Shelter In Place, Bugging Out, and Having A Kit Ready

The mentality of most people who practice some form of preparedness is not “if” the disaster happens but rather “when” it happens. When it happens will you have enough supplies? Do you have the right gear? Do you know when to shelter in place versus having to leave town (bug out)? In this particular article, we’re going to talk about the differences between sheltering in place and bugging out and what supplies to have available in both scenarios.

What Does Shelter In Place Mean?

Shelter in place is relatively easy to define. It means you’re staying put wherever you are, whether it’s work, school, at home, or even in your vehicle. The Red Cross defines shelter in place as “selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there.” During accurate in place event potentially harmful materials may have been intentionally or unintentionally released into the air, an active event may be ongoing, or a natural disaster has happened unexpectedly.

Shelter In Place At Home Versus At Work

If you are at home sheltering in place becomes an easier task. Your supplies are more readily available, and you may even have more than you need (see below for a list of items for a large kit). However, it does not always happen at home. Many companies have shelter in place cabinets in their buildings and routinely perform training and exercises, so employees know what to do and expect.

In the case of having to shelter in place at work, you should also prepare a small kit to keep in a desk drawer or a bag that is easily accessible (meaning you don’t have to run to your car for it). It would be hard to keep a large, 3-day kit at your work desk, so a small kit consisting of the following is a good baseline to have available:

  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Small first aid kit
  • Flashlight, small lantern, and chemlights
  • An emergency radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Prescription or specialty medications
  • Anything you might specifically need to last a shelter in place scenario

Sheltering In Place In Your Vehicle

While this seems like an unlikely scenario, you could find yourself having to shelter in place in your vehicle. The best way to do this is not to do it all together and get to someplace (home, work, or somewhere you know is safe) that has the gear and supplies needed. If you find yourself having to do it in your vehicle, then pull over someplace safe, turn off your vehicle, and seal the vents and windows as best you can. Stay in place until an all clear is given. While this is not an ideal situation to be in, having the same type of basic kit in your car as you might at work can go a long way.

What Does Bugging Out Mean?

There are many different variations of what bugging out could mean. During the Korean War, it meant a position was no longer defensible and was in danger of being overrun. In a disaster scenario, the term has more to do with leaving in a hurry than being overrun by an enemy (although I suppose you could classify a storm, tornado, or whatever is causing the bug out as the enemy).

Disaster events can cause evacuations of towns and cities on a mandatory order. If this is the case, ensure your kit is accessible and can be put into a vehicle without issue. If you have time prepare your rig like you’re going on a trip and supplement that gear with your disaster kit.

An evacuation is probably going to mean roads are potentially going to be full of traffic with other people trying to leave the area. Planning may play a role in whether you end up stuck in traffic or sail through with no problems. Having a disaster plan may mean leaving early or having an alternate route to take out of the area once an evacuation has been called for. These types of decisions should be made early rather than later.

Having The Right Gear and Supplies

With either scenario having the correct equipment and supplies available is paramount. Having the correct equipment takes some research, planning, and preparation on your part. In the first article in this series, we talked about the definition of disaster preparedness and the functions within. Part of those functions is to plan, exercise, and evaluate. Those three features should help you decide what is needed and what isn’t required. Always keep in mind you should have gear and supplies specific to your particular situation. If you require particular medication ensure you have enough or an extra supply for a determined amount of time.

The Basic Survival Kit

The American Red Cross, FEMA, the CDC, and much more all provide lists on what you should have in a survival kit. A good baseline, and what most lists use, is 72 hours (3 days), which can be adjusted up from there based on your particular disaster scenario planning. The Sweethome did an article recently that provides a very comprehensive breakdown of what items to have and why. Whether you are bugging out or sheltering in place, below is a list of the basic items you should have available:

  • Water: one gallon per person for x amount of days
  • Food: non-perishable, easy to prepare items for the amount of people in your plan for the amount of days you planned for
  • Utensils, can opener, etc.
  • Flashlight(s)
  • Two-way, CB, or HAM radio
  • Emergency radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Fire starting tools and helpers
  • Whistle and signaling devices
  • First aid kit
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Important personal documents (insurance cards, birth certificates, etc.)
  • Cell phone(s) and charger(s)
  • Extra cash
  • Extra clothing
  • Emergency blanket(s)
  • Map(s) of the area

Some other things to consider adding to your kit that end up being specific to your particular situation:

  • Prescription or specific medical supplies
  • Baby wipes, diapers, and formula
  • Games and toys for children
  • Pet supplies for x amount of days

Keep everything contained in one spot in a storage bin of some kind, so it is easily accessible if you are sheltering in place or you need to grab it in a bug out situation. Make sure to check the contents regularly so anything that expires can be replaced with newer items. Important and non-waterproof things like documents need to be kept in waterproof containers, so they do not get ruined. Depending on the types of disaster scenarios you are preparing for more specific items should be added.

What type of disasters do you prepare for? What do you keep in your kit? Leave a comment below and let us know.

What Does Preparedness Mean and Why Is It Important


September is national preparedness month. On the heels of hurricanes Harvey and IRMA we thought we’d run a short series on being prepared. While natural disasters don’t often happen here in Michigan, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the necessary steps to be prepared. Whether it’s an actual disaster event, being stranded, or the loss of power in your home there are still plenty of scenarios outside of full-on disasters that warrant having a preparedness mindset.

CAVEAT: We are not preparedness or disaster event experts by any stretch of the imagination. The definition breakdown is just how we see each function being applied. You can find more resources and significant online that exceeds what we are presenting. The definitions from FEMA are strictly from our point of view.

The Definition of Preparedness

The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA define preparedness as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action to ensure effective coordination during incident response.” All of that seems familiar as an overlander because those essential functions are what we use to plan and execute trips and expeditions.

As overlanders and outdoor enthusiasts, some of the principles used in the definition of being prepared apply pretty easily to what we normally do for trip preparation. We’ve broken them down below and how they might apply.


Planning should come pretty easy as planning takes a significant role in what we do as overlanders. Instead of planning routes and menus for a trip, preparing for a disaster situation has you working out the details of what happens when a disaster situation occurs. What food do you have or will you need? Are you sheltering in place or bugging out? What route are you taking? Is anyone else joining you?


Again, a natural function to incorporate into a disaster plan is the organization of equipment, food, and even people. If you’re using bins and totes of some kind for your overlanding adventures, you can adopt the same approach for disaster event gear.

Organizing, in this case, doesn’t just mean gear, it also means how you might organize a group for evacuation from or response to a disaster. What’s the reporting structure for the group? What communications are going to be used?


Much like winching or driver training, having training specific to disaster events is important. The lines of types of training can cross and intersect here, and nothing can replace proper training. Figure out what kind of disaster you are planning for and get training that is applicable. First aid training is always a good choice but having some actual disaster response training can be invaluable.


Much like asking what might be needed for an overland adventure, you need to figure out what gear you’ll need in case of a disaster. If you’re planning for multiple scenarios, then make sure the gear you have will be usefull in each situation, so you’re not storing multiple pieces of equipment.


This is a crucial part of planning overall. Everything looks good on paper, but once it has been tested, you may find things don’t go according to plan. An exercise should regularly be executed to test the abilities of your gear, people involved, communication plan, routes, etc.


Once the exercise is complete, take some time and evaluate the overall process, what worked, what didn’t. What gear was used and needed and what equipment wasn’t even touched? Did your route make sense and work? There are plenty of questions to ask during an evaluation, and everything should be considered.

Corrective Action

Most times after a trip a corrective action is taken to remove or add equipment that wasn’t needed or may have been needed. As part of the evaluation, you should be able to pinpoint what didn’t work and come up with a corrective action.

What’s Needed and For How Long

You can Google preparedness and find any number of lists for different scenarios and events. The best thing to do is decide what sort of disasters you might be facing and plan accordingly to what they are. For example, here in Michigan, depending on the area, you could be faced with large snowfall amounts. In this case you may want to ensure you have enough food, water, a source of heat, and warm clothing for everyone who will be with you.

Your supply lists should include food, water, and the necessary gear you’ll need to survive your particular disaster scenario. It should be enough food and water to accommodate however many products will be with you. Part of the planning function is to decide how long you want supplies to last.

Why Be Prepared

There is any number of reasons and situations to be prepared. Disaster scenarios happen to be the primary reason but consider other scenarios as well. What if you’re stuck in a traffic jam and unable to move for hours on end? What if you’re in the woods and can’t make repairs to your rig? Do you have enough supplies to last you those two scenarios? Do you have enough gear and supplies to have to walk out of somewhere?

Realistically, you may never have anything happen at all, but it’s always better to be prepared than not to be prepared. It’s one of the reasons we carry some of the equipment we do as overlanders. First aid kits and recovery equipment are good examples of this. You may never need them, but it’s better to have them than not to.

To be prepared for your chosen scenarios you need to ask yourself what gear, what supplies you’ll need, and actually work in the planning stage heavily. You may end up finding that you need to plan gear and supplies for a shelter in place and a bug out situation. If this is the case, you want to make sure your equipment and supplies potentially crosswalk between both scenarios and are readily available.

This article provides a very basic and high-level overview. You could spend hours falling down the rabbit hole on preparedness topics and discussions on websites and forums. In the end, do you what works best for you and/or your family. Have the gear and supplies necessary to sustain for your determined length of time.

What sort of planning and preparation do you employ? Leave some comments and let us know.