BOL (Bug Out Locations) - How Far Away?

As with just about any question an inquisitive prepper poses, the answer often begins with yet another question. “How far away from what, exactly?” The underlying expectation of most asking this question is an answer that will help them decide how far away from everything, everyone, is safe. Grid down, TEOTWAWKI, ______ collapse, you name it…. the disaster of each person’s dreams is the foundation for their preparations.

“….from what?”  Answer that first. In general, a BOL is positioned such that a buffer of distance is created between the problems at home and in the area surrounding home, and the temporary or permanent safe haven. It isn’t hard to chose a location that is safer than home when considering natural events such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires and massive earthquakes. Since the geographical extent of the problem is easy to define, the best choice lies outside the problem area. But honestly, when someone asks how far away their BOL needs to be, they are almost always concerned about the human threat that attends disasters of any and all causes.

People. They present problems any place, at any time of day, rain or shine. The worst in them is brought out by the vacancy of law enforcement, the pressures of hunger and injury, and just plain old worry about how they will survive from day to day following a displacing event. If this is what you are concerned about, and you are dreaming of a retreat safe from the golden horde, refugees or roving gangs of violent opportunists, your BOL needs to be invisible –  a true John Galt gulch.

Distance is only important to this as it pertains to achieving invisibility. It does not guarantee safety. I’ll repeat that – distance does not guarantee safety. There are other things to consider. A BOL at the top of a mountain, with a secured road and lots of fencing is not much of a retreat if it is visible from the highway below, known to others as an actual BOL or stands out as something special or out-of-place for the area. If it draws attention, it will attract those you are looking to leave behind.

To be a true retreat, a location worth bugging out to, the safe haven must either blend in with the surrounding area and culture, or disappear altogether. “Blending in”, coupled with distance from major populations centers, is one good way to avoid attention. If the other homesteads in the area are self sufficient, and you are known well enough to have been accepted, you are safer than most. Neighbors that have no need of your supplies bring benefits beyond measure. Local crime reports available at the sheriff’s office will help you decide what kind of neighbors you have. Blend in. In the way you dress, speak, move about and work. Don’t be a nail to be hammered down. Contribute even, if there is a way to do so.

During the Katrina and Rita hurricane evacuations, many vehicles ran out of gas on the highways. Those people were no threat to any distant retreat. People that did get out of the area were tired from the long hours waiting in partial gridlock, the stress of fear and from lack of food. They also were not much of a threat. When choosing a safe distance, study how far the average vehicle can go on a full tank of gas in slow traffic. Of the 30,000 or so residents of of Chamber County, about 90% of them were gone in the first 24 hours of the Rita evacuation effort, but it wasn’t easy. Some of them only traveled about 35 miles. Harris county, which includes the supposed safe haven of Houston, was swarmed by the over 2 million people that took part in the evacuation. The furthest part of Houston is about 60 miles from the coast. What is curious to note here is that a smooth evacuation will lead to many more people traveling further than we might expect. An unorganized and panicked evacuation will lead to fewer people getting farther out. The Rita evacuation was initiated early because of the lessons learned from Katrina. In the photo above, you can see what a metropolitan evacuation looks like.

So, how far away? As a starting point, considering the above, a BOL safe from the hordes should be at least two hours away from a major population in good traffic, and located in an area of self sufficient folk with a low crime rate. If there is only one highway to get you there (with private or county roads as  a back-up), even better.

Get out a map. Or visit e-podunk and make use of their demographic and crime statistics, sorted by county, and search for a general area for your BOL. You can also visit our Mapping and Map Based Tools page for information helpful to your search.



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