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The Cheapest Way To Build A Sturdy, Reliable Bug-Out Retreat

The Cheapest Way To Build A Sturdy, Reliable Bug-Out Retreat

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Probably the biggest problem associated with bugging out is having a place to go. A few survivalists or preppers have a cabin in the woods or a bunker buried somewhere, but most of us don’t, simply because we can’t afford it.

Please note that I don’t consider just bugging out to the wild a viable alternative. Few people have the necessary skills to play Grizzly Adams and live off the land. And trying to do that, with what you can carry in your bug-out bag, is a recipe for disaster. You just can’t carry the tools you need to be able to build a cabin and cultivate crops in the wild. Nobody can.

What if I were to tell you that you can build that bug-out retreat and you can do it relatively cheap? Now, let me define “cheap” here. I’m talking about building something for a few thousand dollars, maybe as much as $5,000, but definitely less than $10,000. Compared to what a cabin in the woods costs, that’s cheap.

There are two basic things you need in order to create a bug-out retreat: land and a shelter. With that as a starting point, you can work on putting together the rest. So, let’s start with those.


Overall, land is expensive. But it is still possible to buy land cheap, if you aren’t picky about what you buy. Land values are based upon the land’s utility, so the key is to find land that doesn’t have any real utility. While that land isn’t going to have electricity, water, phone service and city sewer, that doesn’t mean it’s totally useless. In fact, if you can come up with those things on your own, then that land becomes ideal for a bug-out retreat.

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What makes this land (usually referred to as “junk land”) so attractive for a bug-out retreat is that it is in places where people aren’t likely to go. We’re talking about land that’s out in the middle of nowhere — not close to any body of water, not close to any major highways, and you can just forget about finding a local electric company, let alone getting them to run wires out to your property.

But because this land is so unattractive to other buyers, you can buy it for next to nothing. I’ve seen land like this go for as little as $160 per acre. At that price, a 5- or 10-acre lot is still cheap.

The Cheapest Way To Build A Sturdy, Reliable Bug-Out Retreat

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The biggest problem with this land, from a survival point of view, is water. You’re either going to have to count on rainwater collection or drilling a well — unless you want to haul water in. So, before buying any junk land, you want to figure out a water plan. That means doing some research — specifically into the annual rainfall and how low the water table is.

Surprisingly, the first layer of water-bearing sand isn’t usually as deep as most people think. If you talk to a well driller, they’ll tell you it’s hundreds of feet down. But they’re looking for really good water, as well as the bigger fees that come with those deep wells. There are ways that you can put in 20- to 100-foot wells yourself, without paying a fortune.

Preparing Your Land

Before going much further in preparing any bug-out shelter, you’re going to need to do some preparation of the land. More than anything, this means developing some means to get water, putting in a rudimentary septic system, and coming up with some way of producing electrical power.


Of these, finding water is the hardest, which is why I listed it as a deal-breaker on any land you explore. But if you can get enough water on your land to survive, then you can do the rest. Keep in mind that you’ll not only need water for drinking and cooking, but also for cleaning and gardening. So forget about the “gallon of water per person a day” that some people reference. Even with being cautious of your water usage, you’re probably going to need somewhere between 20 to 50 gallons per day.

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But that’s doable, even from a shallow well. Remember, our ancestors lived without wasting 100 gallons a day watering their lawns and running their washing machines, and we can, too. In many parts of the world, there are still families living on five gallons of water per day.


Sewage is easy. At its simplest, you need to dig a hole in the ground. If you want to do a little better, you can create a two-tank septic system out of 55-gallon drums and a leech field for it out of plastic pipe and some gravel. That would merely be a scaled-down version of what is used for a home.

Part of the reason you can use a scaled-down septic system is that you can reuse your grey water. Every drop of water you use for washing clothes, dishes and bodies can be reused, either for washing something else, or for watering your garden. That will do wonders to reduce your water usage. I’ve watered my garden for years with grey water and it hasn’t hurt the plants a bit.


While electricity production isn’t really a requirement, we live in a society that is highly dependent on electricity. Having some electrical power production capability on site will make life easier in your bug-out retreat, even if that capacity is limited.

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Actually, in the case of many types of disasters, your own electrical power production will be more reliable than depending on the grid. So, be sure to put in a wind turbine or some solar panels, whichever will work better in your area, along with a battery backup system. That way, you’ll be able to use your electronics.


The Cheapest Way To Build A Sturdy, Reliable Bug-Out Retreat

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Okay, so now that you’ve got your land and you’ve done some work on it, the next big issue is shelter. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about a lot of different sorts of survival shelters over the years, and most of those are good. But personally, I’d rather be comfortable.

There are people who build a cabin out of 100 percent scavenged materials. Those are impressive. I’ll have to say that I’ve seen some amazing things built out of scavenged materials, like the cabin that a couple built with a front wall made of scavenged windows. But that requires a lot of time that you dedicate to scavenging the materials and lots of time to turn them into something usable.

There is another option that I’d like to show you — one that you may not have thought about. That’s to use a travel trailer. Now, before you tell me that travel trailers are expensive, take a look on eBay or Craigslist. While there are plenty of expensive travel trailers there, you’ll also see some older ones which can be bought for a song … or maybe two songs.

Look for one that needs some tender love and elbow grease; that’s how you get a trailer cheap. Add a little patience to that recipe, so that you don’t rush out and bid on something that’s beyond what you can afford. Remember: If you don’t win the bid, another one will come along.

A little elbow grease and a few hand tools will go a long way toward saving you thousands of dollars on a travel trailer. Buying one that needs work makes for a good project to work on evenings and weekends, and you can even turn it into a family project that you work on together.

The biggest advantage of this means of building a shelter is that you don’t have to change your entire life to do it. The change from living in a house to living in a trailer is much easier than that of moving into a yurt. At least you’ll have beds you recognize, as well as real cabinets to store things in. You’ll even have a real bathroom with a real toilet you can use.

Putting it All Together

Obviously, there are going to be a lot of other details you’ll need to discuss and work on to finish out your bug-out retreat. But these are the two biggest expenses. If you think about it, everything else is going to be pretty much the same, whether you bug out or bug in. So, those expenses are mostly identical.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:  

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  1. You’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head with a sledge hammer. Many romantic images pop into peoples’ heads with the adventurous thoughts of ‘bugging-out’ – so many so that logic and reason often get left in the ashes of these hot burning fires of imagination. Your article ought bring a few people back to rational thought.

    I’ve long proposed the simple travel trailer as the perfect bug-out vehicle for many of the same reasons you offer here but would add a few of my own:

    1. What happens if your fixed-base ‘bug-out’ spot is in the center of whatever conflict or disaster that causes the bug-out condition? Keeping a travel trailer provisioned with plenty of long term food items at -or readily accessible to – your house allows you to transfer valuable survival tools like guns, electronics, etc. at the last moment before leaving – and keeps them inside your house for use if you end up having to ‘bug-in’.

    2. While it’s a great idea to own a piece of ground out in the sticks and away from intruders (I recommend doing so – even with a trusted partner family to split the costs) it’s also good to know about public grounds where you can bug out to for both short and long terms in case your fixed-base location is not available to you. Developing strategies for using these lands (finding them, learning regulations regarding their use, studying their suitability for short or long term use, etc.) will add to your survivability in an emergency. Pre-planning should include driving escape routes, marking over-night hidey-holes, intermediate length spots (developed or not, and with permission or not), and alternative bug-out locations should your regular one not be available. Mark your maps, share them with trusted other families you might wish to share locations with, and keep them updated. (This makes for pleasant recreation as you explore the world around you with a survival – and just a tourist – eye.)

    3. Solar technology is now cheap enough that most electrical needs can be served by a few panels on the roof of the trailer and your electrical needs ought simply be trimmed to fit within the confines of the resource. I would enhance the storage battery capacity of any travel trailer with either golf cart or marine storage batteries so as to capture as much of the solar energy available.

    4. Cooking does not require propane or Coleman fuel. Alternatives to canned/bottled/refined fuels are available and tremendously practical. Specifically, building a ‘rocket stove’ that burns twigs instead of logs will cook a years worth of meals on the logs that would fuel a traditional campfire. has MANY tutorials on building these handy devices for practically ‘free’ and they can be built in many sizes to suit the needs. I recommend building a 5 gallon rocket stove to keep around the house in case you have to bug IN with your natural gas and electric utilities gone.

    5. The best advice I can offer is that which I constantly warn myself with – don’t get cocky and think you have it all figured out, don’t think you’re Daniel Boone, and don’t skip the realities of a bug-out situation. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be quaint, it won’t be camping – it will be survival, and survival is dirty and gritty and self-sacrificing of our pleasures to simply staying alive.


    PS: I love the Facebook blog

  2. Off ground sleep platform might work for some. 6″ dia. corner posts supporting an 8′ square platform. 2 x lumber or even pallets joined together to form the platform. You can leave sides open for ventilation, or enclose it to seal off elements and flying pests. Overhead cover – most permanent solution is an aluminum carport structure so you have cover during full sun and rain events. This platform allows you to stay out of muck on grade.

    Another possibility – junk van bought from junk yard. No engine needed, just tow it into location and your done. Remove tires if you don’t want anyone else stealing it. Roll up windows in front, hinged windows in back. Velcro bug screen in window openings. Call it a steel tent if you like.

    • yeah, i’m gonna disagree and state a different reason than i already have- thermal imaging and radar. i’m trying to avoid a giant tin can that can be spotted from space. is the govt. really going to search every sq. in. of land for dissenters? doubtful. my goal is plan for the worst and hope it’s not that bad. basically i’m planning for – an emp attack, followed by nuclear reactors melting down, the entire country fleeing the cities in search of food and killing every animal they encounter to eat. the UN/army/national guard/etc being called in, fema camps going up all around, the govt. searching the whole country for those crazy conspiracy minded survivalist/prepper people to take their stockpiles claiming it’s so they can redistribute it. then scouring the countryside (radar and thermal imaging) in search of those smarter preppers who didn’t stay glued to their home and fled to a BOL in hopes of escaping the madness, but the government doesn’t approve of them and claims they’re not being team players. the whole country (whoever is left after millions died) hates them for not sharing their food and is glad to see them caught and sent to fema camp for re-education. some will be killed for not bowing down to almighty government and the anti-christ. meanwhile world war 3 is taking place because- resort back to the beginning- emp attack! of course the military is prepared for an emp, but they won’t let the common folk know or let them prepare for such. the tribulation has also occurred with all those happy-go-lucky trumpets and happy-go-lucky seals being opened that kill stuff and burn stuff and happy-go-lucky bowls of plagues being poured out etc. etc. in the end, God returns hoo-ray! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      let me know if i left anything out. like i said, plan for the worst but hope for something not so bad. as such i’m going for home-made thermal evasion suits and no large metal parts for construction purposes.
      sincerely christian anarchist (who may have lost his mind)
      the world is a beautiful place full of fairies, pixie dust, rainbows and unicorns. do you believe me? i’m from the government and i’m here to help 🙂 … still don’t believe me? i’m from the government and i’m here to kill you. oh, so now you believe me!

  3. I see that you guys say that land is Cheap, but how much would all of that cost? I will also consider a sailboat. You can find a 30ft Older Blue Water sailboat for under $10,000. And it comes with all of the above, But gives you a great BOV. That’s the catch! Bahamas, Caribbeans, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and the whole US coast. Where you have a million of places to hide and anchor. It’s a thought. Just as good and affordable as the land theory. Just keep you options open. Depends on the situation and depends on where you live. Good Luck and Be Prepared No matter What……

    • Currently, the most likely threat would be a financial break down, whether triggered by a power grid failure, computer virus attack or banking system collapse.

      A boat (I can’t afford a yacht), sail or power is a good alternative. One I am considering as a “plan C.” One that needs some remodeling, updating and plain old elbow grease and paint.

      However, once you venture out into open waters, the Coast Guard may turn you back, “for your own safety”, of course. Oh, and they might take those Canadian, uS and Belize dollars or Mexican pesos you so carefully collected as you, “might be planning to buy drugs” with them under the civil asset forfeiture laws now all over everyone’s law books.

      Not to mention the Mexican, Bahamian, Cuban, or Canadian coast guard turning you back if you have, “no visible means of support.” If you don’t have a bank account, a small piece of property and residency papers, what makes you think they’d allow you to land? Just because your an American? Think again.

      Don’t forget the Navy, should Martial Law be declared.

      Just sayin’…


      • i agree with you. a boat may seem nice, but there’s too many issues and it’s easy to spot a boat in an open ocean with radar. not the best bug out vehicle

    • What about a freshwater retreat (i.e. houseboat). Plenty of rivers and lakes whose shorelines aren’t clear and offer concealment, as well as islands that are pretty remote. No roads leading to them either. A house boat with a canoe / kayak for foraging the water, gardening along the river. You’d have to resupply occasionally of course. A lot of houseboat communities existed during the Great Depression.

  4. Totally agree on the travel trailer.
    One caveat: If an older trailer has not been taken care of, you run the risk of water damage form leaks over the years. And leaks pop up in the strangest places. Where you see it is not necessarily where the water is coming in.
    Once it gets to the point of spongy floors, it would take a major amount of work to resurrect.
    As one who has been RVing since the 1970’s, I’ve seen some real *winners* for sale over the years.
    Ours stays partially packed and almost ready to go year-round. Only things that could freeze are loaded when leaving. Truck is always fueled. Never below 3/4 tank.

  5. i don’t consider buying land as a very good idea for a BOL it means you’re glued to a location that is known to harbor you. it may take a little searching (by the feds, UN, mob of starving robbers, etc.) to find you, but you will be found. i also disagree with a travel trailer as it means your limited to roads or a very short distance off the road. either way, they’ll find you just as easy as being glued to your property. stick to a BOL in the wilderness. as the author said, it may seem romantic, but not the smartest option. too bad it is the only option. anyone here who is well aware of the nwo plans and fema camps etc. should know that your only choice is hide, go to fema camp for re-education, or die a martyr.
    only advice i can give is learn wilderness survival skills- bushcraft, wild edibles, natural medicine, etc.
    also, NEVER say anything about your personal plans on the web. don’t ever say what you did to prep this week, don’t describe your bug out- location, bag, or vehicle. don’t mention any kind of preps you have, best not to mention any skills you have either. don’t keep your preps at your house. get them far away and hidden. try to buy as many of your preps as possible local and pay cash. anything you can do to help keep it private will be best in the end. the feds are always watching and keeping a list and checking it twice. they’ll find out who has the beans and rice. UN armies coming to town. 🙂 ndrp provides that the government can seize all of your stockpiles and even your vehicle if they want to. they can do this because they already own it. you don’t own your home and you don’t own your truck. the state holds legal title to it all. it’s communism, yes. you think you bought all your preps? nope. you used federal reserve notes. it’s basically an IOU. a promissory note. you discharged the debt temporarily and promised to pay with real currency eventually. sorry, but even without the ndrp, ndaa, etc. the government has total control.
    sincerely christian anarchist
    the 5 things to sustain you indefinitely- oats, wheat, corn, rice, and beans. courtesy of dan page.

  6. one last piece of advice. every family member should have a short term BOL that nobody else in the family knows about! again, courtesy dan page. if you’re caught and are asked where your family is… you will sing like a songbird. don’t think you won’t. you will. that is why everyone needs their own place so anyone who is caught can honestly answer “i don’t know”.
    sincerely christian anarchist

  7. the cheapest way to build a sturdy reliable bug out shelter is a double layer wattle, thatch and daub hut
    all materials are local most everywhere and free, you just need the know-how and ambition to do the work
    this sort of shelter can be made in 2 or 3 days, anywhere you need it, shelter in a hury that will stand up to the elements for many years with minor upkeep. with a little extra work it can even be made ‘pretty’
    on the inside for those of you worried about such things, me id be more concerned with being warm, dry and out of reach of teeth and claws

  8. There are many things with the suggestions that I can see developing multiple ways, as has been mentioned by the others. I’m a big fan of stealth and mobility. If they can’t see you or trace you, … well, you get the picture. With regard to water procurement suggestion (supposing one decides on the remainder of author’s suggestions), though, I think you overlooked another consideration – if you plan to keep pets and/or livestock. They will tremendously increase your water need, at least 10 fold.

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