Perhaps you don’t know what a bug-out location is and why you might need one. A bug-out location is a survivalist retreat that is intended to be self-sufficient and easily defended. Bug-out locations (BOL) are generally located in sparsely populated rural areas. Does this sound extreme to you? A bug-out location? It may not be as extreme as you imagined.
If you have the means to buy land and are searching for a bug-out location, use this guide to find the best spot available.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. (Well yeah, that’s why I’m reading this!) But this is location in the broader sense. First you need to identify the state/province/country where you wish to establish your bug-out location
If you look at a map of your country, we’ll look at the United States, you can see that populations tend to congregate close to metropolitan areas, especially along the East and West Coasts.
Looking at this map from the United States Census Bureau (2010) we can see that the eastern half of the country is more densely populated than the western half. Now, this is not my way of telling you to move, but notice the distribution. You don’t need to be west of the Mississippi to find a suitable bug-out location. Take a look at a distribution map of your state. There are rural pockets in every…well, most every state.
Your best bet will be to live in the state where you will have your bug-out location (BOL). This way you will be familiar with the area and you will be able to get to your BOL quickly.
Let’s begin with Accessibility. Very important, accessibility. All of your plans will be to naught if you can’t access your bug-out location when things go bad. It may be the most amazing location, but if there are no access roads or trails, it’s amazingness will not matter.
Identify your preferred area using a few key criteria:
- Can I get there if things go bad?
- If I can get there, who else can?
- Am I far enough away from dense populations?
The thing about accessibility is that if it is easily accessible, you won’t be the only refugees heading there. What you need, and can put in later, is an accessible route that is difficult to find, unless you are familiar with the area. And you should definitely be familiar with the area you choose! Travel the route often, have several backup routes and try to keep the drive as short as possible. You never know when you will be forced to walk that distance.
The distance from dense populations is also a factor of accessibility, in a sense. In all of the natural disaster/alien attack movies that you’ve watched (don’t be shy, I love a good disaster or alien movie!), what happens in those populated cities? Or rather, on the roads leading out of town. The exodus that happens during disasters is likely to clog the roads. If your bug-out location is relatively close to these clogged roads, you won’t be able to get there. And if you do, others may follow you, thinking you know about back roads that could take them away from trouble.
Another thing to consider in distance is air traffic. It may sound negligible, but depending on the disaster, having air traffic crossing over your BOL will give the location away.
Let’s discuss weather. Weather is HUGE. Seriously, don’t take weather lightly.
Using the United States again as our example, let’s look at the weather of various states. Which states would you say have the most extreme weather? Top of my list, Alaska and Arizona. The weather in Alaska and Arizona affects all aspects of accessibility and the location you choose. At least it should affect your choice.
Alaska is beautiful; the last frontier, yes? If you live in Nevada, and you’ve decided to build your bug-out location in Alaska because of it’s many, many qualities, that may not have been your finest choice. How will you get there if flights are cancelled? If roads are clogged, how will you drive? I can almost guarantee that if the U.S. is facing some tough times, Canada won’t throw open its borders with welcoming arms. I don’t foresee Mexico welcoming us now either.
(If you already live in Alaska, these topics will apply to your chosen bug-out location the same as the lower 48.)
Try to avoid severe weather extremes. Weather can vary by location, even in the same state. I live by a lake and our snow is usually less than up by the mountains along the benches. Take this into consideration when searching for a suitable location. Too much snow will block accessibility, cause potential damage when locations are not in use, and make hunting difficult. These properties will need more maintenance when not in use.
Heat can also cause problems. Your bug-out location isn’t a spa and won’t come with fancy air conditioning. You’ll need to reserve any generators for emergencies, not because the temperatures are soaring. If you live in extremely hot areas, such as the southwest (or the southeast where it is hot and muggy), consider a location higher in elevation. Higher elevations will have cooler temperatures and nice breezes. The high desert can become very cold at night and in the winter, so take that into consideration as well.
Other weather you need to look out for includes tornados. Look at the map below of Tornado Alley. (tornadochaser.net) A lot of states are included here. But again, weather can vary by state, so don’t be afraid of these states because of possible tornados.
According to tornadochaser.net:
“If you were to be exact about tornado alley, it would really be made up of hundreds of little strips, and never one large alley. Tornado alley maps are all made up of a general area from data taken over a long period of time. Tornado alley should be thought of on a more yearly basis also, since weather patterns can change, making some states harder hit one year versus others, like Illinois in 1925, 1974 and 2004.”
All locations have “weather”. Snow in the north, heat in the south, tropical storms along the gulf. What can you live with? If you can handle wind and cold, near the great lakes could be viable. If rain bothers you, perhaps don’t count on Portland or Seattle (nor should they since they both include large populous areas). If you live along the Gulf and the East Coast and experience Hurricane “insert-name-here”, then you are probably used to such events. But as past years have shown us, I don’t think anyone was ready for Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy. If you find the perfect bug-out location that just happens to be in hurricane prone areas, make sure you are ready for these events. They won’t all be a Katrina or a Sandy, but you should prepare as if they are.
Do your research and know your areas. Take a vacation, a camping trip maybe, to the location you are considering.
Aside from tornados and hurricanes, which are weather, you need to take into account the disasters and extremes possible for your area.
California, let’s take a look at you. In the past decade you have been facing drought, wildfires, earthquakes and a polluted ocean. Yet, there are still possible great bug-out locations to be found in California. Droughts can occur in all states. (Even Washington and Oregon, but generally in the eastern half.) If you are looking for a BOL in a drought-prone state, such as California, special care will need to be taken. Water rights are reserved for farmers and ranchers, and land with water rights sell at premium prices.
(There are ways to collect water, but that is a post for a different day.)
Floods, avalanches, mudslides, tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires and volcanoes. All are possibilities. All are disasters of which you need to be aware. Take a look at all possibilities when researching your BOL.
Many lists of top BOLs that I’ve been reading the last few days sing the praises of the Pacific Northwest. Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Mt. St. Helens in southwestern Washington exploded in May, 1980. The areas were covered in ash. I remember this. I was living in Eastern Washington and I remember the ash covering the ground. (I was 15 months old, and it was such a significant event that I remember it.) Did you know that Mt. St. Helens last erupted in 2008? Yes, it is still active.
The Pacific Northwest has far more volcanic activity than Mt St. Helens. While active, it has already done it’s “big thing”. It will continue to do it’s thing. Residents know about Mt. St. Helens, but they should also be concerned about Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood. Drive south from Seattle (East of Olympia/Tacoma) and you will see a plethora of volcano eruption evacuation route signs.