Will You Die Getting To Your Bug Out Location?

I am frequently surprised by the approach many Preppers take to their Bug-Out plans, especially those who expect to drive to their retreat location.  Many seem to feel that this will be no different than driving out of their home area for a vacation, which is beyond my comprehension.  I say that because if things are bad enough that Preppers are headed for their retreat locations one would think that travel could be difficult if not impossible.

Closed roads, quarantine situations, hostile locals, gridlock, civil unrest, martial law, are examples of the types of things a Prepper might encounter when trying to bug-out to their retreat.  So you must plan your bug-out in a way that avoids, or at least minimizes, such situations.

I will point out that if you’re trying to bug-out as a nuclear family, using one or two vehicles, then all you can do is; know your routes (you should have at least 3 selected and scouted in advance), stay alert, and pray.  You wouldn’t have enough vehicles or personnel to do anything else.

Larger Convoy Options

If you’re moving as part of a larger group, with at least 4 vehicles, you have options that can vastly improve your odds of getting to your retreat.

  • Split your convoy into smaller groupings of at least 2 vehicles.  Always have vehicles move in pairs, that way if one breaks down, gets stuck, or is damaged by an attack you have another nearby to assist or rescue the driver and any passengers.  You might have to abandon some cargo, but at least you can save the people.
  • With 4 vehicles you can move in 2 pairs, with the lead element being supported by the rear element in an over-watch situation.  Also that enables your lead element to act as a scout, thus protecting the rear element which is where most of your vital cargo would be.
  • With 6 or more vehicles you can move in 3 elements.  The lead or scout element would be tasked with finding a safe route for the rest of your vehicles.  The main (or middle) element would be where all your vital cargo would be located.  The rear guard would keep mobile threats from catching up with your main element from behind and act as your reaction force or reserve.  Both the scout and rear guard elements should have at least 2 vehicles, though more might be desirable in some situations.
  • If you want to have the ability to split elements there need to be at least 4 vehicles in the element.  For example, if you wanted to scout 2 bridges off your route of travel you might want to be able to split the scout element to do so at the same time rather than delay the rest of your elements.
  • If you have a large number of vehicles in your main element you have the option of splitting it into several elements.  This further reduces the risk of losing all your critical cargo in the event your main body gets attacked.  Losing half is better than losing all…

Motorcycles (and other small vehicles such as snowmobiles) are special cases in a convoy.  While they are excellent for scouting, and useful as flank guards, they are more vulnerable than traditional vehicles with at least 4 wheels.  It takes very little to make these vehicles crash, and there is no protection against weapons fire.  Their real benefits are their small size allowing them to go where other vehicles cannot and their relative lack of noise compare to trucks and some cars.

Note: a big Harley with really noisy pipes would not be recommended for this, any vehicle that can be heard in the next county will give folks all kinds of time to react to your approach.  It’s far better to be as quiet and stealthy as possible.  Just like the full sized vehicles, these smaller types also need to be deployed in pairs, and for the same reasons.

All vehicles in your bug-out convoy need to have certain things on-board at all times.  Some are common sense items that should always be in your vehicles anyway; fire extinguishers, first aid kits, basic tools, maps, etc.  Others are common sense in a bug-out, with the bug-out bags, weapons, and basic kit for each person driving/riding in the vehicle included.  Beyond that you should have extra water and fuel, with any remaining space used for general cargo.  Your smaller vehicles, such as motorcycles, should have whatever they can carry.

Obviously they will have space limitations and will need to be able to resupply from larger vehicles if the journey is extensive, so plan on having that capability/cargo space on one or more of your other vehicles.  You might also want to have the capacity to load the motorcycles onto the traditional vehicles if the situation or terrain makes their use impractical.

A capability to consider would be to have space in one or more vehicles to serve as an ambulance in case any of your party is wounded or injured.  Obviously the amount of space, and the capabilities included, would depend on the skills of your medical personnel; but you should have some method of removing people from danger, transporting them as safely/comfortably as possible, as well as enabling treatment on the move to the best of your ability and resources.


The military uses 3 primary types of movement; traveling, traveling over-watch, and bounding over-watch.  I’ll provide a description of each below along with the most likely situations and guidelines for their use:

  • Traveling is the standard movement method for routine convoy activity.  In other words where there is no threat anticipated.  This would be good for Preppers only if they had advance warning of a crisis situation and managed to bug-out before the crisis became common knowledge.  In traveling the vehicles all move at the same speed with some standard spacing between them.
  • Traveling over-watch is used when there is some anticipation of danger, but immediate combat isn’t expected.  This would be the common method of travel for Preppers and would reflect my description above of a scout element and 1 or more other elements.  With traveling over-watch the lead element is intended to identify threats and the following element(s) would either eliminate or avoid the problem.
  • Bounding over-watch is used when combat is expected or at least anticipated.  This is the slowest but safest of all the types of movement.  With bounding over-watch element A will take up a position that will provide some degree of cover (protection) but lets them observe and cover element B while it moves forward.  Before element B moves beyond the effective range of element A’s weapons it will take up a position that will enable it to protect element A as it moves up, past them, and into its next protected position.  By taking turns moving, or bounding, the group would be advancing as safely as possible.

The last concept to consider when setting up your convoy SOPs is what to do in case of an ambush.  The standard taught to me in the military was always that if a unit was ambushed (the majority of the unit in the kill zone) the only possible solution was to attack into the ambushers.

If an ambush is done correctly the lead vehicle will be trapped and/or disabled, as will the rear vehicle.  Common tactics suggest that retreating out of the kill zone, away from the ambushers, will likely result in the ambushed survivors finding a minefield the hard way or something equally unpleasant.  So that leaves turning into and attacking the ambushers with all the ferocity and violence that you can muster.  Only by killing or driving off the ambushers will you have any chance of survival.  Sure, you can try to surrender, and they may even take prisoners.  But will they keep prisoners; will the prisoners be enslaved or worse?  I wouldn’t be willing to take those kinds of chances.

Hopefully this article will help you to plan for potential issues that you might encounter during a bug-out.  I expect such a movement to have dangers, but your odds are so much better if you’ve planned for them with a realistic approach to them.

How far do you have to travel to get to your bug out location
and are expecting trouble along the way?

About Rick Cox

Rick became a soldier when he was 17 years old and spent 8 years active duty with a total of 5 MOS's. After leaving the Army and returning to his family he realized civil defense was no more and because a prepper before it was even a word. Today he offers a prepper consulting service and is the head of sales at Fortitude Ranch which is a dedicated prepper community.

View all posts by Rick Cox

7 Responses to “Will You Die Getting To Your Bug Out Location?”

  1. Kendra at New Life on a Homestead Says:

    Very good article. I’ve never heard it suggested that you travel in groups to your BO location, but it makes a lot of sense. We’re still trying to find the best place to go in an emergency… if we absolutely have to leave home. Thanks for the great advice.


    • Dave J Says:

      AM, That is the key. You need to know when to bug out. I see all of these “preppers” spending tens of thousands of dollars, building massive bunkers sometimes a hundred miles from their home. All I can do is roll my eyes. Bugging in and knowing when to pull out is key. Have multiple routes and multiple locations to go to.


  2. Rick Cox Says:

    Glad you liked it Kendra! Traveling to your retreat in groups is the only way to go IMHO. Beyond the basic possibilities such as vehicle breakdowns or accidents there are the potential issues inherent to any crisis situation. For most of these a single vehicle is just too vulnerable. Just as importantly I feel it does no good for your people to arrive at your retreat in drips and dribbles. What if someone else has taken up residence in your retreat, and your people arrive one vehicle at a time? I’ll suggest they will be captured or killed, one vehicle at a time…


  3. Jason Says:

    This is why we are searching for a small house on about 2 to 3 acres. We don’t want to have to go far. I just hope I’m home when SHTF!


  4. Rick Cox Says:

    I hope your efforts have been, or soon will be, successful Jason. A couple of things to consider if you’re still looking. Try to be at least a full tank of fuel from a major city, that will keep most folks too far away to be an immediate threat. Keep what I call exodus paths, the most likely directions and routes for people fleeing major cities, in mind and avoid buying a retreat in those locales. Good luck!


  5. Randy Says:


    Another thing that should be mentioned and is crucially important when traveling in a convoy is to have the folks in the vehicle mind their sectors. Passenger is responsible for 45 degrees from the front to their right side window. Back right passenger is responsible for 45 degrees from their window to the middle of the back window and so it goes with everyone inside the vehicle. Thus giving 360 degrees of coverage around the entire vehicle.

    Each passenger in each vehicle should be equipped with radios to communicate back and forth. Lead/scout vehicle should be calling out predetermined waypoints after passing them informing the rest of the convoy if it is all clear or not, situation updates, hazards, suspicious activity or things that look suspicious etc.

    I’m sure I missed a few things in regards to this type of SOP so please forgive me.

    This mode of operation requires little to no talking, no music etc. EVERYONE IS PULLING SECURITY during the trip! No exceptions!!


  6. Mark Cocks Says:

    I live on Bohol Island in the Philippines and in October 2013 we suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that did enormous damage to many buildings and essential infrastructure. The main coastal highway and many other major routes were severed at almost every bridge, due to liquefaction damage and sinking/displacement that caused many bridges to collapse. The piers also sank and inter-island ferry boat transport of post, people and food stopped for a while. Local supermarkets consequently ran short of some shipped supplies and many were also damaged by the earthquake. A few days later Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit Samar/Leyte to the north of Bohol and wiped out Tacloban City, which was international news. One effect of Haiyan was to destroy the hydro-electric system that powers Bohol, so we also had week long blackouts until about February 2014. The blackouts caused water supply problems as our supply is pumped from underground and so we had to catch roof rainwater at one point.

    On Bohol, the collapsed bridges and landslides meant ‘bugging out’ was impossible except on a motorbike that could be ferried across the water for an exorbitant fee on a small one or two man fishing boat. We survived at home as we already had extensive prep-systems like a large water tank (number 1 essential) and large food stocks (we rotate about a six months supply) but many people suffered and looting/theft became a city problem. On Samar and Leyte, Typhoon Haiyan put so many fallen trees and debris across roads that there were serious transport problems there. I evacuated my wife’s cousin from Haiyan’s ground zero by boat as it was the easiest option. The lesson for me in relation to bugging out was that you cannot expect to be able to take much with you and so essential supplies need to be prepositioned and already secured at your bug out location. When (not ‘if’) California or the mid USA gets hit by the next big earthquake a motorcycle will probably be the best bug-out option.


Leave a Reply