Editor’s Note: The following guide has been generously contributed by Dan Carpenter of The Daily Prep. We encourage you to read Dan’s brief overview below and then check out his FREE and incredibly detailed Shipping Container Bug Out Shelter Guide.
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Let’s face it, if you’re a prepper, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time thinking about the concept of a bug out shelter. It’s something that’s frequently talked about and debated over. Often times people envision it as a stronghold in the middle of a remote mountain range that nobody knows about. It’s there that we will comfortably wait out the apocalypse, until it’s safe to surface again.
At least…. that’s how it would happen in the movies.
The reality for most of us however, is that we simply don’t have the money to plunk down on a dedicated bug out shelter. TV shows like Doomsday Preppers routinely feature people that have dedicated their entire lives and every penny they have to their zombie hideouts. Watching those shows can make you feel like a cheap bastard if you’re not shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars on your retreat.
But, since it’s not the movies, and most of us have a limited budget to work within, here’s a brief look at 3 bug out shelter options for us real people:
1. Bug Out Shelter By Reciprocal Agreement
If you can’t afford a dedicated, stand-alone bug out shelter (like most of us), why not still take advantage of all the benefits of having one, by setting up a reciprocal agreement with a friend or family member? In a nutshell, you contact a like-minded family member or friend who is interested in preparedness, and set up a mutual agreement that benefits each of you. If a disaster hits your area, you and your family are welcome at your friend’s house, and vice versa.
While this sounds simple, you should give this some careful thought if this is something that you’d like to do. First of all, your friend should be strategically located. Usually, this means 2-3 hours away (although it depends on your area’s geography, population, etc). Second off, any time you set up an agreement where people are depending on each other, the potential exists for things to go wrong. Be careful about who you make these kinds of agreements with, especially because lives are potentially on the line.
One final piece of advice for people thinking about setting something like this up with a family member, is to be sure to actually set it up. Many people will say that they already have an unspoken agreement like this with their family. After all, you’re family right? True, but things get crazy in a disaster. You may not be able to contact them if phone lines are wiped, or they are out of town. They may already have 4 other friends that have turned to them. It could be a lot of things, but the bottom line is that it serves everybody involved if you at least have a conversation about it ahead of time.
2. The Shed or Cabin Kit Option
This option is a good one for people that have strategically located property that isn’t yet developed. Many of us have property like this. It could be a property that we are planning to build on or eventually move to later.
But in the meantime, how about setting up a small shed that you could live in temporarily if needed. Many sheds like this can be had for $2,000-$3,000, and could be made plenty habitable with just a few modifications. If you would like a slightly nicer setup, there are also some really cool tiny homes and cabin kit options that start around $5,000. A lot of people put shipping containers into this category as well, which in theory would also work, although in actuality, it’s a little harder to do a shipping container shelter on the cheap (I actually have an entire guide on this, that you can check out here, if interested).
Granted, putting a shed on a piece of property doesn’t mean that you are going to be comfortable staying there for 90 days at a time (or even safe for that matter). This option means that you’ll probably bathing in the river, cooking over a fire, and digging a latrine (although tiny homes and cabin kits are getting pretty close to full amenities).
3. Bug Out Shelter + Vacation Property = Love
A third option for people that want a bug out property, is to make it a property that can double as a vacation property. The reality is, that in your life, the number of instances that occur when you would need to escape to a bug out shelter are very few. Once maybe? Maybe 2-3 legitimate emergencies when it’s not safe for you to be at your primary residence? Why not purchase a property that can double as a great vacation spot? A spot that you and your family can create happy memories in a few times a year.
With a little thinking and planning, you can easily find a property that makes strategic sense for both uses. Perhaps it’s a cabin in some foothills a couple hours away. It just so happens that a place with trees, a lake, fishing, and hunting, makes a great vacation spot, and a great place to “bug out.” If you really want to go the extra mile, you can stock it with basic supplies to ensure that it’s livable in a pinch.
A vacation property like this could actually end up being some iteration of the “reciprocal agreement” as well, depending on your situation. If you have family members or friends that you go in on the vacation property with, then perhaps it can function as a emergency spot for you both, if needed (again, proceed carefully, and consider that you could hate each other in a year).
Hopefully these 3 ideas at least give you a good starting point however. As always though, the best bug out option is the one that makes the most sense for you, and fits your situation. Be smart about it, think creatively, and have some fun!
Since 2010, Dan Carpenter has published articles, guides, and over 400 videos teaching people how to be self sufficient, on his site The Daily Prep. He is a Certified Permaculture Designer, and a major proponent of alternative housing and internationalization. When he’s not helping people become self sufficient, you can find him eating some BBQ, reading a good book, or enjoying the mountains in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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