Bugging in

Snyder talks about how he stays prepared for a bug-out situation.

By Ej Snyder

Photo by Emfotografia

You hear the term all the time, "bugging out," and most people believe that when the SHFT that is what everyone will do. However, it’s quite the opposite in my humble opinion. I believe that 90% of the populace will actually stay put and not go anywhere. Those that do “bug out” are only moving to another place to “Bug In” anyways, so everything I am about to present to you applies to both. With that comes the need for home defense as well.

We saw this happen during the COVID-19 pandemic and many folks were not properly prepared to do so. Many people quickly ran out of supplies, food, medical needs and other things very quickly. Store shelves emptied quickly, factories and distribution centers shut down, transporting these things by way of trucks, rail and air came to a halt and so many people in the world were left wondering how they got to this point and how it happened.

All great questions and thoughts, and the answer is very simple...lack of planning! People may say well, this was a once in a lifetime event. But was it? Never make the mistake thinking that a disaster or emergency is not going to come knocking on your door when it comes to you and your loved one’s survival. A myriad of things can happen and will happen. It’s just a matter of when. So, the time is now! This is when planning for these things matters most. The next pandemic, hurricane, earthquake, civil unrest, wildfire, even war, etc. could be just around the corner.

Do not be caught with your pants down, wondering, “why did this happen.” Be the solution to your own problem by acting. You don't need to be a millionaire to prepare. There are lots of budget friendly options to fit all economic situations. Visit ejsnyder.com to see the "Ultimate Bug In and Home Defense" video for mor in depth information. For now, here are some things you can do immediately to start getting ready! There is a plethora of other related items on my website as well.

So, the first of many things you need to do is assess where you are at in your preparedness level. Start a list, organized by category, so that you can get that survival preparedness laundry list going and fill it up. It is a critical step in the process and will help keep you on track, even sane, and make your needs a lot clearer.

I am old school, so I always grab a clean sheet of paper, a pencil and a clip board. Electronic lists are great, but this list is one thing you need to see looking at you in the face every day and often, as a staunch reminder of what you got but more so...what you still need! Here is a sample list and it’s just that, everyone's list will be different.

Bug-in list:



-Extra blankets or sleeping bags


-Backup generator

-Extension cords

-Solar chargers




-Extra fuel for generator and vehicles


-Extra batteries






-Several five-gallon water jugs

-Filter system

-Water bottles (2 for each person)



-Extra non-perishables foods and canned goods


-Cases of dehydrated meals


-Camp meals

-Pots and utensils



-BBQ grill

-Extra propane


-Portable heaters



-Alarm system


-Security lights



-Alternate defense weapons

-Extra ammo

-Mace or pepper spray




-First aid kit

-Prescription medications

-Pain relievers

-Medical equipment

-Extra batteries



While this is just a sample, the point is still present: start listing everything you need on the list. Afterwards, make another couple columns right next to it with one saying "on hand" or "yes" and the other saying "need" or "no." Next to each make a check to where you are at. Next, make a fourth column with "quantity", which is extremely important. It will notate if you have enough and as you consume it is updated. Make a fifth column stating a number that you always want to be as close to as possible for you family’s needs, and then a sixth column for "cost.” Lastly, include notes.

This type of survival matrix, which will be available along with my new upcoming film, will definitely help you out to see the bigger picture to where you are at in your Planning. Now, get after the needs and start filling in where you can immediately, based on your personal situation and budget. You may even highlight or put a little star next to things that are most important to you.

Some budget friendly things you can do for example: if you can’t buy a bunch of five-gallon camp water containers, start saving milk jugs and two-liter plastic bottles. Rinse them out, fill them with water and take a permanent marker and write the current date on them. This way you will know how old they are. I love permanent markers and using them to clearly write dates on items where they are large and visible really helps out.

I mark the expiration dates on all food items, so in my rotation of food I consume stuff that expires first. I only dip into long shelf-life supplies if I have no other options. It’s stuff like this, thinking outside the box and forward, that helps get ahead of the curve. I always look for grocery store sales and when I see canned food deals, I go buy up as much as I am allowed and store it away. You can even plan for every time you go to the store during your regular grocery shopping time that you plan to purchase 3 survival planning items each time. Before you know it, your shelves will fill up fast.

I even visit those great and abundant dollar stores, as it’s surprising how affordable the items in there are and how many quality items a person can get in large numbers without breaking the bank. You can really knock at that list fast, even if you are not on a strict budget.

When it comes to storage, that also depends on your particular domicile situation. Somebody in a rural area, say on a farm, may have several outer buildings and designate one for their Survival Storage area. Suburban types may have a basement or garage to use. This can apply to a town home. For my urbanites things get trickier, but being a professional hoarder, I can tell you that every nook and cranny counts and can be used.

I usually try to suggest to those in apartment situations to think about getting an apartment for what you need in terms of bedrooms, plus one. This way you have sleep spaces for everyone and one extra room that is usually at least a 10-foot by 10-foot size to set up shelving and make it a survival supply storage area. Never forget the laundry rooms, utility closets, attics, crawl spaces and sheds for additional space.

I recommend good sturdy shelves. You can buy some plastic ones of different types and sturdiness, or get some metal racks, or build wooden ones yourself. Even wall lockers can work and give you the ability to lock them up for added security. I also suggest categorizing your shelf or storage areas by type: water, food, medical, etc.

All of these tips and things should now have your mind engorged in the planning and stocking phase of “bugging in.” They say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That holds true here, and I like to say, "Good planning prevents pain!"


Now that you have gotten things straight at your “bug-in” safe zone and things are set and ready for when you and your loved ones arrive, what do you need to actually get you here from where you may be? Well, you never know when, where, how, why or what will cause you to be smack dab in the middle of a catastrophe. Again, planning and preparing are key for when you are. You need to think about and evaluating your particular situation. Where are the possible places you could be when you are away from your domicile?

You could be at work, school, the gym or shopping. You could be on vacation, or at a function, like a family event, a charity fund raiser, a sporting event or anywhere! How will you get from there to where you need to be, and do so safely? Again, it can start with something as simple as a checklist. As an avid survivalist, it is not uncommon for me to have covered all my bases and have multiple set ups all over.

The set ups I am talking about are things like a “get-to-your-car bag,” having your vehicle set up properly, “bug out bags” and even caches. These can be crafted to fit your needs and situations; tailored around your lifestyle. I am not saying that everyone needs to carry a day pack with them everywhere, though some people do. Be practical!

If you go to work and normally carry a briefcase, a shoulder satchel or a purse, these things can be modified and adjusted to act as “get-to-your-car bags.” Some people even bring a separate bag and leave it at their work and others in their school or work locker, so it is always there and ready to go. The “get-to-your-car bag” doesn’t have to be very big because it is just for trying to get from wherever you are to your vehicle. That normally is not a great distance, but you want to make sure that if some reason you cannot make it to your vehicle, it can have enough things in it to cover your needs if now you find yourself on foot and have to huff it out of there!

You may decide to modify something you use regularly like that purse, briefcase or school bag that you always have on you. I recommend putting the items, at least as much as you can, inside a 1-gallon zip lock bag. That way they are all together. In any case here are the items you will want to consider putting your “get-to-your-car bag,” whether modifying your Everyday Carry (EDC) set up or filling a separate bag. Remember that I will list a lot of the things that I highly recommend, but it is up to you to know whether you really need it or can live without certain items. You can also add or subtract anything you feel you need to it that fits your situation like prescription medication for instance. It is also important to consider that many items may not be allowed in the workspace, school building, or government institution. This discretion is up to the reader on what they can carry for their own situation. Items to consider are listed below:

“Get-to-your-car bag” list:

-Bag or one-gallon Ziplock bag

-EDC knife (your choice to help with tasks like a pocketknife, multi-tool, or regular fixed blade or folder)

-Water container (preferably one that filters water, or a steel canteen where you can boil water in)

-Water purification tablets or other means to purify

-Fire starter or lighter

-Small flashlight and/or headlamp with extra batteries


-Emergency blanket and poncho

-Raincoat (great asset to keep you dry and warm)

-Small tarp and 50 feet of paracord

-Snack food like jerky sticks, granola bars, trail mix, etc.

-Small first aid kit with pain meds and prescriptions

-Communication needs: cell phone, small portable radio, walkie talkie, etc.

-Additional self-defense items to protect you (maybe a walking stick, small club, mace, pepper spray, taser, etc.)

-Firearm for protection (local, state, and federal laws definitely apply here)

These items will aid you in getting to your vehicle, keeping you safe and making the situation more manageable. You probably are not going that far but something like civil unrest may be going on with riots and bad actors out and about taking advantage of the situation. In such a case, a mile can seem like 10 miles.

Now that you have reached your vehicle and do not have to head home on foot, “What’s in your trunk?” Your vehicle is now actually a Large “get-you-home bag,” and what is in it matters. You have just increased your capabilities, adding what you are already carrying to the now “get-you-home bag.” Here is how I suggest you outfit that. First, your vehicle needs to be covered, as it is your main support to get you home Below is a List of items and things to consider for your vehicle. Again, user digression is advised, pending various state and federal laws.

“Get-you-home bag” list:

-Vehicle (no matter what your ride is, it needs to be in good working order, serviced, and topped off on all fluids)

-Paper maps (road and topographic)

-Additional communication (optional like a CB, Ham Radio or satellite phone)

-Spare tire with working jack and car iron

-Small tool bag with basic tools in it

-Flashlight with extra batteries

-Road flares (excellent fire starters and signaling devices)

-Extra fuel can, oil and other fluids

-Small shovel

-Tow straps and chains

-Extra fresh water

-Box of Food and a way to prepare it

-Larger tarp,

-Extra rope, cordage or paracord

-Sleeping bag and or blankets

-Possibly another bug-out bag in case of breakdown (beefier than the “get-to-your-car” bag)

-Winter Kit (if in a snowy area, including tire chains, ice melt, snow shovel, candles, winter clothing, etc.)

The vehicle offers a lot of protection from the elements, helps conserve energy and can carry a lot more supplies. The bug-out bag is a very important back up plan for in case your vehicle breaks down or you must bail out of your vehicle due to the situation and must now get home on foot. The argument of what goes in the perfect bug-out bag may never be settled, but for me it’s all about your needs, must haves, budget, situation and what I call plain old “skullcrushing sense!” This is just like common sense but with attitude.

Now that you are rolling in your vehicle heading to your domicile with a backup plan in the trunk, all is well, right? Wrong. It seems the analogical riot has cut off both your primary and alternate routes. Thankfully, you were planning ahead and have a contingency plan that takes you to a “Hold-up” spot at one of several cache sites you planned for and have in place. So, what exactly is a cache site?

A cache site is a location where you can get to either by vehicle, or on foot, that is off the beaten path, so it does not draw attention. This spot should be hidden enough to keep you safe but easy for you to find, day or night. It should be marked in a way so that if anyone sees it, it doesn’t cause them to investigate it. It should provide some cover from eyesight of others, protection from the elements and be easily defendable.

You will also have already hidden supply caches there in some fashion. Whether you bury your caches or simply hide them by camouflage, you need to ensure they cannot be found and pilfered, because you want them there for you when you need them. They will act as ways to support you without dipping into your vehicle set up or bug-out bag, as well as to resupply what you used. There are many ways to set them up. Where you place them needs to have enough space to hide them or bury them. If you are hiding them by camouflage, you can use natural brush. However, over time vegetation dies and turns brown, so I recommend using some military camo netting, or an old canvas tarp that you can spray paint with colors to match the area and season.

I have seen these large fake boulders that look very real in which to hide things. This technique is most vulnerable to theft in my opinion. I personally like to dig a hole and bury stuff. Once in the ground you can cover the cache supplies with an old tarp or some wood and throw the dirt right over top of it. Camouflage the area where it’s buried, and you are good to go. You can mark it in some way to easily be found, but I generally like to make a small strip map of each cache site and pace the buried site off from a known point, like a recognizable tree covertly marked. I also would stash a D-handle shovel somewhere nearby, or in your kit, so you are not stuck using your hands to get to it.

Lastly, I have known folks to just be blatant about it and drop a Connex, dumpster, locker, container or some sort of shed at a spot and just throw a lock and or chains on it. I even knew a guy who used a Port-A-Potty.

Now, the cache supplies themselves can be packaged in many ways. I love old military canvas duffle bags, and I usually stuff the items into heavy-duty leaf trash bags (this is added layer of protection, waterproofing, and preservation) and then tape it closed with duct tape before putting them in the duffle bag to help protect them.

Duffle Bags are generally good for most any items, like extra batteries, gear, food, etc. I also like using footlockers with a lock on them. Plastic heavy duty tote boxes work really well. Place your supplies inside them, separately packaged for protection, then seal them up with Duct Tape. For a third layer of protection, put the totes in heavy-duty leaf trash bags before you are done. All these steps help protect your supplies from the elements and wildlife.

For things like fuel I just use the plastic five-gallon fuel containers and for water I use five-gallon plastic jugs, one-gallon milk jugs, two-liter plastic bottles or the collapsible camp water jugs. I will even have dry cut firewood in plastic trash bags stored, so it’s there and ready to go with a few bags of tinder, kindling and even some fire starter. Things to include at a cache site may include, extra fuel cans, water, firewood, food batteries, extra survival gear and supplies, tents, clothes, extra ammunition, etc.

Together a hold-up site with a cache will give you a place to refit, rest and adjust your plans. You should be able to stay there for a few hours or up to a few days. I normally try to only plan for 72 Hours max, then get mobile and maybe head to the next hold-up/cache site if I can’t get home.

All these things I have talked about here are things you need to be thinking about. You need to be thinking about and planning for your very safety and success in getting back home may depend on it. Having your home ready for bugging in does you no good if you can’t even get there!