Often in survival scenarios, your best option is to bug out instead of staying home and hoping for the best. I always suggest that you have a designated bug out location that is far enough away from home that you would no longer be in danger. However, in some cases, this location could be far enough from your home that you must travel by vehicle. In this scenario, land navigation becomes incredibly important. In this article, we will cover how to navigate to your bug out location and the tools that you can use to do so.
If you think you can just hop in your car and take a leisurely drive to your bug out location, you will be mistaken. You must keep in mind that you will already be in a survival scenario the moment you pull out of your driveway. The first issue you will likely come across is heavy traffic. In most cases, if you are evacuating, there will be thousands of other people evacuating as well. This means that you will likely hit bumper to bumper traffic on most major roads and highways.
Another assumption you can make is that the government may get involved. There could be checkpoints or blockades. There could be areas that are completely blocked off from traffic. Typically, these obstacles will be on major roads and near the epicenter of the affected area. Because of this, you will need to avoid major streets and plan on driving entirely around the affected area. For example, there was recently both tornado damage and flooding in a city close to mine. There were blockades placed all around the affected area even though it was likely possible to drive through with the right vehicle. On many of these blockades, there were armed guards to ensure people did not try to drive around or through them.
Finally, you cannot assume that roads are your best option. In some cases, going off-road is much safer than staying on the road. In addition to traffic and potential obstacles, there could be looters on major roads. Criminals know that many people will load up their valuables when they leave the area. Thousands of stopped cars on a highway can look like a bank waiting to be robbed. However, going off-road is not always an option. You will need a vehicle with plenty of clearance and preferably four-wheel drive. Even if you have the ideal vehicle, you will need a path on which dense forest or steep terrain does not prohibit you from moving forward. If you want off-roading to be an option, make sure you have a vehicle that can handle it.
Most people would first assume that using the GPS on their phone is the best way to navigate in a survival scenario. However, I want to first warn that this will not always be an option. If cellular towers are shut down, you will have issues with GPS. Also, your phone could get broken or run out of power on the battery. If you want GPS to be an option, I suggest you always have a charging cord and several backup battery packs. If you do not have any of these issues, GPS can be beneficial. Please keep in mind that everybody will be using the same GPS which is designed to take you down the shortest path to your destination. That means everybody using GPS will be taking the same route. You must ignore the suggested route and use the GPS to find an alternate route.
You can also use a separate GPS unit to navigate to your destination. Many of these units will let you save your destination and a specific route. This can be very helpful, allowing you to preplan a route where traffic will be minimal. You also do not have to use GPS just for road travel. Most GPS has a satellite image option. This will give you a satellite image of the terrain from above. You will be able to see obstacles such as heavily wooded areas, canyons, and bodies of water. It can help you go off-road if that is the route you wish to take.
Knowing that you should never entirely rely upon technology for navigation in a survival scenario, you must have hard copy options. Maps can be hard to find these days, but you can always order them online or print them off the internet. Road maps are the most common option. Be sure you update your road maps every few years as new roads are being added all the time. In addition to requiring no power or signal, maps are great as they allow you to write notes on them in advance. What I like to do is wait until rush hour traffic is at its peak. Then I drive a route that I think will avoid that traffic to get me to my bug out location. I simply look at the time it takes. Then I mark that route on the map and write the time next to it. I then pick a different route and try again. I like to have at least three different routes timed and marked, so I always have multiple options. These routes should always avoid highways and major roads if possible.
Another option that is rarely used anymore is a topographical map. This is a map that uses a series of lines to show elevation. Often these maps will also have bodies of water identified on them, but generally, there are no roads marked. This is an ideal map if you want to go off-road. With topographical maps, the lines get closer together as the terrain becomes steeper. This can show you terrain features such as cliffs, canyons, mountains, and flat areas. Ideally, you will want to find a path that is comprised of nothing but flat regions. Even the toughest vehicles can have issues with steep terrain. I suggest that you mark a path on your topographical map and then cross-reference that with a satellite image. This will ensure that you pick a path that is both flat and open. It ensures you are not stopped by a dense forest area along your way.
If none of these options are available, you can use cardinal directions to navigate to your bug out location. For this to work, you need to know the direction you need to travel from your home to your final destination. For example, you may want to leave your driveway knowing that you need to drive South to get to your location. Keep in mind that this is the least accurate option you have. You should be very familiar with landmarks along this path to help you navigate. You should travel this path several times in advance, so you recognize things along the way. A compass is the best way to find a cardinal direction. You can use the compass on your phone, but you should always have at least one stand-alone compass with you as well. Simply leave your home traveling in the ideal direction. If you reach an obstacle that requires you to leave your first direction, try to compensate as soon as you can and get back to that path.
If you do not have a compass or your compass stops working, there are other ways to find your cardinal directions. You can stop periodically and use the sun to accomplish this. Find a flat patch of dirt and drive a straight stick straight down into the dirt. Mark an ‘X’ in the dirt at the end of the shadow created by the stick. Wait 20 minutes and mark another ‘X’ at the end of that shadow. Draw a line between the two marks and you have your East/West line. Draw a perpendicular line, and you have your North/South line. You must do this often as it is easy to get off course.
Navigating in a survival scenario can be incredibly difficult. Your path can be full of obstacles that can keep you from getting to your bug out location. The key to your success is planning. Always have multiple methods of navigation at your disposal before you ever leave your home. Be sure you travel your desired route various times before you ever need that route to survive. Take lots of notes and know your route like the back of your hand. However, as you travel to your desired location, you need a backup plan. Be prepared to abandon your vehicle and travel the rest of the way on foot. I know this option is not ideal, but if you stay off of main roads, it is sometimes easier than staying with your vehicle. No matter how you travel, proper navigation will be vital. If you take the appropriate steps in advance, it could save your life.