Retreat Supplies

The purpose of a retreat, generally, is to allow a person, or a group of persons to lay over until the problem that forced their relocation has been resolved. Storm, civil disorder, pandemic, etc., can serve as the trigger for a relocation. It should support life as well as a regular home, supplying shelter from the weather, food and water, medical care and security.

The age old axiom of “beans, band-aids and bullets” is always the best starting point for any supply list. Taking for granted that the “retreat” is an existing location, such as a lodge, home, wilderness cabin or camp site, or an RV, stocking it is not all that a difficult proposition, security not withstanding. In the absence of physical structure, caching will be necessary to supplement what the prepper brings with him.

Will comparing bug-in lists, bug-out lists, and retreat lists disclose major differences? It may not be likely in great part, but don’t assume that one will suffice for the other. Take each situation separately, and plan as if the others did not exist as an option. The reason for this is simple: one or the other might become unavailable via unforeseen circumstances. Never assume that your stocks are inviolable.

So, what to stock?  Start with the “beans”. The average adult can get along with 1400 – 2000 calories of food for an average work day. If living solely on food stocks, and not working to produce them, 2000 might be a bit high. With serious labor at a working camp, 2400 – 3500 might be required. The prepper should take into account his activity levels and health, and plan appropriately. Unless the retreat it visited regularly, and the stocks rotated, food will go bad at some point. The only real option for non-rotation is freeze dried food. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive. For retreats that serve as true hard times bug out locations, this added expense may be offset by the eliminated need to rotate stocks. Kept cool and dry, freeze dried foods can last for three decades.

Stock foods you already eat. Appetite starvation is a real threat for Americans. When faced with a diet that is “foreign”, most people will approach the point where eating strange food is just too much. Expecting that you will make yourself eat it when the time comes is unrealistic. You will, to a degree. That wall will build. Eat what you store and store what you eat. If that means visiting your retreat to rotate, so be it. I don’t recommend leaving a retreat idle for long. It should be visited, worked and  maintained, for many reasons.

The best food types to store are those that do not require refrigeration. Your retreat may be equipped with it, but if you rely on refrigeration to keep the major portion of your foods unspoiled, a grid outage will reduce what you have to near uselessness.

Watch for the slow killers in your storage food: sodium, MSG, preservatives. Limit these. Research LTS (long term storage) foods for unhealthy ingredients. You would be surprised at what “survival” food producers include in their products. See our post “Check Your Freeze Dried Food Ingredients”.

Water. Stored water is a must, if prepared properly. Filtered, treated, and stored dark and cold, you can expect it to last a year or so. I never count on water past 6 months if I can help it. The basis for a water plan is stored water … the strength of it lies in a ready supply that can be converted into stored water. Sources, from best to worst are: Alpine streams, springs, rivers, creeks and lakes. Modifying circumstances can alter this list somewhat, but the delineating factors are mobility and filtration. Water from a high location right, moving down from the snow pack and filtered as it goes, is the best source from which you can draw. From that point, you can see how that list was then developed.


  • 2000 calories per adult, on average. The more the better.
  • 1300 calories for children under 12
  • Store foods you already eat. If your diet includes rice, beans and corn, great. These together make for a good balance of proteins, and they store well.
  • Fruits and vegetables should be included. They are easiest and cheapest to obtain in dehydrated form, though many freeze dried producers offer these in single item containers. If you can afford the freeze dried, go for it.
  • Canned meats can last a long time. Freeze dried lasts longer. Dehydrated meats are an option, but check their shelf life and additional ingredients against your overall health plan.
  • 5 gallons of water per person per day, for sanitation, and cooking. This is a starting point. Your needs may vary.

A good trial run, living off your supplies for a few days to a week, will help you fine tune things, and see where your stock are off balance. I recommend that you exercise your preps at your retreat as if the whole world had shut down, and you are on your own. Record everything in a notebook: how much of what is used, when, and how it affected your sens of well being and bodily functions.

Water filters. Whatever you can get your hands on. Canisters, cartridge, carbon, ceramic, anything. The better the system, the better your health. You can not be caught without a means to remove harmful organisms. Check your retreat’s local sources and have them tested yearly for harmful impurities and organisms, and use a system that will render them harmless. Some people add a UV sterilization device to their filter routine. It can’t hurt, but it is expensive for large scale utilization, such as for a large group.

  • Water filters
  • Treatments such as purification tablets
  • Test kit
  • Storage: bottles, barrels, cistern?

Food Preparation

Have two means of cooking food available. There are stoves that burn wood, pellets, propane, natural gas, kerosene, alcohol, solar, Coleman gas and even gasoline. Your retreat’s configuration and location will determine what is best. I don’t include electric cook stoves because their fuel isn’t readily storable. Of all the methods, solar uses the least amount of fuel, but is dependent on available sun light, which is greatly reduced in winter. Your location is important in determining which fuel source is best. Renewable sources are limited to solar and wood. All other types require manufacturing and storage, and money. Whatever you use, have a backup. Our primary grid down system is propane, followed by wood, and then kerosene.

  • Cook stove
  • Materials to build a back up stove, such as a brick rocket stove
  • Oven, and back up. Brick ovens are inefficient, but easy to build.
  • Cooking equipment such as pots, pans, utensils. Whatever your cook style requires. Double up on useful items that are key, or at least spare parts. If you rely on a grin mill, have a back up, or a spare parts inventory, and the tools to service it.
  • Storage containers for left overs
  • Manual can openers. Notice that is plural.


Medical supplies are a must. Taking for granted that medical help will not be available, some preppers have paid for courses on wilderness survival and surgery, trauma treatment instruction and even military-based medic schooling. The level of skills prep depends on your expected troubles. In the worst case, there will be no help. Expectations for future needs will determine the types and amounts of medical supplies to stock. This is something each person or group needs to establish.

For remote retreats occupied under most conditions, there is an answer to the lack of immediate physician’s care. Remote support from qualified physicians is a new concept, when paired with certain medical supplies. The MedCallOutfitter kit pairs some decent medical supplies with 24/7 remote medical guidance. It’s something to consider if advance training isn’t readily available.

First aid kits are a must. Stopping bleeding, infection control, setting bones and immobilizing injured joints, pain control, and wound closure can’t be overlooked. An average kit will supply the usual bandages and pain killers. It won’t do for a retreat. Consider adding:

  • Snake bite kit
  • Blood stop such as Celox, in its various application formats
  • Trauma pads – military grade, including single-handed tourniquets
  • Saline rinses for wounds
  • Triple antibiotic ointments, and /or Neosporin
  • Cervical collar
  • AED (Automatic External Defibrillator)
  • Splints and cast making materials (and removal tools)
  • Burn dressings /pads. “Burn gel” is a good choice.
  • Silver Sulfadiazine (prescription) for burn treatment
  • Honey is also considered a burn treatment option
  • Any prescription medications currently used
  • Airway (nasopharyngeal)
  • Pain medications. Tylenol for fever control, Ibuprofen for anti-inflammatory treatment
  • Temporary cavity and crown repair kits for dental emergencies
  • Salt for simple saltwater mouth rinses to help fight infections, sore throats
  • Neti-pot for nasal pathway rinses and maintenance
  • Neti-pot solutions (you can make your own, but these are cheap and plentiful, and store forever)
  • Treatment kits for lice, ticks
  • Saline eye drops
  • Antihistamines for hay fever and bites /stings
  • Advanced items such as tracheotomy kits, scalpels & sutures (or any other surgical equipment), IV sets and colloids require advanced training and in some cases, a license. You will need to research the issues associated with such things.

Sanitation and Hygiene

Keeping clean, and cleaning up after bodily fluid spills and aspirations is important. It is part of infection control. Transfer of contaminants is very easy. When dealing with healthy people, this isn’t an issue. Weak or injured people can develop serious illnesses quickly, under the right conditions. Control of infectious fluids and materials must be considered. Personal cleanliness is the first line in that fight.

What to stock?

  • Soap – antibacterial. Liquid for hands and face, bar for shower /bath.
  • Shampoo
  • Toothbrushes. “Soft” brushes are best.
  • Basic toothpaste accepted by the ADA
  • Mouthwash (Listerine is a dentists’ favorite)
  • Clorhexadine for washing mouths with injuries and infections
  • Dental floss and picks
  • Finger and toe nail clippers, with scrapers
  • Nail files
  • Hair brushes and combs, scissors
  • Feminine supplies
  • Items for infants… diapers (disposable or cloth), rash medications, etc.
  • Any needed specialty hygiene items such as contact lens cleaners, denture fixers and cleaners, cleaning solutions for retainers, etc.
  • Saline eye drops
  • Baby wipes are for everybody. They work well for quick clean ups and light personal maintenance.
  • Skin moisturizers


Security is a favorite topic for argumentation among preppers. Weapon type, caliber, price points, etc…. it never ends. My recommendations are just that, recommendations. They come from my own visualization of a retreat, and the defense of it. In my mind, I see a building or encampment with a clear field of fire around it, no observation posts, and some “local” neighbors. Retreat configurations vary wildly. Some allow for defense at a distance, and other are downright nasty in the close quarters requirements they demand.

My pick for a rifle is a well made semi-automatic, detachable box magazine weapon chambered in 7.62 NATO (or .308 Win). All shooters need to understand the practice of well aimed, controlled shots. The above rifle will allow this, but also quick follow ups and heavy cover fire when needed. The box magazine allows for quick reloads. The caliber will present an intruder with the terrible realization that not much will protect him after he starts the hostile action. The 7.62 NATO round will provide a defender with just about all the power he will need.

Which rifle? Check these out as you can, and get a feel for their ergonomics, the locations of controls and features and their price points. In no particular order of preference:

  • M1A, by Springfield Armory. Wooden stock, or “SOCOM” configuration with all the latest go-fast goodies.
  • PTR-91, by PTR Inc. This is an H&K91 clone with very high reliability. Heavy. Some love it, some hate it. The newer version with the “GI” barrel will eat any ammo fed to it. Earlier versions had some issues with cheap surplus.
  • FN-FAL clones. Arguably better ergonomics than the PTR, again… personal preference.
  • AR-10 variations. 7.62 chambered rifles much like the AR-15s… just larger.

If you opt for a smaller caliber weapon, the AR-15 family in 5.56 (.223) is everywhere, and newer models are quite affordable. Parts, accessories, upgrades and ammo are easy to find.

In the “other guns” category are the semi-automatic communist weapons in 7.62×39.  These used to be quite inexpensive, and some deals can still be found. The AK-47 version is the most famous with a detachable box magazine. SKSs are similar, but have an integral magazine loaded via stripper clips. Rounding out the cast are the venerable bolt-action rifles of WWII. Most hit hard and work well if not worn out.

I left out one veteran in particular. Not because it isn’t useful, because some know how to run them very well. I left it out because it shouldn’t be lumped in with other “types”. The M1 Garand (pronounced GAR-and, not Gar-AND) was our choice for a semi-automatic battle rifle in WWII.  It is a 30.06 weapon, holding 8 shots in a self ejecting clip. Powerful, reliable, nostalgic…. it can still put a hurt on intruders. It is a large weapon, and not loaded as quickly, or to the same number of rounds as more modern rifles. 8 shots versus 20 or 30, the Garand suffers from a deficiency in the steel-on-target department. But it has a few things going for it. Against the bolt action and stripper clip (5 rounds, generally) rifles, it is superior. Many predator-preppers claim to have the game wrapped up with their cheap communist rifles and WWII bolt action veterans. Personally, I’d take the M1 Garand over those choices any day. Capping off the comments on it, the Garand is a terrible rifle to face in the hands of a calm, practiced shooter with the advantage of home turf familiarity. Something to well consider if there are personal reasons making you lean in its direction.

Whatever your retreat needs, this information will serve as a starting point for your thoughts on the subject. Put it up against your current household inventory and see if things are lacking at home. Plan, review, adjust. Put worries to bed and enjoy life.

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