The “Bug Out” Problem

Are you planning to be a refugee or a looter?

That’s the question posed by our Harry Dexter White.  And, I think it’s well worth considering. 

To quote him directly:

“People talk about guns too much.  People talk about bugging out too much. There are two words for people who plan to “bug out”:  “Refugee” and “Looter” …Some people pack and repack their BOB so they can GOOD when the SHTF at TEOTWAKI.  Some wise guy* said, “Don’t run. You’ll just die tired.”  Carrying an AR-10 on your walk to the superdome is just going to make you tired faster….How many days of food do they recommend carrying in their BOB?  After that, what? Foraging isn’t that easy now, let alone when the woods are crawling with competition.  If you are foraging with 300 million other people, you are starving to death.  The successful foragers will starve a little more slowly, but that seems like cold comfort. The whole premise is that there would not be food to buy and precious little to steal.  Bugging out always comes back to looting in the end.

(*That would be me, yours truly, HT)

These comments, by the way, were made in response to this article at and this one at  Both address the “problem” of choosing a single survival firearm for the purpose of “bugging out”.  Thankfully, we can count on our HDW to help re-orient the question to first priorities.

Not that it isn’t useful to ponder “optimum solutions”, either for the sake of simplicity or as simple mental exercise.  But, Mr. White is right about this:  If your first plan of action in a worst case scenario is to “bug out”, you’re already in deep poop.  If all you’re planning for is a “small crisis”….such as a flood, hurricane or earthquake, for instance, well, having a “72-hour” emergency kit (or Bugout Bag) makes good sense, doesn’t it?  That’s just prudent.

But, on the other hand, if you truly believe that there’s a reasonable chance that the world as you know it will go to hell in a handbasket and you’re sitting there in middle of urban/suburban disneyland (errr, “the superdome”), then Mr. White is quite correct.   Assuming you make it out of the city at all, is it then your plan to camp out in my pasture?  Is that really all you’re thinking?

No, of course not…’re planning on an extended survival excursion into the city park, right?  Oh, you’ve got a national forest nearby?  (As it happens, so do we.) That’s dandy, so how’s your taste for grubs and foot fungus?  Your wife up to speed on this plan?  Your five-year old daughter?  Oh, you’ll let them go the superdome without you?  Good thinking.

This is just a guess, but I’d have to estimate that 90% or better of those purporting to be engaged in some manner of “preparedness” are (as HDW has also said) only engaged in some sort of “fantasy football”.  Why?  Simply because you live somewhere that you know is untenable and your “retreat” doesn’t exist. 

But, hopefully this is the sort of mental exercise that will lead to a somewhat more practical approach to the problem. 

James Wesley Rawles on the subject:     “Live at Your Retreat Year-Round. If your financial and family circumstances allow it, I strongly recommend that you relocate to a safe area and live there year-round. This has several advantages, most notably that will prevent burglary of your retreat logistics and allow you to regularly tend to gardens, orchards, and livestock. It will also remove the stress of timing a “Get Out of Dodge” trip at the 11th hour. If circumstances dictate that you can’t live at your retreat year round, then at least have a caretaker and stock the vast majority of your logistics in advance, since you may only have one trip there before roads are impassable.”

Check out the rest of Rawles’ “Precepts”.

As I stated at the beginning, however, it’s still useful to consider simplifying your defensive logistics and (as even Rawles notes) having some kind of Plan B (and Plan C), even if you’re well situated for a disaster.  On that score, planning some kind of B.O.B or G.O.O.D. kit may be worth your while.  As for an “optimum” firearm solution, see “Beware of the Man With One Gun” here at ARL.

Harry Tuttle


10 responses to “The “Bug Out” Problem

  1. Pingback: My Bug Out Bag Update PT-1 Intro – – The Online Magazine for Preppers- Prepping How to, Bug Out Bags, Food Storage, Survivalists, Bug out Locations, and more.

  2. I have a “bug out bag” for me and my wife at home but they are only for short term emergencys. Such as there is a nock on the door a 2 a.m. because the neighbor hood is burning down and I have exactly 3 minuets to get the heck out of dodge. After that is off to one of 4 pre aranged emergency locations with friends or family who live far enough away to be out of the imediate danger zone but close enough to make it to in an hour or two by vehicle or in a day or two on foot. What I keep in my vehicles are what I consider G.M.H. kits or “get me home” kits. They have about 72 hrs worth of gear and both come with an m44 mosin nagant carbine in a light weight stock and about 100rnds. (I picked them because they are fairly un obtrusive, can be loaded quickly with stipper clips, the ammo is dirt cheap and they can bring down anything in north america two legged or four. Finally if I abosutly had to dump them then Im only out $200 all total.) I am a Bug in kind of guy. My gear and my garden are at home. I have good relationships whith my neighbors in a suburb of a pretty small town off the beaten path. My neighbor hood is mostly people either recently retired or close to it, they all garden and most are doing at least some things to work toward self sufeciency. Since I am still young, spry, trained and well armed one of my plans is to help provide security and organize and train others while we band together and help each other out. I don’t know about you but I personally would rather die defending my home then starve to death in a Fema camp or in the woods some where.

    • Hey Marc: Sorry for the delay…I’ve not been giving ARL as much attention lately, unfortunately. Perhaps I’ll get back to the work of it again soon. In the mean time, it’s nice to hear your perspective on this issue. I’m glad to hear that you’re “a bug in kind of guy” and, as noted in the article, tend to believe that’s the best approach, assuming that you’re already living some version of a sustainable and secure lifestyle. No bug-out plan can ever hope to compensate for those kinds of macro issues. Still a BOB of some sort is always a good idea. Thanks for chiming in. – HT

      • I would add to my earlier comments: that your question of “are you planning to be a refugee or a looter?’ Is a very interesting one. I supose it all depends on semantics. I would consider a refugee to be any person who leaves their home with no specific destination or plan in mind and will sooner or later end up relying on the charity of others for their survival. Not a pleasant prospect. I would however bring up the cliche “Not all those who wander are lost.” I honestly belive that living a vagabond existance would be one of the hardest forms of subsitance. Also I agree that in the year or two following a EOTWAWKI situation that there will be way to many people trying to “live off the land’ to make that option tennable. There will undoubtidly be roving bands of everything from gangs and bandits, to slavers and even I would not doubt canibals eventually. S. M. Stirling illustrates this very well in his fictional, post apocolyptic “change” series. Only fiction. but illustrates a good point especially in the first two or three of the series. I do however think that in a long term colapse that there will be, gradualy, a massive die off of the population. After a few years it may become possible to live what ammounts to a hunter gather existance. Lets not forget that people having been living this way from the begining of human history, far longer than any kind of urbanized existance in fact. Some still do. Even fairly recently there was that man who lived for years in the Nez Peirce teritory that Ragnar Benson wrote about. (I would have to do some looking at home to get the referance) He survied off the land with no more than a stolen single shot .22 rifle and he only had that for the later half of his multi year ordeal.
        As far as being a looter again we must define our terms. I see a “looter” as being someone who takes advantage of a crisis to steal from others for personal gain. However I also believe that we will all end up being “scavengers” sooner rather than later. after all nothing last forever. All the gear and tools we have will wear out. The differance I see being that the scavenger is taking things that did not originally belong to him for the wellfare of himself or his family and not for profit. I would sugest that anyone who is serious about prepping start practicing scavenging now, in fact. Just make sure that what ever u are scavenging is not being rightfully claimed by anyone else. Used empty food grade buckets from resturaunts would be one good example that comes to mind. Just trying to be thought provoking and not confrontational. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly last time.

      • Marc: Well, it is a useful conversation. And, like all forms of insurance, it seems you can’t prepare for every possible scenario or that insurance would ever really “make you whole”. The article in question, btw, was written by a friend and one time contributor here. It was his intention to be thought-provoking, so I’m sure he’d be glad to know he’s had that effect. I don’t what part of the country you live in, but some areas have a higher carrying capacity than others. Our neck of the woods is pretty good in that regard and has the added benefit of an extremely small local population. That’s not to say the area couldn’t be inundated with refugees. But, the essential point was, I believe, that subsistence is (as you note) very difficult, even without competition.

        For what it’s worth, I used to run periodic “scenario” articles here…can’t remember the last one, but I’m sure you could find it. My expectation is simply increased “3rd World-style” totalitarianism. I personally don’t believe that we’ll ever find ourselves without the (supposed) benefit of government that will find it increasingly necessary to exert a heavy-handed influence on our decaying society. But, hey, that’s just my cheery outlook, ha, ha.

        Thanks again for chiming in. – HT

  3. Pingback: Anonymous

  4. I have a BOB, retreat location and alternate. I intend to stay put during an emergency BUT let’s say during that emergency (economy or natural) your location becomes unlivable due to wildfire, storm or other unforeseeable. You can go to FEMA or Bug out. In this case it is better to have a BOB and Bug out location, Firearm, medical, etc. pre-planned. I am retired Air Force and we ALWAYS had primary, secondary and tertiary locations for every function and dispersed assets so “all our eggs etc.” Many will argue best case scenarios but you have to plan for as many contingencies as possible (budget, time, health and ability) and then leave the rest to God. In the end you are increasing you CHANCES of survival and comfort during a life event knowing this will be a SEASON in your life and eventually you will either get back to or define a new normal. On a side note: Always plan for more people than is in your family now. This will allow you to sneak food (Never give food directly to anyone during a crisis SEE JAPAN) or take a child or young person into your camp when the Spirit leads. This will cement your humanity and remind you are alive because of the grace of God. This is true in a Crisis or Everyday life.

  5. That’s really the point here. Why choose to live in a place or in a way that, apparently, might require an escape plan? Because it’s close to the mall or a high paying job?

    I came to feel the same way about “retirement”. Why wait until some day in the far off future (that may never come) to be where you really wanted to be, doing – as often as possible – all of the things that you love to do? There are no perfect solutions, of course, but I’d rather be moving nearer to that goal today than waiting until that mythical future date.

    As for cities, generally, well, I think they’re great places to pretend that humankind is doing great things….and enjoying a variety of other delusions.


  6. Moving to the country is something that is a good idea even if society doesn’t collapse. Even if life in the city becomes easier and easier and more and more posh – it will never make people happy.


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