Choosing Your Survival Retreat

Every prepper is going to be confronted with one simple question during a SHTF event or disaster scenario: should you bug in or bug out?  There is no universal answer to this question because it is entirely dependent on your individual resources and the scenario that you find yourself in.

In a majority of scenarios, it would be wiser to bug in, to avoid exposure on the open road and the inevitable abandonment of supplies that is common when you bug out. But there will also be a certain number of scenarios where bugging in is simply not an option.  For example, if there’s an incoming lava flow about to overrun your home or an enemy military attack within your immediate vicinity, that would obviously be the riskier choice.

Since there are certain scenarios where you will have to be bugging out, preparing for such a scenario makes sense. One of the main preparations for bugging out is to select a bug out location, AKA a survival retreat.

There’s no denying that choosing one is no trivial  It can be expensive and you have to consider and weigh many different factors, such as the strategic importance of the retreat, the resources it has available, how many routes there are to get there, and so on.

We’ll examine these factors and more in this article.  So without any further ado, let’s get started:


There are many possible events that can threaten your life and property and force you to evacuate your home.  Often a looming natural disaster in your area leaves you with no choice but to evacuate.  After all, if your home is in the path of an incoming hurricane, tornado, or lava flow, then it’s obvious that you need to bug out, right?

Another threat that could cause you to bug out, as mentioned earlier, is an enemy military (or terrorist) attack in your region.  If an enemy or terrorist force launches a surprise invasion of your home country and your home is in their path, bugging out to your survival retreat is the only option if you don’t want to live under enemy occupation.

An additional threat where bugging out would be a must is in a chemical or nuclear fallout. If a catastrophe happens at a power plant within a hundred-mile radius of your home or city, then you will have to bug out or face being exposed to radiation and contamination of your food and water supply.  Such a scenario would all but certainly kill you even if not immediately.

Several cities most vulnerable to a power plant disaster are:

  • San Clemente in California
  • Morris in Illinois
  • Limerick in Pennsylvania
  • Spring City in Tennessee
  • Richland in Washington.

An epidemic that takes hold in your area is yet another threat that could force you to bug out. The goal during an epidemic is to avoid contact with any possible contagious diseases as well as securing access to uncontaminated food and water. Bugging out is the only option to ensure that this happens in the event of such an epidemic.

If your region is experiencing a long period of drought or food is becoming scarce, this is a sign you could be in for a long battle if you fail to bug out. Looters and angry mobs will form as people become desperate to get their hands on food and water. The ability to bug out to a secret survival retreat where resources like food and water are in greater abundance could keep you protected from starvation, dehydration, and the desperate raiders looting neighborhoods.


Your survival retreat is the location where you plan to bug out to. In its simplest form, it’s your evacuation destination. But a survival retreat is more complex than just a destination or location.

Here are some other factors that make a survival retreat a true survival retreat:

  • It’s within walking or driving distance of your current home
  • It has storage space and living quarters
  • It’s in a remote area or at least a far distance away from civilization
  • There are multiple routes to use from your current home to your retreat.
  • It’s located on a plot of land that you own

Reviewing the above list of criteria may make you think of a few places that could be used as your survival retreat. Make a list of those locations as potential survival retreats. In the rest of this article, we will consider several additional factors which will help you to narrow your choices down to the best survival retreat for you.


No matter how secure or remote your survival retreat is, if it doesn’t have a natural water source, it’s simply not suitable as a survival retreat.  Keep in mind that in a long term SHTF scenario, you could end up staying at your survival retreat for weeks if not months or years. It would be near impossible to stock up enough water to remain in one location for that long. So a natural source of fresh water at your survival retreat or very nearby is a determining factor.

Water must be clean and drinkable. A stagnant pond is not drinkable water without the use of a water filter. A running river, stream, fresh spring, or well are the best choices. You can also try rainwater harvesting, though you should never rely on rainwater as your sole water source.  Be aware of any known contaminants in your water source as well.  A survival retreat close to a chemical or nuclear plant is not a good idea.


As with water, your survival retreat needs to have the opportunity to grow food.  Your survival retreat building needs to have plenty of food storage space and you should stockpile as much food as you can, but eventually you will run out. You need to be raising or growing additional food that you can fall back on when your stored food runs out.

There are three different options for additional sources of food at your bug out location:

There are multiple opportunities for foraging food.  You can hunt or set traps for wildlife, you can go fishing in a river or a lake, or you can pick edible berries and plants around your area as well.  Thoroughly explore and inspect the land you are considering for your survival retreat before you make a purchase.  Check to see if there are plenty of fish in the natural water source, keep an eye out for signs of wildlife, and look for any edible plants that are growing in the area.

As for gardening, you need to have enough space with good soil to grow a garden will provide you and your family with enough crops to survive for the duration of your time at the retreat.  You don’t want to be growing a garden while you’re not there, and then checking on it at regular times, because the local animals will make short work of any crops that you grow.  Instead, just make sure that there is an area of good soil that you can use for growing a garden if needed, and then store the seeds and other gardening materials separately.

Raising livestock is going to be the trickiest option for food at your survival retreat, and may not be feasible.  If you’re not actually living at your retreat, it’s going to be difficult raising livestock there by coming back and checking on them regularly.  And even if you are raising livestock at your current home, it’s going to be enormously difficult transporting them to the survival retreat when you bug out.

Nonetheless, if you somehow get the opportunity to raise animals such as chickens or rabbits at your retreat in the event of a disaster, you should not pass it up.  This means that there needs to be a secure pen and housing for your livestock and plenty of grain and animal feed stored away.  And if you’re going to be raising larger livestock such as cattle, you need to have enough grazing land for them as well.

Animals and rodents could also get into your food, so make sure it’s all secure.


A SHTF period is going to be dangerous, meaning your survival retreat needs to be as secure as possible.  The best way to make sure your retreat is secure is to hide it so that nobody knows about it.  If hungry people discover your retreat, it will only be a short matter of time before they come knocking on the door.  So seclusion is the best defense for a survival retreat.  This means choosing a remote location, concealed by hills and/or dense forests, and with as few homes as possible around it, is the best location.

But no matter how hidden your bug out location is, you still have to be prepared to defend it.  For this reason, your survival retreat needs to be on land that is naturally defensible.  Flat terrain or open grasslands are horrible places for a survival retreat for this reason.  On the other hand, rocky areas, steep mountains, or tall hills may be enough to deter intruders and allow you to set up decent defensive positions.

Remember to check on your survival retreat and protect it in times of peace.  You never know when someone will stumble into it while you’re gone. It should be accessible via multiple routes so that if one way becomes blocked during a disaster, you have another route to use. There should be two driveways leading in and out of your retreat so you have an escape route if your retreat is ever invaded.


There’s a significant chance in a SHTF situation that the power will go out, forcing you to rely on alternative sources of energy.  For this reason, you need to have at least two different energy sources of power that you can use at your survival retreat.

The three best sources of sustainable energy are wind, running water, and the sun.  If you install wind turbines, for example, you can use the wind to pump water and provide your home with power.  The problem with this is that if your home is in a secluded location and shielded by dense trees and/or mountains, there may not be enough wind for this to be feasible.

Sunlight may be a more feasible option, however.  As long as you have just one open area at your retreat location that receives enough sunlight during the day, solar panels that you install can take that sunlight and convert it into power for your home.

Finally, a stream or river of running water can be used to deliver hydropower for your retreat. Hydropower can produce enough power for you to actually run big machinery if necessary.  A combination of hydro power and solar power may be what you need to keep your survival retreat up and running.


There is no such thing as a perfect survival retreat, but it is possible for you to come close to perfect if you do enough searching.  It’s a good idea to choose two or more survival retreats so that you always have a backup option.  Yes, it’s going to be more expensive this way, but if all of your routes to your first bug out location are blocked during a disaster, having a backup retreat location could save your life.

Whatever the case may be, when you have no choice but to quickly leave your home during an SHTF scenario, a survival retreat will be the place that keeps you and your family alive through the disaster.  This means that having just one survival retreat is better than having none, and if you want to increase your chances of survival at that retreat, make sure you’ve planned for water, food, security, and alternative power, to sustain you and your family indefinitely.

About Nick Oetken

Nick Oetken
Nick Oetken is a prepper, outdoor enthusiast but, most of all, he is our in-house firearms expert. Look out for his articles on guns to find out which ones you need for your survival.


  1. Avatar

    The worst backup power system is a generator that uses an engine (other than steam, which could be very good, provided your fuel is very clean-burning like anthracite coal or very dry Oak or something that doesn’t smell or smoke). Bear in mind that when it hits the fan it will become absolutely silent. I got rid of my generator for this reason. It would be heard for miles around and attract every desperate fathead to your stuff. Likewise smoke could be seen and/or smelled for a great distance and be a beacon for the unprepared.
    Fences won’t be any deterrent nor will be gates. Just look around any Walmart parking lot…how many pickup trucks do you see with trailer hitches and even winches mounted on them? $30 worth of chain and hooks and your “wall” is ripped away. A sharp ditch and armored draw bridge would be better. This also concentrates the assault for defensive measures so your sign “There is nothing here that is worth dying for” will deter looters to other less difficult targets.

  2. Avatar

    A small association of close neighbors who could team up with you if any one is assaulted would be great. It would require notice to this effect, however. I suggest the sign I see down the road a bit: “THIS IS AN ARMED COMMUNITY”. A pickup full of vandals would most likely look elsewhere rather than the chance of crossfire.
    The assault that doesn’t come is the best defense.

Leave a Reply

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