Let’s be honest, children make everything more complicated. That’s a fact. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my three year old son, but even a quick trip to the grocery store can sometimes be a challenge. If you have more than one child, that makes certain situations even more difficult. Now, think about emergency situations where stress levels are already high.
Bugging out is physically and mentally tough. Bugging out with young children is obviously going to be an even bigger challenge. When it’s just you, or you and a spouse, most of your attention can be focused on the situation. When you add a child to the equation, you will be more focused on them and not on yourself and how to safely deal with the situation.
The most important part of being prepared is having a plan and practicing that plan. When creating a bug out plan for your family, there are three key factors that you will need to consider:
- Child’s age
- Child’s physical capabilities
- Child’s emotional and mental capabilities
Throughout this article, you will have to make your use your best judgement based on those three factors.
I’m going to assume, for the sake of this article, that your bug out location is already known. Now, the big question is how you’re going to get there. Your “Plan A” might start off by loading up the truck with gear and supplies and heading for the hills. That’s a great plan, but what if there’s an angry mob in the streets and they’ve already set your car on fire? What would happen if your vehicle broke down half way there? That’s why you will need a “Plan B” and maybe even a “Plan C.”
If your family’s lives are in danger and you absolutely need to leave your home, will you be able to walk to your bug out location with your child? Even if your child can walk, like my son, they won’t have the ability to walk for long distances. That means that you will either be, depending on their age, carrying them most of the way or you will have to stop and rest more frequently. An easy solution is to have a good jogging stroller or a wagon that the child could ride in. Jogging strollers have larger wheels compared to a normal stroller and would be able to handle rough terrain better. With a wagon, you could also use it to transport gear or supplies. If your child is under the age of two, you may want to consider getting a combination backpack/child carrier. This will allow you to comfortably carry your child and some gear. Regardless of which one you choose, you should make sure to either keep it in your vehicle at all times or put it in when you’re bugging out. That way if you break down or travel becomes impossible you can transfer your child and gear and keep on going.
Here are my recommendations:
- Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier
- Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 Child Carrier
- Kelty Transit 3.0 Child Carrier
- BOB Revolution SE Single Stroller
- Graco Relay Click Connect Performance Jogger
- Baby Trend Expedition Jogger
- Collapsible Utility Wagon (Black, Green, Realtree, Blue, Red)
Here is my son in our collapsible utility wagon:
Planning your route, or multiple routes, in advance will dramatically increase your chances of safely getting to your bug out location. Using Google Maps will help you plan routes but you should also inspect areas in person to check for possible issues. If you’re on foot, keep in mind that the route you would take by yourself might not be the same if you have a child. You should plan on taking safer routes and avoid challenging terrain, even if that means traveling longer distances.
When preparing for a bug out situation that involves children you’re obviously going to have to pack some additional age-appropriate items. Some of these items may include:
- Diapers or Pull-ups – Even if your toddler is potty trained, they may have accidents because of the stress involved with bugging out.
- Wet Wipes – Just like at home, these are essential when changing dirty diapers and cleaning off sticky children.
- Extra clothing – Pack at least one extra outfit for your child and make sure to rotate the clothes based on their size and the season.
- Snacks – Children need to eat more often than adults. Make sure you pack some snacks that are easy to eat and that will last in your bag. (granola bars, dried fruit, hard candy)
- Bottles / Formula – If your child is still on a bottle, you may want to consider sterile disposable bottles.
- Medication – If your child takes medication on a regular basis, make sure to include enough for a few days.
- Rain gear – Don’t forget to have a way to keep your child dry if it starts to rain.
Additionally, you’ll want to pack some comfort items. Children need to feel safe and having something as simple as a stuffed animal may make the situation less stressful for them and you. Here are some ideas:
- Stuffed animal
- Small lightweight toy or book
- Playing cards
- Travel sized game
If your child is old enough to carry a small bug out bag, here are some ideas of what to put in their bag:
- Small bottle of water – Platypus SoftBottle with Push-Pull Cap
- Extra clothes
- Light sticks
- Small pocket knife
- Dust mask
- Hand sanitizer
- Emergency blanket
- Emergency whistle (attached to the outside of their bag)
- Laminated emergency info (also include pictures of parents)
When creating a bug out bag for a young child, age and maturity will determine what items you pack. Be very careful not to overload the bag with heavy survival gear. A child’s bug out bag is not meant to be a full-sized bug out bag and shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of their body weight. Make sure that you go over the contents with them and how each item could be used in a survival situation. As with any other bug out bag, you should go through their bag every 3-6 months to change out food, water and clothes based on size and the season.
Now that you have at least one plan in place and everybody’s bags are packed, it’s time to practice bugging out. The first step is safely, and quickly, getting out of the house with your survival gear and supplies. To practice this, see if your family can go from a normal activity (watching TV, eating dinner) at home to being in the car, with all your gear, in under 5-10 minutes. If you have a toddler at home, try to make it fun and not like a military exercise. You may also need to practice different evacuation strategies and routes of escape (front door, back door, window). Based on the results, you may find that you need to tweak your plans.
The next step would be getting to your bug out location. This will be the hardest part to practice since it’s almost impossible to predict what emergency is forcing you from your home. It also really depends on how far you’re going and how familiar you are with the routes. It may be a 15 minute walk or a three hour drive, but if you practice a few different scenarios and familiarize yourself with different routes, you’ll be more prepared when the time comes.
You will also need to practice using your emergency survival gear. One way to accomplish this is to just practice in the back yard. Can you easily setup your tent/tarp for shelter? Can you do it in the dark? Can you actually use that fire starter you bought to make a fire? Once you’re confident with your abilities, you could try an overnight camping trip with your family. Go through the first step of bugging out, but instead of going to your bug out location, go to some place where you can camp for the night. This will test your skills and your gear. You might find that you need to pack something else in your bug out bag or it could just be an enjoyable trip to the woods, or the backyard, with your family.
Depending on the age of your child, you may want to start teaching them some very basic wilderness survival skills such as making a fire, purifying water, building a shelter, basic first aid and signaling for help. This is a great way to get them involved in preparing for emergencies.
It’s impossible to recreate the exact emergency and the stress involved that would cause you bug out but if you practice multiple scenarios, you’ll be better off than most people.
Bugging out is always going to be a last resort but with the proper plans, gear and training, your family will be more prepared to deal with it if the need arises. Use your best judgement and keep children’s physical, emotional and mental adequacy in the forefront of your mind when constructing your emergency plans. Backup plans are always beneficial and improve efficacy. Lastly, don’t wait to purchase items for emergency and bug out situations. Before you know it, it will be too late and you may be stranded without them.
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