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Picking the Best Bug Out Location

 “If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail”

First of all, you need to know that you’re going to need more than one bug out location.

You just don’t know what to expect in a Shit Hits the Fan (SHTF) situation and you could find your primary bug out location is inaccessible because of a natural disaster. There could be road closures that prevent you from arriving to your location. You could find that thieves have already overrun your place before you even got there.

Because of this I would plan at least two bug out locations. A primary and a secondary. These are just the locations that you’re planning on using for an “extended stay”. You can never prepare too much so plan for more as you get the time.

The need to bug out is a very real possibility and picking a good bug out location requires thought and planning. While scouting for a bug out location, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind so you’ll be prepared for when everything around you turns into chaos.

Safety in Numbers or Every Man for Himself?

Remember that during a time of chaos, being in a crowd of people isn’t what’s best. That old rule that there’s safety in numbers doesn’t apply when a SHTF situation occurs.

It’s every man for himself. You want to make sure that your location is somewhere that is not as populated. Get away from the people. Head out deep into the woods toward a preplanned location, if possible.

You don’t want to leave anything to chance. If you haven’t chosen a site yet, you’ll want to avoid the mentality of the masses. Bugging out to the “touristy” forest areas will be the knee-jerk go-to for all the non-preppers – so don’t even think about going there.

Push out to more isolated locations because even places you think are remote now could be overrun by people during a crisis. The more isolated the better because you don’t want attention. Sound and smoke from a fire travels a long way.

The area you choose should not only be isolated, but also have access to an economy so that you can trade knowledge, skills, and supplies.

The Intermountain West region is recommended by James Wesley Rawles and Joel Skousen for its low population density and diverse economy. There are many areas to choose from in this region. Additionally, Mel Tappan has suggested southwestern Oregon because of limited exposure to potential nuclear targets.

The important thing is that you start looking now and plan ahead.

Be Extra Familiar with Your Chosen Bug Out Location

The location you pick should be far enough off the beaten track to keep you safe from people, while offering resources like a water supply, a good area to set up a shelter, and the ability to hunt or fish.

Make sure you are familiar with the bug out location that you choose. If you haven’t scouted out or selected a bug out location, before the SHTF, it’s probably better for you to stay put or you will likely place yourself in a more dangerous situation.

Personally, I would love to bug out to the Intermountain West region, but currently I’m unfamiliar with the geography, the climate, and local plant and animal life. This lack of familiarity can get me in serious trouble, or dead, really quickly.

Being intimately familiar with your selected location is going to give you a huge advantage in a disaster. There are many historical examples where groups with limited numbers and resources were able to repel invaders because their knowledge of the local terrain gave them an advantage.

You will need to know everything you can about your location. Here is a short list of things you should know about your bug out location:

  • What is the weather like?
  • Is your bug out location defensible?
  • What is the terrain like?
  • Is the area prone to flooding, forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes or earthquakes?
  • Is there a natural source of water?
  • Is there game you can hunt for food?
  • Are there wild sources of edible plants?
  • Can you grow food on the land?
  • Are there natural shelters you can leverage?

This list is NOT exhaustive, but it will help get the brain cogs turning. What other important details do you like to know about your bug out location? Leave them in the comments below.

In short, either pick a location you’re already familiar with or spend some time getting to know your chosen location before disaster strikes.


When people talk of bug out locations they are usually talking about one of two things, either a survival property or a remote wilderness location. A survival property is typically purchased and stocked with supplies ahead of time. They will generally have more permanent structures and are used for longer term survival situations. A remote wilderness location will be more temporary and meant for short-term disasters.

What are you going to live in? Will you live in a tent or RV? Will your shelters be permanent structures or simple temporary dwellings? You need to determine these details before your shelter is needed.

A teepee made of birch bark with deciduous trees in the background.
A teepee is a simple shelter that will keep you warm and protect you from the elements.

Your shelter does not need to be luxurious. The purpose of a shelter is to protect you from the elements and keep you warm. The kind of shelter you need will depend on your own circumstances and you need to plan accordingly. For example, if you’re bugging out with an infant, you’ll want warmer and more structurally sound accommodations.

Your bug out location should have shelter that is either already long term or that can easily convert into long term shelter if necessary.

Recently I was hiking a trail that went up over a ridge. I couldn’t believe how cold and windy it was on top of the ridge. As I continued hiking and dropped down below the ridge the wind stopped and the temperature was way more pleasant. So what’s the point of my story? It reminded me that if you’re familiar with your location you understand the best areas suitable for shelter and can maximize the use of natural shelter like rock formations, trees, and caves. You can use these to help create and protect your shelter from inclement weather. This can increase your comfort and improve your chances of survival.

Remember to camouflage your shelters so you don’t attract unwanted attention.


Water sustains life. You can go for weeks without food but only three days without water. Because of this, accessible potable water is a huge consideration when planning your bug out location.

Not only will you need water to drink, but you will use it for washing, cooking, cleaning, hygiene, gardening and livestock (if you have livestock). You’re going to need a lot of water.

If you’re bugging out, you have no idea how long you’re going to be there. You might be there for months, so relying on stored water is only going to take you so far.

You can store water at your chosen bug out location, but your water storage will be depleted quickly if your location does not have a natural source of water.

A small lake surrounded by trees that can be used as a water source for a bug out location.
This small lake would make a great source of water for a bug out location.

Select a location with a natural water source like a spring, river, or lake and make sure the water is available year-round. Ensure the water is clean and safe enough to drink and in close proximity to your bug out location. When planning your bug out location, assess your physical ability to get to and from the water source.

As a bonus, you may be able to generate a small amount of electricity if your location includes a water source with enough current.


The area needs to have a way that you can create a sustainable, renewable source of food. Know the growing potential of the land. Not all soil is good for growing things.

Don’t pick a bug out location in a flood zone. It will make growing food and keeping livestock difficult.

Select a bug out location that has wild plants and berries that you can forage and eat. Some water sources will provide you with fish to eat and attract game to hunt.


In terms of terrain, mountains and plains are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The way you prepare for bugging out to these terrains will be different.

Scenic picture of the mountains.
You will need good wilderness survival skills to survive this rugged terrain.

Mountainous locations are great defensible positions and offer game and edible plants. They offer great concealment and isolation but they’re not as suitable for farming.

The farming potential of plains is much greater than the mountains but comes at price. Plains will have less cover, less wildlife and fewer trees for building shelters and fires.


What is the weather like at your bug out location? If you’ve been paying attention you know that you have a better chance of survival if you’re familiar with your site. Weather can really mess up your survival plan and possibly kill you if you’re not prepared. You need to visit your bug out location often and during every season of the year so you know what to expect.

A snow covered road in the trees.
Will you be able to access your bug out location in inclement weather?

You need to understand the weather patterns at your bug out location to know what kind of shelters to build, what kind of crops you can grow, and whether or not you can even access you location if there is heavy snow during winter months.

Is it cold where you’re going? How will you keep your shelter warm? Can your shelter withstand strong winds? The weather will determine what kind of shelters you will build.

The weather will determine what kind of clothes and supplies will you need stock. This isn’t fair weather camping we’re talking about. You can easily do an overnight camping trip, pretty much anywhere, during the warm parts of the year, but you’re a fool if you think you won’t suffer, or even die, if you’re wet from exposure when it’s 60 degrees and raining and you cannot get warm.

Protect and Defend Your Bug Out Location

A green hunting rifle with scope stabilized on the ground with a bipod. Image taken from right-handed shooter view.
A good bug out location is protected by more than just guns and ammo.

Protecting your bug out location isn’t just about isolation, guns and ammo. A good location will include natural barriers like rivers and cliffs that will help create a defensive perimeter. A location with a good vantage point is advantageous.

Learn about all the strengths and weaknesses of your location so you can stay concealed and defend what’s yours if required.

Try to find a location that has limited access to unwanted visitors. Water is necessary for survival. There will be many using waterways to find water so be aware of how that effects access to your location and your defenses. Be sure that you know all the waterways, roads and paths that lead into your property so that you can monitor and defend them vigilantly.

You will need a plan for defending your bug out location. No one should be able to get past your perimeter without you knowing about it. Sentry Alarm mines are a good option to help alert you when there are intruders.

Getting to Your Bug Out Location

Select a site that is a minimum of 1 tank of gas away from everyday, normal life. This is a common rule of thumb in survival circles so you may want to plan on more than 1 tank of gas.

Plan at least 3 different routes that will get you to your bug out location. Look for any possible obstacles that might stand in your way and keep you from reaching your bug out location during a SHTF event. You may find that a route is impassable because of a bridge being washed out, traffic, rioting or other obstacles.

Add abandoned land spots to your bug out plan that can offer you a place to gather your thoughts and rest.

Your primary route can include main roads that will get you out fast but you need to have alternative back roads planned in advance. During an emergency situation the main roads will likely be closed and/or patrolled by law enforcement who may try to turn you back. Avoid routes that will get clogged with traffic.

What forms of transportation will you use? I read stories about people trying to escape hurricane Katrina that couldn’t get to there bug out location because there vehicles where too large and couldn’t maneuver the traffic and terrain.

Be sure to practice using your chosen form of transportation to get you to your destination safely. Do it with all of your preplanned routes so you become familiar with any challenges you may face. Buy and prepare maps ahead of time to help you.

Also, be prepared for camping because it may take you more than one day to get to your bug out location. This includes food, shelter, appropriate clothing for the weather, and a sleeping bag.

How to Find a Good Bug Out Location

Now that you know what to look for in a bug out location it’s time to consider how to find one. The Internet has helped to make this much easier than it was in the past. Sites like,, and allow you to type in the state and county you live in and see what’s available for sale. will have listings of land for sale as well.

Before you go to these sites, it’s a good idea to create a list of all the features, including price, you would like to have for your bug out location so you have a target to aim for. Your list will help you to quickly filter out properties that won’t work so you can focus on the ones that will.

Also, there are real estate experts that specialize in bug out properties. They’re going to want to know what you’re looking for so keep your list handy. They know what to look for and what to avoid and can help guide you in your purchase

Don’t just buy a piece of property sight unseen. You should always get eyes on the property. Go out and walk the property to see if it meets your expectations. Keep that list handy and check off the features you find on the property. Take someone you trust with you so you can talk it over before making a purchase.

Not everyone will be able to buy a property for a bug out location. Sometimes you can get a group of trusted survivalists or family members to pitch in on a property for the group. Other times you won’t be able to buy a property at all and will need to find a suitable bug out location in national forests or parks.

If you find yourself in this situation, get yourself some good topographical maps, and search them for secluded locations with good access to water. Go on some camping trips during different seasons to see if it would be a suitable bug out location for you.

A Good Bug Out Location Will Help You Survive

There are many things to consider when picking the best bug out location. Your chances of survival will improved dramatically if you plan and prepare. If you haven’t started. Then do something today to make you more prepared tomorrow.

If there’s anything I’ve missed or you have thoughts on Picking the Best Bug Out Location please leave them in the comments below.

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