[dropcap]P[/dropcap]repper compounds and survival retreats have become big business – even spawning specialized real estate brokerages to sell doomsday disaster home sites. When I was still pretty active in real estate, I would routinely get phone calls from out-of-the area folks seeking homesteading, hunting, or farmland.
But, the first time I received a phone call from a stranger (in a small rural county, everyone knows everyone and can quickly spot a “transplant”) beating around the bush trying to find a prepper retreat without actually saying he was looking for a survival compound, I was very pleasantly surprised!
Survival Compound Layout
There is no one perfect way to design a prepper compound, a lot of the actual situating of essential parts of the retreat will depend on terrain, acreage, and budget. But, vital components should be included as soon as finances allows, and expanded upon when it is feasible.
photo: interior prepper compound (click to open in new tab)
The home should have multiple bedrooms and bathrooms that have composting commodes. Maximize space in the bedrooms as much as possible by putting two sets of bunk beds and/or a queen bed and bunk beds in family rooms. Use under the beds for clothing storage and shelving units on the walls to house other personal items.
Remember to stockpile clothing, shoes, and outerwear in a variety of sizes for babies and children, as well as extra work boots and shoelaces or everyone in a survival group. Each room in the home should have its own woodburner or fireplace.
Approximately 85 percent of the basement should be used as a floor to ceiling storage area. Place a sleeper sofa, countertop work space, and a table and chairs for meeting and work space, in the basement as well. Turning part of the prepper compound into an off grid campground or small housing space for the prepping group may not be possible either due to space limitations, a security threat, or intense weather. You cannot have too many sleeping and general living space options inside the main house.
The living area in the main house should double as a dining room and meeting space. Place multiple large and wide tables in the room, and multiple couches so the entire survival group can gather together in one space when necessary. Purchase sleeper sofas and fold out single sleeper loves seats to provide additional bed space.
An attached building or room in the home should be designated as a medical clinic. Ideally, there would be a double entrance to the medical clinic and quarantine room to prevent the spread of disease. An outside entrance into the medical clinic is also needed to again, avoid the spread of germs unnecessarily.
A metal cabinet containing disposable “booties,” gloves, and gowns – as well as a biohazard garbage can, should be present at all entrances to the clinic and quarantine room. Stockpile waterless antibacterial lotion to also keep in the metal supply cabinet. Disease will spread quickly when you cannot call a doctor, being reckless with germs could wipe out the compound in a matter of days or weeks after the SHTF.
Garage and Workshop
A garage and workshop, as well as an area for reloading activities should also be attached to the main house. Being able to enter the medical clinic and workshop from the safety of the home, just might saves lives.
Unless you have massively deep pockets, air conditioning will become a thing of the past during a doomsday disaster. An outdoor kitchen on a patio attached to the home will prevent the kitchen and main house from becoming incredibly hot during the summer months and allow ease of access and ample extra space for food preservation during the harvest. The root cellar entrance should also be located near the main house and outdoor kitchens for both the sake of convenience and security.
Use stainless steel coutnertops and backsplash to curtail the spread of germs. The butcher shop should be equipped with a hydraulic system to lift hogs and beef, if financially feasible. Butcher shop saws and equipment will require a 220 electrical outlet.
Learn how to butcher beef the old-fashioned way with manual tools to save on fuel or so meat preservation can continue after fuel stockpiles run dry or fail. A walk-in cooler, which can double as an ice house, should be a part of the butcher shop. To conserve on or replace fuel, fill 5-gallon buckets with water, freeze the water, and attach a firm-fitting lid and stack the in layers separate by sawdust. A smokehouse should be constructed and situated adjacent to the butcher shop area.
Blacksmith Shop and Livestock First Aid
You will be your own vet and farrier after the SHTF. Learn how to shoe, trim, and care for livestock to ensure their longevity – and by extension, your own.
These listening posts and observation posts should be constructed in a covert a manner as possible, regardless of whether they are partially earth-berm or watch tower style enclosures. An LP/OP should be placed on all four sides of the property, on top of the main house, and in any areas where the view from one of the four perimeter LP/OPs is obstructed.
Prepper Compound Land Requirements
There is a whole lot of cross-over between prepping and homesteading properties, but survival compounds must be built on land with natural attributes that enhance security while limiting entry points – and be situated in as secluded an area as possible.
If you have a space million dollars or so around, you can buy into a luxury compound with a ready-made community. But, if you must prep under a budget like most of us, and prefer to commune with your own tribe (family and friends) during a SHTF situation, it is financially possible to design and built the ultimate prepper compound all on your own.
Prepper compounds and retreats should encompass at least 20 acres, but ideally the land should be between a minimum of 35 to 50 acres – depending upon the size of your group. Bigger isn’t always better. If you do not have enough responsible hands to work the land and operate a 24/7 surveillance patrol rotation covering the entire area on foot, horseback, ATV, or via LP/OP (listening post and observation post) platforms, having too much land might just get you killed.
You can built a solid and defensible prepper compound on only a few to 20 acres, depending upon the quality of the land, how it is utilized, and the type of food which will be raised and grown. Once the SHTF, you will not be able to go to a store to purchase livestock feed and getting hay even from a farm nearby, might not be realistic.
On a small prepper compound, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and possibly pygmy and dwarf goats could be kept for protein and milk. Dexter cattle, a miniature version of a standard could, might also be feasible.
Livestock, fuel, and water sources must all be self-sustaining. The prepper compound should have at least two water sources, one ideally being a well. A pond, either man-made or natural, should be stocked with fish as an extra food source.
Look for a parcel of land that requires a crossing a creek as close to the entrance as possible. This will create a natural choke point attackers will have to funnel through to inch closer to the main portion of your property and the prepper compound. A second line of fencing on each side of the creek, in addition to around the perimeter area is highly recommended – as well as another entry gate before the creek crossing.
Firewood, hydraulic power, wind power, and solar power should be incorporated into the survival compound land purchase and design as much as feasible depending upon the terrain and your budget.
Top 10 Prepper Compound Attributes
1. Located at least 60 miles from a significant metropolitan area.
2. Not located near a highway or major roadway.
3. Sustainable water source preferably from a creek, stream, or pond – in addition to a well.
4. Not attached to municipal water lines or sewer system, but a private septic system.
5. A substantial portion of the land is usable for hunting and firewood harvesting.
6. Accessible only by 4-wheel drive vehicles.
7. Located at the end of a dead-end road – bonus points if the road is gravel or dirt and not paved.
8. Property has a long and secluded drive that prevents the home and growing areas from being viewed from the road.
9. The home and large portions of the property are surrounded by hills, rugged terrain, or mountains.
10. The prepper compound has significant southern exposure areas for gardening and growing areas.
photo: prepper compound (click to open in a new tab)
Fencing – and lots of it, is essential to the security of a prepper compound. You should use multiple types of barriers to not just keep livestock in and people out, but to ensure any marauders will take one look at the retreat boundaries and quickly determine attempting to get inside may just be the last thing they ever do.
You may not want to advertise you are a prepper until things go critical. The more your retreat remains hidden from view or blends in with surrounding farms, the better.
Prepper Compound Fencing
- Barbed Wire – Use barbed wire fencing around the entire property – five or six strands. This type of fencing will not look out of place in a rural area. Having posts and an initial line of fencing in place will save huge amounts of time and hard work when bolstering the perimeter as the SHTF.
- Electric Wire – Add several lines of electric fencing powered a strong solar energizer amid the barbed wire fence strands. An attacker will not be electrocuted by the wire and can snip it apart, but the electric lines should slow them down just long enough for the person in the nearest LP/OP to get them in their sights.
- Razor Wire – This is the type of wire you need to add as the world is going pear-shaped. Use 8-foot T-posts or wood posts when putting in the barbed wire fencing so the boundary is already tall enough to add razor wire without wasting time putting up more posts. Anyone who has used a post pounder for even a single hour already knows just how tiring and time-consuming the process of putting up fence truly is.
- Gates – The gates to the property should be chained heavily and incorporate razor wire as well.
- Block or Brick Walls – Adding block walls to the perimeter or the property of at a choke-point past the initial entry gate, will help prevent vehicles from crashing onto the property and serve and can serve as a shooting blind in forced into a firefight to defend your land and loved ones. Filling the cinder blocks with concrete will give added protection from some calibers of rifle rounds.
Survival Compound Power
Even if the prepper compound does not have to function off the grid right now, it should be designed so it can both during and long after the SHTF. Relying on the power grid, regardless of any specific type of disaster you are prepping for, would be downright foolish and quite likely, cause your untimely death
The prepper compound should be comprised of about 50 percent wooded area to make it sustainable in the long-term from a fuel and hunting aspect. A smaller prepper compound situated adjavent to public land will increase your access to wood and hunting area, but comes with some downsides as well.
Copious amounts of un-prepared or under-prepared folks who plan on “bugging out to the country” will be converging upon the same public lands, increasing the competition for both available natural resources and danger. A woodburner or fireplace should be positioned in every room possible in the main house on the prepper compound. They will provide both heat and cooking options when the power grid fails.
A woodburner is a far better option for optional and controllable heat output. Cast iron cookware can be placed directly on top of the woodburner for cooking. A woodstove can also be used to generate hot water for the house.
My friend Scott Hunt, of Practical Preppers fame, details exactly how to connect a coil to the woodstove for generate hot water in the video below. Learn how to make your own charcoal from firewood and stockpile it for off grid outdoor cooking purposes.
This multi-use fuel should be stockpiled heavily on the prepper compound. The tanks should be stored in multiple easily accessible areas that are constructed in as fireproof a manner as possible. When selecting appliances for the main house on the survival compound, opt for a propane stove and refrigerator. Add either fireplaces or woodstoves for additional cooking options once the propane stockpiles run out.
Gasoline, Diesel, and 2-Cycle Oil
Vehicles, farm machinery, and chainsaws will all need to be powered long after convenience stores are looted and closed down. More than one fuel storage shed should be positioned on the compound for both ease of use and security reasons, in case one stockpile becomes compromised. At least one stockpile should be stored in a fireproof space near the main house.
Photovoltaic panels and batteries to store the power they generate are another must on the prepper compound. When it comes to fuel and power, you need backup for your backup and then a third option for each, to sustain the retreat for the long-term.
The compound should include whole-house wired generators that run off of multiple sources of fuel, as well as multiple and portable, solar generators. Stockpile backup parts for each style of generator and learn how to complete necessary repairs that will ultimately arise over time.
Turbines will offer yet another sustainable and renewable power source for the survival compound.
If the compound is positioned along a flowing creek, harness that power to help fuel any number of activities and necessary functions on the survival retreat.
Wire your power collection bank to either a 24 volt or 48 volt bank. Many lights, water heaters, and water pumps can function easily on only 12 volts. Both solar and wind generators are also manufactured in 12 volt varieties. Power inverters and charge controllers need to be stockpiled so all the traditional AC devices on the compound (computer, DVD player, microwave oven, etc.) can be connected properly and prevent over-charging.
Food and Medicine Production
Growing your own groceries and apothecary must begin in earnest on day 1 on the prepper compound, even potentially before any structures are built. The more growing options you have, the more stable your food source will be during a doomsday disaster.
Long-term shelf stable food should be stored in great abundance. Consider this your, “crop insurance” stash and do not touch it unless absolutely necessary. In addition to storing shelf stable food inside the home and basement, use PVC pipe to make underground caches that can be buried throughout the property in case you have to evacuate quickly either permanently or temporarily.
Each LP/OP should also have at least three day’s worth of food, water, and first aid gear stored inside the covert structure.
The size of the garden will depend upon the number of acres the prepper compound encompasses. Ideally, crop production should comprise about 10 percent of available space.
Container, Vertical, and Raised Bed Gardening
Maximize all available growing space, even if you have a 50-acre survival compound, by using raised beds, container, and vertical gardening. Growing medicinal herbs in raise beds near the home and medical clinic, will keep the harvestable natural medicines readily available for preservation and for the making of tinctures, salves, gal-capsule medication, and ointments.
The landscaping around the main house and attached or adjacent buildings should all be either of the medicinal or edible variety. Turn the sides of buildings in vertical gardens for growing lettuce and other greens that thrive in shallow soil.
Wood Pallets make great inexpensive vertical gardening containers. Plastic barrels are perfect for growing potatoes and other root crops. Deep flower pots can be placed right on the patio or deck to cultivate tomatoes.
The prepper retreat should have as large of a greenhouse as possible so crops and apothecary plants and herbs can be grown year around. Do not opt for a typical glass-window greenhouse, they will be too difficult to repair after the SHTF. Create an enclosed porch greenhouse so the space can also be used to generate heat and warm water for the home via a solar-powered fan, and can be used as a brooder for poultry as well.
Keeping rabbits in the enclosed porch greenhouse generates a superb small compost area beneath the hutch. To save money and utilize geothermal heat from the ground, you can also dig a trench or pit greenhouse and cover the semi-exposed roof area with a thick grade clear plastic.
Cold frames should also be created near the greenhouse area so seedlings can be started as early in the season as possible and cultivated late into the fall, as well. Use scrap lumber to build the frames and old windows to create a firm-fitting top. The cold frames can easily be converted into a solar oven or solar-dehydrator during the summer months.
Check out the masterful attache insulated greenhouse my prepping mentor, Rick Austin, created at his hills of North Carolina home. With such a greenhouse, it is possible to grow non-native miniature trees, like coffee, orange, lemon, and apple, year around.
Grow you crops in guilds like ancient farmers used to, and help hide them from prying eyes that could be violently desperate for even a scrap of food. None of the growing options you choose (engaging in each of them is highly recommended) should be done within either sight or smell range of the perimeter of the prepper compound.
Liquid gold not only tastes delicious, but has a copious amount of medicinal properties as well. An apiary should be established on the survival compound and beehives placed in or next to all growing area to foster the ultimate possible level of pollination of crops.
Livestock must have a barn, a pasture, and a pasture for rotation and/or hay cultivation, in order to survive. Situate the barnyard near a natural water source if the area is not visible from the road. Allow the animals to free-range around the fenced in prepper compound so they can feed themselves (healthiest and cheapest diet they can have) and eliminate any need to waste fuel, energy, and time on lawn maintenance.
Prepper Compound Building Materials
The main house and all structures at the survival retreat should be fireproof, weather proof, and protect against armed attackers firing semi-automatic weapons, as much as feasible.
- Construct the buidings out of cinder block and poured concrete walls. The floors should also be comprised of concrete – you can cover the fire resistant material to make it more attractive, or simply paint it. The thick walls will help curtail bullets of multiple calibers, as well. A fire could still start inside the home and cause the loss of personal belonging and stockpiled preps, but you will still have a strong shelter to protect you from whatever is outside.
- The roof of each building should be metal so it too is fire retardant.
- Build a protective metal case around the chimneys with a firmly affixed cast iron (or similar fire resistant material) top – and line it on both sides with as small of a gauge of hardware cloth as possible. The metal case will provide added protection from a maruader attempting to wreak havoc on the home from the rooftop.
- Create a fire break around the main house and all other portions of the survival retreat to the extend feasible. Wildfires spread rapidly during the summer months or whenever there is a drought – and fire may also be used by attackers to take what’s yours as you flee.
In addition to security patrols around the clock on the homestead, you should also invest in low-voltage closed circuit security cameras, trail cameras, and solar-powered motion detector lights – among all other off grid preppers security traps you can create to alert you to an unwanted visitor.
Tannerite is an ingredient often used in exploding targets sold both online and in brick-and-mortar stores without the need of any special permit. The binary explosive can be placed in containers around the perimeter of the home and inside wildlife decoys and explode with a single shot from the individual on duty in an LP/OP to scare off intruders and warn others on the prepper compound of approaching danger.
When planning a prepper retreat, start with the basic and work you way out from there only after laying out a blueprint for what you want the survival retreat to ultimately become. The importance of fining the right piece of land simply cannot be overstated – start wrong and you will not live long during the apocalypse!
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.