The term “bugging out” has become popular in prepper circles and is even starting to enter into the mainstream consciousness. The idea of everything around you reaching such a critical point that you have no choice but to grab a bag and leave everything behind is one that not enough people give proper respect to. Consider your home, your belongings, the life you have built, and everything you know…. gone, and probably forever. This concept is romanticized in the media; but anyone who has fell victim to a home fire, tornado or been ordered to evacuate and threatened arrest because of an impending hazard knows first hand just how difficult a moment to leave it all behind really is.
The problem is that we love our things and we haven’t admitted the emotional attachment we have to our stuff. I’m not saying it is a bad thing, I just don’t think that we appreciate this fact enough. You are going to need to prepare yourself for that moment. It won’t necessarily be easy, especially if the decision to stay or go isn’t as clear as you would like it. Those of you who have been prepping for a while need to ask yourself where you were on 9/11. Especially if you lived in or around the New York area, did you bug out when you saw the news? Why not?
What would it take for you to get to the point that you felt that you would need to bug out? Imagine the scenario in your mind. Is it during the day or is it in the middle of the night? What is going on around you, and what are your neighbors doing? Is there panic in the streets or are there lines out into the street at the gas stations? Most people won’t truly feel comfortable bugging out unless they know they have to, and the only time they will know that they have to is when they feel their life is in danger.
The biggest problem with waiting to bug out when you feel your life is in danger is that everyone else is also feeling their lives are in danger and you all will be trying to leave at the same time. If you are one of the 80% of Americans that live in an urban setting then you should know that getting out of town will be impossible. I mean consider just how bad traffic is at the height of rush hour. Now think back to a time that there was a little fender bender on the road and just how badly it interrupted the already painfully slow flow of vehicles. Now imagine that everyone is in a hurry and some people are even willing to be reckless and try and drive past all the traffic and the road has dozens of accidents.
The reality is that traffic flow would go to zero and almost everyone would be on foot as soon as you left your neighborhood.
Obviously you would need to bug out sooner or you would need to survive in place, or bug-in. We will discuss bugging-in later, but for the purpose of this scenario let’s assume that you will die if you stay and your only choice is to leave. The specifics of why or your ability to survive are not in question here. Let’s just assume that you must leave.
At what point would you be able to leave it all behind? Are there any specific triggers that you would watch for that would serve as your signal that it is time to go? Would you wait and end up getting caught up with everyone else. Well… hopefully you would leave sooner so that you could have the benefit of clear roads and the use of a vehicle, gas stations, grocery stores and services. It is a lot easier to bug out when the lights still work.
Knowing when it is time to bug out is dependent not only on the warnings or triggers that are happening around you but also things like what kinds of supplies you have, how far away your bug out location is and the physical environment you are in. The more difficult it is to reach your bug-out location due to weather, limitation of supplies, health or distance, the more time you need to allow yourself which means leaving sooner. This means you may need to change what the trigger event is that will be the signal for you to hit the road.
Of course depending on what you are prepping for, you may or may not have any warning time. For example if you are prepping for an EMP, there is little chance you will have any warning at all. But luckily in this kind of scenario, panic will not likely set in right away. This should allow you valuable time to dust off your dirt bikes or EMP proof vehicle and get out of Dodge.
Perhaps you are prepping for a natural disaster like an earthquake. You won’t likely get any warning when “the big one” hits. But what you should have is a plan. Anyone who has a bug out bag should also have a plan. Practice that plan and do it often so that when the time comes you will be able to go into autopilot. You will already be distracted with the stress and emotion of the situation, being able to rely on your training and do something you are familiar with could save your life and give you a big advantage over others.
So what if you are afraid of financial collapse or peak oil or a pandemic? Will you wait for the stock market to crash before you leave? The banks will be open and life will be pretty much normal. Would you leave then or would you wait until the debit cards and ATMs stopped working or would you wait until the grocery stores were empty or all the gas stations had handwritten cardboard signs telling everyone Cash Only or Out of Gas?
In the end, how you know when it is time to leave is up to you and will be unique to your situation. My only recommendation is: Leave before everyone else. Have a plan and practice it. Better to leave too soon than too late. For my situation I don’t think I would have been able to get out in time. I can’t help but feel that whatever event is going to happen I won’t be prepared enough for it. I personally don’t like the idea of leaving it to chance which is why my family and I have decided to bug out early… real early. If you follow this blog or our YouTube channel you know we have already left. Our goal is that if we can create a self sufficient life out in the country away from all the hustle and bustle of the city, we will already be in position for almost anything. We are fortunate that we were able to come to this decision early and together as a family. If you are able, perhaps you could look into doing the same for yourself while you still can. Either way… good luck to you.