Planning and Packing for Bugging Out

When the SHTF and people decide to bug out, you can count on there being plenty of traffic, night or day.
When the SHTF and people decide to bug out, you can count on there being plenty of traffic, night or day.

As frequent readers know, we have a collection of fellow preppers and family members who are expected to bug out to our remote homestead when the SHTF, assuming time and circumstances allow. What should they bring with them, and more importantly, what should you bring with you if you are bugging out to a pre-determined location in an emergency?

My priority list starts not with food and guns, but with personal items that will help our visitors feel more at home and less like refugees. You see, we have food, guns, and ammo, but we don’t have underwear their size and we’ll have to give them the towels we use to dry our dog. It will be better than no towel, but they will wish they had their own.

Let’s look at my recommendations, starting with what I consider the most important. When you make your own bug out packing list, keep these suggestions in mind.

Personal Clothing and Gear

From my perspective, the most important thing people bugging out via vehicle should bring is their own clothing and footwear. I know I wear the same shoe size as one person planning to bug out here, and people can fit in some of our outerwear, but that’s about the only commonality we have from a clothing perspective.

If you are bugging out for an emergency, bring rugged, durable clothing, warm outerwear, several pairs of sturdy boots and shoes, and lots of socks and underwear. Your clothing should be suitable for doing manual labor indoors and out.

If you are bugging out to escape an impending hurricane, then you can bring a week’s clothing, but if it’s and more serious TEOTWAWKI scenario, don’t pack for a weekend or a week; pack like you will be gone forever. It’s June, but if you are still there in February, you’ll wish you had packed warmer clothes.

Use luggage for your clothing, but if you need to dump dresser drawers into trash bags and toss them into the back of your car, that works, too.

Bedding and Linens

As I alluded to above, our house is not set up to sleep 10 or 12, and we don’t have that many pillows, blankets, sheets or even spare towels. (Remember, we downsized when we moved.) Sure, we can pump up an air mattress and sling some hammocks, but somebody is going to be sleeping on the floor. Given our mountainous location, with its cold winters, I would encourage people bugging out here to bring blankets, down comforters, and sleeping bags. The same goes for towels, washcloths, etc.

Pillows are also important, especially if you have one you like. Pack pillows and comforters into big black trash bags for easy transportation.

Other Personal Items

While you are at it, grab your shampoo, razor, body wash and any other special health and beauty aids. Speaking of health, personal medicines and prescriptions are critical.

If you wear prescription lenses, have favorite sinus medicine, take vitamins or supplements, then bring those as well. If you wear contacts, bring your supplies, and don’t forget the actual glasses as backups.

Again, these are personal touches you will be glad you have when you are sleeping on the couch.


Bring food because your very presence is going to literally eat away at our stockpile. The more you bring, the better we will all feel. I expect our prepper friends to show up with buckets of grain, #10 cans of dried food, and pouches of freeze-dried meals. One has a trailer and I hope he will lad it up with food.

I know at least one of my prepper friends will want to bring lots of ammo because guns play an even bigger role in his life than they do in mine. That’s fine, but the way I look at it is: we may need ammo, but we definitely will need food. Depending on the bullet weight, 10,000 rounds of 5.56 weighs about 300 pounds. Instead of bringing 10,000 rounds, I’d rather you bring 2,000 rounds of ammo and 240 pounds of extra food. If you miraculously end up using all 2,000 rounds and surviving, chances are you’ll capture or recover enough ammo to replenish your supply.

Ammo and long-term storage food are also things that can be stored at your destination, either on the premises or in a rented storage unit nearby. If you know where you are bugging out, pre-position stuff at your destination. For example, when we cleaned out our retreat, there were 8,000 rounds of ammo and two long guns waiting for us there, plus parts and accessories. We also had twelve #10 cans and four 5-gallon pails of food, and some old clothing. If we had shown up empty-handed, we’d have been relieved to have those supplies waiting for us.

Items Related to Your Expertise

If you have a particular skill set that would be valuable after the SHTF, bring tools that will allow you to practice it. This is obvious for a doctor or nurse, but applies in other areas as well. For example, one daughter is an expert seamstress and makes her own clothes and custom items for other people. She should bring her sewing basket and supplies since she will be called upon to make repairs and possibly to produce new items.

Obviously, not every vocation or avocation is going to be valuable after the SHTF. For example, leave home the glove clubs and basketball. But if you are a gardener, bring your favorite pruner, shovel, and all the seeds you want.

Prepping and Survival Gear

Depending on what kind of prepper you are, this could include a wide range of items, from body armor to tanning equipment. This includes hunting equipment, traps and snares, bushcraft or primitive living items, camping gear, binoculars and other optics, backpacks, and wood cutting and splitting tools.

I’d throw things like canning jars into this category. If you have a few dozen empty jars and boxes of lids, they could prove to be very valuable. IF they are full of food, they are even more valuable, just pack them so they won’t break.

Good to Have

Here are a few things we don’t expect anyone to bring, but we wouldn’t turn down:

  • Spare gasoline cans, preferably full
  • Chain saws
  • Reloading equipment, supplies, and components
  • Precious metals for barter and trade

How to Pack

We’re going to assume you can drive to our house because almost everything on the above list is a pipedream if you have to walk. Walking should be your last ditch plan.

Families with two or more adult drivers and multiple vehicles should bring multiple cars. Not only does this provide some redundancy, it gives you more carrying capacity, so you can bring more of your stuff, including extra food and ammo. The key is not to put all your food or bedding in one vehicle. Split up the load in case you have to abandon one vehicle because of an accident or breakdown. Each individual should also have a bugout bag and personal weapons with them in the event they need to abandon their vehicle or, God forbid, vehicles.

If you have a trailer, hook it up and bring it. As long as it is up to making the trip, even a small open trailer that usually pulls your lawnmower can carry extra gear. Just strap down boxes and, if the load looks too inviting, cover it with a tarp. A cargo trailer is better, and some preppers have one pre-packed with food and supplies. When it is time to bug out, all they have to do is back the car up to the trailer in the garage, hook it up, and off they go.

Make a List

When we planned to bug out, I had several lists. The first was what to do/bring if we had to leave in 15 minutes or less. Then I had one for departing in an hour, eight hours and 24 hours. The latter list included renting a truck or trailer from U-Haul or Ryder. I even had the address and phone number of local Budget and U-Haul lots with the list.

Consider making a list so you don’t forget something critical at the last minute.

Last-Minute Shopping

While I am a fan of last-minute shopping, people bugging out should not do so on the way to the bugout location unless there is plenty of excess room in the vehicle and it is not a breaking emergency. Get to your bug out destination, unpack, and then assess the situation based on what you saw on your way plus local knowledge from the retreat’s full-time residents. If you or the group needs something, then consider going out to buy it.

Route Planning

Everyone who is going to be bugging out to our place visits us here at least a couple of times a year. If you visit your bugout location, use those trips for route planning. Yes, taking the Interstate most of the way is the fastest under normal conditions, but who is to say you will make the drive in normal conditions? If you visit your bugout location, try doing so without taking interstates.

We did this once years ago, and it took about 20 percent longer to get to our retreat, but it was educational, and we saw a great deal of scenery.

If there are several major cities between you and your intended destination, plan routes that allow you to bypass the city, even if you have to go 100 miles out of your way. You may need to avoid civil unrest, martial law, and shortages.

Planning and Packing for Bugging Out


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