Survivalist retreat

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A retreat is a commonly used term for a place of refuge for those in the Survivalist movement. Survivalist retreats are intended to be self-sufficient and are generally located in lightly-populated rural areas with small town values or conservative values.

Perhaps the most important newsletter on survivalism and survivalist retreats in the 1970s was the Personal Survival ("P.S.") Letter (circa 1977-1982) published by Mel Tappan, who also authored the books Survival Guns and Tappan on Survival. The newsletter included columns from Tappan himself as well from Jeff Cooper, Al J. Venter, Bill Pier, Bruce D. Clayton, Rick Fines, Nancy Mack Tappan, J.B. Wood, Dr. Carl Kirsch, Charles Avery, Karl Hess, Eugene A. Barron, Janet Groene, Dean Ing, Bob Taylor, Reginald Bretnor, C.G. Cobb, and several other writers, some under pen names. The majority of this newsletter revolved around selecting, constructing and logistically equipping survival retreats.[1] Following Tappan's death in 1980, Karl Hess took over publishing the newsletter, eventually renaming it Survival Tomorrow.

Several books have offered advice on survival retreats and strategic relocation. Some influential in survivalist circles are How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It by James Wesley Rawles, Survival Retreat: A Total Plan For Retreat Defense by Ragnar Benson, Strategic Relocation - North American Guide to Safe Places by Joel Skousen, and The Secure Home, (also by Skousen). Some that have been particularly influential in survivalist circles are How to Implement a High Security Shelter in the Home by Joel Skousen, Rawles on Retreats and Relocation by James Wesley Rawles, and Life After Terrorism: What You Need to Know to Survive in Today's World by Bruce D. Clayton.[2]

Online survival websites, forums, and blogs discuss the best locales for survival retreats, how to build, fortify, and equip them, and how to form survivalist retreat groups.[3]

Economic troubles emerging from the credit collapse triggered by the 2007 US subprime mortgage lending crisis prompted some people to establish retreats.[4] James Wesley Rawles, the editor of SurvivalBlog was quoted by the New York Times in April 2008 that "interest in the survivalist movement 'is experiencing its largest growth since the late 1970s'”. He also stated that his blog's conservative core readership has been supplemented with "an increasing number of stridently green and left-of-center readers."[5]

Common retreat locale parameters

Common retreat locale selection parameters include light population density, plentiful water, arable soil, good solar exposure for gardening and photovoltaics, situation above any flood plains, and a diverse and healthy local economy.[6] Fearing rioting, looting and other unrest, many survivalists advocate selecting retreat locales that are more than one tank of gasoline away from any major metropolitan region. Properties that are not in "channelized areas" or on anticipated "refugee lines of drift" are also touted.[7] Most survivalist writers, such as James Wesley Rawles, recommend living at a retreat year-round,[8] rather than attempting to flee to a retreat at the 11th hour.

One of the key goals of retreats is to be self-sufficient for the duration of societal collapse. To that end, plentiful water, and arable soil are paramount considerations. But just behind these, comes isolated, defensible terrain. Typically, retreats do not want their habitation or structure jeopardized by being within line of sight of any major highway.

Because of its low population density and diverse economy, James Wesley Rawles [9] and Joel Skousen [10] both recommend the Intermountain west region of the United States, as a preferred region for relocation and setting up retreats. Although it has higher population density, Mel Tappan recommended southwestern Oregon, primarily because it is not down-wind of any envisioned nuclear weapon targets in the United States.

Retreat organization

Most survivalist retreats are organized by extended families, but some "group retreats" or "covenant communities" are formed along the lines of an Intentional Community.

Retreat architecture and security

Jeff Cooper popularized the concept of hardening retreats against small arms fire. In an article titled "Notes on Tactical Residential Architecture" in Issue #30 of P.S. Letter (April, 1982), Cooper suggested using the "Vauban Principle", wherein, projecting bastion corners would prevent miscreants from being able to approach a retreat's exterior walls in any blind spots. Retreat building corners with this simplified implementation of a Vauban Star are now called "Cooper Corners" by James Wesley Rawles, in honor of Jeff Cooper.

In both his book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation and in his survivalist novel, Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse, Rawles describes in great detail retreat groups "upgrading" brick or other masonry houses with steel reinforced window shutters and doors, the excavation of anti-vehicular ditches, warded gate locks, constructing concertina wire obstacles and fougasses, and setting up listening post/observation posts (LP/OPs.)

Bruce D. Clayton and Joel Skousen have both written extensively on integrating fallout shelters into retreat homes, but they put less emphasis on ballistic protection and exterior perimeter security than Cooper and Rawles.

Retreat logistics

Anticipating long periods of time without commerce in the future, retreat groups typically place a strong emphasis on logistics. They amass stockpiles of supplies for their own use, for charity, and for barter. Frequently cited key logistics for a retreat include long term storage food, common caliber ammunition, medical supplies, tools, gardening seed, and fuel. In an article titled "Ballistic Wampum" in Issue #6 of P.S. Letter (1979) Jeff Cooper wrote about stockpiling ammunition far in excess of his own needs, keeping the extra available to use for bartering.

In his books and in his blog (SurvivalBlog), James Wesley Rawles uses the generic term "beans, bullets and Band Aids" to describe retreat logistics.[11]

In their books, Joel Skousen, Mel Tappan and Howard Ruff all emphasize the need to have a one-year supply of storage food. Rawles recommends a two-year supply, as well as storing non-hybrid (open pollinated) gardening seed.

Even mainstream economist and financial adviser Barton Biggs is a proponent of well-stocked retreats. In his 2008 book Wealth, War and Wisdom, Biggs has a gloomy outlook for the economic future, and suggests that investors take survivalist measures. In the book, Biggs recommends that his readers should “assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.” he goes so far as to recommend setting up survival retreats: “Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food,” Mr. Biggs writes. “It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson. Even in America and Europe there could be moments of riot and rebellion when law and order temporarily completely breaks down.”[12]

Survivalist retreats worldwide

Survivalist retreats, both formal and informal are popular worldwide, most visibly in Australia,[13] Canada,[14] France,[15] Sweden,[16] New Zealand and The United States.[17]

In fiction

Lucifer's Hammer by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven (1977) describes a disaster caused by a comet striking the Earth, and a the adventures of people that form an impromptu group retreat in an small mountain community, which they must defend from a large gang of cannibalistic looters.

Patriots - Surviving the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles (1998) (editor of SurvivalBlog) is a novel about a full-scale socio-economic collapse and subsequent invasion of the US, which a review has called "a survival manual dressed as fiction."

Wolf and Iron (1990) by Gordon Dickson describes a systemic societal collapse. The main character "GeeBee" builds and stocks and earth-sheltered retreat, using salvaged materials.

The Postman by David Brin (1985) takes place in the aftermath of an EMP attack and pandemic plague with subsequent socioeconomic collapse that reduces the societal infrastructure to early 19th Century levels. In the novel, townsmen construct fortified retreats.

See also


External links