Ideal Prepper Group Size

The Ideal Prepper Group Size

Big thanks, to Vey the founder of for today’s Guest Post Article The Ideal Prepper Group Size.


It should be well established by now that the “lone wolf” approach to surviving SHTF is a dumb idea.
Whether you’re a single guy planning on Rambo’ing it up in a national forest or a small family bugging out to a cabin in the woods, it’ll just be a matter of time until you’re robbed, killed or worse.

An ugly fact of life is this; you have to sleep. You cannot stay awake 24/7 defending the retreat. You have to eat, sleep, poop, garden, gather firewood, hunt, etc.

Eventually, a group of desperate people see or smell your fire, and make their way to your location. It’s not a question of “if” they will come, it’s a question of  “when” and “how many”.

Grouping up is an imperative if you want to survive SHTF, but you have to be careful. Each additional family you add to your retreat group adds a tremendous number of additional calories that your retreat needs to provide to support the extra mouths.

You want to find the right balance of manpower vs. calorie consumption. To find that balance a little analysis is needed.


According to the Prepperlytics Calorie Calculator, the average American male (5’ 11”, 200lbs, 35 yr old) consumes 1,110,695 calories a year, and the average American female (5’ 6”, 140lbs, 33 yr old) consumes 803,000 calories a year. That’s almost 2 million calories a year for each couple that joins your group.

Try the free calculator


The goal should be to identify the minimum number of people you need to handle critical tasks. A larger group is always better for security, but it is difficult to feed a large group of people.

We want to aim for a happy medium that gives you adequate security should a large group roll up on your retreat while allowing you to sustain calorie production.

Security Planning

Each retreat will have a slightly different security plan, but in general, you’ll need four things: a watchtower, LP/OPs, patrols and a command center operator.

Watchtowers: 2 People

This will be an elevated position that gives you good visibility of the retreat. This is not typically a fighting position, as it generally won’t have ballistic protection. Its primary use is observation, predator elimination and potentially some sniper use.

Unless the tower is on the top of the house, or taller than the house, it won’t have a 360-degree view of the property, as the house will block some angles of view. It makes sense then to have at least 2 towers, one on each side of the house. These should be manned 24/7 during the most dangerous periods of SHTF.

LP/OP: 3 People

LP/OP (Listening Posts/Observation Posts) are fixed posts around the retreat that can be used to monitor various sections of the retreat. The number of LP/OPs will depend on how much land you need to secure. Each LP/OP can be manned by one person with radio communication back to the main radio operator. An LP/OP should have ballistic protection and can be used as a fighting position, but a person in an LP/OP that spots enemy activity will generally want to fall back and take up a better fighting position with the larger retreat group.

For sake of argument, let’s say you’ve got a watchtower on the north and south of the property, and 3 LP/OPs; one on the east, one on the west, and 1 on the south near a barn that the watchtower can’t see over.

Patrols: 2 People

A patrol can be a group as small as two men that function like a mobile LP/OP. Their job is to walk around to make sure that nobody is trying to sneak by the fixed observation posts.

While the watchtower and LP/OPs are intended to stay hidden, the patrol will generally be observable by the enemy. They should stay far enough away from the perimeter at night so that they won’t be an easy shot. Even so, they’re still incredibly vulnerable, so they need body armor, night vision and ideally a trained dog. During the day they can monitor the parameter a little closer, looking for signs that people might be in the area.

Command Center: 1 Person

Everyone on watch should be in radio communication with a command center. If someone in the watchtower or LP/OP spots some unusual activity they should alert the command center. The radio operator manning the command center station should communicate the threat level and action plan to the others at the retreat. The watchtower should help get a more clear picture of the activity. The patrol should make their way over to assist the area in question. The other LP/OPs should stay in place but be put on high alert, and the rest of the retreat should wake up, great ready and get to their fighting positions.

5 People On Day Shifts – 8 People On Night Shifts


(5 people) SHIFT 1: 8AM-2PM

(5 people) SHIFT 2: 2PM-8PM

(8 People) SHIFT 3: 8PM-2AM

(8 People) SHIFT 4: 2AM-8AM

If you want a group that’s large enough for each member to pull security for just 6 hours a day, you’ll need 26 capable members. They don’t all have to be adults, but they need to be mature enough to handle stress, stay focused, stay silent, communicate over a radio and use a firearm.


That is your minimum group number. If you have young kids, older parents, physically challenged individuals or people who have fallen ill, that number will need to increase but don’t get carried away. There’s more than just the additional food that needs to be shared with members.


Knowing that you’ll need an average of 26 people to man a fully functional retreat, you should consider how to prepare a retreat for a group this size.

Can you sleep 26 people comfortably?

Is the septic system capable of handling that much waste?

Do you have enough ARs, pistols, battle belts, chest rigs, holsters, slings, magazines, mag holders, IFAKs and bullets to arm the group?

Are your garden and livestock capable of supporting a group that size?

Do you have the watchtowers and LP/OPs in place, or are you going to have to build them during SHTF?

Do you have the radios and comms equipment to communicate as a group?

Is there enough night vision, suppressors, and body armor to go around?

Do you have the medical supplies, antibiotics, and bandages for when someone gets hurt?

Maybe even more important than resources is whether each member will get along with others in the group. Once SHTF hits, your prepper group is now family, and living with family can sometimes be hard to do when you’re used to having your own place.

The realities of a world without rule of law are overwhelming, but with proper planning, you can give yourself the advantage of having a secure, sustainable retreat group.


Vey Prpeprlytics
The article above was kindly contributed by Vey from Prepperlytics, and the original title, “The Ideal Prepper Group Size” can be found on the blog.

Prepperlytics is an online website that helps preppers calculate the number of calories that would be needed in a SHTF scenario. Vey’s site also has a number of other really useful tools that help preppers prepare. You can check out our Prepperlytics Review Here


Recommended Reading

The Ultimate Faraday Cage

Can A Garden Produce Enough Food To Live Off Of Post – SHTF

Wilderness Survival 101

Bligh’s Open Boat Voyage Survival Story

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20 thoughts on “The Ideal Prepper Group Size”

  1. The adults in our family is the size of a small Army squad. Lots of different talents- male and female. Most of the children are at the age of being able to have chores (weeding, planting, tending animals). Defending a position is all about knowing how to secure it and we are pretty good at securing. We have neighbors who also have skills. As for the roaming gunmen in the woods. If they know what they are doing and you are not in a defendable situation, they will take out 20 as easily as 2. I think the community is the best bet of “getting through”. I’ve lived through a situation when we had to put up defenses quickly. If there is trust, it can come together. And if you are worried about affairs, you are not working hard enough.

  2. From a tactical perspective, one would really have to know the specific terrain and position prior to evaluating security needs. To be honest, it doesn’t make much sense to throw out guard force numbers without qualifying the strong point perimeter and threat assessment. There are many scenarios where a much smaller group would suffice. Seems like this post comes out of an FM7-8 partial read with little on the ground training.
    It makes more sense to discuss how to assess terrain, most likely avenues of approach, etc etc. Manning a group this large, simply based on this logic seems half baked. I lean towards Lone Wolf in general.

    1. Hi RLTW,
      Thanks for taking the time to reply.

      I know the post comes off as a one-size-fits-all answer, but it’s more intended to show how one should approach figuring out the ideal group size. In other words, one should first consider all the necessary security needs, then work back from that number to determine how much food, land and housing the group requires. If your retreat can’t support full security measures, you’ve got to scale back security till you reach a sustainable number.

      One author that I respect quite a bit is Jonathan Hollerman. In “Survival Theory: A Preparedness Guide” he says, “In my opinion, the sweet spot for a survival retreat group that doesn’t have a wealthy benefactor is between 10 and 16 adult members. With this size group, you can buy/build an average size home or cabin and have enough personnel to rotate through security and physical labor duties without overwhelming the members of your group.”

      Hollerman also writes, “Fifty people will eat an astonishing amount of food on a daily basis; this is food that must entirely be grown, harvested, stored, protected and prepared each day. Short of having a multi-million-dollar retreat and the proper infrastructure in place, a group that large would be very difficult to sustain.”

      If all you’ve got is 10 adults, and you’re doing 4, 6-hour security shifts a day, then your security size is 3 people at night and 2 during the day shifts. That feels a little thin to me. It might work in certain situations, but in a WROL scenario with millions, maybe even hundreds of millions, desperately looking for food, 2-3 guarding your family seems low.

      With 16 people you can do 4 per shift, which is certainly better. With 26 you can run 6 people per shift, which is even better.

      I think Hollerman’s main argument is that you generally want the largest group possible for security, but the group must be self-sustainable. This is also the crux of my analysis, “You want to find the right balance of manpower vs. calorie consumption.”

      Obviously there are a lot of different philosophies on the topic; the “lone wolf” approach being one. Maybe I’ll label this the, “manpower vs. calorie” philosophy 🙂

  3. I’ve been prepping since Y2K. Here’s my two cents: Anyone other than your trusted spouse is too many. “SHTF” means just that. It means that things are never going to get “back to normal” (in my lifetime, anyway). That means you have a lifetime of only one or two years (determined by how much stuff you set aside before SHTF occurred.) Suck it up! A lot of cancer patients don’t even get that much time. Any group of three or more will spend a whole lot of time arguing about who got the short end of the stick, why do we always have hot dogs every Friday night, who took my boots from under my bunk? If Joe doesn’t take a shower tonight, I ain’t gonna share that foxhole with him, etc. etc. If there are more men than women in the group, or, if you have more women than men, or even if you’re all married couples – you are still going to have romance and adultery occurring and you will have huge problems with this! It will split the group and then you must decide how to split your group stash – which may cause a war! With a group of all men, some will have better equipment and more ammo than others, causing real problems in a firefight; with theft and jealousy while in camp. Mankind has been struggling with group dynamics since way before King David’s time, and we are no closer to having a workable rule book today. I vote for the “Lone Wolf with Trusted Spouse” team, and NOBODY ELSE. We’re planning to stay behind locked doors in daytime (shades drawn) eating cold food for the first coupla weeks after SHTF (while all the travelers & beggars die off or move away) coming out to pump water late at night (disguised pump house 10′ from house; underground pipes to pressure tanks in house). If attacked, we either win the shootout or die in our own doorway. (There are worse ways and times in which to die…)

    1. Hi Wiseman,
      There are a lot of preppers out there who underestimate how tough SHTF is going to be, and how long they can survive. You sir, are not one of those people. I think you’ve got a good grip on reality and survival. The fact that you’ve been prepping for almost 20 years is awesome.

      Personally, surviving 1 or 2 years more than everyone else isn’t good enough for me. I’ve got young kids who I want to live a full life. I would hate to see them die right now, and I would hate to see them die 2 years after SHTF. I could store up 2 years of food and buy a bunker, but I want to give them a shot at living a full life, even if that life is more basic than today.

      There’s a lot of close-knit communities that function just fine without adultery or major interpersonal relationship problems. You work together as a team. You have your own family, property and resources, yet you share and help each other as a family would. I’m sure it won’t be perfect, and some issues will arise, but that’s natural in a family setting.

      Just like a family, you sometimes have additions, through marriage and birth, and sometimes have subtractions, through death and divorce. Likewise, your group may expand and contract at times, depending on the situation.

      There’s nothing wrong with the lone wolf approach to preparedness. If you’re ok with knowing that your survival is 1 to 2 years longer than everyone else, then that’s perfectly fine. My philosophy is for a longer stay here on earth. That maybe just where I am in life vs. where you guys are in life.

      It’s good to get different perspectives on how people are approaching prepping. Thanks for sharing.

  4. a group of 0ne, two or three( a family group in other words) can stay hidden much longer than a group of say 20 or 30, they need less food and water(in quantity) than the larger group, they make less tracks in and out and leave less notice of their activities, most of all they make less NOISE- have you ever tried to keep a large bunch of women and kids quiet??LOL.

    1. Having a small child, I know that sometimes it’s impossible to keep kids quiet. It would be a major issue if you were trying to move through an area undetected, but not that big of a concern if you had a retreat out in the country.

      Let’s say you’ve got a 100 acre farm surrounded by other 100 acre farms. You can have 20 or 30 people moving about, talking, taking care of babies and animals without worrying about noise. You just need to be careful with generators, gun shots, cows bellowing, and tractors.

      The downside of a group of 3 is security. Maybe they stay hidden for 6 months, but a young teen hunting stumbles upon their cabin. He calls his 2 older brothers, and they take out the father with a 200 yard shot while he’s chopping firewood. Now you’ve got the wife and daughter in a cabin alone, and 3 armed, desperate young men outside. How do you think that’s going to end?

      1. nice scenario, might happen in the US but wont happen here.
        I can take you to places so remote that apart from the mailman they never see anyone for months at a time and strangers are stared at, and this in the good times never mind when there is a 90% drop in the population!!!

      2. I’m not sure what country you’re from lonewolf, but most inhabitable places have large population areas within a few hours drive. Maybe not yours, I don’t know.

        The 90% die off is estimated after a year without electricity. It’s the first 3 months that you’ve got to be careful with. Now maybe nobody wonders up your path pre-SHTF because they’re no reason for them to, but if the urban centers went total blackout, people will be exiting the city in droves. They will be wondering the countryside looking for someone to take them in.

        Even if the masses don’t find you, eventually your neighbors will need to go hunting. They’ll go further and further out looking for game. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that someone will eventually stumble upon your cabin. It’s just a question of whether they’ll want to take your stuff, and whether you can deter them.

        Bottom line, a lone wolf strategy may work 1% of preppers, but for the other 99% they’re going to want safety in numbers. This is my opinion anyway. I do appreciate you sharing yours, and have enjoyed the dialog.

  5. a group of 20 men ransacking nearby farms would be noticed long before they got to ones location.
    with a less than 10% survival rate this scenario is less than feasible in my country- i’m not in the US and the layout of roads and paths is much different. and its only a scenario, the usual gung ho scenario thought up by the gun crowd.

  6. There is no such thing as an ideal any thing only what a person considers ideal. Every situation is different and what might best in one situation might be inferior in another. No one can foresee What will happen only what might happen. Numbers are not as important as skills and ability.

    1. You’re probably right in an absolute sense, but I think in a practical sense you can say “this is the ideal” setup, and what you mean is that for the vast majority of people it will work the best.

      For example, it’s generally more ideal to be further away from heavy population centers during SHTF. Now if you’re the leader of a violent gang, maybe it’s ideal for you to be smack dab in the middle of an urban center during SHTF.

      There is no absolutely ideal situation for all people, but we can try to create a “best case” for most people given some basic assumptions about preppers.

  7. remember: ” if you don’t know them, haven’t worked with them or spent time with them, then DON’T trust them”, an old prepper saying, words to live by, now and after SHTF. ignore it and that mistake could be FATAL.

  8. and who or how do you trust a complete stranger post SHTF?, the truth is, YOU CANT.
    if they aren’t part of the group before SHTF they aren’t coming in.
    you don’t need humans to guard you need to set up security measures, trip wires, traps, dogs would be better than humans as guards and more trustworthy.
    of course the nearer you are to a big city when the collapse happens the more of a problem you will have, remoteness and isolation are the key not counting numbers.

    1. “and who or how do you trust a complete stranger post SHTF?, the truth is, YOU CANT. if they aren’t part of the group before SHTF they aren’t coming in.”
      – I don’t know if I completely agree with you on that point. I do think there is a huge amount of risk in taking in people after SHTF, but you may find certain people have critical skills or resources that your group needs, and you may need to trust them to survive. Let’s say the roles were reversed, and your family was looking for a group to join post-SHTF… could you be trusted?

      “you don’t need humans to guard you need to set up security measures, trip wires, traps, dogs would be better than humans as guards and more trustworthy.”
      – It’s not a matter of certain security measures being better than others. It’s about layering them for maximum effectiveness. Sentry systems and alerts are combat multipliers, but you still need people to confront the foe.

      Of course you’re right about location. The more people you have to deal with, the more problems you’ll run into. I’m not sure “isolation” is the key through. Remember, after a year or so 90% of the US will be dead. Security isn’t as important as sustainability at that point. Isolation will work against you after year 1.

      1. The question on who to trust is certainly one that bothers me. I suppose gut feeling will play a part of the decision making process along with the circumstances.

        This reminds me of Rick Grimes fictional questions in the walking dead.

        How many walkers have you killed?
        How many people have you killed?

        The last two may be relevant in a SHTF scenario

      2. if the survival rate is 10% or less the chance of even seeing anyone else much less meeting them will be very small. its better to be alone than be with complete strangers who one dosent know what their motives over, we could be knifed in the middle of the night and all our meagre possessions stolen. no thanks, i’d rather be on my own.

      3. Let’s say you’re all alone in your remote retreat 3 months into the collapse. A group of 20 well armed men have been ransacking nearby farms. Their strategy is to observe for a few days from a distance, wait until most of the group is outside in the garden or doing chores, then all fire at once from 150-200 years, wiping out most of the group.

        How does a lone wolf defend an attack like this? How do you manage a garden, livestock, chop firewood, keep watch and sleep without keeping picked off from a distance by a patient, organized group?

      4. someone-I forget who- once said: “I wouldn’t want to join a group that would want me as a member!” or something like that, and I tend to agree!!!

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