7 Key Steps for a Successful Bug Out Plan

When SHTF, action won’t mean a thing without a plan. Come on, what are you going to do? Run around until you tire yourself out?

With a plan in place, you won’t have to do that. You’ll actually have something to follow through, AND best of all, you ensure everyone’s safety with it, too.

Ready to test your prepping skills? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what a bug out plan is:

What Is a Bug Out Plan?

When disaster strikes, you’ll have to decide if it’ll be good to stay put and dig in your heels or if you’re ready to brave it out and head out to your bug out location. There are pros and cons to bugging in and bugging out.

But if you want to bug out safely, you should have a basic understanding of how it works. Having a foolproof bug out plan will help you ease into the mindset when the time comes to get out of dodge.

A bug out plan will dictate all you need to do to ensure, from start to finish, that your road to bugging out is successful and done in the safest way possible.

The Different Stages of a Bug Out Plan

As with any plan, certain stages or points need to be planned down to a T.

The perfect bug out plan has seven different stages for you to plan out, mainly:

  1. Finding a Bug Out Location
  2. Prepping Your Supplies
  3. Choosing Your Route
  4. Preparing “Along the Way” Survival Caches
  5. Prepping a Bug Out Vehicle
  6. Prepping a Bug Out Bag
  7. Creating a Disaster Communication Plan

Here’s a more detailed look at what each stage covers:

Stage 1: Finding a Bug Out Location (BOL)

For your bug out plan to come an inch closer to fruition, your first step is to find the BOL that works for you.

There’ll be a few things you need to consider when choosing a BOL. But a safe basis when choosing your BOL is that it should be:

  • Accessible to you but not to strangers
  • Far enough from the city, main roads, or places with dense populations but reachable with at least one full tank of gas
  • Ideally built on land that you own

Start with finding places with those qualities, build up from there, and slowly sift out your choices.

Stage 2: Prepping Your Supplies

It’s time to get ready and store the essentials because a bug out location without supplies is just another death trap. That’s why the second phase of your bug out plan should prioritize storing food and water.

For food, go for food that doesn’t expire quickly. These will keep for a long time. Think along the lines of canned goods, jerky, and ready to eat meals (RTEs).

For water, you’ll want to base it on how many people you have in your group. Collect some H2O that will last for at least two weeks, and make sure you store it safely.

Other items you can outfit your BOL with are shelter equipment such as emergency blankets, extra tarps and sleeping bags, and hygiene kits.

Stage 3: Choosing Your Bug Out Route

The next logical step in your bug out plan is to plot the route you’ll be taking.

“Boy, don’t we just take the normal route?” Well, heck. If we’re doing a little public show and tell, why not?

Sarcasm aside, your bug out route should be mapped out meticulously. In the age of smartphones and the internet, a lot of folks have forgotten how to find their way without GPS. You have to know how to kick it old school for this one.

There are some things to consider when planning your bug out route, such as:

  • Avoiding major roads in case of traffic jams or accidents
  • Choosing the shortest and safest way
  • Selecting a path that is both accessible by your bug out vehicle (BOV) or by foot

Next, take out an updated map and start searching for the perfect route, like back roads that can take you to your BOL. Once you’ve found several (because, of course, you need at least three alternative routes), check the roads’ conditions and how the seasons can affect the routes. Will flooding be a problem during a heavy downpour? Will it still be accessible during the winter?

Plan. It. Out.

Stage 4: Prepping a Bug Out Bag

Handy in times of crisis, a bug out bag (BOB) is your best friend when SHTF. It has everything you need to survive for at least 72 hours. The first thing you should probably look into is making sure you have a sturdy backpack to use. Quality and functionality are essential when it comes to choosing a BOB.

As for contents, your BOB should mainly be able to provide the following:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothes

Those are the main things you should have with a leeway to add to your supplies. The key is to choose essential items to include in your BOB. Remember, be smart about what you pack. You don’t want to be lugging around food fit for a picnic when you can opt for meat jerky and smaller yet filling rations.

Stage 5: Prepping “Along the Way” Survival Caches

As much as possible, we want to get to our BOL as quickly as we can. But sometimes, especially when we hit bumps along the road, getting there ASAP might prove to be tricky.

The supplies you have in your bug out bag might not see you through the end, and that’s going to be a problem. This is where the next part of your bug out plan comes in handy: survival caches. Think of a survival cache as a kit containing emergency supplies and food. You hide it in a secret spot right along or close to your bug out route so that if you need to access it or replenish supplies, you can do it as smoothly as possible.

Hide your cache well and make it as inconspicuous as possible, and DON’T forget where you put or buried it!

Stage 6: Prepping a Bug Out Vehicle


Walking, running, jogging. Are these the only ways to get to your BOL?

Hell, naw! You can use something as simple as a bike to something meatier like a speedboat as a bug out vehicle (BOV). It will depend on your BOL.

The most common BOV? A car, usually a pickup truck, an SUV, or an offroader. It makes sense; these cars are rugged and tough, made to last. A BOV outfitted with the right accessories can be a real mean machine.

If you’ve got a car turned into a BOV, here are some tips you should follow:

  • Double-check whether there’s always gas in the car, at least half a tank, or enough to get you to your BOL.
  • Make sure your car is in good shape.
  • Keep the air pressure in your tires within the normal range, including your spare.
  • Check the fluids and oil levels. Top it off if the levels are lower than usual.
  • Schedule a regular maintenance schedule for your BOV.

Stage 7: Creating a Disaster Communication Plan

We’ve plotted out the six things you need to think about for your bug out plan. The last step should now focus on everything communication-related. There’s a good chance that when a disaster strikes, you might be at work, or if you’ve got kids, they might be at school. Then what?

This is where a Disaster Communication Plan (DCP) comes in handy. Think of it as a document that lays out all the things to do to help you and your family get out of a place quickly when something wrong happens, even if you all aren’t together. With a DCP, everyone can understand better what the whole plan is and how to communicate effectively.

To give you a little overview, here’s what goes into a DCP:

List of Rally Points

One rally point won’t be enough. You never know what places will be alright when something happens, so having a list of different rally points will help. Choose rally points based on:

  • Proximity to your home and places you and your family are frequently at.
  • Amount of people who hang out there.
  • Safety. If you were to go there during an emergency, would it be safe?
  • Consider accessibility. It might be accessible now, but if things go south, will it still be the same?

Meet up Instructions

This section of the plan holds all the details of how you and your group or family will meet at your designated rally points. It will detail out:

  • Where you’ll meet
  • What to do if you’re the first one to arrive
  • How long you should wait
  • What to do if no one shows up and where to move onto
  • Signs or signals you should leave if the rally point is compromised

Be thorough with this portion, and don’t skimp. Think of every scenario possible.

Manual on How to Operate an Emergency Radio

We’re assuming that everyone in your group will somehow have a handheld radio for comms in their pack or will at least have access to one when SHTF. It would be awesome if everyone knew how to operate one, but, as preppers, let’s cover the bases.

Keep a simplified instruction guide on how to use different types of emergency radios on hand. You never know when you’ll need it.

List of Radio Emergency Frequencies

If you’ve got a radio, you’re going to need to know the frequencies to use. Write down all the vital emergency radio frequencies you can tune into.

Emergency Phrases and Signs

You can’t trust anyone when things go bad. Emergency phrases, codes, and signs are all perfect to use and will help you know who to trust or not.

Meanwhile, color-coded symbols drawn with spray paint, permanent markers, or even strings can help leave messages or warnings for one another.

ID and Photos of Family Members, Medical Info, and Emergency Contacts

This one is a no-brainer. Describing what someone looks like can be hard to do, especially when you’re in a hurry. Showing a photo? Easy peasy. Plus, it’s always good to have some sort of identification on you at all times.

Along with that, list each family member’s medical info beneath their photos and details so that you have everything in one place.

On a separate sheet, prepare your emergency contacts in case of extreme situations.

Keep your DCP in your bug out bag and make sure that it’s waterproof. Laminating it will work wonders, trust us.

Make sure you test your bug out plan out…

You want to be thorough, and you want your plan to be foolproof. Do a dry run to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. From stage 1 to stage 7, do it all. If you run into any problems, take note of it and readjust your plan accordingly.

Smoothen out the kinks until you’ve got that bug out plan down flawlessly. It might take a while, but it will be worth it.

Final Thoughts

Making a bug out plan might seem like a step you’d like to skip (we get it, it’s tiring) but don’t. Doing things on a whim can endanger your life, and you won’t live to see another day if you don’t have a contingency plan. Hey, we speak the truth here, and you can’t call yourself a prepper if you’ve got no plan.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to survive a disaster or when SHTF, check out the other excellent topics we have on the site.

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