Hiding Out in the Forest - A Quick Guide to Not Being Found
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A lot of preppers have plans to "bug out" from their urban or suburban location and travel to a "retreat" location which they have pre-prepared in a more rural area. This is a much better plan than to have no preps at all, or only have preps at your highly-populated suburb of residence. Ideally you would already live at your rural location, however this is not practical for everyone, especially those who don't have any money to purchase somewhere rural and/or have strong ties (such as family members) living in a city that you can't convince to move yet.
After listening to a lot of preppers, I've formed the opinion that there's a lot of overconfidence in people's ability to travel from a city or suburb to a safe and pre-arranged bugout location after a severe collapse of society. This is a difficult journey. By leaving your familiar home, you're becoming a refugee. An asylum seeker. Even if only temporary. That's assuming your bugout location hasn't already been taken by someone else by the time you get there. If you move fast enough and can still drive and the collapse happens slowly enough, it should be relatively easy to make the trip – that's a few "ifs" though and it may not be as easy as that. If you're going to spend many years prepping, and the whole time planning to stay in the city and build up a rural location where no-one reguarly lives at, then the trip from city to rural bugout location is very much a weak point in the overall plan. Something that everything else hinges on. Something that, is not only risky but if it fails then a lot of what you've developed over many years also fails. Just something to keep in mind. If you can already be in a rural location with access to sustainable off-grid food and water, and a low local population density, that's an absolutely massive advantage in the big picture.
Why Hide Out In the Bush?
Hiding out in the bush would be useful in a number of situations. One of course would be bugging out as described above. This would be especially true after an EMP, or a disruption to the fuel (petrol, diesel, etc.) supply, or the presence of roadblocks. All these things may render travel by motor vehicle impractical.
Another situation would be even if you're already in a rural location (such as a farm) and your patrols give you information of a large enough hostile force approaching that you won't be able to defeat. In this situation (which I suspect will be unfortunately common after a major and permanent collapse of society), having a local area of bushland to retreat into would be a means of continued survival.
There are some pitfalls and some advantages to the idea of hiding out in the bush.
First of all, you have to have some skills and experience with the bush. That's fairly obvious. Though if you're intending to just pass through on your way to somewhere else, the initial skill level required will be much less than if you intend to stay there for a long time.
The main thing that will either help or hinder you is similar to any other place of residence after a severe and permanent collapse of modern society – that is, the population density. If your forested location doesn't have too many people around, it will be extremely easy to disappear into it. Once you travel even an hour or a few hours into a vast wilderness of trees, assuming you don't want to be found, it's going to be very hard for someone to find you.
Think of a radius which increases as you move along. After you've travelled even just a few kilometres, you could be anywhere inside a circle of a few kilometres radius. This may be less depending on the particular terrain (and especially at first when walking into a wilderness, and there's only say 180 degrees of possible compass directions that take you into the wilderness and the other 180 degrees will take you back out again into what's left of civilisation.
After you've travelled 20 kilometres, that a 20 km radius that you could be (more or less) anywhere within. Without technology nor tracking ability, it's going to be quite hard for anyone to find you in a circle which is that big and keeps getting bigger with every passing hour. If you walked 20 kilometres a day then after five days you could be anywhere in a radius of 100 kilometres. That's a big area. Imagine trying to find a person on foot that's in an unknown location in an area that big. It would be pretty hard.
The moral of the story here is that, assuming your forest isn't already teeming with other people trying to escape the "apocalypse", it will be easier to hide and stay out of trouble than perhaps you already realise.
To stay invisible a few precautions will be important. Using firearms, other than perhaps low-power low-velocity ammunition (say in a .22LR caliber) will advertise your approximate position over a large area. Also using lighting at night, though this would be a danger over a smaller geographical area. It would be important to make fires that were smokeless.
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