Having a well-prepared bug out plan is considered one of the staples of prepping. People talk all the time about building bug out bags, buying the ultimate bug out vehicle and even wanting to build that cabin off in the woods to use as a bug out retreat. But few actually have a plan in place.

One of the biggest problems that most of us have is that we don’t have enough money to build that cabin in the woods as our survival retreat. With that big hole in our plans, it’s hard to put the rest together. Oh, we can put together a plan for getting out of town, without any problem. But the problems of having a destination we can go to makes it hard to do much more.

Let me confess something to you. I have the same problem as everyone else in this regard. Oh, I’ve got grand dreams about owning some property and setting it up as my survival retreat. But so far, I can’t afford it. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a couple of different bug out plans ready to go, with planned destinations, as well as plans for how I’ll live, once I get there.

Hopefully, I’ll have that cabin in the woods someday. Then I’ll have the bug out plan that I want. But until I do, I’ll have to stick with the plans that I do have, and hope that they’ll be adequate.

What about you? How are your bug out plans? Do they start and end with having a bug out bag or do you actually have something more? If you had to bug out right now, do you know where you would go, how you would get there and what you would do for food, fuel and shelter when you get there?

Let me take that a step further. I mentioned that I actually have a couple of bug out plans. That’s because the same plan might not work for all situations. There might be some situations which warrant a different sort of bug out than others. So, I have more than one plan. What about you? Do you have an alternate to your primary plan; something you can use if that plan just won’t work?

What Does a Good Bug Out Location Need?

Before we get into ideas and locations, let’s talk about requirements. No matter what, your bug out location is going to have to provide certain things. Those things are the same, regardless of where you go. So, understanding what they are should give us a good idea of what to look for.


Wherever you go on a bug out, you’ll need to be able to get there. That means sticking to someplace that you can actually get to. If you live in New York, trying to make it to Wyoming for a bug out won’t be practical. You’d need a massive amount of fuel to get there, and you can’t assume that there will be fuel available en route.

In February of 2017, a dam in Northern California was on the brink of rupturing. Actually, it wasn’t the dam itself, but the emergency spillway, which only had a concrete lip. The hillside below that lip was eroding away rapidly, creating the risk of a 30 foot wall of water crashing down on the town downstream.

This prompted a general evacuation, with all the confusion and logistical problems that brings. Since people weren’t ready to evacuate, they didn’t know where to go. The highways moved at a crawl, filled with cars trying to get somewhere, anywhere. Since the gas stations weren’t any more prepared than the people were, cars ran out of gas and had to be abandoned, with the people continuing on foot.

This situation demonstrated everything wrong with a bug out; traffic, lack of planning, unavailability of gasoline and stranded motorists trying to walk out of the danger area. If any of those people had thought to have a survival shelter a couple of hundred miles from their home, they probably couldn’t have gotten there. While 200 miles is a reasonable distance, it can be unattainable if you don’t have enough fuel to make it.


The worst case scenarios always include a breakdown of society. This really isn’t all that unrealistic, considering the looting and crime that seems to follow just about any disaster. Our veneer of civilization isn’t as thick as we’d like it to be, and it doesn’t take much to wear it away.

The old saying is that desperate people do desperate things. With how few people actually prepare to face a disaster the shortage of supplies that follows most disasters, you can be sure that there will be desperate people. So there’s a good chance that at least some of those desperate people will band together, with the idea of finding who has food and taking that food from them.

This is probably the number one reason to bug out. But it is also the number one reason why you might have visitors at your bug out retreat. If you do, you have to be ready to repel boarders. Otherwise, you might just end up becoming a statistic.

A large part of winning any battle is the terrain that the battle is fought on. You want to make sure that if you are stuck having to fight, your retreat is someplace you can defend easily. If enemies can come at you from several directions at the same time, chances are, you won’t make it. While fighting invaders from one direction, others will blindside you and take you out.


Wherever you go, you want the ability to become invisible. Whether you’re invisible because you blend into the crowd, because you’re hidden by trees or because you’re far enough off shore that people on land can’t see you doesn’t matter. Just as long as nobody can see you and pick you out as a target.

The best way to win a fight is to not have to fight one. That’s where concealment helps. If people don’t know you’re there and don’t know what you have, they will probably leave you alone. But if they can see that you’re better off than they are, it paints a nice big bulls-eye on your back.


Regardless of where you go, you’re going to need shelter. That either means going someplace where there is shelter available, taking portable shelter with you, or constructing shelter once you get there. All three options, or even a combination thereof, are worth looking into. Which you pick will depend on the location you select, as well as the resources you have to work with.

Throughout history, mankind has built shelters out of the materials that nature provided. In parts of the world where there was abundant forests, people built out of wood. In other areas, where there wasn’t that much wood to work with, they might have built out of stone. I’ve even seen places where they build houses out of abandoned industrial facilities or scraps of material they gathered from trash dumps. Still other parts of the world saw people building out of adobe, cob or mud. Have an open mind when looking at what kind of shelter you are going to build and learn a number of different construction techniques, so that you can make use of the materials available.

Don’t forget about mankind’s castoffs when thinking about shelter. Shipping containers are popular

Of course, if you are going to bug out to public lands, you won’t be able to construct a long-term shelter ahead-of-time. In that case, you might want to have an idea for a short-term shelter, to be replaced by a more permanent one. Either that, or bring a tent along on your bug out, to use as a short-term shelter while you are building the long-term one.


No matter where you go, you’re going to need resources to survive. In addition to the building materials I mentioned above, you’re going to need water, food, fuel for a fire and a host of other things. Before deciding on any area as a location for a survival shelter, you’ve got to decide if the area is going to be able to provide those resources.

Please keep in mind that this applies to urban, rural and wilderness areas. While the actual sources for those resources will be different in each case, the need for them will be the same. In selecting a rural area to bug out to, you need to take into account what type of farming is going on in that area, as that will most likely be your primary source of food, along with everyone else in that community. But if you are planning on bugging out to the wilderness, then you need to look at how plentiful game and edible plants are.

In either case, you should stockpile supplies in or near your chosen retreat. But if we’re going to think long-term, we need to think about what will happen after those supplies are exhausted. Besides, hunting and gathering are good ways of extending the supplies that you have stockpiled.


Finally, you need to come up with a plan that you can afford. I’m not talking about affording it because you took out a loan to buy some land or a cabin, but afford it outright. If you have to take out a loan, make sure it’s a short-term one, and not a 15 or 30 year mortgage. As long as you are making payments on a piece of property, there’s a risk of losing that property if the economy goes south.

But you need to think about more than just the cost of land and shelter. Whatever you might buy will need to be prepared for use as a survival shelter. That means making modifications, like drilling a well and building defenses. It also means stockpiling supplies. Think it all through, before committing to any course of action.

It’s unlikely that many people who are reading this are able to buy a piece of property, build a survival shelter and stockpile it, with the cash they have on hand. I’m really not expecting you to. Somehow or other you’re going to have to spread the cost out a bit. That might mean taking out a loan. But, once again, make sure it’s a short-term loan. It also might mean making some adjustments to your budget, while you are building your shelter and stockpiling it.

Urban, Rural or Wilderness?

While the most commonly discussed bug out is one to the wilderness, that may not be the best plan for you. Bugging out to the wilderness is a massive challenge, as it literally means living off the land, getting everything you need from nature. While there are some people who can do that, there aren’t many. Most of us would be better off finding an alternate location, which doesn’t require living off the land.

Urban Bug Out

Even thinking about an urban bug out seems like a contradiction, when most of the people bugging out will be people who live and work in the cities. But hear me out. Bugging out of the city makes sense, because of the lack of resources and the high number of people who will be trying to get their hands on those resources. Besides that, the concentration of criminals is higher in the city, making it more dangerous.

But, suburbia isn’t as bad as the center city. For someone who doesn’t know a whole lot about camping or living off the land, going to suburbia might make a whole lot more sense. Granted, you’ll still need resources and you’ll need a place for shelter. But there are abandoned buildings in just about any suburban area, which can be used as shelter. It’s easy to make a supply cache, as all you need is to rent a storage locker.

Another urban option is to bug out from your home and live at your place of business. This is especially good for small business owners. I remember one family who converted the basement of their store into a survival bunker. It gave them someplace hidden to go, which wasn’t their home, but was easy to get to from their home.

Rural Bug Out

Rural bug out is one of my favorite options. Basically, It’s leaving the city and moving to a small rural town, preferably a farming town. This one requires a lot of work, simply because you’re going to have to spend enough time in that town to establish yourself there before the disaster strikes. That way, when you show up, you won’t be dismissed or thrown out, out of hand.

In my opinion, rural farming communities have the best chance of surviving most disasters. But not just any rural farming community will do. Many farms have been bought by large corporations, who own and cultivate millions of acres. In those cases, everything that is grown around one such rural community will probably be the same. So, there won’t be much variety in your diet. You’d be better off with a rural farm community that has lots of small farms, growing vegetables, rather than farms that grow grain.

Other rural communities may not have farming to depend on for food, but have other usable resources. Those by the ocean will have the possibility of seafood available. Some in the mountains may be excellent places to use as a base camp, heading into the mountains to hunt. In any case, you’ll need to check on what’s available, before working to integrate yourself in the community.

Of course, if you have relatives or friends who live in such a community, that could give you an “in” for establishing yourself as part of the community. In such a case, you would have a huge advantage over others who might be trying to integrate themselves into the community.

Wilderness Bug Out

A remote location can be highly desirable in many situations, especially situations where there is a breakdown of society. For that reason, one of your bug out plans should be to such an area. However, creating a survivable bug out to such an area requires much more work than a rural bug out would.

If you happen to be fortunate enough that you can afford that cabin in the woods which we’d all like to have, than this is your absolute best option. All you’d need then is to prepare it to be used as a survival shelter and stockpile it with supplies.  

If you don’t own such a place, then you’ll need to think about how you are going to build a shelter and where you can cache supplies. One good option is to find a wilderness area that is close to a rural town. The town should be able to offer you storage to stockpile your supplies at, as well as a base that you can use, while building a more permanent shelter out in the wild. Of course, this means going through the work of establishing yourself as a regular in that town as well, just as if you were planning on a rural bug out.

Best Areas in the Country to Bug Out To

Having said all that, let’s look at a few areas of the country, which would make excellent locations to bug out to. These have been selected based upon the criteria I’ve listed above, which makes most of them low-population areas, with good resources. So, while the Southwest has a low population, I haven’t selected it, because resources can be rather scarce.

Another thing I’ve looked at is areas where there are few nuclear power plants. With the potential of cyberwarfare and cyberterrorism on the rise, living near a nuclear power plant could be dangerous. There have been reports of foreign powers “tickling” our nuclear power plants and even taking control of them for short periods of time. If this were done maliciously, bypassing all the controls, any of those plants could melt down or even explode.

Based upon that, I’d say the following four areas are the best ones to consider:

The Rocky Mountains

Whenever I think of bugging out to the proverbial cabin in the woods, I think of the Rockies. Part of that is probably due to the fact that I grew up right at the foot of the Rockies, so my very first bug out plan was to head into the mountains, if Washington ever pushed the button.

But there’s a lot to be said for the Rocky Mountains. While there are communities up there, there’s also a lot of wide open mountains, where you might not see another person for days. Game, water, fish and wood, three of the most important resources, are plentiful, making to possible to live off the land, even though it would be hard. Much of the land is National Forests, which belong to we the people.

The one problem with the Rockies is that land is expensive. But if you’re talking about bugging out to public lands and building a shelter when you get there, there probably isn’t a better place to go. Just make sure to bring lots of warm clothes, as it’s cold in them thar hills.

The Northwest

Speaking of cold, one of the least populated areas of the country is the Northwest. I’m not talking about the Pacific Northwest, which consists of Washington, Oregon and Northern California, but the states that are inland of that. Specifically, that means Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Once again, there’s lots of wide open land, with a fair amount of it being government owned.

Hunting is good in these states, all of which are strongly conservative, with a strong gun culture. So, people wouldn’t be bothered by you moving in with a bunch of guns to defend yourself and hunt for game.

The Appalachian Mountains

The “other” mountain range in the United States has a long tradition of hunting, fishing and just plain being independent minded. I’m talking, of course, about the Appalachian Mountains. While nowhere near as tall as the Rockies, there is still a lot of remote area in this region, even though the eastern states are more heavily populated. Your best bet is somewhere in West Virginia, Kentucky or Tennessee.

There are even developers who are creating “survival subdivisions” in these states. While not a subdivision in the normal sense of the word, they are large swaths of land, which have been broken up into five to twenty acre homestead tracts. Marketed to preppers, these properties are intended to be used for building bug out retreats.

The nice thing about this is that your neighbors would likely be like-minded people, who are as interested in protecting their families as you are. As such, you’ll probably be able to work together and form a community defensive plan.

The Gulf States

There are areas along the Gulf of Mexico which might be excellent for survival. Even though these states are more highly populated than the ones I’ve already mentioned, they are mostly populated by independent-minded conservatives. Like the Appalachians, people are accustomed to hunting and fishing, so it would be easy to fit in.

Another excellent option that this area offers is to bug out to the Gulf of Mexico itself. All you’d need is a descent boat, preferably a sailboat, and you could lay offshore, fishing for food and living rather comfortably. If things got too bad here in the U.S. you could always put into a Mexican port for supplies.

Some Secondary Areas to Consider

While those four areas are the top ones on my list, they may not be convenient to where you live. So, I’d like to mention some alternatives as well. These areas aren’t as good as the ones I just talked about, but with some work, they would all be survivable.


If you want remote, Alaska is the place to go. It’s quite possible that we could have a nationwide catastrophe, and the people of Alaska would be unaffected. Even so, there are two major problems with Alaska as a survival destination: cold and distance.

Just getting to Alaska would be a problem for most people. If gas is unavailable, then it would really be a challenge. Once there, you’d have the extreme cold to deal with. That can be done, but you’d better make sure that you know what you are doing. Supplies have to be flown in to much of Alaska, so be sure to check things out thoroughly, before making this a bug out destination.


Canada offers some of the same survival problems as Alaska does. However, it is considerably closer. For those living in the Northeast, this might be the easiest way to get to someplace remote.

With few exceptions, the populated cities of Canada are basically close to their southern border. That means that traveling just a little ways north puts you in remote areas. Canadian property laws are rather lenient to foreigners, making it easy to buy land for a survival retreat. Prices are also considerably lower than in the northeastern U.S.


If you want someplace cheap to bug out to, consider Mexico. While the standard of living is considerably lower than here in the U.S. you can live quite comfortably on the cheap. However, I would definitely recommend learning to speak Spanish, if this is going to be one of your bug out plans.

I have to confess that this is one of mine. Since my whole family speaks Spanish and we have a number of friends who live in Mexico, it would actually be very easy for us to bug out there. With lax government policies, we would probably never be found, even if the U.S. government was looking for us.

Parts of Texas

Texas has a history of fierce independence, which traces its roots back to the time when Texas was its own republic. This could come in handy, if there is a situation where people are bugging out to get away from the federal government. Feds are less likely to get cooperation out of Texans, even Texas law enforcement, than what they could expect in other states.

The big problem with living in Texas is water. There is abundant land available cheap, especially in the western part of the state, but it is not near any reliable water source. So you will probably have to put in a well, quite possibly a deep well.

Given that, there are parts of Texas which have very low populations. The people are mostly friendly once you get out of the big cities and the gun culture is strong. From a survival point of view, people won’t think of you funny if you have the biggest, muddiest four-wheel-drive truck around or if you’re stockpiling supplies to the roof.

Along the Seashore

The ocean offers some real advantages for survival. First of all, there is an abundance of food available under the water. For parts of the world, the ocean is the main source of food. So if you can fish, you can eat. If you own a boat and can fish, even better.

The ocean is also a virtually unlimited source of water. There’s just one problem, the water is too salty to drink or to use in watering your garden. If you’re going to use seawater for survival, you’re going to have to count on distilling it or purifying it with reverse osmosis. But if you have the capability for either of those, you’ll never run out of water.

While pretty much all ocean frontage is owned by someone, there are a lot of small, rural communities on the seashore. Is you apply the same ideas I talked about for rural farming communities, any of them could become an excellent location for a bug out retreat.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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