A Discussion on ‘Bugging Out’

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Let’s have a discussion today about ‘bugging out.’ This is in fact a huge topic and often discussed across the prepper-sphere. There are many aspects to this and a detailed discussion, including the debate about ‘to stay or to go’ is written up in ‘Contact! A Tactical manual for Post Collapse Survival.‘ The issues, pros, cons and mistakes around this are further illustrated in the collapse-novel ‘Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises.

Given the breadth of the topic, my plan today is to focus on the idea of bugging out on foot with a ‘never coming back’ mindset. Much has been discussed before about the problems of trying to survive in the woods, or of becoming a refugee, and I think that there are a number of issues with the idea of trying to bug out from your home base carrying a huge load on your back. So much so that I believe the idea of trying to bug out on foot with a huge load is foolhardy. Let us examine why.

None of us know what form and extent a collapse, or event, will take. For the purposes of this post, let us assume that something serious has happened that has us staying in place at a location that is our home base, or retreat location. Thus, we have already gone through the decision making process of an initial ‘get home’ or ‘bug out’ to a retreat, or attempt to stay in the suburbs etc. Related to this is the idea of attempting to use whatever vehicles we have available for any sort of move that we make. We still do not know exactly what will befall us but our assumption here is that we are now at our prepared location and we are surviving in place. Thus, something will happen that will force us out of that location, and into a move on foot to escape. Let us assume for the purposes of this article that the threat displacing us is a determined gang of aggressors who are moving through the area cleaning out survivors. We cannot know the reality until we get there, but we can examine why planning to ruck out with a huge load on our backs is not a good idea.

The basics of a defense of a home base is to attempt to have patrols and observation posts out that will give you early warning of enemy approach. To do this you need a trained team. This is something that many lack. Worst case, you do not have sufficient security in place and thus you will be taken by surprise. In this case, it may already be too late for you, and you may be fixed in place, to die there. If you are defending a house it is best to do so from outside of that house. You need to be able to maneuver on the enemy to disrupt their attack, and you should aim to not be fixed in place. Your ability to do that will depend on a function of whether or not you have a trained team, the element of surprise the enemy has, their tactical skill and numbers, and whether or not you were fixed in place by the initial surprise attack. One thing to seriously consider here is what will happen with your non-combatants. These are your protected personnel such as children and the elderly, and their guardians / close protection, such as (most likely) wives etc (who need to be trained, of course). Given sufficient warning, you could get these people out of the house and move them to an offset location where they could await the results of the fight. If the fight is lost, they could continue the bug out from this rally point ‘in the woods.’ If it is won, they could be collected to return.

Alternatively, you could have a safe room in the house where you move people to as the fight goes on outside. However, if the fight is lost, they will be captured or killed. If you are taken by surprise, you may have no choice to to centralize non-combatants at a location inside the structure, simply because it is now too late to run. If you are caught unawares asleep in the house, a lot will depend on the skill and proximity of the enemy, and the terrain at and around your house. If the enemy has not set up the attack well, then you may have both time and space to bug out to a nearby rally point. However, you need to be sure that if they move out, for example, of the back door, that the enemy does not have that covered by fire, for example by an assault or support by fire group. Thus, there is a lot to be said for having a rehearsed tactical contingency plan, and to make efforts to not be taken by surprise.

This raises the next point, that of family and non-combatants. Much is talked about bugging out with huge rucks. To where? You will need resupply at some point anyway, unless you have a specific place to go. And are we all single men doing this? Or a young fit couple? Who is carrying the rucks for the kids? You need to do the planning to move this beyond a survivalist fantasy.

I have written much on the need to ensure that you do not carry too much gear, that you carry the right gear, to be able to effectively maneuver under enemy fire. You can find the rest of the links in this first link here: ‘Gear: The MVT Lite Fight Concept.‘ If you are bugging out on foot because you have been forced out, this may well be a break contact under enemy fire, then the last thing you want to do is carry too much gear. And, the rest of the group? And what if you have to carry kids at times? This also goes to the level of physical fitness you have, and ties back in to the use of vehicles, maybe UTV/ATV, as written in the linked articles on gear. You may actually have vehicles and gear stashed out at that rally point in case you need to bug out. Be sure that it falls under your security plan, and you have an alternative in case that is where the enemy comes from that day. You cannot assume an enemy will always be dumb and will come up your driveway. Do not underestimate the enemy, and try to think like they would, if they were conducting a raid on your house. For that, of course, you need to be tactically trained, to understand that process.

Yes, it may simply be worst case time and you have just been forced out. If that happens however, what guarantee do you have that you will even be able to get all that gear? Yes, you must retain the flexibility of mind and option to ensure that you do not die in place, simply because all your eggs are in one basket, that pile of dried food and prepper supplies. But if you do bug out with that ruck, where to, and where is that resupply coming from once you eat the rations you packed?

So let us look at a few planning options:

1) It is true that where most of us live, we do not live in a wilderness vacuum. The more of a wilderness you live in, of course the less likely this will be to happen to you anyway. Suffice to say, there are hundreds of buildings and structures out there, and who knows what the situation with habitation will be if this sort of crisis is ongoing. Thus, there are shelter options if you conduct a prudent check / clearance of the place before walking up to it. Of course, this may even consist of a friendly neighbor option, that you planned a mutual bug-to plan with. This will help with the reality of the situation where you are not likely to be wearing 120lbs of gear, and will more likely be dressed in your Lite Fight Concept, having conducted a fighting withdrawal, or at least one in haste with sufficient warning of the approaching threat.

2) Caches: a few points on these. This is a way of establishing supply on a planned evacuation route. You do of course need to ensure that they are put in places where they will still be there when you need them, and not controlled by others. So on what land? This can be problematic. Another way to look at this is to have close-in caches collocated at your primary and alternate close rally-points. This will allow those bugging out of the house in a hurry to equip, and fighters meeting up with them there before the bug-out to resupply with ammunition, food and water. This will help if the enemy had surprise and a caught you with your pants down. Such a proximity cache needs to be hidden but easily accessible. You could also use neighboring houses at sufficient distance, in a mutual bug-to support agreement if you had good relations with them in the collapse environment.

3) Consider that you may not bug-out at all. You may simply bug-to a nearby rally point or neighbor, and then re-take the house. How this works exactly depends on the enemy and their intent. If it is a quick raid then they may be ransacking and leaving, or maybe staying a night and moving on. If you are out there at a rally point at sufficient distance to avoid any patrols they may put out, you can get eyes-on via an observation post and move back in. You may also decide to retake the house by force, which could take the form of a counter attack if you have sufficient trained personnel, or simply harassing by fire, depending on the enemy and what you think their reaction might be. You may not want them chasing you into the woods in large numbers. Alternatively, you could set up an ambush on the egress from your house, and kill them as they leave in their vehicles. Many options there. The key thing is what you are planning if you do move back into a ransacked house, maybe even burned down. This is where close-in caches would have utility to ensure the enemy does not get all your supplies. At this time you can assess the situation and decide whether to stay, or collect gear and equipment and then follow a bug-out plan.

4) Vehicles: It makes sense to use vehicles any time you can, if you are tactically able. Even if you cannot use cars on roads due to the situation, any bug-out plan would be better if you could include some sort of all-terrain vehicles in it. Both for logistics and also the carriage of personnel.

In summary here:

  • Be tactically trained, physically fit, with a team.
  • Do not plan to carry too much gear.
  • Ensure that you are not taken by surprise.
  • Ensure you are not fixed mentally or physically in place and do not die in place as a result.
  • Defend by maneuver outside of any building you are defending.
  • If you have to bug out, consider your options and plan in advance to avoid ending up in the woods for any more than a short period of time.
  • Consider the use of pre-positioning supplies, including options on all-terrain vehicles,  to support either an extraction, or a temporary stay out at a rally point before moving back into the house.
  • If there is no option other than to continue the bug out, by pre-positioning / caching you will have additional supplies, equipment and vehicles to support a more survivable bug-out.
  • You must plan for non-combatants such as children and the elderly and avoid thinking this is just a mans game with single guys bugging out into the woods to live there indefinitely.
  • If you have network in the areas via community, you may be able to establish a mutual support bug-to plan to temporarily move to the houses of others. This may also work to centralize at one location while an enemy threat is known to be in the area, for better defense of a single location.
  • Most of us do not live in true wilderness and there are many structures and resources out there that can be utilized for shelter and survival.

One aspect that is not covered here, and is assumed but often overlooked, is the ability to gather information and make decisions under extreme pressure with imperfect knowledge. Prior planning, physical conditioning, and tactical training will help with this. You may well be exhausted and dehydrated after a fight where some of your people were killed or wounded. You need to be able to make rational decisions about the best course of action. Planing and pre-positioning will give you more options and make those decisions easier.

I wrote about the issues surrounding decision-making here: ‘Making Decisions.


For questions and discussion: MVT Forum.


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