In my book, Bug Out, one of my favorites of the eight regions I've broken the lower 48 states into is the Southwest. In Chapter Eleven, Deserts, Canyons & Mountains of the Southwest, I describe bug-out locations in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Nevada, and Southern California. This part of the country ranks high among my favorite places on earth. I've returned time and time again to the Southwest region to explore the remote and wide open spaces found there.
In the early stages of writing the book, I planned on interweaving my personal narratives of my trips in many of the bug-out locations described, and had especially looked forward to writing about my experiences in such places as the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. As it turned out, there was not enough space to include the narratives in the book and still cover all the necessary details of bug out locations that might be helpful to readers. So the narratives got left out, but in the future there will be unlimited room to write about them here. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the chapter on the Southwest Region:
Like the Rocky Mountains, North America’s Southwest is synonymous with wilderness and rugged independence. This region is the “West” of most people’s imagination and the setting for countless movies, television shows, and novels about the difficulties faced there by early explorers, prospectors, cowboys, and other settlers. In reality, it has not been all that long since the Southwest was still truly wild and untamed, and even today huge areas of this region are uninhabited and roadless.
Some of the longest and most difficult Indian wars the U.S. Army ever fought during the settling of the West were waged here against the elusive Apaches, who were masters of survival in this tough environment. The Apaches and other Native American tribes in the region adapted to the conditions and were able find resources in places that seemed to European settlers to be unfit for human habitation. They knew where to find the isolated springs and water holes of their territories and moved between various “islands” of wooded mountains and canyons where living by hunting and gathering was possible. Even for people as resourceful and tough as them, the barren wastelands inbetween these islands could not sustain life for long.
Many parts of the Southwest are surprisingly well watered, however, and are teeming with wildlife and a diversity of plant and tree species. Most of these areas are in the various mountain ranges that are sub-ranges of the Rockies and the Sierra Madre, which extends north into this part of the U.S. from Mexico. Other areas that are lush oases of plant and animal life are found in the canyon country that this region is famous for. Several large rivers course through the Southwest, draining both to the Gulf of Mexico and to the Pacific Ocean at the Sea of Cortez. Among them are the Colorado and the Rio Grande, both of which flow through some of the most spectacular canyons on Earth.
Just as in the Rocky Mountains region covered in the previous chapter, there are far more bug-out locations in this region than I can begin to cover in this limited space, but I’ve picked out a cross-section of some of the Southwest’s most outstanding wild areas to give you an idea of the possibilities. If you live in this region you are lucky to have so many great options to get far away from the crowds in times of trouble, as many of these places receive virtually no human traffic. But
if you plan to bug out in the Southwest, you certainly need to be aware of the region’s unique challenges and be prepared to deal with them.
In the dry Southwest, an adequate supply of drinking water is a top survival priority. A reliable means to carry an adequate supply of water will be of utmost importance when choosing gear for bugging out in this region. As compared to other regions, you will need to carry more water at any given time while traveling in most of the bug-out locations described in this chapter, as resupply opportunities may be few and far between. I would suggest distributing your supply in several separate Nalgene bottles or other containers to decrease the risk of losing your entire supply if a single larger container is punctured or otherwise fails. When traveling in desert areas, you should also carry a means of collecting water from unconventional sources. One of the best such sources is early morning dew found on the blades of grasses and leaves of plants. Although this can be mopped up and squeezed out of a T-shirt or bandana, having a large sponge will make it an easier job. You should also carry some clear plastic and a tube for making a solar still, as well as a copy of a diagram and instructions on how to construct one if you are not familiar with the process. Equally important as your water supply is protection from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat, bandana, and long-sleeved shirt should always be in your bug-out bag here, and a tube of sunscreen is a good idea as well. It’s also important not to overlook clothing and shelter to protect you from the cold, especially at high elevations, where weather can be just as severe as in the Rockies or North Woods.
In most parts of the Southwest, you will have more travel options than in any other region of the U.S. Wide-open deserts, often devoid of fences, make it possible to drive off-road even where there are no trails in sturdy four-wheel-drive vehicles or on ATVs or off-road motorcycles. Horses, mules, and donkeys are just as practical here today as they were 150 years ago, and mountain bikes can also serve well in many areas. In many parts of the mountains, though, foot travel may be the best option for truly getting to places where you will not easily be found.
Weapons here should include a .22 rifle for small game as well as a rifle for taking larger game at longer distances. Any caliber sufficient for black bears and mountain lions will suffice for protection. Be aware that some parts of this region, especially close to the Mexican border, have become extremely dangerous due to illegal human and drug trafficking, and you should use extreme caution to avoid being seen by the people carrying out these activities.
Over the years I've made many long combination road trips/backpacking excursions throughout the Southwest. I would have moved there long ago if not for my addiction to sea kayaking and sailing on the Gulf, which has kept me in the South. I would like nothing better than to load-up my camping gear on my KLR 650 dual-sport motorcycle right now and leave tomorrow for New Mexico. But, as it is, I'm in the middle of the manuscript for my next book, which has to be completed by Septermber 1. After that, there's a possibility....