Beyond the Bug Out Bag: How to Make a Survival Plan for When You Have to Flee

Last Updated: June 22, 2020

You can’t go to any prepping or survivalist website without hearing talk of Bug Out Bags and how important they are.

Yes, packing a Bug Out Bag is important.

But so is knowing what you are going to do with your Bug Out Bag!

It is crucial that you have a plan for bugging out (or evacuating, or whatever you want to call it).  This guide is meant to help you formulate your bugging out plan so you can be safe regardless of what disaster strikes.

1. Figure Out What Bugging Out Means to You

Bugging out means something different to everyone, and it is probably going to look a lot different depending on your individual circumstances.

This should be obvious.  Yet, most prepping websites tend to glamorize bugging out.  They make it seem like a camping trip with your buddies.  In my opinion, if they are really so eager to bug out into the wilderness, they should just go buy a cabin in the woods somewhere and start homesteading.

You don’t have to wait for a SHTF disaster to start living the life you really want!

But we are talking about survival in disaster situations, so you have to understand what bugging out will mean for you or your group.

Here are just some of the base considerations:

  • Under what conditions will you flee? Read this post on Hunkering Down vs. Bugging Out.
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What disasters are most likely to occur in your area?
  • Is your area urban, suburban, or rural?
  • Will your community be an asset or danger?

2. Have Bug Out Essentials Ready to Go

bug out bag contents

This is what most preppers tend to focus on when talking about bugging out.  So, I don’t want to dwell on it too long.  Check out these bug out lists to see what essentials you need:

But having a bunch of gear is completely useless if you can’t access it.  For example, what if disaster strikes while you are at work but your BOB is at home?

Or what if someone steals your Bug Out Bag?

Thus, your bug out plan better include tactics like:

  • Making multiple Bug Out Bags
  • Keep BOBs at home, work, school, in your vehicle, and anywhere you go frequently
  • Camouflaging your Bug Out Bag
  • Making a survival cache

3. Disaster Communication Plan

This is one of the most important elements of disaster preparedness, yet it is also one of the most-overlooked parts of planning.

Let’s say that a disaster strikes while your kids are at school.  Because cell phones rarely work during major disasters, how would you get in contact with your kids?

Do you know what the school’s policy is for disasters?

All experts agree that the most important part of successfully bugging out is to get out of the disaster zone early.  Getting out early means you can avoid the crowds, rioting, martial law, and road closures…

So make a disaster communication plan – complete with a specific rally point and meetup instructions – so you and your loved ones can get out of dodge ASAP.

For more on this, read How to Make an Emergency Communication Plan.

4. A Specific Bug Out Location

bug out cabin

A lot of people are buying property in remote areas to go to in case of a major disaster.  If you can afford it, then this is worth considering.  Even if a disaster never occurs, you can still use the bug out location for weekend getaways.

Let’s be honest here: Picking a good bug out location is tough!

You’ve got to consider:

  • Safety
  • Accessibility: Ideally your BOL is no more than 1 tank of gas away
  • Isolation
  • Access to water
  • Shelter
  • Protection/defense options
  • Whether it is suitable for long-term survival

For more on this, read The 8 Requirements of a Good Bug Out Location.

What if you can’t afford a Bug Out Location?

Think creatively; campgrounds, national parks, and abandoned factories could all be options. I’m sure you can think of plenty more in your local area.

None of these are exactly ideal solutions (just think of all the strung-out junkies who might be lurking in an abandoned factory!)

However, having a specific location in mind – even if it isn’t perfect – is better than not having a location to flee to at all.

*Once you’ve found a bug out location, remember to stock it with survival supplies – even if it means burying a survival cache in the ground.

5. Choosing Your Route

Remember the days when people used paper maps instead of GPS? As the BBC talks about here, there are a lot of reasons — from solar storms to cyberattacks — that our GPS systems could stop working.

So, while GPS systems are awesome to have, don’t rely solely on them.

You’ll want to get a detailed paper map of the area to plan your bug out route.  You’ll want to be looking at things like:

  • What backroads will take you to the BOL?
  • What alternative routes are there?
  • What is the terrain like?
  • Are there any good drop points along the way?
  • How will seasonal conditions (such as flooding, snow, etc.) affect the route?

6. Bug Out Vehicle

bug out vehicle

This is another area which is talked about (more like argued about) in the prepper community.  Some feel that a big, rugged off-road vehicle is the only way to go.

Others insist that modern vehicles will be useless because of EMP.

Most of these arguments fail to point out that there are dozens of types of disasters which could occur, and the “best” bug out vehicle is going to be different for each of them.

Here are just some options:

  • Off-Road Vehicle
  • Motorhome
  • ATV
  • Car
  • Motorcycle
  • Bicycle
  • Foot
  • Boat

Read our article about bug out vehicles and their pros/cons here.

You Must Have a Backup Bug Out Vehicle

The core idea behind disaster prepping is that you always hope for the best but plan for the worst.  Thus, you must expect bug out vehicle failures such as:

  • Your bug out vehicle breaks down
  • It gets stolen
  • Roads are closed

With these failures in mind, always have a Plan B vehicle and factor it into your plan!

7. Drills

You need to run a drill of your bug out plan so you can:

  • Make sure that everyone in your group knows what to do
  • Be more mentally prepared for a real-life event
  • Determine how long it will take you to get to safety
  • Catch any holes in your plan

This last point is particularly important. Often, it isn’t until you do a drill that you realize problems with your plan such as your BOB is too heavy, or it will take you much longer to get to your location than you thought, or that your gear is malfunctioning.

8. Adjust Plan As Necessary

Hopefully you will keep doing drills of your bugging out plan, testing them in different seasons and conditions.

Don’t be surprised if you end up tweaking your bug out plan after each drill.  There is no “right” way to make a disaster plan.  You can only strive to do the best you can to prepare for the unknown.

Are you making a bug out plan? What other steps do you think are important for survival?

+ Image credits:

Arctic Survival ”Cool School”” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by AirmanMagazine
Fraser River Canyon” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Tjflex2
Traffic jam Rita” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by houstontranstar
AWOL_bag_inside” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by  SlipStreamJC

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