The Bug-in v. Bug-out Question

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I admit, I have been a prepper—to various degrees—for decades. In that regard, my plans have always been to bug out if things got rough. As a former resident of Florida, we always rated things on the hurricane scale. For me, anything more than the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane meant bugging out to higher ground.

If your area becomes a hotbed for civil unrest, experts and survivalist agree—you are safer staying indoors.

I have a friend who lives in a rural area and he welcomed the help. My plan was simple; grab my SHTF bag, important guns, pre-set ammo boxes, dried goods, and head to his place. All of those items were pre-staged in a closet and would take less than 15 minutes to relocate to my truck. I also pre-positioned some bulky items at his place. In late 2009, my prepping calculus changed dramatically.

The catalyst was twofold in nature. My relationship with a wonderful woman deepened immensely. This meant I wasn’t just responsible for myself; I had to consider her and her 16 year old son. Part two, she was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly thereafter. For those who are not aware, breast cancer usually means surgery, a regime of chemotherapy, followed by radiation treatment. This process takes at least a year and bugging out would be difficult at best.

With that in mind, a seismic shift went through our prep plans. We discussed things and came to the obvious conclusion that unless it was BAD, we needed to bug in. First, we made a list of the things that were mandatory to remain in place short term. This list included:

Bug Out Bag Checklist

Bug Out Bag Checklist

The good news, we had everything except the generator. We needed additional quantities of some items, but a week’s worth of survival provisions for three was a bit less than what was already laid in. Our plan was to run the generator intermittently to keep the fridge and freezer cold and one room in the house as an oasis against heat intolerance caused by my wife’s chemo.

Upon reflecting on the disaster that was Katrina, we were not confident that a week was the hurdle we should stop at. As a function of that, we looked at longer-term bug in needs. Our new list added the following to our short-term list.:

This additional layer of readiness cost us a fair amount of time and money to acquire, but it built depth into our ability to protect “chemo girl,” and it helped our family gel. One weekend, we decided to test our plans and voluntarily turned off the house power. For 2.5 days, we lived off our supplies and followed our plans. It did not go as we envisioned, but we learned from our no pressure dry run. Many weak areas were readily apparent—as well as some areas that worked well.


  • Dietary variety was poor
  • Water usage was much higher than expected
  • Generator sound-deadening was poor


  • Cooking over an alcohol burner / small hibachi grill worked well
  • Solar chargers worked well for the ham radio and cell phones
  • The manual water pump was great
  • The window AC made life tolerable for all
  • Reusing cleaning water to dispose of latrine wastes worked well

Our Bug In weekend was a great test. It led to purchasing two 55-gallon food grade plastic drums for drinking water supplies in addition to maintaining a rotation of 10 cases of bottled water. We also purchased a 30-gallon drum for storage of purposed grey water with a separate manual pump.

A very important dietary gap was fixed with the purchase of a dehydrator. This allowed us to make our own dried fruits, vegetables, and jerky. The generator sound issue was tackled on two fronts. First, an automotive muffler was grafted onto the generator. This greatly lowered the sound volume. Second, a double-layer baffle box was built to contain the remaining sound without restricting heat dispersion.

We only ever had to utilize the plan with a 4-day hurricane-related power outage. The plans and the “Bug In” weekend made those 4 days seem like a mini-vacation compared to what it would have been like without our test.

Our situation and our plans are different from yours, but make a plan, and test it—soon.

Have you tested your bug-in or bug-out plan? What changes did you make? Share your answers in the comment section.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!’s blog, “The Shooter’s Log,” is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

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