> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Bug out bags and vehicles



Bug out bags and vehicles

When plans have gone to hell, when your commandeered short bus is going up in flames...that's when you need a bug out bag.

As popular as bug out bags are, their role in survival/preparedness plans is often misunderstood.

You'll often hear stuff like "Man, bugging out is crazy! I'm going to bug in and stay home!" or "Why would I choose to be a refugee with nothing but a backpack on my back?"

And then on the other hand, you'll have others who for some reason plan to start marching off into the woods with a giant pack to pitch a tent, hang out and start bush crafting.

It's all too common, and unfortunately both are completely missing the point.

I agree - bugging out shouldn't be your primary plan. Or even your secondary. Yep, you'll want to bug in...at least as long as it is safe to do so.

If you're forced to leave your bug in location and retreat to safety, you'll want to load up your truck/SUV with every possible thing that you can for that journey. Gear, food, water, fuel...heck, hook up that bug out trailer, too.

There are of course various things that can go wrong or draw you away from your vehicle. Crash, break downs, getting stuck, running out of fuel, getting hopelessly stuck in traffic, floods, impassable roads, attacks on your vehicle...or, even just heading out on foot for a scout/patrol of an area.

That's when you want your bug out bag.

In the Walking Dead screen grab from above, they crashed their short bus and it burst into flames. Crap - there goes their transportation as well as the majority of food and weaponry they appeared to have brought along for their journey.

In You Took Away Tomorrow, the characters first attempt to bug in at Jack Rourke's home. Then, when their home is compromised, they try to bug out via their vehicles. When the group's makeshift convoy falls under attack from machine gun wielding neo nazi bikers, they resort to a bug out on foot.

Soldiers and especially contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan have been well known to carry 'go bags' in their armored SUVs - small bags that they can grab during an attack. They pack them with spare mags, medical gear, radios, smoke grenades and other assorted cool guy stuff to help them get back to safety or hold out until rescue arrives.

An example of a 'worst case' for this in action. This was shared by a recent Haley Strategic class participant - think instead of just grabbing long guns, they'd be throwing on bug out bags as well.
Post by Ryan Smith.

In my opinion, a bug out bag should work in this kind of environment and scenario. You should be able to move quickly, even move and shoot while wearing it. It should also be of a size 'works' around a vehicle and can be retrieved and donned quickly if needed...not some giant hiking pack that you can barely lift.

If you had gunfire (or quickly rising flood waters, or fire, or whatever) coming in your direction, how long would you spend screwing around with a pack? Be able to grab and move - that's the point.



  1. Didn't you have a post comparing go bags and bug out bags a while back? I was actually searching for it yesterday, believe it or not. But as far as my .02, I'd say this is spot on. Why lug a whole camp around on your back?

    1. Here is is: http://www.teotwawki-blog.com/2013/05/go-bag-vs-bug-out-bag.html

  2. I wouldn't spend long at all under gunfire, but I probably would pack up for any type of natural disaster. Every situation has different variables that need to be accounted for, but our human survival needs will always be centered around fire, water, food, and shelter. This is why I think a tiered or layered approach is good...individual, mutually exclusive parts that can be combined and used together to make a much more sustaining system.

    It was 24 degrees and snowing this morning when I went to work, and is supposed to be 12 degrees tonight. It isn't even technically winter here yet, and in the event of pretty much anything happening, I'm heading to a wilderness retreat. Because of this, all of my kits will have some element of "camping" to them, just scaled down appropriately.

    I keep a GSI cup, 40oz Klean Canteen, Emberlit Stove with an Alcohol Stove, an SOL bivvy, a Grabber Outdoor space blanket/tarp along with other typical survival gear in my Go Bag/GHB that is in my vehicle. All of that stuff is pretty lightweight and easily manipulated to fit in a small backpack. I think my pack is about 1200 cubic inches or so and can attach to my BOB at home, which is much more beefed up in gear.

    So if I'm faced with guys shooting at us, and I'm given an opportunity to grab anything at all, it would be the GHB. My family and I could survive off the GHB in a dire situation and make due with what resources we had around us, if we escaped.

    The BOB would make life much easier, and would be my choice if we weren't being gunned down at the time, but say we were in raging flood waters. If any situation allowed me to grab and attach the GHB to the BOB, then it basically would be an "adventurous" camping trip with the family from then on.

    When the dust settles, it doesn't matter what you have or what you don't have...the only thing that matters is how well you can use what you do have.

    1. r.e. on whether you'd have time to grab stuff in a natural disaster...it depends. If it's forcing you away from your vehicle in a hurry, you may not have a whole lot of time--see the Japanese tsunamis for an example of a worst-case scenario.

      Agree that there are some universal items that are smart to have on hand, but the lure to go all out into wilderness survival / I'm going on a backpacking trip is tempting. Then we start weighing and slowing ourselves down with gear. Shelter is one example where people tend to go heavy in their bags.

      If you're out in the wilderness, that's certainly important. But most of us likely have to travel for an hour or two to reach real wilderness, and are instead surrounded by existing structures and shelter that may be available in a dire situation. If you have certain skills and knowledge, those options open up even more.

      This is the kind of discussion I want to generate...more later.

  3. Good picture to facilitate the discussion.

    The only times I have really seen (in 2 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan) go bags as you describe that concept of use (ammo, smoke, maybe first aid) was with 1 contractor. Honestly his setup was strait out of some supposed training company in the southwest. He was way too light on mags on his kit (2-3) for the scenario and trying to make up for it with a bag carrying the rest.

    I'm not totally opposed to the idea. The way I've squared that circle was to have a big box of loaded mags to resupply next to the big first aid bag. That way you would just refill the mags you've used and keep feeding from the same kit.

    If you don't want to carry a lot of stuff and the risk is moderately low one might just wear a lighter battle belt or Costa Leg rig and keep a full rack/ chest rig handy.

    What I HAVE seen with soldiers was some sort of a backpack/ assault pack used predominantly as a smaller than ruck sized support load. These tend to be some varying combination of clothes like a jacket, food, a book or MP3 player for entertainment while waiting to leave, maybe some loaded mags and then maybe some survival gear.

    These bags are decidedly not set up intentionally as 'bug out' bags like you describe them they might be handy in that situation.

    I suppose the scenario definitely affects what would make the right bag for this concept. A soldier will want more ammo and medical stuff, maybe a couple granola bars. He might be fighting for a couple hours but help is coming. On the other hand a survivalist doesn't have CAS, CCA or QRF. It is far more likely that he will get out of a situation by beating feet a half mile in the other direction. Also depending on the scenario (Walking Dead comes to mind) they might not have anyplace to go back to. So while a camelback with 6 mags and a spare IFAK might work in a martial context I am not so sure it applies in a survivalist one. For the nasty survivalist one I'd probably take a fairly light (30-40lbs) ruck.

    I certainly do not subscribe to any batman in the boondocks theories but sometimes you need a ruck.

    1. Ryan -

      See the follow-up I just posted.

      The contractor go bags that I've seen dudes talk about were either used in conjunction with regular fighting load, or during lower profile PSD-type operations where they were unable to wear a big plate carrier or chest rig. I've also seen somewhat similar bags used by helo pilots.

  4. Speaking in terms of situations (and I'm hoping somebody will correct me if I'm wrong), I feel like a civilian loadout is going to be much different from a combat one (aside from the obvious). If you're a soldier and SHTF, then doesn't that mean people are shooting at you, or pursuing you? Bottom line, you are in an actively inhospitable environment. Whereas a civilian SHTF scenario is probably not going to be as actively hostile. A car crash, an earthquake, even (the vastly less likely) event of some sort of terror attack--these are all going to be over quickly. Aftermath, yes, absolutely. That's obviously a danger. But I don't see survival gear as being all that important in a civilian bag unless you're in the boondocks. In an urban setting, E&E isn't as important as being able to render aid to yourself or others in the immediate aftermath of an event. Being mobile (as Theother Ryan pointed out, just walking half a mile would take you out of danger) is the second most important factor.

    But again, that's my .02 USD.