Bugging In vs. Bugging Out: What’s Best When SHTF?

When SHTF, are you bugging in or bugging out?

This is a major question every prepper has to answer early in their prepping journey. It may sound simple enough, but your choice to bug in or bug out will ultimately determine your overall survival strategy and future courses of action.

The thing is, like all major decisions, this question is pretty hard to answer. Both options have their own set of pros and cons. Are your chances of survival higher if you hunker down, or do you have to get out of dodge at all cost? Is there even an end-all, be-all solution? Do you have to prepare for both? 

Let’s find out by looking into the advantages and disadvantages of both bugging in and bugging out and see which one is best for your scenario.


woman who is bugging in is looking out the window

The premise of bugging in is simple: when SHTF, you hunker down inside your house where you have your essential supplies like food, water, fuel, clothing, and the like. Many preppers choose to bug in for the following reasons:

Pros Of Bugging In

  • Bugging in is ideal when you or any of your family members are physically unable to bug out. This includes people living with very young kids, the elderly, or those with physical or mental disabilities.
  • Staying put with your supplies is more stable. You do not have to worry about limiting them to only things that you can carry, nor do you have to worry about braving the elements.
  • This also means you’ll have a reliable shelter that can withstand possible inclement weather. This is important, especially during the winter when outdoor conditions can be extra harsh and shelter is your top priority.
  • In an SHTF situation, people are more likely to be hostile towards individuals they don’t know. When you bug in, you remain in a familiar environment, surrounded by familiar people. You won’t be considered a stranger. Plus, you can even form alliances with your neighbors to increase your chances of survival.
  • Bugging in requires less time, energy, and skills. You don’t have to set up shelter nor struggle with building a fire in a possibly damp environment. Given that you have a well-stocked survival pantry, you don’t have to forage or hunt for food, either.
  • It allows you to have a more sustainable survival plan. For example, if you have a plot of land, you can grow a survival garden as a source of fresh food while bugging in. Bugging in also allows you to set up various alternative energy sources like solar or hydro.
  • Best if you live away from major urban areas. Bugging in is ideal and very feasible when you live in suburban and rural locations or even in an independent homestead.

While there are a lot of advantages to bugging in, it is not without its faults. There are some scenarios where it’s not even possible at all. Here are the downsides of bugging in:​

Cons of Bugging In

  • Not ideal if you live in highly populated, urban areas where riots and conflict can erupt. You’d want to stay far from any possible civil unrest and chaos.
  • Not possible if your area has suffered a direct hit or significant damage from events like hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and the like. In such cases, bugging in can cost you your life. Immediate evacuation is preferred.
  • Situations can worsen and you can potentially be trapped if you don’t leave the area promptly.
  • If people know that you have a survival stockpile, you are most likely going to be a target for looting, especially when basic supplies from the grocery stores and supermarkets run out. You will have to be prepared to defend your home.
  • Bugging in is challenging if you have limited space.

Staying safe at home and waiting ’til the worst is over sounds like a good idea, as long as you have enough supplies and live somewhere that’s relatively safe and secured. But what if you are located in a city or are forced to evacuate?


Bugging out is where one gets out of dodge to move to a more secure location. This is preferred when you live in a densely populated area, are directly affected by a disaster, or just don’t want to stay in one place while the world falls around your ears. Here are the benefits of bugging out:

Pros Of Bugging Out

  • Gets you out of the path of riots and looting. This is preferred if you live in an urban area or a location where civil unrest can be common.
  • This is the most viable option when your house gets hit by earthquakes, fires, floods, or other disasters.
  • Bugging out allows you to be more flexible—having a bug out bag at the ready allows you to evacuate the area at a moment’s notice.
  • Bugging out may be the best option, especially for most urban dwellers. However, leaving your home and evacuating to a safer location still has a lot of risks and challenges, like the following:

Cons of Bugging Out

  • You have to limit what you can carry. Pack a bug out bag that’s too heavy and you’ll want to ditch it after a couple of hours of walking non-stop. You have to make sure that you carry items that can help you survive for a 72-hour window though. This includes food supplies, shelter, water, and other provisions.
  • You have to be physically capable to bug out. This could be a problem if you or any of your family members have health conditions or mobility issues.
  • You’ll encounter a lot of potential threats and dangers while traveling from point A to point B. First off, you’ll be exposed to the elements. This could be a serious problem when you’re trying to bug out in bad weather. You’ll have to seek out or pitch your shelter. Get ready to forage for food, make a fire from scratch, and find water in case your stash runs out before you get to a secured location.
  • Expect human threats like armed looters or bandits. Be ready to defend yourself and carry weapons on your person.
  • You will have to split your resources between your bug out bag and bug out location.
  • You won’t be the only one trying to leave the area. Major thoroughfares can be clogged with traffic. You have to determine at least 3 routes to get to your bug out location.
  • Bugging out undoubtedly involves a lot of risk and preparation, but it could potentially save your neck when SHTF.

The Final Verdict: Should You Bug In or Bug Out?

So, should you bug in or bug out?

The answer really depends on your individual situation and scenario. You have to weigh out the pros and cons of each option. Which applies to you best? Which has lesser risk and which path would increase your chances of survival?

It’s also important to remember that bugging in and bugging out are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to stick with just one. Instead, it’s best to come up with a contingency plan and prepare for both.

You can make bugging in your plan A and still have a bug out bag on standby if and when evacuation becomes inevitable. Or, you can prioritize getting out and have a safe house located in a remote area, already outfitted for bugging in. Either way, you can prepare for possible contingencies and mitigate the risks.

What’s your plan when SHTF? Are you bugging in, getting out, or both? Let us know in the comments below!

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