There are many philosophies on the best way to bug out. I have seen everything from underground shelters with all the comforts of home to ditching the wife and kids and heading out. I am going to assume that none of us is ditching our families. Preparing for bugging out when you have children takes extra thought and gear rather than if you are preparing as a single person.
Remember, you are not bugging to the Shangri-La. It will be tough, rugged, and primitive. The point is surviving; not dining on ice cream and sleeping on a pillow-top mattress. There was a time when mommies and daddies did not have wireless video baby monitors and $400 jogging strollers. Your children will be okay. You will be surprised at all the things you do not really need.
Of course, preparing a 72-hour bug-out bag for children will be different as your kids’ ages vary. If you have an infant, you will have to carry their essentials. Elementary school-aged children will be able to carry a few things, and teenagers should be able to carry their own bug-out pack.
I think it is important to let your children know you are preparing for a potential disaster. You can do this in a calm and cool manner. The last thing you want to do is scare them. An opportune time to talk to them is when something has happened like a hurricane, tornado, or wild fires. You can explain to the children that sometimes when a natural disaster happens, you have to leave your home for a few days. This will help them understand why you are packing their bug-out bags.
Obviously, during a bug-out, your family will have to go without some of their usual comforts. Kids these days are fully unprepared for that. One way you can get them used to roughing it is by going on regular camping, hiking, rafting, or other outdoor trips. While you are out there, you can teach older children survival skills such as building a fire, filtering water, and constructing shelter. To keep the kids active and fit, kick them off the TV and get them outside! Play ball with them, take a bike ride, or go to the park. Anything to keep them moving and exercising.
Children of every age are going to need a way to stay warm, entertained, and fed. When packing your family’s food provisions, keep your children’s tastes in mind. If you have finicky eaters, try to accommodate their tastes so they will eat. Kids of all ages get grumpy and whiny when they are hungry and tired. In order to keep everyone as comfortable as possible, pack a few comfort foods such as their favorite snacks or candy. Keep plenty of children’s multi vitamins, sunscreen, and bug spray. A first aid kid and medicine is also important for your bug-out bag. In case of separation, have ID badges (with medical information) for every child and make them wear it.
Even your teenagers may have a favorite stuffed animal, pillow, or blanket. Remember to grab their security item before you leave to bug out. Having something familiar will be comforting when things are crazy and stressful. Pack games, coloring books, cards, books, electronic games, and extra batteries to keep the kids occupied.
Infants and Babies
Bugging out with an infant provides many challenges. If you need to hoof it, how will you carry the baby? A sling or chest pack will allow you to carry your backpack, but you must remember what the total weight of your bag and the baby will be. Will you be able to sustain carrying that weight for long?
A stroller would reduce the weight you have to carry, but your hands will not be free. In addition, a stroller may not be practical depending on the terrain you have to cover.
If mom is nursing, pack back-up formula in the bag. Stress and lack of calories can impede breast milk production. If you get in a pinch, babies can eat pureed food such as fruits and vegetables. Older babies love to munch on dry cereal, so pack their favorites.
Weigh your options between cloth and disposable diapers. Disposables take up a lot of room in your bag and are messy. What will you do with the trash? If you choose cloth diapers, you will need a way to wash them properly. A mix of both might be more practical. To take up less room, you can seal disposable diapers in airtight baggies using a vacuum sealer.
Babies will also need diaper cream, medicine, teething gel, pacifiers, baby powder, and wet wipes. Wet wipes can take up precious room and dry out. An alternative would be to use flannel or another soft fabric with warm water to clean up baby.
Unlike babies, toddlers will need water. Give one- to six-year olds two to four ounces of water a day from a sippy cup. One- to three-year olds will need about four cups a day and four-year olds need five cups a day. Keep in mind that toddlers need around 1,200 calories a day. They will also not be able to walk for very long. If you cannot bug out by car, you need to think of an alternative way to carry your toddler. Garden carts and wagons will not only hold your toddler, but extra gear.
School-aged children can carry their own backpacks, however kids should not carry more than 10% of their body weight, so do not over pack their bag. For school-aged children you can give them a signal whistle, a flashlight, snacks, extra socks and underwear, a photo of the family, a personal locator beacon, and water to carry. At this age, children can learn survival skills. To better prepare them, enroll them in a scouting or Campfire Boys and Girls program. Summer camps all over the United States teach essential skills as well. Some of you have already taught your children how to shoot. If you haven’t done so, this age is perfect to start learning.
Pre-teen and Teenagers
Teens and pre-teens will be able to understand the idea of bugging-out. Include them when making your go bags. Let them pack their own and include things like their MP3 player, smart phone, notebook and pen, photos of friends, their favorite hoodie, and their favorite munchies. Remember that your older kids might be devastated that they have to leave their social life behind. Remember how sensitive they are at this age, they might become introverted, withdrawn and want some privacy.
Be very clear of your teenager’s responsibilities and include them in your plan. Will they be responsible for a younger sibling? Will it be their job to put up a tent, build a fire, or cook? What will their role be in all of this? Include them in the grown-up stuff and they will feel better. Giving them chores and responsibilities will help them take their mind off things they are leaving behind.
Older children may freak out without their texts, instant messages (IM), Facebook, and phone calls. To get them used to going without, have technology free days—not as punishment, but as family bonding time. Fishing on Sunday morning, hanging out at the park on a Saturday afternoon, hiking, camping, biking, or swimming are all technology free activities teenagers can enjoy. No electronic gadgets allowed! They can always text, call, or IM their friends when they get back home.
Make sure to pack enough water and food for your teenagers. Teenagers, especially teenage boys may need up to 3,000 calories a day, especially if you are hiking all day.
Remember to revisit your children’s bug-out bags as they age and grow. Swap out their clothes, shoes, cold-weather gear, underwear, and socks so that everything will fit.
For bugging out to go as smoothly as possible, have a plan for every possible scenario you can imagine. If your children are at an age where they will understand, explain it to them. Will bugging out with little ones be challenging? Sure, but not impossible—the better prepared you are, the smoother it will go.
Do you have children? How have you accommodated for them in your preparations?