Thoughts on my retreat project……

It has been a dream for quite some time to have a retreat. Limited finances have kept this dream from becoming reality. I am now looking to purchase land next summer and then place some form of shelter on it.

Often when someone hears the word “retreat” images of a rustic cabin on the side of a mountain only being accessed via a 4×4. So remote, neighbors are miles away and of course there is no phone or electricity. Well – my “retreat” would be quite different.

Here are a few particulars:

  • Ideally looking at a place out in the country approx 30-60 minutes from my home.
  • At least 3-5 acres in size.
  • Out of the city limits.
  • Front of lot wooded to camouflage interior from road.
  • Zoning must be very relaxed so ANY kind of structure can be placed.
  • Nearby water a plus.

I am approaching this project with a fairly limited budget. I plan to pay cash for everything. Budget is approx $18,000. Owner financed land is being considered. The goal is to get the land/housing in place by the Fall of 2016 and then work on improvements each weekend from there on out.

Here are a few ideas when it comes to housing:


These lofted barns can be purchased in varying sizes. Biggest drawback for me is price as they tend to be on the expensive side considering other options. Going direct to a contractor and bypassing the broker may provide this as an affordable option.

One possible benefit of something like this is the ability to make payments if going through a dealer. A larger down payment could be made and then small monthly payments made.

These can also be found used at discounted prices.


A travel trailer offers a lot of benefits and probably should be the logical choice. Generally appliances are included and they come furnished. I could purchase the land, back up the trailer, drop it off and the project would be way under way.

Largest drawback is lack of space and being able to customize how I want it. Storage is a problem however most any housing selected will have the same problem. An additional small storage shed is planned.

Used travel trailers can be had for under $5,000 in good condition. One example is below:

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The above slideshow is an example of a travel trailer costing $4700.


A two story shed has been my favored choice for retreat housing. They are somewhat spacious with an overhanging loft. The higher second story would help facilitate observations and communication antennas. Of course once purchased it is but a shell. The interior would need to be customized to my needs – but I look at this as both a benefit and drawback. Over many weekends shelves would be built and installed, solar put up, wires run, etc.

Cost varies depending on size and who they are bought from. I am looking at $8,000 installed as a decent estimate.

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The goal would be to have this retreat set up with food, water, communication, power, medical supplies, etc. If the situation was need the family could head out to the retreat for whatever amount of time needed.



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27 thoughts on “Thoughts on my retreat project……”

  1. A travel trailer is good if you intend to work on placing a more permanent structure and doing the work yourself, at your pace, and as financially able to do so. I know of a blogger whose family lived in a storage container while they built their home. I also know of another blogger whose family lived in a yurt while they built their home. I’d favor the travel trailer because of all the ‘modern’ conveniences, personally.It could also serve as the basis or beginning of a more permanent structure. They can be added on to (we had a ‘permanent’ site in an established campground once with a room addition that was quite solid.)

  2. Here a mobile travel trailer isnt taxed whereas any permanent structure is. I like your idea of your retreat being
    hidden from the front by trees. We have never slept in a travel trailer but I imagine keeping them clean is hard especially since you have a dog.I would look for land with a water source . I would immediately plant berry bushes
    and fruit or nut trees.
    We recently looked at an Amish made cabin size 14′ by 40′ that cost $12,350 delivered within 100 miles for free.
    It had a small porch on the front of it.This isnt insulated and doesnt have electricity.These can be financed at no interest.
    I wish you the best . Arlene

  3. Consider a all metal structure, they can be insulated quite well with the foam spray they’re fairly inexpensive and offer many sizes and stories, as a contractor i can tell you this is your cheapest option, but make sure it isnt in tornado alley or in the area that gets deep snow on the roofs of the winter, bring these concerns up with your supplier

      • Clark is fine bro, doomsday is just my cover, hate that fcking show by the way lol, they make us look like idiots, anyways, back to my point, metal structures can accommodate any weather as long as you make sure your supplier knows the demands you expect from it, and the price is very hard to beat if you shop, and i mean, 10 quotes not three ! Research is key! Thats how i make profhit! Shop, shop, and tgen spend 3 MORE hrs and SHOP! But keep in mind to check their standing, google them, call references, confirm by looking at the “references” work they had done, trust me, my customers for the most part want to show off their places, they spent good money to make it that way, they wont mind, be careful with reveiws, theres companys thats approach my business this is they can make all the good reviews all ever need, i woudnt even dream of it, but im Sure they are in high demand, and do their work well, refferences that you can’t substantiate is always your best bet, im afraid i have no refrences i can offer in in florida, as im sure you understand codes here require a 300 mile an hour wind resistance, but they do make these for that! Ive seen them, truly amazing, andnot as exspensive as you might think, good luck buddy, i hope you get a great one, and congraduations my friend, its been a dream of mine for years now, i can only imagine the excitement in your planning! 😉

  4. I live full time in a Travel trailer year round because I choose to. My Children are all grown. As you may gather, I have a rather unique view of them. We have had several and are well familiar with the challenges and rewards of using them. One big advantage I see of having one at your retreat is that it would allow you to be fluid as situations change. Things happen! When SHTF happens, things can change very quickly and you may be forced to relocate to another area for security if your area is overrun. If you have a travel trailer, you can just hook up, load your supplies and go. Something that wouldn’t be possible with a Fixed structure. You could always add a fixed structure latter to live in and still have the Travel Trailer as backup. Whatever you choose to go with, you may want to also consider getting a good used one for an emergency shelter.

    As far as storage, you are correct, there isn’t much space to keep supplies, but even if you built a fixed structure, you would probably need to add additional out buildings for supplies. Something else to consider it that Travel Trailers are self contained and pretty much everything in them runs off of 12 volts DC or propane. (A couple of battery’s and Solar Panels and your good). They also have a built in water storage tanks and a pump as well as black water tanks for sewage so you can control where you dump it. Maybe it’s just me, but I find great comfort in knowing that when SHTF hit’s, I can go where I need to and still have a good roof over my head especially if my retreat is over run. In a SHTF situation, being forced to stay in one place can be a deadly as having no place to go!

    Think through all of your options carefully. I’m sure you will make the right decision for you.

    Good Luck and thanks for sharing!

    Bob C.

  5. I purchased a 5th wheel 31ft for 5K and lived in it on a friends property to save money for a year. I was plumbed into the sewer line, hooked up to water and had electricity all for 300; it was the best year. Having all the luxuries of a regular place helped, but I could definitely see living life like that for longer than a year (but the deal was only for a year) While there I had plenty of space overlooking open fields, mountains and river in the distance. Built a garden and had an outside area for entertaining. Storage space was the only thing lacking. I’d suggest the travel trailer with an semi attached solid shed and covered area for the ‘extras’ that come up, whether it be storage, working on projects that you want out of the rain etc. Plumbing your waste into a your own sewage seepage system would be an added benefit and also building a water intake , like elevated water tower (or water wheel from river etc) and grey water out and away from homestead also good. 😀 Ani OR

  6. We found our retreat eight years ago, built a cabin and have enjoyed it very much, spending about 10% of our time there.

    -Like Arlene mentioned, the county will tax any improvements you do to the property. Our cabin essentially doubled the taxes on our property. Taxes and permits added about 20% to the cost of building the cabin. If I had it to do over I would likely build it on a trailer or some other method to avoid paying perpetual rent to the state.

    -We started out with a (used) travel trailer – I hated it. It was convenient to stay in while I built the cabin and was easily sold a year later for nearly what I paid for it. We have cold winters and a travel trailer uses too much energy just to stay unfrozen. It is probably a good option in a warmer climate.

    -I would suggest spending as much of your budget on the land as possible. Good land will always have value. Year round access and water are high on the priority list. No flood or slide zones. Suitable soils for crops and septic are an important consideration too. Good neighbors are highly desirable.

    -We have power nearby but chose not to hook up. The hook-up fees alone were more than cost of a modest solar setup big enough for our needs. We are able to solar heat water for (afternoon) showers and generate the little bit of power we use for lights and run our ARB fridge/freezer (Highly Recommended). LifeLine Gel Cell batteries are worth every penny. For portable tools (saws, compressor mainly) we have a Honda generator though the batteries will run my saw. We heat and cook with propane and even during the winter we use less than a gallon a day.

  7. A travel trailer would be my first choice. Electricity could be portable solar panels. Gas would be propane. Phone would be no contract Tracfone if phone is needed. Amateur radio to repeater station if accessible. Local Simplex frequencies for staying in contact with family while in the field. Computer if needed would be WI-FI if accessible. Advantages would be portability. If something should happen, just relocate to another undisclosed location with plenty of concealment. Neighbors should only be close enough to barter, support, help, and mutual like kind friendship. A dog is a must for security. Wide open space for hunting. I call this tranquility. Think you are on to something grand. A state with no sales tax and of course no property tax.

    • You have me dreaming alertjay. Sounds excellent. “state with no property tax” – I don’t think there is one in the Union however some are very low. Appreciate it!

  8. Cheap and structurally tougher than most sheds or tiny homes. Geodesic domes? I really hate the aesthetic look of these butt ugly things…however. Even though I really hate the way they look. We’re thinking its more financially feasible and they have a real protective use. I would really, really, really, prefer tiny homes for our location. But time + clock ticking + money = needs. One or two of these with tree cover and some earthen camouflage would do very well. Built with the right materials and you would have extreme confidence for protection from natural disasters or threats. It doesn’t have to be beautiful to save your life. You could use any type of material for the frame. You only need the design.

    Just a suggestion that most people, including myself are not to keen, but necessity.

    Storage? Your property or “place” you choose to set up. If it has the earth under it. You have the best storage in the world for constant temperature and hidden protection. The largest build up stored certain pretty deep and the smaller needs supply easily accessible only a few feet deep.

  9. Make sure you give consideration to theft. Any place concealed by trees from the road and unoccupied most of the time is especially vulnerable. I have seen a few stories of even permanent-construction cabins being dragged up onto trailers and hauled off. Thieves, paradoxically, can be very ambitious.

  10. my big concern with a “retreat” to fall back to is this: what do you do if, when you get to your well-stocked retreat, someone else has already “liberated” it, and is well dug in? they have taken all your preps and put you on the outs. . .

  11. I’ve thought about the same thing Rick. Perhaps some some small solar panels and battery (motorcycle?). Hooked up to a small camera setup? That way you can view the property remotely and see exactly what’s going on or what not. Then you can get to your retreat before they get dug in. If you can find some type air card intenet access. Or like most campers/hunters they have still cameras the take pictures randomly. They review the pictures went they check thier property so they can get a good pulse on whats going on. The camera set ups are of course always hidden. Either way you should plan on getting to your retreat before the shoe drops anyway. Not during or right after. Then your left with million dollar question all of us have. At what point do you call into work one day and say you wont be coming back to work again, take whatever money you have out of the bank, and leave for good? Im not sure one will get a precise date, but I’m sure the red flags will be abundantly clear. Also you should always recon your own retreat before going back into it.

    • Thanks Capt. – that is the line of thinking I am looking at. I have seen videos on Youtube where people use remote internet acess to maintain surveillance systems. Remote alarm systems can also be installed and if the alarm is set off I get a phone call.

  12. I use trail cameras even at my home. They work great.

    In our location there is just one way in and some of the neighbors live there full time. It’s remote enough that any traffic gets noticed. It has paid big dividends making friends of them and it is nice to be able to call and check in and find out what is going on. It helps that most of us purchased our property there for the same reasons.

  13. Trailers and barns don’t offer the security from those who want to take what you have. Guess you could use armor plating, but it’s pretty expensive and labor intensive to install. Why not rent a backhoe and dig out a hole to place your structure in? Better insulation and protection from storms if you do it right. fighting from a defilade position is easier than just lying in the ground too. Hard to hide a structure on top of the ground from zombies or the Hari Krishnas that need help.

  14. I have thought along these lines for a number of years. I have owned an RV for well over 35 years, and I consider them good temporary housing. Newer ones are pretty nice, and can be gotten pretty cheap. But Remember the roof needs to be resealed every year or two or you will have severe damage from rain. A carport-like shed cover that protects from sun, hail, and rain would be a good idea. I have seen RVs destroyed by hail. There are also bozos out there who shoot at anything flat-like an RV side, especially when no one is around. I suspect these are the same guys that shoot at deer crossing signs.

    RVs aren’t very burglar-proof, either, so don’t leave valuable or critical items in it. maybe a steel buried vault nearby would be safer. Best idea would be to use the RV as a temporary shelter while you build a hardened house next to it with cinder-block walls and steel covers over windows and doors.. By all means make it as invisible from roads as possible. We have a lot of wildfires in CA , so keep the trees back from the building. Find trees that don’t require any maintenance or watering – like junipers.

    Water will be a serious problem if SHTF, so find property that has a chance for a good well. Wells are expensive, by the way.Make sure the septic tank drains away from the well.

    Like all valuable things, a retreat will need maintenance, and will need to look like someone is keeping an eye on it, so you will be tied to it every couple of weeks to a month. It became a burden for a friend of mine, because he couldn’t go anywhere else for a vacation. Ultimately he sold it, so he could travel more.


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