How to pick a Bug Out Location

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How to pick a Bug Out Location

When you pick a bug out location your decision could make the difference between life and death.  Picking the right bug out location could almost guarantee your survival, but to do so there are several mitigating factors that should be accounted for.  In this guide we are going to discuss the several variables for bug out location selection, and the steps you need to take now to ensure a successful consummation.  Simply thinking you can run to grandmother’s house in the woods holing up until the shit ceases to hit the fan could be one of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made.

There’s an endless list of reasons for bugging out, and in almost all articles we advocate for getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as humany possible, and only in the rarest of occasions do we advise people to shelter in place.  If you’re one of the few that have no other choice but to shelter in place read our article ‘How Preppers can Survive in the City’ for helpful advice on bugging in.  Those who understand the importance of bugging out also accept the many dangers of being in the city after doomsday.

Being in the city when doomsday hits can spell disaster for you and your family.  Currently, only .94 % (approximately) of Americans identify as ‘preppers’.  The average size of an American township is around 20,000 leaving 19,812 people completely unprepared for doomsday.  Just imagine 99.06 % of your city’s population running out of food, water, and no presence of government to keep them from cannibalizing one another.  After SHTF every city in this country will quickly become an abhorrent madhouse.  Let’s get the hell out of here…

Keeping your distance…

In this context of bugging out I will use water as the gold standard for establishing the minimum distance from a metropolitan area.  For example, the assumption is city dwellers will emigrate from the city to more rural areas to find water and food.  Since humans can only survive three days without water, the assumption is they’d only be able to walk up to four days before being inhibited.  People can walk over 20 miles a day, 50 in two days, and can travel over 75 miles with alternate modes of transportation (bikes, motorcycles, ATVs) meaning your safe-zone is outside a 150 mile radius of your city.

Bug Out Location US Map Density  In this map I have outlined every major city nearing or over a population with more than a twenty thousand inhabitants.  These red zones are no-go zones.  There are cities located outside red zones with smaller populations allowing for a shorter bug out distance.  

If you’re one of the fortunate few living in one of 6,000+ towns with a population of ten to twenty thousand people you may not have to bug out, and if you do have to bug out you don’t have to travel very long.  And if you are one of the unfortunate many that live near or in a red zone your bug out could take well over an hour to get to safety.

Bug Out Location Resources

When considering a bug out location, resources come first.  Even if you’re a damn fine prepper with a great bug out shelter with two years worth of food and water, you’ll eventually run out of food and water.  What resources should we look for in our bug out locations?  

  • Natural freshwater sources such as bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams that undoubtedly require filtering for good measure
  • Good soil that allows for growing food
  • Natural food sources i.e. edible wild plants such as blackberries, asparagus, elderberries, etc
  • Near areas with wild game like deer, moose, turkey, rabbit, etc
  • Natural camouflage such as dense vegetation to conceal your habitation

Bug Out Location Options

Look, when I read other websites’ guides to picking bug out locations they make this gross assumption that every person that preps is a multimillionaire.  Blatant absurdities like this are fairly common. ‘Advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill’ — J.R.R. Tolkien.  Now, let’s see if we can give you guys some good advice.   Instead of assuming you have a nice cabin nestled in the woods I am going to assume you need to find a place to go or else you wouldn’t be reading this article.  Here’s your bug out options…

Purchasing land as a bug out location…

The average cost of an acre of land in the U.S. is a little over $4,000, and if you truly feel your survival strictly relies upon your ability to bug out to a secured location then by all means purchase some land.  Save 10% of your monthly income and you should have enough money within two years to get a couple acres of land.  The benefit of buying land is being able to build up supplies and housing prior to doomsday…

bugging out to private land  


Bugging out to a preselected campsite is what most preppers are planning on doing when the shit hits the fan.  Two things I have to make very clear, if you have no survival skills whatsoever camping may not be the best option for you.  Secondly, people who plan to be happy campers when doomsday hits don’t take weather into consideration.  For some reason people don’t understand camping isn’t the best option during the winter, nor is it sound thinking if you live near a desert and the apocalypse comes dead in the middle of summer, where temperatures have reached up to 125°.  At best, camping is a short-term option in ideal climates relying upon too many variables.

bug out camping

Bugging out to abandoned or natural structures…

You’ll have to do a little research about your state but every state in the Republic has abandoned mines (over 500,000 to choose from), ghost towns that are far away from major highways and population centers, or natural structures such as caves.  Abandoned structures will keep you out of extreme elements but can be dangerous.  Abandoned structures may not be structurally sound, and there’s always the possibility of other people having the same idea you had.  If you don’t have the money to buy land, and your surrounding environment is too extreme to camp in, this may be the safer option for you.

Bugging out abandoned structure

Recreational Vehicles…

I am all for bugging out to a recreational vehicle, but I’m not necessarily too kean on bugging out with an RV.  Why?  My main issue with using an RV to bug out is its inability to travel through poor conditions such as (mud, ice, debris) without getting stuck, while another disadvantage to bugging out in RVs is you’re basically driving around a giant billboard of preparedness that some people might notice. Now if you own an Earth Roamer XV-SLT 4X4, by all means go for it.  If not, it might be a good idea to buy an acre of land where you can park your RV allowing you to use your bug out vehicle to get there safely.  

bugging out with RV

Travelling to your Bug Out Location

When people are considering bug out locations they don’t factor in how they’re going to get there, and the many variables that come with it often imagining post apocalypse conditions will be ideal.  If you need to bug out, it’s the middle of winter, many roads are frozen over, and your entire town is trying to get out before things get too bad.  Does your bug out plan compensate for an alternate route, additional fuel usage, and etc?  Ensure a safe bug out by…

  • Have alternate evacuation routes that don’t go beyond your vehicle’s capabilities
  • Establish a PNR (point of no return) for your fuel and have 10 more gallons of fuel than needed for the trip to and from your bug out location
  • Avoid population centers that could effectively block your route to your bug out location
  • Take the road less traveled avoiding major highways within thirty miles of major cities
  • Have a reliable 4×4 bug out vehicle that can get you to and from your bug out location
  • Always have a hard copy map! I always keep a Rand McNally US Road Map in my BOV in case my primary and secondary bug out locations are compromised
  • Have a back up bug out location in case your original destination is compromised

In closing…

Like I said I’ve read several articles written by other prepper websites and they tend to complicate a fairly simple thing, and I’m not for scaring off newcomers by turning basic math into advanced calculus.  It’s really not that complicated, but as with all matters of preparedness each individual situation should be catered to your own unique situation.  Some of us live in deserts, mountains, small towns, big cities, and everything in between, and one prepper’s survival plan might not work for another’s.  Have a plan, be prepared, and remember your training..

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About Administrator Ryan

Administrator Ryan has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Emergency Administration and Management from the University of Kentucky, and has been the primary handler for since it's founding. Professional background includes over a decade's experience in survival and preparedness, graphic design, computer programming, website coding, and asset management. Personal background in mountaineering, climbing, rappelling, combat training, and big game hunting.

14 thoughts on “How to pick a Bug Out Location

  1. Have you considered the US Navy map of 1962? Google it. It’s very interesting. I live near Chicago and are making plans to retire in Iowa(se.) Looking for land around there. A couple of acres near a forest region.

  2. You did alot of work and I appreciate it, Ryan
    If you decide to update the map and keep the >20,000 pop limit, these would change the map considerably:
    GA – Augusta
    MS – Vicksburg
    AR – Fort Smith
    LA – Monroe and Ruston
    OK – Ardmore
    TX – Texarkana, Paris, Tyler, Longview, Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Victoria, Sherman, Corsicana, Wichita Falls

    I think in a scenario where almost all US city residents become refugees, almost nowhere is safe East of the I-35 corridor.

  3. I guess we all know some young guy, you know the sort, he can run 50 miles in 50 minutes carrying a 50Lb pack, sort of thing.
    well, Rambo types apart, us lesser mortals walking in a family group will be walking at the pace of the SLOWEST person, that might be the old grandfather or it might be the young grandson!
    normal thinking here(i’m not in the USA) is:
    a fit younger person not carrying too much can walk about 4 miles per hour without too much trouble.
    an older person(say older 40s, 50 or even 60s) might be able to walk 3MPH.
    both the above being on hard,level, concrete or tarmac roads.
    go off road, on a level but firm track and we’d be down to maybe 2MPH.
    off road, uneven surface, uphill, in bad weather or in the wintertime and we’d be down to 1MPH or less.
    if we can make 20 miles per day we’d be doing pretty good, its more likely to be something like 12 miles per day.
    how many people can keep this up, day after day after day? without falling by the wayside, giving up or turning back?

  4. ‘Bugging in’ is an option if one does not live in or around a major city; and it is a good option, if that is the case, because you have an advantage with knowledge of the local terrain, people, customs and most likely you will know some like minded neighbors who can join with you in a mutual assistance program if someone tries to take your property from you.

    However, one does need to always keep in mind that even the most ardent homesteader need an alternate plan beside just staying put. Everyone needs first a primary plan, and an alternate plan, and then an additional contingency plan in case the primary and alternate plans fail. Circumstances can always arise that make the best homesteads untenable – floods and forest fires for examples.

    But I fear that many people who are planning on bugging out without a solid prepared place to go to will become hopeless refugees, and those who just plan on camping out in the woods will die because they will lack the tools and skills necessary for long term survival in the woods. Very few skilled people can live a subsistence lifestyle by foraging and hunting today – when only a few people are looking for game, let alone when 1000’s suddenly decide to live off the land. I live in Alaska where there are few people and a lot of game, and there are true subsistence people living here – but it is a hard life that few can do.

    major dad

  5. I think your map needs an update. You have some red circles where no red circles belong. For instance one sits in the middle of Utah. The biggest “city” in central Utah is Dalta with all of 3,400 inhabitants. There is also a circle in northern Nevada where the biggest “city” Elko has 20,000 people.

    • The red marker is around four separate towns within 150 miles of one another with a combined population of over 20,000 including Gunnison, Delta, Richmond and Filmore, not to mention the I-15 is a main artery through Utah that is always congested with thousands of motorists. Also I imagine after SHTF the I-15 will be saturated ten times more than it is now with all the traffic exiting Las Vegas. Elko County has a population of over 50,000 while having a major highway (I-80) running through it, when SHTF and Reno has a mass exodus those people will converge.

      • True- I would definitely avoid the I-15 and I-70 corridors. But (and maybe I’m just being picky here) the caption to the picture says each red circle represents “nearing or over a population with more than a million inhabitants”. 20,000 and 50,000 are a long way from 1,000,000.

          • thanks for giving a shit good info im up mt highway 90 east and west over pass hwy 93 north south they put new army reserve post right next to both choke points ,,,,you cant get to missoula with out going threw them …me i remember leroy gonna find a corner i dont run good any more,,so be it,,,,

  6. An edit has been made to this article. I worded myself poorly in reference to the distance people can walk, when I meant to establish a safe zone for how far people can travel walking, or using alternate methods. Here is the edit…

    People can walk over 20 miles a day, 50 in two days, and can travel over 75 miles with alternate modes of transportation (bikes, motorcycles, ATVs) meaning your safe-zone is outside a 150 mile radius of your city.

  7. I am blessed, I live in the ReDoubt and have met 100’s of good folks thru my classes I teach. I have a river North of me 1/2 mile and can go 30 to 50 miles West or East on the river. I mountains to my South, clear shooting to my North. My town is on the North side of the river . Home to a few thousand folks, most hunt and shoot straight. I taught survival and emergency preparedness for 3 years in the town and at least 50 local families have been thru my 52 week course. I currently am teaching a 3 to 4 month long medical class covering everything from grandmas remedies to modern medicine and some surgery.
    My state area is full of Veterans, Hunters and Constitutional Law Enforcement.
    The locals rate real high in my book of pluses also.
    Yes, you can move here and I will help you unpack and I will buy the beer.
    God love North Idaho.
    The women are not needy or whiney, have all their teeth and can cook.

  8. In any highly populated area the one thing that can be counted on is the people will evacuate and destroy any property in their path. Storm and flood is the most likely to cause this. With a power outage the movement will be much slower and will come when the food runs out. Most wont leave the city but may take to raiding places with food. The people who have put up supplies will now be the target of the hungry. Now any who has seen a good zombie movie or I should say just a zombie movie will have a good idea of what will happen. The population cannot survive by going into the countryside. They have no knowledge of how to use it and would cause its destruction. We have only one way and that would be to restart the flow of food. Water is also imperative to stop the spread of disease. Power must be restored to provide the fuel for trucks to bring in food. We must have trucks for the people would eat the animals. Ways to keep the people contained so they don’t destroy the food chain. This cannot work unless it is prepared for in advance. Will it save everyone? No but It would provide for enough to have a good start again. I see the problems coming but have few answers. Does any have solutions?

  9. Didn’t you mean “one of the unfortunate many (not few) that live near a red zone? Anyway, good article, and thanks. I really have never understood how bugging in could fit into anyone’s agenda. “IN equals DEATH” and “OUT equals at least a chance for LIFE to continue. But most won’t listen, so what can one do but take care of themselves. Best wishes during the coming years. thanks again

    • Bugging OUT is only any good if you know where you are going, like a pre arranged place, if someone is just wandering about hoping to find food and water then they are not bugging out, they are a REFUGEE and that is something completely different.

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