At long last, we’re talking nuts-and-bolts about bug-out-bags, which I generally refer to as a BoB, but have also seen as “GOOD” bags (“Get Out Of Dodge”), 72-hour bags, and a variety of other terms. I’ve seen them brought up for a variety of different uses; generally, though, the concept is to have a pack of things that can help keep you alive, without the benefits of civilization, for roughly 72 hours. There are almost as many different philosophies going into how to build one as there are people making them (they have their very own Reddit topic). I’d like to go into some of my thinking, and then (in a later post) look at the contents/construction of a bag or two.
First, I divide things into three overarching categories of “Bugs”: bug-in, bug-out, and get-home. “Bugging-in” is, simply put, hunkering down in place during an event. This was our strategy during Hurricane Sandy; my homestead is far enough from the coast that I wasn’t worried about flooding or the like, so we didn’t need to “head for the hills.” I wasn’t certain, however, that we wouldn’t lose power, possibly for an extended period. As such, we needed to do what we could to ease any issues that would cause: stockpile plenty of drinking water, etc. In a “bug-in” situation, your home itself (and everything you have in it) become your supply source, in essence.
A “get-home” event is where you are away from your home, and due to whatever occurrence, you need to “hoof it” back. Unlike the above scenario, I work near enough to the coast that flooding (or tsunamis!) are possible; perhaps you’re on the West Coast, and are “in to town” for supplies when a major earthquake hits, essentially destroying the road network. A “get-home bag” (“GHB”) in your vehicle has the majority of what you’d need to ease the hike back to your home. I picture the GHB as a smaller version of the stereotypical BoB, and as such think of it as being built much the same way. (There’s also a “Vehicle Go-Bag,” which should be kept in the car for emergencies, but that’s another animal entirely, and I’ll address them in a separate post.)
A “bug-out” scenario typically has you starting at home, but needing to leave it. This can be a sudden thing, but doesn’t have to be; it can be for a planned couple of days, but again–doesn’t have to be. The “bug-out” concept seems to be one of the best places to discover what type of a prepper someone is, mostly by looking at the types of scenarios they’ve equipped their BoB to get them through.
Here again, in my mind I’ve divided bug-out scenarios into a couple of different types:
- Sudden, immediate, get out of the house now! This could be a house fire, or you smell a gas leak, or a tornado is bearing down on you (although bugging in is probably advisable), or someone smashes in your living room window/breaks down your front door. Regardless, you have a sudden, very pressing need to be someplace else. For most people, these are probably the most likely types of scenario. These and #2 below are the ones most of us should plan for first.
- You’re going to need to leave, probably within the next 48 hours. This could be due to an oncoming hurricane, or perhaps wildfires are beginning to approach. You’ve got some time to get things ready, even if the actual “bug out” moment might be sudden and swift. (When the firefighters knock and say you’ve got 15 minutes, you can just hop in your vehicle and go…) These are also unfortunately common scenarios, but their nature tends to be a bit more specific to particular areas. (I’m at relatively high risk for hurricanes, a good deal lower for wildfires; I know folks in Washington state who are in the opposite boat.)
- REM-style “end as we know it.” You’ve got what’s in your bag, and it has to keep you safe, and you’re not coming back, for whatever reason. (Bags designed for this purpose are often called “INCH” bags–I‘m Not Coming Home.)
My wife points out a fourth scenario: the Long Collapse. This one, in my opinion, is not only likely but seems to actually be poking along. (By my count, we’re on at least the first, if not the second, “stairstep” down; the next “big” down-tick could be anywhere from a few weeks to a decade or two from now.) The trick to the Long Collapse is that there’s not a bag to carry to prepare for it–just constant adaptation, learning to get along with a little less each week, and learning to be a little more independent and self-sufficient as you go.
So, those are broadly the types of bags, and equally broadly the types of scenarios the bags should be designed towards. The next time I touch this topic (this will probably be a three-part series, if not more), I’ll look specifically at the GHB, and give my advice on it–if not its contents, then at least things to think about when putting it together. Next week, however, we’ve got five more items on the List of Why People Don’t Prep.