State By State – California

Population: 34 million+.
Population Density: 214 per square mile (Rank 1 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 158,706 square miles (rank 3 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $765/yr. (rank 23 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $592/yr. (rank 9 of 50),
Crime Safety Ranking: 39 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 30%.
Per capita income: $32,149 (rank 8 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 37 of 50.
Plusses: Mild climate and a long growing seasons in most parts of the state. High wages.
Minuses: Excessive population density, high crime rate, copious smog, high cost of living, aggravating traffic, earthquake prone, over-inflated real estate prices, expensive building permits, restrictive zoning, high sales tax (as much as 8.5% in some counties!), draconian gun control laws, MTBE-tainted municipal and well water, high income and property taxes, multiple terrorist and WWIII targets, mediocre public schools, a cluttered radio spectrum, a state budget crisis that has reduced the state’s bonds to junk bond status, a proliferation of anti-small business and environmental regulations, exploding illegal immigration, anti-home schooling legislators, expensive car registration, high car insurance rates, the highest worker’s compensation insurance cost in the nation ($5.23 per $100 in payroll!), high health insurance rates, a very litigious and biased court system, and an ever-expanding socialistic Nanny State. California K-to-12 students ranks 48th of the 50 states in academics. California is definitely not recommended, except perhaps for those committed to the anti-gun pacifist school of survivalism and willing to home school their kids, and then only in the most remote portions of the state–far northern California. (Such as Humboldt, Modoc, or Trinity County) or perhaps the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.(Such as the Bishop or Lone Pine areas.)
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 19 of 19.

JWR adds: I included California in my rankings of 19 states partly to show some contrasts to the other states listed. Because so many SurvivalBlog readers live in California, I hope that this serves as encouragement for them to "vote with their feet."

Letter Re: Missouri’s Retreat Potential

I see that Missouri is not on your list.  There are a lot of good things to say about the Ozarks of Southern Missouri (and Northern Arkansas).  Self reliant culture which is pro gun and private property and which respects people’s privacy.  There is very low population density in many counties (such as Shannon population 8,300, Reynolds 6,700, Oregon 10,300, and Carter 5,900). Very low cost of living and a very homogeneous population (mostly Scotch-Irish). You find people from California moving to Missouri since they can live on just their Social Security there. Regards, – “Nearnorth”

JWR Replies: Your point is well taken. however, as a whole, Missouri is too populous to be recommended. It has a population of over 6 million which equates to 1448.4 per square mile. That is more than four times the population density of California, which just barely made my list. Take another look at the “Lights of the U.S.” photo maps at:

Missouri also has an increasingly intrusive government. Even if you live in a lightly populated county, you still have to contend with the state regulations. (This, BTW, is the same predicament faced by people who live in the rural counties of Colorado, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and northern California.) Also, consider the number of nuclear targets in the state (The following list is courtesy of Richard Fleetwood at
Primary Targets: Whiteman AFB complex (Minuteman missiles, area within a line connecting Freeman, Richmond, Arrow Rock, California, Gravois Mills, Osceola, Stockton, Sheldon, Rich Hill, west to state line to Freeman again).
Secondary Targets: St. Louis, Kansas City, Fort Leonard Wood.
Tertiary Targets: Columbia, Springfield, St. Joseph.

Letter Re: Large Volume Liquid Fuel Storage

Mr. Rawles,
Many thanks for an excellent web site!  I read it daily with much anticipation.  Your book Patriots is a first-class work as well. 
Storing fuel is a must for a survival retreat.  Having said that, how do you get delivered several hundred gallons of diesel (or gas) without raising eyebrows?  I live in the rural Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina on a mountain top.  Very private and quiet, but not a farm.  Maybe it is easier than I presume and nothing would raise flags to delivery folks filling a couple of above ground tanks.  Is there an approach that has worked for you or your readers?

OBTW, your Retreat Owner Profiles are super–keep up the good work! – S.P.

JWR Replies: As mentioned in previous blog posts, I recommend getting the largest underground fuel tanks that you can afford, but of course no larger than the maximum allowable under your local law. I also recommend that you purchase the tanks from a company that is a long distance away, and that you have workmen from that same company handle the delivery and installation. That will keep local rumors to a minimum. For example, one of my good friends in Clearwater County, Idaho ordered his gas and diesel tanks from a company in Missoula, Montana, more than 100 miles away. The shipping was expensive, but this was offset by the fact that Montana has no state sales tax. OBTW, the fiberglass fake basalt rocks covering the filler necks and hose stands are a nice touch.

As for the local companies that fill your tanks, there are a couple of obfuscatory statements that might prove helpful: “I only got this big tank because I want to be able to ride out large price fluctuations.” Or, “I need to keep this much diesel on hand because I’m co-owner of a (fill in the blank) company.” (Trucking, logging, et cetera)

The most expensive but most discreet approach is available for “Secret Squirrels” with a big budget: As I just described, have your large underground tanks installed by a company from at least 50 miles away. Then order your fuel in small increments (200 gallons or less) from several different vendors, preferably from 30+ miles away. There is no way for them to know the capacity of your underground tank just by looking at the exposed filler neck–unless of course the curvature of the tank also shows. Shelling out for multiple delivery charges is a high price to pay for privacy, but TANSTAAFL. Parenthetically, I have one acquaintance in Wyoming that has an 80 gallon diesel “L” shaped tank (the under tool box type) in the bed of his his dualie F350 diesel pickup. He buys diesel 90+ gallons at a time on his weekly trips to Cheyenne. Once he gets home, he pumps it into his 3,000 gallon diesel tank at home. It is a slow process, by very discreet.

Hurricane Katrina Update:

The situation on the Gulf Coast is still fairly grim. The evacuation is nearly complete, and much needed supplies are now pouring in. But the communities that are still hurting the most are the small inland towns that were cut off from communications and that still don’t have power restored. The power utilities are making Herculean efforts to get power restored, but is is a slow process. Their crews are working around the clock. These are good men doing a commendable job.

The bureaucrats at FEMA are getting mostly bad reviews for their performance in coordinating the disaster relief effort. Who ever dreamed up the concept of managing an emergency? Methinks that in the long run it will be religious charities and small private charity organizations that will do the most good for the most folks, using funds with the greatest efficiency. Large charity organizations and government bureaucracies always tend toward high overhead costs, misdirected efforts, and gross inefficiency.

There have been some interesting exchanges about the implications of Hurricane Katrina over on The Claire Files (The discussion forums at Claire Wolfe’s blog.)

Over at Keep and Bear Arms there are some tidbits about firearm used for self defense, post-Katrina. I’m sure that it is just a matter of time before that hopeless Hopolophobe Josh Sugarman and the rest of the civilian disarmament crowd get around to claiming that privately owned guns somehow caused the looting problem. I have news for them: Guns aren’t the cause of looting. They are the solution.

And don’t miss the 20 Most Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina

State By State – Arkansas

Population: 2.67 million.
Population Density: 50.2 per square mile (Rank 5 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 53,187 square miles (rank 27 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $721/yr. (rank 30 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $494/yr. (rank 19 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 8 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 66%.
Per capita income: $21,995 (rank 49 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 23 of 50.
Plusses: Low property taxes.
Minuses: High population density (by western states standards.) Tornado prone (ranked #5 out of top 20 States). Poverty. The Arkansas economy barely scrapes by, even in good times. The state has a fairly large welfare dependent under class. This could prove problematic in the event of TEOTWAWKI. Poorly educated populace. For example: High school graduates, percent of persons age 25+, (2000 stats): 75.3%, versus 80.4% nationwide. Bachelor’s degree or higher, percentage of persons age 25+, (2000 stats): 16.7%, versus 24.4% nationwide. Note: Look for natural gas producing areas so that you can run your pickup on “drip” oil. (See my posts in the Archives on alternate fuels.)
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 16 of 19.

A Recent Relocatee to Arkansas (and Regular SurvivalBlog Contributor) Comments:

I researched for several years and made five trips to Arkansas in 18 months or so and as a “retreat” area North Central Arkansas wins on many levels for my needs. The statistics you quote, I’m sure, are valid as an overall state average, BUT most of the population seems to be in the Southern and West/East portions of the state and that seems to be where most of the tornados occur, and also where welfare recipients live. [JWR adds: This adds credence to my theory that tornadoes are mysteriously guided by some unseen force toward single-wide trailer parks.] There is a very homogenous population in this area with lots of well-attended churches and close family ties. One does not need a Bachelor’s to take over Dad’s logging or sawmill business or river/fishing guide business. Up here in the North Central area in the Ozarks things are really not fitting your averages. My criteria on a new AO was an sparsely populated area, a longer growing season than the maybe 90 days I had [in northern Nevada] for the last 16 years, better/shorter winter season, water availability, less expensive cost of living for basics, and lack of bureaucratic interference. The northern counties of Arkansas seem to fit the criteria perfectly. So far my propane, building supplies, fencing, food costs, and car insurance/license/tags are far less than I had been paying. Yes, the education system is poor and conventional jobs are scarce. However, the folks are friendly to newcomers without being nosey, one does not seem to need a permit for doing any improvements to property, and self-employment (under the table income) is rampant here and the work provided to customers is excellent. Land is, in my opinion, very cheap here to buy compared to lots of other areas in the U.S. – averaging $500-to-$1000 per acre with the higher pricing on lakeside properties. Good fishing, good hunting, good weather, good friends – just what I was looking for. Cities are cities anywhere one goes and that seems to be where the “problems” or potential problems congregate. Rural is rural, by the same token. I know your focus is/has been communities of like-minded folks banded together for safety and survival. I, personally, think that will happen much more shortly after a SHTF scenario than before such an event(s). I, like many others I know, have been laying the groundwork for that latter scenario, but it’s not that comfortable to do it now, in advance. The plans are there, ready to put into action, but in the meantime, we are all working on our own plans for now and in the future and we stay in communication regarding such plans while still maintaining our privacy and property, if that makes sense to you. We, amongst my friends, know who will/can do what and provide what in most any disaster and we keep those plans in mind while we develop our individual projects.

Letter Re: U.S. Population Density, Nuclear Reactors, and Primitive Skills

JWR,  It may be of some assistance for you to check out  It will support your position on locating west of the Mississippi by showing Nuclear Power Reactors in the United States in map form. It also is an eye opener!

One of your “Bloggers” recently suggested that more information on primitive subjects should be looked into.  Since I have been taking so much information from your Blog,  I felt that I must contribute! See: – G.C.P.

Letter Re: Product Review of Rite in The Rain Waterproof Paper

Hello All,
I have two of the size that fits in your shirt pocket. That’s where this little product endorsement starts. I was out in the bush one weekend and used my note pad extensively. As usual I got really dirty and forgot to retrieve my Rite in the Rain note book from my shirt pocket. Well, I washed it in the washing machine and dried it in the dryer as well. Upon discovering this I felt really silly, however, to my surprise the note book and all my hen scratching was still intact and readable. I could still write on the paper and it is still water proof.  So, this stuff really works in my “book”. Regards, Larry

Letter From The Goat Lady Re: Free Survival Medicine Reference

In your spare time (LOL) you might want to check out this book, downloadable free at or hard copy at
Survival and Austere medicine would be a REALLY handy thing to have in a SHTF situation as it’s practical info, field tested, and doable by a non-medical person.  All the authors are in the medical field either as MDs, EMTs, RNs, etc.  They knoweth what they are doing and talking about.  Chapter 8 is really good on herbs, preps, uses, and the content is approved by the above listed medical personal.  I think Chapter 8 is really good for beginner or experienced herb users (I should think it’s great – I wrote it). 
Anyway, try to find time to give it a peruse – it may be helpful to lots of your readers – the authors do not get any kickback or anything – this was a labor of love and caring, and is a free download for anyone.  Best, Norma aka Goatlady

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“In this world you’ve just got to hope for the best and prepare for the worst and take whatever God sends.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne Of Avonlea

Note from JWR:

Today, I begin a series of articles that compare 19 states in the western U.S. for their retreat potential. I hope that you find this useful. I would appreciate your comments and suggestions to balance my admittedly subjective assessments.

Hurricane Katrina Update:

If nothing else, Hurricane Katrina has verified my long-held belief that we live in a very fragile society with just a thin veneer of civilization. And it is evident that it doesn’t take much to peel back that veneer. A “must read” article recently ran in USA Today.

And consider this from yesterdays’ Daily Reckoning: “Katrina was the rainy day for which people are meant to save. But Americans of the Greenspan era saw no need to save. The latest figures show them saving in July at the rate of MINUS 0.6% of income. Oh la la…laissez les bon temps rouler!” (“Let the Good Time Roll!”)

State By State – Introduction

The data in this series of posts describes 19 western states. (Note: Much more detailed retreat locale recommendations will be provided in subsequent blog posts, following this series of articles.) After much consideration, all of the eastern states were intentionally excluded from this analysis because they are either downwind of nuclear targets and/or are in areas with excessive population density. (See my post on population density, back on August 5th.) This wasn’t just the result of subjective bias. I try to use the dispassionate mindset of an actuarial accountant.

As evidenced recently with Hurricane Katrina, population density is perhaps the most crucial factor to consider when selecting a safe haven. The big cities on the Gulf Coast are hell holes, whereas the small towns are getting by fairly well. I know that this will cause acrimony with a lot of my readers who live east of the Mississippi River, but the plain truth is the East has too much population! Unless you are among the uber-rich and can afford to buy an elaborate fully hardened bunker with HEPA filtration deep in the Smoky or Appalachian Mountains with a five year food supply, I firmly believe that you will be safer west of the Mississippi. That is just my opinion, so your mileage may vary (YMMV). However, before you write me a tirade about how wrong I am and how safe you’ll be in upstate New York, please re-read my August 5th through August 10th posts. Also, take a long hard look at the “Lights of the U.S.” photo maps at: A picture tells a thousand words.

When thinking about where you’d prefer to buy your retreat and/or retirement home don’t just look at climate. Look at all the factors. Depending on your age and interest in true independence from “the system” you might also consider factors like home schooling laws and home birth laws.

Here is my overall Retreat Potential ranking of 19 western states, which I will explain in detail in forthcoming blog posts:

1 Idaho
2 Montana
3 Oregon
4 Washington
5 Wyoming
6 Utah
7 South Dakota
8 North Dakota
9 Arizona
10 Colorado
11 Nebraska
12 Kansas
13 Texas
14 Nevada
15 New Mexico
16 Arkansas
17 Oklahoma
18 Louisiana
19 California

As a point of reference, here is an excerpt from Boston T. Party’s Gun Law ranking (for the 19 states on my list), from Boston’s excellent book Boston’s Gun Bible.

1 Idaho
2 Louisiana
3 Wyoming
4 Montana
5 Arizona
6 New Mexico
7 Texas
8 Oklahoma
9 Nevada
10 Utah
11 Colorado
12 South Dakota
13 Kansas
14 Arkansas
15 Oregon
16 Nebraska
17 North Dakota
18 Washington
19 California

And as yet another point of reference, here are the same 19 states, ranked by the length of their growing season (in the warmest part of each state):

1 Arizona
2 Texas
3 Louisiana
4 California
5 Nevada
6 Oregon
7 Washington
8 Idaho
9 Utah
10 Kansas
11 Arkansas
12 New Mexico
13 Oklahoma
14 Colorado
15 Wyoming
16 Montana
17 Nebraska
18 South Dakota
19 North Dakota

Why not Alaska?

A year ago, I heard one “expert” on the radio recommend Alaska as a retreat destination because it has the lowest population density of any State, and low taxes. IMHO, he couldn’t be more wrong! The biggest problem is that from an economic standpoint, Alaska is essentially a big offshore island. Many essential items are shipped or flown in. What happens when the ships and planes stop arriving? It won’t be pretty–at least not in Alaska’s cities. (Ironically, although it is the most lightly populated state, Alaska has the second highest crime rate in the country!) Coastal Alaska is also earthquake prone. Further, you may think that because of the North Slope oil that the state will have plentiful fuel. Bzzzzzt! Wrong answer! There is insufficient refinery capacity of meet Alaska’s “domestic” needs, and insufficient transport to get refined fuels where they are needed. (Current transport is geared to distributing fuel and lubricants brought in from the Lower 48–not locally produced fuel and lubricants.) So the little fuel left in Alaska post-TEOTWAWKI will be jealously guarded–doubtless saved for critical tasks like running farm tractors and chain saws. So there will be virtually none available for fishing boats or between-town commerce.

In a long term collapse, the residents of Alaska’s densely populated coastal cities will likely starve and/or freeze to death. Meanwhile, those in inland towns, albeit better fed, will be geographically isolated so that commerce with the coast will be difficult if not impossible. Bush pilots will eventually be grounded due to lack of fuel, lubricants and spare parts. The only people I foresee surviving are a few seasoned Sourdoughs and native tribe members that still have well-honed outdoor survival skills and are still capable of reverting to a self-sufficient mode. The best set up for this would be a small settlement on a clear water (non-glacial) stream with an active salmon run and a couple of productive “fish wheel” salmon traps.
Another consideration is that the Alaska Pipeline is vulnerable to frost heaving and rupture if the power grid goes down. (It is not widely known, but grid power is used to run thousands of refrigeration elements that keep the permafrost frozen around the pipeline supports.) My prediction: In the event of TEOTWAWKI, the Al-Can highway will have heavy traffic with heavily-laden pickup trucks carrying beau coup gas cans, going in both directions: Greenhorns from the lower 48 thinking that Alaska is the place to be and Alaskan Citizens who realize that Alaska is not a viable place to stay in a long term Crunch.

And Hawaii?
Just as in Alaska, what happens when the ships and planes stop arriving? Too much population (1,250,000 and growing!) and too little self-sufficiency. Lousy gun laws, too. The only thing that Hawaii has going for it is a mild climate and the fact that each island produces its own power—albeit with imported fuel. If and when the North American grid goes down, it will be something that Hawaiians will see reported on the evening news. Yes, I know, fish are plentiful and you can walk through the jungle and forage enough fruit in just an hour to feed your family for a day. But the two-legged predators will be out in force. It won’t be safe to go out fishing or foraging. Perhaps the residents of some of the smaller islands will pull through a Crunch. Certainly they might on Ni`ihau–the small western island reserved for natives only and their traditional lifestyle–subsistence agriculture, and fishing. But of course: “Haoles need not apply…”

State By State – Arizona

Population: 5.1 million.
Population Density: 44.7 per square mile (Rank 7 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 114,000 square miles (rank 6 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $438/yr. (rank 30 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 48 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 91%.
Per capita income: $24,988 (rank 37 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 25 of 50.
Plusses: Mild winters at lower elevations. Has the nation’s top rating in “education freedom” (the state is at the forefront of the charter school movement.) Open carry of handguns is legal and perhaps the most commonplace in the Lower 48.
Minuses: Intensely hot summers at lower elevations. Fairly high population density (by western states standards.) Water is scarce in much of the state. Very high crime rate! Expensive car insurance rates. Nuclear targets. Proximity to the Mexican border. Some northern parts of the state are recommended (with provisos). Has a high ratio of illegal aliens. Note: I probably should have given Arizona a higher ranking, due to its favorable gun laws and long growing season. However, its very crime rate, high insurance costs, and proximity to the Mexican border pushed it down the list.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 9 of 19.

Note: Details on 18 other states will be posted on a daily basis. Stay tuned.