Choosing a bug out location

If a disaster strikes, where will you go? Even if your primary plan is to shelter in place, you should have at least one, preferably multiple, places to go as backups.

Here are my criteria for choosing a bug out location.

1) It should be close enough to be feasible to get to if you end up on foot for part or all of the journey. As a rule of thumb, I tell people to figure how far they could likely travel on a half tank of gas in their vehicle. Granted, that’s probably further than most of us are able to reasonably go on foot but the hope is you’ll be able to get at least part of the way on wheels.

2) It should be some place you are intimately familiar with and know how to get to using a variety of routes. The worst thing you can do is just pick a spot on a map and say, “That’s where we’re going.” Remember too though, favorite vacation spots sure sound good on paper, but how many other people have vacationed there and will think of it as well?

3) It should be a location where you can store supplies in advance. If possible, you might consider setting up an agreement with a trusted friend or family member where you can store some stuff with them and they can store some stuff with you.

4) It should have access to clean water, sturdy shelter from the elements, and be far enough off the beaten path to keep wanderers away. It will be difficult enough to provide for you and yours, let alone protecting your supplies from others in need.

5) Ideally, it should be some place where you have some ownership stake. While bugging out to a vast expanse of public land is doable for some, it takes a high degree of skill to “live off the land” for an extended period of time. Granted, most of us can’t afford to go out and buy a few dozen acres or more of land, “just in case.” But, perhaps consider going in on such a purchase with a group of family members, selling it to them as the idea of having a family recreational area. Once purchased or leased, add outbuildings or structures of some kind for storage and living quarters.

In any event, please take the time now to plan out where you are going to go and how you are going to get there. While there is something to be said for the ability to improvise at the drop of a hat, a bug out situation really isn’t the best time to test your ability to think on your feet.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

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