If you need to select a bug out location or a survival retreat there are two main options: small town or isolated. The former depends on some form of local infrastructure while the latter is designed to be completely self-sufficient and self-contained. Before you conclude which approach is right for your family, you should know about the pros and cons of each retreat.
I know about a lot of people aiming for total self-sufficiency. There is a big debate among preppers and survivalists when it comes to choosing a bug out location. Most of them suggest picking an isolated retreat, but the truth is that not everyone is suited to tackling the tasks required for self-sufficiency. There are many things you need to consider when picking out your retreat and advanced age, chronic health conditions, physical handicaps and even the lack of trustworthy family or friends can rule out total self-sufficiency. This is why most of us will go for an inconspicuous in-town retreat rather than an off-grid fortress.
If you decide to settle in a small town, here are some suggestions as I’ve experienced them first-hand. When we decided to build our bug out location, we were looking for towns with small population, somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000. However, towns with a population of more than 1,000 present some additional sanitation problems, while towns larger than 4,000 people lack a cohesive sense of community.
There are those who will go for a town that have between 200 and 1000 residents and that’s an ideal choice from my point of view. If your town has a population smaller than 200 it will lack a sufficient mix of skills and the manpower to organize an adequate defense if it hits the fan. I also think that any town that has a population over 2,000 can become a powder keg and it could be every man for himself if the situation becomes desperate.
In my case, I went for a small town that has a population slightly above 2,000. The property we own is almost thirty miles out of town. It is however close to a farm owned by my father-in-law and most of my wife’s family still lives in town.
Here are the advantages of a small town retreat:
- Ready access to barter and commerce economy
- You are a member of the community and you will form alliances
- You can benefit from local agricultural payrolls and collective knowledge
- Ready access to local skills and medical facilities
- You can benefit from local security arrangements if the world breaks down
- Having a generation of family living in the same town will provide you with the needed work force for private projects
- You have access to social gatherings. It is an ideal place to raise your kids if you decide to make it a permanent living solution
Recommended article: 10 Preparedness skills you should master for self-sufficiency
When it comes to disadvantages, here are the things I’ve noticed:
- Privacy is somehow limited and if you need to transport bulky logistics, you would need to do it at odd hours to minimize observation from neighbors.
- Fuel storage may be limited in certain towns and you need to consult the local ordinances on storage before you but the new property.
- You can’t test fire your guns at your own property
- Hunting may be limited on your land, except perhaps some small game and pests
- You may be limited from keeping livestock and you need to check with your local ordinances
- Greater risk of communicable diseases
- Greater risk of burglary if it hits the fan
- Poor sanitation in the event of a grid down scenario, unless you live in a town that has a gravity-fed water system
Although we do not have a completely isolated retreat since we are In the vicinity of the town, there are a few advantages we can benefit from:
- We have more room for gardening, pasturing and growing row crops if it would come to that.
- We can keep livestock
- Isolated retreats can be bought for lower house and land prices. Our retreat was cheaper as the owner (he inherited from his father) lives in the city and he sold it to us below the market price.
- We can stock up in quantity without fearing the watchful eyes of nosy neighbors. My father-in-law is our closest neighbor.
- An isolated bug out location allows you to test-fire and zero your guns
- We can build with nontraditional architecture and we don’t worry about building permits
- There is better sanitation if the grid goes down since we don’t have to worry about polluting neighbors.
Recommended article: Choosing land for an Off-grid or Bug Out Location
- Hunting on our land is not a problem
- We can cut our own firewood if needed
- We have a much lower risk of communicable diseases
- Collecting rainwater isn’t a problem and we can improvise all sort of rain catching systems.
- We have unlimited fuel storage options. The former owner had an underground cistern installed that is just waiting to be filled with fuel.
It might sound like a dream location, but there are a few disadvantages of choosing an isolated bug out location:
- We realized that our bug out location is difficult to maintain and defend for just one family, especially if it’s a small family
- In the event of a fire or medical emergency, we cannot depend on much help from neighbors or law enforcement.
- We are somehow isolated from day to day commerce or barter
- A longer commute to shopping and church
- No social interaction if we plan to make it a permanent living location
Suggested reading: Off-grid limitations that no one tells you about
A careful analysis of the preceding lists will help you decide which approach is right for you. All considering your stage in life, your family situation and your own preparations for the potential events to come. Living off-grid and isolated requires hard work and determination. If you’re not the type of person that manages to figure things out and make them work, you might want to look for a small town retreat.
Recommended off the grid and Preparedness solutions:
The LOST WAYS (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)
US Water Revolution (A DIY Project to Generate Clean Water Anywhere)
Bullet Proof Home (Learn how to Safeguard your Home)
Blackout USA (Video about EMP survival and preparedness guide)
4 thoughts on “Choosing A Bug Out Location – Small Town Versus Isolated Retreats”
We chose a retirement location that is seven miles from town. One thing you did not mention is looking for land with fertile, tillable soil. If we had thought through that aspect more, we could have been in the same general area, but with sandy loam closer to the Red River instead of black land prairie clay. We weren’t in the “bugout” frame of mind then. We have struggled with gardening and amending soil ever since. In all other aspects, we are pretty similar to following your advice in the article.
Another issue to watch for. Many small towns have poor job opportunities and a high level of poverty. Old fashioned, self sufficient poverty would be ok, but if they are dependent on the government then they may run out of resources quickly. Most live check to check.
Another “small town” issue is the fact that locals don’t look kindly on transplanted folks. In the author’s case, there is family history and roots in that area. Most small town folk, though outwardly nice, will look on you as an outsider if you have less than 3 generations in the area.
Many small towns do suffer from high unemployment & poverty. Hand in hand with that goes high instances of drug abuse. The last thing we need in a bug-out situation is to have to deal with meth heads & “pill-billies”.