Criteria & Introduction
“Preparedness is the only way we can combat a natural disaster.”
— John Quinlan
Is your state safe after a major disaster or series of disasters that leaves you to fend for yourself and your family? Much depends on the type of disaster that occurs, but some states are safer than others. In this blog, I will look at the 17 states that I consider to be the safest after most SHTF situations. I had several criteria when evaluating these, but my evaluation fell into one or more of these categories: population density, availability of water and other natural resources, the mildness of the climate, forest cover, ruggedness, isolation, the low percentage of natural disasters, like-minded people, and more which I will touch upon with each state covered. One caveat is that I have not ranked this list. For some, any state is livable after SHTF. This list focuses on the 17 most livable. Will your state make my list? Should it? Let me know in the comments section below. Let’s jump in.
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Alaska earns a prominent spot on the list for several reasons. If you are looking for untapped resources, Alaska has them in abundance. With 663,000 square miles of inhabitable land, it is also far from the contiguous states. If North Korea or some other foreign enemy ever tries to eradicate the U.S., they would probably strike the lower 48. Water, wood for fuel, wildlife, plant life, and more, this state is a prepper’s dream. The big problem, though, after SHTF, is staying warm. November to March, temperatures can range from 0 to negative 35 Fahrenheit. The other major problem if you aren’t there already is getting there. It’s over a 3,000-mile trek from Washington through British Columbia and the Yukon.
From the Rocky Mountains to the Pawnee Grasslands to the arid desert to the Ancestral Puebloans’ cliff dwelling sites, Colorado has a diversity of climates, each with its own unique survival practices. Any place where indigenous people thrived ten-thousand years ago by hunting and growing small beans and squash crops is a good bet that you can do the same after a non-recoverable grid down situation. Like Alaska, you have many wooded areas and flowing rivers and streams fed by glaciers and mountain snow. There is also plenty of wildlife and edible plants. Though the population is greater than Alaska and denser in metropolitan areas, there are numerous places to escape to and a thriving culture of people affluent in being outdoors. Particularly of note for Colorado is the fact that there are over 23,000 abandoned mines in the state. Depending upon what type of SHTF situation you are in, one of those mines might be a safe shelter for a while.
Oregon & Washington
I know the Oregonians and the Washingtonians won’t like it, but I have put both Oregon and Washington together for their similarities. I could include here the northern part of California, as well. The Pacific Northwest region of the United States is rich with coniferous forests, rivers, lakes and creeks, wildlife, and so many edible plants that it’s a forager’s dream. Even on well-trodden trails, hikers can still eat wild blackberries right off the vine, right along their paths. Here too, like Colorado, there are populous areas, but those are countered by thousands and thousands of miles of land where you can disappear. The weather is never too severe, and the land is relatively affordable the further out you go from population-dense areas. It’s important to note that mountains help filter out fallout, so large areas of these regions could be inhabitable when the rest of the United States is not.
Vermont, Maine, & New Hampshire
Here I go again, lumping states together. Though each is unique in its own way, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire are three states that comprise the Northeastern tip of the United States. On average, 84% of these states are covered with forest, resulting in an abundance of wildlife, plant life, and untouched, untapped living spaces. With state mottos like “Live Free or Die” and “Freedom & Unity,” it is easy to see that the people of these states are fiercely independent. There is a large culture of people living off the grid already, so both knowledge of how-to and supplies to do so are commonplace. Even absent an SHTF situation, Maine’s zoning laws and land affordability make it a good choice. Both Vermont and New Hampshire are similar. While each of these three states has populous areas, you are never more than a few steps from the woods. And, as Robert Frost wrote in his poem written in Vermont, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.”
Montana & Idaho
Here too, I put both these bordering states together, but they cover a wide range of landscapes. The state has, for years, encouraged off-grid living with lucrative grants. With a $100,000 exemption for homesteaders, the state boasts over 60,000 homesteads. That’s a lot of independently living people. Montana is not as off-grid friendly with its regulations, but I lump it here because of the large swaths of inhabitable land. There is an abundance of wildlife ranging from BigHorn sheep, antelope, deer, and elk to bears, buffalo, and fish. While much of that land is protected, after an SHTF situation, many laws and rules may no longer apply. A person can easily pick up an acre of semi-wooded land with a 25 gallon or more per minute well for a mere ten thousand dollars or less in either state. Note that there’s more tall grass than trees, probably in Montana. According to a recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture, the big plus for Montana is that an acre of farmland will still only cost you around $1,000. In these two states, you will find many people accustomed to living close to the land and with a good understanding of rural living. As it is a colder region, the growing season is not as long.
Kentucky & Tennessee
While I specifically list Kentucky and Tennessee here, I could really include most of the Appalachian region from Eastern Mississippi through Pennsylvania and lower New York. You’ll find cheap land with lots of wooded areas and an abundance of groundwater, rivers, lakes, and streams. The land is very inexpensive, and the cost of living is low if you are planning on putting your post-SHTF bug out location somewhere here. Famous still for moon-shining, there are many secluded, overgrown areas where people can remain hidden, unseen, and self-sufficient. About 50% of these states are forest-covered, so there’s lots of wood and wildlife to work with here. The climate is very moderate, and much of the area remains insulated from the rest of the United States.
Michigan & Wisconsin
If you know how to fish and hunt, Michigan or Wisconsin could be a safe bet after SHTF. With these two states, if the land becomes largely uninhabitable, you could always live on a massive barge in the Great Lakes like Kevin Costner in Waterworld. But seriously, the northern regions of these states have an abundance of natural resources. Suppose you are on the fingers of the mitten that is Michigan or live on the eastern side of Wisconsin between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. In that case, you have an abundance of natural resources to carry you through any disaster. I could put in Northeastern Minnesota and other Great Lakes states as well in this category. The major downside is cold and snow. Parts of northern Michigan receive a seasonal normal of over 100 inches of snow per year. When the snow comes, your range and access to food stop. That’s not a problem if you are used to it, but anyone looking to bugout to these cold states will have a hard time if they don’t know how to make it through winter by canning, preserving, smoking, or dehydrating food. Also, your solar or hydroelectric systems won’t work with that level of snow. You are almost entirely dependent upon wood fuel sources.
Of all the states to choose from that make up the midwest region, I think Missouri stands the best odds of providing a survivable area after SHTF. While I think most of the midwest provides favorable conditions like a decent growing season and mild-enough climates, and though it can get extremely stormy and cold, Missouri has a good mix of wooded areas, about 35% of the state, flat farming lands, and hill regions. There are many natural resources if you know what you are looking for. Missouri gets high marks, too, because of the tenacity of the people. There’s an adequate level of knowledge of outdoor and rural living and lots of rural areas, and there’s a kind of attitude like there’s the rest of the United States, and then there is Missouri too. Add to these that the mighty Missouri river runs on both sides of and straight through the state, and there is a vibrant water and fishing source, though I wouldn’t drink the water straight out of the river as you might in Colorado. It’s not that clean. There are also many lakes and streams, and the Katy trail traverses a 237-mile line across the state’s center. This makes travel from one side of the state to the other possible, even without cars, in about five days.
Texas & California
I know lumping Texas and California together will draw both Texans and Californians’ ire but hear me out. I put these two states together because they both offer land, natural resources, and vast coastal regions. Texas is going to be more friendly to homesteading and affordable land. Though we tend to only think of the metropolitan coastal areas, California is actually sparsely populated along much of its central coast, and the ocean provides ample food for people. The central coast of northern California, the great valleys that run the state’s length, and the Sierra Nevadas’ wooded areas all provide a vast living area. The Pacific Coast trail offers a rigorous but doable post-disaster, on foot transit route of the state. Obviously, if you live in either state’s populous cities, you will have a much harder time when a significant, prolonged disaster strikes. Texas has more rural areas, and the eastern portions offer many places to live safely and in isolation. So, it is for mainly the same reasons of land and resources that I lump these two states together. I ask that the Californians and Texans forgive me on this one.
Moving to fair weather and an abundance of ocean resources, Hawaii is often overlooked but shouldn’t be. An archipelago of eight major islands, it is still pretty easy to live off the grid here. You wouldn’t be able to get there after SHTF, so you probably don’t want to invest in a bug out location there if you are stateside; however, if you are Kamaʻāina, as they say, or a resident there already, you have the luxury of being very well insulated from the rest of the world. In fact, the steady trade winds and ocean currents keep the residents well protected from pollutants and other possible contaminants. If an EMP strikes in DC, you’re safe. If a nuclear bomb goes off in the heartland, you’re safe. Add to this insulative safety shared with Alaska an abundance of fruit, fish, and edible plants, and there’s much going for this state after an SHTF situation. The state also has about 271 days of sunshine and about 50 inches of rainfall, so resources are falling out of the sky. Most tourists are only familiar with 2 or 3 of these islands, but I’m guessing Molokai residents aren’t too worried about SHTF. While they probably won’t let you in after the event, you are pretty safe if you already live there.
It dawns upon me that if you watch any of those shows where they hunt for Bigfoot and your state is one where they are searching for the elusive creature, the chances are you live in an area that could sustain you after SHTF. It’s a humorous conclusion to draw, but just like Bigfoot, after an SHTF situation, your state’s livability is going to be a factor of population density, availability of water and other natural resources, the mildness of the climate, forest cover, ruggedness, isolation, and a low percentage of natural disasters. The only difference is you will want some like-minded people to rebuild with, and Bigfoot doesn’t seem to want others around. For these reasons, though, both Bigfoot and you may be able to thrive after SHTF.
Did your state make my list? Should it? Did it make the list, and it should not be on the list, in your opinion?
As always, please stay safe out there.