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An important part of surviving a major disaster – one that could lead to a societal collapse – is having a bug out location. Building a stockpile of food and supplies in your home (your “bug in” spot) is essential, but in some disaster scenarios, you may have to leave your main residence.
This departure may be because your family is in danger from natural or human-caused events. A bug out location (BOL) then is a safe place you can go when you must evacuate.
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A BOL can be a temporary shelter or a permanent one. It can be a house, an apartment, a cabin, or a tent. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the location of your BOL rather than the type of structure. How do you choose an away-from-home place of safety for your family?
Here are 10 factors to consider in finding the perfect bug out location.
When considering the miles your BOL is from your home, you may first think it needs to be as far away as possible. If your thinking goes in this direction, however, you are forgetting an important question: How will you get there quickly in an emergency?
If you will be driving to your BOL, it is a good idea to choose somewhere you can get to on one tank of gasoline. If it is further away than that, you will need to bring extra gas with you. Filling up at the gas station may not be an option. If you plan to walk to your destination, it should not be more than 60 miles away.
That distance often will get you far enough away from an urban center without taking too much time, energy, and drain on supplies. At a walking rate of 12 miles a day, 60 miles will take you five days.
Whatever method of transportation you use, be sure to keep in mind that you will need to carry your bug out bag with you. This bag should be prepared in advance as much as possible and ready to quickly grab as you are heading out.
Remember that during an emergency, roads may be crowded or even shut down. It is a good idea to choose a BOL that can be accessed by two or more routes.
The next factor to consider is the safety and seclusion of your retreat. You will want your location to be difficult to find. In other words, your BOL should not be easily glimpsed from the road or any well-traveled paths or tracks.
Trees can be an excellent camouflage both from the ground and from the air. Keep in mind that you also will need to prevent your fire or your lights from being seen.
If your survival spot is challenging to get to for your family, chances are better that someone else won’t stumble upon it. You should not have address markers, signs, or numbers at the entrance. If you have an entrance gate, make sure it is non-descript and keep it closed and locked.
As you consider the location’s concealment, also think about its defensibility. For example, will you be able to see anyone coming your way before they see you? Do you have an escape route if your family is threatened?
Finding a concealed spot that has water nearby adds a new wrinkle to this decision. However, having access to fresh water doesn’t mean you have to live on the banks of a river or pond. Your BOL can be in a spot that easily gets run-off water or has accessible groundwater through a well. Look for a place that has a year-round water source since you do not know how long you will have to be there.
A running water source if optimal in that it might serve to generate power for your BOL. Water-loving trees, such as willows and sycamores, and plants, such as reeds or cattails, can be good signs that water is nearby.
Remember that you will need water not just for drinking but for cooking and cleaning as well. The recommended minimum amount of water per person per day is one gallon for drinking, basic hygiene, and simple food preparation. If you are thinking about purchasing a survival property, here are some questions to ask concerning water:
- Can you access water that is independent of any municipal supply?
- What water sources are on the property and will you own rights to that water?
- Is the water supply renewable and year-round?
- What are the options for catching rainwater? Is there the possibility of a pond or a cistern?
Even if you are able to stock supplies ahead of time at your BOL, you will need to plan for long-term self-sufficiency. In addition to a water supply, here are other items for a self-sufficiency checklist:
- Sunlight for solar power and gardening
- Soil for gardening
- Firewood for heating and cooking
- Food and space for raising livestock
- Wild game for hunting
- Fishing opportunities
5. Natural Threats
You don’t want to move from one danger zone to another. Find a BOL that is relatively safe from the risk of wildfire, hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes. For example, ensure you are not bugging out in a floodplain or in an area that is prone to landslides. Also, learn about any dangerous wildlife that lives in the area and way to protect yourselves from them.
Research how your BOL’s climate will affect your ability to grow food and obtain resources throughout the year. If you are near a town or city, examine crime statistics within a 50-mile radius of your location.
Before you purchase any property for use as your BOL, prepare yourself for any potential red tape. There are several questions you should ask. For example…
Are there are any government regulations on building on or altering the space? Do you need a building permit? How is the property zoned? Can you raise animals on the site? What kinds of animals are permitted and how many may you have? What are the property taxes?
Property in rugged environments can offer seclusion and access to many resources, but there are some drawbacks. Harsh weather can mean a short growing season and a higher need for power to keep warm. Choose a climate to which your family is already accustomed.
A tent may be fine for a short stay, but what are your options for building long-term housing in this location? How will you get it there? Some ideas for a bug out shelter include:
- Log cabin
- Shipping container
- Underground shelter
- Recreational vehicle
- School bus
- Tiny house
9. Waste Management
Not a fun subject to talk about, but a long-term BOL needs a plan for a latrine. Does your place have a likely spot that is a minimum of 50 yards away from your water source and is both downhill and downwind of your shelter?
The latrine bottom needs to be at least six feet above the water table. Your latrine should be in a discreet location shielded by bushes, trees, or stone. Additionally, a supply of dirt should be nearby so that waste can be covered.
10. Other Safety Considerations
Since survival situations come in many forms, you may want to choose a spot that is not near military bases, communication centers industrial plants, mines, transportation centers, strategic businesses or other forms of critical infrastructure.
Although our headline uses the word “perfect,” there really is no perfect bug out location. Everyone’s needs are different. You should choose an evacuation spot based upon your budget, the size of your family and the area in which you live. The survival skills you already possess also should play a part in your selection.
With natural disasters seeming to be on the rise and political unrest always brewing, having a place of safety can provide you with valuable peace of mind. If after reading this list, you still don’t know where to begin your search for property, try using MapQuest and Google Earth to see what is available within a two- or three-hour drive from your home. If you find an area that looks promising, your next step is to visit the location.
In many rural locations, realtors specialize in survival properties. You can begin with Zillow or realtor.com. Take the time to think about your family’s needs and wants before making your decision. While safety is your primary concern, you should choose a location that also appeals to you under pleasant circumstances.
Here are some great books that can help you choose the right bug out location for your family.
- Bug Out Location: Find the Perfect Survival Shelter to Survive After Society Collapses
- Survival Homestead One: Finding The Perfect Bug Out Location
- Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places
- The Bug Out Gardening Guide: Growing Survival Food When It Absolutely Matters
- Prepper Bugout Retreats: 5 Awesome Bugout Locations In The US For Preppers
- SHTF Bug Out Survival Skills Handbook: How to Survive Any Disaster
- Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It’s Too Late
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Thunder Waggon says
Simple but well thought article. I know your not able to cover everything so i just wanted to add this because its on my mind.
For me at 155pnds with a 38pnd ruck (25%). I would need around 9,000 calories on the low end for that 60 mile hike. If you have no fat stores make sure there food in that pack. And please make sure you have water points on your route. Im good at planning that but ended up without my filter one trip and my iodine pills corroded. I only had 4 miles to get out but it sucked. Wasent risking dysentary.
Side note humor: (this happened)
A guy comes in very overweight and refuses to buy anything not stealthy and small so he can weave through the trees while bragging he needs it to bug out. Completely out of breath and sweating just roaming the store. The owner laughed his butt off after he left and said preppers would not only buy anything there crazy.
To this day the owner thinks im just average joe camper. I like it that way but come on we sure get a bad rap.
Donald Vrban says
I live and have my place in the arkansas – ozarks,it is a great place for this,it has everything you talk about plus it has many-many different caves that are great for this
A very good article.
However, I am not sure that selecting a permanent one is such a good idea. Things change, you would need to be flexible and be able change also. I think planning on being nomadic, might be a good idea.
The only thing that was not mentioned that should be a factor, is Wild fire danger.
Considering the fires in California recently, this should be a priority.
I would rethink building an above ground home, for at least a partly earth sheltered home, one not set in the trees or close to brush covered areas. Most Grass fires burn out quickly, but forest fires and brush fires get really hot and burn for a longer time, posing a greater danger.
Someone didn’t read the full story… It covers all your concerns… What not to do is delay and do nothing…
Actually I did read it, and no it does not cover “all my concerns”.
Wild fires are not really covered as a concern. No place is “relatively Safe” from them. Once you do not have government forest management and wild fire suppression programs in place, anything goes.
We can see how ineffective these programs are now, just think what it would be without them.
Post SHTF you will not have fire trucks, hydrants and trained firemen to put out house fires, so they will jump from house to house, burning everything, until something stops it.
In the Country, you will not have 5 or 10k firefighters battling blazes, no bulldozers, no slurry bombers. Fires will rage, until they burn themselves out.
With all the Arsonists and want to be arsonists, out there in society, once the rule of law is gone, these fires will become a part of life, POST SHTF. Remember most prisons will set such people free, once they can no longer care for them, inside of the prisons. The same will go for mental institutions. There will be a lot of crazy people set free.
So it will be a much bigger risk than anyone suspects.
A lot of what we know or think we know, is clouded by what we see today or experience today with all of societies built in systems to keep us safe and minimize risks.
In fact, under the section on water, it makes the same old mistake citing: of 1 gallon of water, per person, per day. That is for drinking use only, in Survival mode.
If you want to figure emergency water needs, including food prep and some hygiene needs; that is about 4 to 5 gallons or 15- 20 L, per person, per day.
To include laundry and bathing; is about 13 gallons or 50 L of water per person, per day.
That is roughly the minimum amount that is considered necessary by International groups that research, build and maintain refugee camps, in order to maintain livable conditions.
But since the combating the diseases that spring up there are handled with Doctors and antibiotics, (things that will be in short supply Post SHTF). it might be good to have more water available than that, just for hygiene purposes.
This is just another example of poorly verified facts and the failure to properly research into these areas.( I do not blame this author, as it is all to common of a mistake).
So the Prepper community is given false info, based upon false assumptions, poor research, etc.
So do your Due diligence.
Location and access to is rather important. Tobias Moore mentions this in his book. However this applies to anyone in cases or situations. Good examples that are many are the events happening out in California as I type this.