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Shelter: Choosing a Location

Grassy Bunker

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When it comes to having a shelter in which to ride out a collapse of society, that location is probably more crucial than what sort of structure you build.

  • Distance From Major Population Centers:  Prepper experts such as Scott Hunt envision that heavily populated metropolitan areas would quickly become cauldrons of chaos in the event of a breakdown of society. So ideally, a prepper wants to be as far away from those places as possible. Modernsurvivalblog.com provides this U.S. population density map as a guide. Hunt, however, advises that living in a small town, where a prepper has strong bonds with like-minded neighbors, is a viable alternative to hiding out in the wilderness.
  • Can the Site Be Defended?  We might think that being on high ground would give preppers an advantage against attackers, but Hunt says that a settlement on an elevation is easy for potential attackers to spot. “It’s easy to see those lights on top of a hill,” he explains. Additionally, if a hillside compound lacks energy sources, water and fertile soil, preppers eventually are going to have to venture outside their defensible perimeter, making them vulnerable. It’s better to pick a low-lying site that has adequate resources. Ideally, the site should be big enough that the actual dwelling can have a substantial open area around it, so that attackers can be spotted before they have a chance to get to your door. SurvivalRealty.com offers a listing of real estate agents and properties suitable for prepper retreats.
  • Access to Water Resupply Sources: Hunt says that picking a property with access to potable water is a must. But don’t just assume that because there’s a well on the property, the water is safe to drink. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here’s a guide to private ground water wells.
  • Food Sustainability:  You not only need both space to plant, but also soil that’s fertile enough to grow crops. That’s why it’s vital to have soil samples tested by a reliable professional lab before you buy a property. You want to look at factors such as the levels of organic matter in the soil, which indicate its ability to contain nutrients, soil pH, and cation exchange capacity, the measure of the soil’s ability to retain calcium, magnesium, potassium, and nitrogen combined with ammonium. Seeds of Change provides this guide to conducting and understanding soil tests.
  • Energy Resources.  Unless you’re planning to revert to an early 19th-century lifestyle, you need the ability to generate electricity to power appliances, tools and communications equipment, and a source of heat for staying warm in wintertime, cooking, and sterilizing water is crucial to survival. Hunt preaches the desirability of having multiple options for energy. Look for a property that allows your shelter to have southern exposure to the Sun will allow you to generate electricity from solar panels. How much energy you can get out of solar depends upon your region, as well; the U.S. Department of Energy offers this solar energy potential map that shows how different areas across the nation stack up. Additionally, Energybible.com advises you to take a look at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s regional wind map for your area and determine typical average wind speeds. If you have an average wind speed of at least 10 miles per hour, that’s enough to power a small turbine for generating electricity. If you’ve got a stream on your property, you also may be able to harvest hydroelectric power from it. This how-to article on the Green Energy Ohio website notes that you need a drop of at least two feet in the falling water, and a high volume of water flow for it to work. If you’ve got the right conditions, though, the article notes that a typical micro-hydro turbine can generate as much as 30 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, which is two to three times what the average American home uses.

If You Only Do Three Things:

  • Pick a spacious spot in a valley, with a stream and woods nearby. That way, you’ve got security, water and a potential energy source.
  • Check out the water and soil. You’re not going to survive for long, if you don’t have potable water to drink. And if you can’t grow food, ditto.
  • The further away from big cities, the better. Hunt and other prepper experts predict that heavily populated metropolitan areas will become the most dangerous places to be.


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2 comments
Erik Hawes
Erik Hawes

I live in Oregon, is there any location that stands out that would work best for me living off the grid?  I'm looking for undeveloped land, and i'm very new at all of this and need to learn a lot.  Any suggestions for sites or places to help me get more prepared'?

Crystal Mccoy
Crystal Mccoy

where in Nelsonville Ohio would it be safest? and i have a bug out location in the middle of Hocking Hills that is surrounded by a fence would that be a good spot and should i have an underground shelter there? and what can we expect?