Camping & Survival

Getting in Shape for a Bug Out

In my youth, I was a Boy Scout. The model of the Boy Scouts of America is “be prepared.” I think that’s good advice not just for the Boy Scouts, but for life. You never know what could happen, and sometimes it’s better to be prepared. It’s better to never have to use your skills than be thrust into a situation where you need those skills and don’t have them.

Getting in shape for a bug out
Training with your family does not have to be a chore. Make it fun and you’ll ingrain the proper mindset; an ethic they will carry into the future.

I would certainly not consider myself paranoid. I am what I would call “cautious.” After all, the world is a crazy place, and the current state of politics, heightened emotions, and threat of terrorism really can’t be ignored. A recent trip to the North Woods—combined with a plethora of reality survival-type shows spread across a dozen television channels—had me curious as to what it would really take to survive a bug-out situation.

Be Prepared

Viewing several of these programs, it is apparent that the average American citizen would not do well when thrust into a life or death survival situation. I’m old enough to remember the commercials with Dick Van Dyke that reminded people to stop, drop, and roll to put them out if they were on fire. In schools across the country, we put our children through tornado drills, fire drills, and now, even crisis drills to prepare them should there be an emergency situation.

That same preparedness should carry over to your home and person in preparation for a crisis or bug-out situation. The overwhelming message that came through in each of the “survival” shows I viewed was that it takes a great deal of strength, endurance, and yes, skill, in order to simply exist when modern conveniences are not available. Something that we take for granted, like turning on the faucet and getting a drink of water, can result in a great deal of work and caloric expenditure when put out into the wild.

The simple act of carrying a bag with weight in it when you’re not used to doing so can be enough to put someone entirely out of commission for up to several days. How can you be physically prepared for this type of situation?


Sure, the normal gym exercises can help, but just as in performance sports, activity-specific training is always better. Along that same line of thinking, using and breaking in the footwear for your bug-out situation will help you tremendously. Remember, if you have to leave on short notice, everything you need to survive will have to be carried on your person or somehow taken along with you. One of the items I purchased that will perform “double-duty” is a folding aluminum game hauler.

It is essentially a metal framed, can’t-go-flat, wheeled cart that can haul up to 250 pounds. If you live in the northern climes, a large ice-fishing type sled is also a good investment, as is a good pair of snowshoes. Your training regimen will include each of these items.

The first step is collect everything you believe you will be taking with you and weigh it. You can accomplish this with a simple bathroom scale. My pack and bug-out gear weighs approximately 60 pounds. In another post, I will describe what is in it, but for now I can tell you that there is a lot less in it than you would think.

You should plan on carrying at least one, but preferably several firearms. You will need a way to train with and account for those as well.

Finally, you should calculate the amount of weight to be allocated toward food and water.

My family’s plan if we need to leave is to head north toward less populated and more forested areas. A weekend hiking in that terrain made me painfully aware of the need to be prepared. One of the best and easiest things you can do is to carry your pack. You do not need to put everything in your pack, but you can place an equal amount of weight inside of it while you walk and/or run with it.

Choose the right firearms for your bug-out kit.
Feel free to pick your pea shooter, but understand each one adds weight. Multiple calibers can serve multiple functions, but multiple rounds of ammunition for each will add weight quickly.

How to account for firearms is another question. Your neighbors may not appreciate you walking the subdivision with a firearm, regardless of if it is loaded or not, and regardless of the legalities of doing so. My solution was a short, metal pole that I filled with lead to approximate the weight of my weapon. For a handgun, a small dumbbell will suffice. If you want to be even more specific, you can purchase one of the many weight-specific “training weapons” in a bright color.

Your path should take you through rugged terrain or wooded areas if possible. Not all of your travel will be along roads, and you may want to specifically avoid them. A 30-minute walk as equipped will do wonders for your body’s adaptation and your ability to perform. I live in a relatively flat area, but drive to a hill that is approximately a quarter-mile walk to the top. I walk up and down it four to five times. I call these my “Hill pack days.” Finally, I do “cart-pulls” a few times per week. My daughters love this one. I load one of them up and pull them around my yard, which is approximately two acres. In the winter, I replaced the cart with my sled. Again, you can perform this workout two to three times per week and it provide tremendous benefit as your muscles learn and adapt to the performance of the task and also have you in shape for deer season! [ace]

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Comments (2)

  1. Thanks for the tips, Faultroy, and I couldn’t agree more.
    I can travel super light and go a looooong way with a light pack and rifle.
    But I have a family. 2 of them are small…Way too small to be carrying anything over any distance.
    After seeing a historic site dedicated to the “Mormon Handcarts” that trekked through the midwest on their way to Utah, it struck me like a bolt of lightning.
    That’s really why I came up with the idea of the game Cart. Light weight, folds up, tires don’t go flat, and I can fit both my girls on it with my gear and theirs. I can easily pull it 5 or 6 miles, and more if I have to.
    If there is any type of injury, nobody needs to be left behind.
    Our bug out guns are:
    Bolt action .22 mag rifle
    Bolt action .223 that weighs in under 6.5 lbs
    MSR in .223 with quick release scope. Heavier, but can use to lay a cover fire and fire multiple wounds quickly, plus it shares ammo with the bolt action.

  2. This is a wonderful article and I truly believe–and live–everything the author says. I have one quibble and that would be the weight of the gear. It is perfectly appropriate to train with heavy gear, but in truth, the objective should be to travel as light as possible.

    As someone with a strong interest in primitive skills/survival, I am appalled by the many articles that tout bomb proof gear. Usually this comes in the form of advice from the quasi military types trying to palm off heavy military gear. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, it should be just the opposite.

    Your objective is to get the lightest gear that you can possibly bring together for bugout gear. The rule of thumb is to do a 20 mile hike with your gear. If you find it perfectly comfortable, then keep what you have.

    The same should be said of your survival survival emergency gear. My objective is to fit my emergency gear in my shirt pocket with room to spare for a pack of chewing gum. Have I reached my goal? Not yet, but I keep on trying. The point is the last thing I need is carrying more junk. If you take this attitude, you will refine your survival gear to what you actually need and most importantly prioritize. If you don’t take on this attitude, you will consistently be carrying more gear than you can handle–regardless of your physical conditioning.

    However 98% of us will find the gear to be incredibly overwhelming and way too heavy. Pack weight is everything. I suggest that everyone– other than young men that have a desire to go into the military– to forego most military gear and opt for civilian gear that is as light as possible and gets the job done. (spoiler alert: the lighter the gear–the more expensive it is.)

    Once you have the “light mindset,” you can then start eliminating gear. I wish I could tell you exactly what to take, but that all depends on your situation. For example, do you have children? What is your objective? Will you have to carry for your wife? (assuming you have one).

    For myself, I look for the lightest gear I can find, and the lightest clothing possible that gives me the most versatility.

    Everyone talks about “battle rifles,” but the fact is that a 22 rifle weighing in at 5lbs is just as effective as a 308 “battle rifle” if you consider that on average you need to be capable of doing 20 miles per day as a conditioning target. Now if you are strong and fit enough to carry 500 rounds of 308s along with a 9-10lbs rifle–and all your bug out gear–congratulations!!!…but very few Americans are THAT fit. And even more importantly, very few military men actually in the service could manage to do that with the gear they traditionally carry. Furthermore, if you read Military articles on gear reviews, there is enormous documentation as to debilitating injuries to soldiers carrying too much gear.

    But the point is listen to the advice of this excellent presentor–get fit–and get into the field and develop some dirt time.

    Your body will tell you what to take and what to leave behind. If you actually get into the field, your body will inform you when you’ve reached your load limit. Personally I would never feel under gunned with a 22 mag bolt rifle and 500 rounds of 22s. I would feel overgunned with a 308 battle rifle and 100 rounds.–along with the rest of my gear–my body is just not strong enough to do consistent 20 mile hikes day in and day out with that kind of load.

    And in a bug out situation, the ability to both survive and thrive over the long haul is of the utmost importance.

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