A survivalist on why you shouldn't bug out

Seven years ago, Alex Steffen and I proposed that rather than preparing "bug out bags" you can grab and go with after the apocalypse, we should all have "bug-in bags" full of things we'll use to help our neighbors when the lights go out.

The "prepper" world has a funny intersection with the "resilience" world -- the world of people who are interested in finding cooperative solutions to disasters. Both camps assume that sometimes, regardless of our preparations, bad stuff will happen, whether that's storms and floods or critical failures in basic infrastructure. But the former assumes that individual survival is possible -- and desirable -- while the latter focuses on the idea that you will generally be better off if you cooperate with the people around you rather than try to go it on your own.

I'm firmly in the second camp, which is why I've written a utopian disaster novel about people being kind to each other in the face of adversity, a thing that actually happens in actual disasters, and is systematically misreported after the fact.

But I was very interested to read "10 Reasons Why You Do Not Want to Bug Out," written by someone from the individual-survival camp, who believes that when things go wrong, your neighbors are likely to turn on you. Despite this belief, "Pat Henry," the piece's author, lays out a case for staying put and working with your neighbors in times of strife, and builds that case up entirely on the basis of his belief about the untrustworthiness of other humans. Despite this, he thinks that the bad things about running for the hills outweigh the good things about staying put.

In times of crisis, you can almost guarantee that communities will band together in some ways. You probably don’t consider your small neighborhood or dead end street a community but let some disaster happen and you will see humans come together for support, safety and to help each-other out. Being around even just a few neighbors who know you can give you advantages if you need assistance for things like a neighborhood security plan.

Even neighbors you don’t get along with will probably overcome grudges if the disaster is severe enough. Of course there is the potential that your neighbors could turn on you for being the lone prepper but I think in most cases, things won’t go Mad Max for a little while. If it does you will have to adjust, but I believe that most people would benefit by banding with their neighbors for support. You could have an opportunity for leadership here or compassion by helping out others who haven’t prepared. It is much better to strive for this kind of relationship with people than head out the door and face the world with only what is on your back.

10 Reasons Why You Do Not Want to Bug Out [Pat Henry/Walden Labs]