How Far Out of Town Should a Survival Retreat Be Located?

Finding the Right Location for a Survival Retreat

A lot of preppers are looking around for a good location in a rural area to establish a survival retreat. Many people think that getting out as far away as possible is the best strategy to deal with societal collapse.

But I’ll tell you from experience, moving way out to the hinterland is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

How Far is Too Far?

When we first panicked about the likelihood of economic collapse, we headed way out as far as we could get. We were at least 6 miles from the nearest little store, and 25 miles the nearest small town.

After years of living that far out, we have realized as a family that we wish we were closer to other people. And I have seen this same pattern over and over again among people who move away from cities for safety – far away.

Then, they end up moving back in a little closer.

Read my original series: Extreme Agri-Tourism – Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians

The Importance of Community

We humans are really social at heart, and quite frankly we need other people for lots of basic needs.

Who will you trade with to get some value out of those extra batteries and wire you have laying around?

Who will sew you up after you open yourself up with a misplaced blow while chopping wood?

With whom will you celebrate the joy of growing all that squash?

Who are your kids going to date and marry?

Who knows all the local medicinal plants so that you can treat infections after the antibiotics are all expired?

Who will sit around the fire with you to make music and swap jokes?

Someone to Hear You Call for Help

After extensive reading and conducting numerous personal interviews with people who have lived through economic collapse and even civil war, I believe that the best strategy for survival is to be located in, or very close to, a small community.

So being near a small town is ideal. One big problem with living further out is that you might have trouble getting help when you need it. This might not seem like a big deal, because you’re used to driving back and forth, but a disruption in the fuel supply could leave you feeling cut off.

We’ve lost touch with the pedestrian lifestyle in much of America, but having a neighbor within walking distance is a resource you shouldn’t overlook if you’re thinking about preparedness.

How Close Do I Need To Be?

In the middle ages, many European markets were spaced approximately 14 miles apart. That way you were only 7 miles at most from any town. 7 miles was a good distance – as a person can walk into town, spend a few hours at church or the market, and then walk back home, all within a day.

Being in the town itself is a good strategy too, especially if you plan to be very active in your community if a collapse occurs.

I recently worked with a couple who moved back to town after years of being way out in the country. After having big acreage for several years, they thought they would only be in town temporarily until they found another farm that was closer in. But with an easy walk to work, biking to the grocery store, and no big gas bill – they’ve decided to stay in town. They are working to teach neighbors how to garden and generally helping the small community to prepare.

Video: Simple and Effective Watering Systems with Marjory Wildcraft

Find Your Own Happy Place

As a general guide, I recommend finding a location that is somewhere between being right in a small town, up to about 7 miles outside of a small town.

Keep in mind that finding the perfect spot for your family will be a complex process, and it will take you some time to do all of the research that is necessary. There’s a lot of good information from other preppers on this site that can help you decide which factors are the most important for you.

If you’re chomping at the bit and you want more information right away, check out my eBook 7 Shortcuts to Finding the Perfect Survival Retreat. It’s in our library, and you can get access for free by clicking the image below:


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This post was written by Marjory


  • michelle mcafee says:

    Excellent point, so glad I found your site. You answer so many questions I have.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Thanks for your support Michelle. Please let your friends and family know! Seriously, homegrown food on every table is the vision.

  • Janine says:

    I think this is very valid, I also think being within 7 miles of a train station is a good idea, I believe that after the collapse, trains may be the only transport that is still running. Even if it is occasionally..

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      You know, I’ve been wanting to get one o those train tracks atlases that have maps of everywhere the tracks are. Seems like that would be very useful info.

      Good comment – thanks.

      1. mike says:

        Train tracks are something to be some miles from IMO. Having grown up in the state with the most miles of track in it in the US … I can tell you from experience that even today when all is “normal”, criminally-inclined desparate people ride those trains, and walk-on and even some live by those tracks. Should law and order break down, or people can no longer fill up their cars …. folks will be walking those tracks. and anyone living near them could become targets.

        IMO most RR tracks should be viewed the same way one views Interstates, state highways, and navigable rivers….good to be a few miles from…but not something to live too close to. I prefer a lonely County Road…one the County neglects maintaining a little even….just off that, yet close enough to a small town (1,000 or fewer permanent residents), where one can receive — and GIVE help to others. It is much more likely one will experience a Katrina-like breakdown of civil authority and commercial logistic supply at some point than any “doomsday” scenario. In most small towns, people look out for one another. You don’t want to come to this realization after an event and then try to hget into a town…you’ll be just another outsider. So…IMO, become part of a small community of people who already tend to be more self-reliant than the vast majority of Americans. Just my opinion.

        1. Really good points Mike. And another one is ‘high voltage power lines’ also almost like interstate highways.

          Community is the thing…

          1. Rick says:

            Mike I hope you can find that type of community. I thought I had here in the Ozarks. size is 1800 people. Independent minded to some degree. Low crime rate. etc. Boy was I wrong! Racism is not about just color. It is also about where you come from too. Here I’m just another damn Yankee who is taking their land rights and what is theirs. I have been called that several times. In church and in the local hardware store in front of other people. (I still cannot figure out how a guy from Montana is considered a Yankee.) Here, philfering is not stealing. According to the locals. When a house burns or a tornado hits, they sworm like flies to take what ever they can. hunters do not believe in no hunting or no trespassing signs because since Grandpa an Daddy hunted on the land, they can. Remote homes and cabins are constantly broken into. Pictures of the perps does not lead to arrests here. If by some reason it does, no time is served. Blood feuds do exist in this area And the local law does not discourage this practice. So when you go looking for that small community, be very careful of what you wish for. Now I know that it is not like this everywhere in the Ozarks. But it seems to me that realitors want to sell property. So why tell the truth about the crime and the attitude of the locals. I have lived here for seven years. I have seen many people move in and after being treated this way, selling out and moving on. You ask why don’t I move? 2 reasons I would never be able to get what I have invested here. And Like my ancestors who settled the west, I’m to stubborn pig headed to cut and run. I just do business in a different town and stay away from the local population.

        2. Rick says:

          “What if” is what prepares us for the future. What if I have a medical emergency, or what if there is a fire who do I call? What if something happens to me, or my family. No matter how you look at it “what if ” is a very powerful and important. It is why we have money in the bank. Why we have insurance. Why we look for a better job. or ask for that raise. And why we garden and prepare for retirement. it is why we save for that rainy day, that emergency for when the car breaks down with a major expense or home inprovement.

  • angie says:

    This is so timely as I sell my EXTREMELY remote solar/ water catchment 20 acres and consider my next move. I have a few weeks to make the decision and reading this re-inforced what Ive been thinking and answered some question too. I will consider your wise words.

  • Terry says:

    Very good points, Marjory. I think you are right to say that “being near a small community is ideal”. Here’s an excellent example for consideration:

    A Budding Model of a Truly Sustainable Community used Ecosystem-Based-Management to guide them in forming the Port Orford Community Stewardship Area. The Stewardship Area encompasses the traditional fishing grounds and the upland watersheds that feed into them. In total it covers 1,320 square miles – 385 miles of terrestrial and 935 square miles of ocean habitat…. http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/01/budding-model-sustainable-community/

    Sustainable Land Development Initiative

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Terry,

      You’ve got an awesome project going there.

  • Dougls Cherry says:

    I would prefer to live as far away from people that I can ,I cannot stand people because they want to take advantage of you, sponge off you, ,and they think they are better than you .An island would bee perfect for me ( anyone got one to give away).Humans are an evil creature,just watch any newscast or read a newspaper,too much crime

    1. Lori Dorchak says:

      Hey,Douglas, are you not human? The world is filled with good and charitable people. You just need to focus on the postives.

  • Lisa (in Ava) says:


    Another thing to consider is the ease with which emergency services can get to your place. I’ve had a number of people say they realize that and they will just die if something dire happens, but I can assure you that if people have a problem, like a heart attack and they can’t breathe, or a compound fracture of their thigh…..THEY WANT HELP. And soon. While considering the time it takes for a fire truck or first responder to get to your home, also consider if the road is passable (slick mud in spring or flooding) and wide enough. I’ve been in both situations….a fire truck stretching many hoses because they couldn’t get close, and a fire during early spring when the roads were all but impassible. For peace of mind, cut a few trees or change the road a bit. I’m sure volunteer fire chiefs would be glad to give suggestions if asked.

    1. Illoura says:

      Unfortunately, in case of collapse you CANNOT EXPECT any emergency services. Things will not be running like they do now. The grid could even go down.
      Look at Venezuela right now for an example – Zerohedge has many good articles and covers the current collapse of that State)… you should realize at some point, no one is going to be coming to the rescue. Hospitals will be short of not only funding but supplies and workers. Look at Greece to see how only the most dedicated Dr’s. will show up to work when they haven’t been paid in 6 mos.
      Community IS the answer – because the Dr. will want to help those who are supplying food and shoe repair and stuff like that (everyone can do something useful and they WILL, if they have a skill to trade for other skills). Community CAN be just your extended family… it doesn’t necessarily take a village.
      And that’s another point I’d like to make – as so many people are now on Gov’t assistance and don’t do anything productive, nor do they suspect the benefits will ever be cut off, so just being in a small community doesn’t assure you of anything. If you and 10 out of 100 people in that community are gearing up for hard times, then the other 90% of the town knows it, and knows where you all live. (Can you convince them to work hard to support their future self – when they can just take it from you when they need it?) I really admire the ideas coming out of ‘transition towns’ and walkable communities… but community gardens will have to have guards posted when people can’t get food. Would those urban dweller/farmers be willing to shoot looters (and what if it’s an armed gang of looters in big trucks)? All that planning and work and time and investment comes to nothing really quick.
      People change in times of hunger and desperation. Watch “Civilization Is Only Nine Meals Away From Anarchy” to get the picture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWQ_hKLL7io
      Census data in 2014 revealed nearly 1 in 3 (110 million Americans – more than one-third of the country) – are receiving government assistance of some kind. It doesn’t mean they are all disabled. Source – http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/08/29/census-figures-show-more-than-one-third-americans-receiving-welfare-benefits.html

  • jimmy says:

    marjorie, what is the longest you have ever been away from another human being?
    my guess is no longer than 1/2 day. community is fine but privacy is more important.
    why not just stay in town, big or small, and form your LITTLE stable group/community?
    that way you won’t have to be paranoid and will be close to your doctor.
    the two worse words in the english language are: what if?

  • Snafuperman says:

    The thing to keep in mind is that an ultra-rural location might be great in a regional emergency, but it is probably going to suck after a short period in the “normal world”. Driving an hour every time you want to get some milk or a box of nails gets old quick. Not to mention rural schools are generally horrible, and fire/police response times are long especially in the winter.

    I consider the edge of civilization where Home Depot/Lowe’s starts to drop off. Find the small town with the regional home repair place, then live a few miles from there off a country road. Outside the rural suburb of a regular suburb if you will.

  • Rick says:

    Why does everyone want a retreat in the country? It is a big investment to live and maintain such a place. Plus there is no quarentee that the country is going to collapse. Your services are anything but reliable in the country. I live in the Ozarks and five miles from town. It takes the ambulance 45 minutes to respond to a call. I know that for a fact. so much for the golden hour to get to a hospital. When the neighbors house burnt down the fire department was able to save the concrete basement. They have yet to loose a single foundation! When it snows here There is no such thing as snow removal. You are on your own until it melts . whether it is 2 days or 2 weeks. When the power goes out it is a minuim average 6 hours before it is restored. Your land line telephone is out of service in under 45 minutes. That means no emergency services after that. And cell phone service is a hit or miss, more a miss. No tornado warnings. until after the weather system has passed. No law enforcement for at least 30 minutes if they even show up at all. when a heavy rain comes in it is at least 24-48 hours for the creek levels to drop to a safe level for fording. That is if the road is not washed out. In that case it is hard to say when the county will get around to repairing the road. Which washes out again in the next rainstorm. No lets figure that the SHTF situation exist. Everyone and their mother is heading to the woods. Unless you have group gathering, you are on your own. NO support. NO one to help protect your family, home and food source. All of these people that will be tromping through the woods, hunting any animal, or plant to survive, and raiding anyone or thing that has what they want to survive and to live.What are you going to do?
    At the end of the great depression the deer population in Arkansas was reported to be less than 300 deer. Elk herd was basicily wiped out. We now have more population in our cities and in the rural areas as we did in the 20-30’s. And less wilderness by far. in this country. How long do you think what is out there now, will sustain anyone for any amount of time? even if they did become nomads like the indians were. Constantly moving to new hunting grounds to survive. Along with all of the rest of the population that headed to the wilds.
    Now you are going to say, “he doesn’t know what he is talking about”. So lets put it this way. My family grew up in rural Minnesota and my Father’s side homesteaded in Montana in the 1800’s. I grew up homesteading. I have lived a sustainable life style myself over forty years in several areas of this country. I have been blessed with learning and training in wilderness survival. I now live in the Ozarks . My secondary transportation is a six wheel drive 5 ton military truck which serves as an extreme RV. but it can get me in and out of were I live in almost any time or problem that would keep others home bound. I have backup communications and backup power of several types. My water is free and easy to get. My food is grown on my place. I have over 9000 sq. feet of gardens and orchards green houses and cold frame. I have a small home which is easy to heat compared to my neighbors. Who have several thousand square footage homes. My place was built and designed with sustainability in mind. But I do also have things that I consider luxuries as in A/C in the summer, internet and satelite TV. I also have a strong groups support system in place. Most of all, I love my life style. And it is not for everyone.It is hard to find others that are willing to put in the time to reach for this life style. And I trully believe if I hadn’t been brought up in it, I would not be doing it now.

    1. Gudrun B says:

      wow! I admire you for your life choice. Your picture of everyone coming out into the woods in case of the dreaded SHTF though, I some what disagree. City folk will be city folk, they could not survive out in the woods; yeah, there will be some, but much less people than in a town where every one will steal your chicken, even if they have no clue how to butcher it!

    2. JJM says:

      Good argument to dissuade people from invading paradise, but I would much rather return to the Ozarks and defend my hillside than face the hordes while trying to defend my non sustainable suburbia.

  • Pamela says:

    I agree community is important but where I live finding land within the area you mention is almost impossible. I live in Canada and I do not want to live in northern Canada or on the prairies. We had many other concerns. Weather, we did not want it very cold. We wanted 5 plus months of good gardening weather. Winters that were mild and not extreme. We wanted to be off grid so we did not need to depend on the system. Laws are changing everywhere and so many communities are not allowing you to be off grid if your property is on the grid. We wanted raw land because we did not want to spend 5 times more just because there was a so called home ( tear down) We decided southern BC and it took us over 7 years or longer to find anything. I do not even drive only my spouse does so it was critical for me not to be in the middle of no where. We finally settled on a place 12 miles from town. I wish we were on a road more used but land any closer was at least twice as much. For my husband he figures even though community is important if there truly is a collapse(he says it is a matter of time) You do not want to be so close that you are over run by those who have nothing, did not think to prepare and could take or destroy all you prepared. So for him he is happy where we are.
    Regardless how close or far apart from town I think what is important are who knowing who your neighbours are and how close they are to you. One can form a community with with them as well. So before buying drive around the area, meet your neighbours. Much good luck to everyone. My purpose is simply sustainability and living a life of a good steward and enjoying my life. The future will take care of itself. <3

  • d. henry Lee says:

    I moved out of Memphis (fast becoming #3 murder capital) in 1999 into a rural county. I have about fifteen neighbors on my deadend road. I have good neighbors which is very important. I am five miles from a small town and 18 miles from Memphis.

    The year after we moved here, we started an annual neighborhood bbq and potluck. I cook ribs, burgers, hotdogs and we invite all our neighbors. We get to know our neighbors and it also creates a bond that if everything were to go to hell in a hand basket, I feel most of them would have my back. I do theirs.

    I feel sorry for Dougls Cherry above. What a pessimist attitude. If you want good neighbors, you must be a good neighbor.

  • Vee Dub says:

    good points to ponder; having gone through the process myself, my only remaining question was the maximum size of the community one wishes to relocate to. is it 500 people? 3500? or 50,000 in an agrarian community?

  • Gudrun B says:

    powerlines and train tracks are a major consideration for me! we are just looking at this time, considering all different variations and what is too far out. AT this time we have opted to stay in town because it is close to the grand kids, and that is important. As they grow and get older and may be excited to spend time out in some semi wilderness we hopefully will have found the right spot.
    it has always been important to me to have enough land so in case it would become necessary friends and family could move there as well. I know enough people who would like to “move out” – work, school and health care is very important to most folk and prevents them from breaking the mold.
    BUT before you leave your little sanctuary, consider opening it to others who will give you a sense of community and share your ideas and dreams, if that is a possibility.

  • LeRoy says:

    I moved to a small town in Montana 45 years ago. (Population around 300).
    It has worked well for us. We don’t do hospitals or pharmacies but if we needed either they are
    about 10 miles away. We have a grocery store and a gas station in town but the Big Box Stores
    are 50 miles away.
    Some nice rivers for fishing are close enough to walk or bike to and there’s big game hunting.
    We have a small 12′ X 24′ foot greenhouse that we mostly grow melons and tomatoes in. Plus we have a garden.
    We have city water and sewer and natural gas. Nothing is added to the water and it tastes great.
    IMO I think this one acre is (for us) remote enough.

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