If the normal daily routine of our lives is suddenly and violently interrupted by events large and dangerous (such as major riots, natural disasters, or a a terrorist nuke) how prepared are we to "bug out?"
If it's time to leave, and leave immediately, are we ready? What do we take? Important papers? Guns and ammo? Food and water? Clothes? Camping gear? Baby diapers and sani-wipes? Family photos? Medicine?
And where do we go? A friend’s farm? A wilderness cabin or campground?A small town? And what direction? Upwind? Downstream? How do we travel? By foot, or car, or bicycle?
If you live in a city, and the warning will give you just enough time to get out of town before the freeways and roads are clogged with desperate people, what goes in the car (or on your back or bicycle)?
First, if you have to think about it and gather the pieces when it happens, you're already too late. It must be in the car, or in the hall closet, fully prepared, and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This post will talk about the quick, leave-instantly kit. In this case, minutes count and you will literally run to the closet, grab a day pack already prepared, grab the prepared pouch of important papers from your desk, and run to the car. Now. Right now.
You must move ahead of the pack. Most people will hesitate and wait for more information. This is your exit window, so don’t miss it. Be mentally and physically prepared to jump and run instantly. I do mean run.
You should never have less than a half-tank of fuel in your vehicle. Keep your tank topped. If you're taking a bicycle, have the bike carrier on the car, and the bike ready in the garage. If your primary retreat location is far, have those extra gas cans full and ready to pop into the truck quickly. There will be no stopping for fuel in a bug out scene.
The car or truck should have all its necessary gear carried at all times. Spare tire, or two. Jack and mini-air compressor. Extra set of keys in a key-safe. This is a minimum. Future installments of this article will discuss the “bug out vehicle” in greater detail
Your “Bug Out” day pack should have only the most critical items, and should be easily carried. If the car fails, or traffic is clogged, you must plan on being on foot or bicycle and a large heavy pack will not do. Moving quickly may be paramount to survival, and walking, jogging or bicycling may be necessary to get beyond a critical danger zone.
Each town or city will require different preparations for bugging out, so this is a general outline. If you're living in New York, your needs may differ greatly from someone in Kansas City, Los Angeles or Taos. Give your specific location, escape route and destination some thought in preparing a kit.
Even for those folks already living in a secure retreat, and already hunkered down, having a bug out kit is a good idea. There may be a time during the worst chaos when supposedly secure places might be overrun by starving, aggressive, pillaging hordes or be in the track of a violent storm or nuclear fallout cloud.
Having stocks of food and supplies hidden, even near your primary retreat location, and being able to leave that retreat while the madness burns itself out and the crazies temporarily occupy your safe house, may save your life. When things quiet, you can return. If you are prepared, you may be able to re-take your retreat, but not if you have no extra goodies stashed and accessible, and no bug out kit to get you to that stash.
Your secured supplies should be underground, fireproof, vermin-proof and well camouflaged. Multiple caches are advised. There are times to fight, times to hide and times to run. Be prepared for all contingencies.
First and foremost -- get in shape! You can’t be a survivor if you’re overweight or in poor physical condition. Be a lean and mean machine. Trying to tough it out of a danger zone if you’re overweight or weak isn’t going to work.
This quickie pack should weigh no more than twenty-five to thirty pounds (for an adult), and should contain the bare essentials:
—Water, minimum for a day (two quarts, more if in hot climate).
—Energy bars, enough for a day (2,000-3,000 calories).
—Small wind-up or battery radio to listen to emergency channels (should include weather bands). There should be an FRS [or more capable] walkie-talkie radio, one for each pack.
—A small first-aid kit with aspirin and Ibuprofen.
—A bug net for your hat and a good supply of bug repellent. Get the kind with DEET. Yes, it’s toxic, but it works.
—A pair of knives. One pocket knife (Swiss Army type with tools -- get one with scissors) and one hunting type.
—You should have a few minimum tools beyond a Swiss Army knife. A small pair of channel-lock pliers, a screwdriver with changeable tips, and a small Crescent wrench can do a lot, especially for bicycle repair. A Leatherman utility tool is great and can be worn on your belt so you’re never without it.
—A handgun in a secure holster and several magazines or speed loaders. If you are not familiar with weapons, it's time to learn -- before you need them! Take a personal defense or hunting course through your local gun club, and practice.
One pack per family might carry a lightweight (2.5-4 pound) break-down .22 rifle (such as Henry [AR-7] Survival rifle) or a small 9mm carbine (Hi-Point or Kel-Tec). Have several magazines for it. The Kel-Tec SUB-2000 carbine is inexpensive, and often can accept the same magazines as your primary handgun, be that a Glock, Ruger or other.
—A small flashlight with one set of extra rechargeable batteries (LED units are best). Add a tiny solar charger.
—A good compass on a cord.
—Notepad with pencil. One for each pack in the family.
—Important papers, passports, licenses and birth certificates should be prepared and ready to stuff in the pack quickly without hunting for them. Multiple copies are good, with a set in each adult pack.
—Medicine. For this category you should have much more than just one day's supply -- medicine may not be available again.
—A quality lightweight rain poncho is critical (get dark green or brown, not bright yellow!). This alone can save your life if the weather becomes inclement while you‘re on the road, especially if you’re on foot or bicycle, or have to bivouac while traveling, even by car.
—A warm jacket (Gore-Tex over polar fleece is good). Warm gloves, knit wool hat, one pair extra socks, thermal long john bottoms (polypropylene) and a sweater.
—An extra pair of lightweight, thin, surplus, military-style wool dress pants can save your life. Do not buy bright colors or camouflage designs. Subdued dark greens and browns are easy to hide in, and do not attract undue attention. [Because of it poor insulating capacity when wet,] avoid cotton clothes and socks. Stick with wool and wool/synthetic blends.
—Hat. A good wool cap should be in your pack, but a baseball cap or other hat should be worn to keep sun out of eyes and shed rain. A crushable brimmed outdoor hat is best, with chin cord.
—Sunglasses. Each pack should have sunglasses or clip-ons for your regular glasses.
—Spare glasses if you need them to see. In a stout case.
—A small kit (drawstring bag) containing a space blanket, 100 feet of parachute cord, matches in a waterproof container, fire starter (tinder), a few butane lighters and a small supply of toilet paper.
—A small soap bar (in a plastic soap box), washcloth and toothbrush can make you feel much more comfortable and nice after a hard day or two on the road.
—A few cloth bandanas can do wonders.
—A water filter (backpacking type) is a good option. The SteriPEN UV water treatment system is good. It uses rechargeable batteries, and a small (tiny) solar charger can keep you in pure water for weeks. Water is much more critical than food in a bug out situation .
—Prepared maps (preferably waterproof topo maps) of routes, meeting places and alternate stops. Each family/group member should have copies.
—Small FRS radios (with extra batteries).
Another item which might be considered is a biological and/or gas mask and a few dust/hospital masks. If you’re leaving a primary target zone for biologics or nuclear, this might be a consideration.
Forget foo-foo stuff like whistles, "help-needed" signs, reflecting triangles, white flags, etc. You want to remain as anonymous and unobtrusive as possible and not attract attention. If things are this bad there will be no rescue -- you're on your own. Even wearing camouflage will mark you as a target by those who will see you having equipment and supplies. Stick with subdued earth tone colors and materials. No Spandex or shiny day-glo scarves!
Your day pack should have a waist belt and good padded shoulder straps. It should be strong, made of heavy ballistic nylon, with good zippers, in a dark Earth color. It does not need to have a frame designed for heavier loads, and a frameless day pack can be jammed into a smaller space more easily and makes a better pillow. Forget the ones with leather bottoms. The average school book pack is not strong enough, nor big enough. Go to an outdoor store and buy a good large day pack with stout zippers and hardware.
Each family member should have one prepared, even the kids. For very small children or infants, plan on one adult doubling up on supplies, and the other carrying the infant. Make certain the carrier (child backpack or sling) is in the closet with your bug out kit, and ready.
Good hiking boots are critical, but don't stop to change them if you're going to drive. Grab them and get in the car -- change them while moving [, as a nother family member drives]. Time is critical.
If you are already unable to use the car (because streets are blocked or flooded, fires, or riots), then by all means, change quickly into good walking shoes or hiking boots. This could mean the difference between getting out and being lame and cornered.
A second lightweight pair of shoes (tennis or running type) or sandals, should be in the pack. Moccasins (with soles) are good and very light weight. These will prove their worth if your main boots get wet and you need to dry them (carefully!) at a stopover location.
Communication and family coordination
Plan meeting places in case you get separated. Map out known safe houses and preferred routes -- a friend's remote home or business, a rural fire station or police department, or a public campground. Make schedules for meet-up and keep them if you become separated. Prepare these before you need them!
In major disaster scenarios, especially after the initial wave of difficulties, all police and military check points will likely search your packs, take your firearms and food and send you down the road essentially helpless. This will be done for “general security,” reasons, and smiling faces will speak nice words. They may arrest you, jail you, and take everything you have for the “public good,” and to feed and arm their own people.
These folks may, or may not, be what’s left of official police and military. I you have been on the road, and the disaster has been unfolding for some time, they may, in fact, be an emerging warlord’s private army or security force, or that of the rich land holder at the top of the hill, and they may have no scruples at all. You could easily be killed and dumped for your food and water. Plan for the worst and be very wary.
There is considerable validity in keeping totally away from all such “official” places if things are really bad. In this case, plan routes and meeting locations far away from officialdom. Campgrounds, friends’ homes and known landmarks such as a favorite river spot or wilderness campsite are much better. Back roads, forest trails, and even off-trail routes may be a better option if there has been time to set up roadblocks and “catch ‘em–search ‘em” sites.
Small hand-held transceivers (with extra rechargeable batteries), may prove life-saving and family-uniting. Have each member pack one and settle on channels to use, and times to use them. Remember that keeping them on continuously will run the batteries out quickly so use them on a schedule only. A small solar charger can recharge them many times.
If the phone system is still working when you leave, have phone numbers of friends and meeting stations in each pack. Each pack should have a notebook with this information entered in permanent ink, and a set of family route maps.
Travel routes -- planning your movements
You should have a route planned, both for car and on foot or bicycle, to get you out of the immediate danger area, and into a rural or secure area, or fully to your primary retreat location. A temporary destination may be a friend's home, a small town police station or semi-wilderness spot to recoup and regroup. A temporary redoubt should have water and shelter, if possible, and should be able to supply you (or at least provide safe rest) for further travel.
Temporary stops, especially unoccupied locations, may be stocked ahead with food and water in a small buried cache. Several of these caches could be prepared and planted ahead of need. They should be spaced closely enough to leapfrog by foot in less than two days walking. If they are not used, fine. If they are needed, such simple planned preparation can be critical.
Considerations for routing should include potential civil unrest as well as natural disasters. Unprepared folks will be frightened, and therefore dangerous, if only for their foolishness and panic. Moving through cities or towns should be considered carefully in light of the type of trouble happening. Being in a small town might be very safe, if a common threat affects all. Traveling through in an overcrowded city neighborhood might be very dangerous if there is random chaos and no commonality of purpose. As noted above, if there has been time to set up roadblocks, avoiding them will be wise.
The route should consider wind patterns. If biologics, chemicals or radiation fallout are happening, you will want to travel cross-wind. While easy routes might lie downwind or upwind, this will increase your exposure to the nasties.
Learning how your local and regional wind patterns work should help you plan a route across, and away from, the normal wind flow. Particular circumstances and immediate weather might alter this, but one should become familiar with local and regional weather patterns. Go to sites providing these patterns, and look at some of the nuclear downwind studies which have been done. Try this site, and work from there.
Freeways, by car or on foot may prove treacherous and dangerous, and other routes should be considered. Paralleling the freeway on foot or bicycle, but a half mile away, is be a useful option, if the terrain isn't too severe. Streetcar and rail right-of-ways may be better for leaving the city. Cleared power line corridors through wilderness and forested areas, and city or town back streets or alleys may offer easier or safer movement.
Generally, staying away from the herds will be safer in most cases. Having maps of rail lines, power lines, roads and topography already in the bug out packs, may save needless and dangerous wandering and allow you to avoid crowds. Waterproof detailed topographical maps may be purchased from outdoor stores and forest service offices for areas beyond the city perimeter.
If cars are immediately unusable, a thick-tired mountain bike can get you many miles easily if terrain permits. You can add a small, already prepared bike trailer. This is a wheeled carrier pulled by attaching it to your waist or the bicycle seat or frame. Be certain to have a small hand air pump and tire patch kits for each bike.
If you have a small child, your bicycle carrier should be able to carry him or her.
Chinese-style pushed or pedaled freight bicycles (two and three-wheeled) can haul a huge amount (hundreds of pounds), but require smooth ground and more preparation time.
Practice your escape
Once you have your basic packs built and ready, and your routes planned, practice following those routes. Get in your car, and see how it goes to your first, second and third mid-escape stops. Look for potential hazards which could arise (blocked bridges, narrow traffic zones, congested walkways, official roadblocks, gang barricades) and plan alternate routes if possible.
Set up your intermediate stops by informing your friends or relatives that you have their homes on your escape route. If you don't do this, and expect them to be waiting for you, you may find that they have bugged out themselves, and you have no stopping place! This can be critical if you expect to re-water, re-fuel, re-supply and/or hunker down there.
You might consider stocking extra fuel, food and water at their homes in a secure hiding place (have them leave a key in a known location) in case they may not be there. Outside buried caches can avoid the danger of fire and looting.
This brief outline for a minimum "Bug Out" pack, and how to bug out, should get you thinking. You can add or subtract things as your specific personal requirements dictate, and as your location and travel situation suggests.
Future installments will consider long-term hideaways, secure "go to" places, pulling a camper or trailer with the car, using a small motor home for an all-in-one Bug-Out vehicle and house, and woods survival.
Once you've accepted the reality of our looming collapse and the need for real preparation, you may wish to increase your personal skills and take wilderness courses by Tom Brown's group, Bill McConnell’s people or someone locally well-trained in outdoor survival.
Courses in first aid, ski mountaineering, weapons maintenance and more are useful, but don’t wait to prepare your basic bug out kits.
A sample of survival supply sites:
The eFoodsDirect company sells dehydrated survival food. No GMO, no MSG. Vegetarian. 12-15 year shelf life. 2,200-2,300 calories per day per person. Water purifiers and other supplies.
The Survival Acres web site discusses the collapse of civilization, and a continuous discussion of how to cope, what it means, and why it’s happening. Essays and comments. Links to other blogs and essayists. Storage food and other supplies.
Captain Dave’s. A huge site that has been mentioned before on SurvivalBlog with lots of stuff, survival clothes, food, ideas, techniques (i.e. trapping animals), and more. Preparing for nuclear, biological or chemical attacks, and information of epidemics and diseases.
REI. All manner of outdoor clothing, cycling and camping gear. Good quality. SteriPEN water purifiers.