BUG OUT: Staying Away From High Density Population Centers

Major Population Centers

When choosing a Bugout Location, one of the primary factors in picking a site should be the population density of that location. In my opinion, the farther you are away from large areas of people, the safer you will be.

Why Avoiding Big Cities During Bug-Out Disasters is Crucial

When planning to bug out, making the right decisions can be a matter of life or death. When it comes to bug-out scenarios, the importance of strategic planning and avoiding potential hazards should be oe of your top concerns – one of the biggest threats will be highly-populated urban centers.

We’ve talked about this many times in the past, but I think it’s worth repeating; during an all-out collapse scenario, people will likely become one of the largest threats to your safety and security. During a societal collapse situation, areas with the highest population densities will be the most vulnerable to high levels of social unrest and crime, will experience the highest likelihood for epidemics and disease, and will see the highest death tolls due to lack of resources and sanitation.

Top Threats in Big Cities that Make Them a Threat to Your Survival

Big City Threats

1. Overwhelmed Infrastructure:

Big cities are built for convenience and efficiency. However, when disaster strikes, the same systems that keep big cities running will quickly become their downfall. The sheer concentration of people means that infrastructure, such as roads, utilities, grocery stores, and emergency services, will be quickly overwhelmed. Trying to bug out after things go bad or attempting to move through crowded streets and highways will expose you to a large number of threats.

2. Limited Resources and Supplies:

In times of crisis and social unrest, demand for essential resources is going to go through the roof. Panic buying and people stockpiling shit they do not need will lead to a rapid depletion of supplies, leaving little for those who waited until the last minute. Accessing food, water, medical aid, and other necessities will become a life-or-death challenge. In contrast, rural and less densely populated areas of the country are more likely to have natural resources, such as freshwater sources and wildlife, providing better opportunities for self-sufficiency.

3. Heightened Security Risks:

During bug-out scenarios, people will become desperate and, in all likelihood, will quickly resort to violence or looting to secure what they need. With their tightly packed neighborhoods and limited escape routes, big cities can become breeding grounds for lawlessness and chaos. As a prepper, your primary concern is to protect yourself and your loved ones from being caught in a chaotic urban environment where you increase your vulnerability to crime and social unrest.

4. Communication Breakdowns:

Even small-scale disasters can cause a city’s communication systems to collapse or become overloaded. In cities, where reliance on technology is high, loss of communication can be particularly devastating. Staying informed about the disaster or threats, receiving emergency alerts, or coordinating with fellow preppers may become impossible in urban settings. Choosing rural areas with a smaller population ensures better chances of staying connected and informed.

5. Exposure to Health Risks:

Crowded cities are breeding grounds for contagious diseases, especially during disasters when sanitation and healthcare may be compromised. People in big cities are far more likely to be subjected to exposure to infected people or contaminated surroundings during a biological attack.

When preparing for bug-out disasters, the significance of avoiding big cities cannot be overstated. When choosing a bug out location or survival retreat, we recommend staying as far away from these high density population centers as possible. To get an idea of where these areas are, and which areas are the best locations to Bug Out to, check out these maps and satellite images.

Population Maps

Population density maps

Approximately 65 percent of the U.S. population, or nearly 2 out of every 3 Americans, live in the red line, known as the “100 Mile Border Zones.”

U.S. counties with lowest density, people per squre mile (2020)

1. Yukon-Koyukuk (Alaska) – 0.03
2. Lake and Peninsula (Alaska) – 0.06
3. Yakutat (Alaska) – 0.10
4. North Slope (Alaska) – 0.10
5. Denali (Alaska) – 0.16
6. Northwest Arctic (Alaska) – 0.21
7. Esmeralda (Nevada) – 0.25
8. Dillingham (Alaska) – 0.26
9. Garfield (Montana) – 0.26
10. Kenedy (Texas) – 0.28
11. Loving (Texas) – 0.28
12. Southeast Fairbanks (Alaska) – 0.29
13. Terrel (Texas) – 0.30
14. King (Texas) – 0,30
15. Petroleum (Montana) – 0,30
16. Harding (New Mexico) – 0,37
17. Carter (Montana) – 0,43
18. Nome (Alaska) – 0,44
19. Bethel (Alaska) – 0,49
20. Lincoln (Nevada) – 0.49

U.S. counties with highest population density, people per square mile (2020)

1. New York (New York) – 70828.33
2. Kings (New York) – 42513.96
3. Bronx (New York) – 35088.64
4. Queens (New York) – 21162.42
5. San Francisco (California) – 18352.05
6. Hudson (New Jersey) – 11888.95
7. Suffolk (Massachusetts) – 11682.96
8. District of Columbia (District of Columbia) – 10799.44
9. Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) – 10772.01
10. Manassas Park (Virginia) – 10407.00
11. Richmond (New York) – 9875.76
12. Arlington (Virginia) – 9285.96
13. Alexandria (Virginia) – 9201.19
14. Baltimore City (Maryland) – 6866.38
15. Essex (New Jersey) – 6168.09
16. Cook (Illinois) – 5301.71
17. Union (New Jersey) – 5150.45
18. Norfolk (Virginia) – 5026.96
19. Nassau (New York) – 4954.24
20. Harrisonburg (Virginia) – 4765.16

No matter what disaster hits, facing it in a large city is going to be a whole lot harder than facing it in a rural area. From breakdowns in delivery systems that will make it impossible to find food and water, to rampant looting and crime that will make living in the city a threat to your personal safety and security, the fact is most Major American cities are unsustainable death traps.

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  1. Did you know Montana is probably high on any bomb list due to the small and little known Coast Guard Facility which in the center for all positioning (non satellite) for our military.

  2. Although a good start, I would recommend finding a population by county map instead of by state. For example I know the UP of Michigan is NOT that populated as this map shows

    • The UP is i great location (I live in SW Michigan and frequently vacation in the UP) but unless your traveling by boat you have to travel through the Whole state or come in through Wisconsin. And Grayling is home to the largest Army Reserve base in the country. And you have to be Prepared for the Winters. thats what will kill you.

      • i too live in the SW Michigan area. But you dont always have to go to the UP. some places outside of Ludington where one of my families cabins are located the area around the 5 acre spread is state forest for miles. This gives us a perfect area to hunker down.

  3. I’m interested by the picture of Australia (third photo) – the large area of high population just west of centre covers the Great Sandy Desert, the Gibson Desert and the Great Victoria Desert – probably one of the least populated areas of Australia. It’s also some of the least inhabitable land in Australia for humans.

    • That was investigated by NASA, BOM etc and the reason for the lights was due to fires and some other factors. They are going to make another photo soon that uses advanced technology and software to provide a better picture of population density. As well North Korea in some photos looks very dark yet that doe snot show actual population density.

  4. The original source of this picture stated that some of these light sources may be from fires, just to answer those that have questioned the areas with light

  5. First rule of not getting hurt in a fight is to avoid it, so distance really is your friend. But it may not be necessary to go into the Utah or Nevada deserts for safety.

    Remember, all those city folk you worry about will be fighting everybody else on their way out, so many won’t make it. Others will try to loot in the burgs and get taken out there. And since the roads will quickly choke with wrecks and break downs and cars out of gas, many will not get out to where you are. So it may not be necessary to have your nearest town too far away – in fact you might be safer in some tiny country town where there would be neighbors to help create a decent defensive sized force. I just don’t think we can predict with any accuracy, as we don’t really know what scenario will play out.

    That doesn’t mean ‘do nothing’. It means stay flexible, try to have a Plan B, and a Plan C, maybe even a Plan D. It means if you already live in deep boonies, you’re lucky – and probably safe.

    • I live in the booneys in Nevada. Close to the California border, and while it is very remote in the sense of, it’s not Vegas, we still have other issues. For instance, I am surrounded on all sides by the Federal Government. Nellis Airforce takes up a vast majority of southern Nevada, and from there you have the much fabled “Area 51” throughout pretty much the entire central part of Nevada. Mix that in with the Army bases up to the north of us and the Death Valley National park, with their growing rules and regulations, to the south, and I am pretty much the exact opposite of where I want to be. Which is out of Government reach. Or at least out of the reach of everyone who hates our government.

      We are a family of 4. The hubby and I and our 2 young children. We are in our early planning stages of going off grid completely. Our time frame is looking like next year. We want to be on our land with at least a basic dwelling and a garden ready to go for it’s beginning planting phases by early to mid March of 2015. We are obese and lazy right now, and the children, already entitled. We just can’t look at our lives and family and feel proud, how we are living right now. Both the hubby and I have had to survive before. He has lived in Arizona on 40 acres with nothing but a well for months at a time. I lived in a tent with my parents for a good portion of my childhood. Going back and forth every 2 weeks to the different state parks where we could camp (live) for free. I could prepare a full meal over an open fire by the time I was my daughters age, and wash all of our clothes in a basin with a board by the time I was her age also. She, however, can’t even make ramen in the microwave.
      I have watched beef being slaughtered and processed many times, but I have never done it myself. Definitely learning and practicing on that before we go out. We can both fish and are both a decent shot. I have spent the better part of my adult life, designing blue prints and floor plans out of pure hobby. Never went to school for it, but have drawn plans and helped successfully build sheds and outhouses. Persons got to start somewhere, right?
      Yep yep. We can’t take any of it anymore. The government, the broken schools, the rat race to get no where. You know, you can’t even home school your child without assistance and approval from the government? Without the proper “documents” and planned lessons approved by whoever, I will be considered neglectful to my kids if I teach them at home, and subject to “family court involvement”. Crazy.
      Yeah, were headed out. It’s scary as all get out. Terrifying. But I know we can do it. And, it’s quickly becoming a world where we might have to live this way to stay alive anyways, so why not start now. That’s the way I see it.

  6. Elevation counts too. Sitting up on a steep mountain significantly cuts down on cruising looters and encyclopedia salesmen even when there’s still fuel to go around and in densely populated states.

    • SchemaByte – good point, and one I should have made. In fact, any hostile environment will help protect you – mountains, swamps, deserts. So distance from population and ‘rugged’ terrain would be primo considerations (to include water sources of course).

      It was not lost on my that a Serbian officer whose name I have forgotten was wanted by the World Court for years, and managed to live openly (until the EU pressure got to his country) in a mountainous forested area of what was once Yugoslavia. Nobody could find him prior to that.

      There was also Eric Rudolph, who managed to ‘hide’ for a half dozen or more years in North Carolina’s mountains. Even his former special forces guys couldn’t find him. Then he got stupid and was caught by a local LEO dumpster diving….

      So I agree entirely, rugged and remote are the best places.

  7. Just getting out of California’s LA Basin area was a boon for us…besides having high illegal immigrant population (from all countries, but predominately Mexico) it also has an overburdened utility system. Imagine having just 1% of 15,000,000 people walk through your neighborhood trying to find food, shelter, anything to survive- at your expense! …that’s 150,000 people!

    • 150k looters is too many to fight. Again, distance is your friend.

      But even if only 1% of those get to you, you’re going to need lots of ammo and should probably have redundant replacement parts for your weapons, as well as redundant weapons unless you can (e.g.) replace a firing pin quickly while under fire.

  8. Hey all, Bugging out is a great idea. Or not? There are many reasons why you don’t see lights in those parts of the country. No one’s there because nothing IS there. If you don’t die where you are you will most like find death when you get to where you might think none of the other millions of city dwellers are headed. Your first safe bet is to make your starting location your most familiar and strongest defend-able position. Prepare for the worst, let the hordes do the migrating and have a plan for what to do and where to go next. Even the most isolated and seemingly impossible to find location in Utah, Idaho or some obscure National Forest will be found and overrun. What do you think the nonpreppers plan to do? Nothing until it’s time to come and find you and take what you have. The farther I go from where I am in the SF Bay Area means hundreds of miles of more cities and towns and the routes that will be choked with desperate travelers.

  9. I think moving out of the big city was a great thing for me. I did not do it for bug out purposes or prepping, it just happened that way. Now I live approx 11 mi from the closest small town on 600+ ac. We are basically self sufficient: cows, goats, gardens, well water and many natural springs. It’s not only my safe place but it’s home and in the event of SHTF, hopefully we will be safe for a while at least! But we still have a plan “B” & “C” – never be without a backup plan!

  10. I for one, will be heading to the cold north. i have enough equipment and training to survive the harsh cold for at least a year. My thinking is most people will want to head to where its warmer, not colder. Thats plan A anyways lol.

  11. Forget the bug out. A 9 to 12 heavily armed organized team that has trained together can defend a prepared location from looters and such. This team needs to be able to fire and manuever as a two team force and must have some in the group that can provide marksman, sniper and rapid fire overwatch. The greatest fear would if the opposing force was the military or SWAT.

  12. Don’t run, organize able bodies quickly (or have a plan in place) and stock up early. If you have a sizeable force, target a highrise building that has several stairwells to occupy and serve as a base of operations. Don’t advertise your guarded position, but be prepared to defend it when the bad guys arrive. I watch Falling Skies.

  13. Absorb individuals and families that have moral value and contibute into your group. Drive off or destroy all the rest. Grow and retake ground (like the next highrise or house next to your location. As more people join your group your capability to expand your perimeter will grow. Create that buffer of safety.

    • I agree… strength in numbers. I think people have to be careful not to avoid diversity. The synergy of a mixed group of people with varied interests, strengths, and knowledge can only increase a group’s chances of survival. But personally, from your comments, regardless of the strength of contribution, I’d want to be nowhere near you or your group. I like to think me and mine are more likely to survive if we avoid gang warfare.

  14. Sadly, As a retired police officer from NY who survived both WTC attacks (93,2001) I moved my family to the south to a very low populated area. I did it quietly and used excuses such as better cost of living, Etc. But, the real reason was because I know the next attack will be a nuke, no doubt in my mind and NYC was not the place I wanted to be. Be aware folks, if you are living in these places GET OUT NOW.

    • I had a brief talk with a retired ATF agent – who claimed to “be in the know” with a variety of federal agencies. He sounded legit and not boastful. He mentioned that he was looking for land locally and I mentioned a pretty part of the county, gently rolling, not many neighbors, and he said it was too close to the coast. I was surprised as we are 5 miles from a bay, near the coast, and 100 feet up. He said that was not enough… now I’m worried!

      • You know, I’m actually politically pretty Liberal. I’m also a 55 year old Bachelor (cynical about permanent squeezes-lol) and an Internal Medicine Physician. But I find the topic of WTSHTF and TEOTWAWKI fascinating. I read “Break in Case of Emergency” which I know is sort of a Junk survival book. I agree that nukes or bioweapons, or just multiple attacks on planes by Al Qaeda and ISIS will not necessarily kill millions outright, but FUBAR up the Economy to such a degree that folks will get Desperate and Animalistic, sort of a Katrina on Steroids Countrywide. The Question is whether to build a Cabin near a major river tributary, and use a bass boat and pickup to bring in supplies, or get a pickup with a camper cap and park it camoflaged in woods somewhere. Baked beans, spam, and canned fruits and veggies to keep me going for a few Decades. OTOH, I could try to sneak into Canada and live off the land near Great Slave Lake.

  15. I find this thread very interesting. Upon reading I took from what I thought was the best, and dismissed the worst. Bugging Out seems smart, but nothing far enough to deplete your entire fuel tank. I think terrain is very important, as well as a plan to cover at least a week (in case you need to move on for further resources). I have an Native American reservation 15 minutes from me and know many of the tribal members. There’s only 2 entrances and not easily traveled. Mountain ranges on both sides far to difficult for looters to ascend. Access to a lake which is the only access a highly motivated looter would have. But even then, they got a lot of Natives to deal with. Approximately 10.5 acres to every 1 resident.

  16. Like some people have already said, the stupid people will, sadly, ‘take care’ of themselves. By the time people manage to filter out of those bright areas on the map, they will have already been killing each other and possibly even starving, if they refuse to leave the city. We have to worry about the people who actually know what they’re doing. That means military personnel and any trained survivalist. But you don’t have to worry about sharing resources with America’s millions. Just organize yourselves to defend against looters, and stay hidden if you can.

  17. There is an interesting concept known as the “drop dead distance”. How far can an average person travel from a town/city before he drops dead…following a SHTF situation.
    It is surprisingly low. 20 miles. By the time people realize they have to get out.. they are hungry and weak. Travel is dangerous..it will not be safe to walk openly on the roads. They will have to carry a pack of supplies. MOST people are not fit. So they will not get far.
    Distance and being hidden and with difficult access is your friend. If you normally need 4WD to get to your site.. that is good. All this will save you having to constantly “defend” yourself… and get on with surviving which will be hard enough.
    Having said that.. it is not that easy to find such a site. Ideally it is on the back 40 of a rural property at the end of a dirt road. The back 40 is at the edge of a large state forest.

  18. The great thing about where I live is there is about 500,000 or so people in the whole state. And I live 45 mins from the mountains, where we go camping in every weekend and do some survival skills. I have even taught my 8 yr girl and 5 yr old boy some basic skills both for in town and in the mountains

  19. While I agree the big cities won’t be the best place to hole up here is what I know. As a hunter I see the increase in people in the field during the seasons, they are pretty much everywhere. Multiply this by many times when the SHTF and people exit the big cities. The point is there will be almost nowhere that won’t be occupied. Only desolate places where there are no resources like water, wood, or game will there be fewer people. The Zombies are coming and they are armed to the teeth!

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