Survival Retreat Land Size Considerations

February 11, 2013, by Ken Jorgustin

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I originally wrote this article during 2010, but felt it worth re-posting

How much land should a survival retreat or bug-out-location have surrounding it? What are the minimum land requirements while shopping for a retreat location? Does it really matter?

There are some logical answers to these questions and they depend on your real purpose for acquiring a retreat property.


Usage Scenarios

  1. Second home to be used for some vacations and get-away trips to unwind in a location that suits your interests.
  2. Same as above, plus as a backup location if a collapse scenario develops in the city or suburban area where you currently live.
  3. More specifically purposed and equipped as a survival retreat. It will be a place to go and live (for more than just a few weeks) if disaster or collapse occurs in the city or suburban area where you currently live. You plan to use it for vacations and get-away trips too.
  4. A survival retreat which will become a primary residence as you plan to completely leave the current area where you live, so to live a safer and more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place away from the city or suburbs. This will better insulate you from a SHTF scenario as a permanent residence.



If #1 is your use-case scenario, then the acreage really doesn’t matter and will simply be your personal choice and trade-off for location.

If #2 is you, the fact that you are thinking of a retreat as not only a vacation spot, but also as an insurance policy against system breakdown, means that you realize some of the dangers that could exist within a collapsed environment surrounded by large numbers of people. You would like to have enough land to feel ‘safe’, but you’re not terribly concerned about a long term survival requirement because you believe that the odds of occurrence are too low to be overly concerned about it.

If #3 is closer to your purpose, then you are serious about having a true survival insurance policy and you believe that the odds of needing such a location are high enough to warrant the time and money spent on establishing a serious retreat location that you can also use as a relaxing vacation get-away.

If #4 is your intent, then you believe in your gut that it is time for action. You are serious to engage in a way of life in a location away from large numbers of people. You have decided that you will be moving, and it’s simply a matter of working out the details of how and where.




0.1 Acre = 4,356 square feet, equivalent to a square with each side being 66 feet, and a typical lot size in a modern built suburban development where they pack you in, not much of a yard.

0.2 Acre = 8,712 square feet, equivalent to a square with each side being 93 feet, and a typical lot size of older suburban developments where you had just enough land to call it a real yard.

1 Acre = 43,560 square feet, equivalent to a square with each side being 209 feet, or slightly less than an American football field which is 48,000 square feet not including the end zones.

20 Acres = 871,200 square feet, equivalent to a square with each side being 933 feet, or about 3 football fields length on each side of the square.




Use-case #1 (0.1  – 0.25 acre)

  • You are probably Okay with a typical lot size or less.  If you can afford more privacy, you’ll pay for it, but your primary purpose is for a fun getaway location from the city, while near the local activity of the area.

Use-case #2 (0.25 – 1.0 acre)

  • You are probably balancing location with privacy. Example, you want the fun lakeside cottage near town but you’re okay with it if the town itself is a good distance away from the big city. You realize that you can do a lot of things with a half or whole acre of land.

Use-case #3 (1.0 – 5.0 acres)

  • You are serious about having some land around you for privacy, and enough to work with for gardening, horticulture, etc… (although it doesn’t take much land to grow a lot of food!) You would really like just enough acreage to be private from the road.

Use-case #4 (5.0 – 20.0 acres)

  • In this category your primary concern is privacy with plenty of land, as well as a location far enough from a city or major population. Anything 5.0 acres and above will give you a secure feeling, especially if forested just right. You want absolute privacy from the road and to be surrounded with enough land to ‘hear’ the quiet around you.



Keep in mind that more often than not, the shape of a land parcel is not often symmetrical. Often times land boundaries are irregular, maybe long and narrow or other odd shapes. Just because a property may have 10 or 20 acres, the usable portion to live and build upon may only be a few hundred feet across (or less?) with high visibility to your neighbor for instance. Especially for category 3 and 4 land seekers, pay special attention to the usable portion of the land with relation to the boundaries.


Other thoughts and questions when choosing your land or property

  • Will the building structure be visible from the road?
  • Is there more than one way in or out?
  • Is there free running water on the land, or perhaps a natural spring? If there is no water, what is the well situation and how deep will you have to drill? Do you know the drilling cost per foot?
  • Will the soil need to be amended to grow food or is it ready now?
  • What is the year round climate and will you be able to tolerate it (for yourself and for your garden)?
  • If it is raw land, what are the local zoning restrictions for building?
  • Is there adequate road access for bringing in building materials if you are constructing a building?
  • Will you have to install a septic system, and if so, has the soil been perc tested? If not, what is the confidence of passing a percolation test?
  • Is there electricity nearby? Do you know the cost of bringing electricity to the building location?
  • Will you consider solar electric power instead? If so, check for adequate sun exposure near the building location (South facing exposure for Northern Hemisphere)
  • How expensive are the property taxes?
  • How are the State and Local taxes?
  • If you will be living there full time and unless you have enough money or dividend paying investments, will the location provide a supplemental income to your skills? Will it be enough to get by?
  • Who are your neighbors and are they like minded in any way? Stop by and chat with them prior to any purchase.
  • What is the political climate of the state and then the town that you are considering? Will you be able to tolerate it?
  • Are you surrounded by other property owners or do you have some natural boundaries or Gov’t. or Forest boundaries? This could be advantageous.
  • How far from the nearest small town? (You will need some regular supplies)
  • How far from the nearest mid-sized town? (They will have some services that you will occasionally need that the small town won’t have)
  • How far from a major population center or city? (Once in a while, you may need the professional skilled services within a city center, e.g. skilled health care) You probably don’t want to live too too far away from a city, but beyond the reach of an evacuating mob (this distance can be somewhat calculated).