Survival Skills for Bugging In and Out

Article written by Dan F. Sullivan from

“You have to have survival skills! No amount of gear, guns and ammo will help you unless you have skill.”

We read something like this in just about any article out there on the topic but few take into account that most folks prepare with specific scenarios in mind. The thing is, there are dozens and dozens of skills you can learn and a lot of them will be pretty much useless in a disaster situation. Sure, the more you know, the better, but being good at all of them is just too time consuming.

Today I want to look at skills from a different angle: their usefulness in a bug-in and bug-out situations. Since you probably already made up your mind about whether you’ll bug in or out, this will help you prioritize them.

Survival Skills for Bugging In

I think the reason most people think they’ll bug in when it finally hits is because it’s easier and less risky. Thus, the survival skills needed to hunker down for longer periods of time of time are also easier to master:

  • Becoming “gray”. With horrible things happening outside, you need to stay indoors and keep quiet. If you can make it look like there’s no one home, you’re less likely to be bothered by neighbors, hungry “zombies” or thugs. You need to avoid making any noises, cooking (because the smell could attract neighbors) or even going outside (unless you don’t have a choice).
  • Gardening. If you’re stuck indoors for a prolonged period of time, you’re gonna need alternate food sources. Sure, you already have a big stockpile but what happens after you consume it? You never know how long the crisis will last so you’ll a renewable food source. An indoor “survival garden” will provide you with fresh, organic veggies that will extend the amount of time you can bug in.
  • Home defense. Home defense is about more than just having a gun. It’s about having the tactical knowledge to keep attackers away even if you’re dealing with a home invasion and you’re outnumbered.
  • Patience. When you’re forced to spend weeks or even months inside your home (possibly with no electricity and no Internet) you’re gonna get pretty bored and you’re gonna feel a big urge to spend more and more time outside. Just try to stay inside for three days and see how you feel. You know what they say, patience is a virtue...

Survival Skills for When You’re Bugging Out

You probably think that bugging out requires exceptional bushcraft skills such as hunting, making shelter out of branches and digging holes in the ground to distil water. My personal opinion is that some of these outdoor skills won’t matter to the average prepper simply because those who are truly prepared have items inside their BOBs to compensate for some of these skills. Items such as:

  • tents, tarps and space blankets to keep them warm,
  • lighters, waterproof matches etc. so they don’t have to use the bow drill method to light a fire,
  • cooking equipment so they don’t have to cook meat on a rock,
  • a LifeStraw to purify water
  • ...and so on.

In fact, it’s likely that even hunting and fishing may not be needed because your bug out will be short and/or you’ll find food along the way.

As I’m writing this, 8,000 refugees are entering Europe each day in the biggest bug out I’ve ever seen. You’ve probably seen the news about how they travelled thousands of miles from Africa and the Middle East to reach developed countries such as Germany and Sweden.

Though I don’t agree with this migration phenomenon, I did notice that this “mega bug-out” is different than we read in survival books and articles. Looking at video footages it’s hard for me to imagine these people hunting. Granted, even if some of them were preppers, they’d be unlikely to hunt for anything else other than squirrels.

Now imagine yourself in a disastrous situation. Where would you bug out? I’m willing to bet you won’t have to travel thousands of miles, like they did. Not on foot, at least. I’m also willing to bet that you’ll find other people along the way who could provide food, water and shelter (this depends on the type of disaster, of course). Thus, the bug out skills list is this one:

  • Fitness. Lots of dangers await you when you’re out there so you need to be in shape. If you can’t walk for long periods of time, especially with a fully-loaded backpack on your back, you’re toast. Not to mention you have to be able to run, jump, climb and fend off attackers.
  • Negotiation skills. As long as you have money (assuming it’ll still worth something), you should be able to buy or trade for basic supplies. I still remember the photo of a refugee selling pens with one hand, while holding his daughter in his arms. This is proof that our perceptions of bug outs and what will actually happen or what we might be forced to do are very different than what traditional survival teaches us.
  • Foraging. I’m placing foraging before fishing because wild edibles are more available than fish. Plus, they don’t need cooking or any equipment to be harvested. Plants such as cloves, dandelion greens and ground ivy are very common and jam-packed with micro-nutrients.
  • Fishing. All you need is a pole, a rod and a hook. Packing them in your bug out bag is easy and they take little space. Fishing is a great way to get some protein, it’s easier than hunting, so you can teach it to your kids.
  • Self-Defense. When you’re out there, you’re a target. My guess is you’ll have more problems with other people than with animals, so you need to learn basic self-defense skills as well as having and knowing how to use self-defense weapons.

In addition, you’ll also need to know:

  • how to read a map,
  •  how to get out of a riot and how to deal with rioters,
  • when someone’s following you
  • etc.

Well, those were it. These were the skills to focus on as you’re prepping for the scenario most likely to hit you but don’t stop here. If there’s a skill missing from these lists that makes sense for you and for your prepping plans, go ahead and work on it. Even better, write it in a comment below.

Stay safe,

Dan F. Sullivan

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