It doesn’t matter if you are new to survivalism or prepping or if you are a seasoned veteran. Everyone needs a bug out location.
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If a major natural disaster or other calamitous event occurs, you may find yourself left without a home or a safe place to live.
In such a case, it is altogether to your benefit to have prepared for such a situation in advance.
In fact, the survival of you and your family may depend on your level of preparation. It may literally be a matter of life and death.
It doesn’t matter if you are new to survivalism or prepping or if you are a seasoned veteran. Everyone needs a bug out location.
You can’t just focus on having the necessary supplies; you also need a decent location that will provide you with adequate, safe and secure shelter.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about how to buy, find, or build a safe bug out location in the event of an emergency.
But what exactly does it mean to bug out? And what is a bug out location? Let’s delve in to these matters and more.
To “bug out” means to leave quickly. It is actually a 1950s term adopted from the military by the survivalist community; it has now taken on the meaning of leaving your normal residence in a hurry due to an emergency situation.
Bug out location meaning: a destination, that isn’t your normal residence, to which you can safely escape when you are bugging out and in which you can remain safely and securely as the emergent situation is progressing.
A bug out location is also known as a prepper location, survival location, or survival property and sometimes abbreviated as a “BOL”.
Let us make one thing absolutely clear: if you bug out without having a bug out location, you are a refugee, and that can make an already bad situation even worse.
Take the time to secure a proper BOL for yourself and save yourself the trouble or the possibility of making you and your family refugees.
What is a bug out bag? A bug out bag is an emergency kit which is portable and which contains all of the necessary items that you would need in order to survive for at least 72 hours in the event of a bug out or an evacuation situation.
Given that a number of natural disasters or emergencies may leave you homeless and/or without access to necessities for much longer than 72 hours, that bug out bag may not be enough.
Thus, it is essential that you store a cache of supplies in your chosen prepper bug out location. We will discuss this in more detail later in the article.
For a checklist of all the survival gear you should have in a bug out bag, check out our Bug Out Bag List.
When survivalists or preppers refer to a bug out location, they may be referring to one of two things: either a permanent shelter or a temporary shelter. Now what do we mean by that?
A permanent bug out location is one in which you and your family could potentially live for months, years on end or, if necessary, for the rest of your lives.
This may involve the purchase of land in a remote location and the construction of a house, storage facility, etc. Permanent survival properties may require a significant amount of construction work, financial investment and preparation.
A temporary bug out location, on the other hand, may be a location in the wilderness that you have scoped out beforehand. It may even be a location or shelter on some land which belongs to your relative or your friend. Temporary means temporary.
A temporary prepper location is generally not designed for you to be able to live there on a long term or permanent basis. But it ought to be remote, well stockpiled, and secure enough to provide shelter, safety, and survival necessities for you and your family for several days or weeks.
In some cases, you may be able to turn your temporary BOL into a permanent survival bug out location, but this usually depends on your situation and the geography.
The goal of a temporary bug out location is generally to give you a place to lay low for a little while until you can either return safely to your home or migrate to a more permanent setting.
Whether you are planning to buy, build, or find a bug out location to keep you safe during your survival situation, there are several things that you will need to take into consideration.
Finding a BOL involves potentially scouting out remote wilderness locations which will be able to provide you access to water, a supply of food, fuel for cooking and heating, warmth, protection from the elements, safety and security.
This may be a spot in the mountains with a natural rock cave and access to a stream and firewood, or it may be a secluded spot in the forest in which you can easily build a survival shelter and keep yourself hidden.
It may be a spot on public lands, or it may even be a remote location on your relative’s or friend’s property. Whatever the case may be, finding a BOL will still involve a fair amount of preparation, scouting, and planning.
Buying a prepper location may involve purchasing a ready-made survival property. It may also mean buying a somewhat isolated house in a small town in a remote location and outfitting it for your survivalist needs.
Or it may mean buying a piece of land and building your own survival property on that land.
But whether you are building, buying, or finding a survival location, it will still need to provide you with all the basic necessities for survival: water, food, warmth, shelter from the elements, fuel for heating and cooking, and security.
If it is in under your home, then that survival location is a bug in location, and fleeing to the bunker under your house or hiding out in a specially secured and fortified area within your home, is known as bugging in, not bugging out.
Bug Out Location Checklist
Access to water
Access to food
Legal limitations and regulations
Terrain and region
Bug Out Location Essentials
There are a number of essential points that you must consider when selecting an ideal bug out location.
Keep in mind that the following points apply to permanent BOLs, but quite a few of these bug out location considerations are applicable to temporary ones as well.
How fast can you get to your safe location?
You need to consider how far your survival property is from your home and place of business. Ideally, you should be able to get to your BOL within one to three days.
Keep in mind that you may not be able to drive there, since the roads may be flooded, blocked off by police, jam packed with other people trying to escape, or made otherwise inaccessible.
If you think it is likely that you will need to go on foot, you should prepare for that. Since a person is typically able to walk 20 to 30 miles per day, you should select a place that is no farther than 60 miles away from your home or place of business.
Also consider the people who will be traveling with you to your BOL. If you have infants or young children, they may not be able to walk as far in that amount of time. This is where a 72-hour Bug Out Bag can provide all your survival essentials until you reach safety.
Even if you cannot drive to your prepper location, other means of transportation may be available to you and can make getting there a whole lot easier.
For instance, riding a bike or a scooter may sound ridiculous right now, but it can be a life saver in terms of getting you to your SHTF location. Also, when you use these means of transportation, you may be able to carry more survival gear with you than you would be able to on foot.
If it is reasonably likely that you will be able to drive to your bug out location, you should still select a location that will require less than one tank of gas to get to. Gas stations may be rendered inaccessible or unsafe by the emergency.
Okay, so your survival property should definitely be close enough to your home for you to get to in a reasonable amount of time.
A BOL that you will never be able to reach, halfway across the country for example, is totally useless and will do you no good whatsoever. So, find one within reasonable walking or driving distance.
But you also don’t want your chosen remote bug out property to be too close to your home or place of business. For instance, if you are fleeing from a hurricane or a nuclear disaster, it makes sense to get as far away from the area as you possibly can.
Also, if you normally live in the city or in a heavily urban environment, you should try to get as far away as you can from that heavily populated area.
Not only will the lines of transportation to your BOL be heavily clogged by all the people trying to flee, but also the closer your survival location is to an urban area, the more likely it is that other people will find it.
When choosing a bug out location, make sure that your BOL is 100 miles or farther from any sort of nuclear threat. Also make sure that it is at least 50 to 100 miles away from any coast, so that you will not experience flooding from a tsunami.
So, when it comes to picking a bug out location, make sure to select one that is far enough away from your home or place of business to keep you safe from the emergency or natural disaster but also close enough for you to be able to get there in a timely and reasonable manner, even on foot, if necessary.
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How easy is it to reach your SHTF bug out location?
Okay, so we’ve covered the appropriate distance away from your home that your SHTF bug out location should be.
But what about accessibility? When it comes to traveling to your prepper location, you cannot think purely in terms of physical distance.
You must also consider the following:
The terrain: How easily can you traverse the terrain using your chosen means of transportation?
The feasibility of the routes: Are the roads or paths likely to be blocked off by police or covered with fallen trees?
The weather: How is the weather in the region at different times of the year? Snow and ice will make walking to your survival property a lot more difficult.
How well do you know your bug out area?
This one goes along with accessibility. You need to be familiar with the terrain in the region in order to survive there viably.
Knowing the terrain and being familiar with the area will not only allow you to find your BOL as you are travelling there and navigate and live off the land more easily, but it will also enable you to better protect and defend it from invaders, both human and animal.
Remember that in a survival situation, others will be fleeing as well and they may resort to acts of desperation, so you may need to be prepared to defend your bug out location in order to keep you and your family safe and secure.
If you know the area like the back of your hand, great. But if you don’t know the area, and you feel you’ve found the perfect spot for a survival property within that region, start scouting and making yourself familiar with the surroundings!
It doesn’t hurt to take one or two responsible family members along with you when you are getting to know the region, so that they will be able to find the hideout as well if you get separated from them.
Also, be sure to visit your chosen location in each of the different seasons, so that you can still find it no matter what time of the year you are bugging out.
Snow and other such elements can make the landscape look dramatically and potentially far more difficult to navigate.
Is your bug out property hard to find?
Make sure that your survival bug out location is remote and isolated enough to be hidden and not too easily found by others.
Don’t plan a survival property 50 feet from the highway.
If your place is too obvious or too easily found, others may try to take advantage of it or raid it, since they are also trying to survive the same disaster.
Access to water
Do you have water sources near your safe location?
This is a big one. A human being can survive no more than three days without water. Ideally, your prepper location should be located next to a source of fresh water, such as a river or a stream.
You should also be able to dig a well or have one dug beforehand in preparation.
A reliable source of water is not always possible to find in a temporary wilderness retreat. For instance, a drought may have dried up the small source of water you thought you could rely on.
In such a case, it is important to prepare some storage containers with plenty of water inside in order to tide you over for some time.
But when you are searching for the ideal bug out location or survival property, you should try your absolute best to find one that has a reliable source of fresh water year round.
Ideally, a BOL should have at least two sources of water: a source of running water like a stream or a river and another source of water such as a deep well that is easily accessible.
You should also set up a system for collecting rain water as soon as you make it to your property (or have one already installed). Rain water is another source of free, relatively clean water.
Remember to invest in a good filter for your bug out property so that you can filter out any of the impurities from the water you collect. You will need to filter that water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
Assume that all of the water you collect, whether from a stream, a well, or the roof, is contaminated and needs to be filtered before it can be safely consumed.
Store a good water filter within your survival property, but you should also carry a portable water filter in your bug out pack.
Note: If your survival location has a stream, a river, or a source of water that is flowing quickly enough, it can also be utilized as a source of energy generation. Consider this when building or preparing your survival property.
Also, please note that your shelter or cabin should not be located too close to any source of water. You don’t want your shelter to be visible from a river. There is also the danger of flooding if your building is too close running water.
If you would like to find out more ways to make water drinkable, check out our guide on how to purify water.
Access to food
Can you easily hunt or grow food near your prepper hideout?
In addition to water, food is another obvious necessity. It is possible to build up a significant stockpile of food in your bug out location. But ideally, you want to be able to live off of the land.
If you are forced to remain there for years, then no matter how large your food stockpile is, it will eventually run out if you have no other means of sustaining yourself.
When choosing a bug out location, look for land that has soil and terrain good for growing food. If the soil in the area is decent and of a high enough quality, a fourth of an acre will generally be enough space to grow enough food to feed your entire family.
If the soil, the climate, or the terrain makes the area unsuitable for gardening, you may want to build a greenhouse or design a raised bed garden, a container garden, or a hoop house.
Raising livestock is also an excellent means of sustaining yourself. Cattle may be too difficult and expensive to maintain, but chickens, goats, rabbits, and other such small livestock are much easier to sustain and will provide you with a steady supply of fresh eggs, milk, and meat.
One fairly easy thing you can do to prepare your BOL is to build a chicken coop.
In terms of the existing terrain, get to know the flora and fauna in the area so that you can forage for edible plants. Game in the area that you can hunt or readily available fish is another huge plus for your survival location.
So, your property should ideally have land where you can raise livestock, soil and space in which you can plant a garden and grow food, and edible plants and game nearby and easily accessible.
Other important factors for self-sustainability include a readily available source of fuel, like firewood for cooking and heating, medicinal plants, as well as a source of power such as solar power or hydroelectric power.
Remember that generating electricity by using either sufficient sunlight or a sufficiently fast-moving source of water will require preparation and investment beforehand, such as the purchase and installation of solar panels and a generator.
Also note that doctors and medicinal supplies may not be readily available in the event of an emergency or survival situation, so having plants in the area with medicinal properties may be beneficial and potentially life-saving.
Also, when it comes to firewood, building your property in or near a forest is usually a good idea, but try to make sure that your shelter is not directly touching a lot of trees, or else this can become a fire hazard.
You want trees nearby enough for shelter, firewood, and protection from prying eyes, but not so close that your carefully planned bug out location would easily go up in flames in the case of a forest fire. You may even consider building a fire break around your property.
Dry dead leaves and branches can also provide a steady supply of firewood, but these should also be cleared away from your shelter so as to prevent a potential fire hazard.
Check out our guide on the best survival food to learn what to stock in your bug out location.
Have you taken care of your bug out location security?
In addition to being relatively hidden from sight, your survival location should be easily protected and defended. Consider the sight lines and the methods of access into your hideout.
If you have the finances, you may want to install motion sensors, cameras, alarms, and other security measures to protect yourself and your family. The access to your property should be easily and constantly guarded.
Your survival location should have a number of different escape and evacuation routes in case others with hostile intentions happen to find you.
You should never allow yourself to be ambushed or trapped, as those who are desperate may be pushed to commit despicable or terrible acts.
Make sure to check your evacuation routes on a regular basis to see if they are free of any obstacles or hazards that might hinder a speedy escape.
Do you have a survival shelter prepared?
The shelter itself should be large enough to accommodate everyone in your family with a reasonable degree of comfort, but it should not be so large that it easily attracts outside attention.
If you are forced to live in your survival property for years on end, you will need a space for everyone in your family to coexist.
Log cabins or more permanent structures like houses are a possibility if the area is quite remote and flat. Be sure that the area has enough tree cover to conceal it from prying eyes.
If your SHTF location is in the woods or in a mountainous area, a cave or a shelter with branches may suffice as a temporary site for you to lay low. Obviously, this depends on your situation.
If you, for instance, have a newborn baby, a temporary shelter made out of branches may not provide enough warmth and protection.
Consider practical matters as well, such as building a bathroom, outhouse, or latrine. You should also stockpile hard to find items like toilet paper in water proof and rodent proof containers.
Check out this video of a log cabin build from Nik Rijavec.
How much will your bug out location cost?
When it comes to buying or building an ideal bug out location, the best properties and locations will inevitably be more expensive. It’s also one of the most important bug out location considerations.
Consider the cost of the land itself as well as the cost of what you are planning to build on it.
If you are planning to install a high-end security system as well as solar panels and a generator, that will cost you a great deal.
Try to find a piece of land or property within your budget range that has the best balance of the essential points above.
Legal Limitations and Regulations
Is your prepper hideout breaking any laws?
Do your research before purchasing a plot of land. Make sure there is no red tape from the government for what you are planning to build.
For instance, if you intend to keep livestock, make sure there are no zoning regulations or other government limitations in place that prohibit the keeping of livestock.
Terrain and Region
Are sure your bug out region is safe & adequate?
The land should be flat enough for you to build what you need to build, but it should not be so flat that your survival location can be easily seen and overrun by invaders.
Also, consider the region’s history of natural disasters. Do some research and ask the locals regarding the frequency with which natural disasters occur in the region.
Best Survival Locations in USA
If you live relatively close to any of the following regions, the terrain tends to make for excellent bug out location ideas:
The Rocky Mountains
The Pacific Northwest
Hill country surrounding Austin, Texas
Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi
Northern New Mexico
If you are familiar with any of these areas and you’re close enough to them, you should start your search for BOL land or property in that region as they are some of the best bug out locations in the United States.
These regions are generally fairly remote with abundant flora and fauna as well as many or all of the essential requirements above.
Find spots suited to a survival property you can develop or look for remote bug out locations for sale.
Critical Gear for Bug Out Locations
In your BOL, you must have a survival cache or several survival caches hidden throughout the area.
You should have the following items on your bug out location checklist: water, food, ammunition, medical supplies, a radio, a water filter, communication devices, and hand tools—at minimum. The more you are able to hide, the better.
Just make sure that it is easy enough for you to access but not easy for strangers to find and loot.
For a comprehensive list of survival items and gear you should stock in your home or bug out location, check out our article on the Home Survival Kit.
Have a Back-Up Bug Out Location
In case your primary survival location is rendered inaccessible, overrun by invaders or looters, or in the path of the natural disaster, it is good to have a backup survival location.
This back up prepper location may not be as extensively prepped and supplied as the first one, but you should still have the basics: food, water, medical supplies, ammunition, tools, and the means of building a shelter.
Consider it an enlarged version of your bug out bag, but in a secure and hidden location that you have scouted out beforehand.
Bug Out Location Conclusions
Whether you are buying, building, or finding a bug out location, know that taking the steps in this article will provide you and your family with your best chance for survival in the event of an emergency.
It never hurts to be prepared.
Not matter how much you prep your home and try to bug in, there are inevitable circumstances which will force you to bug out.
This is where a prepper bug out location can mean the difference between life and death!
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