Bugging Out: The ultimate bug out shelter guide

People who have been raised in the city tend to fare better by staying in town during disasters.

However, if you are convinced that your dwelling will be untenable during a long term disaster such as an economic collapse, then maybe you should set up a remote bug out shelter.

Here are your options

Option #1: Old farmhouse

One option is to buy an old farmhouse out in the country to use as your emergency bug out location.

It might be a fun hobby to fix it up, and it might be the perfect place to wait out periods of rioting or economic collapse.

One of the best justifications for a retreat is that it can double as a weekend get-away that you can take the family to for memories that will last a lifetime. It can also be an excellent investment opportunity too.

Option #2: Mobile homes and campers

Another consideration for a survival shelter idea would be a mobile home.

As a bug out shelter, a mobile home has several advantages:

  1. It is already electrically wired
  2. Already plumbed
  3. Compactly organized
  4. And has all the conveniences of home.

You can move it in tomorrow, without having to build it yourself or wait for a contractor.

A mobile home also has some emergency preparedness disadvantages: maintenance can be high, quality is questionable, most are energy inefficient, and special care must be taken to prevent frozen/burst water pipes since it may not be used for extended periods during the winter.

New mobile homes are costly considering re-sale value, while pre-owned mobile homes are sometimes affordable.

Option #3: A motor home

bugout motorhome
Bug out motor home

A more versatile survival shelter plan is to have a motor home or camper that you use recreationally and that could also be taken to your shelter location in the event of an emergency.

Your bug out location could have such improvements as a septic tank, a cleared level spot for your motor home/camper, and parking space.

You could just pull in and hook up.

Both the mobile home and the camper have several advantages over building a new structure as a disaster shelter. They are much more affordable than a new house.

There are no building contractors to deal with. There are no building codes to worry about, and no bizarre appraisal hassles that usually accompany bank financing of new homes.

And installation is easy and immediate.

The camper has a few advantages over the mobile home when it comes to emergency preparedness. While mobile homes are usually roomier, it can be difficult to get service personnel to make house calls to remote locations when (not if) repairs or maintenance is needed later on.

With a camper, you can hook up to it with your vehicle and pull your camper to town for service. You can also pull your camper out and sell it when you are finished with it or want to upgrade, whereas a mobile home is more difficult to move and much more difficult to resell.

While a camper or mobile home would not provide much protection from a nuclear threat, they might provide a nice place to take your family in the event of widespread economic collapse and violence.

They would also provide some good family bonding time on the weekends, or a temporary emergency shelter while you work on a more permanent one.

Option #3 What if you are on a tight budget?

If money is tight, consider buying 4-5 acres of remote hunting land. Later you can build a 12×24 building for an affordable price, and a plain shell building gives you a place to stay while you are building more suitable emergency bug out house.

It also makes a nice place to spend the weekends away from the city. You could consider using a hunting lease as a temporary bug out home, but that would be a last resort.

If money is really tight, you might contact friends or family who live out in the country. If they have room for you and your family, you could make arrangements to store emergency food and other essentials at their home for use in a crisis.

You are much more likely to be welcomed if you are furnishing your own emergency supplies and making a contribution to the household, rather than being a burden.

Factors to consider when choosing a bug out location

good bug out locationThere are many considerations when choosing a shelter location. A primary consideration is accessible water, like a spring, creek, or well.

One of your first priorities when choosing such an emergency preparedness location is the availability of water.

A well, pond, or spring-fed stream should be near-by and readily accessible. If not, perhaps you could devise a catch system if you live in an area with sufficient rainfall.

You will certainly want redundant sources of water.

Water can be carried from a pond or stream, collected from rainfall, or siphoned from a well. Any surface water that is collected will obviously need to be purified before drinking.

The shelter should also have accessible firewood and soil capable of growing a garden.

You might consider a remotely located area with the least amount of traffic possible, preferably on a rough old dirt county road. A disadvantage to this remoteness is the increased vulnerability to thieves and vandals when you are not there.

Keep it secret

secret bug out location
Secrecy is key in constructing the perfect bug out shelter

Your shelter should definitely not be visible from the road. Perhaps trees, a winding driveway, or a small hill would be enough hide for your ‘vacation home,’ but it needs to be far enough off the road so that it isn’t worth the trouble to trespassers to walk to it.

Thieves and vandals will quickly figure out that you are not around very often if they can leisurely drive by and see the absence of activity.

Your driveway should be gated and locked. Another important reason to be invisible from the road is secrecy. The key to avoiding trouble during social unrest is to remain unseen.

The less people that know about your bug out spot, the less likely you are to get in a confrontation if conditions deteriorate.

Never forget that the same people who thought it was silly to prepare for disaster will kill you for what you have when they get desperate.

You cannot defend a shelter from a determined group of people, no matter how brilliant your defense plans are or how ‘defendable’ you think your spot is.

Attackers will find your shelter’s weak spot, and every shelter has at least one.

The only way to successfully defend a shelter is to prevent its discovery.

The best way to go about this is to pick an unnoticed parcel of woods, unobtrusively build a shelter, quietly stock it with a few provisions, and keep your mouth shut about it.

The keys to having the ultimate survival shelter are to be quiet and be unseen.

Otherwise, you may fight the traffic and road obstacles only to arrive at your well-stocked shelter and find it already occupied by determined squatters.

Some people feel that instead of being secretive about disaster preparation, you should encourage your neighbors to prepare with you.

That usually does not work. Instead, people choose not to prepare and will then count on you to feed them when the shortages start.

In some remote areas, the local residents will create obstacles on the dirt roads in the event of a temporary breakdown of law and order. Their intent will be to limit access to their area by vandals and roving gangs of looters by cutting trees across the roads and dynamiting key bridges.

The idea is to discourage random trouble-makers by creating a situation where they will have to walk.

Most people, especially thieves, will avoid walking very far and will simply drive elsewhere. Residents in the area of your shelter may have similar plans, so it would be wise to get there with some haste while the roads are unblocked.

Time and distance

Distance and travel routes between your shelter and your home must be carefully evaluated.

A shelter that you can’t reach will do you no good.

Too much distance, and therefore time, makes it proportionately less likely that you will be able to reach your shelter as the situation deteriorates. If the distance to your retreat is too great, it is also less likely that you will visit it on a regular basis for repairs and enjoyable weekend stays.

Some experts say that two to three hours travel time by vehicle should be the absolute maximum that you consider for your evacuation plan.

According to this theory, you should be able to get there on one tank of gas, because in a crisis there may be none available on the road.

Other experts say that your retreat needs to be more than one tank of gas away from a major metropolitan area. This is because the fleeing masses will leave town with at most one full tank of gas, and as the vehicles run dry the people will be on foot, desperate, and knocking on your door.

Ultimately, you will have to find the balance in time and distance that is right for you.


Another consideration for your shelter is how to heat it. The building should have a good wood stove.

Whatever the circumstances that you intend to retreat from, one common factor that you should plan on is being without electricity.

Old farm houses make good shelters because they are less expensive to purchase and tend to be built with at least some self–sufficiency in mind, i.e. water wells, root cellars, etc.

It is worth repeating that one of your first priorities when choosing a location is the availability of water. A well, pond, or spring-fed stream should be near-by and readily accessible.

Root cellars themselves make excellent shelters because the temperature is fairly constant, making it ideal for storing food. They are also easy to heat, and are usually cool in hot weather.

You can modify an existing root cellar or build your own, but make sure and pick a well-drained area. A root cellar is one of the cheapest options yet makes one of the best shelters.


family bug out shelterYour rural shelter should have enough room to comfortably lodge the number of people you intend to stay there, as well as food, water, and supplies, extra clothes, etc.

Keep in mind that you may have to take in and support a number of people that you are not presently counting on, especially if you have been proudly telling your preparation plans to your friends and neighbors.

Close friends and relatives, perhaps with young children, may show up and insist on being allowed to enter, so you had better be prepared to either turn them away by force or make room for them.

In the meantime

It is a bad idea to leave valuable supplies in an unoccupied building because of thieves.

ou might consider renting storage space in the nearest town for items which are not affected by heat such as cooking and lighting equipment, etc.

The problem is that a remote bug out home seldom has conveniently located storage businesses nearby, and over time rental fees can get expensive.

You may also run out of time to retrieve these items.

Here are a few storage tips for your SHTF stockpile.

Survival cache containers

Many people today have cache containers buried near their weekend getaways to solve this problem.

Guns, ammunition, coins, and other such items are among the most popular items for these buried caches.

survival cache containerAs containers, PVC pipe and metal army surplus ammo cans are hard to beat.

The biggest problem with both of these containers is heavy condensation inside the container while underground.

If you intend to cache any supplies, do a trial run first with desiccants and various methods of packing.

Guns and tools should be packed in cosmoline or grease, and ammo should be packed in waterproof plastic bags with desiccants.

Food vacuum sealers would be great for preparing ammo for storage, because the bags are airtight and waterproof. The vacuum sealed bags of ammo with desiccants could then be stored in the PVC or ammo cans and buried.

People who bury caches usually prefer to have several small ones scattered about instead of one big one. That way if one of them is found, all is not lost.

It would be wise to make a map of precisely where your caches are, since there is the possibility that several years from now you may not be able to find the precise spot where they are buried. This would also allow your family to find your caches if you are incapacitated or dead.

Early casualties

Amazingly, there are people who plan to leave their homes in a crisis and live in the public forest on whatever supplies they can take with them.

These people are doomed from the start. The woods are going to be full of other displaced individuals or gangs, and some of these people will not be very nice.

In the unlikely event that you survive the run-ins with other desperate refugees, it is unrealistic to believe that you can survive in the woods like Jeremiah Johnson for any length of time, especially in the winter.

Others believe that a nomadic traveling method is better.

They intend to constantly stay on the move in a van, camper, pick-up, etc. until things settle down.

These people have even less hope than the aforementioned forest people for several reasons.

In any national crisis, fuel will be one of the first and harshest shortages, severely constraining these would-be wanderers.

Additionally, there is no way a person can carry everything he will need in a vehicle. This will probably not be a problem, because in a situation of social anarchy, looters and wandering thugs will relieve this traveler of his vehicle, possessions, and probably his life ;-(

If you think this scenario is unlikely, consider the manner in which travelers and commuters were dragged from their vehicles and mercilessly beaten during the 1992 L.A. riots.

Transportation (Bug out route)

If your plan is to evacuate to a rural shelter, you had better anticipate the crisis deterioration and leave early enough to avoid the traffic problems.

ultimate bug out shelter
There is a possibility that your bug out route will be marred by chaos and pandemonium.

There is the possibility that your route will be blocked by traffic, riots, or the ramifications of the disaster you are escaping from. You should plan alternate routes for such scenarios.

The streets may be clogged with traffic to the point that walking may be the best alternative.

Bicycles also deal well with clogged streets, but they are slow and they can’t carry much gear.

Motorcycles can get through traffic, are faster, but still can’t carry much equipment or provisions. They also don’t require much fuel at a time when fuel may be in short supply.

None of this compensates for the danger posed by irrational vehicle drivers in a crisis who may have very little regard for the safety of motorcycle riders.

You also can’t haul a very big family on a motorcycle.

Try to keep your alternate bug out routes as short as possible.

You must have dependable transportation that will get you through difficult terrain and bad weather conditions.

You will need a vehicle that can carry the number of people in your family and the amount of gear that you are taking with you.

With this in mind, you should have a four-wheel drive heavy duty pickup or SUV, with good ground clearance.

You might consider an older model versus a new one.

Older bug out vehicles tend to be easier to service and maintain because they are less computerized and generally have simpler designs. They are also less likely to be affected by electromagnetic pulse in the wake of a nuclear explosion.

Diesel models have advantages and disadvantages.
  1. Diesel fuel may be more difficult to find in a crisis.
  2. Diesel fuel tends to gel when it gets really cold, requiring a chemical additive.
  3. Diesel engines are also more difficult to start in really cold temperatures.

However, diesel fuel has the advantage of containing more energy than gasoline, so diesel motors provide more power.

They also require less maintenance. But most importantly, Diesel fuel has the huge advantage of storing better and longer than gasoline. That may turn out to be a critical factor in a prolonged crisis where fuel is hard to find.

Keep all-terrain tires that are in good shape on your vehicle at all times, and always have at least a half tank of fuel.

Grab your 72-hour kit on the way out the door.