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Will you stay or will you go: bugging in vs bugging out

prepper pantry

Photo from

The prepper community makes frequent reference to “bugging in” and “bugging out” and while we all have a decent grip on what the distinction implies from a survival strategy perspective we rarely see indeapth discussion of the differences between the two and the relative benefits given different situations. While every prepper is clearly betting on seeing TEOTWAWKI, in chosing a survival strategy we are also all placing a bet on a certain post-apocalyptic situation. Understanding the assumptions inherent in each strategy, as well as the practical implications, is key to developing the most effective strategy for you.

Bugging In: While a small minority may actually plan on bugging in to a more populated area and participating in the resultant gang warfare, most who plan to bug in actually intend to stay put. Bugging in is typically characterized by realitively rural living, the stockpiling of useful goods, and a firmly DIY attitude. Most preppers on National Geographic’s popular Doomsday Preppers show plan on bugging in.

Serious preppers who plan to bug in tend to be stocked for a year or more with goods such as clothing, food, toilet paper, seeds, first aid supplies, weapons, and other “necessary” supplies. Such preppers also tend to live in wooded areas due to the previlance of wild game and renewable fuel as well as the relatively low human population. They’ll also have already identified or developed an alternative water source such as a well or stream that they expect to use once the pipes stop running.

The benefits of such a strategy are numerous. The preppers in question will likely have an easier time adjusting to the new world order than their counterparts who bug out as they will have access to a greater number of “modern” amenities for a longer time. They will not have to exercise as many survival skills in the short term. Another benefit of this strategy is that you have the time and ability to scope out the territory in advance. The better you know the area; what grows there and the major landmarks, the better off you’ll be.

Another enticing benefit is that the property used to store the prepared supplies can serve as a hub for family and friends that may not live on the property. There’s a greater chance that loved ones that are separated at the time of the event will be reunited post-apocalypse. Such a residence is also capabable of supporting both a greater number of people and people with a wider range of ability levels. Say your grandmother is in a wheelechair or your sister has an infant; this may be the preferred strategy for you.

Some of the shortfalls of such a strategy are the present cost and the long term vulnerability. Not only does such a strategy require spending large sums on property and consumer goods it’s also far more obvious and therefore incurs higher social costs. You’ll have to make compromises in the types of careers, social activities, and relationships you can pursue.

Post-apocalypse you would be exposed to numerous vulnerabilities simply by staying in one place. Roaming bands of survivers (and zombies) would consider your settlement a prime target. You’d also be less able to respond quickly to competition for scarce resources or disaster striking your area.

Overall, bugging in is the preferred strategy for those with diverse family structures and those who already live in relatively rural areas or have stable careers. We do not recommend this for the young and ambitious or for urbanities or if you expect the apocalyptic event to result in large numbers of survivors. Or zombies.

Bugging Out: Bugging out is typically characterized by an individual amassing wilderness survival skills. These are frequently your “off-grid” livers, survivalists, and unassuming handy-dandy city dwellers.

Those who plan to bug out of their relatively socially normal lives if an apocalyptic event occurs usually spend their free time plotting escape routes, preparing small amounts of easy to carry supplies that will be useful in the short run, developing their wilderness skills, and ensuring their physical fitness.

The benefits of this type of strategy are very different but no less numerous than those for bugging in. Bugging out is geared toward long-term human survival. While primal living may come as a shock to many, no matter how prepared, those who survive it will have developed long term survival skills to pass on to others. Over time (as in, within months) it’s probably that like-minded survivors would form tribal systems or confederations around shared beliefs similar to the Native Americans thus creating a resurgence of human societies.

Another benefit of this strategy is that it gets you out of harms way. The ability to escape populated areas quickly and easily post-apocalypse will be invaluable given the chaos likely to occur in the immediate aftermath. The enhanced mobility of such preppers means that they will also be able to travel to needed resources and evade danger as it crops up. A final benefit is the ease with which these preppers can assimilate into normal social structures. No matter where you live or what you have chosen to do for a living giving present circumstances if you have the desire and physical fitness you can prepare to bug out.

Some shortfalls of bugging out include the fact that it is not a scalable strategy. Each individual in your party must be able to fend for themselves on some level. You must also be physically fit or capable of becoming physically fit. You also have to be sound of mind and good under pressure because there will be no buffer between you an death. This just isn’t a great solution for families with small children, the elderly, or those with disabilities.

Overall, bugging out is a worthwhile strategy for those with small families, who live far away from their families, or for those who currently live in highly populated areas. Don’t think that this is the easier strategy though as you will need to put significant effort into developing the skills needed to survive in the wild.

Regardless of how you chose to prepare for post-world survival fully understanding your strategy and the downfalls is important. Overall survival skills, an open mind, and willingness to cooperate will be key for survivors. Tell us, how are you preparing for the apocalypse? Which strategy do you prefer?

– Wren


What would you do if you only had 8 minutes?

magic 8 ball


Sometimes I like to check in on my life by asking myself “If I had just 8 minutes to get gone right now what would I do?” The thing is, as hard as we try, we can’t be prepared for TEOTWAWKI at every second of every day. The thing is, as hard as we try, we can only ‘prep’ for so much. We believe that challenging yourself to think through the worst case scenario not only keeps your mind active but is also essential to having a complete apocalypse-survival plan.

To help myself out when thinking through my 8-minute plans I take the a few precautions. I keep a single quart-size bag of supplies on my person at all times (I carry a big purse). Said bag contains: a 4ft length of twine, a fold of duct tape, a multi-use pocket tool, iodine tablets, several sizes of bandaids, matches, an emergency blanket, and pictures of my mother, my dog, and me and Kennedy. And yes, it all fits. I’m an excellent packer.

With that plastic bag in mind I do what I can to create an escape plan for every point in my weekly routine: When I’m on the bus, wandering the aisles at the grocery store, or sitting in the airport.

Another precaution that I like to take is, of course, skill gathering. And I’m not just talking survival skills – those are great but if you’re trying to be prepared to bug out at any second it also helps if you’re comfortable driving any kind of motorized vehicle you can get your hands on. It helps if you at least know the theory of a hot-wire. It helps to have a map of your area, for about a 50 mile radius, in your mind so you don’t get lost. Hell, it helps, to know how to negotiate.

So this week, this is what I challenge you to think about: Wherever you are, if you had just 8 minutes to act, 8 minutes to augment your supplies, 8 minutes to make your last phone call, 8  minutes to pick a direction, what would you do? Let us know.


Hunger: The missing element in Hunger Games (the movie)

Hunger Games

The Hunger Games movie logo

So you’ll notice that Kennedy and I spend a lot of time harping on about food. That is because food is important. Starvation is an equalizer; no matter how strong you were, just a couple weeks without food and you’re done. Those who survive the apocalypse won’t be the “fittest,” necessarily, they’ll be the ones who know how to fend for themselves.

This belief (fact?) was spoken to in The Hunger Games. Food is a major feature in the novels; Gale and Katniss spend their days searching for food to feed their families, Peeta once saved Katniss’s entire family by giving her a couple of loafs of bread. Fresh food is such a precious commodity in District 12 that even the Peacekeepers turn a blind eye and in fact benefit from the black-market that’s sprung up around hunger and starvation. We read anecdotes of people starving to death regularly; whole families starving to death in the streets. Kids would enter their names in the drawing for the Hunger Games multiple times of additional rations from the Capitol.

Once Katniss and Peeta are chosen for the Games and board the train to the Capital, sure they’re concerned about their fates but food even features here. They are always eating, talking about the rich food of the Capitol, its prevalence. Katniss is grateful for it too. Not because she’s been on the verge of starving for most of her life but because she thinks that the more strength she can build up the better her competitive edge will be. Of course, it turns out that what gave Katniss her competitive edge was that she had the skills to find food anywhere once she was in the arena. In the end it didn’t matter how big the Careers were, once food was removed equation Katniss dominated.

Now I don’t really have any problems with everything that was left out of the film in order to get that PG13 rating – I found the books to be truly horrifying all around and I was glad to spared that in the film – but I feel that hunger is an instrumental part of the story and of survival itself. Why leave it out, I mean really? Other than a couple of small hints we wouldn’t even know how big of a deal food was in the books from the movie. Unfortunately it’s little things like this that make me feel like people completely missed the point. So let’s all acknowledge for a second how important food is to society – and how important its absence is.

So why does hunger matter? Exactly because of what I said initially: starvation is an equalizer. In order to survive the apocalypse we must look to acquire the skills to survive outside of modern society. We don’t have to be hardcore hunter-gatherers but some foundational skills wouldn’t do any harm.

As we continue through the spring and summer months Kennedy and I will be posting some drill-downs and videos demonstrating some of these basic survival skills – things that we can all learn to do even from the comfort of our studio apartments. Let’s all just hope the apocalypse doesn’t happen before then.


How to talk about the apocalypse without all of your friends, family, and coworkers thinking you’re crazy


Let me preface this post with the following: my friends and family DO think I’m crazy. Just not because I’m interested in *cough* obsessed with *cough* the apocalypse. My coworkers on the other hand still think that I am about as sane as it gets AND the know about the whole apocalypse thing. How’d I pull it off? Read on.

1. Don’t use any of these buzz words: ‘obsessed’, ‘prepping’, or ‘anticipating’ in reference to the apocalypse unless you are in a safe circle. You can explain away the intense amount of canned goods in your pantry by saying that you “just haven’t made it to the food bank yet.” The random black backpack full of survival gear in your car? It’s in case you feel like going hiking on the fly. Improvise; it’ll pay off.

2. Do not mention that you watch, read, write, or are at an way connected with a media outlet concerned primarily with the apocalypse. What a way for you to stamp the word ‘crazy’ on your forehead. People TALK about the apocalypse but most don’t expend any effort on it. If you, like us, DO expend effort on it, I recommend not mentioning it.

3. Now what if your coworkers/friends/family are speculating on say, the Mayan Doomsday, and you know the answer to their questions? Instead of jumping in all matter-of-fact with what you read last night in a math-heavy blog discussing the discrepancies between two interpretations of the calendar try something like this: “I heard that some people think that maybe….” Hedge. Be vague. make it sound like something you heard briefly on the radio or saw on Twitter.  Address the problem, sure, put minds at ease, but don’t sound like you KNOW what you’re talking about.

4. If you DO say something with any amount of authority, make sure you either sound sarcastic or laugh at the end of the sentence/speech. That way people will feel more at ease about their concerns but also think that you aren’t serious. I don’t know why it works (I’m not a psychologist) but I know that it does.

5. When in doubt stay silent. Let’s say you’re like me and you work in a very forward thinking environment with open workspaces and no clear hierarchy. And you boss sits two very visible desks away from you. Well, a guy across the aisle says something about a Zombie apocalypse scenario and you have the perfect response. If you say what’s on your mind there are two possibilities: Either your boss will think you’re clever because or your quick response or your boss will think you’re crazy because you can talk so smoothly about social destruction by mass zombification. Er on the side of caution here and just don’t say anything at all.

Just because you’ve been obsessed with the apocalypse since you were a kid, have been prepping for ages, and can demonstrate 6 different ways to start a fire doesn’t mean you can’t fit in. You just have to know what NOT to say about your little pet-obsession. Keep it in the circle, find people like yourself to vent your pre-apocalypse feelings to. DON’T submit your coworkers to that sort of thing. Especially not if it’s important to your job that you be likable. Just a wee tip.