Ideal distance to bugout location? (For the sake of discussion.)

I assume most of you are in the same position we are, of using a friend/relative’s house or recreational land you already own, but just for the sake of discussion:

All else being equal, how many miles from home would you like a bugout location to be? 

What is too close to even consider (too likely to be impacted by the same emergency) and what is too far to even consider (too difficult/dangerous to attempt to reach as things deteriorate?)

I think the sweet spot would probably be in the 40 to 100 mile range – an easy drive by car, and a long but not unreasonable hike were one to end up on foot. (Unfortunately not our reality, as we no longer have a location available in that range, but what I consider ideal.)

I think anything under 5 miles is too close to really count as bugging out, since even something very localized like a chemical spill or a riot could easily effect both. 

I would also discount anything so far away that getting there would require boarding a commercial flight, or spending multiple days on the road in a vehicle.  In my opinion if the transportation system is still functioning smoothly enough for that, it’s probably not time to bug out.  

Of course, there are other variables according to topography, types of disasters likely to strike an area, and geopolitical lines.  100 miles might not be enough to escape a hurricane in a flat landscape, and 1/4 mile might be all it takes to get out of reach of a flooding river in a hilly one.  Dispite the overall impracticallity of bugging out by plane, it may be the only way to reach a distant and uninvolved country if your region were ever overun by war.  

What are other people’s thoughts on this?


  • Comments (13)

    • 0

      It all depends on you means and abilities and severity of a situation. Its helpful to be prepared but you’ll never likely be prepared to manage multiple scenarios and issues that are wide spread. To escape a crisis and regroup a few miles away only serves as a rendezvous point and doesn’t suggest you’d be safe or could exist for an amount of time in limbo. Another plan would need to replace the plan that got you to that point. If an emergency is localized, it only requires common sense to seek an appropriate path to safety and is not necessarily bugging in or out.

      If you are faced with an overwhelming situation, luck, fate, health, fortitude will probably factor into your survival more so than a wide array of gear and stockpiles stored in some remote location you’re trying to reach.

      Humans become feral in times of crisis. You’ll realize rather quickly to survive means to exist in very simple terms. Increasing your awareness, using your senses and making do with less will likely be you best plan for what is largely out of your control. 

    • 1

      Ah but these things are not mutually exclusive.

      • 0

        Call it what you may.

        A simple answer to your question for me would be somewhere within 100 miles to 1000 miles, there are too many variables to compute an exact answer, but a conversation and discussion on the topic is possible.

        A three hour drive in any direction for me puts me amongst several vast high elevation regions that have moderate temperatures year round and national forest land in abundance. 

        Bugging out to your own recreational land sounds good but it’s also likely to be used by people who’s names aren’t on the deed, like an avid woodsman or local hunters or people who wander about undetected regardless of it being private property. I see that happen all the time locally under normal conditions. It’s almost useless to own a large tract of recreational land in a rural area and claim it your own.

        Surviving is a reasonable goal and being prepared helps. Ultimately, it’s my belief that surviving a dire situation will not be achievable for the general population long term, and long term survival for an individual may not be a pleasant existence anyhow. Its reasonable for me to assume you’d like to survive as long as possible on your own terms and while feeling well. If not feeling well what’s the point of surviving? 

    • 1

      How long is a piece of string? 
      The answer to this question is also dependent on your abilities and the kind of environment that you live in. Your mode of travel, the time of year, any injuries in your group etc. There are so many variables that the question quickly starts to become unanswerable 

      Having a reasonably local rendezvous point makes good sense, travelling to a place where you know that you are safe and will be welcome makes even better sense but never turn yourself into a refugee 

    • 2

      The string quote made me smile because it’s something my grandpa used to say (I asked a lot of unanswerable questions as a child, too!)

      But from a “sane prepping” or 80/20 rule perspective, I do think it should be possible to come up with a practical range that works for most situations.

      Many other questions – such as how much food to store – are equally “unanswerable” and yet there are established guidelines on this, with two weeks being considered bare minimum, and “as much as you can rotate out before it spoils” being considered ideal.  Even if one has the abilty to spend their life’s savings filling a giant warehouse with centuries worth of survival food for all their descendants, doing so is not considered a reasonable use of resources.  Not because it couldn’t come in useful, but because it would violate the 80/20 principle in a major way.

      So along similar lines, I respectfully disagree that it depends on one’s abilities.  I think there’s a certain distance that becomes too far even if you expect to have the “ability” to reach it.  Too far in the sense that in the vast majority of scenarios, the extra time/effort/expense/danger spent reaching it would far outweigh any benefit of the extra distance.  

      Since The Prepared advocates only bugging out to a planned location where you have shelter and other resources waiting, I’m surprised there doesn’t seem to be any guidance on preferred distance to this bugout location.  I feel it’s something that’s missing.  Yes it’s complicated and yes individuals would have to tweak any “standard” to fit their needs, but that’s true in all aspects of prepping.

    • 2

      I wish I had the link to it. But once upon a time I saw some data from world war II on evacuation routes. I remember seeing that people would venture somewhere around 10 miles from major roads. 

      What I’ve done because of this is made a 40 mi circle around any major cities and 10 mi buffer zone around any major highways between cities. I’ve used that to narrow down areas of interest I may want to consider.

    • 2

      If you’re purchasing or stocking a bug out location, then I can understand the pressure to make sure that one location will work for 80% of emergencies. My family has taken a very different approach.

      My family’s emergency plans include several alternative bug out locations. These are all relatively public places, like hotels or parking lots, where we might be safer than at home during an emergency. We will choose between them depending on the situation.

      Twice we’ve driven about 200 miles to a hotel. One of those times the hurricane passed right overhead anyway. It wasn’t about avoiding the hurricane, because we didn’t know in advance where the hurricane would go. We moved further from the coast, to a solidly built hotel that could withstand a storm.

      One of our locations is less than a mile away but has substantially lower fire risk. It’s just a parking lot, but definitely won’t go up in flames. For a wildfire, there may not be time for traveling a longer distance. We’ve also selected a hotel on the other side of our own city that’s less likely to be impacted by a power outage at the same time as our home.

      • 2

        That seems like a good approach as long as the family/group is either physically together, or able to reach each other by phone when making the decision. 

        I’m curious whether you have specific criteria for deciding which location to use.  I can picture (for example) someone waiting in a parking lot while the rest of the family is at a hotel, because they thought “fire = meet at the parking lot” while everyone else thought the parking lot was only for if the fire was about to overtake you. 

        To avoid any such confusion, we used to use my roommate’s brother’s farm 60 miles away as an all-purpose bugout location. I felt fairly good about that distance.  Sadly he gave up farming in Michigan, sold the place, and moved south.

        Now we, too, have multiple bugout locations, but it makes me a little uneasy.  Perhaps more so because we are five unrelated adults sharing a homestead, and if someone isn’t home when an evacuation occurs, they need to know where to collect their pets or children.  But with our top two locations now being 12 miles and 600 miles, it seemed unreasonable to commit to either of them for all evacuations.  The 12 mile one is almost like a reverse bugout – leaving a 120 acre rustic homestead in the woods for an upscale lakeside neighborhood near town – but it means much better fire protection.  Obviously, if the whole town/region ever needed to evacuate for any reason, we would head to the 600 mile one.  I just worry about grey areas between the two, where members of the group might make different calls.

      • 2

        “members of the group might make different calls”

        The solution might be to have a communication plan. It’s okay for people to go to different locations, as long as there’s some way to let each other know. Cell phones, ham radio, notes on the refrigerator…

        My family is smaller so it’s less of an issue for us. It’s very unlikely that my wife or I would leave town without the other. We’d almost certainly either communicate by cell phone or meet up at home.

      • 3

        Oh, that makes sense that if it’s just you and your wife you expect to be evacuating together.  

        Our group does have a communication plan, including an out-of-town contact to relay messages, but we just don’t like to rely too much on modern technology.  And we don’t want anyone trying to get home to check for notes if the area is unsafe, but your suggestion did make me think maybe we could select sites along the route (to our far away location) where we could leave some sort of sign indicating who has already passed by.

    • 2

      I wouldn’t want to rely on cell phones in an emergency situation, here in the UK cell phone networks can quickly become overwhelmed in an emergency, there is then a contingency plan which prioritises government or Emergency services cell phones and blocks “non emergency” calls no matter how urgent or important they might be to the survival of an individual. Essentially you’re on your own.
      Power outages can shut down cell towers that are necessary for phone coverage as we found out when storm damage totally cut off a lot of communications in the north of England and most of rural Scotland.

      Having a well rehearsed plan that everyone in the group knows and understands is probably the surest way to get everyone moving in the same direction or keep them safe.

      • 1

        ” I wouldn’t want to rely on cell phones in an emergency situation”

        Having a backup communication option is important, because phones are unreliable as you said. What are some good backup options?

        My main backup option is to physically meet at home. Whichever of us is away from home can hopefully return quickly by car.

        Satellite texting such as Garmin InReach or Motorola Defy seem like a much more reliable backup which I haven’t tried yet.

        BTW, don’t want to downplay the value of cellphones. Amazing communications option. Just good to have a backup for when they fail.

    • 0

      I would consider the idea of mixing different dry beans into a medley, and goes for pastas as well. Difference in textures can make a repeatable food much more interesting.