When you’ve got to get out, and fast, you need a bug-out bag containing the essentials for your escape. What do you need to think about when packing yours? Everybody’s bug-out plan will be different to suit their needs, we’re here to set you thinking about what you’ll need to do.
Here in 2023, trans people are under relentless attack, particularly in the USA but in other countries too. You don’t have to be a genius to see where this is going, there are people who want to eliminate us, and given the chance they’ll follow through on that. All your planning for an orderly exit can go up in smoke if events unfold too quickly, so it’s time to also take a look at planning for a quick exit just in case. And for that, I’ll start with a mid-September day at the height of the pandemic.
When It Was My Turn, I Made All The Mistakes
Back in 2020 I had a very unstable domestic situation, eventually culminating in my being made homeless going into the second UK COVID lockdown. When things began to go awry I packed a bug-out bag for what I judged the likely risk would be, and in the event I made such a series of mistakes that they should serve as a lesson to others.
My threat model was that things would take a temporary turn for the worse, and I would have to clear out for the day. The British countryside in September is pleasant enough, so I packed for a day outdoors. I would hang out in a quiet and shady corner, where I was going to have a brew and eat nut bars while I sat with my laptop and did my work. At the end of the day I’d slide back in unnoticed, and that would be that. In the end when it came, it was so unexpected and ferocious that I didn’t have a chance to grab my bug-out bag and I didn’t feel safe going back that evening. All I could do was run for my car, which is why I found myself that afternoon in my local megastore buying essentials. I was fortunate, I had my mobile phone and my handbag, and a friend offered me her sofa to sleep on, but it could have been so different. I avoided sleeping in my car with no food or money by a whisker, and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.
So, where did I go wrong? I packed for too specific a scenario, I didn’t properly anticipate my threat model, and perhaps most importantly, my bug-out bag wasn’t in the right place for me to grab it when I needed it. You can learn from this just as I have, you have a better line on the threat model, you can plan much better what you will do, and you can place what you need, where you will need it.
A Bug-Out Plan Is What You Need
The first thing to say is that a bug-out bag is not there as part of a long-term and well-considered extraction master plan. It’s there for emergencies, when you need to drop everything and run. So part of it is the bag itself, but you should also consider it as a component in a greater bug-out plan. And don’t forget what you might have to leave behind, are there any other arrangements to be made? As an example, if you have a cat, arrange in advance for their welfare with a cis friend in the event you have to run. Or if you won’t be able to return, arrange with your friends what will happen to your possessions.
Our threat model is depressingly obvious in this case, that it’s going to in some form become dangerous to be where you are because you are a trans person. One of the things you’ll have to think about is how long you will be away, which will affect what you decide is essential, and thus what those other arrangements should be.
Having considered the threat model, next up think about your bug-out plan. What are you going to do and where are you going to go? Will you take shelter with a friend, use motels, sleep in your car, or what? Are you heading to the next city, another state or province, or will you leave the country? And how are you going to do it, in your car, by plane, or by some other method? How much is it all going to cost, and have you got enough cash stashed away? Think in terms of the short, medium, and long terms, where will you be tonight and how will you get there, then the next night, followed by the next week, and so on. Once you have a pretty good idea of where you are going to go and how you’re going to do it, come up with an alternative plan for each stage. Things will go wrong along the way, and in those events you’ll thank yourself for coming up with a backup plan.
There’s More To A Bag Than Just A Bag
We know our threat model then, and we’ve made a plan. Are we finally at the bag? Not quite, because a bug-out bag isn’t always a single physical bag. Instead it’s a series of components which might be in the same place but don’t have to be. Loosely, consider what you take with you as things to have on your person, things you might carry away with you, and things to cache somewhere else to pick up once you’re away from immediate danger. Where do these things have to be to be of most use to you?
In my bug-out above I got one thing right, I had my car keys, phone, and payment card with me. These are the things you have on your person, and for instance you might want to add some cash, your passport, or a supply of your medication to them.
Where I went horribly wrong was in the bag I was going to take away with me, In my day pack I had a waterproof groundsheet, camp stove and coffee fixings, my laptop and some trail food, but hadn’t considered I might need the necessities for a night away. Then to compound it all I left it somewhere I couldn’t easily grab it, when I should have put it in my car. You will certainly dodge my mistakes, but think more carefully than I did and try to avoid pitfalls of your own.
If you’ve planned things correctly, now you should be equipped to get away from home with the essentials, and you’d be safely on your way. But stop and think for a moment, are you carrying too much? Can you keep your immediate exit safer by carrying less, and caching some of the more bulky things with a friend somewhere for later retrieval? There are some things here that you definitely shouldn’t have on your person, for example ADHD meds which require certificates to cross international borders, or professional qualifications and diplomas which can be a red flag for immigration staff. Maybe a friend can store and forward a bag of your stuff, or you could even stop by a UPS depot on your way, so you don’t have to weigh yourself down.
If you were hoping for an exhaustive list of what to put in your bug-out bag as part of this article, then we’re sorry to have disappointed you. But with luck we’ve set you thinking about the things you’ll need to consider in case you need to make a quick exit, and made that eventuality a lot safer for you if you ever find yourself in that position. Stay safe everyone.