If the world lit up from night to day and the rumble woke you from your sleep you would likely rush to the window.
If the resounding effects of a distant nuclear blast affected power in, your area there is a chance the only light you would see is the faint glow from the fires on the horizon.
Your phone and maybe even your emergency radio would not work if the effects of the EMP were strong enough. Would you be worried about nuclear fallout or the potential of a second strike? What about radiation?
In that moment you might say to yourself, ‘it is time to bugout.’ You know what? You might be right. I don’t know your situation, but next best course of action might very well be to get as far away from that scene as possible.
However, there are at least 11 fatal mistakes to avoid when bugging out. I want you to look over our list and be sure that you do not fall victim to any one of these.
Not Having A Location
You might be surprised to find out how many people have bugout bags but no idea where to go when the time comes to bugout.
That is because most prepper websites and YT channels tell us we need a BOB but he truth of the matter is we need a location long before a of gear.
Related: 12 Things You Need to Know Before Choosing Your Bug Out Location
Could you imagine packing a suitcase for a trip but not knowing where you were going. Do you pack shorts or a sweater?
You gotta know where you are going, or the bugout could be a death trap.
Not Rehearsing The Bugout
Of course, knowing where to go in the event of a bugout is not enough. Maybe you have a place that is 50 miles away and ready to receive you and your family.
Have you ever loaded up the car and took that journey? Have you done it during rush hour?
What are you bringing? What are you prepared to leave behind?
These are not decisions you want to make for the first time during a bugout. So, a rehearsal is essential.
Attempting A Long-Distance Bugout On Foot
If you have not rehearsed that bugout, then you have probably never attempted to arrive at your bugout location only by foot.
The truth about a long distance bugout on foot is that most people are not prepared or even capable of pulling that off.
Remember, in a bugout situation you are not just going to be walking down main roads. There will likely be chaos so that means you are covering all those miles on foot and through the woods.
That is very hard work. If your BOL is 50 miles away that is a 3-day hike if you have a family.
Not Preparing For You Weakest Link
You are only as strong as your weakest family member. How would your youngest child, or your eldest parent, do on a 3 day non stop hike?
Just because you hit the gym a few times a week and hike on the weekends doesn’t mean everyone in your family is prepared for that kind of action.
You will go as far as your weakest family member can take you. That could be deadly if a threat is on your heels.
Storing Too Few Supplies At The Bugout Location
The best way to know if you have established a bugout location is if you have enough supplies waiting for you and your family there.
If your bugout location is a stand of forest, then you are going to have a lot to carry and you will not really be bugging out.
You will be long term camping as best you can. That is a plan for starvation, injury, illness and potentially death.
Since medical care will most likely not be available, it is also important to make sure you are able to treat any possible health issues. Here you will find a list of the most important medical supplies you need to stockpile before it’s too late and how to use them in an emergency.
Packing Too Much Gear In Your Bugout Bag
This deadly bugout mistake, frankly, is notorious. It is the idea of the giant 70L bugout bag on Dad’s back and the fantasy of carrying all that gear 20 miles away or more to a bugout location. Then establishing your base of operations.
The reality is that too much gear is only going to be a burden. It is also a sure sign that you are not storing enough gear at your bugout location.
The bugout should be more of a travel mission and less of a camping trip. What you have in your bag should sustain you from point A to point B.
Overestimating Your Fitness
Most people assume they are prepared to execute on a bugout plan.
They assume they are fit enough to handle the load of the BOB and that they will make it to the BOL.
If not by their fitness, then by sheer willpower.
If you are totally out of energy just 15 miles into your bugout, then it could have serious implications. Not to mention how you might feel when you wake up after walking 15-20 miles on day 1.
Related: How To Cut Out The Weight Of Your Bug Out Bag
If your BOB is too heavy and your bugout is too far away it could be a deadly mistake. Now is the time to work on your fitness and it’s free.
Having No Rally Points
Do you know what a rally point is? The rally point is a location that everyone in your party returns to, should you get separated.
If you run into hostile people, if you scatter to hide, if some explosion happens or for any other reason you get separated, the rally point is where everyone returns to.
You will have several rally points on a bugout route. They can be water towers, rock formations, just make sure they are known.
You do not want to spend precious time searching for one or more of your group in the event that the chaos breaks you all up.
Not Planning Multiple Routes
Even if you have rehearsed your bugout many times, what happens if one of those roads has a downed tree or a flaming pile of cars on it?
What are you going to do then?
You need to have several contingency routes both by vehicle and on foot.
Related: Bug Out Vehicles – Why Most People Get it Wrong
These routes should be noted somewhere. Look, in reality, you aren’t going to rehearse the various routes, but you should at least have them as options.
Lack Of Overwatch When Arriving At The BOL
Most people don’t think about this one, but it is certainly one of the more deadly mistakes you can make in the bugout.
After making your way by vehicle or by foot in a SHTF situation you arrive at your bugout location.
You wanna run right inside that location and fall asleep, safely distanced from the chaos you left behind.
What if someone else has decided they would use your bugout location before you got there?
What if your location has been exposed and you open the door to a group of 4 gun totting men. If it is truly TEOTWAWKI that means you’re gonna die or worse.
You should at least spend one day camped within binocular distance of your BOL and watch it like a hawk to see if anyone is coming and going. If there is no movement around the BOL, then you can safely enter.
Waiting To Establish Security At The BOL
Finally, once you step foot in that BOL you are probably going to want to shut out the lights and pass out for about 12 hours. However, you need to set up security as soon as you arrive.
Sure, your bugout location might not have anyone inside of it when you show up. Someone might arrive. What if they arrive while you are sleeping?
At least one person needs to stay up and stay alert and you will have to shift out security from then on.
There may come a time where your only option is to bugout. You may have to leave everything behind and start all over again.
If it gets to that point all the holes in your bugout plan will be exposed. So, go over this list and make sure you are not going to make these fatal mistakes.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Improve upon those weaknesses each day so your bugout plan and execution will improve in a hurry.
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A good article, not getting into the “what if” weeds. Generalized as every situation is different.
Sometimes the “I live at my Bug out” location isn’t a good choice as a forest fire is heading your way.
Michael, all properties, whether a basic bug out location with just a tent or a large property with a permanent home, should have a fire clearing surrounding the main living area.
you would be lucky if you walk 5 to 10 miles a day with all your “gear and family”
Since I have no where to go to for a BOL, I’m staying put.
All my stuff is here in my home, my gardens are here as well so I’ll make my stand here.
And if your place catches on fire?
Or there is an earthquake like in Turkey?
Or the electricity is out and it is -25 degrees like last week-end, how will you keep warm?
Always important to have a plan B.
In my case I have a place to go. It actually IS in the woods, but that is my plan B.
AE, I don’t need a Plan B because my plan A includes keeping warm, as well as cooking food, boiling water and bathing. My land here in the Missouri Ozarks has thousands of old growth Oaks, Hickories, and other hardwoods. I have 2 gas-powered chain saws and 200 gallons of gasoline stored away that we rotate through regularly. When the gasoline runs out, I have several old school hand saws from 32-inch raker saws, to Lynx 3-foot one-man and 5-foot 2-man cross cut saws. The saws are backed up with forestry axes, splitting malls, wedges, kindling makers, and other forestry tools. Got a 36 inch steel Napoleon wood heater in my living room and a cast iron 2-burner wood fired cook stove I restored. I use stainless steel Rocket stoves in sizes ranging from back packing size to a 18lb. cast iron Lineslife Rocket Stove that will burn sticks, kindling, and even wood fuel pellets. And yes, this is my home, not a bug out location. Seeing where things were headed, I bugged out of the city years ago and I’m staying put right here. We can defend what is ours. BTW, one thing not mentioned in this article as a “fatal mistake” in bugging out, is people should not think they can bug out on someone else’s private property. We land owners don’t take kindly to strangers on our land, not now in a time of peace, and we may become especially intolerant to them post collapse. Which I’m sure will trigger some unprepared city folks. But I don’t care.
SN, in your case as well as all others, your location is of the utmost importance to your survival. Big city dwellers are at the greatest risk, too many negative contingencies to even list here.
Chuck, with all due respect,
your comments do not add a valued
addition to this site. I know you are
better than this.
Not likely for a “wham bam” SHTF – the epic of the SHTF will be after a long run up of telltale associated SHTFs (like the current run) >>> if a bug out is the only option for you – you need to be wayyyyyyyyy ahead of the Golden Wave of sheeple refugees – you don’t even want to be riding the crest, much less coming thru the Wave’s aftermath >>> you need to be on top of daily darkside intel – make quik decision(s) on bugging out (being wrong is better than the consequences) – be ready to move out immediately on your chosen primary route …..
Extremely good article! I had never considered overwatch previously and I thought I was well versed in survival tactics and strategy. It goes to show that none of us know everything and we can always learn something new, and in this case extremely important.
Agree with Warrior, get out fast. If you can’t travel over 10 miles per day, you are probably in trouble. If your BOL is less than 50 miles from major cities it will probably get over ran by the 1st wave of refugees, and then later a 2nd wave of ruthless gangs.
For many reasons, get underground if possible, Even better, become an active member of a strong rural community.
Earthquakes, Volcanoes, EMP Balloons, the failure of the mighty dollar, Comets, Asteroids, WW3. There are a number of major SHTF scenarios that can devastate us locally or nationally, Good luck to us all if it is TEOTWAWKI.
In case of nuclear attack 1.Bend down placing your head between knees 2. Look upwards 3. Kiss your ass goodbye! This is an official atomic energy department response handout circa 1960. Given to employees to ease their minds. Don’t over think. The best thing is to keep your head. Having a plan never works well. Planning ahead is always promising… Struggling or dying peacefully know one gets out alive. A sudden vacation from the rapidly changing reality! Bug out! Find a community where you live well to transition into. You can’t save yourself, or anyone else. If anyone is going to survive it’s their community that will make it possible. If you become “that” which seek to escape your failure awaits you!
James Walton, the writer here, does an excellent job presenting ”the big bug out picture”, and it’s in brilliant techno-color too. The old adage “think before you act” is never more important than in a life saving situation. Having done the thinking way before hand and practicing the acting part makes all the difference in the world to how things come out in the long run.
I agree CC, and might I add, the “Having done the thinking way before hand and practicing the acting part” includes thinking and making the proper well thought out move years in advance. It will be too late for those who try to escape the burning cities with out previous planing and practice.
How does one choose a bug-out location – especially with no real ability to build a cabin there? Would you have to own a second property way out in the country somewhere?
Elaine, if you cannot afford a second property somewhere, perhaps you could go to a friend or relatives place if you need to.
Another idea is to make friends with like minded people who would add you to their group. You should be able to offer skills, supplies or firearms to anyone you want to join up with in a BOL.
You’re either an asset or a liability. Choose wisely.
Move to the country or starve
Two factors I’ve considered:
1. Plan not to be seen or heard. Avoid bright colored clothing, shoes and exposed gear. Try wrapping dark electrical tape around those things that make noise as you walk through the woods, for example, to be silent (and keep the chatter to a minimum).
2. There is no guarantee you can get to your bugout bag. As a last resort, keep an EDC nearby, so if you’re out or just waking up to a house fire, you at least have something to help you survive when you’re going out the nearest exit. If you can get to that BOB, make sure it has adequate footwear and clothing for the season.
As I am aged and handicapped, the odds of my long term survival are limited. My best bet is to hunker down at my principal residence, depend on my neighbors in exchange for my years of experience in mechanical, electrical, chemical, and medical expertise.
I am aged but not handicappped. My wife was and she would not have survived more then a few months. But she passed away last july due to covid and some other infections. My plan for us was to hunker down. I had setup locations for defence, to hide our food and had plans for a quick build of a water filter. But you need to do a few things to help you like having certain points to defend from, having your food secured/hidden, and having a water supply other than city water. The problem will be the people with illnesses, disabled and have to have medications will not last very long because there will be no meds or medical help.
My plan now is just to hunker down, fight when I have too and survive until the lord decides it is my time.
I’m in the same position. I’m disabled, have two kids one of whom is type 1 diabetic and my hubby has a bad knee. Walking to bug out is not going to happen. I need meds some of which are restricted to a 30 day supply. I can go to my moms house about 30 min drive away but barring that, we will have to stay put. Probably too close for a true bug out location. Both our homes are in the suburbs. At that point, my ‘stash’, our medical skills and my sewing and craftwork skills (cordage, baskets) will
have to sustain us. That and a whole lot of prayer.
Hi, I know this much for sure you need to sit down and draw a map of who lives near you, the type of people they are, where your advantage points are located and what you think they will do when a shtf happens. This is because you are in the suburbs. If the people already have a attitude that is not great then they will have a worse one after a shtf or if they are drug users. This means you really have to watch them close because they are the ones when the food runs out that will try to take yours.
Karl, you would be welcome in most survival communities. Your skills are priceless.
Be good if BOTH of you left.
LOL they could be one and the same person wit the way they carry on.
This was a good article. The main thing is the reason for buggin out. If it is a nuclear warhead going off and your within 50 miles of it I think I would be heading away from it farther away less radiation. But it all depends on the situation. If the reason is we lose our lights and we find out it is an emp then is bugging out the best solution? I say in most cases it will not be. Why because moving during any shtf is going to be more dangerous than staying put.
I think waiting will be safer because you can slowly recon and gain vital information on what is going on.
When bugging out you will not be able to move fast. an average person walks 3 mile an hr.. Even at 1 mile an hr your will be moving to fast because what is around that bend, over that rise or in those trees? You would have to detour every questionable area or possibly run into trouble. One comment said you should not go straight to your bug out location but watch it from a distence before entering. But at that point your setting out in possibly a bad location. So the thing I am trying to say the known is better then the unknown if you are not forced to bug out.
That is my way of thinking but to each his own.
We live in the sticks we’re not bugging out we are staying put. God bless America
Yep, can’t agree more, Brian. We moved way out in the “sticks” 6 years ago. Been preparing ever since, and will staying put right here. We are now self sufficient, including being able to produce a variety of barter items.
If you can plan ahead and already have your bug out location set up, what would prevent you from setting up an overwatch location has well, a known spot from which you can watch your BOL for a day or so to make sure it is secure as well as from which you can survey the area after you get into your BOL, assuming all was well when you arrived? It might only be something as simple as a tree stand that is already installed on a tree at a high point of land or possibly a deer blind several hundred yards from your BOL. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just something sheltered from the elements and possibly camouflaged enough to not draw unwanted attention. It might even be something that looks like an old kid’s treehouse.
Plans have a way of never working like they are supposed to.
I do not like plans because just like someone once said when the first shot is fired all the plans of mice and men go out the window. So Very basic plans is ok like a bug out location, knowing the area so you can chose the routes as you move and have several overlooks at various places along the various routes including at least two overlooking your BOL. Reason for more that one is the one might have been discovered and you might see someone has been there recently. If they had you would not want to use that lookout position. Also as your moving look at the path your using if there is some recent activity then change your route this make you verstile in your thinking and basic plan.
Now when you make a basic plan make it so it could be used in any situation that might befall you. Another words be very versitle.
A basic plan might be what you take with you and several routes you can take. Let the present decide on witch route and what overlooks to watch from. Always watch your back trail while moving and when you stop to rest and always stop where you can see around you.
Good points, Sabel. Most us who live in the country with acreage have over-watch points that are a part of the natural surroundings. E.G, in my case evergreen thickets, old downed trees, and a rise overlooking the house from a few hundred yards away. However, my favorite unnatural concealment is a 55-gallon steel drum with a Lever Lock lid I buried nearly to the top in a hillside under the trees with a few wild ferns planted in front of it. When I return to my property after all of us have been gone, even for just one day, I have a system I go through to check doors and windows for signs of entrance before entering. One of the benefits of being a home owner versus being some clown who thinks they can loot / “scavenge” from our property, is we know every available concealment and or cover position on the land. We have what is called “home advantage” due to our familiarity of the property layout and extensive knowledge of the interior of the house. Scavengers who try to work private property will not last long out here in the country.