Project: Country Retreat

I have a dream of having a place in the country – a retreat. Maybe not an entire side of mountain and not a massive underground complex with blast -proof doors and an underground stream running through it. I am talking a few acres down a country road with living quarters not visible when driving by. I have a limited budget and my timeframe is 3-4 years away before funding would be possible. This is an additional residence to my house I have now.

I am at the beginning of this project so what follows are just a few thoughts.

  • I am reading the book Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution again.
  • Minimum of 5 acres – more preferable. If the lot was perfect 3 acres might be acceptable.
  • Would like a lot with plenty of trees/vegetation/wooded however some space that is already cleared.
  • Need to be able to place a camper or large shed on it as the living quarters (more on this later).
  • Being able to drill a well at some point is important.
  • Owner financing the land is fine.
  • This land and the land around it would be considered out in the middle of “no where”.

The purpose of this retreat is two-fold:

#1 – Weekend Getaway: A place where the family can escape to and enjoy the quiet solitude of nature. My wife enjoys the country atmosphere and landscaping the area would provide her and I a lot of fun.

# – Retreat in Case of “?”: If something were to happen that made staying in my home located on the outskirts of a small city unsafe – we could go to the retreat.

I would not rule out that a home could be built at some point and our residence located at the retreat permanently. However at this point this is not really a consideration. A retreat and weekend getaway is the primary focus.


A few examples of possible living quarters on the property:


A medium sized single-story shed could be made into the living quarters. The one pictured above is a bit on the small side for what I imagine.


A camper may provide the most feature-friendly living quarters for the money.


The two-story shed is my preferred living quarters. Lots of space and flexibility in design and set up.

If this works out it will be a long journey however one which in my heart I feel I must partake. Having this remote piece of land set up with shelter, power, communication equipment, etc. would be awesome.

Work to be done.



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  1. If you do decide on a trailer or a camper for your retreat property’s temporary living quarters, try to get one that is designed to handle winter temperatures and weather. Even after you are done with your retreat it can be useful for if / when the “Pluses” show up after a disaster, and it can be used as additional storage space. A gentleman I know built his retreat out of a garage kit while living in his trailer, and then stripped the plumbing, heating, AC, etc. out of it to use in his retreat. He even used the furniture out of it. when he was done he used the empty shell as additional storage space.

  2. Yep, the trailer will be cold. I’m a camper and know what it’s like trying to sleep in a COLD camper. What are you thinking of for heat? Down south this might not be a deal. But I would not want to try and put a wood burner in a trailer. The pre-fab would be much easer to add on to. Put in up on some blocks , so it can be worked on.
    I started out w/ a 12X16′ added a 12X12′ then 5X8 bath then 16X16 bedroom. Could not get to bathroom when DW was standing in kitchen so made it 6′ wider X the 12′. One might say “been there done that”
    Good luck

  3. The trailer idea has a lot to be said for it – you can get a LOT for your money if you go for used units. However, such a bargain probably means the running gear will not be in good enough shape to haul back and forth. So, prepare a pad or enclosure where you can fix it in place on your site. Just because you’re in the country doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of dirtbags, and I have seen multiple instances where even single-wide mobile home units have been hauled away by thieves. Disable the running gear when you get to your site and placed how you need it(and I mean cut it off).

  4. This is our ‘pipe dream’ as well…finances hold me back, however…so we continue to look for a rental property that would fit the bill…

  5. We are in this process right now. We live and work in Florida. We’ll quit in 3 years.We felt the urgency to do something now so some changes could be made while both of us are still working. We also thought about 5 to 20 acres. The more we looked and the more we talked to locals where we’re looking, gave us a good working knowledge of costs involved. You’ve already listed a few like the well, a septic, clearing, gravel road back to the site. Being remote. The numbers do add up. Now we’re thinking outside the box to include smaller lots if the situation looks right. Maybe a small livable cabin that needs work etc. We’re looking in TN, but not the usual places that are already over booked so to speak. Remote is not right behind Dolly Wood if you catch my drift. Do lots of homework, and you’ll do great.

  6. I really like the looks of that shed with the log siding. Here is a thought- I don’t know the costs involved in purchasing the large sheds, a good used camper can be had for as little as 5k. I purchased a 24′ x 25′ steel shop, complete with a window, door and 2 overhead doors for around $5,300… this also included the concrete slab and installation. You could cancel the overhead doors, add some windows and insulation… not ideal but…

    Another thought is if you purchased land with some nice trees on it, like say Lob-Lolly pines, you could actually build a nice log cabin yourself…

  7. Some other potential things to consider: shipping containers the 40′ ones sell for about $5000 delivered. Shipping containers can be stacked up to 3 high and come with clamps for securing them to each other when stacked. Of course you can always put them side-by-side to have some wider space, however do not cut away the entire ‘wall’ between the containers as that will greatly weaken the structure of the container and do not bury them. squares and rectangles are not the best structures for being surrounded by the weight of dirt – a circle (culvert) is best for that.

    To insulate a camper or shipping container, etc: Use straw bale around it in a load bearing supporting way and then top with a pitched metal roof (for snow and rain and potential water collection). The plastered straw bale outer wall will support the metal roof and is great for insulation. If money permits you can even purchase those insulated metal roof panels. Note: If you go this route be sure to have some kind of concrete foundation to put the straw bale on to avoid rot and insects.

    Thank you for all the great articles, I love this site for it’s down to earth and realistic articles and how-to’s.

  8. Rourke,
    It has been awhile since we chatted about this. As you know, I have been outfitting a cabin(conventional stick built) in Western Nevada for about 8 years. I am moving to it this fall. I just put in vegetable and medicinal gardens, requiring me to spend more time there and less training folks in firearms. I am really excited about your intentions and would love to share “what I have learned”. I mean, things like knowing legal access, construction shortcuts like building an A-Frame so the roof is also the ceiling, saving on materials… things like constructing a barrel septic instead of a conventional septic, saving money and time if the “occupancy permit” is still obtainable with the former septic design. Things like, can you dig a well? Do you have water and mineral rights with your land purchase? I have been busy. Solar, wind, batteries, inverters, wild fish farm, security from cameras to road blockages, communicating and organizing a community of defenders, communications, food development and storage, bartering(guns and ammo for dirtwork, plumbing, etc) My door is open to anyone who is ready. And by now, I think a lot of US are ready. Ready to learn the skills and prepare in self reliance.
    Sincerely, g

  9. RE: shipping containers. Remember that they are only designed for load-bearing at the corners and will not support much load in the middle of the long sides. That’s one reason you shouldn’t bury them without reinforcing the walls and roof – they can’t take it. Same principle holds with roofs – make sure you reinforce the sides or reinforce the corners and direct the load to them via design.

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