Selecting a Campground as a Bug Out Destination

Camp Site

Our Camp Site

Every summer my family and I pack up and move our camper down to a campground for the season here in Maine.  We spend a few months there then head back home in the off season.  We live close enough that we can go home if we want and my wife and daughter will spend nights at home while the guys stay at the campground.  A couple of weeks ago as I was using my swipe key to get through the gate it occurred to me that a campground might be a pretty good spot to land for a week if TSHTF and you had to bug out.  Not just any campground, of course, but if you shop around you should be able to find one that would work for you.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Duration

Let me say at the outset that I don’t think this would be a good solution for a bug out lasting longer than a week or two.  After that it’s anybody’s guess about how things will go, but I think for that golden two week period this would be a good option if you choose your campground wisely.

Why a Campground?

Propane Tanks

Propane Tanks

I spent a long time thinking that this would be the last place I’d want to go if civilization blows up, but I’ve since rethought it.  Why a campground?  First, it’s basically a gated community.  You need access to get into the campground and usually there are people watching the gate.  Campgrounds are also (generally) at the end of a long narrow road, which means it would be easily defensible.

People who go camping are generally a little more prepared than their city-bound cousins.  They know how to live in a camper, start fires, split wood, cook outdoors, etc.  They also have their own mobile homes or tents and are comfortable in them.  If the power goes out at the campground, which seems to happen a couple of times a year, it’s easy to convert cooking and refrigeration over to propane.  Most campers have a 12 volt system that runs off a battery, so there will be lights.  RV’s and campers also have water tanks and 12 volt pumps, so if the power and water is cut off there is still 50 gallons of water stored right in the camper, along with a 12-volt pump to get it to your tap.  Campgrounds are typically (not always) set up near a body of water, which means you’d be able to have water that you could boil for drinking.  There would be water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and bathing.

Propane Stove

Pancakes and Bacon

Bug Out Destination

Many people talk about bugging-out to the wilderness, which we all know wouldn’t last more than a week or two.  My reasoning is that if you’re going to bug-out and live in a tent why not do it at a campground instead?  Especially if your wilderness camping skills are questionable.  I probably wouldn’t want to do this more than a week or two, but during that time I think it would be a viable bug-out location.

camper hookups

Camper Hookups – septic, water, and electric

Let’s say you’ve done your homework and decided on the perfect campground.  It’s far enough away to be a good escape, but not so far that you couldn’t get there after a medium drive or a long walk.  If you live in the city it might mean a longer commute to get away from whatever trouble might be brewing at the time.  Prepare accordingly.

If you have a camper you have all your supplies with you when you bug-out.  When we travel all our food is stored in the camper itself.  Like I mentioned earlier, the refrigerator runs off the 12 volt system, so you can travel a long way and it will keep your food cold.  Be careful about turning your truck off though – once you do it runs off your vehicle‘s battery and it will drain it.  If your camper is already at the campground and it’s well stocked all you have to do is get there.  Instant bug-out location.

Picking the Right Campground

Truck

View of the truck and campsites

Picking the right campground will be critical to your success, which means you’ll have to jump in your RV, camper, pop up, or whatever you camp in and take it out to various locations.  Do some camping and rate each campground as you go.  When I first started I kept a notebook and wrote about each campground we visited.  Afterwards I referred to my notes and talked with my wife about the campgrounds we liked and didn’t like.

Some campgrounds are simply party places and you’d want to avoid those.  I stay in a family friendly campground and have gotten to know the “seasonals” – folks who live in their campers for the whole season year after year.  I’ve established myself as a seasonal and am getting to know the others.  They are pretty good folk and are all pretty self reliant – in a pinch I think many of them would pull together to form a tighter community.

One of the criteria I used for selecting my campground was that it had to be family friendly.  This means every night isn’t a drunk fest with lots of wild partying and police being called in all the time.  It sits on a large lake, has a gate and a road that’s easily defendable.  Block off that one road and the only access is by lake.  It has it’s own store, laundry, pool, hot tubs, places for the kids to play, sewer system, meeting places, library and other services.

Also Read: 10 Substitutes For Toilet Paper

It’s a great place for kids to hang out during the summer and as an added attraction it limits what your teens can do on a Saturday night.  Yeah, they can still get in trouble, but at least they’re not out ramming the roads in a car.  The biggest thing you’d have to worry about at a campground is a golf cart.

Some campgrounds have a lot of things to offer like the one where I set up every year, as mentioned above.  Other campgrounds are far more basic and might not even offer electrical, water, or septic systems on their sites.  These are usually located in more backwoods areas and might make an excellent spot to land.  Many people simply don’t know about the existence of the smaller places like these.Shtf mug

Precautions

One of the biggest variables when it comes to a bug out is people.  When things get rough and people get desperate they might try and take what doesn’t belong to them, including your camper and all its supplies.  It’s a big fat target rolling down the road and a big piece of chum like that might draw in the sharks.  Be prepared to defend what’s yours, or be prepared to abandon it if necessary.  Try to have personal bug out bags ready to go in case you have to ditch the camper.

Another thing is that your camper is reliant on mechanical means to travel.  Whether it’s an RV or a tow-behind (sometimes called a tag-along) camper, it needs gas and some kind of prime mover to get to it’s destination.  Check your route, figure out the mileage, and make sure you have enough gas to get to your destination stored in your truck in case fuel stations aren’t open.

Related: The Raid Route

Camper Storage

Storage Compartment

The camper and truck to tow it can be expensive.  I never buy anything new, but my truck and camper together cost me about $15,000.  I have a ten year old Dodge Ram pickup truck (it also has a plow mount) and a thirty-two foot camper that is also about ten years old.  The previous owner kept the camper in pretty good shape, but like anything used it has a few issues.

Mine is a middle of the road package.   Some people have high-end state-of-the art RV’s that start at $250,000 dollars.  Other people show up in their mini-vans towing a pop-up camper that cost $1000.  Most of the campers I see lie somewhere in the middle.  If you go to an RV dealership a new tow-behind camper might run you $25,000 or more.  If you check out Craigslist and are willing do a little research you can score a pretty good camper anywhere from $3000 to $10,000 depending on age, size, and what condition it’s in.  Mine cost about $5,000 and we probably looked at five campers before buying this one.  I walked away from a couple before we found the one that was right for us.

Also Read: 10 Lessons From A Power Outage

I doubt if I’d buy a camper if I was only going to use it as a bug-out vehicle.  For many, camping is a way of life in the summer time and their camper becomes their full time residence.  We probably spend about sixty percent of our time at the campground during the summer because it’s what we enjoy doing.  The kids love it and spend most of their time swimming, riding bikes, playing on the various playgrounds, or playing outside the camper.

Types of Campers

Fireplace

Fireplace

There are several different types of campers out there.

  • RVs, the big bus looking rigs.
  • Tag-alongs or travel trailers, which are towed behind your truck and hook up to a hitch.
  • Fifth-wheel.  These campers are also towed behind, but the hitch is in the bed of the of the pickup truck.
  • Pop-ups.  These campers have a small footprint and are easily towed even by smaller vehicles.  The downside is that they are dependent on a semi-complicated procedure to set them up.  You have to crank them up, then pull out two or more sides to get it fully operational.
  • Tents.  Tents come in all shapes and sizes:  from a small one man ultra-light to the ten man palace that houses a couple of families.

Tag-alongs probably make the biggest proportion of campers I see at campgrounds.  They come in sizes from 18 feet or even smaller to 36′ or larger in some cases.  I’ve seen fifth-wheel campers that were enormous!

Summary

If you have a camper of some kind you might want to consider using it in case you need to bug out.  A campground is a viable option, but camping off-grid would work as well if you have a good spot picked out.  Make sure you choose your campground wisely and don’t plan to stay longer than a week, maybe two.  After that you might want to move on considering how people are behaving and what the circumstances are.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

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26 comments… add one
  • Codpiece September 14, 2015, 9:36 am

    My definition of hell is a public campground.

    Reply
    • lynn January 9, 2016, 7:38 pm

      How come?

      Reply
  • TPSnodgrass September 14, 2015, 4:20 pm

    I’ve always felt that a “gated community” is a CORRAL for humans, and little else.
    Nothing but the illusion of “security” in any gated community of any kind.
    However, as a temporary BOL, provided the weather is good, roads are clear and not being hounded by roadway “highwaymen and bandits”, or roving gangs, could be useful in SOME geographical locales, for a small part of the year.

    Reply
  • BamaMan September 14, 2015, 4:44 pm

    IDK about a public camp ground.

    But I have seen great setups where you build a deck and pull the camper up to it. These decks were big and had metal roofs. You can screen them in or leave them open. This way you haul everything you need down to the camp and they the camper feels 3x larger with the patio space.

    Reply
  • Novice September 14, 2015, 6:31 pm

    Camper at a campground isn’t a bad idea to escape from a local issue. Wildfires, hurricanes, isolated civil unrest ex Baltimore.
    Not sure about a large scale situation impacting multiple cities and states. If things got really ugly I’d want to be home. Everything you would have at your disposal is going to be at your residence. Tools, winter clothing etc. for large scale events I think the homested is best.

    Reply
  • Doc Montana September 14, 2015, 8:11 pm

    Interesting idea Jarhead. But the real question I’m struggling with now is how to get my own SHTF.blog coffee mug like the one in the sixth picture. I cannot imagine bugging out without one now.

    Imagine sitting in your lawn chair raising a caffeinated toast to the other campers when the S really has HTF.

    Reply
    • BamaMan September 17, 2015, 4:07 pm

      Not to mention campers are transients and in your old neighborhood you have to opportunity of knowing someone or knowing that they are there to stay. Mingling in a camp ground and they making off with their supplies would be a pretty easy MO.

      Reply
      • Jon September 18, 2015, 5:02 pm

        BamaMan,

        Bad attempt at rapping, dude!!!!

        Reply
        • BamaMan September 23, 2015, 3:42 pm

          Claiming ignorance….how was I “rapping”

          Reply
    • lynn September 30, 2016, 8:39 pm

      hahahaha….love that!

      Reply
  • Pineslayer September 14, 2015, 8:22 pm

    I just spent a couple of nights at a campground near Mt. Rushmore. Everyone seemed nice, no problem sites. As I looked around at the myriad of campers from tents to rolling mansions, I pondered how many firearms were there too. The people I talked to seemed to be conservative in nature, a certain Gary Johnson bumper sticker seemed to spark a conversation or two. First morning there my neighbor brought over a cup of his special brewed coffee and introduced himself. Packs of kids roaming around, it wasn’t too bad.

    I could think of worse places to be stuck while I made my plans.

    Reply
    • lynn September 30, 2016, 8:41 pm

      Absolutely…sounds pretty nice to me! We have a campground right outside of my rather country county seat town in Pa….it’s very nice!

      Reply
  • Roger September 15, 2015, 1:20 am

    Aren’t most campgrounds designed for fair weather (summertime!), will they even be open off-season? One road in means only one road to block to trap campers in, and the gate that can keep a determined person or more likely group out hasn’t been made yet! To me, a campground is a big fat target to less-than-honest people; they aren’t designed and built with defense in mind. In a SHTF situation, you won’t be able to depend on the cops to save your bacon; they’ll be busy taking care of their own. I’ll stick to a tent with pre-positioned long-term supplies already there. That means the woods for me, neighbors not required or desired; my dogs are all the company I need! Good Luck!

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor September 17, 2015, 6:54 pm

      Roger – you make some excellent points and I don’t deny that if given the choice I’d take my camper off grid as well. My point here is that for some people – those without a lot of experience camping in the back woods for example – that a campground is a viable option for a short period of time.

      Unfortunately, many people don’t have the resources to set up a bug-out location like you describe. Those people might find a campground beneficial.

      My first choice is, of course, to bug-in. But I like having a back up plan.

      Just in case.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
    • lynn September 30, 2016, 8:44 pm

      How could a 72 year old fairy active lady (garden, walk, swim) do with tent living on her own, as you are doing? Or hey…do you need a partner? heehee

      Reply
  • redzonehunter September 15, 2015, 5:17 pm

    idk aboutthis unless you already had a all season site and know eveyone.i bought 2.4 acrea secluded lot with fith wheel on it for $10k.

    Reply
  • Ithaca October 17, 2015, 10:43 pm

    Ina SHTF scenario, once you leave your home (castle), you’re a REFUGEE!

    Reply
  • Roger October 21, 2015, 5:18 pm

    IMHO, you are only a refugee in a SHTF scenario if you made no plan(S) to survive. I think that with very few exceptions that bugging-in would normally be your best bet, but no one can predict the future. However, you can hope for the best and prepare for the worst as much as possible, some scenarios aren’t survivable (massive asteroid strike, etc.). To me, a bug-out is because you HAVE to, not because you WANT to! If you choose not to prepare as best you can and then SHTF, well, hope you have some really good friends, if not, don’t worry, some ‘charity’ organization will probably made some money from your misery; and it will be misery! Good Luck and happy prepping! (GLAHP)

    Reply
  • BC October 23, 2015, 1:25 pm

    My wife and I are actually full time RVers who travel the country (definitely makes prepping difficult).

    I must say that the biggest part of this probably does come down to choosing the location. Due to our lifestyle we have stayed at many different RV parks and campgrounds. Some would make a perfect bug out location and would even be decent long term, and some we stayed at I would leave ASAP if anything happened, even if it meant leaving my RV behind.

    Reply
  • Gatorgal October 30, 2015, 7:54 pm

    I too have an older Dodge Ram and a 29 foot camper and one pop-up. I am currently staying in a park because I work out of town. My full-time neighbors also make preparations and we have agreed to plan together. One has a 160 acres about 2 hours north with an underground spring and plenty of garden and wildlife and secluded. The pop-up will be going up there.We stay in a gated park and there is a lake on the property stocked with fish and turtles. I keep my pack separate from the camper and have plan A (bug in), plan B(bug out), plan c (survival on foot, escape and evade). I am currently working on some off grid projects as well as having some stock on hand. I don’t think we are going to know what plan we will need to resort to until something happens which could include a number of things. I think we must be both mentally and physically prepared. Practice your survival skills, keep in shape by walking because that may be what we have to do. Know your area and the edible plants in it. I even make it a point to know where all of the fruit and nut trees are in my own neighborhood. As far as the RV park is concerned, I have made it a point to know the long-term residents. It is difficult to store things staying in a RV and being 100 to 150 miles from my house will likely make it difficult to get there first. Caching is a good idea. Keep in mind, there is no substitute for the basic knowledge of survival skills, know how to make shelter, fire, find and purify water, forage, hunt and know how to survive and thrive with what you have in your pack.

    Reply
  • Texican October 31, 2015, 7:16 pm

    Those that think you can survive in a city once the SHTF, you need to look at your hold cards again. There is a concentration of people in even small cities that will not be prepared and will find you probably sooner than later. You may be able to stop many, but regardless of the firearms, ammo and planning that you do, you can not stop all. Have you thought about having to eliminate neighbors and friends that suspect you have supplies.

    We considered bugging in, but after looking at what it would take to remain alive and safe it was not feasible so we purchased a remote location and moved there.

    Before we purchased a remote location, we looked at remote parks for an interim location. The parks are there and as Jarhead has stated, try them out and spend time at each one and select one that is remote, defensible, has other good folks, has stores in driving distance, has water and maybe even has sewer or a sewer dump.

    The big problem is determining when to bug out. The second big problem is having more than one route to your location and drive them at night and during the day.

    Keep supplies stored close to your camp even consider a storage unit that you up fit.

    Also consider, long term lease on a hunting lease that you can go to. Get to know the land owners if local or better yet an absentee land owner.

    There are many options. Bugging in in the city should be your last choice.

    Reply
  • headhunter November 2, 2015, 11:09 am

    Many good points were made in the article. Our basic plan is #1 stay home (this is where most of our supplies are, we are rural, and most of our neighbors are people we are comfortable around ) #2 cabin on a small river ( trip can be done on two lane roads, long driveway, more rural, do able in extreme weather) #3 camper (24 ‘ tow behind, not as secure as #1 or #2 but allows the option of various locations) #4 tent ( not as nice for extreme weather but offers the option of being moved by ATV- nice for those over 60 years of age- although a Coleman lantern makes it survivable in some low temps it can be a “little chilly”). When the temps get around a -30 pull your battery from your truck and keep it in your shelter which is hopefully a little warmer. The table in the camper will be sacrificed for a wood burning stove.

    Reply
  • MNshtf February 26, 2016, 8:38 am

    How about a scout camp?

    Reply
  • CatMingus7 September 19, 2016, 11:04 am

    Being elderly, and somewhat disabled (but PACKIN’ HEAT!) I plan on going to an RV park I know of with ramps and things for those in wheelchairs. If you don’t have the money for a bug-out homestead, or even small plot of remote land with water, timber and arable land, then an RV park with a few like-minded folks also planning to head there may be a solution. I figure, city and suburban folks with RVs will be heading for the state and county parks. I would rather be in a gated place, defensible, with ramps and things already in place (because it’s Federal law) for the wheelchair bound. At least you’d have a fighting chance!

    Reply
  • headhunter December 28, 2016, 2:38 pm

    Rereading what I wrote earlier, okay. Campgrounds and BSA camps are nice places (began camping in ’59 and worked BSA camps for 5 years as rangemaster). Please remember that their world will be upside down too. The garbage collection may or may not happen, sanitary systems will not be pumped, in all probability those nicely cut bundles of firewood won’t be there, will the showers ans toilets work? Will you run things by consensus or will you appoint a “camp boss”? As the experts say-if ya wanna survive ya gotta have a plan.

    Reply
  • Vivisky February 9, 2017, 11:15 pm

    If the SHTF, how in the world would anyone be able to know in advance they have a guaranteed reservation at their preferred spot at their preferred campground? the only way to camp in a camper of any type depends on 1/roads being open and not blocked by LEO or hordes of , 2/guarantee of a spot that has your name on it. Which leads me to believe the only secure way to bug out, is to bug in. Maybe that means moving to an area of country which would be unaffected by nuclear power plant fallout, build your (small) dream home there, and actually live there permanently.

    Reply

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