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Quick References

How Far is Too Far For Your Bug Out Location?


While I’m not a big fan of bugging out (I’d much prefer to bug in wherever possible) I do recognize the need to have an effective and well-thought-out bug out plan for my family and I. That’s in large part why I created my reThinkIt! Preparedness Tools and shared them with you.

I like to think that we have a good plan of action. In fact, we have both long and short bug out locations in each compass direction along with multiple routes to get to each place. When you think about it, that’s a lot to plan for! And, yes, it does take some time and consideration.

Normally, the question we like to ask is whether your bug out destinations are far enough. Are they far enough from the potential destruction, chaos, mayhem, food shortages, power outages, water contamination… or whatever you’re escaping from.

An equally critical question–though seemily less planned for–would be how far is too far for you bug out location(s)? In other words, can you actually get to where you want to be when everthing is working against you?

Think about some of the assumptions we might make when preparing our bug out plans:

  1. you’ll be able to get gasoline either before leaving your current location and/or while on the road
  2. your gas tank will be full (or nearly full)
  3. you’ll be able to get home to gather more stored gasoline for the trip
  4. the gas stations will be able to accept credit/debit cards
  5. your routes of egress will be unimpeded and there will be little to no traffic
  6. you’ll “get out” before everyone else
  7. your car won’t break down on the way there

These are just what’s off the top of my head. I’m sure there are plenty more. Think about assumptions number one and two with me. Obviously, the need to have gasoline to fuel your vehicle to get to where you want to be is a no-brainer. But, as fate seems to have it, disasters never strike when you’re ready. They never strike just after you visited the gas station, for example. In fact, they will ALWAYS seem to strike on your way there. ;) In this case, you should consider when it is that you (or your spouse) typically fill up. Is it on empty, one-quarter tank, half a tank? Be honest!

Whatever it is, that’s what you can plan for. So, if you honestly always ensure you have one-quarter of a tank left and that gets you 100 miles then you can begin planning around that number. Certainly, there are many factors that would affect it, such as whether you run into traffic, if you’re pulling a trailer, whether you can acquire gasoline on the road (or bring stored gasoline with you) and so on.

So, does it makes sense to plan on a bug out location 300-400 miles away because your car *could* get you there on a full tank of gas? Probably not. Think about your current plans for a moment. Or, better yet, let’s think about mine. I live in the suburbs of Kansas City… yes, in a fly-over state. And, as I mentioned at the start, I have a lot of bug out locations. One of them is to make it to St. Louis, Missouri, where we have friends and family.

If you do a Google maps search from Kansas City to St. Louis, you’ll notice that it’s right at about 250 miles away and along a major highway system, I-70. I also happen to have alternate routes that are even longer distances! While I do my best to keep our vehicles at a half tank, I’m not always perfect, and my wife, well… we tend to see things differently in this case. So, the best we can honestly muster is to stay above one-quarter tank, which gets us a little less than 90 miles. That’s not very far and certainly not 250+ miles. If we were willing to keep the tank at least half full then I get a lot closer to my required 250 miles (but not quite there yet).

Regardless, in this case, my expectations to make it to St. Louis as compared to our worst-case ability to get there do not match up. I should point out now that we do have rendezvous spots, or locations where we can expect to re-group. One of those is Columbia, Missouri, which happens to be about 125 miles from Kansas City; while significantly closer than St. Louis, it’s still technically a bit out of range.

I can’t say I have a good answer for this problem other than to revise our plans. In fact, after looking over all of my vehicle bug out plans, all but one are techincally out of range when I consider our worst-caes ability to get there! That’s not good. So, I either need to revise our destinations or alter our preparedness capabilities to get there. For some people it’s as simple as keeping five gallons of gasoline in the car, but I don’t see us doing that. Maybe I cache supplies on the way somewhere? Uhm… probably not doing that either. I’ll have to think about it more.

I should also point out that the same considerations can–and should–be given to your on-foot bug out plans. For example, while we have on-foot bug out plans that would normally take us only 15-20 minutes by vehicle, when tackled by foot, it’s all all day event if we’re lucky. Add the weight of bug out bags, whiny kids, perhaps bad terrain, and now it’s a struggle to get places we’re completely familiar with. And that’s not even factoring in potential problems like avoiding evacuee lines of egress, a person with a sprained ankle, dozens of un-scheduled rest stops, and more.

I think I can sum it all up in one sentence: don’t get overly ambitious when making your bug out plans! You may be sorely disappointed.

13 comments to How Far is Too Far For Your Bug Out Location?

  • Bev

    Good point T.R.! I should check mine. However, in all honesty I don’t think I could change a tire on my truck myself–hence AAA. Sucks being an old woman… :)

  • Bev

    Good point on the spare tire and jack. That is something we all assume (ass of u and me)but may not be true. Maintenance…


  • flnatv

    I have not seen one comment about making sure you have a properly inflated spare tire and workable jack.

    • Good point. It is an often overlooked aspect of basic vehicle preparedness. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I checked mine… yikes!

    • T.R.

      that brings up another point , if you live in an area of the country where it snows a lot and they use road salt and you drive a truck……..make sure the spare tire mechanism is still working to get it down and that its not rusted closed ……..happened to me .

  • Damian,

    Great article! I’ve been wrestling with these same issues and don’t see the value in having a fully stocked bug out location for most midwesterners (different story if you live in hurricane, wildfire, or heavily populated areas)…the solution I’ve been playing for those that have bug in as their first option is a ‘Prepper Compact.’ If I lived in an area where bugging out was the most likely course of events, I would preposition stocks with a trusted ‘agent’ under a ‘modified Prepper Compact.’ A Prepper Compact is a mutual aid agreement between one or more preppers located at a distance (like you said…hopefully within 1 tankful of gas). The agreement would be “we take the other one’s family in if a regional disaster forces them to bug out.”

    It would work best if both families are of similar size and have similar preparedness levels. I would not enter into an agreement like this with someone that I wasn’t related to by blood, marriage or very long ties of friendship.

    I’d be interested if anyone has exercised an agreement like this and what issues they ran into.

    • A prepper compact would be useful but is probably already assumed (at least it is for me) when it comes to family and close friends… even if it means I’m giving till it hurts. :)

  • Bev

    All good points, but in reality I don’t have a bug out location. Best I could do is to go to my mother’s or sister’s. And then what?
    Just saying :)

    • The thing is that you never know what can happen. A disaster could very well just affect your area/property so it’s always wise to have options. I have both family and friends (and just destinations) included in our plans as I never know where I’ll need to go or how far. If a disaster takes me even further than my out-of-area options then I’ll just have to improvise.

  • T.R.

    Far is a subjective term , if you live in the western states …….NO place is close , they are very big states and your going to have to travel a good distance . If you have ever been to Texas , you understand what I’m talking about , even here in AZ , having to drive 100 miles is not unusual .

  • Aussie Mick

    If you can not find a way to get to a bug out destination 250 miles away…your chances of surviving anywhere are not good…keep stored fuel..leave early…don’t ‘settle for’ a lesser bug out destination…your life will depend on it…

    • I didn’t necessarily say settle for less, I said plan for the worst case… and if that means you can only nmake it 100 miles then you should consider bug out plans to accomodate that possibility too. If everything rests on getting 250 miles away and you simply cannot make it there then you have even bigger problems! Sure, have contingencies such as extra gasoline stored to get you where you want to be (and put the odds in your favor) but part of emergency planning is also planning for when your plans might not work out.

  • Ed

    This is a good way to think about it, that is, what’s the worst case scenario. Too often we think about all of the supplies and contingencies we have to see us through but it may simply come down to how much gasoline you have in your tank.