Picking The Perfect Hidden Retreat Location, by L.M.

Everyone knows the perfect location for family survival is the number one issue in being prepped.   How do I pick the perfect location should be the number one question in a prepper’s mind.  Many different survival instructors and writers have different ideas on locations and some even have scoring formulas to give your chance of survival.  I have a combined prospective on picking the perfect location from my military training and my working in the Third World as a trainer and combatant.  Let’s look at how I picked my location and facilities.  

First, one has to be aware of the most basic rule, which is [for a worst case societal collapse], “If my enemy can see me, hear me, or smell me, he will kill me.”.   That rule means the perfect location has to be well hidden and my facilities have to be exceptional in design.

The area you are going to call your world to watch and protect has to be large enough to produce your food.  That means, it has to have a garden area, livestock area and a human living area.  I chose an area large enough for seven families to work together as a group or unit.  To keep all the dwellings hidden and still grow in a secluded way, I picked 100 acres.  In picking this acreage, I looked at nine basic things to consider.
1.        Distance from a main road.  When things get bad and people begin to evacuate the cities and larger towns of over 30,000 people, they will travel on routes that they know.  Most people in the US know the interstate highway system.  They will use this system to move from the populated areas.  As they travel out, they will leave the interstate system on smaller arterial roads.  Leaving those smaller arterial roads, they will then travel down the narrow paved two lane country roads. Then they will travel onto gravel and dirt roads which is a last resort for city dwellers.  As they go, most will try to secure resources, at any visible house or building, as they move.  After a few months of travel, they should be getting to the back country if they survive.  Those that survive will be a cut above the rest and most likely someone to deal with.

For that reason, a 15 mile radius from any main interstate or arterial road is a minimum factor in location.  The shorter the distance from the interstate the quicker you will have to deal with a group of these people.  Remember these people have honed themselves into a fighting unit on other people as they have moved down the road system.
2.       Elevation of land.  Flat is not good.  You need to look for a place with hills and valleys.  The higher the high point on the property the better.  The best location is where you control the high ground. In Vietnam, our firebases were on hill tops.  Very few of our sites had higher ground than us.  Where there was higher ground, we were required to set up a LP, listening or looking post, to secure our lower base.  In picking your location, you will need to do the same thing.  If you have the high ground, look for a high point with a few trees on top.  Once there you can put up a large tripod deer stand with swivel seat for your lookout.   A 24 hour a day lookout with binoculars needs to be able to see for at least two miles in all directions.  This will give you ample time to prepare a welcoming committee.
3.       Lack of line of sight from nearby elevated observation points. These are elevated points that are within binocular viewing distance.  When you have a possible location look at all the points of higher elevation where someone can sit and look through binoculars.  In choosing our location, I found a grain silo, town water tower, and a rural water tower just outside a two mile radius.   I went up each one and looked through my binoculars into our valley to see if any of our buildings could be seen.  The answer was no visibility into the valley.  Our front farm field and our surrounding trees could be seen but not our towers or buildings.  We do have one hill that is exactly 1,312 yards from our lookout tower with an elevation that is 15 feet higher than us.  The hill is bare with no trees for cover and from our tower we can see two miles out on the other side of that hill.  You cannot spare any expense or time in making sure you have the minimum overhang on your location.  If you have more than two overhangs, find another spot unless your group is large enough to man a lookout on each overhang 24 hours a day.
4.       Directions buildings can be seen from.  Besides the elevated observation points, a location needs to be invisible from the ground in all directions.  Your outer fields or border fields can be seen but your main area of operation needs to be invisible to anyone looking from flat ground.  If anything can be seen from the ground it needs to be camouflaged to the point of being invisible.  Our location has only one spot where anything can be seen from the flat ground.   From one direction on our ground, 1,500 yards out, you can just barely make out the leading edge of the barn roof, in a 15 foot wide sweep on the ground, in the winter only.  To prepare for that, we painted the barn to match the trees in winter that stand before it.  It now looks like more trees and it is thus invisible, even with binoculars.
5.       Distance from population centers.  The greater the distance you are from any population the better.  A good rule of thumb is no town of 1,500 within 15 miles, no town of 10,000 within 30 miles, and no town or city with a population greater than 10,000 within 75 miles at the least.
6.       Population per square mile.  The smaller the population per square mile the better.  You can Google any county in America and get the population density per square mile.  In our case, I did on web search on the county we are located in and all surrounding counties.  The lower the population the better.  Our county, as well as the surrounding counties, have a population in the single digits per square mile.  Go for the smaller population number.
7.       Water availability.  This is critical for survival.  No one and no animal can survive without ample water.  Water can be obtained from many sources.  Those sources are water wells, ponds, underground streams, above ground streams and rivers.   When things fall apart, there will be no city water or rural water running in the pipes.   Water wells are the first choice but always check out the other sources so there is at least one back up.  In a draught, large parts of the country suffer, and at that time all water sources get scarce or mighty thin.  In our location, we drilled for water and found none, due to the water table shrinkage from the drought.  Our area is in a third year of drought and many of the other farms in the area are having water well problems to the point of using other sources.  We do have a spring fed pond that is seven feet low from its normal height, but is still ten feet deep after two years of extreme heat and no rain.  This is our primary source with a pond pump system.  From there we have a water camel with pump.   There are several larger ponds in unoccupied lands around us and a major river one and a half miles away to draw water from.  To leave the woods and go to the river is a very last resort, because anytime you leave your area you run into the danger of someone seeing you and following you back to your area.
8.       Wildlife, timber, growing season, and weather.  
In our area, we have ample wildlife.  The deer, turkey, wild pig, raccoon, skunk, possum, water fowl, rabbit, and squirrel are uncountable.   In the first look, it seems like paradise.   But you have to look at how history has treated wildlife in the area you are looking.   The old timers, who are now gone, used to talk about the great hunting in our area before the Great Depression.  Then they would say “Never believe what you see.  It will be gone in no time.”  During the Great Depression, every animal was gone within six months of the start.   That means no free meat.   If you do have free meat you need to have a way to get it without firing a gun.  Sound in an otherwise quiet area travels for miles.  That means someone hears your shot and is looking for you.

Timber for wood for your stove is a must.  You look for firewood outside of the timber to hide your location.  You also are looking for timber that can be brought in to your area to split for fire wood.  Chainsaws are really loud and can be heard for miles in a quiet world.  Remember someone will hear you.  An axe strike can be heard but in a shorter distance.  Use your timing to get lots of cutting done in rain storms.  Rain and thunder cover a lot of sound.

The growing season where you pick your location will be real important.   Even though you have food put back for a year, you have to grow next year’s food to put back.  In the north, the seasons are short, which means less time to grow a second crop if the first one fails.  You need to know your growing season real well and how to farm in that season.  The longer the season the less experience you can have in farming.  Green houses can correct a lot of mistakes in farming by allowing you to extend your season.  However, in the real cold areas, heat may be required and that means more fire wood to cut and store, to supply a group their needed food.

Weather is important.  Too hot, too cold, too dry, too much snow and too wet all work against you.  Wind, sun, tornadoes and hurricanes also work against you.  The location needs to be in an area that you are well equipped to handle, and as a fallback you need to get knowledgeable on historical primal survival techniques in that weather.  The milder the weather in its normal seasonal pattern the easier survival is going to be for you.
9.       Neighbors.  If only there was a place with no neighbors.  With the population in this country today everyone has neighbors.  They may be a mile away or even farther away but they are still neighbors.  So when you are looking at a location, you need to look at the people who will be your neighbors.  You need to look at their ability to live today with what they have, look at their resources on the ground.   Visit and get to know them.  You need to know if they are military veterans, drunks, dopers, hard workers, lazy folks, able to live in a Third World conditions, thieves, whores, whoremongers, pedophiles, religious, non-religious, old, young, sick, healthy, gun freaks, hunters, or lawmen.  Every detail you know about them is one more tool in your bag to survive and secure your location.  Tell very little and listen a lot, but get to know them.  Your life and your family’s lives will depend on it.
Our location may not be the best in the world, but over the last few years we have worked every day to improve it.  We have 100 acres with a high hill above all other hills but one.  No one can see us.  Within the 100 acres we chose 40 acres in a valley between our hills to make our home and our farm.  There are no roads leading to our 40 acres and it is damn near impossible to find.

Our cabin moves the smoke to the ground with the proper chimney cover.  It then has to wonder through the trees and becomes invisible and you cannot smell it off the property.  Our 40 acre parcel has a pond in the middle with a creek on the edge.   We hunt with no guns.  Our only noise is the sheep who refuse to be quiet and a few roosters for our 100 hens.  When the time comes, we will eat the noise makers first.
So if you come looking for us, you will not see us, smell us, or hear us, but we will see you coming for miles.  For my family’s sake, I hope I have chosen well.  For your families’ sake, I hope you have chosen well or can find a place while there is still time to make the move.

JWR Adds: While finding commanding high ground and a concealed location might seem to be mutually exclusives goals, this is not always true. With some diligent searching, you can find a property with a hilltop homesite that is surrounded by hilly timberlands in several directions. Hence, you can get both high ground and protection from distant line of sight. Typically, meeting these goals necessitates buying a parcel that is at least 40 acres, and often much more.