Comprehensive guide for bugging out

Comprehensive guide for bugging out survival

Imagine your home’s electricity is out and your home’s telephone has lost its dial tone. Your instincts are alarming you of the imminent danger that you must face. In such a situation, you must decide: should I protect myself in this shelter or move to another place? If I do not leave immediately, will it be the end of my life and my loved one’s life.

Disasters come promptly, and the warning signs are usually very subtle. In such situations, nothing else matters except keeping you and your loved ones alive. It is such situations which shows you why people take on the preparedness journey because what you do in those brief moments would define the rest of your life.

Nowadays, due to the increasing media coverage of the countless man-made and natural disasters, most people have taken on this self-reliance journey. Knowing that the country’s emergency system can help us to a certain extent, there are situations that we must take to our own hands.

Bugging out is one area where most prepper will explore. Of course, the next question would be: is it better to stay in your shelter or bug-out? This would be the first thing I will address, stating the pros and cons for both. Of course, bugging out would work better in certain situations such as the occurrence of a flood or when there is a power grid failure in your area.

In this article, we explore what are the necessary skills and items for bugging out survival.

Bugging in vs Bugging out

Bugging in

If you are bugging in, it means that you will hunker down or bunker down. If you are bugging in your home, the pros would be that you would have stocked up more supplies which you do not need to carry. Also, your shelter is your home and you do not need to worry about building a shelter.

Concerning bugging-in, it would be a totally different ball game due to the nature of the activity. Usually, the aim is to make sure that you have sufficient supplies to get you through for as long as possible.  This means getting sufficient amount of long-term food storage and water supplies. The categories that you consider for bugging-in is highly similar to bugging-out because it all essentially boils down to your survival. The aspects for bugging in are: water, food, fire, shelter, communication, first aid and tools for self-defense.

Bugging out

Bugging out

What does bugging out mean?

Bugging out means that you have decided to abandon your home because of an unexpected emergency situation such as the occurrence of a natural disaster or it may be a nuclear incident. The thought of leaving your home because of an imminent threat may seem overwhelming, but in such situations, you need to do what is necessary because the life of you and your loved ones are at stake.

Preparing the perfect bug-out bag means that you have sufficient items to get yourself to your bug-out location within 72 hours. Bearing in mind that natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanic explosions strike in a blink of an eye, keeping your options open by preparing a bug-out kit would be wise. Your home may get a direct hit from the earthquake for example and the repercussions would be difficult to bear.

I hope the comparisons would clarify the options which are available for you. However, I would suggest keeping both options open to you because you would not know what to expect, where a hurricane may develop into being really severe that you have to bug-out immediately!

In this article I want to separate the discussion for bugging-out into three aspects, which are (1) what is the mentality you need to bug out; (2) what are the skills you should acquire; (3) what you need to put in your bug out bag. I am putting it in this order because your mentality is the MOST important aspect, followed by your skills and the items you store in your bag.

Bug out mentality

Bug out mentality

This is the part which decides whether you have what it takes for bugging out. As a survivalist bugging out, it would take a lot of emotional toll on you which will eventually test your ability to adapt and keep your calm in different situations.

Furthermore, bug-out scenarios can happen anytime in just a blink of an eye. Don’t believe me? Just watch your evening news and count how many disasters – floods, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, wildfires or tornadoes – happen with minimal warning signs.

When you are surrounded by fear and panic, keeping yourself calm so that you can make the best possible decisions would be harder than you think. So, do you have what it takes to be clear-headed and survive?

Of course, I would only identify the qualities and mentality which would create the ideal situation for you to increase your survival rate as you bug-out. However, it would still be up to you to develop this qualities to the best that you can. These qualities may serve you immensely in your preparedness journey.

Here’s a list of mentalities which I think are important to have for bugout survival.

Mentality 1: Develop positive thinking

Develop Positive Thinking

Every person would face moments of self-doubt, doubting their own abilities to face the situation at hand. Especially in emergency situations, doubt would crop up more often and this is made worse because you are worn out after several hours of adrenaline rush.

Every survival battle begins with the mind, and you must first win this battle before you can expect yourself to effectively overcome other circumstances. Although I do not have hard facts and statistics to say this, it would be safe to say that more than 50% of the possibility of whether you can succeed in bugging-out would depend on your mentality.

Psychologists have often repeated that it is our attitude which defines our altitude. If you often think negatively and is passive about most things, it is time to make an effort to develop positive thinking qualities!

Mentality 2: Being determined to reach your goal

Being determined to reach your goal

In a survival situation, it is vital that you be decisive on what you have to do because time is of the essence. Ideally, you already have a predetermined bug-out location (a predetermined safe destination to travel) and you know which route would be the safest to reach that destination.

In bugging-out and in most areas of life, striving aimlessly would be a waste of valuable time. And in an emergency, time is all the more important! That is why making evacuation decisions in advance is crucial. Most people who did not preplan will panic when disaster strikes and this would often lead to faulty decision-making.

The ability to be clear-headed and decisive in times of emergency would definitely be important. Alternatively, you can decide what you and your loved ones need to do when a type of emergency strike. Of course, it would be wise to create multiple plans because one plan would not be able to address all kinds of disasters. 

Mentality 3: Braving through adversities

Braving through adversities

Being brave does not mean there is an absence of fear, but rather that you are capable of overcoming that fear and do what is necessary. When disaster strikes, fear would inevitably crop up because it is a natural survival instinct that heightens our sense. However, it is our duty to ensure that it is controlled enough so that you can lead your loved ones into safety with ease.

Being fearful would negatively affect the decisions you make as well. Those who are fearful would likely give up and do the things which they feel most comfortable with. The ability to manage the fear that is present would indirectly affect our decision whether we are ‘giving up’, and this would essentially determine whether we can come out of the situation alive or dead.

Bug-out Skills

Bug-out Skills

After going through the mentality you need, it is time to talk about the skills you need to acquire. Having survival gears does not mean that you are able to bug-out effectively, especially if you do not know how to operate those gears. Most people would definitely want to pack the best gears and have the best intentions, but if one of those gears such as the water filter or fire starter is removed, they would be struggling to think what to do next.

When an emergency strikes, you can be sure that it will not happen as you have imagined. The best kind of preparation is to get ready for the unexpected, covering as much possibilities as possible. If your fire starter gone missing, will you still be able to keep you and your loved ones warm? It is these situations where bug-out skills come into play.

Essentially, the goal of cultivating bug-out survival skills is so that you are able to use what is available in your surroundings to the best of your abilities. If you are able to innovate, you would be able to meet all basic survival needs by utilizing a mixture of tools and resources that you may potentially encounter when you are bugging out.

Skill 1: Making a shelter for you and your loved ones

A bug-out survival shelter is really important to protect you and your loved ones from elements that you meet when you are bugging out. There are two aspects of protection: (1) Shielding and (2) Insulating. Shielding means you are blocking rain, snow or the scorching sunshine to reach you. Insulating usually relates to regulating your core body temperature, keeping either the cold or heat out.

Before making a shelter, you have to first consider your shelter location. There are essentially 3 aspects to look at, which are ensuring that its sufficiently dry, that you are far away from natural hazards (such as rock cliffs or biting insects) and that you have easy access to resources.

First, you need to make a bug-out survival bed because the cold ground will take away the body heat from you. You need insulators to build that bed, such as leaves, branches, newspapers, grass or cardboards. If you are using loose insulation (basically items which will run loose), you need to contain them using two logs that lay by each side in parallel.

Another type of bed you can consider is a raised bed, which has its advantages because the heat from a fire would be able to better circulate around your body. Also, the ground may be wet or rocky, not suitable for sleeping. Below is a picture on how you can raise your bed by stacking up wood which you can find in your surroundings.

Skill 2: Bug-out water skills

I would suggest that you pack 3 liters of fresh drinking water in your bug-out bag. Always keep in mind the ‘survival rule of three’, where for water, you can only live three days without it if you are caught in extreme conditions.

These skills are basically geared towards how you can find and make drinkable water in times of necessity. Concerning how you can find water, there are several principles which you need to keep in mind. First, water always take the path of least resistance and travels downhill. Next, the grooves in the earth’s surface may lead you to where the water went. Since water always leaves its track, you need to go downhill until you reach the water’s ‘resting place’ which is usually in the form of a pond or a river.

Another aspect you can look at is that the growth of vegetation is a sign that there is water nearby. Plants will only choose areas that has sufficient amount of water. Animals will also look for a convenient way to look for water as well. This means that if you can find out a nest or a den, it is a sign that water isn’t far off!

As for how you can make drinkable water, you need to find ways to kill germs that are present in the water source you found. Different water filters have different degrees of filtration. If you got a filter out from your camping department, those are usually sufficient to filter out bacteria and protozoans. However, it would not be capable of filtering out viruses.

When you are in doubt whether the water source is sufficiently clear, please purify first before drinking! You do not want to risk your health especially in such a sensitive situation, where you put your life on the line. Since water is essentially for sustaining one’s life, you need the appropriate skills and gears for getting clean water.

Skill 3:  Building a survival fire

Fires are necessary if we want to cook food, keep ourselves warm or do signaling as a call for help. Most survival classes would no doubt teach you how to start a fire because it is critical for your survival. Making a fire is one of the most difficult skills amongst the three that is mentioned here as well, where some would say the ability to make a fire is what separates the men from the boys.

Furthermore, you need a suitable bug out location in order to successfully build a survival fire. This means that you should avoid places that are windy or wet.

So, what do you need to get started? First things first, look out for fire tinder which is the main ingredient to start a fire. The tinder should be the driest, lightest and most combustible materials which you can obtain from your surroundings. If your surroundings are humid and windy, it would be really difficult to get a fire started. Choosing the tinder itself is an art which you have to master, where it cannot be too small and it is ideally fibrous.

Other tinder materials would include paper, steel wool, tampon, human-hair and even junk food! That bag of oily corn chip may save your life because it may help you to get your fire started.  The next aspect would be the ignition source, where it usually involves a flame, a spark or a burning ember. Disposable lighters would be great as well for starting up the fire! Another choice is Ferrocerium Rods, which is a metal which showers off sparks if it is scraped with another material.

Bug Out Bag – items you need

As you pack your 72-hour survival kit, remember the survival “rule of three”: a person can survive three minutes without breathing air; three hours without proper shelter in extreme conditions, three days without water and three weeks without food. But I do admit that other factors such as your state of health and mentality would affect your chances of surviving as well.

Although I consider this as the ‘least important’, it is nonetheless an important aspect as well. With your life on the line and limited time to move towards safety, you may want to put the best possible gears in your bug-out bag. 

Many authors have written a list of what you should prepare, however I would not attempt to go that route in this post. Instead, I would like to list out the categories of items you need to keep yourself alive. If you sufficiently fulfill these categories, it is safe to say that you have prepared a great survival kit!

Category 1: Water


Since you will need roughly 1 liter of water a day and a bug-out survival kit is meant to last you 3 days, it would mean keeping 3 liters of fresh water in your bag. The type of bottle you use to store the water is important, where you can choose one to store ‘boiled water’ and one to store ‘drinking water’. This is because metal containers usually weigh heavier and you can’t afford anything to wear you down.

Another item you need to prepare is water purification items or filtration systems. It is also good to bring along purification tablets. Basically, you have can choose either to boil, filter or do a chemical treatment ensuring that the water is safe for drinking.

Category 2: Food


The difficult part in this category is to get food that is nutritious enough to ensure that your body do not fall ill and have sufficient energy to brave through most situations. You can definitely go through 3 days without food if you have a healthy body, but it would definitely take a toll on your health.

The trick is to store meals that are easy to prepare, such as canned beans or meat. If you are concerned about the weight of your bug-out bag, try to get dehydrated meals so that  you do not need to carry the liquid content in the food.

Your bug out food supply should include emergency food kits too. With a carefully planned long-term survival kit, you can bug out successfully.

Since most food require hot water to prepare, it would lead me to my third category.

Category 3: Fire


As stressed above, it is vital that you learn how to make fire especially if you are in cold weather. Storing sufficient items that allows you to build a fire such as fire steel, tinder or fire starters can give you an edge in making a fire.

Since tinder is one of the most important aspect of making a fire, you may want make some space for items that would be great to act as fire tinders such as oil-based markers, duct tape which is flammable, paper and a bundle of human hair.

Category 4: Communication


If telecommunication services are still available, your cell-phone can save your life by allowing you to notify search-and-rescue teams your exact location. Remember to keep your cell by your side and keep extra batteries for it. Of course, you need to minimize the usage of your cell-phone since the batteries are limited.

However, if you have no way of communicating using your cell, you may have to use your AM/FM radio. You may be able to get valuable information through the radio and it may affect how you decide on the best bug-out plan.

It is advisable that you equip yourself with a GPS that is capable of sending out distress signals. Usually, the handheld GPS receiver itself must be connected to a cell phone or a transmission device such as Personal Locator Beacons or Satellite Messengers to give out such signals.

For Personal Locator Beacons, it is usually used when we are caught in extreme emergency situations. Personal Locator Beacons would utilize the Distress Alerting Satellite System (DASS), which is regulated by NASA to scout for any call for help. Usually, outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to get Satellite Messengers to call for help. These kinds of transmitters allows us to call for help eventhough we are outside cell-phone coverage, which makes it extremely useful.

Category 5: Shelter and Clothing

shelter and clothing

Concerning clothing, although you are not caught in harsh climates, it would be wise to still prepare warm socks, extra pants, extra shirts and rain jackets. This category is highly debatable depending on individual preferences. Some survivalist view that protecting themselves from external elements are vital for survival.

Concerning shelter, you can look into make-shift tents to keep yourself at room temperature. With such tents, you can spend most nights in a rather comfortable environment, ensuring that you do not get your body exposed to excessive heat or cold. All of these aspects are essential for you to adapt to different environment.

It would also be great to store a sleeping bag made of wool because of its capability to keep you warm. But if you lost your sleeping bag for instance, you may have to rely on your survival skills to get the warmth that you need.


The categories are not exhaustive because there are other important considerations such as your health and hygiene. However, I find the 5 categories raised above to be the most vital for your survival. Other aspects such as getting solar powered items can be considered as well, but it would definitely be costlier.

But of course, preparing to bug-out in emergency situations would not be as easy as just packing a bag full of supplies, there are many other considerations which you need to look at as well. You can start your self-reliance journey today even if you do not have a dime by cultivating those positive bug-out mentalities too!

Of course, the factor which intertwines all of them is planning. If you do not plan your route properly, your success rate of surviving would be much lower. If you have any ideas you would like to share, feel free to comment below!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top