For most people, bugging in makes a whole lot more sense than bugging out. Unless you have an actual survival retreat, prepared and stocked for your family to go to when the time comes, bugging out puts you and your family in a dangerous position, essentially forcing you to live off the land. While that might sound great on the surface, it's much harder than most people are prepared to manage.
But bugging in has its own challenges too. While there are many advantages to bugging in, you can't expect things to go easy. The lack of services which we are all accustomed to, will make bugging in about equal to camping in your own home.
Just as with a camping trip, as long as you have supplies, you'll be okay. While you may have some challenges, your ability to survive will be much greater than it would be out in the wild. But the key here is being prepared, as the only thing that's going to make bugging in work, is the supplies that you have.
So, Let's Talk Supplies
Stockpiling supplies is a major part of prepping; generally the very first thing that new preppers do when they get started. But when does stockpiling end? How can you be sure that you have enough supplies to keep you going, when the brown stuff hits the rotary air movement device?
The truth is, there is no guarantee. Since none of us know what disaster we'll end up facing, there is no right answer to the question of how much is enough. That's a question that can only be answered by experiencing a disaster, and then looking at how well you manage to survive it. But even that isn't a good answer, considering that by the time you receive the answer, it will be too late to change it.
So, the trick is, figuring out the worst case disaster you'll have to deal with and then building your survival plans and your stockpile around what you'll need to have to survive that situation. If you have enough for your worst case, then you should have enough for anything less.
To me, the worst problem we could face is a grid-down situation, such as that which would be created by an EMP attack by our nation's enemies. While there are other things which could cause a grid down situation, an EMP is a good one to use, simply because it strikes fast and can cause permanent, virtually irreversible damage to the grid.
With that in mind, I personally use an EMP as my long-term survival scenario of choice when I'm making decisions about what to do. According to the best information I have available to me, an EMP would eliminate both our electrical grid and pretty much everything electronic which we depend on. That would leave us without all of the conveniences, infrastructure, utilities and supply chain which we are used to depending on. Technologically, at least, we would be set back over 100 years.
The other thing about such an event is that the damage would be permanent. Due to the long time required to make repairs, we would essentially have to learn to survive without any of those things. Yes, they would eventually be restored, but the time required would mean that most people would die before that could happen. If we are to survive, we will have to learn to live without any of them.
In such a case (or anything similar) we would need enough supplies to carry us through until we could replace them on our own. That means becming able to grow all our food, find and purify all our water, provide heat for our homes and either make or scavenge every manufactured item we use today.
Obviously, that's going to take some time to establish. So I consider a year's worth of supplies to be a minimum. Most specifically, I feel that a year's worth of the following supplies must be in my stockpile:
- Water purification
- Heating for my home and for cooking food
- Lighting - candles, oil lamps and flashlights
- Fire starting
- Medical supplies
- Ammunition for hunting and home defense
- Personal hygiene
That's actually a very short list, but it includes the most critical supplies for survival. However, it does not include the tools and equipment you'll need. There are plenty of those you'll need as well, especially if we're looking at a long-term survival situation, such as when the grid goes down.
When it comes to food, there are some things you should stockpile in super large quantities, not because you're going to eat more of them than anything else, but because they will be extremely hard to replenish. Specifically, you'll want a lot of salt, spices, sauces, sugar and anything else you normally use to make your food taste better. You can grow vegetables, chickens, fish and even hunt for game; but you can't find salt all that easily.
You'll also want a large stock of grains. Growing enough grain to provide your family with bread requires a huge amount of land, much more than growing vegetables. Besides that, you have to be ready to thresh and grind the grain, so that you can make it usable.
Growing Your Own Food
The time to start growing your own food isn't when you realize that you're in a long-term survival situation, but before it. Many preppers are looking at growing their own food and are making the appropriate preparations to do so. However, they aren't actually doing it.
I was in that category, once upon a time. Then I realized that if I was going to grow food to eat in the aftermath of a crisis, I'd need to start growing it as soon as the disaster hit. But there's a problem with that; that is, it takes at least a year to get the soil in a garden to the point where the garden is growing well. If you have any problems with it, it can take two or three years before you see much of a harvest.
That's what's happened to me. When I started gardening, I had a string of problems with poor soil, insects killing my plants and the heat killing others (I live in a hot part of the country). It wasn't until the fourth year that I was really harvesting enough from my garden to make it worthwhile.
But even that isn't enough. My garden is 15' x 30', which is a pretty good size. In addition, I have a number of fruit trees and another separate raised bed where I grow herbs. But that won't provide me with enough food for my family. To have enough, I need to expand that garden to something about ten times that size.
You've probably seen one of those articles about people who grow all their own food in their backyard. I've seen a few through the years; and there's always one thing that stands out to me, in each and every case, they've turned their entire back yard into a garden.
When you compare that to the idea of a small vegetable garden or a 4 foot square vertical garden, it's clear that what most people are thinking of doing to grow their food isn't adequate. They need something more; much more.
So, while you might have a garden about the size of mine, you also need the capability of expanding to a much bigger one. In other words, you need the ability to turn your entire backyard into a garden, so that you'll be able to grow enough food to keep your family from starving. It's going to take all the space you have, or you aren't going to have enough.
Water to Go Around
For years, I've been hearing that you need a gallon of water per person per day to survive. But that's just to have enough water for drinking and cooking. There isn't anything included in that for washing or for growing your food.
This gallon of water per day idea has led to people talking about getting water from their hot water heater, their municipal swimming pool or some nearby body of water. But the problem is, if you're going to have to grow your own food, you're going to need more water than you can haul back to your home manually.
While all those sources are good sources of water in the short-term, they aren't enough for the long-term. For that, you'll need a reliable source of water that is close to your home or on your property.
Granted, a lot of this will have to do with how much it rains where you live. If you have a lot of rain, then you probably won't have to water your garden much. If anything, you'll have to protect it from overwatering. But if you don't have enough rain, like where I live, you'll have to be watering your garden every few days, or everything you're trying to grow will simply die.
I put my estimated survival water needs at 100 gallons per day for my wife and I. While that is a whole lot less than the average family uses now, it's a whole lot more than what most people think of, when they think of survival. But that's because the vast majority of that water will be for watering my garden and my trees. What water I use for washing, will be recycled and used for watering too, so it will ultimately end up watering my garden.
The closest source of water to my home is a canal that's two blocks away. While it would be possible to haul water from that canal to my home, I'm not sure that it would be practical to haul 100 gallons per day. There will be too many other survival tasks to do, to spend that much time hauling water.
So, the only solution for me is to put in a well. That way, I'll have a constant, dependable source of water to keep my garden and my trees well watered. At the same time, a well can provide water for my other needs.
But a well isn't enough by itself. You have to have a pump to get the water out of the well. That means having a manual pump available. Even if you have an electric pump, with the ability to generate your own electricity, you should have a manual pump too. That way, if your electric pump goes bad or you lose your electric power production capability, you'll still have an effective means to get water out of your well.
You should also have a large water storage tank, so that you can store excess water you pump up. You never know if something will happen to your well, or your ability to pump water out of your well. So the best way to handle it is to constantly replenish your water supply, so that your stock of water remains more or less constant.
Your Survival Team
One of the biggest mistakes I see urban survivalists make is in planning to survive alone. Even if your family is highly skilled in all aspects of survival, that's not really practical. Your small numbers will make you too tempting a target, inviting attack from hungry gangs that want your stockpile.
This is much more of a problem in urban areas than it is out in the country. Oh, people might attack a lone house in the country, but first they would have to find it and decide that it would make a good target. In the city or even in suburbia, you will be much easier to find, inviting attack.
So, you need a team, even if you are living in the city. That means a team which is co-located, not one which is scattered across miles. That's going to be extremely difficult, as few of us have homes which are large enough to have several other families move in with us. Unless your survival team buys out a neighborhood, it will be extremely hard to come together when it's time to survive.
The other option is to co-opt your neighbors and turn them into a survival team. Few of us really know our neighbors today, so this will be hard to do. Yet your neighbors have the distinct advantage of proximity. They don't have to move close to share in survival with you, they're already there.
I won't go into detail about how to turn your neighbors into a survival team here, as I've written about that in other articles. But I will say this; there are two ways you can go about this. One is to wait for a disaster to hit and then be ready to bring them into the fold. The other is to convince them to become preppers as well. The advantage of this second method is that your neighbors will begin stockpiling for themselves, rather than expecting you to have everything for them.
Anyone who is planning on urban survival will need to become an expert at scavenging, especially in a long-term survival situation. It's doubtful that there will be a whole lot of food laying around, but there will be other useful things. Going back to my worst-case scenario of an EMP, it is believed that a large part of the population would die off in the first year.
Personally, I don't think that the nation could recover from an EMP, at least not for decades. Even with the rest of the world pitching in to help the North American recovery (Canada and Mexico would both be badly damaged by an EMP attack on the U.S. as well) there just isn't enough manufacturing capacity to build the transformers needed to repair substations.
Rather, I think that whatever government still exists would concentrate on restoring high population areas, which are close to power production facilities. That would give the government the most bang for the buck, saving the most people's lives. Once that was done, others would be encouraged to move to those areas.
Either way, there will be vast numbers of homes and businesses which will be left unattended, as the families that own those homes either die or migrate elsewhere, looking for a chance to start over. Those homes and businesses will become a major source of supply for those who are left alive.
We have to remember that it won't just be food that will be a problem. In such a situation, the manufacture of all kinds of good will come to a screeching halt. Factories making everything from clothing to pharmaceuticals will lay dormant, without the power to run and continue producing goods. The only manufactured goods which we will have available to us will be those that we can find or that we can manufacture locally by hand.
I imagine that in most cases, there will be more manufactured goods available for scavenging, than there will be people scavenging them. Clothes, for example, will be plentiful. As our children grow and need larger sizes, we'll be able to find dressers full of clothes, left behind by those who starved to death. The same can be said for things that break easily, such as plates and glasses. For years after the disaster, people won't have to worry about making these things, as they will be able to scavenge them from their neighbors' abandoned homes.
There are two important rules about scavenging that will be important in that day. The first is to get what you can, while you can. While that can easily go to extremes, causing storage problems, the idea is that you need to grab important things when you find them, rather than waiting until you need them. In other words, if your child needs size six shoes and you find size eight, grab them, your child will eventually grow into them.
The second important rule of scavenging is to be creative in your thinking about repurposing items. You may not find exactly what you want, but you may find something that will work just as well or something that can be modified to work. If that's the case, then grab it. You may never find the exact item you want.
Of course, you want to be sure to only scavenge from abandoned homes and businesses. Anyone alive will be trying to guard and protect what they have, just as much as you will. So scavenging from their homes would be both inconsiderate and dangerous.
Be Prepared to Do it Yourself
One of the things which will separate the men from the boys, or possibly even the living from the dead in a TEOTWAWKI situation, is self-sufficiency. Our ancestors who settled this country were masters at doing things for themselves. Many knew smatterings of a half-dozen trades or more, as well as how to make things they needed, such as soap, candles and butter.
Sadly, our culture has become so interdependent that few of us know how to make things for ourselves. Even those who do, depend largely on materials that they buy. Take soap making, as an example. Making soap really isn't all that hard if you have the ingredients, namely some sort of fat and lye. Most people who want to make soap will buy the lye at the local hardware store, where it can often be found next to the drain cleaners.
But in a post-disaster scenario, you may not be able to find lye; then what will you do? Do you know how to make the lye you need, so that you can make soap? If not, you'd better hope you can find a stash of lye sitting around somewhere, while you're out scavenging.
The list of things like this is nearly endless. There are countless things our ancestors knew how to do, which we never learned. Most of that is because we no longer need to do them for ourselves, as they are done by electric power or made in a factory somewhere. But of course, the loss of the grid would put to an end the convenience of being able to purchase those items off the shelf. Therefore, we need to learn and we need to practice, so that we can do them for ourselves once again.
It would be a good idea to start collecting recipes for making things like lye, household cleaners and other things we currently buy, but will need to be able to make. Even if you've never made it yourself, having the instructions greatly increases your chances of being able to do so.
Don't just stop with printing out the instructions and putting them in a file somewhere though, look through the instructions, to make sure that you also have a recipe for making or finding everything you're going to need to make that item. Going back to our soap example; just having a recipe for soap isn't enough. You'll also need to know how to make lye (you can make this at home) as well as render fat (something else you can do at home). Without those two, the soap recipe won't do you much good.
Last but by no means least, bugging in carries with it the need to be ready to defend yourself. Word is bound to get out that you are better off than those around you, no matter how good your OPSEC is. When that happens, you can expect people to be knocking on your door, asking for help. Refusing that help will open the door for attack.
This will probably work out to be the biggest problem for those of us who are preppers. While we might be able to control everything else needed for our survival, there's no way that we can effectively control other people. While there are ways of co-opting your neighbors, you really can't co-opt the world. It would take more supplies than you can possibly stockpile to make that even remotely possible.
More than anything, home defense will require constant vigilance. No matter how good a shot you are and how good your guns are, if you don't have a few minutes warning to put your defensive plan into effect, you're going to be at risk.
This will mean having 24 hour a day guards posted. In and of itself, that's the biggest reason there is to have a survival team. While you could try to guard your home and garden by yourself or using just your family, there really won't be enough of you. Trying to work and guard at the same time is all but impossible, as you need to be watching what you're doing, rather than looking around to see who is approaching.
Of course, natural burglar alarms, such as dogs, donkeys and guinea hens reduce the amount of attention you have to pay to what is going on around your perimeter. Those animals will warn you when danger is approaching, probably noticing it long before you will. Ultimately, that will make you safer.
A Final Thought
As I look back over the things I've discussed in this article, one thing stands out to me, more than anything. That is the need for self-sufficiency. Basically, all survival training is based upon self-sufficiency, and I see the need for it here as well. The more self-sufficient you can become, the greater your chances of survival become.
But that self-sufficiency can be a protection in another way as well. Any survivors who are trying to live thorough a post-apocalyptic time will be looking for their needs to be met too. Your skills will be seen as valuable; something to make it worth their while to protect your life. While that carries with it some risk of capture and enslavement, that is a minor concern. The greater benefit is that those around you, who are receiving your help, will want to protect your life, as they will recognize their need for you.So, one of the best things you can do in such a situation is to start bartering your skills with those around you. While that might seem contrary to OPSEC, I'm not talking about telling them what you have, but rather telling them about what you can do. Then, if they want that, they will be more willing to pay, as well as being ready to protect.