and leave their home for any reason. But, leaving what you know and going to what you don’t know anything about is really a nightmare. Just thinking about leaving my home makes me to do everything I can to make my home the place to stay not the place to have to bug out from. Great Article.
December 18, 2013 at 2:34 PM
THANK YOU SO MUCH! This is a concept that seems difficult to get through to people!
December 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM
When considering bugging-in, one must look at their residence as more than a domestic dwelling. You have to consider your home in terms of survival shelter, and possible defensive combat and urban warfare. Those big, beautiful picture windows could soon become large holes in your defense against the elements and human intrusion. Have plans to plug the holes, best observe and defend approaches, and keep out all things intrusive that could make your life more uncomfortable or even shorter.
December 18, 2013 at 10:55 PM
One important thing in survival is knowing what is going on. Have a battery or solar radio am/fm…
December 19, 2013 at 12:56 AM
Great Article! Now I just need to convince my wife that bugging in is better than bugging out unless you have a secure location away from the world up in the mountains.
December 19, 2013 at 2:15 PM
Most of my bugg-out is for getting home as I live 35 miles form where I work. My wife’s is for when she is out at the city, etc. and could be 1-25 miles from home. The idea is to get home and use the home as the base.
December 20, 2013 at 4:56 PM
I tried to go to part 2 of the article but received a 404 error indicating the page was unavailable. Will you be providing a link to part 2 that we can use?
December 20, 2013 at 6:33 PM
The tips have been most helpful. I like the survival tip cards that you can keep in your purse just in case. Thank for the easy tips at yoe dingwr tios in emergency situations! Swhen you are in panic mode you can ‘t think clearly!
December 23, 2013 at 3:01 PM
One of the issues that should be kept in mind about bugging out is that an abandoned property will quickly become a prime target for looters and refugees, so to speak, looking for a place to shelter. Once you abandon your home during a SHTF type scenario, you should keep in mind that you will probably be returning to a looted, ransacked property that may even be occupied by others upon your return.
I’m not saying this option should not be used but it should not taken lightly. People driven by hunger or the need for shelter will be desperate and it is likely that you now empty home will now become a viable target after you bug out. (Thinking more in terms of economic collapse here as to me that is the most likely large scale cause we should be concerned with on the whole.)
So, if you do “bug out” don’t expect to return, if that becomes viable, to a neatly preserved home. That is where the bugging in alternative may be a better choice unless you have no other.
Also, if you are bugging out, you better have a location selected and prepared in advance. Otherwise, you will join the crowds of refugees and end up in a FEMA camp, not where you want to be.
Fernanda Farfal Aquirre wrote a good book about the topic called Surviving the Economic Collapse which was based on his first hand experience with the 2001 economic collapse in Argentina. It is good because he addresses some of the myths that preppers embrace because they sound good and plausible but are based on movies and not reality.
He also mentions that he had a bug out location stocked with food but when he reached it, he discovered that it had been ransacked and he was left with nothing of value. So if you are bugging out, make sure your destination is secure. Keep in mind if you can reach it by car, so can someone else.
Another point he made is that the country dwellers were hard hit during the collapse. Remote areas are more silent in that you can take out someone, so to speak, with little concern for the police. An example of that would be in South Africa where white farmers have had their farms overrun and ransacked losing their lives and families in the process. Don’t forget if the currency collapses and the police stop getting paid, do you think they will still come to work?
Also, don’t overlook the machete or a good knife used with skill. Aguirre relates an incident where he was surrounded by 4 thugs and used his machete to drive them off cutting one of their fingers off and one in the arm. The remaining 2 fled.
In the movies, Clint Eastwood fired his weapon and people crashed through the windows. It isn’t like that in real life. People can get shot and still keep coming depending on where they were hit and the time it takes the shock of the round to register. In a close quarter situation a knife can be not only lethal but even if you cut someone across the face or arm when that blood comes pouring out, the game changes immediately. I would carry both if possible. Heck, people have been stabbed to death with screw drivers even.
The point is a gun is not the answer in all situations and a well handled knife or machete and other improvised weapons may be more appropriate for the circumstances. Scaling force is a decent book on the issue. There are others about facing violence available on Amazon.
Fact is the reality of these situations often does not match the fantasies or planned solutions. Stay flexible and keep learning.
December 24, 2013 at 8:41 PM
On the subject of food-grade buckets: our daughter is a shift manager for a MacDonalds, and she says they discard at least one two-gallon bucket and lids a day. The buckets are their supply of sliced pickles, and may smell of pickles for a week or so if left open, but the give-away price can’t be beat! I would suspect that MacDonalds are not the only potential source; all of the other franchise fastfood places are candidates. Seal the filled buckets with duct tape.
December 27, 2013 at 9:08 AM
Glad to see that you mentioned “food fatigue.” I believe that I could eat certain meals every day, over and over without problem, but I think I’m only kidding myself. And I know my kids couldn’t do it. Very important topic.
Another think you might mention. When your children are old enough to walk out in the garden with you and decide what can and shouldn’t be picked, get them out there. There are a lot of things children can do to help the ‘team’ and 99% of children in todays society are spending way too much time learning worthless skills instead of life saving ones.
December 29, 2013 at 4:05 PM
I totally agree with this article. The first people to die off in any long term disaster will be the preppers and the idiots that are bugging out. Most of the preppers that I have encountered are your typical overweight unhealthy Wal Mart grazing fat a**es. They will die off from stress related health reasons or home invasion because they stand out too much.
The people that think by bugging out that they are saving themselves or their family members are going to die very fast. How many cities, counties and neighborhoods full of hungry people will you have to go through to get to your bugout local? I live on a island with one bridge, that alone makes bugout a non option. If I were to bug out I have to drive through at least three small cities and two counties of hungry desperate people. Running the gauntlet with your family is a death sentence.
The best option for most people is to live a mostly self sufficient lifestyle at home and remain vigilant. A handful of like minded people working together at home will be the best option to survive a natural disaster or marshal law.
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