Prepping is not a conventional lifestyle. Preppers are often called weird, paranoid, and outright crazy, but preparedness is never something to be ashamed of. Disasters happen frequently and without warning, especially in our ever-changing world of climate turbulence. Storing food, toiletries, camping equipment, and other necessities is a great place to start. Serious preppers, however, will want to have at least two good bug out locations (or “BOLs”) to go after SHTF.
Why do I say you should have a few? Each type of disaster will require different requirements for being safe. For instance, being underground is best for avoiding radiation of a nuclear war. High ground is the perfect bug out location for flood-prone areas. However, high ground is not ideal for wildfire-prone regions.
How to Find the Ultimate BOL
BOL: The Essential Requirements
1. The Actual Location
- Within the range of one tank of gas or a short hike.
- Multiple access routes are available.
- Quick escape routes are available.
A good bug out location will be within one tank of gas and a short hiking distance. You don’t want it to be an arduous journey, or you may not make it. Imagine the potential catastrophes your area is likely to experience. Can you get to your safe place during the worst of it? If not, it’s not a good BOL. Ideally, you should have multiple access routes to ensure you are never blocked from accessing your bug out location.
You may also need to leave your bug out location if the chaos comes too close. So make sure you have quick routes out as well, like a hidden dingy on a stream or lake to make your getaway quick and easy.
2. Your Knowledge of the Location
- You should be able to easily locate your bug out location without a map.
- You should have a good understanding of the climate/weather.
- If there are nearby neighbors, you need to get to know them.
You should be intensely knowledgeable of the area. It does you no good to have a BOL, only to get lost on your way there. Visit your site often, hike around the area, make plans for places to put a garden, hunt, put up traps, or hide supplies.
Make sure to spend time there throughout the year so that low winter temperatures or scorching summers don’t take you by surprise, or you may find yourself in a pickle with rations that will last only half the time you predicted. That would be a recipe for disaster in the winter.
3. Some form of Isolation
- A remote area where outsiders won’t be able to locate.
- Inconvenient to get to, yet year-round accessible.
In a perfect world, my bug out location would be a place where I could invite everyone to ride out the apocalypse. However, this isn’t realistic, as supplies are always finite. Pick a spot where you and those closest to you can easily find, but others cannot. This includes places like semi-remote hiking trails and underground storm shelters. Even an island is a potentially ideal spot if it has the rest of the necessities on this list.
- The presence of caves, cellars, or cabins.
- Something to keep you cool during the summer, and warm in the winter.
- Will withstand common natural disasters for that region.
A camper, cabin, tent, cave, or another shelter will need to be in your BOL so that you are safe from the worst of the emergency. Buying a remote cabin will be best for most people. Building a root cellar type shelter is another excellent, low-cost alternative for creating a shelter. This is a relatively cheap but labor-intensive process that will benefit you in many ways. It will stay cool during the summer, allow you to store things on site, is easily disguised, and is pretty safe in most weather conditions (with the exception of floods).
5. Supplies Available
- Ability to stock the BOL before SHTF
- Your BOL needs some sort of storage solution.
You will need to drop supplies there quite often until you have a complete store of necessities in each of your bug out locations. If you cannot store your supplies safely, you will need to remedy that. Can you safely leave behind a bug out bag, install some shelving, or even build an in-ground root cellar near (or preferably connected to) your shelter?
6. Nearby Water Sources
- Potable water is a must- nearby lakes, streams, wells, or other water sources are vital.
- Must have necessary supplies to purify water.
Dehydration sets in quickly in a disaster and is deadly. Access to clean, drinkable water is a must. Make sure to include supplies for purifying water, not limited to water purification tablets. A good cast iron pot, fire pit, and strainer will help to ensure you can provide clean water to you and your family. Also, access to a place for bathing, washing clothes, and doing dishes will greatly improve your quality of life if you must bug out for an extended period of time.
7. Renewable Food Sources
- Lakes for fishing or game rich lands for hunting.
- A variety of plant life available for foraging.
- Good soil, sunlight exposure, and irrigation source for growing food.
We can store only so much food in any given location for emergencies with an eye for food production. Is there a place for hunting, fishing, or foraging nearby? If there is, you are much better prepared for a potential long-term stay.
What about a place to grow a garden with easy irrigation? A garden is a significant advantage in a long-term bug-out situation because it negates much of the work out of foraging. However, water doesn’t flow uphill by itself so keep a keen eye out for a stream or other water source to divert to your garden.
- Have at least one natural barrier, and one vantage point.
- Good locations for traps, weapons, alarm systems are musts.
In the worst of times, people who have not prepared will try to take what others have. You will need a place that you can easily defend. Try to pick a location that has a mountain, hill, cliff, or water to your back so you have a natural barrier on that side.
Make sure you have a clear vantage point from inside your shelter so that you can keep watch during trying times. The best spot to be is an area where no one can sneak up on you and if anyone does come to your BOL, you’ll be able to see them coming from a safe distance. Evaluate possible defensive locations as you look at potential sites.
9. Storage Solutions
- Storage locations should be safe and secure.
- Have multiple storage locations, just in case.
You will want to keep your food and munitions close, dry, and organized. Storage access from inside your shelter is absolutely necessary. A root cellar built to have access from inside the shelter is a great place for storing food, but the damp conditions are far from ideal for storing anything made of metal, so consider dedicating a room or other large area for storing the bulk of your weapons.
Don’t forget to stash a few around the shelter and land in case you are ever caught unaware. This advice rings true for bug-out bags, too, in case you need to make a quick getaway.
10. Latrine Available
- This is a necessity, have one ready before SHTF.
- A “bathroom spot” should be a safe distance from food and water sources.
No one wants to think about it, but you need to make plans on how to deal with bodily waste if your BOL does not have a septic tank. Bodily waste stinks, it’s a bio-hazard, and can give away your presence if dumped in the same place over time.
If you’re prepping for a long-term bug out, a compost toilet is easy to use, traps odors, and provides needed nutrients for your garden. A word of caution, never raw dump stool in a stream or close to your food. This will contaminate the food and water, potentially spreading disease.
How Close Should Your Bug Out Location Be?
In an emergency, most people will be trying to escape at the same time. Services and supplies may be in short supply. Keep this in mind when picking a location.
Ideally, your location should be no further than what one tank of gas and a short hike can take you, and you should be able to get there within one period of daylight.
Plan for harsh situations and inclement weather, such as flooding, ice/snow storms, and extreme heat. Can you climb that steep bluff in the rain? Is that dirt road (that lacks guardrails and maintenance) accessible during January blizzards? If you must cross a river, could you do it while it’s flooded?
When choosing a location, keep it close and accessible.
Basic Supplies to Stash in Your Bug Out Location
What you keep at your specific bug out location should be tailored to the needs of you and your family. However, there are some basic items that should be present at just about every emergency retreat. Read through this list to get an idea of some items you may be lacking.
- A variety of shelf stable foods (check out these long-lasting supermarket foods)
- Large and small containers of treated water ready for long term storage
Clothing and Bedding
- Hiking Boots
- Sleeping Bag, Sheets, Blankets
- Detergent to wash your clothing and bedding
- Dry Body Brush (useful for when showers aren’t possible)
- Soaps (hand + body)
- Feminine hygiene products
- Hair elastics, clips, headbands (if you have long hair)
- An aluminum or Teflon pot (for soups, boiling water, pasta)
- A cast iron griddle (ideal for meats, eggs, grilling vegetables, toasting bread)
- A cast iron dutch oven
- Cooking utensils such as tongs, flippers, spatulas, serving spoons, knives, wooden spoons, ladles, etc
- Plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery
- Reusable food storage solutions such as mason jars, bowls with lids, Tupperware, etc
- Fire starter, such as a lighter or matches
- Fuel for fire, such as cardboard, camp wood, or an axe/hatchet to access more wood
First Aid Kit
- Bug Spray
- Allergy medicine
- Any prescription drugs you or your family requires
- Burn Cream
- Ointments/Healing Gels
- Anti-Bug Sting Cream
- Appropriate ammunition
- Bow & Arrows
- Bear Spray (works wicked well on people)
- Fire extinguisher
- PVC pipe (if you need to create an irrigation system)
Fishing and Hunting Supplies
- Fishing pole
- Extra string
- Long-lasting bait (or the ability to dig up your own bait at your bug out location)
- Additional leads, bobbers, hooks, and sinkers
- Knife (for filleting, field dressing, and skinning)
- Trash bags (for meat)
- Ziplock Bags (for liver, heart, other organs you wish to save)
- Hunting rifle
Bug Out Location Checklist and Scoring System
Here’s a handy checklist and scoring system to grade your bug out location. You and your family’s lives are far too important not to have a good understanding of the place you could someday rely on in a life or death situation.
Use this list while grading a potential bug out location. Check off each item on this list that describe the location you are considering. After going through the entire list, add up the total points. The higher number of points your location receives, the better it is for a bug out location!
- Easily accessible in all weather (2pts)
- Not easily found, off the highway, out of route, maybe on a dirt road, and you haven’t told Facebook about it (2pts)
- Multiple methods of access (2pts)
- Various escape routes (3pts)
- Property touches/is nearby State, BLM, or Public Land (3pts)
- Presence of a sufficient shelter (5pts)
- Has at least one natural barrier such as a mountain, cliff, swift river, etc. (2pts)
- Has at least one lookout point (2 pts)
- Abundant storage (3 pts)
- Storage can be stocked before a natural disaster/SHTF situation (5pts)
- Has a water source nearby such as a well, lake, or river (5pts)
- Has a renewable food source such as hunting, fishing, scavenging, or farming available (5pts)
- Access to a latrine (3pts)
- You’re knowledgeable about the area and you can locate it without a map (5pts)
- The location is at low risk of, or highly prepared for, common local natural disasters (3pts)
- You have a like minded neighbor near(ish) to your bug out location, and you’re friends (5pts)
Rating Your BOL
- 40-50 points: It’s a perfect bug out location, and you’re on your way to being a master prepper!
- 35-39 points: It needs a little work, but it’s a totally workable BOL.
- 34 or fewer points: Make sure it has resources 6, 10, 11, 12, and 14 at least. If not, you need to make major improvements, or find a new bug location altogether.
Buying a Bug Out Location
If you are in the market to buy a good bug out location, check with local real estate agents and look for wooded lots or hunting or fishing cabins close to you. These cabins already have many of the aspects discussed on this list, including things not mentioned like septic and toilets, cooking equipment, and access roads.
If cabins are not available near you, look for land near a state or national park as it is easy to blend into the forest. While you can’t legally hunt or fish in a government park, it is easy to attract the animals that live there out of the protected land and into yours (make sure this is legal in your area). It is best to buy something you can pay cash for and keep secret, although taking out a bank note to do it is not the end of the world.
Where You Can Find That Perfect BOL Property
- Craigslist is a great place to look as their listings aren’t always included in the real estate agent’s databases. This listings also often include very remote plots of land.
- Speaking to locals in an area you would like to bug out to is another great way to locate properties that might fit your needs.
- Survival Realty may be the best place to find a BOL for sale as they work, nationally, with both agents and owners who are looking to sell very remote areas.
- Survivalist.com/property lists isolated areas for sale from all across America.
- Lands of America boasts it is America’s number one source for remote farms, ranches, and off the grid properties available for purchase.
- United Country Real Estate is another excellent source for survival properties and BOLs. It offers land for sale in the US, Mexico, and Panama.
- Other good options are nationwide real estate databases such as: Realtor, Redfin, Trulia, and Zillow. Just change your search parameters to reflect your price range, acreage desired, and (lack of) bedrooms/bathrooms. This will often show you more empty lots and rural property pieces, or large lots with unfinished cabins.
A good bug out location is near enough that it’s easily accessible but isolated enough that you can hide there. Keep it a secret so that those who are moderately close to you don’t show up during a disaster and force you to turn them away.
Having a quality bug out location that meets all of these requirements can let you and your family sleep better at night. Even the largest, most impressive, cruise ships have survival boats in case they sink right? Well, it’s time you have your own “survival boat” in the form of a perfect bug out location. Just make sure it has all of these essential characteristics, and you’ll be good to go!
What do you look for in a bug out location? What type of area are you going to when it all it’s the fan? Share your thoughts in the comments below!