My family and I first became serious about prepping around 2006. It wasn’t one event that pushed us into it but the incremental deterioration of our society, including natural disasters, terrorism, weather, erosion of the Constitution, developing police state, corrupt politics, elimination of liberty. It seems every topic is something to shake our head at. We began to plan, and we began to research. As everyone reading this blog knows, prepping is a life-long quest. Rather than start with the immediate needs, we thought it prudent to plan our long-term goals up front. First, we contemplated how we wanted to raise our children. Then we thought of where to raise our children, put down roots, and start living the life that we’ve not only dreamed of but felt was a necessity to ensure our survival. Quickly, we realized that last question wasn’t one that could be solved overnight. We came up with a system to rank, in order, every consideration we deemed important. Using a tally system of each area, we were able to narrow our search down considerably. So, it may not be a perfect system, but it works for us and hopefully it’ll help out some other family that has struggled with the same decision. Keep in mind, I’m not an expert on any of the listed topics. What I know is from independent research, and my conclusions may be way off from yours.
Our first step was listing a group of states that we would be open to living in the rest of our lives. We chose six states that we know a bit about, either from living there, vacationing there, family ties to the area, or researching further based on other recommendations. The book *****Strategic Relocation, by Joel Skousen, was a big help with this, among other things. Our states that we wanted to focus on (in no order) were Idaho, Montana, Missouri, Wyoming, Washington, and Michigan. Of course, every state has at least some potential, but there were many states that I wouldn’t even begin to consider, for example New Jersey, New York, and California.
With our six candidates listed on the “x” axis at the top of our Excel file, we moved on to listing more specific items. These were rank ordered in three weighted groups on the “y” axis on the left side of our Excel file. Each group, from top to bottom, contained six, five, and six specific items respectively. The top group was named “Extremely Important”. The state winning a category within that group received ten points. For example: If one particular state was rated number one in every category within this group, that top score would be 60 points. Second place would receive nine points in that category, and so on. In group two or “Very Important”, the state winning a category within this group received eight points. In group three or “Other Considerations”, the state winning a category within this group received six points. Once all items were graded (based on personal needs and research), the total score would give us our ideal location. (It is yet to be seen if it’s a valid strategy, since we haven’t made the move yet!)
Group One: “Extremely Important Considerations” (listed randomly)
- Population- Basically, the less people overall, the better (as we see it). We especially didn’t want to live an urban or suburban lifestyle. With large populations come problems, especially in dire times. Winner- Wyoming; Last place- Michigan
- Availability of Work- We’re not self-employed (yet), so we need to work in our current field or closely-related field. It doesn’t do us much good to move to an otherwise ideal location when we have no way of making money. Winner- Missouri; Last place- Wyoming
- Like-minded Folks- It’s generally accepted that the farther away from urban centers you are, the more people are self-sufficient. Religion plays a role along with politics. A healthy dose of veterans in the area is welcoming. Mainly though, living around people that are patriots, love the simple life, and are good, caring people–that’s the kind of people we like to live around. Living in Nancy Pelosi’s jurisdiction would probably be a definite no-go for us. Call me crazy. Winner- Idaho; Last place- Michigan
- Cost of Land- This made our top group because if we can’t afford exactly what we need on our budget, we can’t very well live there. By continuously comparing similar pieces of property in different locations in each of these states, gradually we were able to see the norms for property pricing. It was interesting to see that in some areas it’s almost the same price to get a piece of land as it is to get a similar piece of land with a home on it. Obviously the value is in the land in these areas. Winner- Missouri; Last place- Montana
- Gun Laws- Firearms were a huge part of my life growing up. It was crucial to my development as a young man. Marine blood runs through these veins, and knowledge and use of firearms was a rite of passage. The Second Amendment is kind of a big deal in my family. With less restrictive gun laws in place, crime is lower. Plus, I want to be able to defend myself, my family, and my neighbors when called upon– not wait on the police. Winner- Wyoming; Last place- Michigan
- Defensibility- How much protection does the natural environment provide? Is it in tanker country, or do you need to fast rope from a helo to get to it? Many different parts of each state were considered. Ideally, we’d like to be on a level area, for farming, which is surrounded by forest with mountains surrounding that. However, I’m not Bill Gates, so I may have to settle for less than what I consider ideal. Winner- Idaho; Last place- Michigan
In this “Extremely Important Considerations” group, the overall winner was Idaho; Michigan came in last place.
Group Two: “Very Important Considerations” (listed randomly)
- Growing Season- We plan on, like many preppers, growing most of our food. While a long growing season tends to be more southern and short seasons to the north, generally, we’re looking for a good middle ground. I’d rather not shell out, in dollars or sweat, to put up greenhouses if they aren’t needed. Consideration was also given to likely diseases and infestations in specific zones. Also considered were microclimates in areas of the state we were likely to live. The winner didn’t necessarily have the longest growing season, but a combination of qualities we were looking for. Winner- Washington; Last place- Wyoming
- Climate- How much precipitation does a state receive? This number could be skewed, based on different climates in different parts of the state. For example there is considerable difference between Seattle and Spokane, so we adjusted based on where in the state we were likely to live. We also looked at the average amount of snow fall. Our thinking led us to consider average snow fall in regards to pasturing livestock, roof snow-load requirements, accessibility in the winter, and a general gauge of how hard a winter is. We chose the state on our list with the least amount of snow fall but still enough. Also considered were types and likelihood of natural disasters. Winner- Missouri; Last place- Michigan
- Major Cities Within 200 Miles- As we would prefer to be farther rather than closer to major metro areas, this made the “very important” group. Following a massive implosion of society, many people will want to leave the cities. I for one would like to avoid people who have little to lose, a family to feed at all costs, or people who would see this event as an opportunity to quench their more sinister desires. Figuring that all vehicles combined average around 20mpg and the average fuel tank is around 15 gallons, we concluded that an average total travel distance of 300 miles was possible with a full tank of fuel. Now, we figured that at any one time, the average fuel tank is about half full, giving them an average of 150 miles until their vehicle is empty. We threw on an extra 50 miles for slop. That’s not exactly scientific, but we think it’s sufficient for our requirements. Our goal is to stay outside of 200 miles of these cities. The top score went to the state with the lowest number of major cities within 200 miles. Winner- Montana; Last place- Michigan
- Income Tax- Plainly and simply said, we’d really like to keep the money we make. So, looking for a state with no or low income taxes is beneficial to us. Since we’re a military family, a state that won’t tax my meager (and shrinking) pension is a big plus. There are a few states that have an income tax but DON’T tax military pensions–good for them. Now, that’s not to say we don’t consider the states’ overall tax burden. (They all get their money somehow.) Winner- Both Washington and Wyoming (tied); Last place- Idaho
- Overall Soil Quality- Soil quality is important since we’ll be growing much of our own produce. We were not looking for a solid slab of granite to plow nor were we looking for a nutrient-deprived and chemically-saturated ground. Obviously, some parts of states are better than others, but we took that into consideration. Winner- Idaho; Last place- Wyoming
In this “Very Important Considerations” group, the overall winner was Washington; Wyoming came in last place.
Group Three: “Other Considerations” (listed randomly)
- Property Taxes- After income taxes, to my family this is the next most important type of tax. Assuming we choose a state with no income tax, we’d also like to find which one has the lowest property taxes. This was the hardest to research, since there are many variables. We had to break it down by county many times to get a real feel. It still amazes me that folks have to pay a tax on something they already own free and clear. Winner- Wyoming; Last place- Michigan (by a fairly wide margin)
- Access to Water Sources- Precipitation greatly influences this, but we also went into average well depths, abundance of surface water, and quality of water. A nice mountain artesian well would be wonderful. Some areas may have good access to water, but the ground which it is in is heavily contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals. Winner- Michigan; Last place- Wyoming
- Encroachment- I saw what happened to a small farming community in the southwest when the housing boom took off. In a matter of just ten years, corn fields had transformed into subdivisions and Walmart stores. That stuck in my mind; you can believe that. Either you get WAY out in the boonies, or you heavily research local planning to see if/where/when any further development may occur. I don’t plan to be on the outskirts of a developed area at all, but I’ll still pay attention no matter where we look. I’d hate to buy a good place then have Tesla build its battery plant in my backyard. Winner- Wyoming; Last place- Montana (Californiacation is prevalent primarily west of the Rockies)
- Sales Tax- When it comes to taxes, less is better. Again, I like to keep the money I earn. The only state in my group that doesn’t have a sales tax is Montana. However, if taxes are “extremely important” to you, perhaps you can work in Washington (where there is no income tax), live in Idaho (with low property tax), and make large purchases in Oregon or Montana (where both have no sales tax). Winner- Montana; Last place- Washington
- Cost of Living- Keeping expenses low keeps more purchasing power in my pocket. Some places are more costly than others, based on distance from suppliers or high demand and low supply of a particular product or service. Winner- Wyoming; Last place- Idaho (NOTE: All candidate states were well below the national average.)
- Demographics- This can potentially be a touchy subject with people. There’s always someone that wants to throw “racism” at you, but facts are facts. All of the research that I’ve seen tells me that areas with high populations of minorities tend to have higher crime rates. While this isn’t the case in all situations and locations, it is a trend. I’ve also seen it with my own eyes for many years. Also considered were religious and political affiliations. Winner- Wyoming; Last place- Michigan
- 1st Place- Missouri (106 points)
- 2nd Place- Wyoming (102 points)
- 3rd Place- Idaho (101 points)
- 4th Place- Washington (95 points)
- 5th Place- Montana (92 points)
- 6th Place- Michigan (76 points)
So it seems that Missouri is my overall winner. I’ll now be focusing most of my attention on my top three states. Each of these states are, in some way, very important to me, and I really wouldn’t mind living in any of them under the right situation. My rankings could easily change if I assigned a specific point scale for each and every item discussed, but that would mean organizing each subject by priority. That can be done, and I may end up doing that, but it is very difficult to determine which subject is more important than the other for some categories. I’m sure that each person that decides to run this test will have different results. I also think that doing it for yourself will give you a clearer picture on what areas to focus on as a primary residence or retreat location. Even if this exercise doesn’t give you the wanted results, I can guarantee that you’ll learn many things regarding retreat locales that you didn’t know before. Hopefully, you’ll be able to narrow down your search in minimal time and locate your ideal site. Thanks to JWR, HJL, and all the other contributors at SurvivalBlog!