I had a rather alarming surprise a few months back. We'd taken a run up to one of our more remote bug out locations, it's a new one we've been building out on a couple of hundred acres in, what I like to think, is the middle of nowhere. Or so I thought. About three o'clock in the afternoon, we had two hikers walk up to our door. They'd seen the smoke from our chimney, and needed a little help.
They'd gotten lost.
Of course, we helped get them back to their car, but the whole time I was seeing red flags. If two hikers could stumble upon my most secluded hideout, who else could? Perhaps my bug out location wasn't as hidden as I thought. Which presents a rather interesting problem.
When the SHTF people are going to be your biggest concern. Those with nothing will be willing to do anything to keep themselves and their families alive. And my bug out location is definitely a mark.
When we got home, I started making plans. The cabin we'd bought would remain, but we'd start working immediately on a few upgrades to better hide our survival shelter.
Don't let smoke give away your position
Our biggest mistake was letting the smoke from our fire give away our location. Now I get that in winter we may not have any option but to set the fire going, but we've taken steps to ensure that this only needs to be done in the most extreme cold. I've purchased a gas stove we can use for quick cooking, and we've stocked up on blankets and warm gear we can use too. What I've got planned too is to better insulate the cabin, and over the next few weeks I'll be filling all the gaps in the window frames and floor where the breeze blows through. My hope is that we can get through an entire winter without needing a fire up there.
Don't create a path to your door
Next came the driveway. It's difficult to conceal the dirt road that leads to the cabin, but as we're quite a way back from any main roads, we're probably going to be safe from anyone just "happening" onto our drive. But it's still a concern. To combat this, I'm planning to let the undergrowth reclaim our driveway, and I've planted a number of quick-growing plants where our drive connects to the road. The hope is this will grow over, so it's not immediately obvious there's a trail behind. There's also a handful of large trees we could fell to restrict the access even more once a SHTF occurs.
Break up the outline of your home
Finally, I wanted to break up the outline of our house. This is more of a long-term plan, but it's worth investing in. Using our quad bike and trailer, we dug up a number of saplings from around the property, and replanted these around our house. As they grow, the hope is that the cleared land around the cabin becomes more natural again. I also moved a number of creeper vines in along the walls, so that these will take hold and also add a natural layer of camouflage to the cabin. If we were building a new cabin, I'd definitely recommend using a more natural shape, so it's not as obvious through the trees.
Hide your supplies in caches
Storing everything in your cabin is a recipe for disaster. Not only do you risk it being stolen before you arrive, if something goes wrong you don't want to be trying to survive with only what's on your back. That's why you need hidden caches of gear. I've got these spread all over our property, mostly buried in places I can easily find, so they're not immediately obvious to anyone who's looking. I've also got two go-bags, ready to go, in both our cabin and bug out vehicle. Just in case.
Planning a hidden survival bunker
This is where it starts to get fun. Of course, our cabin will remain, but I was wary that it's still too easy to find. So, I started construction on a new project. It's our survival bunker version two. Or as it's come to be known, the bomb shelter.
Using a small tractor, I've spent the better part of the last two months cutting out a side of a hill on a remote corner of our property. In its place, I've built what is actually best described as a bomb shelter. Or a hobbit house, as my daughter calls it. After laying a concrete floor and steel-reinforced walls and roof, I moved most of the dirt back, so it now looks just like it did, but there's an underground bunker inside. It's not all that large, about 100 sq. ft. of space in three small rooms, but it's completely hidden to the outside world. Even the smokestack is piped up through the remains of an old dead tree, so nothing looks out of place. The door is the only tell, but this is tucked in behind a rock wall, so you'd have to walk right up to it, in order to see it.
Staying alive once the SHTF is really a matter of staying under the radar. If you can avoid being "found" by other survivors, no matter what their intent, you're going to be much better off. I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to survival, because when people are starving, their families are dying, and the world has gone to shit, you never really know what people are willing to do. My advice, is to not risk it. Stay hidden, and stay alive.