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Survival Skills: Bugging In

Cynthia is a gardening enthusiast. She has a green thumb and always plants a variety of items for harvesting during gardening season.

I'm not planning to leave home in a SHTF or doomsday scenario. I'll be staying at home with my family. We will 'bug in', not out. 'Bugging in' is the sensible option for those who either:

  • Those with no bug out location.
  • Are not healthy enough to consider bugging out.
  • Live off-grid, are well established homesteaders and completely self sustained.
  • Believe home is where your heart is and you refuse to leave regardless of the situation.
  • Those with elderly family members.

Bugging in is not all fun and games. Your daily life will change significantly. But if you choose to bug in, you need to start planning to meet your basic needs. It is time to consider long term sustainability for your family while bugging in.

What are your odds of survival

Weather can be unpredictable, are you prepared for survival under all weather conditions?

Weather can be unpredictable, are you prepared for survival under all weather conditions?

Cover the Basics

If you are a returning reader you will know I follow the 5 P's rule (Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance). Proper planning can mean the difference of survival and death in many situations. If you are like me you'll have a very limited budget for survival items. I have no budget set aside exclusively for prepping for survival scenarios. Preserving and growing food are more of a lifestyle for me than most.

The keys to survival at home are the same as in the wilderness. It is much like homesteading. Here are a few items that should be at the top of your survival preps:

  • Water sources - clean viable drinking water for you and your family. And clean water for any animals as well.
  • Food - while storing food now is a start; you need to look toward the future. Once all hell breaks loose you will not be stocking up at Costco anymore! Gardening and livestock will be essential for long term survival.
  • Shelter - In this case not just sheltering from the elements. You need to be able to defend your home if bugging in. Your animals need shelter as well. You will need to protect your machines from the elements. Repair shops will be a thing of the past.

Also keep in mind, even if society has collapsed the need to prepare for natural disasters, accidents, and illness will still exist. Here is a list of potential survival scenario events you should consider preparing for:

  • Influenza
  • Earthquakes
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Drought
  • Hurricane
  • Poisoning
  • Tsunami
  • Tornado
  • Volcano
  • Blizzards

Some of these threats are limited to specific locations. Here in West Virginia I will not likely have to worry about Volcanos erupting. Unless of course the Yellowstone Caldera decides to blow its top. You should decide which events need to be considered. How will you handle these things when there is no electricity, no fuel, and no stores or emergency rooms?

Prepare for every challenge you may encounter. If you plan to bug in, don't just focus on hoarding food, guns, ammunition and water. You need to also keep in mind the 'what if's' of day to day survival.

Many people overlook simple medical supplies. Imagine an outbreak of influenza among your family with no access to a doctor or emergency room! Everyone puking and becoming dehydrated. How will you react, what will you do?

Water is the single most important item you should be storing. But storing enough bottled water for long term survival will be a challenge.

Water is the single most important item you should be storing. But storing enough bottled water for long term survival will be a challenge.

Water and Food Rations

In the event you bug in and need to live off the land, water is a huge concern. More so if you have large livestock. Take into consideration that a cow needs 14 gallons of fresh water a day. Smaller livestock like goats will need 3-4 gallons a day. That's on top of what water the family needs daily.

The average water consumption for a person is 64 ounces a day. Keep in mind this is in today's society with an average calorie intake of 1900 per day.

In a survival setting as our physical activity increases so does the need to intake more water. The human body can lose up to 2 liters per hour in a hot working environment, making proper hydration key to survival. None of this even factors in the amount of water used for personal hygiene. Don't expect to be able to turn on your tap and have a reliable source of fresh water. Start planning your supply of water!

If you choose to use the natural water sources around your land, streams, creeks and rivers it must be processed to kill bacteria first. In the likelihood that you are bugging in you need to plan for food not only for your human counterparts but any animals as well. An average human consumes 1,996 pounds of food a year. If you have a family of 4 you need 7,984 pounds of food to survive a year.

A cow that is milking requires 100 pounds of food a day. That is a lot of feed when you can't make a trip to Southern States, or Tractor supply for grain. You may want to opt for goats to milk instead, as a cheaper alternative. On average goats eat 5 lbs of hay per day, plus grain they eat during milking (milking takes 3-5 minutes for a seasoned milker).

When planning your food and water storage you need to keep in mind the amounts listed above. If you are not currently gardening then you will not have a harvest to look forward to, so you better have a stockpile.

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If you are gardening consider the amount of water you will need for the crops as well. Investing in a rain catchment and dispersal system will be beneficial. You will likely want to look into an irrigation system for your crops that recycles your graywater.


Medical Supplies and Antibiotics

Failure to properly prepare for the unknown illness and flu season can be deadly. You need to know some basics to survive medical crisis and illnesses in a doomsday scenario.

  • Antibiotics

The odds of having access to an emergency room or doctors office will be slim to none in the event of a doomsday scenario. Likely these places will be the first to be looted by some who failed to properly prepare, as well as the drug seeking criminal element. Humans can use certain fish antibiotics, obtained without a prescription. This is a relatively inexpensive option when weighing the possibility of death in a survival setting due to an untreated infection.

It is important to remember that you will not want to use these for every sniffle and sneeze that comes about. Over use of antibiotics (even fish mox) can potentially cause resistant strains of bacteria and infections that will lead to death. I am an advocate for trying to let things run their course, and using the medicinal properties of plants when I can. I avoid using antibiotics; the simple fact of resistant bacteria is enough to make me seek alternatives.

The more antibiotics you take now the higher your chances of not being able to fight off simple ailments later due to resistance. According to the CDC, every year 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria. Of those hospitalized deaths directly relating to the bacteria total 23,000 a year. Many others will die of other conditions that the bacteria caused complications with.

Before you go out to the corner pet shop and start buying all the fish antibiotics you can fit in your truck, you need to be sure they are people friendly antibiotics! These should not be used as an alternative to going to the doctor currently. Only in the event of a survival scenario should you consider using fish antibiotics.

Alternatives to RX drugs in a survival setting.

Security and Seclusion

In a bugging-in scenario your main shelter will be your home. It is important to consider all aspects of what will no longer exist following a catastrophic event. You will most likely be living completely off-grid. No longer having the amenities of convenience you were once used to.

Power plants and water plants will likely shut down. Going to the store to buy a clamp or nails will be a thing of the past. If you have not stored any hardware or tools you will be in a rough spot should you need to do even simple repairs to your home or compound.

You also need to think of security and seclusion of your home. If you are in an urban setting or highly populated area, bugging in will greatly reduce your survival odds. Unless you have a penthouse apartment complete with a deluxe panic room.

Is your home in a highly visible area? I am not saying you need to pack up and move, but being visible will increase the odds of the criminal element showing up for a snack and taking over your home.

For security purposes consider planting trees and large shrubs to keep the visibility to your home limited. If all corners of your home are visible to the outside world, you will not likely be able to watch all sides at once. Unless you are willing to invest in CCTV (closed circuit television) and do nothing but stare at the screen all day watching your borders. Of course, most CCTV will require electricity so look for solar-powered options.

When planting to reduce visibility you should plant a little bit differently than you would for modern landscaping. You want to plant things in such a way as to give the illusion that they are naturally occurring and totally random. Avoid looking planned and manicured to perfection as many home landscapes are.

Avoid planting in straight lines at all, and plant many different varieties of indigenous plants around your perimeter.

While firearms are great for protection; not having any intruders would be better. right? You should always be able to defend your home from intruders. I am not saying you need an arsenal, you just need security measures and a few firearms even if you do not intend to use them. The sight and fear firearms will be used may be enough; assuming you present yourself with authority. Although sometimes intruders may simply return better-prepared next time.

You might choose to create an inexpensive perimeter alarm with high tension wire and soup cans. Very inexpensive and highly effective.

Hiding or camouflaging the soup cans is important. While most people won't notice a thin wire a soup can is anything but low profile. Tie 3-4 cans to the wire every 10-15 feet for optimal coverage. Make sure your perimeter fence is far enough away to give you time to react, while close enough that you will here it.

Our home is not 100% hidden but we are inaccessible from the visible sides, unless someone wants to brave the fast moving rapids of the river and swim over, then climb straight up a cliff. We are more hidden when the forests are in bloom. If this is the case with you too, plant pine trees as they do not lose all their needles during autumn and winter, thus providing coverage for your home throughout the year.


Alternative Energy Sources

The likelihood of the electric and consumer gas or water remaining in flux after a catastrophic event is inconceivable. However if you decide to bug in, there are many alternative energy sources on the market to help meet your energy and heating needs.

  1. Solar power systems are a bit on the expensive side but well worth it today and for the future. Think long term, and look into the upkeep as well. Don't just invest in solar panels. You'll need storage batteries and an inverter if you want to have power throughout the night. You can start small and increase the size of your solar power system as money becomes available.
  2. Wood as an alternative heat source is very common. The only cost involved is your wood stove and hours spent chopping wood. Well worth the initial investment to survive.
  3. Consider raising pigs. Their fecal matter can be turned into natural gas. As the feces breaks down it releases methane. With the right set up you can convert this as an alternative heat source. Keep in mind this conversion should not be taken lightly and the gas produced is 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide, so It will not be as potent as its natural counterpart. Yet, when faced with no heat source it is an option. You may have many components to the set up already, but remember you'll need to house and feed your pigs.
  4. If you live in a high wind area you could consider a windmill. A windmill is much like an electric generator connected to your home. The wind blowing turns the blades and builds up the generator's charge. To be most effective, you'll need a complete system with storage batteries to hold power for use when the wind drops.
  5. Tallow can be used for survival candles. This way at least you would not be sitting in the dark. Rendering tallow is very simple especially since it is rendered from the fat of animals. Assuming your going to eat some form of animal for survival, save the fat make a candle! Tallow has a wealth of purposes, candles, soap and more! Waste not want not, all the parts of your livestock can serve a purpose, especially in a survival scenario.

I suggest comparing the cost and maintenance of wind vs solar energy when planning an alternative energy source. Keep in mind you need sun or wind to be able to do either. In the event that a volcanic eruption is the reason for the survival scenario, the sun will be hidden behind a blanket of ash clouds and leave solar panels useless.

Staying Warm

Can you access heat sources in every situation? The best option is wood. In many areas, trees and fallen branches are readily available. Plus chopping wood gives you a good workout and warms you up.

Can you access heat sources in every situation? The best option is wood. In many areas, trees and fallen branches are readily available. Plus chopping wood gives you a good workout and warms you up.

Simple Tallow Candle

Research is Essential

I can not stress the importance of research in general. So many people go to the first article they see and take it as gospel. Make sure you research everything properly and in depth. Especially when it is something you will be putting into your body!

The Red Cross website will give you a wealth of information about the types of needs surrounding natural disaster preparedness. If you are a beginner I suggest checking it out. If looking to learn more about antibiotics and resistant strains of bacteria the CDC has some interesting information.

When looking for survival information, consider military survival sites or other reputable sites and books. Not all independent bloggers do research, though some do. Others use filler content that sounds good yet is inaccurate. I enjoy reading survival blogs, yet I do my own research if I find a topic they are discussing that I may not personally be familiar with.

In my experience, the most helpful information about bugging-in comes from folk already homesteading and living off the grid. Particularly families living off grid. Parents with children face the challenge of powering their homes, harvesting rainwater, growing food supplies and coping in a world where we need to be self-reliant. In a bug-in situation, these are the skills we'll all need for survival. Which is why I continue to compare notes and swap hints with my like-minded friends!

© 2015 Cynthia Hoover


Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 13, 2020:

I have written articles that cover water issues and all aspects of what to expect and prepare for during a pandemic, disaster or any type of event that would cause a need for survival skills.

You will always have family or friends that are not prepared, and honestly I personally could not turn people away if I had ample supplies.

Stay safe and be prepared, just don't panic when a catastrophe arises, panic creates chaos.

don-noel on November 05, 2017:

just found your blog, you hit a lot of points on the head.... I realize I might be preaching to the choir, but just a couple "food for thoughts".....

What to do with your non-prep "Well, I'll just come to your house" friends or family? The answer to that is personal to everyone, but it would definitely raise a dilemma to many if they had to turn away someone, especially if children were involved. Unless you know that someone could actually bring something to the table (skill set, materials, fellow prepper, etc), do you even let someone know that you are prepping?

Another would be sanitation/hygiene. Insert name of disaster has occurred, and power is gone. Not only would water stop from the tap, but a working sewer system would be gone soon as well. Most folks don't realize how much water (literally) goes down the toilet, and even fewer realize that sewage doesn't just magically disappear. Also, what to do with the wrappers from all the prepackaged food you have stored up..... anyone roaming by could see a growing pile of garbage, possibly revealing your location. If you burn it, smoke can be seen for miles.

Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on May 14, 2015:

Thank you, It is beautiful here colorfulone! Sorry it took so long to respond, weather issues and internet don't mix here at my little slice of heaven! The Supervolcano is a scary situation, though it really depends on the level of the eruption too, its been what 600,000 years since the Culdare has had a full scale eruption - small eruptions happen all the time, in the form of the gases released in the hot springs ect magma + water in chambers = the steam and hot water. Not that I am saying not to prepare for it, just do not fret to much about it and make your self sick with worry. The likelihood of a full scare eruption is minimal - as far as the data is concerned. I did watch the SuperVolcano on Netflix like you mentioned, it was great!

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on May 01, 2015:

Cynthia, this is a great article and very helpful. I live in a wilderness area and am locked and loaded. I am going to look into windmills to charge batteries. We have so many big old tall trees in the front yard so it is hard to see the house from the road. While they provide some camouflage and shade in the summer, solar panels are not the best alternative. Especially not in the case of a Yellowstone Supervolcano.

Thank you for so much information on the hub to follow up on. I will be reading and learning more in days to come.

BTW, it sounds like your home is in a beautiful location. Stay safe!

Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 29, 2015:

LOL! poetryman6969 "shelter in place" is a good comparison! Perhaps they were trying to prepare us since those old black and white shelter in place videos first came out! I think once the government gains control of the situation I would still be over looked. Living in the boonies has its advantages and disadvantages! You may want to look into "The Zombie Survival Guide" one if my favorite books (not affiliated just enjoyed it) full of scenarios I would have never thought of!

Zombie goats would be easier to get away from! Smaller and easier to tackle if needed!

Water is essential that is for sure, yet if it takes months for the government to move in and help - what will you eat (besides your zombie goat that is).

poetryman6969 on March 29, 2015:

Prefer zombie goats over zombie cows. Got it!

I intend to die with my last of my electronic toys.

I figure all I need is enough water until the government comes and rescues me. They're here to help!

This bugging in is an interesting concept. Is this what they mean by "shelter in place?"

Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on February 24, 2015:

Thank you cygnetbrown! We often find ourselves without power too. We have well water so electricity is directly related to our water supply. We are currently flooded in too, thankfully no power outage yet this winter (knock on wood). It is great to find some like minded people here on hubpages! Not many people put food up for the winter these days, it is a forget practice. I really enjoyed the three sisters tale, I read it to my son. I am sure he does not understand it yet (he is 18 months). With repetition over time I think it will be a tale he will tell his children!

Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on February 24, 2015:

You have covered a lot of information here. Being prepared for natural disasters that are likely to occur is a good way to test preparedness. About eight years ago my family and I lived in a house where there was no electricity for ten days in the middle of winter. We had no electrical source, we heated and cooked on a woodstove. Our biggest challenge was having enough water to water the chickens and goats, we made do by melting ice. Food was not a problem because we had enough to last through the winter (a habit I learned from my mother who learned it from her mother.)

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