Bug Out Planning Techniques for a Quick Stealthy Escape

If the SHTF, you can bet that the preppers and non-preppers alike are going to head for the hills.

Many of those people trying to get out of dodge are going to jump in their cars and hit the road, causing quite a large traffic jam of sitting ducks.

If using a rugged bug out vehicle to escape down back roads not accessible to most cars, start now and plan your on-foot bug out plan & routes.

Make a Strategic Bug Out Plan

If it comes down to bugging out, where are you headed?

Have you done any research into your potential bug out destinations?

  • Do you have to drive there?
  • Can you walk there?
  • What is the population density of that area?
  • Will the population increase after SHTF?
  • Are there any barriers that can prevent you from getting there? Bridges, rivers, etc.
  • What or who will you encounter once you get there? Do you anticipate any surprises?

You should do some research into population densities in your area or in the area you plan to get to.

Here is a Population density by County map, obtained via a simple Google search.


Here’s a similar search using Google Images.

If you have to bug out, your best bet would be to aim for one of the less populated areas. Optimum areas may have less than 10 people per square mile. If that’s not realistic, try to get someplace with the least people possible, until you can figure out the situation and come up with a plan.

Once you have your destination in mind, make sure to have some maps of your area, so you can get there via multiple routes and by foot, if need be!

Bug out bag builder tool

Bug Out Planning

When it goes down, the main highways and roads are going to be full of cars and probably not moving. Add to that potential roadblocks and disabled vehicles and you no longer have traffic, you have parking lots.

If you plan to drive, make sure to have multiple routes, of secondary roads and back roads planned ahead of time.  Let’s take it even further.

Choose the Optimal Vehicle

Are you ready to bug out on a motorcycle, 4 wheeler, horse or bicycle? Incorporate a plan to use other methods.

The original occupants of this country used canoes to travel the nations water ways.  That might be a brilliant idea. Keep a canoe, or kayak (even an inflatable canoe or inflatable kayak) to give you a quick water escape. This method also allows you to keep moving, one person can paddle and navigate, while another sleeps or scans around for threats with binoculars, or a scoped rifle.

Even if you do have a boat, I believe eventually, that you are going to be walking.

Walking Routes

If you do your planning now you can be ready with multiple walking routes. I’m not talking about following the roads and highways that are jammed with cars, that’s what the non-preppers and future refugees will be doing.

I’m talking about traveling along other paths.

Rail Road Tracks

Railroad tracks and paths that were formerly used as rail roads crisscross the United States. It seems that rail travel has fallen from use, so many places have old paths, or tracks that the trains used to use.  If someone were to pick up some railroad maps, they could have a route planned along these paths to their bug out location, or at least to a place out of harms way. Remember that tracks lead to cities and civilizations, plan ahead to skirt the cities and pick up the tracks again, on the far side.

current freight rail road map
Current Freight Railways Map


There are  Rail Trails guidebooks for every region in the USA.  An interesting point to consider may be that even if you have to use old and dated railroad maps, they might just lead you to paths, that the updated rail maps no longer list, giving you your own private trail to follow.

Keep in mind, if you have a good eye, you can use Google Maps and Google Earth to follow paths , where train tracks used to exist. Rail ways leave some tell tale marks behind, even when their gone, and once you know what to look for, you can follow their former paths and use.

To do this you’ll want to know how to switch between the Map view and the Earth (satellite pictures) view. Look for the Map/Earth picture or icon in the lower left of the browser window.


toggle between google maps and google earth
This is what I’d click to switch to Google Earth view!


rail road tracks removed
Faint hint of former RR tracks

You can also use Google Earth or Google Maps to mark those old tracks and measure the distance you need to travel them to get from Point A to Point B. A good way to measure distance while traveling on foot is to use Ranger Beads or some other way to count your strides and measure distance.

google earth measure distance
Right Click on the map and select “Measure Distance” to start plotting your coarse.


Now we can follow these train tracks in Google Maps (or Google Earth), this also works well for canals, waterways, trails or any other path you might wish to follow.

rail road tracks distance
You can figure how far you need to travel before changing directions or arriving at your destination.


Canals were a huge part of our history, especially in the east. You could walk the old towpaths and follow the canals for very long distances. Two such canals would be the Erie Canal and the C&O Canal.

Map showing Present and Proposed Canal SystemLike railroad tracks, canals also lead to cities and civilizations, plan ahead to skirt the cities and pick up the canal again, on the far side. Get some guides for the canals in your area and start planning.

Canal Towpath
Canal Towpath


Hiking Trails

Unless you are a hiker, you will probably be surprised by the amount of the United States that you can cover by traversing trails. There is an entire National Trails System chock full of trails to get you where you need to go. Most national parks have maps and guidebooks available so you can grab the ones you need for your route.

national trail mapI would assume that even after SHTF you would encounter hikers on hiking trails, but I would assume that most of them feel right at home and pretty much escaping, the same way you are. They would have experience and their own gear so most of them would probably be pretty self sufficient.

Planning to Bug Out? Have you made a plan as to where you are going? What are your potential bug out destinations?

Final Thoughts

Take a little time to do some research online, use Google Maps or Google Earth to find low-use and unused railways and canals, and find more information about the hiking trails in your area or en-route to your bug out location, and plan your bug out routes now.

This gives you time to locate your routes and maybe even make a short trip along them to make a potential bug out a success.

3 thoughts on “Bug Out Planning Techniques for a Quick Stealthy Escape”

  1. Thank you for the map links! I never thought about the train tracks, big duh moment for me! Just wish I knew where we would be heading when bugging out!

  2. couple of resources for free maps of railroad locations that could prove useful in your planning ….



  3. I’ve got a copy of our state’s Atlas and Gazetter by Delorme. It has all the topographical maps of the state in one handy book. This way if the GPS or power ever goes out, I can still get out of town.


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