The idea of the lone wolf survivalist is great in fiction and reality shows, but not so practical in real life. When one tries to survive alone, they have to take care of everything themselves. This means having the ability and knowledge to take care of everything needed for survival. While that may be possible for some, it lowers one's chance of making it through.

The two biggest problems with solo survival are self-defense and healthcare. One person alone can't defend themselves against a group of attackers, regardless of what Rambo and other movie heroes have done. Worse than that, if they get injured, there's nobody to take care of them.

Granted, people have survived by themselves; but that's not usually the best. Chances of survival are pretty much always better as part of a survival team, than it would be alone. A team can work together to accomplish group tasks, spread responsibility around and each member of the team can become an expert in one or two areas of survival for the team, increasing their depth of expertise, while reducing the total things that each member needs to learn.

Of course, this assumes that the team is actually trained. One survivalist, trying to survive with a bunch of couch potatoes is going to find themselves in a world of hurt. Not only will everyone expect that lone survivalist to do everything for them, but the rest of the crew will have to be watched constantly, to make sure that they don't do something to endanger themselves or the group.

But there's one thing that we seem to be missing from the idea of a survival team; that is, while talking about the skills needed in that team is common, few people talk about what the team needs to have, in order to make it work. There's a whole lot more needed, than finding people who can fill a list of skills.

One of the more complex things to work out for a survival team is a survival retreat. Most of the time, when we talk about a survival retreat, we talk about an individual or a family survival retreat; but this is quite different than a team survival retreat. While many of the necessities are the same, there are additional things the team needs, which make most family survival retreats unacceptable as a team survival retreat.

Where is Your Team Coming From?

Although this article is not intended to deal with the issue of forming your team, I do need to bring one thing up. That is, the issue of where your team is coming from. For most of us, the survival team is made up of a hodge-podge of like-minded survivalists that we know from our social circles and our work. However, there are other possibilities. One is that it is all members of the same extended family or members of our neighborhoods.

This is going to affect things in the senses of where everyone lives. If your survival team consists of people who all live in the same neighborhood, then it is relatively easy to turn your neighborhood into a survival retreat, especially if you live in the suburbs.

In reality, that only accounts for a very small percentage of survival teams. It's rare that you can pull together a neighborhood as a survival team, before a crisis hits. After it hits, people are usually willing to pull together. But even then, their ideas of how to pull together, who should be in charge, and how the neighborhood will survive will be quite different. You can count on there being an element who is expecting the government to come in and rescue you, as well as an element who is convinced that the solution is distribution of wealth.

Obviously, wealth distribution isn't the answer. While it will help some people last longer, it doesn't solve the overriding problem of there being no food and water coming into the community. Nevertheless, you should be ready to help out your neighbors somewhat, just to avoid having to fight them off. Better to befriend them with some cheap rice and beans, than having civil war on your street.

But the important point here is that if you can't gain leadership of your neighborhood, based on your knowledge of survival, and there isn't another survivalist who is able to take control, then you don't want to have anything to do with them. All they'll do is suck you dry of resources, without giving anything in return.

You're better off dealing with people like this on a barter basis, trading them food, water and seed for whatever they have of value or their strong backs to help you with survival tasks. In this way, you might actually be able to gain a team within the neighborhood, even if the rest of the neighborhood rejects your leadership.

Some Key Decisions

Before you even start thinking about a survival retreat, you've got to make some key decisions about how you are going to organize your team. Part of that includes selecting leadership and another important part is dealing with property issues.

When most people talk about their survival team, it's with an "All for one and one for all" attitude. In other words, they're talking about socialism. Everyone contributes and participates equally and everyone receives equally. There's just about 100 problems with that, starting with the impossibility of everyone truly contributing equally and ending with every receiving equally.

The idea that everyone will work for the benefit of the team and receive equally sounds great, but it doesn't work in practice. The main reason it doesn't, is that not everyone can contribute to the team's needs equally. I'm not talking about financially here, but the work they contribute to the team. Different people work at different speeds, with different efficiencies and bringing different levels of knowledge to the work. So, they will contribute different amounts.

In reality, some survival specialties require a lot more investment of time and money than others. It's not fair for one person to have to foot the bill for an expensive specialty, while another gets by with a minimal investment. But at the same time, it's not fair for a family with little income to have to invest as much as a family with a high income. Then again, it's not fair either for a couple without children to have to pay for the needs of a big family that joins the team. But leaving a low income family to take care of their own needs, while other team members don't have it so hard isn't fair either.

As you can see, there is no truly fair answer. Even voting doesn't make things fair, as the group could vote to make the one well-off member pay the lion's share of the expenses, while everyone else makes a minimal investment. The point I'm trying to make here is that you aren't going to find a perfect answer, as there isn't one. What you're going to have to do is find the answer that works for your team.

That will probably end up being a combination of shared expenses and individual expenses. You may find that even then you'll need some flexibility, as you might have one or two families that can't really afford something that the group agrees on. Do you get rid of those families, or do you allow them to slide on that investment, while everyone else does their part?

It has been proven time and time again that socialism only works with perfect people. Since the world is seriously lacking in those perfect people, it's not a good idea to use a socialist financial system. While everyone receiving according to their need seems fair, the unfairness comes in on the labor side.

Let's Talk Food

When the colonies were first being established, both Jamestown and Plymouth tried socialistic financial systems, especially for their food production and distribution. In both cases, the colonies all but died from starvation. It wasn't until they divided up the land and each was responsible for meeting their own needs that the people truly prospered. People will always work harder for their own personal gain, than they will for group gain.

This doesn't mean that the team shouldn't help each other out. But it should be just that, helping each other. If a family is having trouble growing enough food, by all means help them. But check first to make sure that they are working hard to provide for themselves. The last thing you need is to create a welfare system while you are trying to provide.

You also have to take into consideration those who will be busy doing other things that reduce the time they have available for growing food. If you have a team member or two who are jacks-of-all-trades, they will probably spend the majority of their time building and repairing things for the team. That will mean that they can't grow enough food for their families. In that case, the team will have to feed them. In one way or another, their labor for the team will have to be compensated for in food.

The key here is to make sure that everyone is fully engaged and working for the needs of the team. That means that some specialists will have to do more than just their specialty. A communications specialist needs to do more than just listen to the radio, as that isn't effective use of their time. There's no reason they can't listen to the radio, while they are working to grow food.

Then There's Shelter

The other area where this socialism/capitalism organizational question comes into play is in building shelters for your team. There are three basic options for this:

  • Create a common survival shelter, shared by the team
  • Create several equal survival shelters, one per family
  • Have each family create their own shelter

Looking at those three options, it's clear that inequality will once again raise its ugly head. Each family has different needs, depending on the number of family members and the gender mix of their children. In addition, each family has a different income, affecting their ability to contribute to the building of the shelter or shelters.

For most teams, there will be a need for at least some common areas. These will be workshops, storage areas and even a group meeting area. Once again, the question of fairness raises up. Does your team blacksmith pay for building his shop himself, or does the team help him out? Does everyone pay equally for the cost of building a common "town hall" or do you divide that up by income?

Requirements for the Survival Retreat

On the surface, one would think that a survival retreat that would work for a family, would also work for a survival team. But that's not quite true. While there is much in common, there are a few special needs that a team has, which have to be considered. More than anything, you have to face the reality that whatever one family needs, six families (or however many families are in your team) need more.


While location is an issue for any survival retreat, it's a special issue for a survival team. When one family is seeking out a survival retreat, they basically take into consideration the needs of their family. But when a team is selecting a retreat, it's necessary to take into consideration the needs of the whole team.

An important part of this is selecting a location that is accessible to everyone in the team. If you all live close together, that's not really much of an issue. But if your team is scattered, you may find that a location which works for one team member is all but unreachable for another. That makes location selection that much more complex.

Take for instance a situation where one team member lives on one side of the city, while another team member lives on the other side. A location that is out of town and close to the first team member may require that the one across town try to make it through town, which would be all but impossible in a crisis situation. Unless they have a way of going around the town, they may never reach the retreat.

At the same time, not all team members will be equally equipped. If the location is selected by a team member which has a four-wheel-drive monster truck, he may find himself there alone, because other team members can't get there.

Finally, while the larger group helps with defense, they also make the survival retreat more obvious. This could invite more attacks. You either have to find a place which is well hidden or have some good defensive measures in place.


You have to consider that whatever you need for your family, you'll need more for your team. That especially means space, water and food. A water supply which would work fine for a family may not be anywhere near enough for four families. So you need to check the water supply that you have and ensure that it will be able to scale up to meet the need of everyone in the team.

Most survival instructors say that you need one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and cooking; but that's actually not enough. We use water for much more than just drinking and cooking; and while we may be able to get away with not watering our lawns in a survival situation, we really can't get away with not bathing, cleaning our clothes or cleaning our homes. Even if we can for a short period of time, we can't for a prolonged time.

The other major water need in a survival situation is for food production. Whether you are growing vegetables or growing animals for food, you'll need water for them. So, lack of sufficient water may not only affect your ability to keep things clean, but your ability to keep your team fed.


Most preppers and survivalists today are thinking long-term survival. As part of that, food production is a key part of their planning. Really, that makes sense, as stockpiling enough food to ensure that your family is fed no matter what, is more or less impossible. Any stockpile of food will eventually run out, no matter how large.

However, food production requires a lot of space. Regardless of whether you're growing food in a garden or growing animals to be used for food, you're going to need a fair amount of cultivatable space. Basically, you're going to need about two acres of space per family of four, in order to grow all the food your team will need.

This number is based on homesteading norms. The land is divided between space for growing vegetables, growing grains, growing feed for a few animals and the animals themselves. Obviously, the choices you make in how you grow your food will affect your exact space requirements. But don't sell yourself short on space. Make sure that you have a large enough area that you can grow enough food.

How Much Space Do You Need?

In addition to the space you need for raising food, you'll also need space for the families themselves, storage buildings and defenses. While this may seem like a small thing in comparison to the space you need for growing food, you might be surprised.

Of these space needs, the biggest is space for group defense. When planning your defenses, you need to remember that the most effective defenses are defenses in depth. If you are using all the space you have available, right up to the property line, and you don't have vacant land around your property, you're going to find it hard to plan a good defense. You'll probably have to be willing to sacrifice some of your farmland, in your defense.

You will also have to watch out for people sneaking onto your property to steal your food, as it becomes ripe for harvest. Remember, people will be desperate; so stealing your food won't be beneath them. In fact, that will appear much more logical to many, than their other options.

Organizing that Space

For mutual defense, the only thing that makes sense is to have everyone living in close proximity, surrounded by the land you are cultivating. Trying to put your survival shelters around the land you are farming, so as to protect it, merely ensures that you can't offer mutual defense during an attack. This will allow enemies to kill you off, one at a time.

So, think in the same terms that the pioneers moving westward did. Build a small village in the middle of your property, and have your farmland around that. If you have extra land that is not being farmed, then allow that to be the border of your property, giving you a defensive buffer before people get to your crops and animals.

Your most valuable buildings are your community buildings, such as your storehouse. Those should be in the middle of your community, with your individual shelters around it. That makes them your last line of defense, as well as a good common meeting point to organize your defenses from.

While most people would want to keep animals farther away from their dwellings and put the crops closer, it actually makes more sense to keep the animals closer, even if the aroma is less than pleasing. Animals are much more likely to be pilfered by people looking for a meal than carrots or onions are. They also require much more attention, feeding and watering them than a garden does.

Organizing Your Defenses

As I already mentioned, a defense in depth is best. That means creating a series of concentric layers of defense. Your first layer will be at the property line. Build defensive positions there, so that you start your defense at the edge of your property. Then, build additional lines of defensive positions at the edge of your cultivated land, outside your survival shelters and in the village.

The idea here is that you can trade space for time, falling back from one set of positions to another, if the enemy advances on you. With proper covering fire, this can be done fairly safely, allowing you to force them to cross the open ground, making the attackers vulnerable to your fire.

Of course, you'll need a defensive coordinator, who also functions as your military commander. They will be the one to determine when it's time to fall back, as well as who should be a rear guard, to ensure that the enemy doesn't try an encircling maneuver or to sneak up behind you while you are busy fighting the main attack body.

So, Where Does the Land Come From?

Now we get to the biggest problem, where are you going to find land that you can use for a team survival retreat? Unless one of your team members already owns several acres of appropriate land, this can be a real roadblock to establishing a survival retreat.

Of course, if you have a team member who does own the land to create your survival retreat, they're probably going to want something in exchange for the use of their land, such as a position of leadership in the team. Then you've got to decide if you are willing to have them as a leader, before you even think about joining the team. Joining the wrong team or a team with the wrong leadership could end up being worse than not joining any team at all.

Unless you have a really small team, chances of using someone's home for a base to create a survival retreat are slim. Moving several families into a home meant for one doesn't work out all that good. There isn't enough space and there really isn't enough land.

If you don't have a team member who owns land, you might want to consider looking for one. But you're going to have the same problem that you would have if you had a team member who had land, they're going to want something for it. Since they would be a new addition to the team, that might create problems. You obviously don't want someone who is not knowledgeable about survival as a leader in your team.

Another possibility is to find an abandoned building somewhere, with land, which could serve as a survival retreat in a time of emergency. Of course, this means you'd probably have to wait until the crisis hits to actually set up your survival retreat. While that is possible, it will take some exquisite planning.

Then there's the possibility of buying land together for the team. This is actually a very good option, as the cost of the land can be split amongst the team members, making the monthly payment very low per member. While pricing depends on where you live, I've seen a lot of land available at reasonable prices, if you're willing to buy land that is in the middle of nowhere. But of course, that's what you want for a survival retreat.

Just make sure that the land you acquire is suitable for your needs. More than anything, that means having a good source of water, whether on the land itself, through drilling a well, or available close enough that you can haul water to your retreat.

The nice thing about buying land together as a survival team, is that since there is no one owner of the land, it doesn't affect the leadership of the team. You can establish your leadership based on ability, rather than financial considerations. Ultimately, that works out best for protecting your team and giving it the best possible leadership.

There is one other option and that's building a survival retreat on public land. Like the option for occupying an abandoned building, this one can't very well be put into effect until the crisis hits and you are forced to bug out. You would have to have everything ready, in mobile form, and then move to the site once the need presents itself.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment - As always, please let me know your opinion in the comments section below. It's your opportunity to share some tricks with the community!

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Added to cart!