Building a Retreat Kit, by Mark C.

Anyone who has seriously considered preparation for TEOTWAWKI knows that the ultimate preparation is to have a well-outfitted retreat located in a remote location. Unless you are rich and you can purchase one with all the trimmings or you’ve been working on it for several years already—you’re feeling significant apprehension as current events imply time is short and you are unprepared.

Now, if you are the diligent one who built a well-stocked retreat, but find that over time civilization has overtaken the area; this is also for you. Finally, if you have your retreat, it has not been encroached on by civilization, and you think you’re fat, dumb, and happy; you still may want to consider a ‘retreat kit.’ Why? Because things change, unanticipated events happen, and if you ever have to abandon your retreat, you’re going to want to do it with a lot more than a bug-out bag. I can tell you that it’s easy to relax and let your guard down when you establish your retreat. I actually got comfortable. But what if you have to ‘bug out from the bug-out’? If that happens to you in a typical Montana winter, then your chances of survival are very slim unless you have a retreat kit.

Most of us have carefully assembled our bug-out bags, spent time educating ourselves on how to survive, and acquired new skills—all of which make us feel better. However, the more educated we become; the more we are confronted with the reality that true survivability is attained by reaching a state of ‘indefinite sustainment.’ Unlike having a year’s worth of supplies stored, a state of sustainment serves to provide an endless or perpetual supply. Growing and preserving food while harvesting the seeds for the next season is an example of an indefinite sustainable supply. Having a solar electrical system to provide power for lights and other amenities is another. A retreat contains these and many more products and processes, that when put together, provide a relatively comfortable and sustainable living. This is not to say that bartering with others for expendables or skills you don’t have is a failure to reach sustainment. On the contrary; this factors in the larger concept of a retreat community.

The retreat is essential to sustainable survival, though it can take different forms. Native American tribes demonstrated this before the explorers disrupted their way of life. Everything they needed came from the environment where they lived. Some were nomadic hunters and some were farmers of the land. There were those like the Apache who lived in high mountain deserts of the southwest, and by contrast the Inuit who traveled the icy sub-zero temperatures of the arctic. Survival sustainment can be achieved just about anywhere, but you must have the required skills and knowledge of the environment you’re in to be able to be successful. It’s a lot of work and it’s a full-time job, make no mistake.

The natives made their own tools out of what was available and these served them well until the invaders came with firearms and cannon—a definite game changer. I bring this up because acquiring the skills of the Native American in an environment of your choosing would not be enough today. The population expansion in the United States alone changed the paradigm in that it leaves fewer places for a retreat to exist and pushes us into more remote, less tenable environments.

So, if you don’t have a retreat, you need one. I believe time is short and if you don’t have a lot of money or you haven’t been working your retreat and are nearly complete; there is an alternative for you to consider. A retreat kit.

The retreat kit is like a giant bug-out bag except that instead of being designed to keep you alive for a short term, it’s designed to get you into a state of long-term sustainment. The kit could be a medium-sized trailer, depending on what items you need to support yourself in the environment you choose. It could also be buried in or near your location or some combination of buried and trailered. Buried or cached is best by far, as trying to get a significant quantity of materials to a retreat site while potentially under duress is unrealistic. Maybe instead of a trailer, you need a boat. There are too many variables to cover here.

Folks want to be in an environment they are comfortable with because that’s what they know. From a Louisiana swamp to the mountains of Montana; it’s really about where you choose to find your retreat and for that reason the first step is to identify the location. You really can’t plan or build your kit unless you know where you’re going.

Selecting a site for your retreat or ‘re-retreat,’ (as the case may be), is very similar to buying one except you won’t own the land. You’re not even going to rent it. For this reason, your target areas should be places like national forests, BLM land, state preserves or reserves, and other governmental lands. Why? Because. unlike private properties that will likely be protected by hostile owners, the government employees entrusted with managing these lands will not be working after TEOTWAWKI debuts. Their posts will very likely be abandoned.

Am I advocating that you be a ‘squatter?’ I have no right to give you permission to do so. It is not the ideal solution and carries potential legal ramifications depending on where you go; you should know that. If you have the financial means to purchase a property, then do so. If not, you must consider less-than-ideal options as your alternative is staying in a city under siege where your family will eventually succumb to looters or worse—I’d rather be judged by 12; than carried by six, but ultimately it’s your decision.


The same rules that apply for a conventional retreat also apply here. Start looking in locations or areas that are just over the distance that a tank of gas would get you from any large city —about 350 to 400 miles. This a bit different for those using a boat, but the idea of separation is the same. Those who would come to steal the provisions of others will think twice if their chances of success are slim. Imagine you are a pillaging thug and you have a vehicle with a full tank. Would you risk extending yourself to a one-way trip if you didn’t have a reasonable assertion of finding fuel and provisions when you arrived?

Thugs aren’t the only ones that will trouble you either. Imagine a reasonable upstanding citizen who flees the city to get away from the thugs, but he carries only what he can get in the vehicle, which is probably food, water, some camping equipment, and maybe a gun or two. It’s all good until he runs out of provisions and becomes desperate. He will impose on those who have achieved sustainment. And, he won’t come alone. You may not have to go so far away, but you will have a better chance of avoiding conflict if you do.


What goes in a retreat kit? That will depend on where you’re going; mountains will have different items than the prairie and a swamp different than a desert. Your personal needs also factor in; do you have medical issues, physical restrictions, or special care needs? Those have to be considered as well. The best place to start is with the “List of Lists” Excel spreadsheet offered for free on the website. It’s very comprehensive and covers most everything. I know its overkill for a retreat kit, but you can use it as a prompt to identify items you may not have thought of or included in your kit. Unless your bug-out vehicle is a semi-truck, you couldn’t carry everything on the list anyway. Imagine yourself at the retreat and consider the activities you would need to accomplish in order to sustain yourself. Also, consider your arrival at the worst time of the year—what would you need? Let me use my own circumstances as an example.

I have a retreat already and it’s fairly well established and will soon be sustainable. However, I have to acknowledge that there will be interest in my land even if it’s in a trust. The structures on my property didn’t build themselves, and so I know eventually somebody will see that and come. Be it a roving gang, struggling survivalists, or government thugs in pursuit of knowing if my ideological narratives line up with theirs; they will come. My primary retreat backs up to a national forest near the Rocky Mountains so the worst time of year to bug out is winter. For the ‘re-retreat’ (backup retreat), I’ve chosen a place that has water near and good hunting. I also considered a low enough altitude to have a growing season for a garden. It’s the onset of winter and the snow is already a foot deep. First, I need to get there safely—I have a four-wheel drive vehicle; not a sports car. Next, I’m going to need shelter for the entire winter. My choice was a canvas lodge tent with a wood-burning stove. I did not consider a stove requiring liquid fuel as that supply would eventually be exhausted. Remember: Think long-term sustainment. I’ve also considered a adding hillside bunker made from natural materials, which would work for both initial storage of my retreat kit and a warm place to hide. Admittedly, I haven’t done this yet, but I do have the plans. It makes more sense than digging in frozen ground to retrieve my cached kit.

I’m already near water and I can hunt, but I need food to sustain me until I can bag some meat. Also, I can’t live on meat alone, I need other nutrients and vitamins—so, I need to store enough food to get me through a growing season, after that I can sustain myself with vegetables from my garden. For that reason, I have a compliment of freeze-dried food, beans, and rice.

Of course, after I harvest my garden, I’ll need to preserve my harvest in order to sustain myself until the next growing season. This little exercise just prompted additions to my list; tent, stove, food, vitamins, cooking items/utensils, gun, bullets, knives to skin and butcher, axe for wood, garden tools, seed for crops, roll of chicken wire to protect crops, way to irrigate crops, canning jars to preserve crops, canning equipment… The list goes on. The more you think about it, the more you’ll add to the list. Don’t worry about organizing the list just yet, the important thing is to get it on paper. This is just a fraction of what you’ll really need, but you get the idea.


Now, you need to consider how you’ll accomplish sustainment—for this, you need to accumulate knowledge. Going back to my little exercise; do you know how to hunt, maintain guns, butcher, garden, process seeds for the next season, and preserve food? Did you get heirloom seeds—missing that little item could cost you and your family their lives. If you don’t know what they are, you need to do more research. What if you have an accident with the axe or knife—do you have medical training? If you don’t have these skills or knowledge, then you must acquire them—add that to your list and ensure you get paper books as the Internet isn’t likely to be available. In short; increasing knowledge is likely the most important thing you can do, and it’s the most neglected. The Internet is full of information on these things and it’s free!

The canvas tent was good for a temporary home, but now you need to consider building a more permanent one. For me, it’s a log cabin and the plans are included in my kit. It’s not very big, but two of us completed a test build in less than a week. I had to educate myself on how to build one and discovered I needed saws, log togs, chisels, hammers, and a few other things. Maybe you’re planning to be on the prairie and you need sod house tools and plans. Your toolset will be different from the guy who lives in the swamp. Adjust accordingly to your retreat circumstances.


After you’ve compiled your list, you’re going to have to prioritize. If you’re like me, you have about a half semi-truck worth of materials—it’s time to cut down. Start with identifying items that are essential for establishing long-term sustainment, followed by ‘nice to haves,’ and finally if you have room; comfort items. Some of your essential items do not qualify for sustainment, like the tent, but are required until you can sustain with a permanent structure.

Do the same with the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Home-building, canning, and medical training rank higher than basket weaving and stitchery, though those things are very desirable. Start learning now!

A Practical Test

This is a very important step and can be challenging depending on your circumstances. If you own a property, that’s ideal. Use the kit to establish the retreat. Make alterations or changes as you go. If TEOTWAWKI doesn’t happen before you finish your retreat—good for you. Your kit is perfect because it was responsible for actually building your retreat. Now, reassemble your kit and prepare for a potential bugout. Locate a future location in case you are forced to leave your retreat and keep it updated—your kit is ready. Again, I recommend caching it at the location. You’ll discover, as I did, that it’s a lot of stuff!

If you can’t afford to buy a property, as described in the beginning of this article, then take parts of your kit to an area where you can practice and camp for a few days without drawing undue attention. Getting a wood-cutting permit for public lands is a good choice here. This is where I was reminded of an item I didn’t have on my list by the blisters on my hands—a good pair of leather gloves. I also added an old chainsaw and container of stabilized fuel. I know it’s not a long-term device as it has a limited supply of fuel, but it sure kick-started the effort. I could have done it with hand tools, but it fell in the category of ‘nice to haves’ and I had room for it. The sealed can of 40:1 fuel is only good for a couple of years, so I had to make a note of replacing it on a schedule.

Start Today

There’s no time like the present—do not procrastinate! Whether you already have a complete retreat or you’re just starting out—Everyone is vulnerable, even the established retreat owner! Always have a backup plan that includes a secondary or tertiary bug-out location and a retreat kit. Showing up with only a bug-out bag just won’t cut it!