Where do you think is the best place to bug out to when the SHTF and you’re faced with a survival situation?
Which is the best and safest location for your family, a rural neighborhood or the wilderness?
The idea of living in the wilderness or somewhere in the woods is self-explanatory, but what exactly is a “rural neighborhood”? I define a rural neighborhood as a small residential community, located at least 50 miles away from a metropolis, and outside the limits of any nearby town or village. These are places where county laws apply. Some communities matching this description are gated or have restricted access.
Which is safer?
Both options have pros and cons, and I’ll try to cover everything you may face at each location.
Pros & Cons for Both
A rural neighborhood and a shack in the wilderness are ideally located to escape the immediate effects of a devastating attack. Both are remote enough to reduce, if not eliminate, any direct impact from a chemical attack. And both are probably safe from follow up attacks as well.
If a biological attack were to occur, being so far away from a major population center may help insulate your community. However, this will only slow the spread of the contagion because members of the community may be exposed through work in a nearby city or metropolis, as we’ve seen with Covid-19.
The only way a rural community will stand a greater chance of being protected from a biological attack is if a massive nuclear assault happens at the same time. The immediate reduction of population caused by the nukes, when combined with the disease, will hopefully slow or stop it before contaminated survivors reach your community. Remember that no community is 100% protected, and one day the disease will reach your community.
I just hope our failure with Covid-19 and its variants don’t haunt us when a true biological attack occurs.
Another good thing about both locations is that your neighbors will likely possess firearms. Having armed neighbors adds to the area’s overall security, and serves as a deterrent against would-be robbers, looters, and vandals. A local militia can be formed to protect the community from hostile outsiders who may attack or steal resources.
Rural Neighborhood – Pros
More Eyes = Security
Ordinary people are less likely to commit a crime if someone is watching, because the possibility of intervention is too great. Even if nobody is present, the threat of witnesses coming out of the woodwork has prevented many crimes in the past. However, you shouldn’t rely on these passive security concepts once people start getting desperate.
Once supplies run out and ordinary people become desperate, raiders will come and try to take what little resources your community has. Thankfully, your neighbors will probably be armed and will make it easier to form a militia to defend the community.
Point of Entry
Most rural residential communities have limited entry points, which should make it easier to predict where intruders may enter. With that said, don’t focus your entire defense on the obvious points of entry. You need to interview your neighbors to locate commonly used trails and start patrolling those areas.
Another benefit to a rural community is that many of your neighbors probably don’t live there permanently. Those neighbors have a home in the city and may not survive the journey to their second home. This adds to the looting potential… I must stress that the community, as a whole, must agree to break into vacant homes to loot and distribute any resources found within. Everything must be transparent, and an accurate account of supplies acquired must be recorded.
There can’t be any question as to what was taken and later distributed because that will cause suspicion of hoarding or favoritism. I’d also recommend the community be prepared for the possibility that an owner may return. If that happens, the community should reimburse the owner for the “lost” resources.
Rural Neighborhood – Cons
What makes a neighborhood safe, can also backfire…
You must remain vigilant against busy-bodies because those are the neighbors who’re most likely to stir shit up and rally others in the community against whatever the cause of the day is. They will try to organize community programs and publicly shame those who don’t participate in their pet projects.
The danger you must watch out for happens when those busy-bodies try to force an entire neighborhood to pull resources, just to carry their dead-weight. If these people are given any position of power, they may trespass onto your property to conduct a “safety check” or “resident survey”. That may sound innocent, but they’re true goal is to spy on you and your property and see if there’s anything valuable worth stealing. When public shaming doesn’t work, they will rally your most desperate neighbors into a communist uprising against you.
Everyone’s a Capitalist when times are good and they have a nice 401k, but when the SHTF, they all think it’s a grand idea to be a Commie.
The Wilderness – Pros
The chances of someone finding your home in the middle of an overgrown forest aren’t very high. This inherent seclusion adds to security because would-be looters can’t steal what they can’t find. Even if your home is in the open desert, the likelihood that someone will trek out to your remote hideaway are low.
Since there’s so few neighbors, that should mean only a few people know the lay of the land. You and your family will know where to stash supplies and where to hide if being pursued. Ideally, this should also mean you’ll know where the best places are to set up boobytraps.
Living off the Land
Living in the wilderness means you’ll have more land available for foraging, hunting, and farming. If you have an acreage in the woods, you can lay out traps for small animals and forage for nuts, berries, and other edible vegetation. You can clear some land to grow a farm, or use a natural clearing.
Room to Expand
If you’re the trusting sort or know someone trustworthy with the skills to survive, you may have extra space so they can move in with you. I’m not willing to take that risk with a stranger. At least not until I know the person’s character and have developed some sort of working relationship.
The Wilderness – Cons
Access to Medicine
Having a home in the wilderness means getting help during an emergency will be much harder than living in a community, which may have a doctor and medical supplies.
If you’re bit or stung by a venomous creature, or have a heart attack, you could die before reaching medical assistance. Or, if you slip or trip down a steep hill and break a leg, you will have to perform first aid and make the journey to the nearest known medic… in agony.
If you suffer a minor injury and don’t know where to find treatment, you may be forced to let your body heal itself. Humans have been getting injured for millennia and the body knows how to put minor breaks back together again. The drawback to letting a fracture heal without professional assistance is that it may not heal correctly.
Living in the middle of the woods will help keep your home hidden, but the rough terrain will mean that any intruder willing to venture into the woods could come from any direction. It’ll be up to you and your family to ward off those intruders and secure the property.
Remember when I said that raiders will eventually come to steal resources? Living outside of a community means you may be on your own to defend yourself when they attack. If there’s some sort of radio or sound-based alarm system, help may not arrive fast enough to save you and your family.
If you don’t own the land, you’re technically a squatter. What used to be called “squatters-rights” won’t exist if the SHTF. If the original owners of the property show up and demand that you leave, you have the moral obligation to do so. You could try to negotiate with the owner and ask to stay a bit longer as a guest, but be prepared to leave if they refuse.
Alternately, what happens if it takes several days to reach your bug-out location and you find squatters living on your land? It’ll be up to you to evict these trespassers who’ve been mooching off your hard-earned preparedness. I’m writing an article on this subject and hope to post it in a week or so.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to living out on your own or within a community. You should be cognizant of the problems you may face when making your bug out plans or buying a property with this type of scenario in mind.
Personal circumstances may make it impossible for you to choose where you’ll evacuate. Especially, if you cannot afford to purchase a second home or property, or don’t have family to take you in. Regardless of the situation, it’s always good to be prepared for what may happen… wherever you end up.
 True Bio-Attack: Some people hypothesis that Covid-19 was a soft attack against the western world. I will only mention this possibility because it certainly seems interesting that China and other totalitarian countries fared the best during the outbreak.
 Disclaimer: I do not condone or advise anyone to commit any crime.
 Resident Survey: When I lived in a large apartment complex, I once caught a maintenance worker inside my home “checking for water-leaks”. The overly nervous worker finished his token search and left. I noticed some things were missing, and changed the locks on the door when the facility said it wasn’t going to do anything to fix the problem.
 Desert: I’ve always been a huge fan of Frank Herbert’s: Dune series. While becoming a “desert creature” has a certain appeal, I’m too “water fat”. There aren’t any nearby deserts to make it practical, so I’m not trained to survive in a desert environment.
Much of the information contained my survival articles will not apply to desert survivalism.
 Edible Vegetation: If you don’t know if it’s edible, DO NOT EAT IT. That includes but is not limited to: fungi, berries, flowers, nuts, or any other part of a plant (root, leaf, or stem). Nature can be tricky, some parts of a perfectly edible plant can be poisonous.
 Medical Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and any perceived advice in this work needs to be regarded at the same level as an “old wives’ cure” or as part of fiction.
 Alarm: Bells have been ringing for millennia. They’ve been used to warn of pending attacks, natural disasters… and dinner.
 Squatters-Rights: This legal protection of criminal trespassers should never have existed in the first place.