Over the summer, a hotly debated pair of articles addressed what the author calls the fallacy of the bug out.
If you haven't read it yet, you might want to familiarize yourself with the premises along with views challenging the current trajectory of preparation that many of us have chosen. It is not so much that the author is wrong since we are all speculating, but instead, regardless of what direction your prepper’s compass points, you must accept some assumptions as true in order to move on to the solution phase. The author just runs wild with some assumptions, and as far as I can tell, throws up his hands in surrender to the unknown.
My two main concerns with articles such as these is that many readers will use them as evidence of pending doom and fail to digest the take-aways that could benefit one’s own preparation. At worst, the articles can be used by the ill-informed as evidence to make fun of preppers at best, and encourage inaction at worst. Another concern is that the BOB or bug out bag will fall victim of the so-called fallacy as well.
There are plenty of examples where the BO is a fallacy. For instance, if the world is totally irradiated in an all-out nuclear way, then I for one have not sufficiently preped, nor have a place to BO to. My bad. I should have built that space ship when I had the chance.
But if there is a wide scale shortage of food, fuel, or electricity, I can ride it out for a while. Even if there is mild to serious civil unrest, I have plans so while my survival is not assured, I will have an above average chance of beating the odds by being a minimum of one step ahead of the rest of society. At least that’t what I think.
The article’s author presents a compelling case for bugging in (as well as pretty much giving up all hope). And he’s right. On the bugging in part. If one bugs out for fun, you call it camping, or traveling, or vacationing, or visiting relatives. The BO is for when you don’t have a choice and you’re not doing it for fun. But that certainly doesn't mean your BO plans lives in vein. And the same is true for the BOB.
The BOB is not a gun, knife, roll of duct tape and a granola bar. The BOB is a portable insurance policy you are allowed to write yourself. Each item included in your BOB can be a lifesaver, or a liability. And like insurance, everything is a gamble. I honesty hope my BOB gathers dust for the rest of my life.
If we could analyze and deconstruct a realistic TEOTWAEKI ex post facto, or even just a localized SHTF event, there would be several important angles to study. First, the nature of the event itself. Another would be the public reaction. A third would be the secondary effects, and finally, the duration of the recovery phase. Preppers must consider each aspect that requires assumptions, and then move forward further piling on the assumptions on previous assumptions. And each aspect can be prepared for well or poorly.
Most weekend preppers have tunnel vision when it comes to functional preparedness. Health cannot be improved with more ammo. The best tactical flashlight will not make up for those dozens of extra pounds you’re packing around. And two tanks of gasoline won’t protect you if you have nowhere to go (as you might have noticed when pulling off the interstate to pee, you will most likely go to where everyone else also chose to go before you).
Prepper’s networks might be your gig, or perhaps you’ve got a Kaczynski Kabin tucked away off-grid in the sticks. Regardless of your bend, you have to be useful, whether to the group or to yourself if you want to see tomorrow.
So back to the scenario. You don’t need a list of bad things that could happen, but it might be helpful to consider time banding the BOB. A 72 hour kit is a different beast compared to a BOB. Three days of stuff is to keep you from becoming a bigger problem while the immediate problem is solved.
A BOB is your parachute after you bail out. The BOB is not to be taken lightly, nor is it to be treated as just more survival supplies. The BOB is your last attempt at maintaining a structured and controlled existence. The BOB must match the knowledge you carry in your brain. The BOB is an the physical manifestation of your intelligence and your plans. One peek into your BOB and I can tell if you will be an asset or a liability.
Your BOB is a personal extension of the persona you will have during a disaster. You can outfit your BOB with what you want to be during the event hoping you’ll become that person. Or you can take a serious look at who you are and what you need to survive. Many of the most adept survivalists (climbers, hunters, adventurers, outdoors folks) I know are also the most minimalist. They carry nothing they haven't used (let alone something they don’t know how to use). And as expected, much of their equipment is surprisingly low tech, but never low quality.
There is a tradeoff between quality and quantity. Would you be better off with a dozen cheap Chinese knives or one Benchmade? How about a case of Hi-Points, or a single Glock? Food for thought? Nope.
Would you rather have two pairs of cheap shoes or one good pair? How about an endless supply of leaky raincoats or one nice Gore-Tex one? How about a parking lot of junky trucks or one that runs perfectly?
There are subtle elements of hoarding that seep into prepping in general and BOBs in specific. I do not want a single piece of substandard equipment in my BOB, or in any other aspect of my prepping. It often startles me how quickly free crap is gobbled up at trade shows and conferences. How many crappy flashlights do you need? Weak keyring carabiners? Total crap daypacks and cheap shoulder bags? Garbage pocket knifes. I’ll give you the answer: ZERO. In many cases you would be better off without the garbage equipment.
If you ever have to dig through a bin of junky just-in-cases looking for that single good one, or sift through a pile of look-alikes in search of the real one, then you know that having those quality decoys are a detriment to solid preparation. But let’s get back on message.
There are several real-life needs for a proper BOB that don’t involve piles of corpse or mass civil unrest. The BOB can go into action from just a few unorganized events. Add a touch of panic, and criminal opportunism and you and BOB will be good friends. You don’t have to imagine a localized issue such as a disease outbreak, gas line explosion, chemical leak making land unlivable for a while if not for ever, forest fire, flood, and my favorite, airplane crash into your neighborhood to justify the BOB. Instead, your insurance policy against the unknown is its own justification.
My BOB is not going to get me through any level four biosafety release, or give me a fighting chance against an invading army, but it will buy me some time, and give me the piece of mind for protection and to put some distance between me and the threat.
So the fallacy of the BOB can be argued while sliding your glass back and forth on polished wood, or while picking at the label on your longneck, but when the SHTF, my BOB and me, we’re best buds.