Bug-Out vs Bug-In Food Considerations

One of the biggest issues many people struggle with when planning on a bug-out or bug-in scenario is deciding on how much food they will need to either take with them or have stocked up. First, let’s address the issue of bugging-out.

The concept of a Bug-Out is to have with you at all times enough equipment needed to get you back to your Bug-In location in case of a crisis or disaster. Typically designed as some sort of carry bag full of food, ammo, clothing and tools to last you approximately three days (72 hours); for the theory is that most people are never more than three days away from home, even in hostile conditions where check points or borders must be crossed. Other more common uses for a bug-out bag to be deployed is during a black-out, tornado, hurricane or other natural disaster. Your bag should be designed according to your bio-region, which means people more prone to hurricanes should prepare differently than those more prone to wildland fires or earthquakes. Stress during a Bug-Out will increase your calorie consumption and adrenal response because of the urgency to get home to family or friends and this is all the more reason to plan ahead and include in your emergency kit some high quality foods only for bugging out.

According to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)  recommendations, the pounds per person per day (ppppd) for someone engaged in moderate activity such as hiking during hot days with warm nights to be around 1.5 lbs, which equals roughly 2,500-3,000 calories per day. Once again, these recommendations are based upon region, climate and what type of activity you’ll be engaged in. If you have to hike through the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for two days before getting to the lowlands to your bug in location then your requirements would increase to 1.75-2 ppppd which provides 3,000-3,500 calories for warm days and cool mountain nights. Can you get home without any food at all? Of course, but not in optimal condition. You do not know what you’re going home to nor do you know what circumstances you’ll encounter as you approach (such as resistance or obstacles) that would sap whatever remaining energy levels you had in reserve.

You must take care of yourself when bugging-out, not only for your sake, but for those you love too. What type of food should you pack in your bug out kit? We’re all familiar with MRE’s and Freeze Dried foods and while they beat a stick in the eye, they’re not your best choice for good nutrition. Dehydrated food, the type you can make at home either in a food dryer, your oven or in a hot car on a summers day are one of the most economical and tasty ways to go. Freeze dried foods often require twice the  recommended serving size to satisfy you and have way too much sodium which is not a good thing to have when enduring a stressful state (heart attacks anyone?). You can dry fruits, vegetables and meats at home which provide the best nutrition and taste for a fraction of the cost of freeze dried products. Plus, they’re light weight and pack very well. Additionally, if you invest in a vacuum sealer and store your dehydrated foods at a roughly 70o F you can have an 8-10 year shelf life!

Bugging In is the reverse side of the coin. This is the concept of either sheltering-in-place or you successfully escaped the disaster zone and have reached your planned shelter location. This is where prepping comes into play on a larger scale. You will have to develop a bulk ration plan for you and those sheltering with you. And, once again, depending on your region and projected plan of stay, your caloric restrictions will vary. After about three days with little or without our favorite food, people get irritable and whine (I know I do) and caloric cravings and needs increase for a while due to our bodies adjusting to our current diet. With these things in mind bulk rationing for sheltering-in-place should take into consideration a more liberal approach to caloric usage as it’s better to have too much than too little when it comes to prepping.

For the day to day, taking into consideration that you’re probably not living in a bunker and you’ll be able to get out and about within reason a good figure for daily calories would again be 2,500-3,000 which is equal to 1.5-1.75 ppppd. For the winter when heat may be hard to come by if you didn’t plan ahead properly 2 – 2.5 ppppd which is roughly 3,500-4,500 calories may be in order as your body burns more calories when it’s cold than when hot as it tries to warm itself.

Next, you will break the poundage and multiply that by the number of  people in your party multiplied by the number of days you plan on sheltering-in-place.

__________ X __________ X __________ = ____________
(days)             (people)             (ppppd)           (total weight)

You can then further break down the poundage per person per day (ppppd) should you be feeling overly analytical. NOLS provides a great starting point for this breakdown as well in their book titled “Cookery”, just check out page 8 the section entitle Category Multipliers.

So, let’s say you plan on bugging-in for 3 months (90 days) with 5 people through the summer months which would put you at around 1.5-1.75 ppppd (we’ll used 1.75) — 90x5x1.75 = 787.5 total pounds of food rations. It sounds like a lot when you put it in those terms, but it’s really not. If you are confident in your bug-in position you can opt for canned goods and grocery store type items which will give you more immediate gratification as you wean yourself off the systems resources. You can then supplement those items with wild game you hunt or trap and dehydrated food stuffs from your garden which will enable you to prolong your supplies. Lastly, consider some type of small livestock animal such as chickens, goats or rabbits as they’re sustainable, provide food and can eat left-over food and garden refuse. Livestock animals of this type are the ultimate MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)!

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