Many times bugging-in is the best and safest approach to surviving. However, there may be times when bugging out is absolutely necessary. In these cases, one of the greatest keys to survival is to have one or more bug-out locations. Wandering aimlessly will inevitably lead to (more) undesirable situations.
So, what should one look for in a bug-out location (BOL)?
Ideally, your bug-out location(s) should be close enough that you can reach them on a single tank of fuel but far enough away from your current location that you could escape potential disasters. Admittedly, this may not be possible. If not, you should plan accordingly by storing extra fuel, adding to your bug-out supplies, etc.
Give consideration, also, to the availability of fresh water and wild game when selecting a BOL site.
Ideally, your bug-out location(s) should be well-stocked with provisions - perhaps a year's worth or more. You should have access, as mentioned, to clean, fresh water or store a year's worth of water. You should have good, long-term shelter. Your location should be secured from both human and pest invasions. Finding your year's worth of food partially eaten and completely spoiled by mice would be more than disheartening in a life or death scenario.
Alternative power at your bug-out location(s) is a must. Whether you decide to depend on solar, wind, fuel-powered generators or some other off-grid power source, you will need power to live with any degree of comfort. As you make power preparations, be sure to give adequate consideration to heat - particularly in northern locations. Power for food preparation is also a key consideration.
Often times, sanitation does not rise to the top of preparation lists. This is unfortunate as infections from poor sanitation practices can kill you as easily as a horde of zombies. How will you dispose of human waste? How will you stay clean? How will you avoid contaminating food and water supplies? How will you treat minor injuries to ensure that they do not become infected? Sanitation supplies and practices are of significant importance to survival, in general, and especially important when planning for what may be long-term survival in a remote location.
You've kept the critters out of your food and managed to keep it from being discovered and stolen before you reached you BOL. Now, how do you defend yourself against those who may not have planned as well? How do you maintain not only your supplies but your life while, potentially, fending off significant numbers of perhaps well-armed looters, raiders or marauders? Just as important, how do you determine when and if you share your supplies with those who ask politely or attempt to trick you out of some of your supplies?
The first step is to bug-out to a location that is unlikely to be found. If your BOL is only a few hundred yards off of a major interstate, highway or thoroughfare ... you're in trouble already. It's much better to be "stuck" in a location that's miles from any paved road than it is to be visible and readily accessible to hundreds or thousands of others who may be much less fortunate than you.
Once you have identified a location that is sufficiently remote, visibility must be considered. A big house on the top of a hill with few trees to conceal it is going to be a target much sooner than a smaller house below the grade of nearby roads and concealed by trees. Assuming that your permanent shelter is not easily seen from any road, light and noise discipline are of primary importance.
With concealment, light and noise discipline in place, the next step is a set of rules, guidelines or standard operating procedures. Remember the question about sharing with those who ask nicely? Well, will you? What if a mother with two young children happens upon your BOL? Will you share with her? How will you decide? Will any other members of your group agree? Is it put to a vote or do you, alone, make the decision?
I would be remiss if I did not address the issue of firearms and ammunition when discussing the defense of a BOL. I would also be remiss if I did not suggest that firearms and ammunition may be just as critical to putting food on the table as they are to defending one's position. With this dual consideration in mind, I would suggest firearms that can be utilized for both purposes. Certainly, if one's budget allows, specialized firearms would be a great way to go. However, when facing the reality of the cost of preparing a BOL, I will focus primarily on dual-purpose weapons.
My suggestion is that one's first firearm purchase, when preparing for a survival situation, be a shotgun - preferably in 12 gauge. With different ammunition, the 12 gauge can easily shift from defensive duty to bird hunting to large game hunting. Select a simple, highly-reliable gun like the Mossberg 500.
If one's budget allows, I would next recommend the purchase of a rifle. Again, give consideration to a dual-purpose firearm. While a 5.56 round may not be adequate to bring down a bull elk or moose, it should certainly be adequate for whitetail or mule deer at distances up to approximately 100 yards. Proper ammunition selection is important as is barrel rifling. A 1:7 twist will be fine for both a defensive weapon and for firing heavier bullets when hunting.
Handguns, while they will be of little use in hunting, certainly have a place in one's defensive armament. One can easily carry a handgun in a holster while performing one's daily chores much more easily that one can carry a shotgun or rifle. My two primary recommendations for defensive/survival handguns are reliability and availability of ammunition. I don't want to start a caliber war or a brand war so I'll leave it at that.
Familiarize yourself with any/all firearms in your armory so that you can maintain them and repair them, if necessary. Pick up a few spare parts as well as a good cleaning kit and plenty of cleaning supplies. I'd also recommend picking up a set of smithing tools in the event that any of your firearms need repairs.
With concealment, light and noise discipline, arms and munitions in place, it's time to think about guarding your BOL. Anyone who has pulled guard duty in the military is familiar with the long hours of intense boredom occasionally sprinkled with moments of intense fear. Certainly, there are ways to make it more difficult to approach your BOL. However, no method is fool-proof and there simply is no substitute for one or more sets of watchful eyes.
This is probably as good a place as any to introduce the topic of survival groups. Most will readily admit that a group is more likely to survive than an individual. There is simply no way that one person, alone, can perform all the tasks necessary to survival in the kinds of conditions we're discussing. If we're in agreement that a group is better than an individual, the next questions is, "How large a group?"
As with many things, there is no "right" answer. However, there is a paradoxical principal at work. The larger the group, the lighter the work load on any one individual. Yet, the larger the group, the heavier the support load. A bigger group means more food, more water, more space ... more of everything is needed. One way to work toward an answer to the group-size question is to break down the work that will need to be performed on a regular basis, including defensive tasks, and ignore the support needs of the group during this exercise. Once you have arrived a an acceptable group size (or size range) to accomplish the necessary work at the BOL, you can back into the amount of supplies and support needed for the group. As long as everyone in the group agrees to share the load of preparation relatively equally, this approach works. Unfortunately, if one or two people are preparing to support a group of twenty, it will be difficult to make this approach work.
Back to defense for a bit now .... Depending on the size of your BOL, its concealment, its proximity to populated areas and a variety of other factors, you'll most likely need at least two individuals on "guard duty" at any one point in time. First, with two people on duty at any given time, they can help keep each other awake. Trust me, in the wee hours of the night, when nothing has happened for days ... eyelids get really, really heavy. A simple channel check every so often helps keep the lids up and the eyes and ears alert.
This brings up another point. Guards should not be allowed to read, play cards or do anything else that distracts them from their primary duty - guarding the BOL.
Guard duty should be pulled in shifts. The length of the shifts is determined, to some extent, by the number of individuals available to pull duty. Shifts of more than 2-4 hours, especially in cold weather, can be very taxing. Four hours out in sub-zero weather is a long time. This should factor in to the exercise described above. You may want to consider alternating shifts for different guard locations or duties so not all guards are changing at the same time. This eliminates the weakness that we've all seen exploited in so many movies. "The guards change shift at Midnight. We'll attack then."
OK, you're not likely to build an actual fort at your bug-out location. There are, however, a number of ways that you can "fortify" your location and make it more difficult for undesirable characters to reach you. Obviously, the larger the area, the more resources and work it will take to fortify it. That doesn't mean that you can't utilize a layered approach to a larger area with more and more intense fortifications as you get closer and closer to the nucleus of your BOL.
Let's say you have a 40 acre plot with a house in the middle of it. You could start with a three-strand barbed wire fence that surrounds the entire property. The fence should have a good gate with a lock. While a barbed wire fence can be cut, it might be just enough to make someone look across the road or down the lane at a property that doesn't have a fence that needs to be cut and negotiated.
If you have ready access to a quantity of trees, you could create an abatis as your next layer. There are a number of ways to construct an abatis. The image below demonstrates one method of coupling an abatis (the felled trees) with a trench. To create such a barrier around an entire 40 acre property would be time-consuming and utilize hundreds of trees. Rather than attempting to secure the entire property in this manner, one might secure only a handful of acres around the house and out-buildings.
Notice how the back side of the trench is constructed in such a manner so as to provide cover for defenders. It is, essentially, a running foxhole. One method to conserve effort and build more quickly would be to create foxholes rather than an a secondary trench. While this limits fire positions somewhat, it still provides defensive cover and the ability to pick off enemies from protection while they are slowed down by the abatis and trench.
An addition that might be considered for the bottom of the trench is punji stakes. Punji stakes are nothing more than sharpened sticks stuck into the ground close together. The photo below shows punji stakes in the bottom of a trench. It has been a common practice over the years to cover the ends of punji sticks with human fecal matter. You've heard the phrase, "shit on a stick", right? This increases the likelihood of an infection if the stick penetrates the skin. However, eventually the bacteria in the fecal matter will denature and have little effect.
As a third layer, one might consider concertina wire or tangle-foot wire barriers. For those unfamiliar with concertina wire ... think barbed wire with razor blades instead of barbs (see photo below). It's nasty stuff. Invariably, I've ended up with cuts and shredded clothing whenever I've worked with concertina wire. A concertina wire barrier usually consists of three loops of wire stacked in a pyramid (see second photo below). The third loop sits on top of the bottom two loops.
A tangle-foot wire barrier isn't quite as nasty as a concertina wire barrier but it will definitely slow down your attackers. It's also relatively easy to assemble with relatively little risk to those installing it. There are a nearly infinite number of ways to create tangle-foot or entanglement barriers. One is called an obstacle belt (see third picture below). An obstacle belt is nothing more than a maze of wires linked together about 12-18" off the ground. If you have barbed wire available, it is more effective at creating entanglement barriers than non-barbed wire. A double apron fence is another common pattern for entanglements (see fourth picture below).
While none of these obstacles or fortifications will stop bullets or completely halt a determined enemy force, they will certainly slow them down, giving defenders the opportunity to take higher-probability shots.
Furthermore, fortifications such as these can be utilized to create kill zones or fatal funnels. It's natural for humans to follow the path of least resistance. If there is a gap in a barrier, your enemy is more likely to pass through that gap than they are to try to negotiate an obstacle such as an abatis or trench. Proper placement of defenders, in alignment with these gaps, can create highly effective kill zones that will sap your enemy's desire to continue to attack. (Incidentally, you can utilize the same principles inside your home. Obviously, you won't be using concertina wire or trenches but you can utilize your home's layout, furniture, and other 'normal" in-home items to accomplish the same goal.)
Concertina Wire Barrier
Double Apron Fence