If I were to start daydreaming about the features of my ideal bug out location, the list would be endless. A self-sustaining homestead in a remote part of the world, packed full of the modern luxuries we've all come to expect. But this got me thinking. What are the core items every bug out location needs to have? Yesterday we did a brainstorming exercise at APE Survival headquarters, and have put together a short-list of features you need to ride out doomsday. When you start planning your own bug out location, here's what you need to keep in mind:
How far is it? The topic of distance raised two main questions in our session. First, you need to consider how far you're going to have to travel to reach your bug out location. Second, you want it to be far enough away from a city so you're not competing for supplies, or running the risk you're discovered. Balance needs to be struck between the two for the perfect bug out location. When a disaster strikes you can expect major roads to be gridlocked. If flooding or an earthquake hasn't rendered them useless already, the crowds of people evacuating will cause traffic to grind to a halt. Plus, once the local law enforcement and national guard get organized, they'll take control of the major arterial roads, and restrict the traffic flows into disaster-stricken areas. Consider all of this in your planning, and ensure there's at least three different ways you can reach your bug out location. Part of this, is your means of transport. In an ideal world you'll be able to drive, which means your bug out location should be within a couple of hundred miles (i.e. as far as you can get on a full tank of gas). After a crisis you don't want to worry about re-fuelling, and your ultimate goal should be to get off the roads as soon as possible, to avoid running into any opportunistic people with bad intentions. Consider also how you would fare getting to your bug out location on foot, and decide if it is less risky to pick a closer location. You're not going to be able to cover hundreds of miles on foot. As a rough guideline, we usually plan for a maximum of five days walking, and if you're relatively fit you can expect to cover 10 to 12 miles a day. This is a lot. If you've got somewhere you can bug out to within a 50 to 60 mile radius it's perfect.
Is there water? The most important survival asset is water. Obviously, your bug out location should have an ample natural supply, like a pond, dam, stream or river you can tap. If none of these are an option, consider properties that have ample ability to store water on site (i.e. a massive network of water tanks), or have tapped into an underground aquifer for your water needs. For most of us these won't be options, so pick somewhere that has running water nearby. In addition to keeping you clean, the water can be used to grow your crops, keep your livestock alive, and if the flow is running fast enough you can use it to generate power. Just do your research and make sure that the running water you see isn't seasonal, and the stream is still going to be there come drought, or the middle of summer.
How secure is it? Avoiding trouble is your main priority in a bug out location, and staying concealed is going to be your best security measure once the SHTF. Even if you're location is way out in the sticks, if your homestead is easily viewed from a road, a river or is set in a natural pass in the mountains, people are going to be stumbling across you and your family. Not everyone is going to be bad, but why risk revealing yourself and your preparations to someone who may decide they want what you have? Build your bug out location remote and away from obvious paths of travel. The more challenging it is for you to even reach your homestead, the lower the chances any strangers are going to randomly stumble across it and wind up on your doorstep. In line with this, take steps to blend your bug out location into the surroundings so it's not highly visible from a distance. Concealing your property as a proactive step is much easier than having to defend it against a group of determined bandits.
Is it self sufficient? How long do you plan to stay in your bug out location? Packing it full of supplies can last you weeks (or even months), but what if you need to stay off the grid for longer than this? This is where it becomes very important to be self-reliant. Obviously power is one of the biggest challenges, but there are ways you can generate it without raising too much attention to yourself. Small wind turbines can be used to power a handful of devices, solar panels can charge your batteries if you live in a sunny region, and don't forget the turbine you have hooked up to the stream. Once you can harness electricity your ability to survive long term is greatly improved. Second, you need to look at your surrounding area and the resources you have available. Determine if the soil is rich enough to support your crops, if there is adequate grass and feed to sustain your livestock and if there is wild game you can trap and hunt. What about firewood to keep you warm during the winter and as a fuel for your cooking? Think about everything you're going to need to survive, and make sure the location you choose has an abundance of every asset. Living off the land is much harder in reality than reading about it in a book.
Is the weather extreme? This is a big one, especially if you're in part of the United States that experiences a tough winter. Once the snows fall, you're going to be living off your supplies for at least three months as you ride it out, so make this part of your storage planning, and you've got the preps in place to ensure your water continues to flow, your homestead is heated adequately, you've got plenty of nutritious food to eat, and the structure you've got is strong enough to withstand both high winds, heavy snowfall, and the damage a severe storm would cause. Oh and firewood. Lots and lots of firewood.
Am I breaking the law? The final point is to understand the local laws and legislation that applies to you in your bug out location. Do your research and make sure you know what's allowed before you start building or committing to a new project. Harvesting water is illegal in many states, including Utah, Washington and Colorado, and you're not allowed to live completely off-grid in Florida and Texas. Before going all-out and investing a ton of your time and money into your bug out location, get to know the laws and ensure you abide by them all. Once the SHTF the government is going to have much bigger fish to fry than your little self-sustaining homestead, but until then you're best staying above-bar in all of your preparations. Make sure your bug out location addresses these six questions, and you're going to be well prepared for an upcoming crisis. Just don't get complacent. Once the rule of law no longer applies and you're happily enjoying your time in your homestead, forgetting the danger that's out there could get you killed. Even the most perfect bug out location can be overrun. Stay vigilant and always ready to evacuate at a moment's notice, because you do have a Plan B, right?