What to Look for in a Survival Retreat

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Prepping in some cases is about taking proactive steps to avoid or mitigate the risk of danger. Usually when we think of prepping nirvana the vision is a remote location, far away from the hustle and bustle of any city. Something like the Walton’s home that is far away from any neighbors and a trip into town isn’t something you make for a single carton of milk like we currently do. The ideal location provides safety from the threats we routinely discuss on the Prepper Journal, but there are a lot of factors to consider if you are looking for your own survival retreat.

Some of you may be thinking that the hour is at hand and any chance of finding a survival retreat for your family has passed. That train has left the station and if you aren’t already in your off-grid sustainable home, it’s too late. I don’t know if that is the case for everyone. I do believe that even if SHTF happened right now there would be ideal (as possible) locations that people could move to. Now, this movement might be a long and tortuous process. You may be moving not because you have stuck that For Sale sign in your yard, but you might be moving cross-country as part of a bug out after a collapse has happened.

Assuming for a minute that you have the resources, desire and time to move to a new survival retreat, your safe place from the rest of the world, what types of features should you be looking for to make your new home most suited for long-term survival and self-sufficiency? The items below are not in priority order, but I think they cover a few of the bases.

Water Sources

You know that you must have water. There is plenty of good property for sale in the desert that is pretty affordable, but without water how long can you live there? The perfect survival retreat property has at least two sources of water year round. A well is one desirable feature but if you are buying land outright with no improvements you may have to have someone come out and so an assessment on your property. Assuming you have a good source of ground water you could drill your own well or have someone take care of that for you. Rain barrels are a great alternative, but what if it doesn’t rain enough to replenish the supplies you need?

In addition to a well, running water in the form of a spring, river, stream or even stationary water from a pond will greatly extend your ability to provide water for your family, livestock and crops. It should go without saying that all water on the surface will need to be disinfected prior to drinking. Well water will need to be tested also to make sure it doesn’t contain toxins from farm runoff or pesticides aren’t present. The USGS has a good page explaining different sources of water for the rural homeowner and important considerations.

You need to have great soil conditions to grow food to feed your family and livestock.

You need to have great soil conditions to grow food to feed your family and livestock.

Soil Quality

So you have a great piece of land nestled back in the forest and water flows freely from a creek on the property. You still have to eat don’t you? For most people that includes some form of crop production that will likely account for most of the food you consume. You can have thousands of chickens but you will need to grow crops to feed them as well as yourself. Man cannot live on chicken nuggets alone contrary to what millions of children across the world think.

Testing the soil quality on a piece of land is an important consideration before you purchase any property. There are soil testing kits you can purchase online that will quickly tell you the soil conditions. Once you know the type of soil you have, you can work to amend it if necessary. There are a few common issues:

  • Soil is too acidic – Adding lime, poultry manure, or wood ash to your soil can make it more alkaline and raise the pH to a healthier level.
  • Soil is too alkaline – Many gardeners swear by coffee grounds as an inexpensive, safe and readily available way to lower pH levels.
  • Soil is lacking nutrients – Organic matter can include anything from compost to bone meal to lawn clippings, depending on your specific needs.
  • Soil is too sandy or dense – Adding peat moss is an inexpensive and effective way to loosen up clay soil, while compost can build up and enrich sandy soil.

Read more about how to amend your soil on the HGTV site.

If you don’t have the ability to purchase a soil testing kit, you can go the DIY route as well. The video below shows you how.

Growing Season

Along with soil quality, you will need a long growing season to maximize the amount of produce and crops you can grow. Each part of the world is different and most sustain some form of plant growing, but there are differences. You can read more about growing zones on the USDA website or view the map below to see where your survival retreat property falls.

How long will you have each year to grow crops?

How long will you have each year to grow crops?


Strategic Relocation has a myriad of data points and analysis on the best locations to move for survival.

This is usually the first criteria that people consider when they are looking for a new home and you might say some of the items above fall into the location aspect. The location of your retreat does matter greatly from a couple of standpoints. Ideally you want to be further away from high concentrations of people. The golden horde affect will be a very real risk I believe in the face of large disasters, wars or economic issues. Look at the migrants fleeing Syria right now landing in Hungary to see a real-live example of the migration of people away from troubled areas. The further away you are from large centers of people the better off you will be from the risk of a swell of people on foot in a tragedy.

Do you have plenty of timber on your property? How far away are you from neighbors? Will there be any developments that put a big neighborhood or shopping complex in your back yard? Who owns the property near you?

Location also matters when you are considering paying for this new survival homestead. Are you able to find work that will pay the bills? Even if you buy your piece of land and pay cash for it, there will always be taxes. You will likely need to purchase some supplies and that requires money. Perhaps you have a source of income that isn’t dependent upon location and that might be the best. What about schools, access to healthcare? All of these are considerations you will need to make. Strategic Relocation is a great resource that takes a lot of the finer points and makes them easy to search. We also have access to a free download that allows you to use Google Maps to mine data on threats as well. Read more about that here.

Moving is never easy, but if you are planning to move primarily for the security of a survival retreat, the decisions are harder than simply moving to a better neighborhood across town.

What other factors would you consider before you moved?


  1. Bolofia

    September 5, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Other factors worthy of consideration:
    1. Crime rate and the nature of crime in the area, such as drug activity, burglary. For example, the local police department or county sheriff’s office can tell you whether gang activity is endemic.
    2. The demographic make up of your prospective county or locale.
    3. How many home sites are only seasonally occupied by their owners. You might have to rely on a real estate agent for that info, but they will have it.
    4. The type of industry in the area. For example, ranching, farming, tourism, etc.
    5. A subscription to the local newspaper will inform you about the general character of the town, its civic mindedness, etc.
    Taken together, answers to these questions will tell you an awful lot about the desirability of a particular potential home site.

    • EgbertThrockmorton1

      September 5, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Just a note as to “crime rates”, ALL law enforcement agencies diddle their “crime statistics” a more accurate representation is to see/order a copy of ALL the “911 calls for service” in the specific area you choose, for one year. That will tell you exactly WHAT the locals thought the emergencies are/were when those calls were initiated. Will be the best $50.00 OR LESS you ever spent.(and all agencies have those available, free or at cost)

      • Bolofia

        September 5, 2015 at 4:53 pm

        That’s terrific!
        I was pondering a way to graphically illustrate crime activity by dropping color coded pins on a Google Earth map. Your suggestion would be a great way way to achieve that for at least the 911 calls. An additional thought, small town newspapers usually devote a section to arrests made during the past week (usually with the block location on a street or a rural road designation). Some of those might never begin with a 911 call.

    • Pat Henry

      September 7, 2015 at 9:40 am

      Great additions Bolo!

      Regarding the local paper. Just from my own experience, the local paper is very biased toward one side of the political spectrum. All you need to do is scan the articles and then jump over to the Editorial section. In my case at least, the paper misrepresents the civic picture greatly and I think they do this to promote the agenda of a certain ideology. Maybe, I’m crazy.

      • Bolofia

        September 7, 2015 at 10:38 am

        Point well made. If someone is looking for a survival retreat in the middle of a liberal cesspool, then the local newspaper will reveal that, as well. Go west young man, go west… Just stop before you hit the Left Coast.

  2. EgbertThrockmorton1

    September 5, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    I do believe that comparing the transient “migrant” population in Europe, to something akin to the “Golden Hordes” often mentioned in various preparedness discussions is a misnomer. First the geography of Europe and the Balkans, lend themselves to mass migration FAR better than the USA does. We have large (no, HUGE) areas of desert terrain that is almost impossible to transit on foot without dying of thirst or “exposure”. Europe does NOT have that at all.
    Europe has an established mass transportation system, USA does not.
    While there will be (I believe) some significant “migration” OUT of metropolitan areas, I am firmly in the belief that most of those people will only “migrate” OUT, the distance their vehicle’s gas tank OR, their vehicle’s “repair”/condition will LET them travel.
    As for marauding “bands” of “gang members”, I just don’t see that happening in any significant amount at all. Most would be removed or permanently “prevented” from traveling too far from their home turf, due to their “uniforms”, displayed weapons, and spontaneous violent actions. The locals are not going to stand by and see “them” coming into their sphere of influence, without seriously affecting their overall numbers.
    It did not happen in any of the recent riots, while there was SOME thug “migrant” population shift thanks to FEMA placement, most did stay in their home areas after Katrina.
    Like Bolo, I do believe that your BOL or “retreat” location should be carefully researched in depth and detail to see who/where/what kinds of “local issues” are already occurring PRIOR to selecting that location. It is time and money well spent. Check radioreference.com and click on the state/s you are interested in. Local county maps will come up. Then click on those counties and LISTEN to the actual LIVE 911 calls for service dispatch, and hear first hand what kinds of issues are being reported in that area. Also, you can time the real (actual) time it takes for units being dispatched, to the time they actually arrive on scene, be it a fire/medical or law enforcement emergency. THAT does make a difference in a “normal” situation. In a SHTF or WROL scenario, you WANT to know just how isolated you actually are, and IF, any “help” might be coming, OR, you are the Cavalry. Hope this helps.

  3. RDPaul

    September 6, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    I am offering a deeded 50% share in my BOL in Nothern New England. Details can be found on the Prepared Society Forum and you can contact me through this forum. My retreat satisfies most of these requirements, it’s not in an optimum growing climate but there is abundant fuel for heat and the cold and snow provide an effective wall against gangs, the golden horde, or any army!

    Check it out if you are looking for a retreat:


  4. MossyRoofTop

    September 7, 2015 at 5:40 am


    Check out this scary story in Idaho

    Triple murderer Dees says he looked for isolated home to rob

    Dees sentenced to life in prison without parole in foothills triple murder

    Killer uses Google Earth, Targets Isolated Homes

  5. Pat Henry

    September 7, 2015 at 9:53 am

    Yes, we do have our own share of desert terrain, but you only have to look at a population map of the US to see that most people don’t live there. What about the cities of the east cost or west coast? Do you really think that if something happened in NYC to make it uninhabitable that the people would simply stay put?

    I think it is even easier for people to migrate here in the US. There are no borders in the US, no seas to cross so they just have to get in their cars or walk out of town. People migrated in out of New Orleans for the obvious reasons during Katrina and many thousands have not returned. http://www.citylab.com/politics/2015/08/10-years-later-theres-still-a-lot-we-dont-know-about-where-katrina-survivors-ended-up/401216/ and they didn’t just go to the next town over. Some went as far as Seattle.

  6. Churchillfan

    September 8, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Not meaning to discourage anyone, but rather to encourage you to get moving with your plans. There are many things to adjust to in a new place….growing your own food is not only hard work, but so many things work against you…soil, rain or no rain, pests, too humid, too dry, critters….not to mention things like the 7 foot (4 inch diameter) rattlesnake that surprised me one day…trees that look healthy, but are rotted on the inside, falling on the house…on and on. It takes adjustment. It will be easier to adjust now..not then.

    • Pat Henry

      September 8, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      I think you are absolutely right and hope we still have more time to do just what you recommend Churchillfan.

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