Survive Societal Collapse: Guide To Picking A Bug Out Location


If you want to survive a societal collapse, start looking for a bug-out location, preferably to move there full-time.

I just moved to the Florida panhandle, so I’m on the hunt for a new bug-out location. After doing hours of research on the internet, I concluded that there isn’t a perfect bug-out location, but some locations are better than others. Let’s take a look at what I found.

What is a bug-out location for societal collapse?

A bug-out location is a remote acreage located in an area with minimal population density. The location is set up to provide water, food, fuel, shelter, and security during times of emergency such as a natural disaster or societal collapse. The location can be your home or secondary location.

There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.

Alfred Henry Lewis

What a bug-out location is not

A bug-out location is not a temporary location such as a family or friends where you can go for short-term safety.

This type of emergency location is not set up for YOU to survive long-term in SHTF. It is a location where you do not have ownership or control. Remember, we’re talking about worst-case scenarios here.

Imagine bugging-out to someone else’s house and eating their food. How long until you’ve worn out your welcome? What if things reach the tipping point and mass starvation sets in? You will be at someone elses mercy for your survival.

Scott Ready Squirrel

If you are interested in this subject, you might also like Ready Squirrel’s comprehensive article, “26 Ways to Prepare For Societal Collapse.”

Picking a Bug-Out Retreat For Societal Collapse: 26 Elements To Consider

  1. All-Season Shelter
  2. Buy Land Early in the Prepping Process
  3. How Much Property You Need
  4. Maximum Distance
  5. Climate
  6. Water Supply
  7. Redundancy
  8. Food Storage & Preservation
  9. Survival Garden
  10. Soil Type
  11. Population Density
  12. Natural Hazards
  13. HOAs, Covenants, Land Restriction & Land Use
  14. Purchasing Property
  15. Security
  16. Rural Crime
  17. Camouflage
  18. Shooting Range
  19. Fuel and Power
  20. Topography
  21. Move or Bug-out
  22. Transportation
  23. Communication
  24. People
  25. Hidden Supply Caches
  26. Hygiene and Sanitation

1. Bug Out Shelter For All Seasons

A bug-out shelter provides long-term protection from the worst weather likely during all four seasons. To ensure a healthy state of mind, the shelter should also provide basic creature comforts such as a warm, comfortable place to sleep, running water, and a feeling of safety.

It’s ok to have a temporary shelter, like a tent, but that isn’t ideal for the long term because it doesn’t provide any creature comforts for sitting out a major emergency event that could last for years. If you don’t think a collapse is possible, do some research on Venezuela.

If you are looking for survival acreage, try to find land that has a sound structure on it like a shed, barn, or a small structure that was built as an off-grid retreat or hunting shelter. Often, purchasing this type of acreage doesn’t charge for the cost of the structure already there.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

My favorite websites to look for land are Land And Farm and Land Watch. Be wary, though; you can really go down the rabbit hole looking at property. I searched the state where I’m looking for acreage and found 10 listings with 10+ acres for around 20k.

For a bug-out shelter, you can use many structure types as long as they are properly insulated and heated in cold-weather climates. Following are 16 bug-out shelter ideas.

16 Types of Bug-Out Shelter

Garden or Utility Shed.

My favorite inexpensive method of creating a mini-cabin. Build a shed from scratch or purchase a kit—a 15×15 shed, well insulated with a loft, bunk beds, and a wood-burning stove.

Take it a step further and create a bug-out compound with multiple sheds, each for a specific purpose.

Shipping Container

Shipping containers are favored by preppers that want to go subterranean. If you plan to bury them know that shipping containers are only strong in the corners, so they need to be re-inforced.

Before you bury a shipping container, I’d consult an engineer to figure out reinforcement, how much load the containers can handle, and how deep you can bury them.

There are some pretty awesome shipping container shelters out there.

Yurt

Yurts are an expensive tent-like structure preferred by the Mongols. They are also very cool. 90% of rural Mongolians still live in Yurts full-time.

Cabin Tent

If I chose a cabin tent as a bug-out shelter, it would be either temporary or super heavy duty. I don’t like the idea of leaving a tent unsecured, especially if I don’t live on site. There are higher-grade cabin tents that accept the pipe for a wood-burning stove.

Camp Trailer

Go with a camp trailer but leave it in place. The chance you will abandon your vehicle in a serious conflagration is, in my opinion, high. Drag it behind you during an event, and you might be forced to leave your bug-out shelter on a gridlocked freeway or at a security checkpoint.

I met a guy in New Mexico who parked his trailer on 20 acres and then built an elaborate structure over the top to keep the elements out. This compound-like structure included a deck, a gravity-fed shower, a water catchment system, and a place to put a table and chairs.

A pretty nice setup that drastically expanded living space. You could take this further and build out additional sheds, heated shelters, and other outbuildings.

Line-shack or Plywood-Out Building

Line shacks aren’t much different from a shed concept; you have more choices in setup and dimensions.

Another thing to consider. My father built an off-grid cabin in New Mexico, and it was tough getting materials to the building site. We used concrete footings and dimensional lumber to build the cabin.

When building the cabin, we had a 60-mile round trip to get building supplies.

Tiny building

Kind of a prefab house on a trailer. Very fashionable these days. These structures tend to be fancy and higher-end inside.

Tarp System

A tarp system is like a tent and only for temporary shelter while building something more permanent on-site.

Heavy Duty Guide Tent

Similar to a cabin tent. Usually pretty tough with lots of head-room, four-season, and the ability to place a wood-burning stove inside.

Busch-craft Shelter (built with natural materials)

You’ve seen the Youtube videos of guys building Viking long-houses, small cabins, or other structures from logs cut on-site. Building this way is an inexpensive but labor-intensive way to build a very nice bug-out shelter, and it’s cool.

As you build this type of Shelter, you’ll be sleeping in a temporary shelter like a tent.

Consider putting a shed in place before building this type of structure, so you have a comfortable place to sleep and secure your tools and equipment.

Quonset Hut

If you have thought about living in a big industrial apartment with an elevator for your motorcycle, you might look into Quonset huts. A lot of wide-open space and storage.

First used in World War II, metal structures made from galvanized steel, with a 1/2 cylinder profile. I love these—a ton of room.

Compartmentalizing the interior with dimensional lumber and drywall is the way because smaller spaces are easier to heat.

Military Surplus Shelters

Big tents, small tents, Quonset huts, Instant shelters of every shape and form.

There are many types of military surplus shelters you can look into.

Barn or upgraded utility building

Purchasing land that already has a sound structure on it is the dream. Most of the time, the cost of the structure isn’t included in the purchase price because the structure doesn’t have electricity, running water, etc.

An old sound barn with big heavy beams would make an excellent bug-out structure.

Hunting camps also tend to have this type of structure on them. Down in the south, deer hunting camps are all over the place.

Hunting Cabin

Build a hunting cabin or purchase land that has one built.

If the cabin is in place and hooked up on running water and electricity, it will cost more.

Fifth Wheel

A fifth wheel is basically the same as a camp trailer but bigger and more expensive.

If you go this route, leave your trailer at the bug-out location.

Sailboat

I’m living in the Florida Panhandle, and I sail, so this is definitely an option.

The problem is you can’t garden. That said, you have access to thousands of miles of inland shoreline, the great loop, and of course, the open ocean.

Ideally, you’d have an island and a sailboat. Maybe in the next life.

Underground Bunker

Underground bunkers that are professionally installed cost a mint. Consider doing it yourself with re-inforced connex boxes.

I like the idea of having one or two connex boxes buried and hidden, but I wouldn’t want to live in this kind of structure as my main bug-out shelter. Life is too short to live in a hole.

Connex Box

The same as a shipping container. A big metal box buried bunker-style used above ground for storage or retrofitted as a shelter.

The cool thing about connex boxes is you can cut and weld multiple boxes together to make bigger structures. And, you can stack them.

Tee Pee

Tee Pees feel too impermanent for a full-time shelter, but I can see using one as a temporary shelter.

If you’re thinking about preparing for SHTF, you might be interested in the Ready Squirrel Article, “Societal Collapse: The Road to Self-reliance.”

2. Buy Land Early

Buy land early in the prepping process to incorporate emergency supplies and logistics into the overall emergency plan.

The earlier you have a simple shelter in place, the better.

Setting up early allows planning and installing structures that take time to establish.

For example, water catchment systems, a smokehouse, an outdoor kitchen, an outhouse or septic system, fruiting trees, bushes, perennial vegetables, and natural camouflage.

3. Bug Out Property: How Much Land Do You Need

The consensus is that a bug-out property should be at least 10 acres. More property is always better. If you can afford one acre, then that’s the size you’ll purchase.

Imagine having a 1-acre property adjacent to thousands of acres of national forest, that changes the way you look at it. Think about your best options and go for that.

You need at least 10 acres of property to sustain bug-out requirements for food, lumber, security, hunting, and varied topography for a bug-out location. One exception to this guideline is smaller acreage adjacent to a national forest or large tracts of land that won’t be built on.

6 Considerations for how much land to purchase

So ten acres is the minimum amount of property you need for a bug-out property, but what if you can’t afford that much land. Get the best piece of property you can afford.

Owning a simple house in a small rural town with a small lot is superior to living in a McMansion outside a major city.

Following are six considerations for how much land to purchase.

#1 Mortgage and property taxes

Avoid going out on a limb to purchase property for bugging-out. Purchase something well within your means.

If you buy land for cash on the barrelhead, you still have to pay property taxes and other fees like road maintenance and HOA dues.

#2 Soil Arability

The more fertile the soil, the more food and lumber produced per acre.

In central Iowa and other midwest states, just about anything will grow without amending the soil. You can feed a small family on one acre or much less with vegetables and chickens. The downside with this location is the short growing seasons in the midwest.

The high-dessert of Arizona will produce less per acre than a camp in central Iowa. It is tougher keeping a garden watered, and it will produce fewer vegetables.

The plus side of this location is the growing season is much longer, if not year-round and acreage is less expensive.

#3 How much timber will you use

How much wood will you use to run your camp, including firewood for fuel and lumber for construction and repairs?

“As a rule of thumb, 1 acre of woodland can produce 2/3 cord of hardwood each year. If you own or have access to 10 acres of woodland, you should be able to harvest 6 to 7 cords a year–enough to heat an average three-bedroom house.”

Back to Basics, A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills Abigail R. Gehring

Another option for wood fuel is planting trees like black locusts that you can coppice or trim over and over for wood. With this method, the same tree can be trimmed every two years instead of waiting decades for a new tree to grow.

This sustainable means of producing wood for fuel is common in Europe. You need enough land to plant enough trees so you can manage and rotate your firewood coppicing.

#4 Room For Livestock

Consider the amount of room necessary to raise livestock. Chickens and rabbits are raised on less than an acre. Beef cattle or bison need a minimum of 1 acre per animal. Let’s take a look at the minimum land requirements for animals normally found on a homestead.

  • Cattle- 1 acre per cow
  • Goats- 200 sqft of pasture per goat
  • Chickens- 10sqft per chicken
  • Rabbits- 24 sqft
  • Pigs- 10 pigs per acre
  • Ducks- 3 to 5 sqft per duck
  • Honey Bees- 5 feet in every direction around the hive(s)
  • Quail- 1 sqft
  • Pheasants- 20 sqft

If you are going for the big animals, check out Silvopasture, which integrates trees and grazing livestock.

#5 Room For Buildings and Enclosures

A bug-out location needs enough room for the main bug-out shelter, outbuildings, and mission-critical spaces. If you go with a small land lot size, plan ahead of time to ensure you have enough room to build what you want to build.

Following is a list of typical structures built on a homestead or hunting camp.

Outdoor kitchen

In hot weather, cooking outside is preferred

Barn

Retrofit an old barn and live in it

Stable

Maybe your bug-out vehicle of choice is a stout horse, or you need a structure to over-winter your four-legged critters.

Chicken Coupe

Coupes don’t take up much space. Include extra space if you plan on using a chicken tractor to improve the soil.

Pasture(s)

When planning for pastures, don’t forget about rotation and alternate techniques like Silvopasture and integration of chicken tractors.

Garage

Store heavy equipment and vehicles.

Guest House/Bunk House

Space for extra bodies. Maybe you’ve got a large group or plan to get things done based on food for labor.

Workshop

A workshop keeps the camp running, and it’s another option as a second heated building in case of fire or damage in the main shelter.

Workshops are also a great structure to tinker and get away from your fellow survivalists or get things done in bad weather.

Storage Shed(s)

Use multiple storage sheds for different uses. Simple, cheap, and easily upgraded, You could make your entire bug-out camp from sheds.

Main Shelter

However humble, this is your castle—the epicenter of your camp.

Back-up Shelter

Have a heated shelter as a backup in case there is an issue with your main structure. Important in a location with severe winters.

#6 Raising Animals, Gardening, and Farming

Certain growing techniques like Permaculture and other bio-intensive growing methods will grow a lot of food in a small area. You can grow enough food for a family of four on 1/4 acre.

However, if you plan on raising large animals like beef cattle or planting fields of grain, you will need enough land to feed the cattle and rotate crops.

4. Maximum Distance From Home

Everyone agrees that a bug-out location should be close to your house as you can get it. One size fit’s all distances don’t really work unless you have a location within that distance or can move.

The general rule of thumb for maximum distance to a bug-out location is one tank of gas or 60 miles on foot.

Increase these distances depending on budget and location.

The ideal distance from your bug-out location is actually zero miles. Moving to a rural spot and setting up before things go belly-up is ideal.

During major catastrophes or civil unrest, curfews, “do not travel orders,” and lockdowns are likely. Under these circumstances, the only way to move safely from point A to point B is probably on foot.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has contingencies to stop cars and have people move out on foot, so plan for the eventuality of hiking to your bug-out camp. If your camp is 2000 miles away, you are hiking 2000 miles if you can’t find alternate transportation.

Bug-Out Locations and Dangerous Routes

Don’t just consider distance to your camp. Think about dangerous areas in between where you are and where you are going.

With a bug-out bag and the essentials, it could take two weeks to arrive safely at the retreat on foot by avoiding dangerous areas, like main roads and heavily populated areas. It could take one hour to travel by vehicle through a dangerous, highly populated area, and you won’t make it to your destination.

Want to learn more about collapse? Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “What Happens When Society Collapses?”

5. Climate

Avoid bug-out locations in climates with bad winters or dessert-like conditions.

Having lived in both climates, I would not pick either location for bugging out. I know there are people with bug-out locations in Arizona and Alaska that are reading this and think I’m full of it, but it’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Admittedly, this is a personal choice. There isn’t much room for error trying to survive a societal collapse in the desert or an area with long cold winters. Both climates are unforgiving.

7 Reasons to Avoid Bug Out Locations With Harsh winters.

Long drawn-out winters limit gardening, which reduces the amount of food you can grow. A survival garden is a big part of your diet, so why have a short growing season.

In locations like Alaska, the bounty of natural resources like fish and other game may have a leveling effect, but you will be more like a hunter-gatherer than a settler. Living this way takes great skills.

You need a tremendous amount of fuel for heat. (have redundancies built-in like 2 heated structures)

Solar doesn’t work well, if at all.

Everything freezes, and equipment breaks

During the winter months, you may feel shut-in which isn’t ideal for the psychological aspect of survival.

6 Reasons to Avoid Desert Bug Out Locations

Deserts are a dangerous bug-out location if you haven’t dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.

Water storage is a priority. There is zero room for error.

Have a method to manually pump water out of your well, and plan for redundancy

Growing food In the desert is tough. If you go this route, emulate native American gardening techniques.

Summers in the desert is like the winter in the Northern states. People stay indoors in an air-conditioned room or by a swimming pool. You won’t have air conditioning.

Dependable year-round natural water sources are rare in most deserts.

Imagine surviving day after day in the middle of an Arizona summer with no air conditioning. You would be forced to stay in the shade.

The area I lived in, in the Arizona desert, had a monsoon season that dumped more than enough rainwater to get you through the year, but it takes thousands of gallons of storage to catch it. Once the monsoon season was over, rain was scarce.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

Take a look at the chart below to get a general idea of the weather and rainfall by state. To get the average winter and summer temperatures, I used a city in the state’s center. This chart doesn’t account for micro-climates.

For Michigan, I used a centrally located city in the Upper Penninsula (UP.)

Chart #1: Average Winter & Summer Temperatures & Annual Rainfall By State

StateAverage
Winter Temp
(Fahrenheit)
Low/High
Dec, Jan, Feb
Average Summer Temp (Fahrenheit)
Low/High
June, July, August
Average Annual Rainfall
Alabama30.66° to 57.66°
Bessemer
67.33° to 91.66° 56″ (Higher in Coastal Areas)
Alaska-1° to 15°
Nome
43.66° to 56° 6″ North Slope to 200″SE Panhandle
Arizona45.66 to 69.33°
Phoenix
79.66° to 105°3″ (Southwest Yuma) 40″(East Central White Mountains)
Arkansas33° to 54°
Little Rock
70.33° to 92° 50.5″
California39.66° to 57.66°
Fresno
65° to 96.33° 21.44″
Colorado20.6° to 39.3°
Black Hawk
78° to 94° 17″ to 50″ (regional)
Connecticut19.9° to 36.9°
Berlin
60° to 82.5° 50.2″
Deleware26.33° to 41.66°
Wilmington
65° to 83°43.12″
Florida51.3° to 73°
Sun City Center
72.33° to 90.66° 40″ to 60″ (regional)
Georgia37.33° to 60.66°
Perry
68.33° to 91° 45″ to 80″ (regional)
Hawaii 68.6° to 76.3°
Kahului
74° to 79.33° 17.32″ Oahu, 30″ to 40″ Kauai
Idaho12.3° to 33.7°
Challis
49.33° to 82° 18″
Illinois21.3° to 37.3°
Springfield
64° to 85.33° 35″ to 48.”
Indiana20° to 35°
Fort Wayne
63° to 83.8 42.4″
Iowa13.66° to 32°
Ankeny
61.66° to 83.66° 26″ to 38.”
Kansas23° to 42°
Olathe
69° to 88.3° 33.3″
Kentucky 87°
Danville
23° 42″ to 52.”
Louisianna41.6° to 63°
Baton Rouge
71.3° to 90.6° 48″ to 75.”
Maine-1° to 22.33°
Waterville
50.66° to 74° 42″ to 46.”
Maryland31.3° to 45.3°
Baltimore
70.66° to 87° 59″
Massachusetts25.66° to 39.66°
Milford
64.33° to 80°43″
Michigan4.33° to 54.66°
Watersmeet
50.33° to 75.66°30″ to 38.”
Minnesota8° to 23.33°
Duluth
55° to 71°18″ to 32.”
Mississippi41° to 53°
Biloxi
75.66° to 89.66°57.6″
Missouri22° to 43°
Jefferson City
65° to 87°41″
Montana8.66° to 32.66°
Big Sky
39.66° to 76.33°15.2″
Nebraska17.66° to 36.33°
Lincoln
65.33° to 86.33°27″
Nevada21.66° to 61.66 °
Las Vegas
64.66° to 104.33°10″ (Sierra Nevada Mountains 50″) Driest of the 50 States.
New Hampshire9.66° to 32.66°
Bristol
54° to 79.33°44.2″
New Jersey26.66° to 40°
Trenton
65.33° to 82.6651″
New Mexico27° to 51°
Albuquerque
64° to 91.66°13.85″
New York18° to 34.66°
Canastota
58.66° to 79.66°40″
North Carolina33° to 53.66°
Charlotte
67.66° to 88°48″
North Dakota5.6° to 22.7°
Minot
55.7° to 79.7°13″ to 20.”
Ohio21.66° to 36°
Canton
60.33° to 81°37.57″
Oklahoma29.33° to 51°
Oklahoma City
69.33° to 91.66°36.52″
Oregon24.66° to 57.33°
Redmond
46.33° to 81.33°8″ to 200″ (regional)
Pennsylvania24° to 38.66°
Harrisburg
63° to 83°41″
Rhode Island28° to 41°
Pawtucket
60.66° to 81.3342″ to 46″ (regional)
South Carolina44.66° to 61°
Charleston
75.66° to 86.66°39″ to 80″ (regional)
South Dakota38° to 60.6°
Columbia
70.66° to 93.33°15 to 28″ (regional)
Tennessee28° to 49.6°
Murfreesboro
65.33° to 88°51.6″
Texas42.7° to 61.3°
Fort Hood
72.33° to 94.66°27.25″
Utah16° to 44°
Beaver
48.66° to 85.33°5″ to 20″ (regional)
Vermont13.3° to 32.6°
Rutland
55.66° to 79°43″
Virginia25° to 48°
Lynchburg
62.33° to 84.33°38.29″ to 40.74.”
Washington24.6° to 38°
Ephrata
59.33″ to 86°10″ to 150″ (regional)
West Virginia28.3° to 46.7°
Charleston
64.33″ to 85.66.”44.9″
Wisconsin10.3° to 25.3°
Poniatowski
56.66° to 76.66°33.5″
Wyoming4.7 to 35.3°
Lander
46.66° to 84°13.07″
Regional temperature averages are different for different locations in the state. Mountainous and coastal areas tend to have more rainfall. Areas further north may be colder. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Climate at a Glance: Statewide Time Series, published August 2021, retrieved on August 24, 2021, from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/ Population Data US Census Bureau

6. Water Supply

A bug-out location should have an excellent water supply. During a societal collapse, there is a good chance that municipal services won’t be reliable or shut down completely. You’ll be out of luck if your water is pumped with electricity.

There are examples of this in Venezuela, where certain areas have been without running water for years.

If you plan to rely on a water catchment system, make sure there is enough average rainfall.

Ideally, your camp will have natural waters sources like streams, creeks, rivers, or freshwater lakes.

10 Uses For Water During A Societal Collapse

  1. Hydration
  2. Cooking Food, including bulk staples like white rice, dried beans and wheat
  3. Hygiene
  4. Sanitation (Potty stuff)
  5. Gardening-irrigation
  6. Animal husbandry
  7. Food Processing
  8. Hydro power (water turbines/running water)
  9. Aquaculture (raising fish like Talapia to eat)
  10. Hydroponics (raising food without soil)

How much water do I need during a societal collapse or SHTF scenario?

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the average person in the United States uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day for indoor home use. In an off-grid situation, you could probably get that down to 50 gallons.

Based on the USGS calculation of water used per person, you would need access to 18,250 gallons per person at 50 gallons per day for one year. At 80 gallons, the number jumps to 29,200 gallons, and at 100 gallons per day, it increases to 36,500 gallons used per person per year

The massive amount of water needed per person is a good argument for having a freshwater source on your survival location or a reliable well you can access manually.

Chart #2 How much water for one person

# Of Days Supply50gal per day
(1 person)
50gal
(4 People)
80gal per Day
(1 person)
80gal
(4 People)
100gal per day
(1 person)
100gal
(4 People)
301,5006,0002,40096,0003,00012,000
603,00012,0004,80019,2006,00024,000
904,50018,0007,20028,8009,00036,000
1206,00024,0009,60038,40012,00048,000
1507,50030,00012,00048,00015,00060,000
1809,00036,00014,40057,60018,00072,000
21010,50042,00016,80067,20021,00084,000
24012,00048,00019,20076,80024,00096,000
27013,50054,00021,60086,40027,000108,000
30015,00060,00024,00096,00030,000120,000
33016,50066,00026,400105,60033,000132,000
36518,25073,00029,200116,80036,500146,000
United States Geological Survey

7. Redundancy

Build redundancy into your bug-out location and systems. All of your emergency and survival systems should have at least one backup, i.e., if one method of getting water or heating fails, have another system or method you can fall back on.

As an example, some aspects of your food supply will fail at some point. By having multiple types of food and ways of acquiring it, there is something to fall back on so you won’t starve.

10 Examples of Building Food Redundancy

  1. Stockpile dry foods like white rice, wheat, and dry beans.
  2. Start a large survival garden.
  3. Practice food preservation techniques like canning and fermentation.
  4. Dig a root cellar to store root vegetable long-term.
  5. Hunt and preserve natural game by smoking.
  6. Raise livestock like meat and egg chickens or rabbits.
  7. Have the equipment to fish.
  8. Raise Fish.
  9. Set up a deer pasture and a hunting blind.
  10. Store seeds and learn how to sprout them for food.

8. Food Storage and Preparation

Set up food preservation and storage that isn’t dependent on electricity. Modern man relies so much on freezers and refrigerators little thought is given to alternative methods of food preservation. In an off-grid survival camp, you’ll want to practice the alternative methods even if you are on solar.

6 Alternate Methods of Preserving food for SHTF

Canning- A great way to store perishable garden food long-term

Pickling- Nothing better than a pickled Jalapeno

Drying- Dry or can fruit

Smoking-build a smokehouse for fish or game animals

Fermentation is an excellent way to process fruits like apples that kill two birds with one stone. It preserves the fruit, and the alcohol acts as a preservative and cleans water source.

Salt Curing was big during the pioneer days, and I can see how it would be useful; if I had my choice, I’d prefer to can.

Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Top Foods For Long-term Storage (preparing for long-term societal collapse.”

Alternate Perishable Food Storage For SHTF

Root Cellar

Our ancestors stored vegetables and fruit in root cellars, basically a hole in the ground. In the summer, the cellar kept garden vegetables cool and in the winter from freezing.

A root cellar uses the properties of the surrounding soil to insulate food and keep temperatures cool and moist.

Root cellars can also second as a tornado shelter.

Icehouse

Build an Ice-house if you live in a location with lakes or rivers that freeze over winter. Cut iceblocks and store them for summer use.

An icehouse needs to be well insulated. Each block of ice should be surrounded by sawdust and not touch one another.

If you want to learn more about the best food types to stockpile for societal collapse, check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Food For the Collapse: Top 4 To Stockpile.

9. Survival Garden

A bug-out location needs a survival garden to survive the societal collapse. Keep this in mind when looking for a bug-out retreat. Providing all of your own food is hard. Really hard.

Prepare the tools and equipment you need and hold on because you are going back in time to the days of subsistence farming.

Having a big healthy garden is a lot easier if you have good soil. Let’s take a look at soil types.

10. Three Soil Types

Besides climate and average rainfall, soil type is one of the most important considerations for a survival garden. Consider how much work it will take to amend the soil to start a sizeable emergency garden to grow food. Regardless of what you read, it’s tough to be self-sufficient when it comes to food.

Growing food in the dark, lush loamy soil like that found in the Midwest of the United States and the breadbasket of Ukraine is ideal but not necessary.

Ideally, you will have the necessary ingredients on hand to amend soils, but if you don’t, remedy this by planting nitrogen-fixing plants and trees that can then be used to compost, mulch, and as a top dressing.

Look for soil that you can amend by composting and using natural ingredients readily available on site.

Let’s take a look at the three main soil types.

#1 Loam Soil

It contains roughly equal clay, silt, and sand and is ideal for a survival garden. Loam soil will break apart when squeezed into your hand. Most ancient civilizations were based in areas with loam soil.

Pros of Loam Soil

Loam soil is rich in nutrients and therefore requires fewer amendments. This type of soil also promotes the growth of beneficial micro-organisms and earthworms. Finally, it holds moisture but not too much that it rots plant roots.

Cons of Loam Soil

Loam-type soils that contain higher percentages of clay or sand require more amendments with compost and organic materials.

#2 Clay soil

Clay soils are improved by amending with natural materials, but It takes years to do this. You will know the soil is clay because it sticks together like playdough when you squish it into a ball. Clay soils have many nutrients, but they aren’t bio-available without amending with organic matter.

Pros of clay soil

Clay soils are nutrient-dense and can be made into excellent loam-like soil with time and effort.

Cons of clay soil

Clay soils are heavy & dense and, therefore, hard for roots to penetrate and acquire the nutrients. This type of soil also water logs and compacts (solution is to use raised beds)

Clay busters:

Plant Dichon radishes or other plants with fibrous root systems and cover your soil with wood chips or mulch at all times because clay soils exposed to rain will compact and erode.

Fix clay soil by adding organic matter such as plant and animal materials after composting. What you compost with will depend on what is available use: straw, grass, earthworm castings, wood chips, etc. Avoid using sand as it makes the soil worse.

The easiest method to fix clay soil is to put fresh organic material in a 3″ layer on top. It will act as mulch and work its way down into the soil. Don’t mix wood chips into the soil, reducing the availability of nitrogen for growing plants.

#3 Sandy Soil

Sandy soils don’t hold water or nutrients. It is hands down the worst soil for survival gardening, not ideal for a bug-out location so avoid it if you can. Keep in mind many areas will have different soil types on the same plot of land.

Pros Of Sandy Soil

Sandy soil heats up, so compost rapidly decomposes, and you won’t have issues with plant roots rotting from standing water.

Cons Of Sandy Soil

Sandy soil doesn’t retain moisture or nutrients, and it heats up rapidly. Irrigation is important to make sure plants don’t dry out.

Sand Busters (not really)

  • Raised Beds
  • Hugel Kultur Mounds
  • In the top 15″ of soil add materials like peat moss, coconut core, or vermiculite to hold water
  • Top dress your garden with as much mulch, compost and manure as you can get
  • Plant cover crops that nitrogen fix and have a webby root system (clover, hairy vetch, red clover, white clover, cowpeas, soybeans)

11. Population Density

Avoid setting up a bug-out location in an area with high population density or in the direct path of a major exodus from a big city.

Most people are good until they’re not. During times of crisis or societal collapse, the unprepared will be without food and clean water. They want what you have.

8 Areas to avoid

  1. Urban Metropolis
  2. Main roads
  3. Active Railroad Tracks
  4. Highways
  5. Freeways
  6. Choke Points
  7. Low Population areas with high crime. For instance rural areas that have a high rate of meth labs or abuse of prescription medicines like Oxycontin.
  8. High Population States

Let’s look at the 20 states with the lowest population density (residents per square mile) and the 20 states with the highest population density.

20 States With the Lowest Population Density Per Square Mile

  1. Alaska: 1.28
  2. Wyoming: 5.85
  3. Montana: 6.86
  4. North Dakota: 9.7
  5. South Dakota: 10.7
  6. New Mexico 16.2
  7. Idaho: 21.6 residents
  8. Nevada: 21.8 residents
  9. Nebraska: 23.8
  10. Kansas: 35.6
  11. Utah: 33.6
  12. Kansas: 35.6
  13. Oregon: 41.4
  14. Kentucky: 43.51
  15. Maine: 43.1
  16. Iowa: 54.5
  17. Oklahoma: 54.7
  18. Colorado: 55
  19. Mississippi: 63.2
  20. Arizona: 64

20 States With the Highest Population Density Per Square Mile

  1. New Jersey: 1211.3
  2. Rhode Island: 1018.1
  3. Massachusetts: 884.9
  4. Connecticut: 738.1
  5. Maryland: 623. 99
  6. Deleware: 506.32
  7. New York: 414.7
  8. Ohio: 286.1
  9. Pennsylvania: 284
  10. California: 253.9
  11. Illinois: 229.5
  12. Hawaiian Islands: 222.9
  13. Virginia: 215.7
  14. North Carolina: 213.6
  15. Indiana: 186.8
  16. Michigan: 176.8
  17. Tennessee: 162.9
  18. South Carolina: 153.9
  19. Georgia: 149
  20. New Hampshire: 147

Chart #3 Population & Population Density By State

State
Population

Population Density
Per Square Mile
Alabama5.1 million94.4
Alaska733,3911.28
Arizona7.2 million64
Arkansas3 million 51.3
California39.7 million 253.9
Colorado5.7 million
55
Connecticut3.6 million 738.1
Deleware994,735506.32
Florida21.6 million 397.2
Georgia3.9 million149
Hawaii1.46 million222.9
Idaho1.8 million21.6
Illinois12.7 million229.5
Indiana1.4 million186.8
Iowa3.21 million54.5
Kansas2.95 million35.6
Kentucky 4.51 million43.51
Louisianna4.67 million104.9
Maine1.37 million43.1
Maryland6.2 million623.99
Massachusetts6.89 million884.9
Michigan10.2 million176.8
Minnesota5.7 million70.5
Mississippi2.97 million63.2
Missouri6.16 million89.1
Montana1.06 million6.86
Nebraska1.97 million23.8
Nevada3.2 million21.8
New Hampshire1.38 million147
New Jersey9.4 million1211.3
New Mexico2.1 million16.2
New York20.4 million414.7
North Carolina10.5 million213.6
North Dakota780,5239.7
Ohio11.7 million286.1
Oklahoma3.97 million54.7
Oregon4.21 million41.4
Pennsylvania13.1 million284
Rhode Island1.1 million1018.1
South Carolina5.14 million153.9
South Dakota901,82010.7
Tennessee6.83 million162.9
Texas29.2 million109.9
Utah3.34 million33.6
Vermont623,25167.9
Virginia8.4 million215.7
Washington7.62 million113.4
West Virginia1.79 million77.1
Wisconsin5.82 million107.3
Wyoming590,1035.85
Population Data US Census Bureau

12. Natural Hazards By State

The natural catastrophes prevalent in a specific area may or may not alter your bug-out decisions, but you should at least be aware of them so you can plan accordingly.

I chose to live in the Florida Panhandle, also known as Floribama. This area of Florida is hit by hurricanes more than any other area of Florida, with sixty-six recorded hurricanes, fourteen of these were category 3 through 5.

Florida breaks the rules. The population is high, the climate is hot and humid, traditional gardening is difficult (sand for soil), and hurricanes hammer the area.

Knowing all of this, I chose to live in Florida because I love the lifestyle. I sail and have access to thousands of miles of coastline, fishing, and hunting. My daily uniform is flip-flops and T-shirts.

I’d like to have a bug-out location further north. I’m primarily looking in Alabama for a bug-out location.

Let’s take a look at natural hazards and nuclear reactors by state.

Chart # 4 Natural Hazards & Nuclear Reactors By State

StateCatastrophe Nuclear Reactors
AlabamaTornado, Hurricane, floods, thunderstorms 2
AlaskaLandslide, volcanic eruption, flooding, avalanches, blizzards, forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, 0
ArizonaEarthquakes, forest fires, flash floods, debris flow, lightning storms, drought 1
Arkansastornados, floods, ice storms, landslides, earthquakes, lightning storms, EMP1
Californiaearthquake, tsunamis, floods, land and mudslides, wildfires, drought, sinkholes, 1
Coloradoblizzards, droughts, mudslides, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, avalanches0
Connecticutblizzards, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes1
DelewareHurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes0
Floridahurricanes, wildfires, floods, tropical storms, tsunamis, tornadoes, tropical depressions2
Georgiahurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods2
Hawaiiearthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, flash floods, volcanic eruption0
Idahowildfires, flooding, earthquakes, volcanic eruption0
IllinoisBlizzards, flooding, tornadoes, 6
Indianafloods, blizzards, tornadoes, landslides 0
Iowalandslides, flooding, severe storms, tornadoes, blizzards, 0
Kansastornadoes, flooding, blizzards, and ice storms1
Kentucky flooding, drought, earthquakes, tornadoes, sinkholes, landslides, mine subsidence, blizzards0
Louisiannahurricanes, floods, tornadoes3
Mainelandslides, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes0
Marylandhurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods0
Massachusettsearthquakes, flooding0
Michiganearthquakes, blizzards, wildfires, tornadoes, flooding2
Minnesotablizzards, forest fires, flooding, tornadoes, 2
Mississippiearthquakes, ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes1
Missouriblizzards, tornadoes, flooding1
Montanahurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding0
Nebraskablizzards, earthquakes, flooding, wildfires2
NevadaSevere Drought, floods, wildfires, earthquakes0
New Hampshirehurricanes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes1
New Jerseytropical storms, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, landslides3
New Mexicowildfires, floods, tornadoes, landslides, extreme drought0
New Yorkfloods, blizzards, tropical storms, wildfires2
North Carolinatornadoes, floods, hurricanes, blizzards2
North Dakotafloods, wildfires, tornadoes, landslides, blizzards0
Ohiofloods, tornadoes, blizzards, landslides1
Oklahomatornadoes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, blizzards0
Oregonlandslides, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity,0
Pennsylvaniafloods, tornadoes, landslides, wildfires4
Rhode Islandtornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires0
South Carolinaflooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires3
South Dakotablizzards, tornadoes 0
Tennesseefloods, tornadoes, landslides, earthquakes2
Texasflooding, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, sinkholes1
Utahearthquakes, landslides, flooding, volcanic eruption0
Vermontflooding, forest fires, tornadoes, blizzards0
Virginiafloods, wildfires, tornadoes, blizzards, landslides2
Washingtonwildfires, floods, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity1
West Virginiafloods, blizzards, wildfires, landslides0
Wisconsinfloods, tornadoes, landslides, blizzards1
Wyomingwildfires, floods, landslides, blizzards, earthquakes0
Some natural risks are present in all states: Disease outbreaks, power outages, food shortages, and drought.

13. HOAs, Covenants, Land Restrictions & Land Use

Learn about land restrictions before purchasing land.

Who owns the access road to the property? If it doesn’t belong to you, are you granted access? How much is road maintenance?

Can you get a mailbox, or do you have to travel to a P.O. Box?

Walk the entire property to make sure there’s no hazmat or things you don’t want there.

Know the easements and setbacks.

Walk the land in all types of weather, so you know where water sits or builds up. You could purchase a large tract of land, and only 19% of it is usable.

Just because purchased land is next to a river, creek, or other freshwater source doesn’t mean you have access. Make sure you have access to the water if you buy it.

Many areas have restrictions on livestock, structure type, access to water, road access, building materials, land clearing or a specific type of structure be built, etc. Some covenants may not allow you to pull up with a trailer and live off-grid.

If you purchase, do you get the mineral & water rights?

Do HOAs, Covenants, or Land Restrictions limit what you can do with your new land?

14. Purchasing the Property

Ensure the person selling the property is the owner. There are land scams out there where people sell land that isn’t theirs.

Make sure there is nothing funny with your deed. Get a clear title search. Realtors say the warranty deed is the best.

If you do an owner-financed property, make sure the seller owns it by checking public tax records.

Be aware of county laws, municipal zoning, deed restrictions, covenants, and HOA rules and restrictions that could limit how you use a property. There are HOA’s where you might think there aren’t any.

For example, if you plan to raise livestock, make sure there aren’t any restrictions in your area.

Check into mineral rights if it’s a concern.

Check on current and proposed land use and zoning on the neighboring tracts of land. Make sure it’s not zoned for commercial development, intensive livestock operations, oil rigs, or worse, a freeway or major road.

You can’t build a single-family dwelling on a commercially zoned property.

Off-grid: some counties say you must be attached to utilities, i.e., electric and sewer.

15. Security

The best security for a bug-out location is invisibility. Look for locations that are well hidden by heavy brush, wooded areas, and geographical features like hills, valleys, or rock outcroppings. High ground with multiple means of coming and going is ideal.

Don’t get boxed into a canyon or on the edge of a cliff.

Avoid placing a bug-out shelter in areas of “edge,” such as where a field and forest meet. People gravitate to these areas just like animals.

Avoid putting a bug out shelter near these landmarks.

  • Railway
  • Interstate or Freeway
  • Powerline Trail Head
  • Choke Point
  • Major Bridges
  • Nuclear Power Plant

16. Crime

Avoid setting up camp in areas with high crime. Urban areas tend to have a lot of crime, but crime is also high in some rural areas.

Meth labs and prescription drug use are prevalent in parts of small-town America, as is drug trafficking.

17. Camouflage

Plant trees and bushes around your property to act as concealment.

Break-up or cover right angles, like the corners of buildings, they aren’t found in nature and draw the eye.

Have shutters to put over reflective glass windows.

Hide antennas and wind turbines or integrate them into the landscape.

Build with natural materials or use netting and flat colored paints to blend in.

Avoid having anything exposed that is bright, shiny, reflective, or sticks out like a sore thumb.

18. Shooting Range

You want a shooting range.

When I lived in Arizona, I could drive out to the desert and shoot anywhere.

Where I live now, I have to drive 30 miles to shoot at an indoor shooting range. That’s a problem. Practice does make perfect.

Ideally, I’d like a shooting range on my bug-out location, and I want access to a public range that offers three-gun. shooting. (Rifle, Pistol, Shotgun)

19. Fuel & Power

When setting up your bug-out grid, be thinking about power-out scenarios.

You’re going to need solar, wood, buried coal, or other dependable fuel. You may plan on roughing it, but you need to stay warm, cook food and stay clean.

Getting ready to live off-grid? Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “44 Off-grid Tools for Emergency Survival.”

Fuel and Power: 3 Off-grid Power Sources

#1 Wood

Burn wood in a stove to create direct heat for cooking and heat, or use it to produce steam used for electrical turbines.

#2 Micro-Hydro (Pico-Hydro)

The use of running water to turn a water wheel and produce power. Pico-hydro is often used with Solar because it tends to produce power during periods when solar is inefficient.

Learn more about hydro before purchasing your land to ensure the topography is right for maximum effect.

#3 Solar

Install solar panels at camp to turn the sun’s energy into electrical power. Go small scale or go big. There are many options, from inexpensive portable units to full-scale Tesla set-ups that cost hundreds of thousands.

#4 Wind

Wind turbines can be used off-grid to create mechanical or electric power

#5 Make Alternate Fuel Sources

A survivalist tech-nerd might consider making their own fuel.

Bio-diesel is made from planted crops, but It’s a technical process that may not be ideal for a bug-out situation.

Methane is another fuel you can make. Remember that Mad Max movie where they make methane from pig shit. Yeah, talk about redundancy, food, and fuel from one animal.

20. Topography

An ideal bugout property has diverse terrain features. Topography or the lay of the land should provide flat areas to build structures, plant a garden, and for pastures.

Hills and varied ground terrain add to your ability to stay hidden and create choke points for security.

Avoid topography downstream of large dams or flood plains or is in an open plain, visible from 360 degrees.

21. Move or Bug Out

If you can move and make your bug-out location a primary residence, this is optimum.

If your bug-out location isn’t your primary residence, the worst-case scenario is you have a place to spend weekends with family and practice survival skills.

21. Twenty Forms Of Transportation

Part of planning for the end of the world as we know it is figuring out transportation to the bug-out retreat. If you are using a motor vehicle, consider the effects of Electro-Magnetic Pulse.

Plan a vehicle loadout as if you will end up on foot. Pack a bug-out bag with everything you need. Try to keep the weight of your bug-out bag at or below 20% of your body weight.

In a societal collapse, there is a good chance that vehicles that run on gasoline or diesel will be useless after the first couple of days or weeks.

Who will be operating the gas stations? Will the gas trucks be running? Will the pipelines and refineries be active.

Also, consider that credit card systems might be down, so you’ll be working with barter or cash-only scenario. A barter system won’t happen immediately but may come after a few days and last for some time.

Here are some vehicles to choose from as part of your bug-out plan.

  1. Car
  2. Truck
  3. Horse
  4. Motorcycle or Dirt Bike
  5. ATV
  6. Motor Scooter or Moped
  7. Bicycle
  8. Electric Vehicles with Solar Charging
  9. Wood-gas vehicles
  10. Bio-diesel vehicles
  11. Propane Golf Cart
  12. Utility Trailer or Camp trailer pulled by a motor vehicle
  13. RV
  14. Power Boat
  15. Sailboat
  16. Canoe
  17. Kayak
  18. Personal Aircraft/Ultralight
  19. Livestock: Horse, Cow, Mule, Donkey and a cart
  20. Hand-carts
  21. Your own two feet

23. Communication

Realistically communications with the outside world will fail during a serious SHTF. We will likely go back to word of mouth and couriers.

Remember that Kevin Costner movie, The Postman? Yeah, that is probably how it’s gonna work.

Ham Radios

Ham Radios are the go-to mode of communication for preppers and survivalists during a catastrophic situation.

The problem with Ham radios is the repeaters used to move transmissions are powered by the grid. If the grid goes down, Ham radios will no longer transmit long distances.

There are acceptions to this rule. There are HAM radio operators skilled enough to bounce signals off of the moon to increase distances. If you really want Ham radio to be useful for survival, you’ll need to dig deep and learn about HAM radios at a deeper level.

24. People

Look for land in an area where you have something in common with the locals. A community of like-minded individuals, if possible.

Get to know the neighbors. Why are they living remotely? Do you fit in, and will you feel comfortable?

Are the locals’ assets in SHTF or an anchor?

Explore an area before purchasing land, eat at local restaurants, talk to people and get a feel for the place.

Talk to everyone you can to get inside information. It might surprise you what strangers will tell you if you put yourself out there.

25. Hidden Supply: Survival Caches

Hide food and supply caches along multiple routes to camp. You will likely have to change course to avoid threats. Or maybe you had to get the H out of dodge and left your bug-out bag behind. Caches will provide emergency gear for unforeseen circumstances.

If you are forced to bug out during a major long-term catastrophe, there is a good chance you’ll end up on foot.

Hide food and supply caches along your planned route if you need to change course to avoid possible dangers.

Having gear buried along your route gives you options and buys you time.

The maximum suggested pack weight for long-distance hiking is 20% of your body weight. For the average person trying to remain stealthy, this is too much.

Remedy this by carrying less and bury food and supplies along multiple paths to your bug-out location.

Some of your survival caches should contain a mini-bugout kit in case you can’t bring your gear with you or you lose it along the way.

Include a full change of clothes, jacket, gloves, ammo, rifle, knife, first aid kit, food, fire-starting gear, and a water filter. Add other gear you think you’ll need.

Use PVC drain pipe and threaded end caps with a good sealant. IF you have the ability, vacuum pack all of your gear before it goes into the PVC.

Burry catches along your Ingres route to your main location. If you have one catch with a weapon and knife, you could put just food and water in the other caches.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Your bug-out property should allow you to dispose of bodily waste and garbage and keep your body and gear clean. If you can afford it, consider having a septic system put in; if not, build an outhouse.

Bugs that land on human feces and then bite a human spread disease.

Include hygiene and sanitation into your emergency water storage plan.

Sources

United State Department of Agriculture: Planning a Subsistence Homestead, Farmer Bulletin #1733, May 1934, PDF located on Ready Squirrel link

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