Choosing A Bug Out Location

Discussion in 'General Q&A' started by Jim Cobb, Jul 11, 2017.

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  1. Jim Cobb

    Jim Cobb New Member

    Blog Posts:
    Regular readers of mine know that I strongly advise sheltering in place at home until or unless home is not safe. Generally speaking, home is where you’ll have the bulk of your gear and supplies. Packing all of that stuff up and transporting it to a separate bug out location would be no one’s idea of a good time.

    That said, we survivalists want to try and plan for as many contingencies as possible, just in case. Setting up one or more bug out locations is part of that planning.

    Before we go any further, let’s define bug out location (BOL) so we’re all on the same page. For the purposes of our discussion here, a bug out location is a place away from home where you can hunker down and ride out the disaster and aftermath. It need not necessarily be 1000 acres of wilderness where you figure on living off the land for decades to come. It could just as easily be the home of a family member or trusted friend. The basic idea is to have one or more places you can go if disaster hits your area, rather than end up roaming the highways and byways like some sort of rambling drifter.

    Ideally, I recommend arranging for a minimum of three potential BOLs, all in different directions from home. For example, one to the north, one to the east, and one to the southwest. Why? Because we have no way to know for certain what the future holds. If you were to only have one bug out location, say to the north, what are you going to do if the disaster itself prevents you from traveling in that direction? Sure, you hopefully you’d be able to detour around it but life might be easier if you had an alternate location or two.
    So, what factors should be considered when choosing a bug out location?

    Distance from home

    Bear in mind there is a distinct possibility you may have to complete all or part of your journey on foot, depending upon the nature of the calamity. Therefore, reaching a bug out location that is several hundred miles from home might not be realistic. This isn’t a novel nor a movie, folks. In real life, many people probably wouldn’t survive a journey of, say, 600 miles on foot through possibly hostile areas.

    Even if you are able to use your car or truck, gas stations might not be open so you’d have to rely on whatever fuel you have in your vehicle at the time of the disaster. It is a common rule of thumb with preppers to not allow any vehicle to dip below ½ tank of gas. If we use that as a guideline, knowing that the average vehicle on the roads today can probably make 300-400 miles on a full tank of gas, we can ballpark a range of about 150-200 miles without needing to refuel. Yes, we could certainly bring a few gas cans with us and we should plan to do so, if possible. But, you should always plan for things to go awry and figure on not being able to top off the gas tank during your journey.

    Even 100 miles might be pushing it for a hike for many people but it is certainly more realistic than 600 miles. Keep in mind, you may only average a few miles a day if you’re on foot. While long-distance hikers routinely do 20+ miles a day, that may not be realistic for you, especially given the likely societal breakdown that will be happening around you.

    For most folks, the maximum distance your bug out location should be from home is roughly 150 miles or so. Grab a map and use the distance scale and a ruler or compass to draw a circle that far out from home. You can increase that distance if you want, of course, but consider the limitation factors we just discussed before doing so. Another thing to keep in mind is the distance from home isn't "as the crow flies." Unless you've suddenly developed the power of flight, you're going to be subject to hills, curves, detours, and other fun stuff that prevents you from traveling a straight line from Point A to Point B. The circle you just drew on the map is more of a guideline to keep you focused.

    Do you have any family members or close friends who live within that circle? Those would be my first choices for BOLs. Next on the list would be public land, such as state parks and such. Third would be hotels or motels, ones that allow pets if that’s going to be a concern for your family. However, keep in mind that hotels and motels are largely first come, first served. In the event of a big disaster, they’re going to fill up quick. That's the only reason I rank them behind state parks and other state or federal land.


    Are there any major potential obstructions in that circled area? For example, you’re going to want to avoid any major cities. Rivers can be problematic if bridges are damaged or jammed with traffic. In fact, you’ll want to stay away from any expected high traffic areas as they will likely be nothing but impassable parking lots. If you’re on foot, the traffic snarls won’t be as much of a problem as all of those people – frustrated, angry, scared – may be.

    Your chosen BOLs should take into account these potential problem areas. Steer clear of them if at all possible.


    As I’ve mentioned a couple of times now, we can’t foresee the future and accurately predict what will cause us to need to bug out. It may very well not be a true end of the world scenario, one that would force you to live off the land in some remote wilderness area. Instead, it could be flooding or something along those lines that forces you to vacate your home for a limited time.

    With that in mind, many of us would prefer to hunker down in the home of a family member or trusted friend, at least until things settled down a bit and we could plan our next move. Someplace we could feel safe and secure and, hopefully, that has hot water and indoor plumbing. Don’t get me wrong, primitive camping has quite an appeal for many people. What I’m saying, though, is that it might be less stressful on the family if you’re able to sleep in real beds and use online sources to gather information as to what’s happening in the affected area.

    If feasible and practical, give thought to stashing some gear and supplies at the BOL. While you’d hopefully have your trusty bug out bag with you, what if you lost it along the way? Ideas for what to store include:

    Extra clothes (2-3 days for each member of your family)

    Copies of important documents (insurance policies, identification, etc.)


    Toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. for each member of your family)

    Again, we’re not necessarily looking at a total end of the world situation here. Instead, we’re looking to hunker down and ride it out for a while.

    Choosing a BOL takes time and planning. It isn’t something you will want to do at the drop of a hat. Take advantage of the fact that disaster hasn’t hit you yet and make the appropriate plans.
    branchd77 likes this.
  2. Neiltarquin

    Neiltarquin Member

    Blog Posts:
    Good list you got there. Thanks for sharing. Actually having a copy of important document was a good idea.
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