Some Thoughts on Bugging Out

Picture of Selco


I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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We at the SHTFSchool are launching our new „Bug out“ course. The first one will be running in Sweden (More details here) so it is perfect time to consider again some things about bugging out.

I written before about it, but it is never ending topic, simply because there is too many variables and small change in your particular scenario can push you toward the plan and action that would not work at all in someone else’s case (and scenario).

Over the years of writing articles and reading other folk articles and comments, and having my own SHTF experience there is clear that people „fixate“ on more or less same topics concerning the bugging out, so I’ll comment some of those topics.

Do I Need to Bug Out, When and How?

I wrote before about timing during the SHTF event when it makes sense to bug out, but what kind of event do you need to experience in order to bug out and how you are you going to do that?

If you expecting that you’re just going to jump in your car and drive to your BOL without problems then you are missing something or you are really good.

There are countless details that may be thrown in equation of bugging out but lets stick to the most important:

Making decision

  • Is event that is happening (or will happen very soon) a serious physical threat you and your family? (dirty bomb attack, serious weather event, civil unrest…)
  • Is staying at your home mean more danger to you than to go out and travel to desired location (bug out) considering all known factors of risk during the trip? (you are expecting that things going to be better out of your current area)
  • Your current resources at your home are clearly going to „run out“ much earlier than at your BOL (you have preps at your home but clearly you have much more in your BOL)

As advice, in a case of some serious event I would choose to move away from the area where there are more people (urban) to the area where there are less people.

It is general rule, but that does not mean that I would blindly run from my home out to the unknown just because I am in the city.

Sometimes bugging in make more sense even if you are preparing your whole life for bugging out, just check factors from above.

Way There

Getting to your BOL location can be simple like driving 100 miles to your location, but that 100 miles may turn out to be 10 days trip on foot.

You never know how it will turns out, but on some things you can be prepared.

I am big advocate of being „grey“, and that is very important especially while you bugging out.

What actually that means?

  • Your decision about using weapon needs to be made based on circumstances in that moment and for that particular situation. Sometimes it make sense to carry weapon openly, sometimes not.

Use common sense, if there are bunch of scared and confused people outside, trying to understand what kind of event is happening do you really want to go outside in full camouflage gear with rifle in your hand? What is the point of that?

If there is obstacle on your route (check point, armed people for example) can you avoid it and take other route?

If you really need to use weapon then use it to completely terminate threat, usually it will not be time to just „show the muscle“  it will rather be time to quickly and efficiently „use the muscle“.

  • Expect that lot of problems on your way you will have to solve by „bargaining“ , for example sometimes you ll be in situation to give money (alcohol, marijuana, bullets, medicine,clothes…) on some check points in order to go through maybe,-as a general rule for that there is this: do not ever give good reason to people to take the chance of attacking and killing you.

What that means?

If you are passing some local militia (neighborhood watch for example) check point (if you can not avoid it) you may offer your wife wedding ring, or your kid’s golden necklace, or your last 50 dollars, or last 25 liters of fuel… but you never offer 10 silver coins from your stash of silver coins, or your 1 pack of antibiotic out of box of 25 packs, or 50 dollars from the pile of 500 dollars.

Use common sense, usually people will avoid trouble if there is no gain from it, if they see good opportunity they might take chance, even if that means some of them might end up dead, it simply worth the risk in that times.

You need to look like ordinary guy, not like experienced prepper with lot of fancy stuff. You need to be grey.

Today,in normal times, people often see something in other people possession and they think „I wish I could have that“, when SHTF lot of people will think „ oh, I can take that“.

Being grey means a lot, and it means different things for different situations, but there is general rule here, and it is very simple: look and act like everybody else around you – do not stick out.

It goes for your vehicle, your equipment, clothes, way how you act, talk…

Examples are numerous, let say it is SHTF and you are bugging out with your pick up truck with 5 steel military canister of fuel clearly visible (among the other equipment) on the back of pick up.

It is great that you thought about extra fuel that you had stored in your garage for bugging out when SHTF.

It is not smart to show that to whole bunch of other people who are also trying to run away from chaos in the city in the middle of fuel shortage.

They were not smart to store that fuel for bugging out like you, but they will kill you for that fuel, because they like their kids more then they hate feeling of killing someone.

After fact that you need to be grey, let’s mention few more basics here:

  • you need to have at least basic knowledge about your vehicle. For example „fixing“ flat tires, radiator leaks, changing belts, ways to unblock cars from compromised roads and you need to have parts and means for that.
  • Your car might be your home for prolonged period of time, maybe your trip is few hours driving, but you do not know on what problems you might stumble and how long it is going to be.
  • You need to be ready to leave (forever) your car in a matter of minutes or even seconds, and continue on foot, so try to organize it on that way that you do not in hurry leave something with your car that is of life importance (for example water, or ammo, or weapon) Load the car with small packages, small containers, things easy to ‘grab and go’ (We DO NOT advocate the use of ‘totes’ in vehicles, unless you have a clear plan and means to empty that tote FAST into an easy to carry bag or similar method of easy to carry equipment.)
  • And in worst case scenario-no matter how good vehicle you have, maybe you’ll be forced to bug out on foot from the start, so have a plan for that too

That means you have to have equipment for long walk, plans for resources on your way, means to spend more nights in the field…

Few more things about planning and mapping your bugging out:

  • Have at least two alternate routes to your BOL
  • Try to understand- recognize, mark on map and avoid possible danger spots on your route (for example gas stations, police stations, malls, bridges,“choking points“…
  • Try to have either secret stashes (fuel, food, water, medicine, ammo…) or help (safe friendly houses, safe places…) on your route
  • Be ready to change plan, change routes, be ready to improvise and adapt, your traveling may look weird (not straight forward) on map, but it is more important to come alive then to stick to the original plan or to come there to fast.
  • Remember when SHTF that means new rules, so you may pose as a policeman, you may have uniform of city services, you may be reporter… all old rules are dead and your task is to get there. Improvise and adapt
  • Check map of your area for natural obstacles (and weather too) but have open mind. That means if for example there are rivers in your area of traveling then no matter that you are planning to drive the car still you need to be prepared for the situation that you gonna swim over the river (what kind of river is, how fast and cold, do you have right bag to put your most valuable items in for that river crossing…) if there is a mountain and winter be ready to spend night outside (have clothes and equipment for that) no matter again that you plan to travel with car


Good exercise would be that you go once per year and travel your „bugging out“ route by foot. It would give you some sense of few things. It would be without re-routes, real dangers and problems but still you would notice lot of things and you would get a few good ideas…

These are just a few thoughts on the matter. Those joining us on the physical bug out course, will learn and practice this and much much more…!








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14 Responses

  1. Selco- Once again your no-nonsense common sense advise are spot on. I have a bug out bag and plan but unless the most dire circumstances happen I hope to never have to use it. The Grey man approach is what I always have planned on. Just be a nobody. Two years ago I decided at age 60 to test my ability to carry my 38lb bug out pack. I walked a 10 mile route, with out stopping once to sit or rest. This was on sidewalks and paths, up some good inclines, but not back country. This took 3 hours and 20 minutes. I was admittedly totally bushed after that, but could do it. In a real bug out on foot, of course rest and common sense practices would be employed. Thanks for all your advise on this blog. Invaluable.

  2. the only observation I can make is does anyone think they will be alone when they “bug out?” in heavily populated areas the trafic will be quite heavy.your safe haven you own will be overrun. you wont have any law to protect your property. what will be your action when you get to your property and find it occupied?

  3. I live in the country, Quite isolated. I too am concerned people from the city’s will come here. I do not want that !
    I think there will be nowhere to bug out to. I am considering a camp with like minded people. Others who have the food, tents, weapons, etc. I am a loner by habit but I am not sure I could fight off 10 or 20 intruders. I really do not like having others around, it is a Trust factor. Who can you turn your back on, how can you get a good sleep.
    Its going to be tough but it will come to that. We are facing war with several countries. Its just a matter of time.

  4. Thomas, Rottweilers make trustworthy companions. Rotties are also “Draft Dogs”meaning they can pull a cart. Youtube has some video’s on that. I too live out in the sticks. I plan to drop a large tree across the road and make a tactical position some 400 to 600 yards off and “Discourage” any uninvited visitors.

  5. Planning and adaptation per ever-changing situation. A challenging combination.

    I wrote briefly before about how, when the last hurricane hit Central Florida, I found myself unprepared, even though I have been “prepping” for 5 years. I had a great “get home bag”, but not a great “bugout bag”. What I did not enumerate the last time I wrote was what exactly happened…

    The last hurricane to hit my area of Florida was in 2004, and I was living in a different house then, in a different town. The house I was in for the most RECENT hurricane was not a good one… 95 year old wooden “shack”, overhung by 4 enormous Live Oak trees… very dangerous in a hurricane. One big branch from any one of those trees could fall straight through that house… can’t stay in it. The “bugout bag” I had was loaded for hiding in the woods for several days during a civil emergency, but that would not work in a hurricane…. you can’t “hide in the woods” in a tent during high winds and flooding rains. I sought a local “emergency shelter”, and there was on just a mile from my house.

    The “shelter” was a high school gymnasium, and it looked pretty good… until I realized some things. They were expecting 400 people, they were already bussing in the drug addicts from the local treatment centers, and there would be a 24 hour curfew during the storm… no-one in or out, just a few cops on guard at the shelter, and no firearms allowed on the property, much less inside the shelter itself. So all that, and only 3 men’s toilets, and one of them already had a homeless guy taking a bath in the sink. Nope, I was not gonna get locked in with 400 lunatics for 24 hours. On top of that, I could not use fire to cook food inside, and I could not use the rest room since it would mean carrying or leaving my gear unattended. I left the “shelter”.

    Outside, I had a about an hour or so before the storm hit. I needed to find a secure place to hide, and I did not want to be too far from my main stash of goodies at the house. If a tree fell on it, I could still try to scavenge out something, and I did not want looters finding my stuff.

    So I went about 8 blocks away to the small “downtown” area of the little town I live in. By this time the wind was driving the rain into whiteness and I could barely see to drive even with the windshield wipers on “high”. The streets were vacant… everyone was already hiding in their chosen places… except me…. I was still looking for a place to hide. I parked my pickup truck on the non-wind side of a wide, 5 story brick building. The winds were a steady 60MPH and growing at that time, but where I parked, the tall wide brick building perfectly shielded my truck from the wind. I kicked the seat back to make it look like no-one was inside (so the cops would not come asking questions) and stayed put while the storm increased in strength.

    Stuff blew by… a good bit of it. Branches, bushes, building debris…. 88MPH steady winds for hours, with stronger gusts. White-out rain. Stuff was flying, trees were twisting, breaking, falling… but I was in the “calm zone” created by the large brick building. Eventually the storm abated and I drove back to my house. Thank God, no damage… the huge trees held in place. But just 100 yards from me a huge tree by the road had been twisted apart and had fallen across the street, blocking it completely.

    The experience enlightened me. I needed a better bugout plan. I needed to be able to feed myself without fire. “Public Shelters” are ill-planned and potential traps with weirdos. Creativity is your friend. Safety is your most important thing, and it may look “unconventional”…. riding out a hurricane in your truck sounds crazy to most people, but it’s WHERE you put that truck that makes the difference. Like Selco has always said, the ability to assess, adjust, and solve is the most critical skill set in survival. That, and prayer (my words). 😉

    So, I hope that story helps. Like I said last time, I have pages of notes and thoughts about what I learned from that experience, and I have been refining my plan since then. There is still no “good” place to hide come the next storm, but there are “adequate” places to hide if you just look.

    Do what Selco said… do dry runs of your plans. Reality works out VERY differently than you think, almost all of the time. In life, each time something happens, you learn things. Have “pre-experiences/pre-learnings” so you can be more ready for the real thing when it happens.

  6. As we used to say in the Boy Scouts; Semper Gumby, or, Always Flexible!
    Things change and the essence of life is flexibility in the face of change. My wife gets it and she and I can roll with the punches and eventualities that play out. Not sure our two kids are potentially going to able to flex if and when things go bad.
    Like your good counsel, Selco. Dropping personal “stuff,” and electing to survive and live to fight another day, or never have to fight at all… is true medicine that saves lives. Evading trouble and adjusting plans might take longer, but it’s better to not play the odds, if you can avoid them.
    This bug out article reminds me I have things to work on, Selco., and I’m thankful for your words and experience. Thanks to Nick, also, for hurricane story. More lessons learned.

  7. Nick, Your observation about planning while being adaptable being a challenge is not far off. The solution is also not as far off as you think. Stop thinking like a desperate person trying to get to safety, and think of it as a military operation. I don’t care what route I wind up taking to get to the objective, so long as I get to that objective. Circumstance may well necessitate re-routing. Instead of getting hurt feelings about a re-route, be pragmatic about it, and divert according to your plan onto another route.

    The idea here is simple. There is a primary route, but you are no longer shackled to getting back on that route at all cost if you are pushed off of it. Just divert to route B or C or whatever you want to call them, and keep moving. Set check points along each route

    use phase lines perpendicular to the optimal route. Set up check points along those perpendicular lines that signify points to connect/reconnect with people either joining you, or who may become separated during excitement. While I haven’t mentioned it yet, communications with separated groups is critical for reconnecting the groups.

    Next steps?

    1. Pull out that single map that covers your route, make a couple copies of it, and start plotting routes from point A to point B.

    2. Once you are happy with the basic routes, go drive them. Are they reasonable? Are the templated check points reasonable? Since you drew them on a low definition map, stop and write notes about where at that checkpoint people will meet, i.e. behind the quickie-mart, derelict building on NW side of intersection, etc..
    Which routes will be challenging for someone with an injured ankle? Think through what would make one better than the other? Write these ideas down on paper. Can you mitigate some of the issues with meds, ankle brace, etc? The route reconnaissance will allow you to prioritize the routes from desirable to undesirable. You took the kids on this ‘great adventure,” right? Show them. Get them involved in all of it. Make it “planning a secret mission” to go camping or something. They already know how to orient themselves to the terrain, right? Can guide you to the Home Depot without help, right?

    3. While driving the route, identify challenges and check points. Get back on a clean copy of the map, and clean up the proposed routes with the details you saw on your drives. Put together the final plan. Keep it simple stupid. Route A, B, C. Check points Barney, Dora, etc.. You got GPS coordinates for those checkpoints, right? Write those down on a separate piece of paper. OPSEC.

    4. What is the comm plan to support this mission? Frequencies? Method for jumping frequencies if you think/know someone is listening? Define it on separate paper. Everyone trained on terrain orientation? Following a GPS device to a specific location? Using the walkies for comms? Changing frequencies?

    5. When you drove all those routes, did you see anything that given some conditions changing between your Summer drive, and a mid-winter exodus, that would require special tools to accomplish the mission? Winch? Cum-a-long? Sand bags? Chainsaw/axe for downed trees along that dirt road/trail? <> Got a shovel and pick?

    6. Now its up to you to build a load plan, get all the preventative maintenance done on your proposed bug out vehicle, build realistic bug out bags, and get your people educated on load planning, pack assembling, and trained to actually carry those packs.

  8. Own a decent bike? Ok, keep the tires tyres properly inflated check with tire gage. Do you own a bike with a good comfortable seat and maybe a carrying area for your bag. etc.? If you are bugging out and the weather permits I would use a bike over driving into a vast traffic jam. Guys and gals we all need to have strong legs and there’s nothing better than walking and doing some squats (weight optional). I would take a gas guzzler ride with supplies if I had to bring along children in bad walking weather otherwise we are walking and if possible riding a bike, one can also just walk along side your bike loaded down with supplies,

  9. Selco,

    Again, Thanks for your blog.

    Reading this article the thought occurred to me how fast can I or anyone adapt during SHTF?

    Hopefully I can explain by a story.

    On a friday night many years ago while I was riding a motorcyle, a truck appeared and stopped in my lane about a couple of hundred feet ahead, only a few seconds away. The bike knew exactly where it was going to take me, the left side passenger door panel. My first thought was “Sh*t!”. Then the reality hit me, this is real whether I belived it or not. Time slowed down, the closer to the truck the slower time went. I was boxed in by a car on my right and the road median on the left. To slow the bike down I dumped the bike flat on the road and managed to get my leg out due to the trailbike handle bar, riding on the gas tank. A surfer friend told me after being tossed by a wave, get away from your surfboard to avoid it hitting you. It seemed like a good idea at the time since the thought of getting sandwiched between the door and my bike wasn’t appealing. So I asked myself what would I rather lose an arm or a leg jumping off the bike at fifty plus miles per hour? I then rolled into a ball so my flapping appendages wouldn’t be truncated off. Comically as I was rolling down the road like being in clothes dryer, every one hundred eighty degree turn I caught a glimpse of the driver who boxed me in, looking at me, me looking up at him, riding parallel to my line of travel. Then my helmut’s face shield ground off, at that point I decided I had enough Reality and I would pass out to keep my body relaxed to avoid snapping something due to being too tense. Actually, it was that it too much for me, I had enough and consciously blacked out. I woke up a couple hundred yards down the road with the bike close by. Somehow the bike tires slid under the trunk’s front bumper between me and the gap to the car. The rest I still block out of memory.

    What is the point of the story and how does it apply to a SHTF situation? I’ll try and explain how I ‘imagine’ it will be like …

    While I was telling myself this wasn’t happening the Reality was everything around me was very real, crystal clear lucid real. One of the clearest moments I have experienced in life. And yet I was making decisions or “adapting” in the shortest amount of time available. Is this anywhere or even remotely close to a SHTF experience??

    Theory: As a mental exercise imagine you’re bugging-out, walking down a road and you see a road block ahead. How do you react? Do you keep walking or go hide offroad? Now imagine it’s an ambush. Do you run straight into the shooters as this is probably the only chance of surviving. Can you drop to the ground and roll over with fifty or so pounds of weight on your back? Do you have the time of doing a Colonel John Boyd OODA Loop?

    Now repeat the mental excerise, each time giving yourself more time to react. What would you do differently?
    “The Defense of Duffer’s Drift” by Ernst Dunlop Swinton is a book that the military uses for such a mental excerise. (The movie “The Edge of Tommorrow” is kinda like the book.)
    The book “Blackhawk Down” is a lesson in what NOT to do.

    Now the added twist to the imaginary excercise is … can you inject the reality of hitting road asphalt at fifty miles per hour (or your similiar experience) into the excerise.
    This is going to be an off the wall example but in the final days of WWII the Hitler Youth Corps were ordered to defend the Fatherland against the tidal waves of Russian troops. Knowing what would happen to them if captured each kid kept one last bullet for themselves.
    Not to sound grim or fatalistic could you apply that realism into the above mental excerises? I think no one or very few people actually believes they could die in a SHTF situation. The other person yeah …

    I have never been in any situation even close to Selco’s experiences, so my apology if this sounds pretentious but I imagine running thru various scenarios coupled with a traumatic memory of what can happen in reality will make you take the excerise more seriously.

    The photographs that accompany your articles are very good. I read about a mountain pass on the west side of Sarajevo that people traveled to get food, etc., during the siege. Any experience with the pass?

  10. In reply to the OP. I was born and raised in Central Fl and was in the 2 direct hit hurricanes (Charley and Jeane) in Central Fl in 2004. I can tell you that there was NO place to BO to. The thing is, whether it’s prior to (many. many who tried to evacuate ended up stuck on the interstate and experienced the hurricanes from their vehicles) during or after, you are in grave danger going outside. The fact is, afterward, there is a “stay indoors” and curfew and you can be arrested for trying to travel anywhere. Not to mention the live electrical wires, etc and wildlife in the flooded waters, etc. Many roads are impassable..IMO, it’s a bad idea to plan on BO after a hurricane. In my case, it was a matter of going to my neighbors and seeing who needed help. We had a senior widow living next door who had a huge hole in her roof. I got up and tarped it off. The people on the other side of us needed medical attn. Everyone was in shock and needed some form of normalcy, so I gathered some able bodies and we gathered some food and grills and tables, etc and had a neighborhood get together/cookout. Just to get folks together and share and assess who needed what, but to show that we were all in this together.

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