In every forum and thread about bugging out on foot, one tends to see selected pieces of advice. Some gear related, some how-to’s and others just general observations. But several times, we see so called “myths” about bugging out on foot and the problems that can come from that. I’ve taken the liberty of looking at several items I consider to be “myths” about bugging out and attempted to problem solve through each of them. I ask questions in each that we all should be asking before making a plan to bug out.
Myth #1: “I only have XX miles from my work to my home, I can do that easy.”
With this myth prepper X knows a distance between their home and work which is a good thing. However, more often than not they hadn’t actually walked that specific distance. They are not typically taking into account the terrain, weather, seasonal factors and possibly hostile activity. How many have actually lugged a full BOB the distance between their work and home before? Not just the distance itself, but actually walked with their bug out gear from work to home? And lived out of their BOB along the way? Sure it is possible to go a straight line distance between point A and B. But more often than not, straight lines work great on a map. Plus the problems behind using roads. Sometimes roads cannot or should not be used. So for whatever distance you happen to be traveling, plan on double that amount.
So if one is to say that to make it stick, one must actually get out and walk that distance with their BOB. Get dropped off at your place of work, sling up the BOB and walk the distance over your primary planned route and in the time and supplies allotted. And for ever one track you might have planned, plan on two alternates as well as creeks and streams can be flooded, roads impassable, and other factors out of your control. Walk the alternate and secondary routes as well, making notes on what hazards can come up and plan on the best route which might suit the time you really need it.
Some things to look for. Are there spots to overnight along the way? What natural barriers are in my way? Do I have the tools and knowledge to overcome those obstacles? Are my maps current and taking into account things that might have changed since they were printed? Do I have enough supplies for an extended stay because weather or terrain slowed me down? Do I have the means to navigate without maps by using terrain association and/or compass headings? What areas do I want to avoid? What areas are safe?
Myth #2: “Don’t wear military style packs/gear/clothing! It makes you a target!”
A target for who specifically? Military gear is often cheaper, especially surplus and lot of folks use it whether they are civilian or former military or current military. An ALICE pack doesn’t make you any more of a target than say a red commercial Kelty pack. If you are in a situation where you will become a target from roving gangs or the like, it doesn’t matter if you have on an ALICE pack or the Kelty. A roving gang will only see “backpack” and wonder what you have inside. It might be valuable to them, might not. But the point is you might have more than they do and it makes you a target whether it’s a military pack or not.
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Now on the flip side, if you start to look like you are about to invade Fallujah, you might be a little wrong. Some have a way of overdoing things and wearing a full Multicam combat ensemble with a full combat pack and a long gun will probably get you noticed by not only gangs who could want your weapons and stash, but also by law enforcement who could consider you a threat. Achieve a careful balance between practicality and functionality. Cargo type pants, whether they are surplus BDUor commercial khakis are generally not looked at any more than blue jeans. The same goes for packs. When bugging out on foot (think NOLA) it doesn’t matter if it’s a military pack or a civilian pack. More often than not, one would look and think “person with a pack” rather than “person with a pack…bet they are military and have all sorts of goodies because it happens to be a military style pack.”
So to overcome this myth, one had to ask what purpose you have for bugging out. Does your pack have the cargo space needed for your trip? Does it stand out? Do I have a long gun strapped to the outside that will draw more attention? Is the clothing I have going to provide me concealment along with being functional? Will khaki cargo pants and an earth tone shirt work or do I need the concealment of actual camouflage?
Myth #3: The availability of water.
More often than not, our BOBs have a way of gathering water and filtering/purifying it. And we have a way of carrying said water. And more often than not, we plan on having sufficient water supplies on our route of travel. But do we take into account the seasonal differences when we plan to bug out? Streams can dry up during drought conditions as well as freeze over during the winter. Do you have a way of melting snow and filtering it into potable water? Do you have enough capacity to carry extended water supplies in case the distance between known sources is greater than planned? Sure some folks tend to think they can use the black trash bag method to generate water from dew to survive, but is it enough when you are carrying a pack as well as moving?
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And in conjunction with Myth #1, have you walked the distance between point A and B and figured out what water supplies are on hand? Are the streams sufficiently clean enough to filter water and away from known pollution sources (such as factories, animal grazing areas, dumps, etc) which could contaminate even clear water and slow your bug out by getting you sick? Will the streams be frozen during winter and force you to spend additional time thawing out ice to make water? Do you have enough storage in your BOB to make it between water sources without having to go without? Is a 100 ounce water bladder good enough or should you think about adding another liter bottle as a backup?
Myth #4: Slaying the zombie hordes.
Let’s face it, what good is a bug out bag unless we have enough ammo to fight off the raging ZOMBIE hordes coming to eat our brain? Or the fact many of us carry enough ammo to fight our way into trouble, but rarely enough to fight our way out? Far too often, BOBs are filled with more than sufficient ammunition. But when bugging out on foot, we need to think strategically and tactically at the same time. Bugging out typically means you are heading for a prepared retreat or a place of safety where you can be resupplied at will and the thousands of rounds you have stored will come into good use. That’s strategic thinking. Get from point A to point B.
But the problem is we plan on fighting the last battle of good versus evil during our bug out. When is enough ammo too much ammo? I.E. ten loaded magazines with another hundred loose rounds for reloads.
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To think of bugging out on foot, especially solo, one has to think of being tactically minded. Concealment and running away from problems are sometimes the best ideas you can have. Hide from danger, but if you are confronted, plan on using every single round to the best potential and not wasting any. Think sniper when firing rounds at a potential enemy. You don’t have to put them down for good, but a wounding shot will stop or slow them down just as effectively as a kill shot. Military scouts don’t get into firefights because they typically don’t want to attract the attention. But they will fight if they have to and bloody the nose of the enemy enough to slow them down. And afterwards, slink away and hide before moving to safety. This is tactical thinking and we should be emulating it.
One should look at the amount of ammo and decide whether or not it is enough or too much. I can’t make that determination for you and each person had to decide what’s best for them. But the biggest thing I have seen is the fact some like to overindulge on the ammo stores and let other areas slip past them. Have enough ammo to get yourself out of trouble if a fight is picked with you. Don’t go around picking fights you don’t need to be involved in.
Some questions that have to be asked. Do you have enough ammo to be able to break contact and get away if attacked? What kind of enemies will you be facing? What are the odds of you breaking contact without firing a shot? Can you conceal yourself enough to get away (Myth #2) if you are being pursued? Am I carrying too much ammo and not enough food/water/shelter/clothing? Am I carrying enough of the aforementioned food/water/clothing/shelter and still too much ammo? How far will I need to travel and are my ammo stores enough to get me by? Do I fire well enough with my weapons system to be able to break contact without wasting ammo? Should I get into a prolonged firefight with a group or attempt to evade as best as possible? Are there areas of natural cover and concealment along my chosen route of travel (Myth #1) that I can hide or defend from? Should I make a stand or keep running?
Plan for action, but also plan for inaction. Bugging out solo can present many tactical problems, but most of them can be overcome by proper planning and preset evasion drills. But also, preset battle drills to make an attacker (or attackers) back off and rethink the idea of attacking you.
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Myth #5: The minimalist BOB.
Another myth is the minimalist BOB we see from time to time. “I can shove everything into a Camelbak MULE and be just fine!” Okay, for experienced preppers and those that can get by with just a Swiss Army Knife, duct tape and a toothbrush, that’s wonderful. But more often than not, with minimalist kit things are missing. Essential things? Absolutely. Think cold weather gear for starters. Sure not all of us are in climates that require cold weather gear, but enough of us are in places where we would need such things during different seasons. Or redundant items that are critical to the success of bugging out on foot. Water purification for example. If the awesome Katadyn mini filter suddenly becomes contaminated, what are our options for back up?
We can (and often do in the beginning stages of preparedness) tend to go overboard on our kit, but some items are required to be redundant. And do we have enough space to cram in additional water purification tabs? Or a stove to boil water? Or a container to boil water in if our filter cannot be used? Or in the case of tabs, a container to let them purify before adding it into the hydration bladder?
One must be careful to carry enough items along with the alternate items just in case. But one has to also be careful in carrying too much. More often than not, minimalist BOBs are seen with those that don’t have a great distance to travel from point A to B. But are they taking into account the journey (Myth #1) between A and B? What items are missing and what would be necessary on an unplanned extended trip?
As was noted by a response in another forum, the “minimal BOB” wasn’t entirely agreed on. So I’ve expanded this section with the following comments…
True enough on those points and this was more or less the point I was trying to make. Too often you see BOBs packed away with 7 magazines, tacticool M4 with bling hanging on the rails and high dollar Tactical Tailor MAV setup to carry same, Glock with light mount and five spare magazines, combat IFAK with Izzy bandage, Quikclot, tourniquet but no boo-boo kit. No spare socks, no cold/foul weather gear, no sleeping bag save an emergency space blanket, but does have a disposable poncho, fire starter, hydration bladder, large tactical Jim Bowie Tanto Point Khukuri sheath knife along with pocket folder, multitool and keychain multitool but little else. Three Mountain House meals or MREs and they call it their “minimalist kit.” This is the minimalist kit I’m referring to and the one that typically leaves important things behind. You can look at a person’s kit and decide for yourself what they are missing and I can almost guarantee you you’ve probably faced palmed over so called “minimal kits” before.
Sure some have experience and know what works and what you have to have and what you can leave behind. But that’s experience talking. More often than not, a beginner prepper might not know this is experience talking and attempt to emulate. And this is where they fail. And in failure is discouragement and in discouragement means they potentially stop being prepared all together. Or don’t practice as often (as the response pointed out we need to do) and hard earned lessons are soon forgotten. I’m sure through trial and error some have learned what was absolutely necessary and what wasn’t, but they still had that trial and error period when they figured out what was best and what could be left behind.
The “myth” is about those who critique a person’s load and say “you don’t need this, that and you can drop those, but you should replace it with doodad X instead and lighten your weight. You only need one way of starting a fire that Bic will be fine (as if a lighter never gets wet) but heaven forbid you drop a magazine because you NEED that ammo!” So on and so forth. These are the ones that only plan on going XX number of miles because “I can do that no sweat” and leave important things behind because they feel they won’t be needed. But as pointed out accidents happen and things take a turn for the worse when they don’t make a timeline or are diverted off a path they intended.
And therein lies the myth. The myth that one only needs a minimal kit because they only have to go so far or believe they won’t need certain items because the distance is not going to be great enough. A BOB should probably packed the same way whether you are going five or fifty miles. Why? Because you don’t drop items because you have found their value and know you “might” need them if it comes down to it. Okay, call it a minimalist kit if you want, but I’m sure most have the basics covered. Maybe you don’t carry many redundant items, but I’m sure you carry at least one or two spares of something “just in case.” Socks or a little more 550 cord than you need or a spare toothbrush or whatever. The point is, some have lightened your load and are comfortable with the minimal gear necessary for THEM to survive. But probably through trial and error more than just saying “I only need this to survive because I’m only going X miles to my home or bug out location.”
Myth #6: The vacuum packed BOB.
“My BOB has vacuum packed clothing and other odds and ends.” Okay, great for packing, but also horrible for packing as two things happen. First, some of those items are hard to get to in a hurry if you really need them. Second, once the vacuum sealing is destroyed, try cramming everything back into your pack (assuming it’s packed tight to being with) and heading along. While it can and does have its place, be careful not to overindulge in the vacuum sealing of things like clothing. Sure enough it works like a charm when packing, but when unpacked? A whole different story. Your BOB should contain enough room to pack in unsealed items as well as sealed items. Pack it both ways and if there is extra space, there is extra space and who cares?
Vacuum sealing is a double edged sword and one that any prepper should think through smartly before employment. Once the sealing is destroyed, are the contents now at risk of being damaged by rain and snow? Do you have a backup plan for resealing the contents like Zip-Lock bags? Do I have enough room to pack away items without having to seal them? Is my pack big enough to account for bulky clothing items that are unsealed? Should I just use a regular Zip-Lock bag and forgo the vacuum sealing?
Just a few things to think of when getting out the food preserver and packing away kit that could be essential and/or too bulky to repack.
These are just some of the things that I’ve seen over the years when discussing bugging out on foot. And more to the point, these are personal observations of mine that your individual mileage might vary on. Some will agree and others disagree, but when bugging out on foot, several factors have to be taken into account on. Where you are headed, how long it will take, what weather/seasonal changes you might encounter and personal preference on gear to be taken.
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