Beyond Bug-Out -or- What Next?

10 March, 2015

The Author of this post is an old acquaintance of mine whose experienced and learned opinion was always highly valued. His advice to me in the past, whether it was for a military or personal situation, was always spot on. It would behoove you to take what he says, put your fantasies and romantic notions aside, and think about his advice long and hard, before you repeat the typical  ‘Well, in my experience.” Target Interdictee mantra. I’ve come to expect this out of many on the blogosphere, when an opinion (even an experienced one) doesn’t fit in the typical “School of Thought Lunchbox” they are carrying. Whether it fits into the “Lunchbox” or not, Barry’s advice is a “thermos full of hot reality”, and leaving it on the counter before a long, cold day of work would be foolish.

vally forge

Valley Forge

by SFC Steven M Barry USA RET


 Responding to a recent post, “Purpose Driven SHTF Planning,” by your administrator, “Mason Dixon Tactical,” this writer commented:

 “What I have noticed is that most of these SHTF conversations are purely sub-tactical and reaction focused. Good for a couple of weeks. Then… what?”

 Following a brief correspondence with this writer your administrator suggested that “what then?” be somewhat expanded for this forum.


 SHTF is an ambiguous and equivocal term. To render the term SHTF unequivocal for the purpose of this essay, this writer makes strict distinctions between what is SHTF and what is not SHTF.

 Financial and economic collapse is not SHTF. Government overreaching and onerous laws are not SHTF.  Rebellious (government sponsored) minority uprisings are not SHTF. Martial law is not SHTF. Those things (and much more) are merely logical consequences of the Constitution. They are just a slow, steady, methodical, and systematic decline into chaos, barbarism and squalor. Given all or some of those scenarios there will still be some semblance of order and there will still be some (may God have mercy on us) constitutional government such that it is.

 SHTF is here restricted to two things; (1) catastrophic natural disaster on a continental scale to the extreme extent of societal collapse (it is going to happen), and (2) WWIII, which necessarily results in societal collapse – albeit more or less locally and on a somewhat lesser scale (this will happen first).


 Obviously, in a truly SHTF situation “bugging-out” is simply a waste of time, effort, and logistics. There will be enough to do trying to rebuild something resembling community. Bugging out will be a help to nobody and nothing. One exception: Getting out of a city. If you don’t see it coming and if you’re in a city when SHTF you’ll have to shoot your way out. That you cannot do on your own. Basically, you are screwed.

 It follows then, that “bug-out” is a reaction to not-SHTF scenarios. It is important to be realistic about these things.


 Typical planning for one or the other ambiguous not-SHTF scenarios invariably revolves around the “bug-out.”

 Let us say there is the most dreaded worse case scenario — declaration of martial law. You just know you are “on the list” for the Gulag. You kit up, grab the “bug-out” ruck, your best militarily useful weapon(s), a triple basic load of ammo (for each weapon), rations for a week – maybe two. From the city or suburb you flee to the nearest National Forest by vehicle – through multiple checkpoints and flying roadblocks. Or from the rural areas you hike out or ATV (now you need to add several jerry-cans of fuel to your load-out) out to the mountains, swamps, or wherever you are going to “resist.” Wheresoever you aim for, make sure there is adequate parking.

 Oh… Wait. Family. Well, of course you bring them with you. So you now have three or five additional mouths to feed (rations for six people for two weeks – never mind water – do the math) and necessary kit for all which they themselves will hump into the base camp that is well off hiking and ATV trails because it is a hidden location and a most closely held secret. Maybe you can do better and be set up for four weeks. Regardless; in the end you will have weapons, a triple basic load of ammo, very cool kit – and a starving family dressed in camouflage. In the “woods.” “Resisting.”

 That is only for one person with family. Multiply the problem by the number of “like minded rugged individuals” and their families who will also bug-out to link-up at the formerly secret base camp. Formerly secret, because one or other of the females, or women-of-the-other-sex, or unisex brats will have bragged about it to somebody or other beforehand. Or worse, they’ll call somebody on a cell phone.

 Now, with fifteen or thirty people in a base camp you have two real problems (before you run out of food) – and those problems begin immediately. Problem number 1 is authority. Problem number 2 is field sanitation. The subject of authority is a separate subject and will not be dwelt upon here. It is sufficient to know that some one man (man!) must command; everybody else follows orders. Field sanitation is all important. The disciplines of latrines, field kitchens, garbage disposal, personal hygiene, camp police, medical care, water storage (and purification and usage) etc., must be rigidly enforced. Base camp field sanitation is a full time work. In the Old SF the Team medics were in charge of that work. In your case detail the women. The longer you are in base camp the more work there is.

 Security is also a full time work. Base camp security falls into the categories of far, near, and perimeter. Bluntly, you will not have enough people. The best you’ll manage is perimeter security, and probably not even that, which means that the first alarm of dire threat you’ll have is grazing fire sweeping the base camp.


 Given a not-SHTF event compelling a bug-out, by yourself and your family or in a very best case with four or five other “like minded rugged individuals” and their families; and given a base camp is somehow successfully established at the head of some draw in the mountains or an island in the swamps; and given you are not yet starving and the other “like minded rugged individuals” with their visceral hatred of any authority whatsoever has not resulted in the base camp degenerating into anarchy (normally, well within a week), the very important question is, “What now?

 That is an important question. If the response to that question is, “We will resist oppressive tyranny!” this writer responds “resist oppressive tyranny” is not a plan, it is a bumper sticker slogan. Objection: “We shall link up with other bug out groups.” Answer: How? Whose link-up plan is it? Who is in charge? Have you worked out the logistics of doubling your numbers? What is the strategy? There are many more very important questions. In this writer’s experience these and other questions are met with silence – and not because the answers are “secret.”

 Here this essay might easy close. But there is something you can do to help yourselves.


 Well, quasi-professional. Get ten or twelve of you together and join the National Guard. Split your enlistments between infantry, military intelligence, supply, and administration. The best (and acknowledged leader) among you go to OCS. Go to every military school available to you within your MOS. Get cross trained in every skill you can within your MOS. At the end of four or six years you have a cadre.

 Get it?


Barry is blunt, but Barry is right. Learn from the experienced, and adjust your planning accordingly. I always tell students that planning to “Bug Out” should be the”C” or the “E” in your “PACE” planning. It is a last resort, and honestly, unless you are in a non permissive environment already (read that as big city/high crime area), why would you plan on leaving your logistical support area (home) any sooner than a life or freedom threatening situation dictates? It’s easy to fantasize about some rich guy setting up a “base camp” somewhere in the mountains for you to go to, but reality is a bitch, and 99.995% of us will not have that option. The best you can do is a planned (preferably before the road blocks start) exit to the residence of a friend or family in the country (where you’ve already pre-positioned logistics for you and yours), or placing one or more supply caches in a remote area you plan on “bugging out” to.


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

24 thoughts on “Beyond Bug-Out -or- What Next?

    • Remote operating is a very difficult and logistically challenging endeavor. I have spent the majority of my life in remote facilities operations and this article hits the nail on the head. Survival is an organizational nightmare. The logistics alone are a daunting task that will consume many man hours. Food, water, ammunition and shelter are only a small component to survival. The logistics for maintaining a population becomes more difficult as the population rises.
      Water is fortunately the simplest commodity to make safe. Food on the other hand is very challenging endeavor. Human waste becomes a massive disease danger if not dealt with properly. Understanding logistics and having mechanisms in place to keep a population healthy is paramount.

      You cannot fight if you are starving or sick.

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  2. I think I will stick with Selcos advice and not some SF guy that thinks only if you have military experience and surround yourself with the same will you be able to survive… I agree with him on the bugging out part though and harp on the need to be moving now to areas of survivability, sustainability and liberty minded people so your odds of making it are greater…

  3. Obviously a decent-sized group of 11B’s or 0311’s could roll-up a half-assed base camp suddenly and easily, but are serious assaults the only ones for which to prepare? If every little gathering of people is going to be assaulted by a reinforced Mech Infantry Company, they’re cooked, anyway. While it’d be nice to have a cadre of a dozen people with different and relevant MOS’s with at least half a dozen years of National Guard training, are they to be expecting that they could just magically relieve themselves from duty in a nationalized unit, and head-off to their predetermined stronghold? I’m not trying to be a smart ass, but unless you arranged to have “the crisis” hit some interval of time AFTER they’d been separated from their service obligation, how many of your cadre members are going to be able to show up at your camp, and be able to do so without desertion charges to face? That question aside, I’ve been trying to convince people of the seriousness of field sanitation issues forever, since shit flowing downhill in a disorderly manner creates biological fratricide in short order. I see people who contribute to that problem even WITH running water and working modern conveniences, which is why health departments actually have to TRAIN modern day restaurant staffers to wash their friggin’ HANDS after taking a dump, and before handling the diners’ FOOD. Your LEADER’S very FIRST task could end up being teaching everybody how not to be a SLOB. (Sigh.)

  4. The author should be ashamed! He will greatly impact prepper magazine sales not to mention the ratings of popular TV shows. Reality sucks especially when it flies in the face of rampant consumerism. The truth is subsistence living for even a short period of time is hard work. There are no miracle gizmos that will make it any easier, especially when the logistics chain that begins in China grinds to a halt. Basic camp chores, wood gathering, hygiene, cooking…especially finding food will be beyond the ability of most who “bug out” not to mention the attention span of most young “men” who spend their free time gaming and tweeting. Thank goodness most of the masses won.t make it very far out of the civilized world. The ones who do will just be resupplying those of us who already live there by choice.

    You know, we’re the folks who cling to their religion and guns…in the flyover zone.

    Alpha Mike Foxtrot
    Gulf War I…21SOS…somewhere in the Magic Kingdom

    NSA approved reply

  5. I will stand up and compliment Mr. Barry for broaching the topic of Bug out and to where. Someone has said that “the veneer of society is actually very thin”. People will riot when a shoe store has a sale. Imagine the mayhem if the grid went down for a week. Mindless zombies wandering the streets looking at black screened phones waiting at every heartbeat for a message from their party animal friends. Your pillow would be your Remington. This is the first give your groggy head a shake message about bugging out I have seen other than Selco who is yelling from the top of the blown out condo balcony to get ready for a banquet of shit this North America has never seen since the American civil war. We all can feel it coming. God have mercy on us for ignoring the alarm bells.

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  7. On the topic of what to do about human waste, the Humanure Handbook linked below seems appropriate to a group who is fleeing to a farm or other established facility. A home drainfield can accommodate several people on a long-term basis or a much larger group on a very temporary basis, but seems likely to clog or otherwise malfunction within a few weeks if used by a large group. A toilet consumes 1.6 gallons of drinking/cooking/bathing water at every flush, a waste of water. Switching to the method in this book will eliminate those problems.
    Needed: Several 4-5 gallon buckets (cat box filler bucket-size), sawdust, cut grass or other biological material, materials for building the bins into which the buckets are dumped, shovels
    I have some experience with the system in the Humanure Handbook.

  8. Bugging out is not the first option, but, as stated above, “C” or “E.” That said, I spent February and March of this year “bugged out” in N. NM since I depleted my op-fund and had no other option, other than the homeless shelter which was my “E”. 12 and 13 degree weather in my truck was a learning experience (mostly psychological). In my case, there is no where to go and no one to go too—running out of gas, and therefore limiting my operating radius (jobs, opportunities) was a concern. I can go a day or so without food, but gas was a real issue. Without gas, I would be stuck in a benighted part of the U.S. and being White, it was unlikely I would receive any succor from the locals. Ironically, mobility is key when you have no permanent place to go.

    As an individual, defensive options are…unfortunate: little to no warning, reacting to the ‘enemy’ and from that, no tactical initiative. Individuals bugging-out should resign themselves to a Hobbesian existence and the real probability that any engagement carries a high probability of death. A single GSW will likely be fatal at some point. A small group of looters can quickly overwhelm the OODA loop of the individual “bug-out.”

    OAK-OC, stealth, concealment and a type of tactical counterintelligence, are the primary (only?) means that an individual can employ for security. There really are no other options when you’re asleep in your laagerseite. No fire guard, no LP/OPS, no perimeter security, no advance warning. You’re asleep, right?

    Much discussion on bugging-out carries the implied option of returning home where it is warm and resourced—which is implicitly reassuring and may exaggerate the capabilities of the individual. Bugging-out ‘for real’ does not carry this. Where you are is all you have. When the freezing rain comes, you either make it or you do not—there is no where to go to get dry, warm and fed.

    About the only resistance activities I could envision myself doing would be surveillance for local IPE, mostly to support my own decision making. Given the character of the locals, LLSO is an ‘iffy’ proposition.

    My experience as an infantry medic in Desert Storm bear out very clearly that even a disciplined infantry unit may still suffer from field sanitation problems. Gastroenteritis from likely fly vectored pathogens originating from the latrines can quickly reduce combat capability—and that’s a large resourced military unit. A similar phenomena in a civilian camp—without centralized leadership, vigorous enforcement and robust but simple medical matériel, will likely decimate that group through dehydration: malabsorption, vomiting and diarrhea. Add to this, any number of comorbid factors: age preexisting illness, physical fitness, malnutrition.

    My military training and experience have never ceased to be useful…I am thankful for it all.

  9. When philosophizing about the subject of SHTF, this gentlemen, like most of us, is both right and wrong. We have a few voices that seem to capture the emotions of the community, so we have fragmented, like always, around a very few ideas. SHTF, like many things being vaguely defined by fiction writers, bloggers and columnists, but this is not the be all end all.
    The few scenarios above, are only a few, most well known, and in the opinion of the writer, some are not even SHTF worthy, rightly or wrongly. I myself, would define all of those scenarios as SHTF worthy, depending on severity, but, not bug out worthy.
    Getting military training to bug out, is kinda silly, when you think about it Sergeant. There are many millions of us vets about the country, with that training, and more, and many of us are too old to consider reenlisting.
    The one thing, the one contingency plan, that would help us, save us from tyranny(my primary SHTF against liberty), shield us from the coming racial wars, disguise us from the religious outlawing(another consideration present hitting higher trends is anti religious liberalism), and aid us in economic survival(in the case of a myriad of economic/political events), is, the concept of a Guild.
    I propose a SHTF Guild, not a union, not a party, not capitalist or collectivist, but family and community. Yes, plenty of room for discussion and dissent. But also plenty of room to grow communities of like minded people, who understand that some of our biggest growing problems, are the Unknown Unknowns… How could we survive, if being white or Christian was suddenly, the same thing as being a Jew in Nazi Germany? Do you not see the trends? Do you think the God of the Universe will send His angels to swoop in on your AO and save you from the Mooooslim hoards? Will He restore your power when you have been cut off after your neighbors turn against you? How can we survive with liberty intact, when assailed on the left by petty nanny tyrants, and on the right by warlord wannabes? Is part of SHTF tied up in the concept of restoring liberty and the constitution? Or, is there a better way to install true liberty, something never really seen in this world?
    With the current chorus of voices, there is nothing but division by religion and ideology, race hatred, class hatred, wealthy hatred, but above all; Hopium for the masses of ignorant lost in normalcy bias.
    Name it, and we have little in common except being one thing; Americans. But we have even forgotten what that means anymore. This too, is SHTF, political SHTF, planned by the power brokers to remove our cultural identity, what do we do to retain who we are? How do we come together without regard for spies, agents, or trolls? How do we learn and spread knowledge of old ways that will be needed after industrial civilization becomes too expensive, and becomes a thing of the rich? How do you quantify the Unknown unknowns? Can we say this or that is more likely than not, can we truly say ‘it can’t happen here’? Thus, a SHTF Guild, will preserve cultural identity, preserve knowledge, provide for alternate economy, communications, common defense, communities, manufactures, farms, mines, clinics, all the things we require to maintain us against the possibility of a new Dark ages now on the horizon. That dark age is coming on the winds of oil and money, the frackers are dying, the rich know something we don’t, they are getting ready to rise from the ashes, and become The Boss of the Ashes.

    At the end of the day, that is the ultimate contingency, a contingency organization, that serves the purpose of contingency planning, for us, those who understand that liberty is the highest ideal for our children and their children’s children…

  10. I have read essays from Barry before on other sites. Seems to me that the final message (across multiple essays) is simply: “There is nothing truly viable that you can do.” While he dispels many fantasies, at the same time I come to believe his message is basically “accept that it is over and there is nothing that you can do.” I believe his comment on joining the National Guard and getting training was more sarcasm/snark as even if you (and a trusted group) could spend that time, ultimately it would buy you little (according to Barry’s analysis). My problem is that while there very well not be a truly viable solution to whatever upcoming problems may arise, from a mental perspective, Barry seems (from how I interpret his writing) to say, “Whatever your thoughts are, they won’t work.” But the truth is that people are concerned, scared, frustrated, worried etc with what they perceive as very problematic events. Even if wrong-headed, they are trying to do something, anything, to make mental sense of their perceived situation. Maybe Barry knows the answer and won’t say it. Maybe no one does. While I appreciate him poking holes in fantasies, I refuse to walk around with a, “We are doomed, it’ll never work, were all dead, just sit back and let it happen” mentality. That is just the ultimate tone I get from his writing. Again, I am not saying the analysis of the potential realities is wrong. But what appears to me to be a “roll over and accept it” message has NEVER helped. And yes, I know feeling good and HOPE is not a plan, but neither is giving up. Since we are all ultimately going to die, working out and staying in shape is pretty much pointless, and for that matter so is everything else?

    • His message is that it is over, if you don’t give up the fantasies. Why would you think his NG suggestion is sarcasm? Name a better way to get the needed skills mentioned, without going active duty. Other than becoming familiar with SUT (and for most, one class is just familiarity), name a better, more economical way to become proficient in the combatant arts of the military for the average person who can’t afford multiple trips to a tactical training course.

      • No argument from me that the NG suggestion is valid. I just took it as sarcasm simply from his writing style. No offense to you or Barry. Just an interpretation issue because my interpretation of his overall tone is “give up”. Trying to be clear: I don’t doubt he is correct in his assessment and the most likely/statistically probably out come. I think he is spot on with those. But the overall message/theme I get from his writing is that if you don’t have a certain set of skills, all of which appear almost impossible even for a trained SF group, you have just about zero chance. To this I reply, “Thanks. I know this.” But the final tone (again I could be wrong, it is my interpretation): Most are so unprepared and unaware of the realities: why even try? It is this “why even try” tone that I may be incorrectly interpreting. Personally, I like the strong medicine he is delivering, I just hope it makes more people reassess rather than give up. I appreciate the articles, truly. Keeps me thinking and that is the point.

  11. About forming a cadre via the NG: I have read where it is the practice of many gangs to send their youngsters in to the military to learn certain skillsets in order to bring those skills back to form (franchise) and reinforce their cadre. Think about that one… do you think they see a value in that training? And I do not think they are sending them in to learn to be chefs…

    • Exactly! I suggesyed this to some guys back in the 90’s, and they said they didn’t have time, SHTF was imminent. Personally, I think they just didn’t want to exercise some intestinal fortitude, since it’s easier to tak a couse, and stop off for a latte after three days of training.

      • MDT what do you think the average age is of the Patriot and Prepped movement? To join the guard without prior service you have to be between 17 and 35…I think a very small percentage of the movement fall between that age group…So either Barry doesn’t know what age group he is talking to or he is being sarcastic…

        • Last I checked it was 45, but it might have changed again. It’s not sarcasm, it’s just a way to get from A to B for some. He’s well aware of who he’s talking to, he’s been talking to them since the early 90’s.

          • He seems to always offer what all the problems are with the movement but doesn’t offer to many realistic solutions…I have to wonder sometimes what his purpose is…Is it to wake people up or discourage them so nothing gets done…

          • He says what most won’t. He’s talking to those who believe they’re awake, but they’re actually still dreaming. The only people it usually discourages, are those who realize the actually effort needed, and aren’t willing to perform.

  12. What defines SHTF for one may not for another. An “SHTF” event may be very personal. As is the decision to bug out. My descision will be based on the immediate tactical situation. If my situation is untenable, we bug out. Doesn’t really matter what the rest of the world is doing. And I think, if given the option, I’d rather surround myself with farmers and woodsman that can shoot, rather than a bunch of mercenaries looking for something to shoot. Of course farmers and woodsman with military training might be the best of both worlds. Regardless, one size does not fit all. And I don’t believe devolving into a bunch of Spartan nation-states is inevitable.

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