Chance favors the prepared!

Bugging out – Categories of 3

Bugging out represents a major disaster scenario, especially for me. I’d much rather bug in and “ride the disaster out” at home if at all possible. But I also understand not having plans for bugging out is a recipe for disaster. So I have created plans in the unfortunate event that I have to leave my home.

I have written several articles on the importance of having plans for bugging out. (There are links to those articles at the bottom of this page.) In the event of a disaster scenario, having bug out plans in place will help you to remain calm, and will make the whole process much more manageable. Let’s face it, if you are bugging out, it mean you are in a potential dangerous situation.

Part of my bug out plans involve where I am bugging out to, my intended bug out route, bug out communication plans, etc. I also have the items, equipment, gear, etc that I intend to take with me when bugging out. In a perfect world, all of that would go with me.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. And emergencies will NOT happen the way we plan.

I realize that an emergency situation could happen in which I would not be able to take all of the things with me that I wanted or planned. So I prioritized what I was grabbing, and what I was going to have to leave behind in the event that I have to bug out. I did this by breaking down my bug out items into 3 categories. I called this my Categories of 3s.

3 Seconds

The first category, as the name implies, is what I could take with me when I have to leave IMMEDIATELY! What can I grab in 3 seconds as I’m running out the door. I would not have time to grab my preps and gear. Instead I have to grab myself and my family and go! But I don’t want to leave empty-handed. So I include items from my EDC in this category.

Situations like a house fire, earthquake, etc come to mind. In this situation, I am running out the door with the clothing on my back and my EDC. (Click the link for more info on my EDC.) This could also include situations where I would have to bug out from work or some other location, and not be able to go home.

When developing my 3 Second plan, I first looked at what I would most likely be doing if I were at home and had to bug out. Let’s face it, we spend a majority of our time at home in bed asleep. (Americans average around 7 hours of sleep a night. That comes out to 2555 hours a year, or over 106 days a year in bed asleep!) So the probability of me being in bed and/or asleep if things go south is high.

Like the majority of people, I don’t sleep in my clothes, and would not have my EDC on me in bed. So I adjusted my plans to account for this. I had to find a way to include my EDC if I had to wake up suddenly and make a mad dash out of the house.

Before I go to bed, I have my clothes (that I will wear the next day) hanging on a hook on my closet door. I have the EDC items like my pocket flashlight, pocketknife, wallet, belt etc already in the pants that I will be wearing the next morning. That way when I put on my pants, those items are already on my person. I won’t have to waste any time trying to grab them in a mad dash out the door. Nor will I have to try to find them should it be dark when I’m leaving.

Click here to get your keychain USB drive

I have shoes and socks beside my bed. My cell phone, truck keys, and my EDC firearm are on my little desk right by my bed. I used to keep my truck keys hanging on a hook by my front door. But I wondered what would happen if I made to make a quick exit out the back door? Or a window? What if I couldn’t get to the front door? I realized then I wanted the keys within reach of me when jumping out of bed!

On my key ring I have a mini-USB drive. I store important documents such as birth certificates, insurance information, etc. Click here to learn more about what sort of documents you should have stored.

I do have my EEDC bag (that’s my version of a Go-bag) that I either keep in my truck, or right by my bed. Either way I can grab that as I’m exiting my house!

3 Minutes

For the next category, I thought about situations where I might have just a few minutes to grab some gear and go. These emergency situations could include events such as tornadoes, approaching wildfires, floods, medical emergencies, etc. It is at this point that I began to prioritize the gear and supplies I wanted to go with me, and what I would leave behind. In most circumstances, I would be heading to my bug out location. This is where I store a majority of my gear and supplies. But there is still gear and supplies I keep at home that I would want to bring with me if possible.

Some items that I want with me when bugging out I keep at home because I use them in my day-to-day life. (My 5-11 3 in 1 parka is one example. I use this at home but want it with me if I bug out.) This is especially true if it is fall or winter season. Hence it is in my 3 minute category.

While I would like to store most of my firearms on my homestead, my job requires that I have them on me daily for work. So my rifle bag is another item I’m grabbing. In it I have one of my AR-15s, my sling, and a few loaded magazines. I also have a few spare mags for my Glock. My purpose for grabbing it is that I need these tools for my work, and I am always subject to call out. As for my ammo stores, they are of course stored at my homestead. So the “range” ammo I do store at my house would be left behind.

While I am not overly worried about water in a long-term disaster, I will grab the water that I have stored at my house. I have about 15 one gallon containers. To make them easier to move, I have them sitting in 3 totes on my storage shelf. While we collect rain water on the homestead, it has not been treated. Yes, we have the means and ability to treat it, but I figured having fresh water for the first day or two of a major SHTF event frees us up to do other things.

I also have plastic storage bins with items such as my battery supplies, emergency candles, duct tape and zip ties, fire starting and tinder material, rope and paracord, etc. Depending upon the situation, I will most likely be grabbing these as well. (See top pic)

My I.N.C.H bag

I don’t have food listed in this category, although in a few situations I might grab some. If I’m headed to my bug out location, I’m not grabbing food at all. I have more than enough there and won’t waste the time or space with it. (I do keep an ice chest in my truck with some Clif bars and protein bars.) If for some strange reason I’m bugging out to somewhere else, I do have some SOS Life raft bars (3600 calories per bar) and MREs I would grab in a pinch. I keep them with my I.N.C.H. bag. (I’m Never Coming Home)

Food for bugging out might be much more important for you. You know your situation better than anyone else. And you will have to set your priorities.

3 Hours/30 Minutes

When I first came up with this category, I initially decided that in some situations I might have a 3 hour window to bug out. Events like hurricanes, regional power loss, and other serious SHTF scenarios could fall into this category. But I quickly realized that I needed to radically speed up my time frame. So I reduced this from 3 hours down to 30 minutes. There are 2 reasons for this.

The first reason is that as a law enforcement officer, I would most likely be called up for duty for a disaster of this scale. I have been called up before for events such as the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. So in that regard, I wanted to be able to help my family get packed and on their way to our homestead before I had to leave and go to work.

The second reason is that if I have a 3 hour notice of an impending disaster situation, most likely a lot of other people would have that same notice. And the last thing I would want is to be caught up in the ensuing chaos that could result in the mass exodus of people all trying to get out of harms way. I want and need to beat them out-of-town!

Now 30 minutes might seem like a lot of time. But I truly believe that in this situation, I may not be returning home. At least not for a while. So in essence, I will want to grab as much as possible before bugging out. In reality, that 30 minutes will FLY by! So I have to really prioritize what I’m grabbing. And I have to ensure that I have the means and ability to transport it.

Great place to get your medical kits

Obviously I would start by grabbing the items in my 3 minute category. But now I would include the medicines and medical supplies I have at my house. While I would load up my pets in the above categories, I would now grab some food for them as well. Having a little 72-hour kit for your pets is not a bad idea.

I will certainly grab more than one or two pairs of clothes. I’d be grabbing more bedding than just a blanket or two. I’m grabbing my toiletries and extra sanitation supplies. I’ll grab some of my hand tools and some extra body armor.

If you give yourself a 3 hour window, please understand that the longer you take to bug out, the more you risk things such as: severe traffic congestion, the gradual break down of societal laws and norms, the disaster spreading more quickly than you expected, etc. Having your priorities set ahead of time will help to speed up this process!

Some Hints and Tips

Get your plastic totes here

Even with your plans in place, major disasters and/or catastrophic events will cause great amounts of stress and anxiety. So doing as much as you can before disaster strikes will help to take some of that pressure off of you. In addition to separating your gear into the above categories, here are some other hints and tips to make bugging out a bit easier:

  • Try to store your gear in the same areas. The majority of my 3 minute gear and supplies are all stored in the same area. This will cut down on my having to run all over the house grabbing things. This in turn will help save me time, and hopefully make sure that I do not forget anything.
  •  As mentioned above, write down your gear on a list. Make a 3 minute list and a 3 hour list. This also helps to make sure that you do not forget anything. It also makes it easier when you have family members/prepper group members helping you load. I’d use this as a checklist, crossing off items as they are loaded. Having a list will make it easier to track what supplies you already have, and what items you might still need to get
  • Use boxes or plastic totes to store your gear. This will make organizing it and loading it easier. I typically use clear/see thru totes so that I know what gear is inside. I also tend to organize my supplies according to use. For example, my ropes, zip ties, duct tape, etc are all stored together in a tote. My fire sources and light sources are stored together. Etc I prefer plastic storage totes over cardboard since things like moisture can ruin cardboard over time. The totes I use come with lids, which helps to keep the critters and unwanted pests out of my gear
  • Have a practice/dry run or two loading your bug out gear beforehand. Knowing ahead of time how much you can reasonably carry in your vehicle(s) will make it easier for you to categorize your gear. In the middle of bugging out is the WORST time to realize that not all of your gear will fit. This will also make it easier if you find yourself having to load up in the dark or inclement weather!
  • Pets can sense danger, and they can sense when you are stressed, fearful, etc. So have plans in place for them. Click the link for more on prepping for pets
  • Unplug electrical items such as TVs, lamps, etc. Leave appliances like your refrigerator plugged in unless you are worried about flooding.
  • Secure your home. Make sure all doors and windows are locked
  • Depending upon your situation, you may need to turn off the electricity, water, and/or gas to your home. Know how to do this ahead of time
  • Always keep your vehicle gas tank AT LEAST half full and your phone charged. Gas stations may be closed, or you may not have time to stop for gas. (For more daily prepper tips, click here.) If you think you might be evacuating soon, fill up your tanks ASAP.
  • In addition, is the maintenance on your vehicles up to date? Are your vehicles in good working order? This helps ensure that your vehicles are working properly when you need them the most!
  • You might let family/friends outside the affected area know where you are headed if they are not in on your plans. If they are, let them know you are bugging out

Final Thoughts

I did not break down every single bug out item that I have, or how I have categorized them. Instead, I gave you a general overview, and some of my thinking behind my process. I  did this in hopes that it will encourage you to look at your gear and preps and realize that you should prioritize as well. You will know better than anyone what your situation is, and what preps should be in what categories.

Great place to get your survival gear

You hopefully understand that as the old saying goes, “The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry”.  Hence you need to have contingency plans in place AND discussed with members of your family and/or prep group. What if disaster strikes while you are at work and you can’t make it home? You have to activate your bug out plans with any family that might be at home. This could drastically alter what your priorities would be.

What if your bug out plans include taking multiple vehicles, but now one of the cars won’t start? Or it breaks down on your way out of town. Now what? In the unlikely event that my family and I have to bug out on foot, I contingency plans to deal with this.

Do you have your items and categories listed? That way you don’t forget something, and could even give part of the list to family members who can help you load up.

Will all the gear on your list actually fit into your vehicle?

Do those family members know where all the stored bug out gear is? When it comes to loading your vehicle(s), do you have a system for loading your bug out preps? Does your family/group know where it goes? Do they understand what should be a priority when it comes to the items they want to grab? While some items will certainly have sentimental value, do you really have the time, space, and energy to spare for them? In the middle of bugging out is not the time to have an argument with Grandma about bringing a box of family photo albums!

These are all things you should have figured out BEFORE you need to bug out.

And finally, there will those who say “I have my BOB (Bug Out Bag) so that I don’t have to worry about loading up and leaving. I can just walk out the door with that.” And while that might work for them, I know that the more I can get with me when I bug out, the better off I will be. Most folks won’t carry 15 or more gallons of water around in the BOB. (That’s almost 8.5 pounds right there.) Extra changes of clothing? Extra bedding? Spare batteries and extra medical supplies? Those things could prove to be a life saver down the road.

I hope that I never have to bug out. But I know if I do, I have the plans and supplies in place to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Related Links

For more articles on bugging out, please click on these links:

Bugging in vs Bugging Out

How to know when to bug out

Planning your bug out route

The ultimate 25 lb bug out bag

Fighting off the elements when bugging out

How much ammo in your bug out bag

Have emergency communication plans in place

6 things to throw in your trunk when bugging out


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