Forced Travel On Foot

forced-travel-footThe scenario:  Some sort of emergency situation develops – perhaps a levy breaks, or a train derails, dumping some toxic substance.  Regardless, you’ve got to bug out.  You jump into your bug out vehicle, and are heading to a safe location such as the home of a friend or your bug out location.  It’s 30 miles away – plenty of distance to keep you safe.

You hop in the vehicle, and are 5 miles down the road, when the car stops.  Your teenage son had borrowed the car last night, and didn’t fill up the tank as promised.  You’re stuck.  Dead in the water.  All gas stations are closed, as they’re bugging out, too.  You’re forced to travel on foot for the last 25 miles to your destination.

A forced bug out situation will usually happen fast. If you are forced to bug out on foot you will need to keep your feet in top condition so your journey is both achievable and as comfortable as possible. With that in mind there are some considerations to be made when deciding what footwear and equipment you will need to have prepared with your bug out bag.

Choice of footwear

There are a number of things to consider when choosing the type of footwear for your bug out journey. The terrain you will be traveling over will be a big influence as to your final choice of shoe. Your shoes will likely fall into one of two categories – sports shoes or boots.

Sports shoes are light and flexible and are usually very comfortable assuming that they fit correctly. These could be a good choice if you have to cover a small distance at speed and the terrain is mostly ‘urban’.

Any journey that will involve multiple terrain types will require boots of some description. There are many different types of boots and consideration needs to be given to ensuring the correct type is provided.

Some boots will have a season rating. The ratings range from 1 – 4. Basically if we assume all boots are suitable for dry summer conditions then the higher the rating the more adverse weather the boots can perform in.

If you will be traveling through a mountainous area then a 3 season boot will usually be sufficient. If you will be traveling through any form of ice or snow then a 4 season boot will be required. Some 4 season boots will be ‘crampon compatible’ meaning tough treks through snow with crampons will be possible.

Low cut hiking boots tend to be a great choice for an ‘all-rounder’ type of boot. They provide good ankle support while still being light weight and flexible.

The boots you choose should have a ‘strong’ tread pattern. The grooves should be deep and form mostly side to side patterns. This not only increases grip but it will allow the sole of the boot to bend in sync with your feet as you walk over rocks etc.

Boots will provide various levels of ankle support. The 4 season boots will be pretty inflexible so will provide solid support. A desert patrol boot will be extremely flexible as they are designed for long term wear. Identify your terrain and select your boots accordingly.


You must wear socks to ensure the health of your feet. Socks act as a permeable layer on your feet which helps evaporate moisture. Not only that but they help cushion your feet against the impact felt when walking over a hard terrain.

Hiking socks come in a variety of materials. Cotton provides the most comfort but it will absorb moisture and dry slowly. It lacks the vital insulation our feet need if they are wet. 100% cotton socks are not recommended but a blend could be a suitable compromise.

Some hiking socks will be made from wool. It provides great insulation and helps keep our feet dry.

Merino wool is wool from a breed of sheep in New Zealand. It has the same properties as normal wool but it is softer meaning you get the added benefit of comfort while bugging out.
Generally a good hiking sock is a combination of natural and synthetic materials.

Coolmax and polypropylene increase the moisture evaporating properties of cotton and wool socks.

Socks with nylon and/or spandex added to the mix mean a tighter fit which reduces movement of the socks over your feet meaning blisters are less likely.

You should carry multiple pairs of socks and change out of wet pairs when you can. A long on foot bug out will need several pairs being rotated to ensure feet stay dry.

Blister care

No matter how much consideration we put into our footwear and socks, long bug out journeys will likely cause a blister or two. Carrying moleskin or second skin in your bag will help prevent a blister from becoming a big problem. Moleskin acts as a barrier between a blister and your socks and shoes.  If you do not have this with you, duct tape can be used.

If you are using moleskin, use a piece slightly bigger than the blister, cut a hole in the center and place over the blister so it is seen through the cut hole.

Walking poles

Walking poles provide added support and stability to any journey by foot. They reduce impact on your legs and they also reduce the level of exertion required to keep moving.

Generally your elbows should be bent at around 90 degrees when you are holding the pole handle and the tip of the pole is on the ground. However, alter the height of your poles until the most comfortable position is found. Efficient pole use involves placing the poles on the ground at an angle pointing behind you to drive you forward.


Chief Instructor Here:  The average, healthy adult walks at pace of about 3 miles per hour.  That is on flat, smooth pavement. 

In our scenario above, that last 25 miles takes us a half hour in our car.  On foot, you’re looking at a minimum of 8 hours of walking.  That’s if you never stop for a break or for food.

It also doesn’t take into consideration that you’ll need to carry your Bug Out Bag with your provisions, adding another (minimum) of 10 to 15 pounds of weight.  Food, water, portable shelter, medical and self-defense weapons have got to go along for the journey.

What about kids?  What about folks who aren’t in such good shape or with disabilities that affect their feet, knees, hips, backs or shoulders?  Asthma, anyone?

Practice walking NOW.  Short jaunts during the week, and longer, more strenuous hikes at least on a monthly basis.

Your personal independence is your responsibility.

Or you can spend the night with some new friends –

Hurricane Katrina survivors wait to be evacuated from the Superdome in New Orleans


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