A Different Look at Bug Out Bags

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I’ve had a bug out bag sitting in my closet for years, packed and ready to go. In a way, it’s sort of a survivalists dream bag, filled with a ton of great survival gear. I’ve probably got enough gear in that bag to head off into the wilderness for years, not coming out until I run out of ammo to hunt for food.

Basically, that bag, like many bug out bags, is built in the premise of a TEOTWAWKI event, forcing me to abandon my home. As such, it’s not a 72 hour bag, it’s more like a 72 week bag. Hence the heavy dependency on survival gear. But the recent spate of hurricanes has shown me something; what if I don’t need to abandon my home, with no hope of coming back? What if I just need to get away until the current crisis ends and the flood waters (literal or figurative) recede?

While the possibility of a life-changing event could happen, forcing us to abandon our homes and start afresh out in the wilderness exist, they are not the most likely disaster scenario any of us face. We’re much more likely to be faced by a hurricane or other natural disaster; something that’s short term, and will allow us to return back home in a couple of weeks.

If I was faced with something like that, I probably wouldn’t go hide out in the woods (although I’d really want to), but rather go to another town and get a hotel room. My wife would like that much better. In such a case, all that survival gear probably isn’t going to be used. I’ll need a whole different set of things.

What sorts of things? More than anything, I’d need:

  • Cash
  • Clothing
  • Important documents (on a thumb drive)
  • Personal items
  • My laptop computer (loaded with my work, so that I could continue earning money while away from home)
  • Tools to help stranded motorists on the road, or in case my car breaks down
  • A means of self-defense

While I might need a few pieces of survival gear, especially I get caught in a mass evacuation and the highways turn into a parking lot, that need will be short-term, not years. I’d also need some food and water, at least enough to get me to wherever I’m going to go, until I can return home. But that’s not the same as trying to live off of my survival cache or live off the land. Once I get to my destination, I probably won’t need that survival gear at all. So in reality, I’ve overpacked in some areas and underpacked in others.

This has led me to think that maybe I really need two bug out bags, or even more. One, the one I currently have, should be there for catastrophic emergencies, where I have to abandon my home, without much hope of returning. Another, which I would need in the case of a natural disaster; a bag that has the things I’d need to have, in order to live away from home for a couple of weeks.

Of course, it should be clear that I would actually have very different bug out plans in these two different situations as well. That’s what predicates the difference in these two bags. Each bug out bag has to be planned and built to meet the particular bug out plan that it would be used for.

But there is a very key ingredient to this second bag, which I realize not everyone can afford; that’s cash. The cost of bugging out and living in a hotel for two weeks is rather high; even worse if the hotels start price gouging, like they tried to do in Texas after Hurricane Harvey (the state’s Department of Justice quickly put an end to that). Even at normal rates, the cost of a hotel and meals can easily top a thousand dollars a month.

So what do you do if you can’t afford that? You’re basically left with two options. The first is the one that the government wants you to take; stay in a FEMA shelter. Not something that I would want to do. The second is to turn your bug out into a vacation and go camping.

However, there’s still a difference between this and bugging out on a permanent basis; mostly the fact that you would be bugging out in a vehicle and probably be able to keep your vehicle with you. That means that you can carry a lot more camping gear along. So you won’t have to try and build a debris hut or lean-to to sleep in; you can bring a real tent, even a fairly large one.

Either way, that sort of bug out requires planning and preparation. So, even though everything won’t fit into a backpack, making an actual bug out bag, it still needs to be treated that way. At the least, everything should be stored together, in an easy to access location, with a checklist to make sure that you don’t leave anything behind. It’s still being prepared, just in a different way.

And don’t forget to keep your powder dry and your survival gear, including this sort of bug out bag, close at hand.

Chris and Dr. Rich

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