Why Bugging-Out to the Wilds Is a Bad Deal
I get at least one comment in each of my urban survival classes about “if things go to hell in Phoenix (insert large city) then I will just grab my BOB and head to the hills and live off the land until society re-establishes itself.”
Here are some reasons why that survival-forum fantasy would suck:
1. Assuming you got out of the city early enough during that reactor meltdown or EMP blast (the two scenarios most bandied about), you will be on the road with every other dude who is maneuvering his tricked-out Hummer loaded with the latest zom-poc gear and Jack Bauer shoulder bags. This scenario is often accompanied by the comment, “If I can’t make it to my wilderness retreat, I’ll just live out of my rig while evading others and nabbing deer along the way with my suppressed carbine.” First off, when is the last time you went car-camping under non-stressful evacuation conditions while contending with resupplying water, dealing with first-aid issues, field-dressing wild game, cooking your chow over a sluggish fire in the rain, and getting used to all those nocturnal sounds outside your tent that prevent you from getting a decent night’s sleep?
2. All of the survival forums involve a bug-out situation with a lone-wolfer who is versed in shoot-and-move skills, advanced paramedic training, and has the trapping know-how of Jeremiah Johnson (the real one not the wink-at-the-camera, square-jawed Robert Redford). There’s never any mention about how, on the frantic drive away from the mushroom cloud, that you stopped at your parent’s house to grab them, their old black lab, and their satchel of prescription meds which is nearing their refill dates. Yeah, so what if your family wasn’t into the whole prepping thing and never gathered up any supplies, though you argued the merits with them after every disaster headline in the news- are you really going to duck out on them when the pigspoor hits the flywheel (PHTF)? I had one guy tell me he was gonna hoof it solo to his land in New Mexico to ride out his days there and then proceeded to ask me if I could go through his BOB and explain some of the items he had hastily packed off some forum recommendations.
3. It’s late January and you just got done working the third-shift after another twelve-hour day. Now you have to grab your kin, your gear, your pets, and negotiate traffic on your drive to the wilds to begin your post-apocalyptic campout while contending with hypothermia issues, deep snow, and a lack of wild game and edible plants (which you were going to resort to after your week-supply of yummy MREs were depleted). There are no guarantees in bugging out that you will be doing so during the day, in warm weather, when you are feeling 100% physically or mentally, you will be uninjured after the evacuation effort, and the area you end up in will have decent natural resources. It’s called survival for a reason and it’s only adventure in retrospect. There’s nothing fun or romantic about having your world torn apart by a disaster and then having to contend with life on the road or in the wilds trying to stay alive, provide security, food, water, and meet one’s most basic needs. Add to this that you have to comfort your unprepared brother in-law who has never gone without his daily energy drink (with the extra Taurine) and who thought hunting and gathering was like walking down the produce aisle but is now eyeballing your freeze-dried Thai-chicken packets. Furthermore, when was the last time that you put all your bug-out gear through the ringer and spent a night afield when the rain was pouring down to test out what worked or tried your hand at foraging and fishing?
4. Speaking of living off the land, the survival class you had a few years ago where you learned to make a snare from an SAS commando wire-saw now comes into play as your grub is running low. Only you’re scratching your head on day two after seeing the empty snare and wondering why it worked so well for that guy on the reality show-the same guy who sells bug-out bags with his patented tactical slingshot. Keep in mind that most professional trappers have years of experience on land they know extremely well, have 30-50 steel traps on them that they spend half a day setting out over a few miles of gnarly terrain, and know intimately the habits of the wild animals they are pursuing. And even then they sometimes go home without any meat.
As escapist as it sounds to grab your go-bag and four-wheel it up to the remote mountain encampment beside the trout stream while flailing your zombie machete at anyone who squints crazily in your direction, there are a lot of negatives to retreating to the wilds. I’d rather look at bugging-out as a temporary solution to an immediate need for evacuating from your home or city, in my case, mainly due to seasonal wildfires. Statistically, you are far more likely to have to deal with hunkering down at home because of a blizzard, tropical storm, or rolling black out. If something else heads my way, I’m not going to retreat to the forest and set up a perimeter of booby traps but head to a family member’s house or hotel in another city or state until the smoke clears. Living in the bush for weeks on end with only a knife and a small survival kit is challenging under the best of conditions and with the right group. I’ll pass on the groundhog hoagies and Red Dawn E & E tactics in favor of meeting up with my family and friends at their homes and away from the mercy of the elements.
But then that Hollywood-embedded imagery in our western culture rears its head: you know the one about the ending of the world as we know it, where we are all reduced to a pioneer-era and wear buckskin robes with a an improvised rebar shank hanging off a braided 550-cord belt. Fortunately, I’ve already invested in a solar-powered, red-dot sight for my crossbow and know how to bake a mean raccoon potpie.