Many of us struggle with developing a good solid bug out plan. We know we need one, we want to have one, but there's one big issue that we don't know how to deal with. That's... where do we go when we bug out? Other than some vague ideas about bugging out to the woods, we really don't know what we're going to do.

Ideally, we'd all have a well-prepared, well-stocked survival retreat out there in the woods somewhere. Then, when things even looked like they were about to get bad, we'd be able to slip away quietly, making our way to our retreat and sitting out the problem. Oh that it were so.

The big problem with such a dream is of course money. Most of the preppers I know were living from paycheck to paycheck before they started prepping. Trying to prepare to care for their family in the event of an emergency has required cutting something else out of the budget. Purchasing a piece of land to build a survival retreat on, is more than their budgets could handle.

Yes, I know that there are lots of people who have talked about making survival retreats out of a wish and a song, plus $2.95; but it doesn't matter how cheaply you can build it, if you don't have a place to build it at. That's the bigger financial hurdle for most of us. I can show you a dozen ways to build a survival shelter on the cheap, even a nice survival shelter on the cheap, but land is still expensive.

The Junk Land Option

One option is to buy what is known as "junk land." While I can see the advantage of doing this and have even advocated for it in the past, the only junk land within a reasonable distance of my home has no water, isn't close to water, and drilling would mean having to go down at least 500 feet. That's not practical. While there are places in the country where you can buy junk land and find water twenty feet below the surface, they aren't anywhere near where I live.

But don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to close the door on junk land. If you can find land that you can buy for $1,000 per acre or less, then by all means, take a good look at it. Just make sure that it would actually be possible to use the land for your survival retreat, before you buy it.

There are a large number of junk land tracts for sale really cheap in Western Texas. But the reason why they are so cheap is that there isn't any water within miles, and drilling any well would have to be so deep as to be impractical, from a cost perspective.

On the other hand, there are parts of the country where there is junk land available, which is close to reliable sources of water. Those would be an excellent option. If you can, buy some of that land and start building yourself a survival retreat. With some careful planning and making use of whatever materials you can scrounge for free, you can build yourself a one-of-a-kind survival retreat, which will meet your needs.

What Does a Bug Out Location Need?

Regardless of whether you are building your own survival retreat or just looking for someplace you can bug out to, without building a survival retreat ahead-of-time, you'll need pretty much the same things. So, the first part of your search is understanding what you will need, in order to use someplace for your bug out. Then you can start looking for something that matches those needs.

One of the hardest things about this, as with most aspects of prepping, is that you don't know what sort of disaster is ultimately going to cause you to bug out. So, you need to have a destination that works for just about everything. Either that, or you need more than one destination, so that you can choose which one will work best, when the time comes.


You need to be far enough away from your home, so that whatever is affecting your home will not be affecting your bug out location. Setting up a survival retreat 50 miles away from home, on the coast somewhere, isn't going to provide you with a good place to go, to get away from a hurricane.

At the same time, you don't want a place that is so far away, that you can't get there. One assumption that you have to make is that you might end up being forced to abandon your vehicle. If that happens, you'll need to finish traveling on foot. So that limits you to a couple of hundred miles from your home, at the most.

Wherever you go needs to be far enough away to be safe as well. This one can be a bit difficult, as the resources you will need for survival, all but dictate finding a place which is close to people. Such locations are the ones which were inhabited first, and tend to be inhabited even now. Yet, in many potential survival scenarios, the greatest risk you're likely to face are other people.


Of all the resources you'll need at your bug out retreat, water is the most critical. Sadly, there is much good land in the country, which is totally unsuitable for our purposes, simply because of a lack of available water. This is the same problem which plagued the early settlers of our country, causing them to call the Midwest, "The Great American Desert." It wasn't a desert, but for their purposes, it might as well have been.

You're probably going to have to plan on drilling a well in order to have water. So, the question actually doesn't boil down to whether or not there is a stream or pond on the property, as much as it boils down to how deep you're going to have to drill, in order to find groundwater.

Fortunately, you don't have to drill deep in much of the country. Water is readily available only a few short feet below the surface. It might not be the best water there is, but it's water. It's good enough to sustain life.

The easiest way to find out how deep you'll need to drill for water is to find out what others in the area have had to do. While the water table may vary a bit, chances are that your well depth will be within ten feet of what they've had to do. But keep in mind that commercially drilled wells are often drilled deeper than needed to strike water, as they are usually looking for better quality water.

Other Resources

Of course, water isn't the only resource you'll need, although it is the most critical. In addition, you'll need:

  • Wood for a fire
  • Building materials
  • Food sources
  • Possibly manufactured goods

How much of each of these you'll need will depend a lot on your specific survival plans and how well prepared you are. If you are bugging out to a prepared survival retreat, I would assume that you're going to have food and other supplies stockpiled at the retreat. But if you're bugging out to a place that you don't own, it would be difficult to preposition supplies.

In such a case, you may be able to find somewhere nearby that you can rent, such as a storage space, where you could stockpile supplies. In that case, the distance between your bug out location and the place where you are storing your supplies becomes a critical factor. You would need to make sure that you could get to your supplies on foot, if fuel isn't available or you end up having to abandon your vehicle.

Concealment & Defensibility

If we assume that one of the major reasons to bug out is to get away from other people, then you need to make sure that you are bugging out to someplace where people aren't going to find you. That means avoiding wide open spaces and going for wooded terrain. Of course, that wooded terrain also gives you wood for your fire and to use as building materials too.

Someplace that's off the beaten path would help with concealment as well. While it's an assumption, I think it's safe to say that most gangs of marauders would stick to the roads while looking for their next victim to attack. Staying away from the roads would mean that it would be less likely that they would find you.

However, it wouldn't be prudent to assume that nobody is going to find you, no matter what. There's always that possibility. And if they do find you, there's nothing to say that they wouldn't go get some help to attack you. So, you need to have a place that either offers natural defenses or which lends itself to the building of your own defenses.

When your retreat eventually gets discovered, as it most likely will, you're only going to have two choices; to abandon it or to fight. So, preparing for that eventual fight has to be part of your plans and your strategy.


I realize that the very thought of accessibility is the opposite of what I was just talking about. But you have to be able to get into your retreat, before pulling the door closed. So you need to make sure that you will have access to your planned bug out retreat, whether that means you have a road on the edge of your property, or you have permission to cross someone else's.

This may become an issue for getting supplies as well. In some scenarios, such as an EMP, the loss of the grid will mean a massive amount of people dying of starvation. Once that happens, there will be countless homes and businesses that are vacant. While there is no way of seeing how those will be used or exploited by the survivors, it might be advantageous to have access to them, for additional equipment and supplies to help you out in your survival retreat.

More than anything, this means being close enough to a population center, so that you can travel back and forth from that population center to your retreat.

Take the Scenario into Consideration

I mentioned earlier that different types of emergencies could very well dictate changes in your bug out strategy. Natural disasters are different to deal with than an EMP attack would be; and an economic collapse would be totally different than either of them. There really is no "one size fits all" disaster scenario to prepare for, no matter how hard we try to make it so.

For those who own a survival retreat outside of town, this may not make much of a difference, especially if the survival retreat is well prepared and stocked for survival. But for those of us who don't have that luxury and are going to have to make do with what we have, selecting more than one possible destination for our bug out and then making the final decision once the disaster hits makes a lot of sense.

More than anything, there are two big issues here. The first is how long the bug out is expected to be. In the case of a hurricane, you might only need to bug out for a few days. That would be long enough for the hurricane to do whatever damage it is going to do. After that, you'd want to get back home quickly, so that you could salvage your life and home and start putting things back together again. At the other end of the scale is anything that would destroy the power grid. In such a case, there may not be any society to go back home to.

The second issue is the likelihood of a breakdown of society. More than anything, this means a breakdown of law and order. In my way of thinking, this is the biggest reason to bug out, so as to protect your family. The biggest danger any of us face is from the two-legged predators out there, not from Mother Nature.

Some Poor Choices for Bug Out Locations

So now that we've established our parameters, let's look at some places that you want to avoid using as a bug out location. While some may actually look attractive to you, the biggest problem with any of these will be the ability to avoid the two-legged predators.


I think we can all agree that going to any government facility would be a mistake in any crisis situation. Looking at how poorly FEMA did with the people of New Orleans, I wouldn't want to put myself in their hands. While you might be able to stay alive that way, it wouldn't be much of a life.

Of course, once the government gets their hands on anyone, they aren't likely to let go. So going to a FEMA camp could actually be very dangerous. That danger would be magnified tremendously if the government was using the cover of the disaster to begin rounding up people for some other, more nefarious purpose.


Cities, and those who live in them, will be the hardest hit by any disaster or emergency. The high population density in a city requires a massive amount of infrastructure and supply to support. The basic assumption is that both the infrastructure and the supply chain will cease to exist, or if they do exist, they won't be able to provide enough of what everyone needs.

With that being the case, demonstrations and rioting are much more likely to break out in a city, than anywhere else. The mob mentality is dangerous, and it's not something you can shoot your way out of. Unless you happen to have an armored car that's heavy enough that it can't be rolled over, being trapped in a mob can be extremely dangerous.

Criminals, and those who are on the fringes of the criminal community, are much more likely to inhabit cities as well. They will take any disaster, and the confusion that it creates, as an open door for increased criminal activity. Being natural predators, not constrained by the law, they will assume that everyone else is there for their pleasure. They will steal, kill and threaten to get whatever they want.

Vacation Spots

Anyplace that can be considered a vacation spot will most likely be overrun by people who are not prepared for anything more serious than a hangnail. Some will have been there when the disaster struck, but most will be fairly well off people who decided that they had to bug out and left their home to go to the only place they could think of, which was safe; that vacation retreat.

What that means is that there will be a bunch of people who don't have supplies and are surprised that the staff of the vacation retreat isn't ready to take care of them. If anyone were to actually show up in such a place, who even looked like they knew what they were doing, these people would instantly turn into leeches, trying to suck whatever blood they could out of the prepared.

Anywhere Along a Major Highway

Criminals are lazy, whether full-time criminals or those who are ready to slip across the line into lawlessness during a time of crisis. As such, they will tend to take the easy way for anything. That includes travel. So, if they decide that they need to leave where they are and go someplace else, looking for better pickings, they'll do so along the highway.

The funny thing about this is that in other circumstances, some of those people might even be hunters and fisherman who are accustomed to being in the wild. But by making a decision to prey on others, they will leave behind that part of their life, as well as avoiding the places where they would go to hunt and fish. So, instead of actually doing something useful to help their own survival, they'll act just like the rest of the criminals whose only jungle is the concrete one.

Being alongside any highway, even a secondary one, just makes you too easy a target to find. You're much better off being back in the sticks somewhere, even if it is a pain to get there. You've got to balance your convenience with your security, and security has to come out on top.

A Relative's Property

I have to qualify this one. There are times when bugging out to a relative's property is the right thing to do. But that is only true if the relative in question is a like-minded prepper as well. Unless you are sure of that, what you might be setting yourself up for is to bug out to a property whose owners are going to take you for everything you've got.

Families can be some of the most contentious and demanding people around. Being family, they are harder to refuse than others. So when you show up at a family member's property, with a truck full of supplies, they just might see those supplies as their salvation.

Of course, if the family member in question is also a prepper, than their home in the country just might be the best possible place to go.

Some Good Places to Bug Out To

Now that we've looked at some places to avoid, what about places that are good for bugging out to? While there is no such thing as an ideal bug out location, there are many places that would work out well, especially if you prepare properly.

That Relative's Property

While that relative's property could be your downfall, if they aren't like-minded preppers, it could be an ideal place to go, if they are part of your survival team. In such a scenario, they would be offering their property out in the country, as their contribution to the team. Most likely, they'd have some gardening skills or even some domestic animals to go along with that. Other team members would provide supplies and other skills.

The key here is that everyone would be working together as a team, rather than trying to take advantage of each other. That can only come about through careful planning and many hours of discussions, to ensure that everyone is on the same sheet of music.

A State Park Campground

If you've got to get away in a hurry, heading to a nearby campground might be ideal. The others who are there are likely to be similarly-minded, if not like-minded people. They will be largely self-sufficient, having come with tents, campers and trailers so that they could stay to wait out the disaster. They are unlikely to be the kind of people who would prey upon their neighbors, although a few of those might slip in.

Having spent much time in campgrounds, I'd pick a state park campground over any other, any day. The main reason for this is the combination of location and amenities. State parks are usually very nice locations, alongside lakes and rivers, which solves the water problem. There's a high probability that there will be woods and mountains that can be hunted, even if it would be considered poaching.

The other issue is that of control. National park campgrounds are much more tightly controlled than those run by the several states. So you'll probably find that the state park will give you more options and less hassle than a national park would.

An Island in the Caribbean

If you've got a boat that can make it, heading to one of the islands in the Caribbean might just be ideal, especially in a situation where the United States is collapsing. The locals in those islands are used to fending for themselves, mostly living off of what they harvest from the ocean. They are also accustomed to visitors and the money that they bring. This combination would make it a great location, one which probably will have open arms.

Granted, this is an option that few can afford, as living in the Caribbean would be expensive, unless you were going to go native. But for those who can, it should definitely be considered.


I've spent a considerable amount of time in Mexico, both for business and travel. This has led me to believe that Mexico could be an ideal bug out location for those who live close enough and speak Spanish.

One thing that makes Mexico attractive is the general lack of efficiency of their government. So if anything is going on, where our government is part of the problem, going to Mexico would be an easy way to get out of the clutches of the government. Chances are that the local officials wouldn't have any idea who you are or even care who you are. If they did, it would only be to get a bribe from you.

The other advantage that Mexico has going for it is that it is a more primitive country. While Mexico is actually industrialized, many people still do things the old ways and live the old ways. There are many places where running water and electricity are either unreliable or not in existence.

What this means it that in a case like an EMP, which if it took out our electric grid would destroy most of Mexico's grid as well, the Mexican people would find it easier to survive without electricity, than we would here in the U.S. It would also be easier to buy the types of tools you would need to survive a more rustic lifestyle, as they still use much of that regularly.

National Forests

If you decide that your best option is to do the classic "bug off to the wilderness" scenario, then makes sure that you find a national forest to go to. More than anything, these forests are the closest thing we have here in the USA to virgin land. While there will be some roads and other signs of mankind, much of the land will be just as it has been for centuries. There will be more game, more trees and more of everything that nature can provide.

Of course, this is assuming that the disaster you are bugging out for is severe enough that the Forest Service will be out of work. The last thing you need is some forest ranger finding your camp and telling you that it's time to pack up and go home.

Rural Communities

One of my favorite options for bugging out is to bug out to a rural community. But, other than bugging out to a prepared survival retreat, this one will require more preparation than anything else. That's because these communities, being small communities, are suspicious of outsiders. If you just show up, without them knowing you, there's a good chance that they'll escort you out of town; especially if there's something major enough going on, so as to create a mass exodus from the cities.

If you are going to make a rural community your bug out location, then you need to start by building relationships with the people of that community. You'll need to spend your weekends and vacations with them, building those relationships and becoming a familiar face to them.

Ideally, you would be able to buy a piece of land, a house or even rent an apartment in that community; but that will depend on how much money you have to work with. Fortunately, prices for homes and land in those communities are much lower, but few of us have enough money to maintain a separate home like that.

Another option is if you manage to acquire some junk land, which is close to such a community. In that case, you could stay at your land and let the people of the town know that you have a place outside of town. That would make it possible for you to integrate into the community, without the high cost of buying a second home.

Even with land outside of town, you would be welcome in town, as these communities generally encompass more than just the town. They typically include nearby farmer, who are as well know in town, as if they lived there themselves. That's the sort of relationship you'd want to build with the people as well.

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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