Choosing a Bug Out Location

Posted on: April 26, 2016

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, most 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 at some point.

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.

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.

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.


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 area. 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.)
  • Cash
  • 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.


3 thoughts on “Choosing a Bug Out Location

  1. I live in a small town over 100 mi from eney major city. We are mostly snow birds. the town it self is all right but the Gov is as rotten as it gets.The cops are NOT TO BE TRUSTED for eney reason. GOV IS THE SAME.other wise its not a bad place to be. lots of places to bug out . sinning off now………… don

  2. I’ve read and heard people or preppers say they could live in the woods like some of the first settlers. If you are a beginner to prepper I would recommend you watch the show “Alone”. They are somewhat people well trained in survival and they don’t make it. This year the first one to leave the show didn’t make one day. I will admit that he may have been surrounded by bears but his mind also worked on him. It’s your family your putting in the woods and they are your responsibility to take care of them. Plan your bug out location with care. one or two nights in the woods is one thing but a long time is something else. Also remember that everyone thinks they will live off the land. Look back at the Great Depression, all the game was just about killed off. Where will you store your supplies? How will you defend it? What will you live in? What about heat in the winter? And the list can go on. think and plan. Think and plan. there was a lot of good info in this article but if think and plan you and your family will pay for it. Good luck. Bug out at home until you can’t. Real good advise.

  3. I want to applaud you for pointing out that the idea of bugging out should NOT be equated with moving to the woods and living like primatives in the wilderness. Wilderness survival skills are great, particularly if you find yourself lost in the woods, but choosing to loose yourself in the woods should be a worst case scenario. Sadly many of the objections to the very NOTION of bugging out attack this straw man. Also it is great that you point put that a bug out can be result from even short term localized natural and man made disasters. Certainly for the beginner a friends home is the perfect short term BOL. Finally, the idea that you SHOULD have more than one plan, route, and location is an essential strategy for bugging out.

    All that said, for the advanced prepper, I think your range consideration might be off. Most definitely if you are thinking of short term local phenomenon the a house within 150 miles is ideal, and EVERYONE’s bug out plan should include a BOL as close as 50 miles. However, if we are talking about a really bad SHTF event, then the reason for bugging out changes from localized disaster to widespread social disorder. In such a scenario cities and the populated areas become the primary danger. In such a case where bug out becomes necessary because of the break down of law and order simply moving to another location may not safeguard your family. Although yout considerations for walking to your BOL are correct a true worst case scenario BOL should be at minimum 100 miles from the nearest city, it should be rural, agrible, defensible, and inaccessible. As someone whose work requires him to live on the east coast finding a BOL that satisfies your 150 rule is virtually imposible, particularly if you add one further criteria: being 100miles from the nearest Nuclear power plant. For beginners just having a few BOLs is a great first step. However, the ideal of tge cabin in the woods on acreage remains a goal, and if you can’t manage to satisfy the criteria of a worst case scenario BOL within 150 miles why not plan a series of BOLs that you can use to make your way to a primary one? In my case my stocked BOL is about 250miles from my family home. We can drive the distance ideally in 4 hours avoiding cities. It is half a tanks distance of my truck and we never let our vehicles go below half full on fuel. We keep a full tanks worth of gas in storage for each vehicle and so have enough gas usually to make the trip 3-4 times. Along the way I have a series of homes and other facilities that I can bug out to along my way north.

    Finally, its important to consider alternate means, particularly when living in a high traffic area. Even with cars running traffic is a bear in my area. So I plan alternate means.

    Walking, I walk 6 miles daily and go for occasional 10-20mile hikes-with a pack. I think I could maintain a 15 mp day rate of speed making it to my BOL with 20 days walking the whole way.

    Biking, 50 mp day easy.

    Personal airplane, I made friends with a number of pilots at my local air field. Particularly in an urgent SHTF these guys can fly me and family and friends to within a days walk of my BOL in 1 hours time.

    Boats, those of us who live on the water know the enjoyment of pleasure boating, but I am convinced that traveling by boat would be one of the safest ways to travel in during a societal breakdown. Depending on the boat you could travel 250 miles in a day, in my case our boat is much slowee but requires no fuel and can navigate the globe. The benefit of a larger boat is that it is a moving BOL unto itself. In my case my boat could get me withing 3-4 days walk of my BO withing 2-5 days of sailing.

    The key is however, not to get overwhelmed by bug out contingencies or by the ideal but to make baby steps toward developing the most comprehensive plan possible. Never make the perfect the enemy of the good.

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