How to Bug Out


Introduction to ‘Bugging Out to the Redoubt: Dreams vs. Reality’

Don’t be the Last Out without a Destination!

Welcome to your nightmare. Solar storm, nuclear EMP, or derivatives crash; any one of these could trigger a national or worldwide socio-economic collapse on a scale nobody has ever seen, with the subsequent destruction of life, liberty and property almost unimaginable. Out of the smoke and stench of the collapse, one nasty fact remains: not living fulltime at a retreat will require bugging out – it’s just a matter of time. The journey for most will be long and treacherous. It may take weeks, months, or even years and may result in injury or casualties to the group. However, only those who are prepped, trained, and have an up to date evacuation plan with a viable destination will be successful.

We will try and help you create a bug-out plan, bug-out bags and cover the basics of retreat selection by using an easy outline that forces you to thoroughly think through this critical aspect of survival.

‘Bugging Out’ may be one of the most discussed topics in the Survival and Preparedness world, topped only by everyone’s favorite genre: firearms. Everyday there are new articles about bugging out: the best bag, fire starter, communications gear, flashlight, compass, et cetera. Rarely, though, does the topic of the evacuees route planning and destination come to the forefront of the discussions. Most folks think they can just make up the route as they go with a handful of maps and a bit of luck. Not so.

Let’s take a look at what some Preppers dream about as they drift off to sleep at night…

Money well spent? $200k for a vehicle or buy a full time retreat?

The Bug Out Dream: Buy a small parcel of land halfway across the country with all your friends. Build the coolest bug out bags ever conceived and wait for the mushroom clouds to appear. One day, it happens! In a magnificently coordinated evacuation everyone rides off into the sunset arriving unscathed at the fully self-sustaining retreat a few days later having fought through several zombie roadblocks. The group survives the collapse and all ends well. You write a book about your adventure and become famous the world over. The end.

Now let’s wake up in a cold sweat when reality hits…

Becareful you might end up in this line!

The Gut Wrenching Reality: The lights go out for good. Too much time passes before realizing it’s not just another rolling blackout. The time to go safely has passed. Group members are scattered all over the city, with several key members out of town on business unable to make it back. Stress and panic reign as 2000 pounds of equipment fail to fit into an ill-conceived bug-out vehicle and trailer because there isn’t a destination with pre-positioned supplies. One member breaks down and decides to ride it out in their basement. Your own children tell you you’re crazy and sit in the front yard in defiance because you won’t bring the PlayStation 4. Fear then turns to anger and rage. Travelling westward towards no-man’s-land the next morning the truck runs out of fuel on a lonely backroad while trying to circumvent the next chaotic metropolitan area. After abandoning the vehicle and walking for three days, a hastily constructed checkpoint is sighted a hundred meters past a turn in the road that was not correctly scouted. Unfortunately, a ruthless street gang has set it up and the preppers’ demise is all but sealed. The REAL END.

It’s time to take stock of where you are right now. How many Preppers have built a bug-out or go-bag, retrofitted an EMP proof truck and have a basement full of supplies, a basic evacuation plan, yet no destination to strive to reach? If we took a survey, probably more than 95% are not fully prepared. This is not good. Is it the end of the world if your family doesn’t own a retreat? Of course not. The reality is that most Preppers can’t afford a separate, fully operational retreat – and that’s ok. However, not having a prearranged destination of some kind with prepositioned supplies is simply not acceptable. Even a friend’s or relative’s home in the country, or a group purchase of a retreat, or a small parcel of land with a stream and cached supplies is better than nothing.

There are several aspects to every successful bug-out. The first is actually leaving your current location on time and travelling to your destination. The second is the destination itself. This article will cover the Basic Bug-Out Plan in two parts. Part I will cover the Plan outline and the following Part II will cover the destination / property search and acquisition.

Welcome to part 1 of our feature series ‘Bugging Out to the American Redoubt: Dreams vs. Reality’


The Bug-Out Plan

To cover the bug-out part we have coined an easy acronym. Use it so you’re never: LAST OUT.


lternative Routes







Location and communication with family or group members when the SHTF will be key. The Dream is that everyone is in the same location and ready to go when the balloon goes up. Reality dictates otherwise. It’s safe to assume that the family or group will be scattered across the city, at best. At worst, members are out of town with limited or no means of communication. These factors complicate and unravel any good bug-out plan. Even the most decorated combat veteran will feel the gut wrenching pain when realizing that loved ones are possibly far away and unreachable if a sudden event arises. Communication or a complete understanding of when and where to meet will be required to keep order. If funds dictate the purchase of small HAM hand held radios for each member, then by all means do so.

Where are your family and group members when it’s Go Time?

Alternative Routes 

It’s critical that two distinct routes are mapped with different rally points on the way to the final destination. The first route will be for an early bug-out when timing is perfect and roads will still be open, as mass panic has not yet ensued. These should still specify detouring around major cities to avoid driving right back into a possible hot zone. Although this is a plan that may not ever be used, having it in place is required.

The second route plan will detail not only how to avoid all major metropolitan areas, but must also circumvent smaller cities and towns, especially those with bridges (and tunnels) that cross key terrain (water, mountains and gorges). No matter where you live and your intended route, there will be at least one or more bridges. These might as well be brick walls, in actuality they are choke points (ambushes). If the bridge is controlled and they turn you away (or ambush you) all bets are off. Remember, bridges work both ways, so if you buy a property on the other side of a bridge you should know how to get across the waterway successfully.

Do you have your route planned to cross over key terrain features well outside of town and have you driven your route at least once, all the way to your retreat? Planning this type of evacuation route may take days, maybe your entire vacation, twice, but not only could it be fun, it will ensure you have a fighting chance. On the other hand, if you think you can pick the route as you go, good luck.

How can you plan your route to escape the city to the Redoubt? Below is a map of every bridge in the United States. (Courtesy WP)

How realistic is your Bug-Out Plan? Do you need access to an aircraft or small boat at critical points?

Bridges and Tunnels Resource

Why are we including a resource relating to bridges and tunnels in the US and specifically the American Redoubt? It’s a great source of Intel allowing you to pre-set your bug-out route to your retreat in the Redoubt.

Many terrain features are fairly easy to navigate when traveling on foot, however you should ensure that your route is based upon some type of ground vehicle (enduro style motorcycle are one of the best).

Fact: Bridges and Tunnels are a tactical nightmare for the traveler. They are perfect ambush points for locals to keep both refugees and roving bands of criminals from entering the region.

Fact: Tunnels, if not occupied are excellent shelters while traveling, especially railroad tunnels, as they will most likely be abandoned after the collapse.

The following resources will help you plan your route. After searching these sites and completing your own research you may conclude that not living full time at your rural farmstead in the American Redoubt is at best a foolish choice, and at the worst, brings the demise of you and your loved ones. They are counting on you lead them to safety. Most times this is not a literal statement. Move to the Redoubt now.

Here is a map of EVERY bridge longer than 20 feet in the United States.

Here is a resource that details all of the Historic Bridges in the United States with detailed information. This website also allows detailed county research for choosing your property location.

The Bridge website also allows you to drill down to VERY detailed maps and location data for the bridges that concern your search. (Note: this site will not have every bridge in a certain area, but it’s a spectacular resource)

Rally Points: Which rally points will be used? There are many factors such as the type and location of the event, wind direction (with other factors) and public reaction that will dictate which direction and rally point to use. Multiple rally points are crucial and they can only be identified as you pre-drive your routes. Everyone must understand routes to the main jump-off point as well as additional rally points if any area is compromised.

The best advice is to have pre-planned rally points and schedules vacuum sealed in a watertight packet and carried in either each vehicle, in purses or day bags wherever family or group members go. During stressful events it’s much easier to open and read instructions that were previously well thought out and arranged. Locations of cached supplies, rally points, times and step by step color coded flow charts directing certain actions will work well.

These plans may be ever changing as members travel for work or vacation, and should be updated to fit the itineraries of those who travel far and wide. It may be as simple as changing these out-of-touch-members’ rally point to the objective itself: the retreat. You’ll see them if they make it, maybe weeks or years later. Period. If the travel is localized in the region, say, within 100 miles, then standard rotating or floating rally points can be pre-selected and used.


Your supplies will both hinder your movement and provide the means to keep moving; a certain pragmatic duality. Always pack your bug-out bag for dismounted travel. There are only TEN basic mandatory items to cover in your bug-out bag to be ready, excluding your roll-out gear and personal hygiene items. Remember, these packs are built light to allow you move RAPIDLY towards your rally points and then to the final destination where hopefully all your preps are waiting. You will have to modify these to fit your own unique situation. Just ensure you pack them in dive bags to keep supplies dry and use your go-bag as a flotation device if needed.

  1. Backpack (Manufactured in the Redoubt)
  2. Water Purification Equipment (MOST IMPORTANT!) Hydrate or Die!
  3. Clothing for the anticipated environment
  4. Shelter for the anticipated environment
    1. Sleeping bag (We personally use Wiggy’s)
  5. Magnesium fire starter
  6. Food rations (dehydrated) and game processing tools
  7. IFAK Medical Kits and a Tourniquet (North American Rescue ONLY!) We do not make a dime on this. Amazon has many fake medical items, so do not take the chance. Buy direct!
  8. Communications (HAM) and Energy creation equipment (small Solar charger packs)
  9. Defensive equipment (lightweight and the ability to break down to hide in the pack)
    1. A compact and lightweight suppressor is a must have for long trips.

What’s in YOUR Bug-Out Bag? Does it meet the 25# rule (Pack contents only)

Your own needs will dictate how incredibly light (or heavy and burdensome) this pack will be in the end. The Myth says you can carry an 80-pound pack and an M1A rifle with a full battle load from Florida to your retreat in the American Redoubt. Reality says you’re better off with a 25-pound pack and a lightweight carbine. You decide. What about Body Armor? If you run armor, you may decide to bring a lightweight ceramic FRONT plate only. Either way you’ll likely walk to your retreat in almost any scenario. So think and tread lightly…very lightly.

Water is heavy, but the purification equipment is much lighter. So carry less water between rally points and bivouac sites and fill up when you’re unsure of the lay of the land. Topographical maps of your entire route on paper will allow planned water recovery breaks and less of a load. If you must terminate a threat, take any supplies you want from them, but NEVER take their water unless you can purify it!


Timing, as they say, is EVERYTHING. Timing will dictate who arrives to leave with you, the routes you choose on your way out, and of course if you can leave at all. Timing from the start of the event to ascertain when full public knowledge will hit causing the breakdown of local order is paramount. How many people sat and watched a few blocks away as the Towers fell on 9-11 and ultimately died because they were too close to the destruction and were hit by debris? How many more will perish in the next local, regional, or national disaster by watching the events unfold, too shocked to move? Remember, it’s better to be a few minutes, hours, or even years too early than a second too late.

Living in Miami and own a retreat in Montana? Congratulations! But you better leave early, or else be a pilot. Storing up sick and vacation days that can be used at the last minute can be key. There may be times that the handwriting seems to be appearing on the wall. If those days off are used on events that don’t ultimately materialize, it allows a return to life as normal without quitting a job in haste. Additionally, dry runs make great training. One day it’ll pay off as the collapse deepens quickly and you’re a day ahead of the stagnate freeways filled with zombies, rather than seconds too late. One day the event may be upon us in a split second, but all that training pays off in a well executed bug-out mission. One never knows. But that’s half the fun of being a Prepper, right?

Observation and Intel

In conjunction with timing is intelligence gathering and observing your surroundings. It can be hard to keep the big picture in mind as the world crumbles before your eyes. Step away from the here and now, relax, and take a moment to ‘see’ the world around you. Observing everything from traffic flow to the actions of people on the street will help determine if this is ‘the event’ that requires activation and implementation of the bug out plan. In such, accurate intelligence from any inside sources working in various sectors of our society will be invaluable. Are members of the group law enforcement officers, firefighters or paramedics, ER doctors, on active military duty, in the financial business, or in other jobs that may receive inside information early on about certain unfolding threats? If not members of the group or close outside friends, are there neighbors who may feel an obligation to let ‘inside information’ and warnings slip out? Are these neighbors quietly packing up and leaving?

Excessive pride in your network, group, and plans that have been created can lead you to miss fine details that would otherwise warn of impending doom. Keeping eyes and ears open so the boots can move fast when the intel points to the green light is key when living in perilous times and locales.  Remember, you’re not as good as you think you are, especially when the first bullet rips past your head. As you move along your evacuation route, obtaining intel will be key so try and converse with anyone who looks like they have information – if it’s safe to do so.

What’s to be learned here: fast and accurate situational observation/awareness and intelligence gathering is key to activating the evacuation plan and bugging out before the golden horde realizes what’s happening. The sooner one leaves, the farther the final destination can be. Again, the sooner one leaves, the farther the final destination can be. If only one fact from this article is remembered let it be that.

Uniformity of Preps

For the few readers out there who have ever felt that comfort of a teammate throwing a spare magazine to you while pinned down under fire, understanding uniformity of preps is easy. However, getting two or more Preppers to agree to go to a Group Standard system of preps (as coined by James Wesley, Rawles in his first book ‘Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse’), especially when it comes to firearms, is akin to paddling upstream. It’s sad that this has to be mentioned, but the reality of this very serious key criteria is that it will be both the undoing of many small Prepper groups during peaceful times and the death of many more when the Schumer Hits The Fan.

The best advice is for everyone in a small group to be willing to swallow their pride and make a change to a group standard list of preps. This should include Water purification equipment, Fire Starters, Medical kits, Communications gear, Energy creation equipment and finally, of course, Defensive tools. Utilizing the same style of packs with markers or tags to identify one another can also be of benefit. These can be sewn into the pack with IR reflective tape (with a cover) to use if everyone has NV gear. One of the most overlooked, but expensive preps, is the Thermal Monocular. Preferably a dual purpose so it can be quickly placed on a rifle for combat operations. These units can be a lifesaver, especially bugging out in urban environments, unsure of immediate threats. Then, in the countryside, seeing hidden ambushes or roadblocks may prove invaluable.

Thermal will give you a life saving advantage. At a minimum get a night vision monocular if your budget is lower.


How many of us have thought about multiple different and/or redundant modes of transportation, each with it’s own unique and targeted task in the overall bug-out plan? Each person is different and we could spend hundreds of pages going through each unique bug-out plan. For now we will focus on individuals or groups without young children, since their plans are the hardest to develop and even harder to execute successfully with children in tow. The best bet for those with family is to go ahead and make your Strategic Relocation to Idaho, Montana or Wyoming and get settled in.

Ground Vehicles: Don’t fool yourself. You’re probably not going to get far in a vehicle, at least not if you’re leaving from the depths of a big city, especially a few minutes too late. If you don’t have children to protect, then the motorcycle may be the best ground-based vehicle to outfit. Maneuverable both on and off road with fantastic gas mileage, the only caveat is storage for gear and gas. If you can modify a dirtbike with saddlebags and an extra 5-gallon can as well as wear your bug-out bag on your back with your rifle in a scabbard, then you may be in good shape.

This is more realistic than a van full of supplies! Unless you have a family, of course.

As an example we will look at a group of friends that all have jobs in and around a very large metropolitan center in excess of a 500,000-population range. Let’s assume they have completed a group purchase of a small retreat property located in a small town in the American Redoubt about 800 miles from their location.

Each person has access to a storage unit that allows vehicle storage with a bug out motorcycle at the ready. Since the roadways in most events will come to a screeching halt within minutes or hours depending upon the disaster event profile, having well equipped motorcycles fast at hand to quickly leave the city will be key for this group.

Upon mutual agreement that they should ‘call it a day’ in the large metro area, due to an event such as the looming financial collapse or a Massive Causality Incident (MCI), the group members don their gear and utilize the motorcycles to move in and out of the standstill traffic on metro Interstate and then veer off on county roads for approximately 200 miles. This is the group’s first rally point and well within a tank of gas for a modified Enduro dirt bike carrying additional supplies. There they have stashed several mid-1970’s vintage 4×4 pickup trucks (EMP proof), each with the ability to carry a dirt bike or two in the beds, so they can bring them as back up transportation. The vehicles carry enough extra fuel and supplies to make the final 600-mile drive to the retreat location.

Although the aforementioned example is bordering on a script for a survivalist novel, the bottom line is that thinking outside the box will ultimately provide what anyone in a survival situation requires: OPTIONS, especially in the transportation aspect of a bug-out plan. The more options the better, and of course half the fun of being a Prepper is thinking through your own unique situation and working with your family or group to put these plans on paper and work towards the goal of making them a reality.

Boats: This is a widely overlooked transportation means for the Prepper, along with the Aircraft. Depending upon start and end points on the bug-out route a boat may be a key element of the escape. Many retreats are built on small islands in freshwater lakes not only in the USA, but also around the world. Some are fairly inexpensive and are within reasonable affordability for most survival property buyers. A boat may be a necessary initial bug-out mode of transport to get over a small body of water (such as a bay or across a lake) that a large metro area is built on or nearby, especially in the Southeastern USA.

Courtesy of RECOIL magazine article.

I’m sure one may be hard-pressed to hide a speed boat to leave Manhattan, but a small kayak might be the answer. Who knows? Just remember this is merely another option in a world of chaos. The ability to have the bug-out gear all packed in separate waterproof storage bags (dive bags) in the backpack is also a great way to keep the gear dry and serviceable and to have a built in life preserver to swim across bodies of water if needed.

Aircraft: If there ever were a mode of transportation that could get a Prepper out of a jam, it would be air travel. Of course, it helps to be a pilot. There are several types of aviators out there: novice, private, commercial, airline transport, and military pilots. The novice will account for most of the potential Prepper ‘pilots’ today, including myself. A novice would fall into the first and easiest category; with fewer than fifty hours of training they could fly ultra-light platforms such as powered parachutes, gliders, trikes, and small fixed wings (3-axis). The downside to these is their lack of acceptable payload. It’s a great day just to bring along a small go bag with your rifle and one battle load of magazines and ammo. However, these types of ultra-lights can be stored very discreetly and enable the owner to leave the area of engagement extremely fast, hopefully not under fire.

Utilizing these small units where no pilots’ license is required to own or operate is a realistic answer to making a fast and short evacuation. However, the fuel capacity and limited range will quickly show drawbacks. These units require many fuel stops and landing near a freeway off-ramp to get gas may bring undue attention. If the landing was successful, who will guard the plane while you barter for fuel? If you own a two-seat rig is it better to take another person weighing 150 pounds and their gear?

Experimental Light Sport Aircraft (ELSA) These can be stored in tight spaces and get you out of a tighter one, fast!

Planning for refueling will be a bit more technical than caching for your motorcycle or bug-out truck, and nightfall will certainly come at the worst time during your flight out of an affected area. For those of you that are pilots and reading this, you’re sure to be nodding in agreement. Being a proficient pilot (novice or licensed) is just the beginning of a huge learning curve that’s sure to provide more than a few ‘come to Jesus’ moments, so to speak. Thinking of using night vision goggles? Great, until you realize it takes many hours of training to use them while flying. Being prepared means TRAINING!

These small, portable and easily hidden-in-plain-sight aircraft will be great to make those first 100 to 200 miles (albeit most likely alone), but it gets you out. There may be a scenario where this is used instead of a motorcycle to get from a densely populated downtown area to your home in the suburbs where the family is waiting with the bug-out vehicle. Who knows? But it’s an option for sure. Typically, anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 buys one of these novice units, so they are affordable.

When planning for this contingency don’t think for a minute that after taking a few lessons that you’ll just fly off into the sunset with your gear. If you don’t own a Cessna or similar type aircraft it’s highly doubtful you’ll be able to run to the nearest airport to rent one. The owners will be using those aircraft themselves to get out of dodge. Or the airspace may already be grounded like on 9-11-2001. Remember ‘Timing’ as noted in this article.

One last bit of advice from this ‘novice’: keep paper maps at hand, as the GPS units and other navigation gear may be unserviceable. Always think about not having any sort of technology during the bug-out. For those professional or aspiring licensed pilots out there looking for a spectacular ‘destination’ in the American Redoubt, drop us a line for a pilot property.

Dismount on Foot: For those out there who are not in shape, the word ‘dismounted travel’ should scare the hell out of you. For many, if they make it out of the city, death will find them on foot – and in only a matter of hours or days. No more fantasy survival novel about walking from Miami to Montana, good luck. It’s time for another reality check. If you can grab your bug-out bag, rifle, and vest and walk out the door to complete the following, then you might have a chance:

5-mile walk with 100-yard sprints in between each mile

100 sit-ups

10 pull-ups

This is not a Special Forces test; it’s a wake-up call. Stop buying cases of ammo and new guns, save your cash, and buy a treadmill. Seriously, if it takes such a wake-up call to bring ‘Tactical Fitness’ and ‘Mission Readiness’ back into the limelight, then so be it. Ask yourself if the SHTF right now if you could defend your family AFTER a massive physical endeavor like the one above, plus add the psychological impact of a societal collapse happening around you. If you’ve never been in combat, go find someone and ask him what it’s like. You’ll be surprised at what they tell you. Whatever it takes, get in shape. The success of your bug-out plan is riding on it.

In The End

In Part I we have covered the basics of how to formulate a better bug-out plan by thinking about options. The hardest part of the entire evacuation / bug-out operation will be deciding when to go. This may seem easy on the surface but indecisiveness in the group will ruin friendships if the order is given even once without the event propagating into ‘the one’. If you happen to make the right call and it really is time to go, did you start soon enough? Your entire life and the lives of your family or group will depend on Timing. The Right Event, Right Time, Right Routes, Right Supplies, Right Transportation and Communication and of course the Right Destination. Whatever you do as the mushroom clouds rise, don’t panic and never be the LAST OUT!



Part II: The Destination

Everyone is focused on surviving TEOTWAWKI (aka The End Of The World As We Know It), when we need to prepare for what the new world will be like afterwards. You survive TEOTWAWKI by preparing your plans and making a successful bug out and subsequent journey to your survival retreat property. Then, all your preps and hard work pay off to help you THRIVE in the ‘New World As We Know It’ (NWAWKI).

No, it’s not meant to replace the Prepper world acronym; ‘The End Of The World As We Know It’. As TEOTWAWKI is the event that facilitates the initial rapid change such as a socio economic crash via solar or man-made EMP (nuclear), pandemic, foreign invasion or civil war in these ‘united’ States; NWAWKI is actually the term for a society forever changed, never to return to pre-event status.

The New World As We Know It (NWAWKI)?

Do you think the world will return to ‘normal’ after hundreds of millions die worldwide from a pandemic like Ebola? Well, there will surely be some fine real estate to buy, for pennies on the dollar. But think about how many years it will take to restore food production operations, transportation and the economy after such an event?

Longer than any of us can imagine.

Are you ready to turn back the clock to the 1800’s for a decade? Are you ready to literally sweat it out 12 hours a day just to eat? Sound far-fetched? No, it’s just time to refocus on the future, well past the crash.

Before beginning your search it’s very important to self-assess your level of commitment to finding that safe haven. This does not entail how much money you have. This means do you have the ability to really make a positive change to your current situation. Do you understand what your personal threat analysis is, and the probability factor of these events taking place? And finally, are you willing to do something about them? This may seem easy, but for some it’s an overwhelming process, especially to those that may be new to the Prepping genre.

Don’t become overwhelmed.

Purchasing a retreat not only comes down to factual search criteria that can be easily vetted with a few spreadsheets, but requires a level of psychological preparedness before moving forward.

Threat Assessment 

Not everyone will prepare for the same threats. Some folks think a nuclear exchange is imminent, others a socio-economic collapse, maybe an EMP (Solar) or, a pandemic like Ebola.

Your threat assessment will help you decide to either relocate permanently to a rural homestead or acquire a bug out property. This list should encompass the full spectrum of threats (i.e., natural, economic, criminal, terrorist, and outright warfare and occupation).

These reasons must be agreed upon by all family or group members to enable a successful property purchase and retrofit.

Everyone’s assessment will be different, and this information will directly impact the selected regions for your possible retreat location.

Rural Homestead or Bug Out Property?

What’s the difference between a rural homestead and a bug out property? The rural homestead is a part-time or full-time residence and is working year round, possibly with a caretaker involved while the owners are away in the big city. The bug out property is sealed shut, hidden and ready for activation upon arrival of the group members.

After you have completed the threat assessment and understand distance and travel times, now it’s time to decide: to live or not to live at your retreat? Both James Wesley, Rawles and Joel Skousen highly recommend that you live full time at your retreat, and we concur. However, this is not feasible for most folks. If you’re blessed enough to have the capital to make this move and can obtain new employment or take your job with you (internet workers, small business owners, or retirees) then great! Have at it. But for the rest of the Preppers the bug out property is your best logical bet to make it through a major event.

It’s important to understand that having a safe haven will not fully mitigate any threat, but it will help you minimize those threats based upon the seven basic criteria: Locale, Location, Water, Energy, Food, Defense and Safe Storage of Supplies. Even millions of dollars will not fully mitigate all threats, but a few wise decisions during the retreat search can greatly enhance both the minimization of all basic threats as well as provide a higher level of ‘thriveability’. The ability to thrive and not just survive is paramount.

We all have seen Doomsday Preppers and other ‘reality’ shows portraying fellow well-meaning Preppers racing to pack a basement full of preps into a trailer and bug out to the woods…

Stop the Madness!

They are already dead and don’t know it. Period.

A general rule of thumb is to have about 20% of the total preps at your home (along with the Bug Out Provisions) in the suburbs, to last about 3 months. Not that you would EVER stick around if the event was that long. But in the rare case when you were completely cut off and couldn’t leave for some reason, at least those preps are there to be used. If you can evacuate hastily, then those preps could be given away as charity with a note left at the door. Probably best not to alert the neighbors directly, lest they want to tag along.

The other 80% of your preps should be at the destination property, with a few pre-positioned resupply cache spots along the intended bug-out route. The word ‘intended’ is used very lightly, as that route will surely change and those supplies will be lost. How to pre-position caches along several routes will be covered in another article.

The point of a bug out property is to minimize as many immediate threats as possible, such as Dehydration, Starvation, Hypothermia and threats of violence. Bug out properties may be rudimentary and very functional but still must meet the seven primary criteria below.

Survival Property Key Criteria

The key elements of any retreat property search are:







Safe Storage

After the retreat is built then you’ll need to properly stock it with Preps (pre-positioned supplies).

Retreat Locale

Before we dive into the fun side of the Survival Property search and criteria, the most important aspect to consider is the retreat locale. This single decision, normally the very first in the search and in accordance with your threat assessment, will often be responsible for your long-term success and happiness.

The locale should fit you as well. Questions such as, “Who are you? What are your beliefs? What activities do you enjoy? Are you single? Married? Children? How old are they now? Does the locale offer all that the children may need as they grow up?” And of course the most important question, “is the locale of ‘like-minded’ people?” Will you want to get to know and work with these locals hand-in-hand to build a new town after the collapse?

Choosing the right small rural town in the American Redoubt will be the key to your success.

We are not talking about joining the local Militia (Leaderless Resistance cells are key. Never join an organized group, ever!). What we are talking about is purchasing a property with a ‘No Regrets’ platform. This means if TEOTWAWKI happens that the property serves the needs of its’ inhabitants. But if not, and you end up on your front porch 25 years from now sipping tea with your significant other holding hands watching the sunset over the mountains, you’ll have no regrets!

These are but a few of the real questions that you need to ask yourself  before even thinking about where to purchase that retreat property. Sound silly? No, these are not off the wall questions, as from them come the wise answers to your long-term happiness.

Location and Vulnerability Test 

The actual property location within the locale will be very important. Joel Skousen recommends being about 5 miles from a small town and 2 miles off the main road. This is an excellent base to work from, however, remember that many properties will be missed if this is a non-negotiable criterion. From my experience the actual town will dictate these distances, as well as the subject property’s attributes. For example, in some places in the American Redoubt, if you follow the 5/2 rule, you’ll be standing in the National Forest. That’s not all bad of course, but please allow the actual town and its’ characteristics/demographics create the rule for you on distance and location from the city limits.

This is where you’ll want to turn back to your original Threat Assessment, in order to screen the final properties on your list through a Vulnerability test.

How does each property stand up to the threats you wish to shield yourself from? Is the property within the Red or Yellow risk zones? Such risks may be too close to a main road, Fields of Fire are limited due to the terrain, a disproportionate amount of low lying land near a water source and a risk for flooding, maybe the property lacks a secondary source of water as a back-up or simply cannot sustain renewable energy and food production levels set due to north facing slopes and rocky terrain. The list can go on forever, but only you can make the final determination of the property’s worthiness.

Examples of Vulnerability Factors (very basic list for examples only)

Red Zone (EXTREME)

  • Wells over 600 feet deep or very low static level in comparison to depth
  • Well production under 1 gallon per minute (1440 gallons per day)
  • Water must be hauled in and stored
  • Rural Parcels smaller than 1 acre and/or neighbors very close
  • Rural large tract subdivisions with restrictive CC&R’s
  • Locales with wood burning restrictions for heat (like outside Missoula, MT)
  • Very steep and unusable terrain (unless that’s on your list for defensibility)
  • Only Northern exposure

Yellow Zone (High) Possibly Mitigated

  • Community Water system (needs a private well drilled after purchase)
  • No basement
  • Direct access from main roads with lack of cover/concealment
  • Direct visual from main roads (county)
  • The property is very heavily wooded with Fields of Fire issues

Green Zone (Medium) Typical rural property issues;

  • On-Grid and needs a full alternative energy system w/ backup installed
  • Lacks a garden and greenhouse
  • Water source is not gravity fed
  • Little or no secure storage or safe room(s)

The bottom line is that a property with a Red zone risk attribute should be discarded. Yellow zone risk factors may well be able to be mitigated with physical changes to the property or dwelling and Green zone attributes are typical upgrades that will be necessary to bring the property to a self-sufficient status.

Too Far Out? Having worked with many clients in the American Redoubt, those that chose to put fear aside as they worked with to complete their retreat search and acquisition are the happiest. The few that didn’t purchased properties so far out in the boonies that over half have since sold them and moved closer to small towns in their chosen locale. It’s almost impossible to survive and thrive at the same time, without a small community to integrate into and create a new and simpler life.

Overlooked Threats

There is one threat that retreat owners almost always overlooked, and is the number one killer of rural homes: FIRE.

A large percentage of properties in the American Redoubt are under volunteer fire department response areas (outside of city limits). members of the AmericanRedoubt staff have spent time on local fire departments in the Redoubt and response times at a minimum are about 15 minutes and longer the farther out your property is. You are responsible for your own firefighting (both wildland and structural) until the crews arrive.

Wildland and Structural fires, statistically speaking, are the number one threat, both now and during TEOTWAWKI.

It’s important to understand the wildfire threat in your locale of choice!

Sure, we all can think about and plan for a raging firefight with UN forces, but the reality is that a simple kitchen fire or slash pile burn that gets out of control will bring disaster upon you and your family, destroying the home and all of your preps. This is why two key improvements are a MUST to consider during your retreat search.

  1. Firefighting capability (Wildland, Structural and Tactical)
  2. Safe room storage construction (theft and fireproof)

These improvements don’t have to be in place when looking for a home or property, but the MUST be able to be constructed or retrofitted to minimize these overlooked threats.

Firefighting Capability Checklist

  • Water: Regardless of how good the well is it’ll never keep up with firefighting requirements. A cistern must hold a minimum of 2500 gallons, however, this should be sized based upon the exact design requirements and what systems are in use. For a Wildland system alone, a minimum of 20,000 gallons (or more) may be needed since there may be a point where you’ll turn on the sprinklers and evacuate the property. Foam and gel systems that cover the home are now on the market and use minimal water, but are expensive though. There are no drawbacks to having massive amounts of water in reserve on the property, as it can be used for domestic use once filtered.
  • Energy: First, any electrical system running the water/foam pumps must be run off a dedicated generator system, and located away from the home with buried lines, even if the property is on the grid. Why? Electrical power will be compromised during a fire. The tanks should be buried and the generator located in a small fireproof, concrete shed if possible. If the pumps don’t have electricity, you’re out of luck.
  • Wildland Firefighting: Of all the fire threats, this is one of the scariest. A house fire is preventable and can be minimized and stopped if caught early. A wildland fire is very dangerous, unpredictable, and very hard to fight, as they can grow in size exponentially and require hundreds or thousands of firefighters depending upon the terrain and weather. Choosing a location that is not susceptible to large wild fires is a good choice when looking for a locale. One tactic is to have either preset (buried) sprinklers, or the ability to deploy them around the defensible space on the property, as well as lines that spray the home. Having a steel roof will help immensely, and any retreat should be upgraded as soon as possible after purchase.
  • Structural: Many structural fires in rural areas are caused by carelessness with wood stoves or cooking stoves and that the owner panicked and fled, instead of using tools to fight the fire such as a fire extinguisher or a fire resistant blanket. For about $100.00 you can save your home. More importantly, having several pre-connected interior fire hoses (similar to what you see in high rises and hotels) are a great way to fight a fire in a tactical situation, or when you know that the volunteer department is not close by. Remember that a fire can double in size every two minutes, so time is of the essence.
  • Tactical: There may be a possibility of utilizing the Wildland sprinklers prepositioned around the property to confuse and delay an attacker, and the internal systems to stop a fire caused by such threat.
  • Safe Room Storage:  All of your preps MUST be stored in a fireproof, concrete, reinforced room. Call it a safe room, bunker, shelter, the name does not matter but it must prevent theft and fire at a minimum.

Vacant Land or Home?

Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes the perfect property. The most important advice for this part of the search is to remember that the land can really never be changed. Sure, a bulldozer, an excavator, and other heavy equipment can do wonders to a property, but you can’t buy a year-round stream at Home Depot.

The land must meet your criteria, since it will dictate how self-sufficient your property will ultimately become. For many, money is a limit and the budget is fairly low. The best advice is to find the best land in your price range, period. Don’t overbuy and put yourself in a position where the land robs you of the capital that otherwise would have been used to make improvements and bring it to its highest and best use, Prepper style of course.

For those that have the capital and skill sets to build the retreat of their dreams, great, then the land will surely win. But for those that must purchase a home the search instantly becomes harder.

We have all seen the perfect home, sitting in the worst location on land that was nowhere near close to qualifying as a sustainable property. Yes, the home is very important, but one day you’ll wake up and regret that beautiful home if the property as a whole won’t sustain you and your family or group.

What to look for in your future Safe Haven 

Now that the locale has been identified and you’ve decided on vacant land or a rural homestead, next comes the fun part: the criteria that will provide you the ability to become self-sufficient before, during, and after the collapse. First, all property should have good sun exposure, hopefully Southern. Then we can work on the big four.

The ultimate retreat in the American Redoubt is out there if you look hard enough!

Property Attributes and Criteria

There are four distinct and primary property aspects that must be considered which all work towards the goal of becoming self-sufficient;

Abundant year round water + Alternative Energy + Sustainable Food Production =  a property worth Defending.

It’s that simple.


This attribute, like oxygen to live, must be number one, every time. Secondary water is most critical and should be sought after. Not everyone will end up with this attribute. But keeping it on the top of the list, no matter the budget, is paramount.

Most rural properties will have either drilled water well or a hand dug well with a cistern. A few will utilize surface water such as a creek/stream/brook and sometimes spring-fed ponds or lakes for the domestic water source.

Hydro Power: If you find a property in your price range that has the ability to install hydroelectric power, and it meets all the other criteria on the list, BUY IT. Hydropower is the most sought after power source for most Preppers. Although it generates less power each hour, it creates this power 24 hours a day. Plus, you may be able to divert part of the penstock water flow for a gravity fed system for the home and use the tailwater from the hydro system to feed a stocked pond.

Secondary surface water on or near your property is paramount! Yaak River falls, Yaak, Montana!

Surface Water vs Well Water: Gravity fed spring or diverted stream water into a cistern storage tank is perfect if your budget is constrained. It’s better to have a year round surface water source (in an area of deep wells) as you can save cash for building the home or safe storage facility by simply hauling and filtering the water (never haul water from off site); even integrate it into an Earthship or other alternative building style along with rain catchment.

Wells: A shallow well (under 400 feet is best) that produces over 2-3 gallons per minute will be sufficient for almost all retreats (with sufficient cistern storage tanks). An artesian flowing well is very sought after and should be highly coveted if found.

Community Systems: Although much less acceptable, some properties have a small community water system fed from large producing wells nearby. These are done primarily due to the local well depths, sometimes 700 to over 1000 feet deep, and at cost over $30 per foot, it’s sometimes cheaper to hook up to the local private water district. It’s ok to buy these properties if you plan to drill a well at some point, or have secondary year-round water. Even a large pond filled with seasonal runoff would work if done properly for emergency water and firefighting, coupled with rain catchment for very conservative homes or retreats.

No matter how spectacular the property, make sure there is some type of primary water available. Most vacant land will not have a well drilled by the seller, so be sure to check neighboring parcels for the depths of those completed wells and speak with the neighbors and a local driller before completing the purchase. This information will at least give an idea of what to expect.


After your property is purchased and you have ensured a year round water source has been completed, the power must go on. Many Preppers they narrow the property search right away to only off-the-grid type properties. This is a mistake. Very few buyers

Micro-Hydro is very sought after in the American Redoubt

find a fully functioning and ready-to-go retreat. Why? Because, alternative energy is not and will not be very popular with the mainstream crowd for some time due to lack of education about the viability of the systems.

Iron Edison Solar w/ Nickle Iron batteries

Today the advances in technology and manufacturing of Solar Cells, Nickel Iron Batteries, and upgraded charge control equipment have brought the prices down considerably to the point that it’s economically feasible to be completely off the power grid, which is the point of being a Prepper, right? Does it really matter what the pay back time is on an alternative energy system is when the lights permanently go out?

Most retreats will have Solar power with some sort of generator backup source (gas, diesel, propane) and on rare occasions will have hydropower. No matter the power source, the batteries will be the heart and soul of the system. Most folks will use a lead acid battery that is susceptible to discharge issues and freezing, and they last between 8 and 20 years.

The best batteries by far were invented by Edison over a century ago and are made of Nickel-Iron. They last upwards of 30 years or 11,000 cycles.They are the heart of any off the grid system, be it wind, solar or hydropower. You’ll need a battery that will hold up against abuse and last as long as possible in order to run your retreat to its’ fullest potential and help loved ones and produce goods for barter at the locale market.

The best US-made batteries are from Iron Edison. Be sure to check them out. They are well worth the extra soon-to-be-worthless-fiat-currency.


In many retreat areas in the world, other than the tropical regions, year round food production can be a real threat to the life of a Prepper. During a major TEOTWAWKI event, fresh meat from wild animals will quickly become scarce for several years. Combined with the lack of live enzymes from nutrient-dense fresh garden foods, it will only increase the death toll from sickness that could have been prevented or cured by healthy immune systems.

Grow your own non-gmo food!

This leads us to the next task: how to grow this fresh food in the winter? For those able to bring alternative power to the retreat, growing food is as easy as pie. Construction of a standard or walipini-style greenhouse heated by either a wood stove, wood-fired boiler, or a rocket mass stove is best. Then, simply use LED grow lights and you’re off and running. In addition, the property should meet your own specific needs relating to animal production, from grazing pasture to ponds stocked with fish. The sky is the limit.

Year round greenhouses are a must!

One last note of sustainable food production: a rural homestead, up and running, with food production already in place when the crash happens will be a valuable asset. Arriving at a sealed bug out property with only dehydrated food and a properly stored seed bank will be a major task to get up and running.

It could be up to three months to the first harvest. If it’s winter, the greenhouse will need to be constructed or taken out of mothballs, so to speak, and the seeds started, while trying to maintain proper heat either in the greenhouse, home, or bunker, and provide the light needed. This is no small task. Even for those of us that grow year round it’s a challenge.


Now that we have a property with abundant Water, alternative Energy creation, and sustainable Food production we can talk about defending the assets you have in place. There is no way to cover actual defensive plans as they are specific to the actual property location. But we’ll cover a few areas that most overlook. It’s not all about guns and ammo, it’s more about food and billeting.

First though, understanding what it takes to really defend a property all comes down to one nasty aspect: the willingness of the defender to take another human life. There is no need to push out our chests and spew macho talk. We all agree that protecting our family is what we are called to do and we plan to do it, hence our genre of Prepping. However, if you’ve never seen combat or been involved in a life threatening situation that resulted in the loss of life to someone, in front of your eyes, then seek out somebody that has. We should seek out those with knowledge in areas we lack to help us prepare, and this is an important way to learn. No amount of preparation can teach you the ‘gravity of the moment’ when you’re looking at a threat through a rifle optic with your finger on the trigger, but it may help.

Moving on, what to expect once you make it to the retreat and everyone is settled in may be different than you think. Here are a few thoughts and tips on overall defense of the property.

  1. OP/LP posts must be manned 24 hours a day. Don’t forget about tactical communication.
  2. Manned posts will take more retreat members to cover the property 24/7. Make friends with neighbors and have a mini-local plan w/ them.
  3. You must feed these members, whether they are original retreat members or they were hired on after the collapse. Therefore, over-build your food production systems.
  4. Store, pre-build, or retrofit for extra billeting such as:
    1. GP Tents or Yurts
    2. Extra rooms in the retreat
    3. Personal shelters w/ appropriate weather sleeping gear
    4. Sanitation: privy and/or larger septic system
  5. Group Standard Equipment (thanks to JWR)
    1. Buy or require members to have standard camouflage patterns on clothes and gear and identifying markers (day and night)
    2. Weapons that take the same Caliber and Magazines
    3. Night vision and Thermal devices
    4. Medical – Initial Ballistic Trauma kits (Quik Clot, et ceterta)
    5. Caffeine (Don’t forget to store and rotate coffee beans, or buy them in bulk as the hordes empty the shelves. You’ll need them!)

Once you have Water + Alt. Energy = Food, then you have something worth DEFENDING!

When searching for the right parcel of land or rural homestead, if you put the defensibility factor first it is unlikely the property will be self-sufficient. Living on the top of a mountain in a fire lookout sounds really cool and defensible, and it surely is, but the year-round stream for hydro power and secondary water is not going to appear out of the air and the rocky terrain will not grow your food, so choose wisely.

Simply remember that a property with water, alternative energy, and food production is worthy of defending. Talk to any combat veteran and they’ll tell you that almost any specific area or property can be defended. It’s just a matter of personnel and equipment, and at what cost.

As a retreat owner, this equates to: Do you have enough friends now, or can you make enough friends in the locale, and can you feed and billet them all? A very simplistic task on paper, but a logistical nightmare to implement in real time.

After your purchase and getting to know the property enough to where you can walk it in the dark, you’ll then be in a position to really sit down and think through a realistic plan of engagement for defensive operations. If you can afford it and the property is big enough, seek professional help from those with actual combat experience to help you design your defensive plans.

Safe Storage of Supplies

Finally, the property or home must have options for secure storage of supplies. Otherwise, what’s the point in bugging out to a great retreat with nothing left after a theft or fire? It’s not imperative to have the best soil for building basements. However, it certainly costs much less to make improvements without boulders of granite (though that can be done).

I’m a proponent of having two separate storage facilities, one underground, built to be fire, flood, and theft proof, outside the home along with a safe room(s) in the home for easy access. Joel Skousen is a master of this area and has written a fantastic book called the Secure Home, and should be consulted whenever ready to make such improvements.

In Conclusion

It’s time to get you and your family into ‘Position’ to survive. Stay within your financial means to find, secure, and stock a rural homestead or bug out property that is within reach of your current location based upon a realistic capability to reach that point in a worst-case scenario.

Owning a Rural or Survival Property is an attainable goal to strive for so work hard, think, and act decisively so your family will survive the coming collapse.

Author: Todd Savage (

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