Bug Out Location Prep: What Can You Do?

Can you do some bug out location prep and pre-build your camp? I talked about this in my piece on caching at your bug out location but I like talking about bushcraft style camps. You’d be a lot more comfortable if you can build a vacation home and bug out to it. It’d be a lot easier to prep there and basically just move if things go south. That said, it’s not fun to talk about. 

Bug out location prep done right in the woods.

I think there’s something in a lot of people that makes us want to build a camp in the woods. When we were kids, play usually involved a lot of “bases” and tools, and they were fun to build. The grown up version of this is bushcraft and it’s a whole animal of its own. It just so happens to fold into bugging out perfectly. 

Can You Build At All?

Building a bushcraft base is not really a low impact activity. Pre-building your location will need permission to use the land. If your plan involves a national forest, people will get mad at you for making a war camp in the middle of a hiking trail. But, if you own the property or you know the person that does, then you’ve got options. This is also a great place to stash supplies ahead of time.

Bug Out Location Prep: What To Build First

I’d love to tell you that your first priority is a cool canopy treehouse so you can live like a movie character. Unfortunately, the truth is a little less flashy. 

The first thing you should consider building is a latrine. Digging a hole is no fun, it’s best to do this while you can still go get a burger and a nap after. To dig your latrine you’ll want to go for a deep, slender hole. Go as deep as you’re comfortable digging. If you have to bug out for any real length of time, you’ll need to dig another eventually.  You can cover this hole with a piece of wood or a big flat rock. 

Since you’re pre-building, you should even consider blocking it with a seat. If you’re worried about modesty, you can make a “stall” out of tarps, but you should take these down before you leave. Leaving the ropes to hang them is fine, but tarps might not be there when you get back.

Bug Out Location Prep: Building Your Shelter

At least I think it’s fun. Rule one of a shelter is that it needs a roof. It’s basically what makes a shelter a shelter. Even the most basic roof will block the sun, which is important. Sunburns and heat sickness are a couple of effects of prolonged sun that are normally minor. In a survival situation, anything that throws you off your game is more dangerous. 

What’s even more dangerous, is getting wet. If you’re wet and it gets cold, you could be in serious trouble. This is why keeping your shelter as waterproof as possible is crucial. This can be done in a lot of ways. The easiest and most common is to pile at least a couple feet of leaves, mud, or other debris on top of your shelter. This should keep water from making it all the way down. Leaks can be patched with more mud.

Other Helpful Bushcraft

Now that you’ve finished your shelter, build another one. No, seriously. In a survival scenario, a second shelter is a great idea. Likely, if the first one was your first ever, the second one will be better.

If anything happens to one of them, you’ve got the spare. If you end up linking up with anybody else, the extra space will be useful. Speaking of the space, having a spare sheltered room will be useful for supplies.

You can also work on building a fire pit. Half digging, half construction, a fire pit will help contain embers and heat. Certain designs can even be used to direct heat towards your shelter. This can also obscure light from a distance. This could be useful to avoid attracting attention.

All things considered, there’s really nothing you can build that won’t help you out. Besides maybe giant rickety structures that will fall on you.

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Bug Out Caches: Should You Make A Stash?

If your target location is another house or home, then you probably won’t need bug out caches. It’ll already be a shelter and you will have a good place to stockpile supplies. In this guide, I want to focus on less developed BOLs. In other articles, I recommend a spot that’s far away from civilization. If you follow this, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a woodland homestead-to-be.

Map of bug out caches.

If this is the case, some pre-stashed supplies can be a big help. To figure out what to do here, let’s ask some questions.

Can You Leave Bug Out Caches?

There’s a lot of woods. Some woods are privately owned, some are government property. If you, a friend, or a family member owns some property in the woods, this is an excellent place to plan to bug out. 

Your best case scenario for caching is to get permission first. If you know the owner of your spot (and I recommend you pick a spot where you do, if possible) you’re in a good position to prep it. If your bug out location is on public property, such as a national forest. Legally, I can’t recommend you leave caches, structures, or anything else there. If your cache is found it will be removed and you can be fined. That said, the point of caches is to remain hidden from everyone but you.

How Much Should You Put There?

The short answer to this is as much as you can, but there are a lot of limiting factors. 

The first limit is money. There’s no guarantee that you’ll need to bug out soon. For this reason, we plan to bug out, but we do it responsibly. 

The next limit comes from the kind of property it is. If you own the property, or if your friend/family is cool with it, you can do whatever you want. Build a camp, a full cabin, make a shipping crate bunker, buy a pre-built house. 

If space isn’t a limit, you’ll just want to keep in mind that you should split your supplies. You don’t know whether you’ll end up there or hunkered down at home. 

If you don’t own the land or maybe don’t have permission, then space is a big issue. Your supplies need to be invisible to anyone but you.

What Supplies to Put in Bug Out Caches

Things worth stashing fall into two main categories: Consumables and Heavy Gear.

Consumables are things like toilet paper, soaps, and food rations. Toilet paper (as we’ve seen with the Covid runs) is considered by many to be very important. As someone that has used leaves on a 100 mile backpacking trip, I disagree. It’s gross to think about while things are good but there are a lot of things you can wipe with. Toilet paper is bulky, hard to carry, and absolutely unnecessary for survival.

Soaps and sanitizers especially are a lot more important to stash. It’s hard to make things like this out in the wild. Hand sanitizer especially is very effective at germ control. It’s also relatively small. If you’re stashing anything, I highly recommend stashing sanitizer.

Food rations are worth stashing, but are hard to rely on. They’re finite, there’s no way around it. They’re nice to help you bridge the gap to your new Castaway style forest life, but they’re temporary. Don’t go overboard on them. Past a point, your money and energy are better spent on learning trapping, fishing, hunting, and foraging.

Heavy gear is another category entirely that you can stash. Many types of outdoor stoves and cooking tools are very heavy. They’d be back-breaking to haul so you really can’t bug out with them. If you can stash and leave these ahead of time, you can set yourself up in style for the end of the world.

Another type of “heavy gear” to consider is shelter/furniture. If you can, stashing things like tents, cots, chairs, or tables will leap you ahead of pure bushcraft camps. If you have the ability to create and conceal a whole shelter, you’re not bugging out, you’re just moving. 

Keeping Your Bug Out Caches Safe

Here we arrive at making sure your stash is there when you need it. There are two major factors here to consider.

The first factor is wildlife. If you’re burying tasty things in the forest there’s a 100% chance that you’re not the only one interested in it. Any supplies that you bury, food, soap, TP, has to be protected. Use metal containers as much as possible. Gophers and bugs will smell your supplies through anything. They can’t chew through metal.

The other factor is hiding your stash. Animals operate on smell, you don’t need to hide your stuff from them. People, on the other hand, love finding treasure. Any stash that you leave unattended need to be buried, or at least camouflaged. Ideally, your stash should be invisible even when you’re standing right on it. If you hide your stashes well, you’ll need to leave yourself a map based on natural landmarks to find it again.

To wrap it all up, if you can pre-prepare your bug out location, you should. If you’re financially able, build yourself a vacation cabin on some private land. Failing that, build a hunting camp on land that someone tolerates you squatting on. Worst case, hide some germ-ex under a secret rock that only you know the path to. Just be sure that your secret rock isn’t illegally in a national forest, wink.

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The Bug Out Camp: Turning Your Dirt Into A Home

Once you’ve escaped the SHTF scenario and you reach your bug out camp, there’s a lot of work to do. You can just plop down in the dirt, but it won’t be very comfortable. By taking these things into account, you can turn your Bug Out Location into a Bug Out Homestead.

Bug Out Camp cabin.

Bug Out Camp Sleeping Area

The most important things to keep in mind for your sleeping area are that it needs to keep you warm and dry. If you’ve got a survival bag based on my recommendations then you’ve got a tarp or at least a poncho and some paracord. This fabric will be the roof of your shelter. A roof is important because even if the weather is nice when you arrive, it won’t stay that way forever. Sooner or later it’ll rain and it’ll be absolutely crucial that you have overhead cover.

There are many types of shelters that can be constructed from simple tarps and rope. The simplest way to do this is to tie a line from tree to tree and then tie down your tarp over it to make a triangle shape.

You’ll also want to consider fire when planning your sleeping shelter. If it’s a cold area, you’ll want to face the opening of your shelter towards the fire. You can use an emergency blanket to direct heat into the shelter or to keep it in the shelter. You may also want to consider getting yourself off the ground. This will help you stay warm and help with bugs on the ground. The easiest way to do this is to cut and stack wood, with leaves or pine needles on top. 

Finally, you’ll want to consider an escape plan. If something like a bear or an intruder steps into your bug out camp, are you cornered? Or do you have a route you can use to bolt and re-orient?

Water Supply

The next thing you’ll want to lock down after your shelter is your water supply. You’re going to want to boil all your water. This can be done at your main campfire so you don’t need to go out to your cooking area. That said, even with boiling, you want to try to get the cleanest water you can. 

As a rule, you want to get your water from as close to the source as possible. Still water has the most risks. Rivers and creeks have flowing water, which is better. Better still is the smaller streams that feed these rivers and creeks. The absolute ideal is a natural spring, but those can be hard to find. 

Bug Out Camp Latrine

After shelter, the next thing you’re going to want to construct when you get to your new woodland home is a latrine. Unfortunately, you’ll have some trouble getting plumbing out to the middle of nowhere. 

The next best thing is planning where to keep your waste. You want to dig a fairly deep and slim hole. The depth is up to you, as deep as possible while still being safe to construct is your best bet. This likely won’t be the last latrine you’ll be digging, and that’s okay. You’ll want to keep it at least 50 yards away from water sources and your camp. Also try to keep it downhill and downwind. This will all ensure that it stays separated from you and your resources. 

If you’re worried about modesty and not about camouflage you can put up tarps. But, your best bet is just keeping it tucked away. Use a large flat stone or piece of wood to cover the hole when not in use. You can even keep a coffee can or other waterproof container of toilet paper and leaves nearby. It’s also a good idea to keep hand sanitizer out here to minimize bacteria transfer back to camp.

Bug Out Camp Kitchen

It’s a good idea to keep your food area 50 yds away from the rest of bug out camp. Keeping upwind as well will minimize the risk of bears or other wildlife wandering in. 

If you had the opportunity to prep your area or if you were able to bring gear with you, you may have some equipment. In addition to this, you’ll want to build yourself a relatively flat table space to prepare food on. 

This camp kitchen can be the place that you store any extra food supplies you have. Remember, in the woods you’re never alone! Stash your food either by hanging it from a tree or by burying it. Any wildlife in the area will also be interested in anything you’ve got. 

Finally, you’ll want to include a dish washing station at your kitchen. Hot soapy water is ideal for cleaning dishes. You’ll also want a sunny place to dry your dishes, as the UV rays will help kill germs. 

If you’re going to be dumping any waste water from cleaning, be sure to do this downstream. Gray water from your cleaning can pollute your drinking water. The last thing you want is to be accidentally drinking soap, it’ll clean you out real good.


After you finish constructing your kitchen, you’ll want to begin work on the armory. I’m kidding, but defense of your new home base is an important thing to consider. Know the terrain around your camp.  Wild animals or people with bad intentions could break up your group. Have plans in place for where to fall back or where to rendezvous if something invades your camp. 

Make use of natural barriers like bluffs, streams, briars, or ravines. These can isolate your camp and make it harder to surround or attack. 

If you have the manpower, having a nightwatch can be a good idea. It will give you precious moments to prepare if your camp is about to be under attack. 

Traps will likely be more dangerous for you to attempt if you’re unfamiliar with them. If you know them well, they can be considered.


Your communication station should go up right next to the armory. Again I’m kidding. If you’ve managed to stash a ham radio at your bug out location then power to you. People like you will be the reason that society will continue after the major disaster. 

The vast majority of people would do well to have an emergency radio set up in their camp. Not only does it provide entertainment, it provides a lifeline to the outside world. Hopefully, your bug out location is far enough out that you don’t run into other people, at least not often. 

Having an emergency radio will let you stay plugged into whatever there is still out there. If things get back to normal, you’ll know when it’s safe to return to your home.

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Bug Out Location: What Is A Bug Out Property?

A bug out location is anywhere that you plan to bug out to. A bug out property is a property specifically owned for fleeing to in the event of a catastrophe or it’s a property that people agree to meet at in case of a SHTF (S*** Hits The Fan) scenario. These properties are usually out away from the city and for that reason are more important if you live in a major city. 

Bug out location high on a mountain.

Why A Bug Out Location Instead Of Your Home?

Major cities are inherently unsustainable. They can’t produce enough resources to support themselves, it’s just a fact. During normal life, this isn’t a problem. Cities are hubs of trade or creative products so they generate value and can trade. There’s a flow in and out of resources and people are generally taken care of. That flow relies on lots of massive and intricate supply chains. Those supply chains rely on things we may take for granted. Things like power, communication, and physical resources. The chains themselves need fuel and supplies to run!

In the event of major catastrophes, or even localized ones these supply chains break down quickly. The 2006 Hurricane Katrina remains a frightening example of this. Existing resources within a city can be quickly depleted. (As we even saw with the runs on toilet paper and other necessities with the start of the Covid-19 lockdowns). When these resources are depleted cities are not a good or fun place to be for you or your loved ones.

You Need To Get Out Of Dodge

When the SHTF you can take your supplies and go pitch a tent in the woods. You’d likely be better off there than in the middle of New York City. Or you can bug out to a location that you’ve planned on previously.

It’s common to see in history (and movies about history) that when there are bad things afoot, we head for the hills. During WWII, families sent their children from urban London out to rural England. They’d stay with family or even with non-family that would offer to take them.

In half of the apocalypse movies out there (probably more), the main goal of the heroes is to get away. They’re working towards some family member or friend that has a property away city. They’re trying to flee the hellscape that the city has become. The morale of the story is that you need to get out of heavily populated areas. These areas with their dwindling resources get unsafe.

Where Should Your Bug Out Location Be?

In comes the bug-out property. This is a place that (ideally) you can go to before you need it. You can stash supplies or other resources that will come in handy. You can fell and get to this place if and your resources if the SHTF. A bug out property is usually also a place with natural resources. A place that won’t be disrupted by supply chain breakdown. Fresh water is a must for any long-term survival. The presence of animals and plants that can support you is also important. A bug out property isn’t very useful if you have to go back into the fray a couple weeks after leaving it.

The final important factor in what determines a good bug out location is isolation. Even out in the country you’ll need to make sure that your bug out location is far enough away. Stay away from places of interest so that you don’t get harassed. If you’ve got a nice thicket of woods picked out but it’s a couple hours walk from a major city, you won’t be alone out there. The whole point of the bug out property is to get away from people that could do you or your loved ones harm.

To wrap it all up, a bug out location is a place that you own or have designated that you can “bug out” to. If the going gets really rough, you know where to go. Ideally this is a place with resources (natural or otherwise). A place that will let you stay there and far away from unrest in areas with denser populations.

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