The Nuclear Bunker Might Be Overkill: Short-Term Bugout Locations In The UK

Part of our series on UK Bugout Strategy

It’s all well and good having a bug out bag, but if you don’t have somewhere to bug out to, then you’re going to be walking for a while.

A lot of prepper and survival sites will talk about bug-out locations and they can provide some really great information and advice, but since those articles often deal with a self-sufficient survival retreat in the remote mountains, I feel like they might be expensive overkill for a lot of situations. In the event of total societal collapse, a self-sufficient retreat would be great, but you don’t need to spend that sort of money to be ready to escape the sharp end of local, regional and even country-wide disasters.

Here’s a quick guide on some short-term bugout locations you could look into so that you and your group have somewhere safe to call home for the days or weeks it would take to get a short-term disaster under control.

For a larger-scale disaster, or (God forbid) a collapse, your group will probably require a more traditionally “prepper-y” bug out location – so take a look at our Establishing A Long-Term UK Bugout Location article (article under construction) for that!

What Do I Mean By “Short-Term” Bug Out?

For some emergencies, like a burning warehouse releasing toxic smoke over your home, you may be able to safely return within a few days. For others, like the flooding we see almost every year in the North, it could be anywhere between a week and a month before the waters recede. As climate change takes effect, even exotic disasters like wildfires are coming to our shores – in April 2021, a huge gorse fire burned the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland and did massive amounts of damage. Disasters like this, though, don’t require the same response that an end-of-the-world scenario would.

Wildfire, chemical fire, or heating failure due to winter storm? -> Short-term bug out.

Nuclear winter? -> Probably not a short-term bug out.

What Makes A Good Short-Term UK Bug Out Location?

A good short-term bug out location is, obviously, away from the disaster site, but that’s not the only consideration you’ll need to account for. Since you’re outside the radius of the disaster, you should have access to the same civilisational advantages as you’re used to – clean water, available food, shelter etc.

However, just in case it wasn’t clear, you want your bug-out location to ideally meet the following standards:

Easy To Get To – a bug-out journey shouldn’t take you more than 3-5 days on foot. You’ll ideally have a vehicle, which will shorten journey time enormously, but you don’t want to rely on that. Blocked roads, blown tyres, rough terrain – at the end of the day, there are too many ways for that vehicle to fail you, and you may have to hoof it.

This means that ideally, your bugout location will only be 30-60 miles away from your home, depending on how fit you are and how far you think you’ll be able to walk in a day. My advice is always to underestimate yourself – plan for a smaller amount of miles per day than you’re actually able to do, and that will help you to account for blockages and delays on the road, possible injury, etc.

Friendly Territory – there’s little point bugging out if you’re only heading towards more danger. Make sure that the location you’re headed to is hospitable and able to take you in. If you’re headed for a relative’s home, make sure you’ve arranged ahead of time to stay there and that they’re actually in a position to shelter you!

Shelter Available – shelter from the elements is a primary and urgent survival need, and that’s as true in the mild UK as it is anywhere else. Even if it’s just a tent in your backpack, make sure you’ll be able to get a roof over your head when you arrive at your destination, keep the rain off, and get warm.

Access To Clean Water – hopefully this will be easy, if you make it outside the disaster zone, but in the event that the water isn’t safe there either, you’ll be glad that you’ve got water filtration or purification capacity in your bugout bag.

Access To Food – ditto for water. You’re limited in how much you can reasonably carry and may find it hard to bushcraft your way into more, considering lots of other displaced people may be doing the same thing. Make sure you’re able to gather more food once you’re there, although for a local, short-term bug out, this should just entail a trip to the shops.

Access To Medical Care – this might not seem immediately important, but that’s because you’re not sick or injured right now. If you’re going to a developed area, make sure you can access healthcare there, and if you’re leaving the UK to shelter somewhere else, make sure to have your documents in order to make sure you’re not turned away at a hospital.

If you’re bugging out to a campsite or retreat, then healthcare weighs heavier on your shoulders – make sure you’ve got a really good first aid kit and plenty of medications, as you may not have access to anything else.

Able To Communicate With The Outside World – you need to be able to tell when it’s safe to return home, or you’ll still be camping at your bug-out location while your neighbours are living their normal lives again.


The Home Of A Relative Or Friend

UK bugout strategy
An extra-great option if your brother lives here, which I assume he does.

Definitely the cheapest option on here, and possibly even the most pleasant – just make sure that your friend or family member actually agreed to take you in, and that they’re able to house you. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises after a 5-day through hike out of a disaster.

A Hotel or B&B

There’s just something about Premier Inn that makes you feel like you’re on the run, isn’t there? It’s like they mostly exist to house the characters from No Country For Old Men. Jokes aside, though, a cheap hotel or B&B should have everything you need to survive a few weeks away from home, if you can afford it.

A Campsite

Camping as short term bugout solution UK
Look at how happy they are, you can barely tell that a flood has washed away their town.

Much more affordable than a hotel, but, on the flipside, you’ll be living in a tent. A lovely proposition in July, but less so in January, especially if you have young children. However, since the disaster you’ve fled from was a short-term one, you should be home within 8 weeks, and with a little experience and some camping know-how, there’s no reason why you can’t live well in a campsite until the disaster has passed. This is even more true if you have a campervan or caravan, in which case you’ll be enjoying better accommodation!

A Private Retreat

Odds are very low that you’ve got a private, fully-stocked, self-sufficient survival retreat somewhere out of the way that you and your group could escape to in the event of even a localized disaster, but hey, if you’ve got it, might as well bug out there. Not sure why you’re reading an article on bugging out to hotels and stuff if you’ve got one of those retreats, but I’m not your dad. You can do what you like.

Somewhere Out Of The UK

Short term bugout locations in the UK
One of the people on that plane is a crafty Start Prepping UK reader, and they will be surviving the disaster by chilling in an AirBnB in Italy.

I know I said that you need to be prepared to get to your bugout location on foot, but sometimes you need to get ALL THE WAY out of Dodge, and that might mean leaving the UK entirely until a countrywide problem is resolved. I don’t expect you to be able to walk to France.

You’ll need your bugout bag as usual to make it to the airport or dock that will serve as your escape route, and may need the supplies on the journey, but at the end of the day you’ll be heading for a completely unaffected country, so won’t need to worry about supplies at the end point – just money, same as if you were going on holiday. You don’t usually pack weeks of food and water in your suitcase when going away.

However, that’s also the downside – you need to be able to afford to live in the country you’ve arrived in until the disaster abates enough that you can return to the UK. Problems you may run into when attempting to live abroad after a bugout include:

  • Difficulty reaching the bug-out location as every Brit suddenly tries to flee the country at once
  • Price gouging from transporters or the locals if lots of British refugees arrive at once
  • Running out of money or inability to earn more while in the host country
  • Political fallout caused by exodus from the UK that may result in paperwork or expense
  • Incorrect permits or inability to get legal right to stay in the host country

If you’re considering bugging out of the country, you should research your possible haven ahead of time and lay all the groundwork you’d need to survive there for as long as you need to. Do you have a sympathetic friend or relative who has agreed ahead of time to take you in?

Can you work and earn money while in the host nation, or do you have the funds to coast by? You don’t want to wind up throwing yourself on the mercy of the local government.

What paperwork will you need in order to be able to stay? Remember, most short-term bugouts will only be for between a few days and few months, but in terms of visas, there’s a big difference between the two. Best to check the tourism requirements for your destination, and bear in mind that some short-term disasters could spiral into long-term ones in the same way that COVID-19 did.

Finally, once you’ve got all that sorted, you still have to get there.

This will probably mean journeying to an airport or dock, which, in disaster conditions, will be difficult. Make sure there is a plane or boat waiting for you when you get there, as it’s likely to be absolute pandemonium at these escape bottlenecks, and bring your bug-out bag even if you’re not expecting to need it at your destination – you’ll probably need it just to make it to the airport.

Whatever You Choose, Have Backups In Place

Backup bugout locations for UK preppers

I think planning for a possible bugout is fun, so it doesn’t bother me planning backup locations, and alternative bug-out options for if the disaster should spiral out of control.

Whether or not you find yourself researching backroads and hiking boots for fun, you should have backups too. What if you arrive at your relatives’ house to find that they’re in the middle of having work done and the house is unlivable? What if you arrive at the dock and there are no boats?

What if you make it to your destination, and it’s not safe either?

Make sure to plan at least 3 different routes to reach your end goal, and at least 2 alternative destinations, so you’re not caught out on the big day.

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