Preppers: Surviving Once You Reach Your Bug Out Retreat

Survival Retreat

A previous article, you made it to your bug-out retreat now what, described some of the problems the family encountered on their trip to their safe haven, and as they arrived at their destination. The family was somewhat prepared, but was not prepared for long-term survival at their retreat.

They had spent two years readying the cabin as a survival retreat and as a vacation destination. Like most families however, in the country today, they had never experienced a nationwide crisis of such magnitude, a crisis that forced them permanently, for all practical purposes, from their home. They simply did not have any experiences from their past to help guide them.

Many people or a majority of people anyway, naturally assume any crisis in this country is a temporary one, and life will get back to normal eventually, we all are conditioned to believe this. With this in mind, some people unsurprisingly only prepare for a temporary crisis for the most part. Once you start making assumptions however, is when you start making mistakes that can be costly.

For planning purposes you have to prepare like there is no tomorrow, in other words, things have changed permanently and you have to be prepared to survive under the new normal.

Let’s Go Back To The Family And Rewrite The Script

First, the family left their home in the suburbs too late. The fact that the roadways were congested with abandoned vehicles meant that others had left much earlier. The fact that criminals had time to set up barriers to collect tolls is another indication. This also indicates that law enforcement was busy elsewhere, so the crisis had been ongoing for sometime before the family decided to leave for their safe haven. Why do you suppose so many vehicles were abandoned and people were left walking?

Some people left in a panic, and many likely ran out of fuel because they had waited as long as they could to fuel up. People will wait until it is too late to leave in many cases and economics plays a large role in the decision. Maybe payday was in a few days and some simply did not have the funds to fuel up their cars.

The road congestion may have forced some from their vehicles, and the fear of criminal gangs along the roads may have forced others to flee and leave their cars behind as well. Abandoning vehicles is a common occurrence during a crisis.

The family up until the crisis had treated their cabin as a weekend getaway for the most part. However, they did plan somewhat and realized they may need the cabin for more than a weekend getaway, and thus the survival caches, but they assumed living there full time was just an extension of their weekend getaways and thus prepared accordingly. This was a mistake of course. Anyone can have fun for a few days with no electricity, sitting around a campfire telling stories knowing back home is waiting, but when there is, no back home left to go back too attitudes change and reality sets in. The cabin was not set up for long-term use by the family.

The water catchment system was a good idea but for long-term use, they should have built cisterns in the ground, to collect water. The family could have used concrete collection containers or built masonry ones for their rainwater collection system. This would have prevented the theft of the barrels and created a larger catchment system, which could also be used for crop irrigation, livestock watering and so on.

However, having a well is the ideal situation. Even though there was, a stream nearby it was too far from the cabin and this can be a problem in the winter because of deep snow or ice, or if you are trapped inside the cabin. Additionally someone could gain control of the stream 10 miles upstream and pollute the stream, dam it up or otherwise change its course, and then you have nature and beavers that could dam it up miles upstream as well.

Natural resources are good for the short term but you must develop your own sources, sources you have complete control over.

The family had food for up to six months if they did not experience any loss through spoilage, damage, theft or simply by wasting food. They did not have a plan for growing their own food however. They would likely have realized at some point they needed a garden, but food production needs to be started right away not matter the seasons. Regardless of the amount of food stockpiled you would need to begin, hunting trapping, fishing and gardening almost at once.

In addition to procuring foods, you would need a plan for food preservation, which the family did not have. Fresh meat and fish would need to be preserved immediately. Smoking, drying and canning are methods that can be used. Vegetables could be canned or dried as well.

A greenhouse could be built rather quickly and Hydroponics/Aquaponics could be used to grow/raise foods in a shed that could protect the plants and marine line from the winter cold, or seeds/plants could be started inside the cabin. This however, requires planning and space, and again the cabin was treated as a getaway spot and not as a home to survive in when the SHTF.

There was not a backup energy plan. A few cords of wood under a lean-to is not considered an energy plan. To prevent or reduce the theft of wood the family could have felled the trees, trimmed them and left them in large logs. This would make it more difficult for anyone that happens upon the cabin from loading up his or her pickups. This will not stop a determined thief, but it helps slow the opportunist criminal from grabbing and going.

Cut and split fireplace sized logs are an invitation to load up the back of an empty pickup bed, but it would require considerable effort to haul off 20 or 30 foot logs this way.

The family should have invested in solar energy for refrigeration and operating a well pump at the very least. Hydropower is an option as well, but it relies on flowing water always being available, and there are of course wind turbines for generating electricity as well.

Once at the cabin the family had no way of communicating with the outside world. Ham radios would be ideal because cell service even on a good day can be disrupted in remote areas. The typical two-way radio has a limited range as well. Battery operated ham radios with the proper antenna can reach hundreds if not thousands of miles in some cases.

The family had firearms and some training as far as the mechanics of the weapon are concerned, but they had no training in tactics such as perimeter defense or any knowledge/training about listening and observation posts.

The family had no idea how to secure an area of operations. They could react to an intruder if they saw one, but they had no training on how to detect an intruder before the intruder(s) could reach the cabin and cause harm to someone.


The family was not paying enough attention to what was going on around them while in the suburbs. If they had been monitoring the situation more closely, they would have left before the crisis had reached the level they experienced while leaving.

Even though the family had been going back and forth for two years they had no idea who the people were that lived in the area of their retreat. What happens when you need a medical professional, do you know if any doctors or even nurses that live in the area.

Even though in a crisis knowing a medical professional you can call upon may mean the difference between surviving and not. The family did have an extensive first aid/medical kit but that can only get you so far in a medical emergency unless you have extensive medical training.

They were looking for solitude while vacationing at the cabin but this is no excuse for failing to do intelligence gathering in the area.

They receive an “F” for intelligence gathering.

They obviously had not prepared their retreat for long-term survival. The latrine or outhouse was not large enough to accommodate the amount of waste when people are using it on a daily basis. A weekend here and there was not a strain on the latrine but daily use for an extended period and nature would not be able to compost the waste fast enough.

Because they did have a latrine albeit not large enough, they receive a “D”

They did not have the proper materials and supplies for bathing. For short periods, a dip in the creek is acceptable but for long term, you need facilities for bathing and laundering of clothes.

They receive a “D” because personal sanitation is very important in a survival situation, and failure to control diseases and bacteria can have deadly consequences.

They did not have proper cooking/kitchen facilities. They needed cooking appliances, such as camp stoves or even a woodstove for inside cooking in the wintertime. A wood cook stove also doubles as a heating stove during the winter months. The family was used to eating essentially from packaged food containers while on their weekend camp outs. They also needed a way to wash dishes and cooking utensils.

The family did not have a fuel-operated generator that could help until alternate sources were put into place. A generator could be used to power up cooking appliances that could heat water, cook foods and supply electricity for lighting and refrigeration in the short-term.

They receive a “C-” Because they had ample wood for fuel as far as cooking goes, and they did have a wood burning stove that could be used for heating foods, but they did not have a generator.

Food can be cooked over open flames, but they did need to plan better for meal preparations long term.

The family had six months of food and 90 days of bottled water on hand, some of it cached and some of it carried with them as they fled the crisis. Six months is not enough food to sustain you until a garden begins producing in most cases.

A one-year supply would have been better. The family was able to carry a considerable amount of food in their vehicle as they fled, because of the size of their vehicle. They also had two years in which to carry supplies to the cabin and bury. This means they had a variety of foods, canned, dehydrated and Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) on hand.

They should have however, placed more emphasis on food and water stockpiles and given the amount of time they had they should have been able to stockpile close to two years of food and water.

They receive a “B-” for food and water stockpiles

Their various survival caches contained dehydrated food, filled water bottles, bleach and water purification tablets along with winter clothing, ammunition for their various weapons and flashlights, batteries, and extra medical supplies. One cache was dedicated to personal hygiene items for all members of the family to include hand towels and bath towels.

They also had two axes, one hatchet, two hammers, nails, plastic sheeting, various hand tools, two rolls of duct tape, one wood saw for firewood cutting and two gas operated chainsaws, and one saw sharpener.

They had one skinning knife and two general-purpose survival knives, and one Lensatic compass and maps of the area. They also had in one cache several packages of waterproof matches, lighters, and (1) magnesium stick. They also had several pots and pans and a few cooking utensils cached along with a manual can and bottle openers.

In one cache by itself, they had 50 gallons of gasoline that after one year of storage may be questionable if additives were not used, and 20 gallons of gas and oil mixture for the two chainsaws.

They receive a “B-” for their caches


Even though at first glance it would seem the family was well prepared, they were not.

It would take a week to settle in and start developing certain habits but after 10 days to two weeks, they would start to wonder about back home. Stress and boredom would cause everyone to eat more and lack of contact with others would bother them. The children would have a more difficult time being away from friends. They did not prepare for the solitude and by not working on long-term goals such as a well, energy sources, gardening, hunting, fishing and food preservation boredom set in.

Lack of human contact would cause them to let their guard down if a stranger happened upon the property. They would be eager for news, because they did not have any reliable communication devices.

After 30 days, the family will start to think seriously about leaving to see what has happened. They are eating more food than expected and thus their six month supply has shrunk to about four month’s supply even though they have only been there 30 days.

The family has not developed any long-term plans. They are simply waiting instead of doing. They are hoping against hope that somehow, some news will reach them that the world is back to normal and they can go back home.

This family unless they make some drastic changes quickly and begin to think about long-term survival they will not survive well, if at all, and will end up leaving their retreat for what they think are better accommodations.

Once they leave, they have lost all that they have worked for up until this point and they will become immersed in the crisis in the cities. This will create a dangerous situation for them, because if they do manage to make it back to the cabin they will arrive back with virtually no food and still no plan for survival. This all assumes of course that the cabin has not been taken over by another family, individual or even a group of people once the family leaves it.

For long-term survival, this family does not have the training and knowledge. They had just enough to get where they are, but once there, their survival is highly questionable because they did not become pro-active immediately and start preparing for an extended if not permanent crisis. They still believed the crisis was temporary.