Nov 14

The BugOut Land Fantasy

The S hits the fan and you pack the family into your 4wd, drive an hour to your bugout location (BOL) just before the crazies overrun your suburban house.  The property isn’t much but it’s yours, 20 acres with some water and deep in the woods.  You then build a shelter, plant crops, establish a community and thrive as the pioneers once did.


Reality or Fantasy.

The real scenario (for most of us) looks more like this.

1- Property already occupied by armed locals and you are not invited.  But that land is yours you say, you bought it 2 years ago and have the title you say.  They say (while they point various guns in your direction) that possession is 9/10th’s  of the law, they know the local Sheriff and you can go pound sand (or get shot).

2- You get to the property and set up a tent (or maybe you have a small hunter’s cabin).  After two weeks of living in the woods the suck factor starts to set in, your kids are complaining and your wife is restless.  Nobody likes those stupid freeze dried meals and all your attempts at hunting and trapping have failed even though you brought a lot of books which were supposed to help you succeed.  Someone finally gets injured / sick and supplies are running short, this is not what it was supposed to be.  You need help and realize that this in fact is much harder than you thought it was going to be.  There is no internet, youtube, cell phone service and everyone hates every minute of every day.  Did I mention your dog got killed in the night by Coyotes?

3- You bought this land because it was very isolated and you finally made it there shortly after T-SHTF with all of your supplies in tow.  The only problem is, Cletus and the locals know that you just arrived with all of your supplies in tow as well.  Chances are Cletus and his 30 cousins will wait to take advantage of you and your family because they know every inch of the land and well….you have to sleep sometime.

SHTF / Bugout / Recreation Land: The dream for most of us

I’m an advocate for having some land to move to if things get nasty or simply to have for recreational and educational purposes in the meantime.  My wife and I are currently on the hunt for some of this land ourselves and after viewing some this week (which turned out to be unsuitable) I wanted to share some things which we came across and discussed.  We’ve been searching for a couple years now but have only recently gotten serious and started meeting with folks to turn our dream into a reality.  Just to frame this up, our goal is to purchase a piece of raw land which we can improve upon in stages, maybe even over years.  So if you are in that position or plan to be soon maybe this article will help you out.

Owner Financed vs Traditional Financing

I get it, buy everything in cash.  Well sometimes there are exceptions to that rule and in my opinion a nice land purchase which could be paid off in 10-15 years (or sooner) is one of those exceptions.  Maybe I could buy it in cash but I don’t want to drain my savings account, there are a multitude of reasons for wanting to finance but if you are thinking of going that route keep reading.

I’ve never really purchased land before so I wanted to check out my options and initially the idea of owner financing seemed pretty good.  By owners I mean the types of companies which purchase up large tracts of land and then split them up and sell them for a markup.  Nothing wrong with that, it’s a free country.  In researching some of these companies it appeared that they did their own financing with as little as 10% down.  On the surface it seemed good but if something seems too good to be true…

First of all the interest rate for the remainder of the purchase was very high, sometimes 10% or more.  Secondly in researching some of their properties there were very strict protective covenants in place which were obviously there to protect their interests.  These were very restrictive limiting just about every activity on the property, from what type of structures to logging timber to what type of recreational or commercial activities one could participate in.  No thanks.

I then looked at traditional financing, not through a bank but rather an organization called Farm Credit.  In speaking with their loan officer I would be able to put down 15% of the price, finance the rest at a reasonable rate for the next 10-15 years.  Additionally the property would be mine with no protective covenants, I would be much more “free” to do whatever I wanted as long as it was in line with the local ordinances / law.  A much better option in my opinion but it did required going through the more aggressive loan approval process: similar to buying a house.  In contrast the owner financed process was easier than getting a TV from Rent A Center (at least that’s what they told me).

Lesson Learned:  Do your research, make phone calls, ask questions.


The land we looked at was 1.5 hours away (75 miles via back roads) from our home which doesn’t sound that bad.  Heck I drive 1.5 hours (or more) one way for meetings throughout the week, what’s 1.5 hours to a piece of land.  Actually, it kind of sucks.  The distance involved means weekend visits probably will be intermittent and weekday visits will be just about non-existent.  Also the chance to get to know the neighbors will be tough since we would be spending much less time at the property which is not an optimal scenario.  Lastly and worst case scenario, 75 miles on foot after SHTF means quite a bit of walking and who knows if we would even make it there after passing through all of the small towns or privately owned land along the way.

Lesson Learned:  Get something closer, preferably 30 minutes or less drive.


For us the plan is to secure a piece of land which has a minimum of 10 acres, maybe 20-30.  We could get a small camper to tow to the land for the first year or two where we would make improvements and enjoy it (hiking, shooting, burning stuff in large piles and consuming adult beverages).  During this time we could look at building a permanent structure and maybe further down the road bringing utilities online and an ever larger structure which we could occupy full time.

When we were out at the property today we knew that it would not fit our purpose, although it had plenty of woods and was isolated the terrain was very unforgiving which meant the opportunity to build was restricted.  The only place which might have been acceptable to build looked as if it could be a flood risk as it was close to a creek.  Not a good fit.

Lesson Learned:  Topo maps, google images and pictures are great but you need to WALK the piece of land before making a decision.  This piece looked great until we got there and then it was like….um….no.


Make no mistake we were in God’s country out there.  American and Confederate Flags out in yards with mobile homes (broken down vehicles and tractors too) and pole barns dotting the landscape.  I wondered if this was how my grandparents grew up in the hills of West Virginia and in some aspect I felt a little sad that just two generations later I was so far removed from that lifestyle.  These were hard working folks scraping by to making a living, far removed from the mostly stupid problems that most of us stress about every day.  For me it would be important to get to know a few neighbors surrounding the property, this for the simple reason that I would not always be there and I’d want an ally near my land.  This would would be very difficult if we were so far away from the property, once again distance factored in.

Lesson Learned:  The land itself is just ONE component of the overall strategy.  The people / neighbors are a massive consideration when going through an exercise like this.  If one thinks he/she will simply circle the wagons and rely on the AR15 out there in God’s country, one will have another thing coming (many many other things).


15 to 20 minutes before we got to the property we lost all cell phone signal, both on AT&T and Verizon.  This is a big deal for us because while it’s nice to get off the grid one still needs reach back capabilities when it’s NOT SHTF and something happens.  Maybe our daughter needs to reach us while we are away for the weekend because she is in trouble. Then what?  Maybe someone gets injured and needs medical attention ASAP, how long would it take to walk to a home with a land line?  Yes I realize there are gadgets out there that do not rely on cell phone towers but this was a consideration which we had a tough time budging on.  As a matter of fact we did get into a tough spot with our vehicle at one point which had me wondering, if I can’t call anyone should I just start walking down the gravel road until I come to a house and then knock on the door?  How would that work out?

Lesson Learned:  For us, having commo capabilities is a big deal.  While it might not matter after SHTF it does matter now.  Best bet is to get out there and check out the land, see if you have connectivity.

Bottom Line

This whole thing has been a learning experience for us, we’ve been researching this for years and finally started to make moves in the last few months.  What we have found is that things are not always as they seem and plans made on the couch do not always reflect reality when actually out standing on the ground.  While the land we looked at was indeed isolated and in a decent area it would be useless to us, especially after T-SHTF.  It’s too far away, it would be too hard to build anything and we just aren’t equipped to make it suitable for family living.  The pioneers were able to live the hard scrabble life back in the day but let’s not kid ourselves…pioneers most of us are not these days.  Plus I do enjoy some creature comforts every now and then.


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  1. Interesting article.

    Probably the best thing to do is stay put, stand and fight. More than likely getting to your BOL will be impossible anyway since millions of others will be scattering.

      • PJ on November 14, 2015 at 10:31 PM
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      Cool avatar. Fiddler’s Green?

      1. Thanks. No, that’s me in real life… seriously.

        • KnoxBaby on April 23, 2016 at 1:49 AM
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        That would be Old Bill, Fiddler’s Green is where you dismount for the final time.

      • d00d on October 25, 2016 at 9:45 AM
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      No, “bugging in” is the last thing you want to do in a societal collapse. It’s game over for anyone staying in a significantly populated area.

    • David on November 15, 2015 at 12:06 AM
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    Confederate Flags are not in God’s country.

      • PJ on November 15, 2015 at 9:08 AM
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      How so? Lots of good men fought for both sides during the Civil War, lots of good men still fly both flags today for whatever reason they choose.

        • Rick on November 17, 2015 at 10:53 AM
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        Your response to David is a good point. As preppers we hear a lot about the hoards that might come calling. Also, about all the things we would do to protect our families, livestock and property. My family didn’t own slaves, but when the hoard from the north came raping, murdering and burning everything in sight, they fought on the side of the south to protect that. Not bad people, just regular, simple folk.

    • Taxdn2poverty on November 15, 2015 at 10:26 AM
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    Everything you say is true, but let’s take it a step further. We bought ten acres about five years ago that was perfect for bugging out. However, we couldn’t even keep the land or anything we left there safe while we were gone. We went out there every weekend and started over at zero. Theft, trespassing, vandalism, and even arson will be on anyone’s list of things to repair if you can’t live full time on your bug out land. We sold the land, thanks God, at a profit, and started ‘invisible prepping’. We will never attempt to own anything again except for our humble home, safe inside the city limits for now, and when shft hits the fan then we’ll simply melt into the forests for our stashes and wait the thing out as long as possible. We are convinced anything but hiding out as far away from anyone is a deathtrap. Prepper groups, prepper communities, prepper families, prepper anything except invisible prepping is fantasy. thanks for your time and great article.

      • PJ on November 15, 2015 at 5:02 PM
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      Great feedback and definitely something we thought about as well. Your real world experience in this matter certainly shines a light on what we think will happen vs what actually happens.

      • The Maj on November 16, 2015 at 12:57 PM
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      I can buy some of what you are saying Taxd but to say that anything but invisible prepping is “fantasy” is simply not true. Sounds like you had a bad experience with one of your preps and it has convinced you that it does not work but it can and does work. For example, I have owned a bugout location for 20 years with none of the issues you mentioned and others have as well.

      I do not have experience with prepper groups / communities and quite frankly, I do not play very well with others but my family is incorporated into my preps and I am fully confident in what we happen to have going. In fact, there are some things that I would not even attempt if I did not have more than my wife and kids worked into the plans because they would be physically impossible post SHTF.

      It sounds like you have your plan worked out and to each his own but keep in mind your experience does not equal another’s experience.

    • JJ on November 15, 2015 at 11:20 AM
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    Distance is an important thing traffic, hyjackers and in our case if a natural desaster landslides and high tides make our choices few here on the west coast. a dry run Is something I agree you have to go check things out several times. While you can.

    • Fifth Disciple on November 15, 2015 at 8:22 PM
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    Five years ago my wife and I lived in a suburb of Dallas. We now live on 14 acres 75 miles out. For the first year our daughter lived on the place. In year 2 we sold the house in town and moved to the farm. For the next year and a half we commuted in every day. Price of gas was over $3.75 and it was killing us. The commute was an hour and a half+ each way depending traffic (wrecks!!).

    My wife is a Software Engineer and spent a year looking for a job closer. Eventually she found one in a neighboring town 30 miles from here. She took the job and I retired early.

    It’s been tight but our debt is down to one car payment (3/4 Ton Diesel Truck for me/$300) and the mortgage payment. We double up the mortgage payment every month and should be free and clear in 8-9 years.

    Is this the “ideal BOL”, no. Does it beat living in town and coming out on weekends? By a mile!!!

    I found you have to make a lot of sacrifices and a lot of compromises. If you like to eat out, go to the movies, go on a cruise, celebrate a big Christmas every year, etc. you aren’t going to make it. Until last year we hadn’t eaten a steak in almost 8 years. Last year we put a 1200 pound steer in the freezer and I have a calf in the pasture for next year.

    You got to want it real bad to make it happen. If you do it’s possible.

      • PJ on November 15, 2015 at 8:30 PM
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      Outstanding information, thanks for the contribution. Definitely beats living in town I’m sure.

    • Roger on November 17, 2015 at 12:31 AM
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    Though I have a BOL, it’s undeveloped (except for one or more well-hidden caches) and it’s a 3 1/2 hour drive in good weather! So, it’s there but only as a last resort after SHTF, which is how it’s looked at anyway! It’s at a fairly high elevation (about 8000ft) with a year round stream as one property edge, but the altitude and poor soil make gardening a poor prospect. Small animals (rabbits, chickens) can survive on the vegetation with feed supplements (especially in winter), but would have to be established after being forced to move there, not ideal but workable! No near-by neighbors and no way to protect anything kept there other than hiding it, but at least it’s paid for except for the yearly property taxes that seem to go up every year! GLAHP!

    • The Maj on November 17, 2015 at 11:11 AM
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    There are so many variables with prepping that it is very hard to boil it all down to a stock solution that fits each and every single individual or even each and every single situation. Someone mentions “bugout” and most people’s first thought is “TEOTWAWKI !!!!” and their plans center solely around that “nuclear” event. Naturally, in that case, everyone would like to have a cabin on 40 acres in the middle of nowhere with only one accessible route in and an automated defense system that never fails with a never ending supply of food, water, and clothes that will never wear out……

    The issue is MOST events that are most likely to cause someone to have to bugout are localized events that have an end in sight and an eventual return to the area. Anyone that lives along the Gulf Coast experiences this with hurricanes, flood prone areas have to deal with it, areas with wildfires as a common occurrence, etc… You will also have other events like train derailments, chemical spills, etc that could cause someone to have to leave their home on short notice and reside somewhere else for several days… We have all seen it happen in the past year and it can happen to anyone…

    If it happens to be one of these localized events and you have to leave, where are you going to lay your head that night? Emergency shelter with all the other sheeple that don’t even own a sleeping bag OR somewhere you planned for because you refuse to be part of the herd? That location is still technically a “bugout” location even if it happens to be a hotel/motel, relative’s house, or your cabin on 40 acres. Personally, I have a planned location in all four directions from my house (N-E-W-S) and I only own one of those locations. Have a travel trailer / pull behind camper? (I don’t), well your options are kinda endless in this regard…

    The TEOTWAWKI bugout location takes on an entirely new and challenging perspective for prepping. It isn’t just a matter of “I own it” and everything is unicorns and rainbows… If you do not like home maintenance on your primary residence, then what the hell are you going to do when you own two houses? Do you stockpile your primary residence and bugout location or do you haul as much as you can? When do you leave your primary residence, is there such a thing as too early and when is too late? Can you even make it to your bugout location and if you do, can you actually survive there?

    Like I said before, everyone wants that cabin on 40 acres but even if you have the resources and time it takes for it is it really right for you? Some would be better off investing in a travel trailer and identifying remote areas to camp or owning land that is remote to set the travel trailer on (how many State of National Parks are in the area – MANY are rarely if ever used and remote as you could want or expect). If a travel trailer is not feasible, maybe a plan to use a cabin in a State or National Park is an option – if the government has collapsed, the cabins will still be there, probably unoccupied and not located along highly traveled roads – you could even incorporate a cargo trailer here to haul more gear or maybe make it a rally point if you have family incorporated into your preps…

    There are so many options and some of it involves very little more than getting a map out and doing some vaca-recons over a weekend here and there… Of course, as you get deeper, it will get a heck of a lot more complicated but prepping is done in stages by everyone anyway (I don’t know of anyone that is “done” with all their preps – if you are please raise your hand), so just keep putting together what works for you….

      • PJ on November 17, 2015 at 7:07 PM
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      Great insight Maj, great advice which has me taking notes! We have explored the travel trailer option and even went looking at some used ones, super reasonable and easily towed / put in place. We’ve also been to a few national parks, in the even of SHTF towing the trailer to any number of spots could yield short term positive results…thousands of miles of wilderness.

      Good stuff.

  2. I enjoyed your search for land. I did the same in 2006 and bought 14 acres outside Dallas in 2008. Just in time for the global collapse which I was expecting. I did not think it would be as bad as it was, though. After kicked around a bit, I moved back to the Pacific Northwest with my son &fam. His situation was precarious but my rent helped stabilize him for two years. He since bought a business and hopefully that will work. Meantime I followed my former career to Albuquerque just in time for sequestration. Word of mouth I found five acres in the mountains and am creating a Food Forest. I also have a garden. I just decided I would stay here because it is as close as I will get to a bug out location. Perfect is for the 1 percent and I am a poor old gal. I have started collecting material for an underground shelter (hobbit house) and hope to start in spring. One reason is for moderate Temps because it is cold up here. Two it cannot be seen from the road. Three it is almost the last house coming in the half mile private road and 5 miles in from the main road. Is it safe? Not enough. Is it better than town? Certainly. I grow a lot of native edibles in my Food Forest and my old single wide does not look like much and less attractive than the double wide and houses hereabouts. I say head down and hide. Meantime I made improvements every year for 3 years and will retire in the spring from my day job. This is not something to do lightly. I grew up in the backwoods of Oregon and Alaska and am not worried about chores or loneliness. I have dealt with a rattlesnake and bear already. The worst was a married neighbor wanting to unzip his britches at my house. Shudder. Point being that it takes a certain amount of strength, emotional and physical.

    What I believe is that few people enjoy this as a lifestyle. I love it! Every year I am closer to off grid… heat is my biggest expense long term.

      • nevertell on December 25, 2015 at 8:51 PM
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      Rebecca, You are so right, and good for you!

    • J on November 17, 2015 at 8:10 PM
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    I like the idea of the travel trailer myself, I feel s bit dumb for not seeing the pissibilities myself. I guess that’s why we are here, to pick up ideas.

    I do like the mobility aspect of this idea, and flexibility. while there are obvious drawbacks, they might be acceptable in my situation.

    Great article, PJ, and great info as well here.

    • J on November 17, 2015 at 8:22 PM
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    I apologize for typos, last post was from phone. fat fingers.

  3. I always thought staying put was the best solution as you will get an influx of people trying to get get out of dodge. I am not sure where everybody would be going. They are running from one problem and right into another in many cases.

    • J on November 18, 2015 at 7:23 PM
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    I agree with you, Mike, and would only consider bugging out as a last resort. There is peace of mind in having a place to go and a way to get there if necessary.

  4. I agree with staying put if possible. Once you bug out you are most likely to end up in a refugee camp. No matter how humble, home is home.

    • keebler on November 28, 2015 at 7:04 AM
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    I live at my B.O. Location not many even know i’m there, winter time smoke from the woodstove gives it away but it’s down in the woods, so some might think it’s fog. GPS’s are wrong out here by 1.1/2 miles at least. there is NO cell service ,Cable TV or high speed at all. dial up.& satellite for tv.
    I have Lost” Had Stolen” a few gas cans a Hand truck but if I lock everything up-someone will just Break in. while I’m gone shopping. neighbor 2,000 ft away lost Battery from his Mower, another neighbor north is a thief, I found my Hand truck 1/2 way to his place.NO it didn’t run away from Home.
    I wish everyone the best, hang in there.
    keeb in the woods 31 years.

    • gone on January 10, 2016 at 11:11 PM
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    More bad advice.

    Leave now while you can. Setup now and get to know the area and folks now. Stock up now. Why wait till something happens.

    We left and have a well stocked log cabin in a patriot state. The neighbors have our back. Its as good as it gets.

      • PJ on January 13, 2016 at 8:18 PM
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      The neighbors have your backs until they don’t have your backs. Apparently you have it all figured out. Please post a 10 digit grid to your location so we can all come share in the festivities.

    • Recon on July 29, 2016 at 9:59 AM
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    Hey been prepping since I left RVN…..
    Love my ptsb….
    Get ready folks….
    Take care of your family, no one else will….
    Load and lock and stockpile…

    • Recon on July 29, 2016 at 10:03 AM
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    Oh and by the way I have many friends that have went to Fiddlers Green..

    • rt66paul on March 31, 2017 at 11:38 AM
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    I would like to buy an enexpensive old farmhouse, barn and utilities already in. Hopefully there is a well. Many older small farms have sold most of thier land and grandma and gramp farmer live in the farmhouse until…… The kids inherit, they have thier own lives and scabbles. The zoning requires that 1-5, or even 10 acres must stay with a home, so you have a little farm, ready to go.

    It could be a singlewide that cousin Bobby joe begged some land to build and then moved on. What ever it is, the structure has to have the utilities already in and a septic system. With a couple of weekend’s work it should be somewhat able to live in. Septic systems can be repaired, changed, updated, etc, for not too much money.
    Even if I bought it with a single wide there, I might want to replace it(if the zoning laws and building codes don’t cost too much), or add to it, by pulling another single wide in and using it for wash house/pantry storage. Maybe it can be connected in a T or L or side by side with a porch between them.

    Building on raw land is a big headache. Getting utilities in(assuming there are some still going, not all SHTF scenerios mean total shutdown) is expensive and building while trying to make a go of it is a lot harder than you might think.

    If you buy some eyesore, come in and clean it up to the standards of the area, even as a weekender, meet the townies and other denizons, you won’t be shunned if you really need to come out there and live.
    If you keep to yourself, do extravagant changes, the locals will never accept you and are more likely to steal from the property when you are in town working to pay for it.

    Being ready with something to live in beats starting from scratch.

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