What can refugees teach us about bugging-out.

Walking away
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Bugging-Out (prepping): Grabbing a specially packed bug-out bag and quickly leaving a disaster zone.

Most of us will never have been forced to abandon our homes in a hurry.  Thankfully many will never have lived through a situation where we need to make a life and death decision between staying where we were or bugging-out.  We are in fact very lucky that this subject remains entirely academic.

Sadly this is not the case for everyone and there continue to be people who are forced to make these decisions daily.  My goal is to examine some of the things that they do and integrate their real experience into our own plans.

Making the decision to Bug-Out

No one should consider bugging-out unless they are forced into it by circumstance.  In the prepping community there tends to be an emphasis on bugging out as a solution to all potential problems.  Unfortunately there are very few discussions around the very real dangers that come along with trying to change locations in a disaster scenario.

To me this highlights the first lesson that we can learn from refugees; bugging out should always be a last resort.  It should only be attempted if and when all other alternatives are exhausted and there is too much danger in staying put.  If we were to look at the The Prepper Pyramid only Catastrophic or worse emergencies are really appropriate to this type of decision.  Simply said it’s an act of desperation.

The second thing we can learn is that bugging out requires a destination that will provide a significantly better situation.  It is vital that you are bugging-out to somewhere and not simply “going on the road”.  This will also provide you both a goal and hope.

Bugging-out is a desperate last resort and should not be done without careful thought. Click To Tweet
How to Bug-Out

Having read a lot of articles about what refugees have carried with them I’ve consolidated my notes it into a few insights that can be used to shape what you bring when you bug-out.

Travel Light and Blend in

Many refugees leave with almost nothing, sometimes due to circumstance and sometimes on purpose.   This is yet another affirmation on the importance of skills over stuff.  Stuff can also easy be lost either through accident or because you have made yourself a target.  Inline with this many also brought items which they knew would help them “not look like a refugee” in their new surroundings.

Keep ID and Keep in touch

Almost all will have ID and keep a cellphone with a backup battery or charger.  Being able to prove who you are is important especially when you have virtually nothing else with you.  It can make all the difference in terms of the potential support you receive.  I talk more about the importance of a passport in my last blog Preparing for a National Emergency.  Ensuring that you have a way to communicate is equally import.  You need a way to contact the people that you trust who can potentially support you either just as a sounding board or in more tangible ways.

Mementos are important

Almost all will carry a memento of good times.  The mental side of prepping is as important as the physical side and with bugging-out even more so.  Many “professional” survivalists say that the most important thing is keeping your mental game strong and not giving up.  Having an object that reminds you of those you love or those that are important to you is a significant part of this.  This is very infrequently spoken about in the prepping community but is a vital part of staying alive.  If you don’t believe me read this speech given by a holocaust survivor [Start at the bottom of the first page].

Mementos play a vital role in bugging-out. What are you carrying to give yourself hope? Click To Tweet


As you can see there is a lot that we can learn from refugees about this subject.  As a follow up I recommend these two articles on what refugees carry.  They provide a sad but real reminder of what could happen to anyone.  Passport, lifejacket, lemons: What Syrian refugees pack for the crossing to Europe and What’s in my bag – What refugees bring when they run for their lives.   I will also be posting more on the subject of bugging-out and it’s smarter cousin bugging-in in the future.

Stay Safe


Prepper Montreal

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