How to Build a Fortified Prepper Compound

Prepper 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 allow, and expanded upon when it is feasible.

prepper compound interior
interior prepper compound layout diagram (click to open in new tab)

Main House

The personal residence 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 workspace, and a table and chairs for meeting and workspace, 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.

Living Room

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.

Medical Clinic

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 save lives.

Outdoor Kitchen

Unless you have massively deep pockets, air conditioning will become a thing of the past during a doomsday disaster.

An outdoor kitchen area 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.

Butcher Shop

Use stainless steel countertops 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.

a wooden LP/OP outpost
a wooden LP/OP outpost

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 spare 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 an 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 build 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 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 on 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 systems, 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 southern exposure areas for gardening.

prepper compound
prepper compound layout diagram (click to open in a new tab)

Compound Defense and Security

There is no doubt that preppers are taking note of the potential dangers that could befall them in the near future.

Many have started to take steps to create a fortified compound where they can ride out whatever might happen. However, it turns out that this is not as easy as it sounds.

There are many difficulties associated with trying to build and maintain a fortified prepper compound, to say nothing of keeping it a secret.

Below we will discuss some of the most common problems that people face when trying to create a safe haven for themselves and their families.

The first and most obvious issue is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and money to create a fortified compound.

Not only do you have to build the actual structure, but you also need to stock it with food, water, fuel, and other supplies and then commit to fortification.

This can be prohibitively expensive for many people, especially if they are already struggling to make ends meet.

Another challenge is finding a location that meets all your security requirements!

You need a place that is secure from intruders and natural disasters, while also being accessible enough that you can get to it quickly in case of an emergency.

This can be difficult to find, and often means compromising on one or more of your criteria.

Maintaining a fortified compound can also be difficult, especially if you are living in it full-time.

You will have far more to do for maintenance and upkeep compared to any typical suburban home or property.

You will also need to be constantly vigilant against intruders and other hazards, as well as maintain the supplies and infrastructure of the compound.

This can be a lot of work, and it can be easy to let your guard down if you are not careful.

Finally, one of the biggest challenges with building a fortified prepper compound is keeping it a secret. If too many people know about it, then it becomes a target for looters and other criminals.

This can put you and your family in danger, so it is important to keep the location of your compound as confidential as you can.

Between chatty group or family members, the modern surveillance state, and simple curiosity it might well prove impossible.

You’ll have many seemingly competing goals to contend with if you want to make a go of living at a fortified prepper compound, to say nothing of actually relying on it when the chips are down.

Consider the following concerns and see if you can address them in a way that still serves your purposes. Remember: this is not the way, just a way to go about things!

Overt vs. Covert Defensive Posture

  • Overt defensive posture: Keeping your fortifications, hardened structures, equipment, and defensive preparations and in plain sight. The idea is it will deter would-be intruders.
  • Covert defensive posture: Making your fortifications, preparations, and equipment difficult or impossible to see, or even omitting them entirely, in order to avoid attracting attention and obfuscating your plan.

Part of the appeal of a prepper compound, for some, is the aura of unapproachability or unassailability that it exudes to the outside world.

A compound of people working together in an obvious defensive posture pretty much says “back off” in every language. Strangers not welcome, go back the way you came, the whole nine yards.

And indeed it does say that. You might say that is the point of having a compound, to improve your defensive posture as a group when facing unknown situations or any other circumstances where you might be directly threatened by other people.

But therein lies a problem, a sort of paradox. By obviously increasing your defensive posture you may well invite more trouble than you keep at bay.

Things like high walls, towers, fortified home, and other obvious indications of substantial protective measures tend to make people nervous.

Like anyone, folks who see a tight-knit clutch of people coming and going from behind those high walls or substantial gates will likely wonder what you are getting up to in there.

Rumors will spread. Word will travel to the near boroughs and the distant cities.

The location of your compound will be disseminated, discussed and notated where appropriate for the plans of others. This likely does not mean anything good for you and yours.

For that reason, all preppers considering establishing a survival compound should consider taking great pains to establish a covert defensive posture. You should avoid any obvious signs of fortification as much as practical.

What defensive measures cannot be completely omitted for your objectives should be disguised as something innocuous, innocent or cheerful looking.

Again where possible, alternatives that can accomplish the same means but do so in a low-profile way should be considered.

Prospective builders of these compounds must also consider the footprint of such installations. You are never going to truly keep your compound secret in these days.

Yes, you might have it set back off of the road in the holler and surrounded completely by trees, but that will do very little to protect you from observation from above, be it people in the surrounding Highlands if applicable, aircraft, or increasingly drones.

You need not think the United States Government will not quickly become aware of your presence.

The government despises people who might be able to completely sustain themselves without benefit of their teats, and they hate more than that people who resist their dominion.

You need not think they will not, at some point, learn about your compound. Do you want them to see a veritable fortress, or nearly a small hamlet of family and friends living close together?

This is not to say that one concern might outstrip the other. But it is something you must consider before committing to the construction of your compound.


Part of designing a survival compound that can withstand a societal collapse and the attendant loss of the rule of law is it fortifying it against direct attack.

Make no mistake, desperate survivors and rampaging marauders alike will know that your compound represents not just safety, but also protection for important assets within, particularly things needed for sustainment like food, water, and other survival necessities.

Naturally, you must be prepared to protect your compound from the inside out, and defend it from the outside in. This means you’ll need fortifications of one kind or another.

Modern fortifications provide protection from small arms fire, and ideally from explosive munitions as well, at least up to a point. 

As described above, fortifications may be either overt or covert in nature, although the more substantial the fortification the more likely it will be that it is impossible to hide. 

Consider the following options and how they will fit into your compound construction plan.


Bunkers are above-ground, partially subterranean, or subterranean defensive installations that are enclosed and provide substantial protection for occupants against weapons fire.

A basic concrete bunker can offer excellent protection for defenders against all small arms and a majority of man-portable explosives. Substantial, steel-reinforced bunkers can even withstand artillery fire.

Common varieties used for this purpose will be either fully above ground or partially subterranean, peeking out of a hillside or only just above the surface of the ground.

Hardened, lockable doors and sustainment supplies are usually a fixture of bunkers, as are firing ports or slits to allow defenders to utilize their weapons against attackers.

As mentioned, bunkers are typically made from steel-reinforced concrete, the wood and sandbags along with layers of Earth can also make a formidable bunker.

One of the best and cheapest bunker construction types, along with the ugliest, is that of sandbags encased in concrete.

For more discreet bunkers, consider making them partially subterranean and then allowing Earth and covers with grass, flowers, and other plans to grow over their roofs.

If you can conceal the entrances and viewports with similarly camouflaged panels you can go from pastoral to payback time in the blink of an eye.


The foxhole is one of the oldest, best and simplest defensive measures in use since the advent of industrial-scale mechanized warfare.

By digging a simple hole in the ground and making a few choice improvements, a foxhole can provide substantial protection for any occupants.

Affording great cover against all small arms and reasonable cover against explosives that do not fall directly in the hole itself, all you need is a shovel and plenty of manpower to install a foxhole.

soldier inside foxhole
soldier inside foxhole

Basic foxholes may be dug very quickly on short notice by using powered or heavy equipment although the finer finishing details should still be done by hand.

Foxholes are capable of being further fortified through the use of sandbags, overhead covers, additional camouflage, and more.

Probably the biggest shortcoming with foxholes is that they are entirely overt unless painstaking measures are taken to camouflage them and keep them camouflaged.

Particularly when viewed from above, the obvious scarring of a landscape, especially when part of a network of similar foxholes, is almost impossible to miss. 

Nonetheless, they are highly attractive from an efficiency standpoint and might be the right answer for preppers who want to omit entirely any defensive fortifications until they are needed.

If you have the right heavy equipment or just a small army of people on hand, you can install foxholes all around your compound with just a few hours to spare.


In a way simpler than even foxholes, sandbags are another time-tested, trusty, and highly adaptable fortification against small arms, shrapnel, and lighter explosive weapons.

Sandbags can be used to reinforce any firing point, any other existing fortification, or even typical residential structures against gunfire.

shelter room made from sand bags
old bunker in Khao Kho Viewpoint , Phetchabun , Thailand

Solid, thick masses of Earth or sand readily stop bullets, and sandbags are quite cheap in the bargain.

You can even use sandbags to construct other fortifications, namely certain styles of bunkers or reinforced foxholes.

The simplicity and flexibility of the sandbag mean that this must be a tool in every prepper’s arsenal, and knowing how to use them for the benefit of fortifying your compound when and as needed is invaluable.

It must be noted that if one is using sandbags to fortify a compound full of typical residential structures great care must be paid to the weight limits of floors, particularly above ground floors.

Piling up enough sandbags around a window or door to create a reinforced firing point is going to add several hundred or even more than a thousand pounds to a small area, easily enough to stress joists and rafters to their limits.

The single biggest problem with sandbags is that they are extremely labor-intensive.

You must locate or create the loose soil or sand fill that will yield the sandbag its defensive properties. This takes a considerable amount of time and energy to do, and then the sandbags must be transported to where they are needed.

The logistics of this are simple, but likely anything but easy. Substantial fortification utilizing sandbags requires days of grueling advance work if specialized heavy equipment is not used for the filling.

The good news is that sandbags can be kept on hand unfilled in a very small space ready to be deployed whenever required.

Compared to all the other fortification measures on this list, sandbags serve double practical duty as a ready defense against flood waters.


Walls, as mentioned elsewhere, are a stereotypical fixture around a compound. If you cannot decide at will who gets to come in then you don’t have much of a compound.

Walls serve as a fundamental Access control feature that can afford more physical protection compared to fences. 

Walls should also be considered in the context of interior secondary or fallback defensive points, even if they are shorter than the perimeter wall, and also in the context of reinforcing the buildings that they are part of.

Do you want to defend at an outer wall or rely on the walls of any given building to afford protection? For the doubly cautious, consider doing both.

Making walls bulletproof is all a matter of assessing what threats you will be facing.

Double layers of common wood stock used for stick-built homes are often adequate for defeating most handgun projectiles. Rifle projectiles will require substantially thick wood, concrete, stone, or other masonry. 

When considering perimeter walls, it is worth pointing out that any wall tall enough that you cannot see over it will reduce your overall situational awareness, increasing your dependency upon raised lookout points or other methods of observation to see beyond them.

Deprived of these methods of observation, an enemy that gets right up on the walls will be able to stage for a blitz that might overwhelm you before you can react in time.

Avoid Massive Fortifications!

One thing I would like to impress upon all prospective compound builders is the need to avoid overblown and generally ineffective massive fortifications.

Think of things like above-ground castles and fortresses that are huge, expensive, difficult to build, and likely not as efficient as smaller, distributed defensive networks of independent fortifications.

The bottom line is this. Since the advent of effective gunpowder siege engines in the form of artillery, castles, and other massive fortifications have become the only places where defenders go to die.

Your fortifications should serve you in your efforts to repel attackers from your lands.

They should be flexible enough to allow you room to fall back and then subsequently push back attackers without affording attackers who overtake your defensive lines the use of the fortifications in a meaningful way.

You might be in love with the idea of having a castle to call your very own, and it might even be a dream of yours since childhood, but you need to give it up.

I have heard some preppers say that a castle remains the ideal defensive fortification when firearms are no longer available or in very short supply.

That might be true, but if there’s one thing you can count on it is the world’s supply of guns and ammunition lasting until pretty much everyone reading this is dust.

You must deal with threats as they are, not as you wish they were, and for that reason massive, classical fortifications should be omitted entirely from your defensive compound.

Not for nothing, they are truly impossible to hide and will raise your profile greatly among the surrounding area and the government in particular. Not good.

Also, remember what I said at the beginning of this entry. Fixed fortifications are where defenders go to die. Gunpowder changed everything.

Any defensive point you have must provide a ready and reliable escape route should you be surrounded or just cornered.

Ideally, this escape route will be underground, concealed, and feature an equally concealed escape hatch somewhere far away from where the action is taking place.

Perimeter Security

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.

Keeping these defensive systems on remote control is even better.

When planning a prepper retreat, start with the basics and work your way out from there only after laying out a blueprint for what you want the survival retreat to ultimately become.

The importance of finding the right piece of land simply cannot be overstated – start wrong and you will not live long during the apocalypse!

Prepper Compound Fencing

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.

electric fence system
an electric fence system
  • 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 a 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 or 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.

Defending in Spite of Typical Building Materials

If for whatever reason you choose to rely on only common, typical residential structures or building materials for furnishing the installations on your compound, you might have some concerns about the defensibility of said structures in the end.

This is understandable, as typical residential building materials offer precious little protection from gunfire, particularly from long guns and heavier weapons.

You need not dispair, however, because it is possible to up armor these structures in a meaningful way so they may serve as generally reliable defensive points.

At the very least, safe rooms may be installed that will afford occupants some protection against a battle that is raging outside or gunfire directed against the compound.

Your best bet for doing this reliably is through the use of sandbags as discussed in detail above.

If at all possible, if you reinforce nothing else in your home reinforce the floor and foundation substantially to take the extra weight if called upon.

This is a great example of an upgrade that will be completely undetectable to anyone observing the home from the outside or even from the inside.

Safe Rooms Must Have Secondary Exits

If you are going the route of the safe room, however, it is imperative that each one of them has a dedicated escape hatch or escape tunnel built into it they can provide a means of exit in case the primary door is blocked or barricaded, fire is set to the building or the situation outside it turns hopeless.

Ideally, this secondary emergency exit will be completely concealed and will lead some distance away from the building or room it services. This will provide greater safety and a better chance of escape for anyone that was using the safe room and forced to flee.

Digging something like an underground tunnel is extremely laborious, often expensive and can be dangerous, though a shallow one is within the reach of most homesteaders and seasoned DIYers.

This is another great time to remind readers that all of these factors and features are best addressed during the initial planning and construction phases of building. you can retrofit almost anything to any building if you have enough time and money to throw at the project.

But, if you are like me and I would say like most of us, that probably isn’t the case. It’s easy to say you would do anything for improved safety and protection, but when you’re faced with the bottom line figure for an expensive building or retrofitting project, it’s even easier to hesitate!

One should also consider that much of the time you are far better off being outside taking up positions of advantage versus being inside a structure where you can be cornered, minimized, and eventually killed by people who surround the structure.

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 adjacent 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, details exactly how to connect a coil to the woodstove for generating hot water in the video below. Learn how to make your own charcoal from firewood and stockpile it for off-grid outdoor cooking purposes.

Hot Water the old fashioned way: Water coil and a wood stove


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.

Solar Panels

solar panels
solar panels

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 a 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.

Wind Turbine

Turbines will offer yet another sustainable and renewable power source for the survival compound.

Hydraulic Power

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.

Battery Bank

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 pipes 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 days’ worth of food, water, and first aid gear stored inside the covert structure.

Traditional Garden

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.

rows of cabbage in veggie garden
rows of cabbage in veggie garden

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 raised 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 into 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.

Food Forest

Grow your 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 (the healthiest and cheapest diet they can have) and eliminate any need to waste fuel, energy, and time on lawn maintenance.

Compound Building Materials

The main house and all structures at the survival retreat should be fireproof, weatherproof, and protected against armed assault as much as feasible.

When choosing how to build any of the structures on your compound, and particularly those that are going to be occupied much of the time or will serve as defensive redoubts, you must build them as best you are able for the threats you are likely to face, not the threats you wish you were facing.

We aren’t getting ready for a zombie outbreak. Our antagonists are not slow, shambling and dimwitted walking corpses.

You must be prepared for fending off other humans, and very likely humans armed with guns, and possibly explosives whether or not they are improvised or purpose-designed. Physically keeping someone from breaking in and protecting the occupants of a structure against gunfire are two very different things.

When considering the level of protection that a structure should afford you, your basic, modern framing materials will only protect you from bow and arrows, and potentially a little bit of fragmentation from a distant grenade or pipe bomb.

Various guns, even small caliber guns in the form of pistols, pistol caliber carbines and submachine guns will make quick work of everything short of brick. Intermediate and major rifle calibers, of all kinds, are much, much harder to defeat owing to the deep and reliable penetration they provide.

If you are not installing purpose made armor in your home, determining the actual ballistic level of protection might be challenging despite your best efforts.

That being said, we can thankfully draw on the bitter experience of 20th century warfare to inform our choices of what building materials will reliably defeat rifle projectiles and personal explosives.

Concrete is an Affordable and Effective Choice

  • Construct the buildings 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 marauder 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.

The Importance of Community

While it is important to have a secure and defensible location for your prepper compound, it is also vital to have a strong community of like-minded individuals.

This will help you with the many challenges of maintaining your compound, and will provide you with much-needed support in times of need. A strong community can make all the difference in the world.

So, if you are serious about building a fortified prepper compound, be sure to focus on both the personal security and community aspects of the project.

These two elements are essential for making your compound a success. The community also spherically refers to the surrounding town, village, or inhabitants of the area.  

I understand the appeal of sort of walling yourself off physically if not genuinely from the outside world and the people in it, but you’re going to be doing yourself any favors if you are too insular, reclusive, and clannish compared to other people in the surrounding area.

Again, being secretive tends to breed rumors, and rumors can travel quickly. It is better to be known as the reliable, friendly, and trustworthy people who might have a quirk or two about them than the standoffish weirdoes who are plotting something in that compound of theirs.

Not for nothing, a community that knows you and trusts you is far more likely to be an impediment against government forces that might one day come knocking.

If everyone is glad that they are finally rooting out the troubling folk lurking in that compound all day, you can’t count on anyone even distracting the government jackboots come to destroy you.

Yes, you want to keep your compound as secret as possible, but if you can’t keep it secret, or the jig is up, there is no reason to act anything but friendly and neighborly with people living in the area, particularly those people who might need your help in the future, or vice versa.

A Prepper Compound Might be Your Best Defense

In conclusion, building a fortified prepper compound can be a daunting task. However, if you are able to overcome the many challenges involved, it can be a very rewarding experience.

Not only will you have a safe place to retreat to in times of need, but you will also have a strong community of like-minded individuals to support you. So, don’t be afraid to take on this challenge – it is well worth it!

19 thoughts on “How to Build a Fortified Prepper Compound”

  1. In todays cost this would be in the millions. I am not sure I would want my hog pen next to the creek or any animal pen. I could only dream of something like this. Well back to work.

    1. Evan, depending on where you build your prepper retreat, this design would likely be far more affordable that you think! Based on market values in Appalachia, this home and retreat set up would cost about $190K to $225K on roughly 55 to 60 acres. Livestock routinely waters from creeks that flow through the county here, without harming water quality during health department tests. I hope you find the right land, at the right price, and can build a prepper compound to see you and your loved ones through a SHTF disaster – best of luck to you!

    1. Terry, I hope you can find a way to economically start building a survival retreat, on some level, in the near future. There are a host of loan programs geared to agricultural land that how very low down payment, extremely low interest rates, and even though they are intended for farming or homesteading, can easily be used to buy land to build your prepper retreat upon as well. Also, the Fannie Mae HomeReady program has helped a lot of buyers get far more bang for their buck – and it even allows non-borrower household members and “renters” to have a portion of their income factored into the DTI of the actual borrower to help increase buying power. Just a few possible option that might be worth checking into to help get you onto some land and start building!

    1. Michael, Thank you, and I hope others find it to be a useful jumping off point to help them design the ideal prepper compound for their tribe!

  2. Tara,

    My compliments, perfect subject, well supported with redundancy, and, well written.

    Thanks for sharing and caring.


    1. Dave,

      Thank you. Our survival compound is still a work in progress, and I imagine we will still be enhancing and fine-tuning, and adding on until either the money runs out or the apocalypse happens!

  3. Excellent article, very comprehensive but needless to say financial, manpower and employment challenges make much of this difficult if not impossible for most of us. Speaking from experience, I have a fourteen acre homestead with poultry, livestock, a garden, solar, with a shop, hen house and two barns. All of this is extremely time and money intensive.

    Use this article as a framework and incorporate as much as possible into your lifestyle. I can assure you you’ll never have enough manpower or money. Finding like minded preppers is almost impossible and the only help you can expect from family is their assurance that they’ll show up if a crisis occurs. Prepare accordingly.

    1. Fifth-Disciple,

      A prepper compound definitely needs all committed hands on deck. Building expenses and the beautiful land in our area are not expensive – we do not have zoning, permit office, you can do the work yourself, etc. That all helps keep down on expenses.
      We have multiple extended family living on site and campers for nearby tribe members who work the land with us now and can arrive within 5 to 10 minutes of SHTF. It took us about 4 years to cultivate the group and to fine tune our plan and routine. It sounds like you have a wonderful homestead, and a lot of work to do everyday – no better way to live, right? I love waking up in the morning and doing barn chores. Our animals all free range during the day, so watching them walk to one of the ponds or the creek for a drink is also one of the many beautiful daily scenes around here. We are a typical solid middle class, yet still basically paycheck to paycheck family, so the survival compound began humbly and then advanced as we all put work into it and as my husband and I could afford to build on. Best of luck to you and your homestead!

  4. Well done, I disagree to a large extent with some other posters, thecdescribed scenerio is very doable. I think whats holding up some is the concept of doing things now vs post event. Everybody is so accustomed to “calling the guy’…visions of fresh white clapboard, wrought iron, manicured lawns and picture perfect rows of crops, all created and maintained by “the guy”, tip yourself 15% on the vis a card life… Think all that ass backward and reality starts to form up. Labor intensive, damn right, cost prohibitive, probably, but when the cost of not doing it yours and loved ones life prohibitive will have a different definition. Or not. Sheep or wolf? Most won’t know till after, and honestly, Everybodies probably gonna be amazed at the massive numbers of people that are neither. They’re mostly just bugs that are gonna get squished so fast by one means or another they might as well have done it themselves at the first flicker of the first lightbulb. Sorry, just real talk. Most people in what used to be America are so far removed from the natural world they’ll be unable to adjust, especially under the stress of an event. Lots are aware they are unconditioned and soft, but they underestimate. A cold snap dipping only into the 40°s recently killed I believe 84 people in Japan simply because they were caught ill prepared due to season. They were in their homes, and accustomed to no central climate control, far better adjusted than 99% of americans. And didn’t even get close to freezing, died anyway. SMH, folks, its gonna be bad. Harden the fuck up. Good luck.

    1. Liam, so well said about the disconnect from our natural world and far too many of our fellow Americans getting soft. Our rural community often laughs at the city folks when they can’t drive because their is an inch or two of snow on the ground or their air conditioning goes out. Sadly, too many of the younger generation of rural Americans are now becoming addicted to technology, those damn reality shows, and Facebook include and are getting soft as well. When you set your priority and budget accordingly, you can build a solid survival retreat and prep it for SHTF, size of the land and home will vary of course. It’s all about having your priorities right. We haven’t taken a single week of vacation in 4 years, but have plenty of fun here on our dream land, with sunset 4-wheeler rides replacing dinners out on date nite, and mending fence together, adult beverage in hand, counting as quality time. Best of luck to you, Liam!

  5. steve bramschreiber

    Great info….I personally would not want my medical clinic, workshop(reloading activities) near the main house just in case something goes wrong…that way you don’t endanger your crew/medical staff/patients with an explosion.
    The butcher shop would also be moved somewhere other than next to the main house(think of the smell from “harvested” animals invading your living room….the manure is going to be the other issue…kept downwind of your main house to be sure!! I spent time on my grandparents farm in rural Wisconsin and that can be an issue.
    I sure as heck don’t want my animal pens down near the creek…you might want to use that water for supplemental drinking/bathing water. put those pens on the other end of the compound. you can also use rose bushes, or other thorny plants as a barricade…think brambles! saves on $$ and has the benefit of fruit bearing as well!!

    1. Steve, Natural fencing like rose bushes, are always a great idea. We use natural fencing that doubles as edibles for various types of livestock, to supplement other existing fencing and in the hills at the far end of the property.

      We weighed the pros and cons on our compound design, which is very much like the one in the diagrams. Another posted mentioned concerns about livestock near a creek, but that has not posed any worry for me, it is a common practice in our region and has not caused any contamination issues – none that can’t be boiled out, anyway. I have actually never seen a farm that didn’t use a creek or pond to self-water the livestock.

      As far as the butcher shop smell, that would probably depend upon the type of building materials used. The home on the land we purchased had been a hunting lodge. It has poured concrete walls and a butcher shop attached. The walk-in cooler actually shares a wall with a bedroom, and there has never once been any type of odor. The meat is butchered, the stainless steels counters cleaned, the concrete flour with a drain, sprayed, and the remains disposed of by feeding to the dogs, and hogs.
      My barn is locate about 200 to 225 yards from the house, it is downwind and no nasty smells there either, but amazing views of watching the critters wander past at their leisure. I particularly like it when the goats and mini donkeys wander up by the shelter house and playground to graze – means n mowing or weedeating that area for me 🙂 Best of luck to you!

  6. Excellent information. I live i n a higher elevation, in a quite wooded area on a very large lake, so I’ve got some natural advantages to use. Your article is an excellent refresher course.

  7. I want to become a prepper and I have enough money to pay for everything I need and a lot of stuff I don’t need. What I don’t know is enough people to become a part of it. I am planning to buy a few thousand acres in Arkansas and building a compound to survive there. I am interested in finding people with the know-how to build and staff it.
    I have also thought to rent land or space for people who want to be part of the life but may be low on money but high on ability. Since I will be living there full time I could also possibly be able to cache items for people to live there or even passing thru.
    Anyone interesting in joining me? Let me know.

    1. You sound like me, if I had that kind of money. If you are truly loaded, consider bankrolling completely one or more dedicated prepper/homesteaders to become your backbone, upon which you can grow the rest. Consult with them as to what ‘they’ need and help them get it built. All you’d need other than them and what they build is a decent off the grid home for yourself with plenty of storage and guest quarters. There are many knowledgeable people out there who lack the financial means but do have a lot of the know how to make a retreat function.

      I’d go one extra step. A few thousand is enough to lay aside sufficient food stores for an adult for two years. Multiply that by whatever you can afford and store it. That will give you the opportunity to ‘not’ turn away select refugees. If a surgeon or a mechanical engineer or the like shows up, you really want to have the wherewithal to let them stay.

  8. Nicely thought out. I do wonder about getting a 2 story house if you are attempting to conceal your location.

    You noted the use of thorn bushes in another answer though I would recommend against edible berries on the perimeter. I would add these are excellent for covert cover. To give an example, I had a brother who got busted growing weed on our family farm – he was only caught because he drove to his plots on a minibike after a rain so my father just followed his tracks. I was surprised where he had his plots – most were in the center of thorn bush groupings – I had walked by hundreds of times playing as a child but never thought they might be concealing something, I just walked around. Earth berms can be made to look natural as well.

    If area isn’t a limit, you might consider the main compound in a circular shape – the circle shape provides the most enclosed area with the minimal perimeter to maintain. 1 central watch tower can have equal and tangent view in all directions (not trying to look down a fence line at an angle). The land is likely rectangular, but the corners can be the woodland for fuel.

    If the outbuildings are being built from a material similar to a home, might consider making them look like homes from the outside to exaggerate the capacity of the compound – install fake shutters and have doorways facing inward.

    Any opinion on bamboo? Strong, fast growing, fast spreading, easy to work with. Could provide a deep vehicle barrier without giving cover to unwanted visitors (can’t hide behind a bamboo stalk) – dense shading and growth of most species leaves little ground cover underneath. Different varieties can be used as wood, fencing, and even food and animal feed.

    Instead of propane, I would suggest biogas (methane) because it can be replenished. Construction of biogas plant is cheap, though a small appropriate type compressor would be recommended to store in tanks. Can use the same appliances, etc. with slight modifications.

    Standardizing on gasoline and creating an ethanol distillery also provides for a long term resource. You don’t need corn as feedstock, any plant matter works (just not as productive without high sugar content). You don’t need a massive column if you plan to use fuel sparingly.

    If you are in an area that experiences freezing weather, an ice house is a definite bonus and a cheap addition. I would suggest 1 change from most designs that use multiple layers of insulation – leave an air gap between the layers of foam and seal the foam tightly – static air is the bet insulation.

    You noted home cooling in the summer. The wet cloth in a natural draft actually works.

    I really like your idea on the blacksmith/metal shop and multiple uses of a greenhouse. Also the use of raised planting beds – makes maintenance and infestation control a lot easier.

  9. I wish I could get through one preparedness article without some version of this nonsense.

    “The government despises people who might be able to completely sustain themselves without benefit of their teats, and they hate more than that people who resist their dominion.”

    Please, with as much specificity as possible, point out where “the government” is working against your preparedness. Not enforcing zoning rules, but outright hostility to preparedness. Dominion, teats, and the rest. Can’t we just prep without the tin foil stuff?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *