Think Inside The Box: This Awesome Disaster Shelter Is Cost-Effective, Easy To Build and Insanely Durable

by | Apr 18, 2016 | Headline News | 47 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    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. If you’re looking for a low-cost, insanely durable and scalable bug-out or disaster shelter, then keep reading because Dan’s tips, ideas and building strategies will blow you away.


    Bug Out Shelter

    The concept of shipping container housing has gained a remarkable amount of interest over the last decade. New wave architects have readily embraced it, HGTV shows have pimped it, and for us preppers, shipping containers present a compelling option for use as bug out cabins.

    But do shipping container retreats really make sense? Or are the just a fun idea rooted in impossibility?

    Good question. One which the newly-published Shipping Container Bug Out Shelter Guide helps you sort out.

    Shipping Container Retreat Shelters

    The container shelters guide combines resources from all over the webosphere, to help preppers decide whether or not an ISBU steel box is a good fit for your bug out shelter needs.

    There are a handful of really standout advantages to using containers for a retreat:

    1. Low Cost: Done correctly, the cost savings of a shipping container build can be tremendous (particularly if you will be DIYing your build!). Shipping containers in good condition can be snagged all day long in the $2000-$5000 range. Even after cost allowances for a foundation, doors, windows, and other interior accoutrements, there is definitely some financial upside to be hand. While it might not represent the price “cellar” for a no-frills, DIY build, it’s far from expensive.
    2. Insane Durability: As you can well imagine, shipping containers are engineered to handle some serious abuse. Think about it–they are stuffed to the gills with cargo, stacked up to 7 units high on freight barges, and then spend the next several weeks being tossed around at sea. Containers are constructed of “Corten” steel, which is specifically engineered to hold up in maritime conditions–rust, salt, and corrosion. In addition to all this, the frame of a container can support up to 153,000 lbs stacked on it.
    3. Potential for grid-independent living: Apart from the facts that container cabins have the potential to be cost-effective and uber-strong, they also increase the likelihood for grid independence. Granted, this aspect has less to do with any magical powers that shipping containers have, and more to do with the fact that a container is only 320 square feet (for a 40’ container… 20’ containers are half that!!). Nevertheless, this is a very real part of the shipping container equation, and it bodes well for people wanting to be grid independent. Simple logic dictates that with decreased area, comes a decreased wattage requirement. Climate control, lighting, number and size of appliances, number of electrical outlets. All these factors into an electrically streamlined house.

    So what about the negatives? As with anything, there are drawbacks. A few of the more notable shipping container issues mentioned in the guide are:

    1. Financing: Unless you are coming in with cash, or have resolved to build your container retreat little by little, there are precious few (if any!) financing options available. It’s simply not in the model for banks and lending institutions. They don’t have “objective” comps to measure container homes exist, and they aren’t in the business of taking un-calculated risks (wait…. Did I actually just say that?) Be aware that you are treading the path less traveled by, and with a couple unique exceptions referenced in the guide, there just won’t be institutional money for you.
    2. Permitting: Even if you are able to make your container finances pencil, you’ll still have the goons across the desk to deal with. Because we all live in different jurisdictions, there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution to this. You will need to consult your local codes and ordinances and then make your best case. On the upside, this is an area where there is typically more leniency in rural areas, which coincides nicely with many people’s desired bug out locations anyway.
    3. Over-designing and over-building: One of the most prevalent temptations with shipping containers is to overbuild them. There is so much that you CAN do, that many people get carried away. Remember, it’s a bug out shelter, not a frickin’ Rembrandt! The goal is to create a simple, secure, comfortable bug out shelter, not some “architectural-award-winning-tofu-palace-for-hipsters.” Each modification adds cost and potentially weakens the structure (punctures in the steel for windows, doors, etc).

    While they aren’t perfect, shipping containers do present some intriguing upside for preppers looking building a bug out cabin. If interested, check out the complete shipping container shelter guide, for in-depth resources and advice on:

    • Container selection
    • Burying Containers
    • Prefab vs. DIY
    • Selecting a site on your property
    • Foundation Types
    • Container delivery
    • Insulation
    • Heating
    • And much much more!

    Click here for pictures, plans and resources for shipping container shelters.

    Image: The Daily Prep

    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.


    It Took 22 Years to Get to This Point

    Gold has been the right asset with which to save your funds in this millennium that began 23 years ago.

    Free Exclusive Report
    The inevitable Breakout – The two w’s

      Related Articles


      Join the conversation!

      It’s 100% free and your personal information will never be sold or shared online.


      1. I read these shipping containers were not built to be waterproof; they leak. So if you want to bury one underground, you will likely experience flooding problems from ground water, especially after a rain.

        • I have examined shipping containers and researched the possibility of burying one and living in one. In another life I did excavating, drainage, landscaping and construction support for a living. I know about this stuff.

          They’re a durable shell. They are weatherproof. They are *NOT* waterproof. But, anyone knows that in clay soils you don’t need waterproof (because its nearly impossible to maintain over time), you have to have something either drained or on a sump.

          The sides of a shipping container are quite durable. They will take the pressure of burying, however, the top will not. Because they stack at the corners, the roof supports no weight and is only designed to be weatherproof and only a moderate to light shield against anything physical (like a few ton of dirt).

          One idea is to “half bury” one sorta above ground, sort of below as a “basement” and then stack another on top as a second story. Actually, in my area, it would probably be cheaper to build a structure yourself. The attractiveness of containers is that they are, basically, ready to go.

          • you are about the only sensible person i have heard talk about these things, i think most will learn the hard way

          • netranger,
            i have allot of experience with these shipping containers, as i have done allot of over seas work and used them to ship things and in some remote places we lived in them, with only minor changes. IF you have a understanding of the mechanical design, they can be very versatile, but they have there limits and such. you have provided a great analogy for them. the only other thing i would emphasis is SOME of the ones that you find were taken out of service because they did not pass inspection. So if you intend to use one and your NOT familiar with engineering, do lots of research before you proceed.
            thanks for your good input!

          • that and folks forget to four a pad and provide drainage when burying so those sturdy walls end up rusting through and collapsing anyway 🙂

          • Build a temporary 2×4 stud wall down the center to support the roof. Surround with rebar and pour 10″ of concrete. Then remove stud wall and use the wood to add internal room dividers etc.
            Make sure you pour footers and add a sump drainage system. Air vent pipes in the gravel under the floor can control radon and be made part of the bad air out ventilation system.

            Install fresh air venting and electrical conduit feeds in the ceiling so they are out of waters way.

            The container can support the concrete on the roof while it cures, then that can support far more.

        • Here we go again… No way in hell I’d ever use one of these for anything other than a mass coffin…

        • Some of them ARE designed to be waterproof. Not all are, to be sure, but there are those that are. I’m not sure utilizing one underground is a good idea – waterproof or not, however.


          Son of Liberty

      2. Seen quite a few on the web…

        • They are pretty cool and durable but there are a LOT of extra expenses associated with making them livable and waterproof. They are not easily moved either, which creates additional costs to move, stack, and engineer.

          Cranes are expensive.

          Another idea is buying a used RV Motorhome as a BASIS for a Secondary BOL and backup. Check Craigs List. A decent one can be had at a reasonable price if you have cash, do your homework, and move fast. When you compare the costs and relative utility, you can get one hell of an RV for the same price.

          The one I bought was a triaxle, top of the line in its day in good mechanical condition. The cabinetry is beautiful, tile counter tops, The captain chairs really comfy, the utility amazing, and the “short queen” bed is like sleeping on a giant roll of charmin after the $200 memory foam mattress topper.

          The refrigerator will run on a 20 gallon propane tank for a month, with an ice maker too. Looking to adapt to a backup solar generator as well, so I have multiple energy options. An electric bicycle from China for $1,000 will be a great addition to the rig.

          The best idea is to: “be there to get there”; but having a secondary BOL ready to go and in place is not a bad idea either.

          Redundancy is a bonus. 🙂

          • BTW, this week I am resealing the roof with that white (HENRY’S) silicon roofing sealant before the rains come this summer. Last week I caulked with silicon around the joints. A little maintenance goes a long way.

            High ‘N Dry !!! 🙂

            • RV’s are a good choice and aren’t to expensive for an older one and you can move it with your truck. Build a cover to put it under for weather proofing and cooling. You do NOT need a crane to move a container, just a decent size forklift.

              • Good point. Rent a Hyster. 🙂

        • Where is taira?
          You reinforce them, waterproof, then bury them.
          Can’t do that in the swamp…

          • Or you could put your home on wheels.
            Ever seen Tiny Homes?
            You could roll off when the water rises.
            What a nonthinker spouting bad ideas…

            • Funny how you think you know everything.
              You ain’t shit in a negro’s joint…

              • Wtf?

                • split personality lol

          • Silver up 4.25% today. $16.99 Gold to Silver Price ratio now at: 73.69 Just like the chart road map says will happen and as I pointed out. The next P/R is 72 and then the bottom is about 47… So look for $26.50 silver very soon of by End of July and that’s just if Gold stays the same price today with a 47 P/R. Any gains in Gold will boost up Silver greatly. Told ya this was a $10 Gift coming.

            ~WWTI.. Those holding Junk Silver will be holding their old worn out 90% coins, and jewelry in one hand, and their dick in the other. Cause it will never bring the best prices. Sell your Junk to some other Dope.


            • Here’s some real life experiences for you… Many of my neighbors have containers and I recently got one also. We covered this before if you remember. One guy dug a 4 foot deep hole, set a container in it then buried the top with the excess dirt. The next spring it had 3 feet of water in it. Another thin is the roof is weak and only has strength on the corners so snow load can be an issue. The roof is flat and retains water and rusts (so use a good silicone sealer) or make a roof for it out of trusses and plywood and roofing. Another thing is they get hotter than hell! I was playing around with ideas and decided that using radiant heat barrier on the OUTSIDE covered with siding would be the best defense from heat. I am going to drill 3/8 holes down both sides just under the lip at the top to help this also. If you buy a container be sure to check the roof as this is where most rust will be. I am going to install a seperated room in it for temp control using heat barrier and insulation and fan forced (from the floor) air circulation. The reason I got it is for security, I had a lock box cover installed (u-channel steel) so the lock cannot be cut.

              If you factor the price you had better factor in that you will have to coat the roof and insulate the sides or it will just be a giant toaster. A 20 foot container used is about 1800 bux PLUS delivery which was 95.00 per hour to and from. I built a shed with 2×4 construction and factory primed siding with shelves and workbench and paint for 1100.00 8×14… brb breakfast is ready lol

              • So in other words you need to factor in heat shield, siding, interior framing, interior walls, roof coating, delivery (only where the truck can go), having to use a plasma cutter for window and door cutouts if you go the container route. This adds a LOT to the cost and it can only be set in a fairly open area.

                CONTAINER PROS:
                Fire resistant, break in resistant, wind and weather resistant, can be stacked, can be moved.

                CONTAINER CONS:
                Heat, limited setup area, delivery costs, a lot of extra work and bux to make it livable, more expensive than stick built cabin, much harder to add on to.

                Another friend of mine made a clubhouse out of 2 40Ft. containers with truss spanning between them. It is cool but he said he would never do it again. Things to consider..

      3. Don’t trust ANY used container, whether for living or storage, unless you have it tested, e.g. radiation, chemical/metal/wood toxicity, etc.

        • Great point. Who knows what some have been used to ship.

        • Agreed. The shipping containers are surplus left over from China. I am sure they are full of all kinds of toxic waste.

      4. Great idea, as a hideout. Not really cost effect for most folks as a main house though. And their strength greatly decreases as you cut in windows and passages from container to container.

        Still a valid consideration for the right application.

      5. When we was welding for a living we used to do this all the time lol we converted them into crew quarters that interlocked complete with crew quarters kitchen shower and lounge. You can even further put a cheap set of axels under them its o otibso simple go to any shit trailer park look under the skirting and bingo there should be a set of axels under there.
        The frame for the axels is easy to build a strong one ton dually will pull it around no problem. And with those axels you can load it right up.
        Serious look under any house trailer the axels will be laying there and there everywhere

      6. In Australia not too long ago, a young couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a container that they had on their property. They had a gas heater which they used for heating but as the container had no windows, unfortunately all oxygen was sucked from it and they went to bed and never woke up. Family members in the container next to them could not understand why they had not got up for breakfast and made the awful discovery.

        These containers are meant to be watertight and hence airtight for journey on the high seas. . They should not be buried either unless they are braced down the sides with steel straps. They are meant to be stacked and there is strength in the corners but not along the length. I should whisper this as bureaucrats from councils might be listening but one way landowners in Australia get round the councils is to make the container “portable”. Instead of being sited on piers etc. they can be mounted on ‘saddles’ which can be purchased from Bunnings. This way if a council inspector shows up, the landowner can point to the concrete saddles and say its only a portable structure. This is ideal for a bug out location situation where being off grid is your goal and don’t want dozens of people traipsing over your land

      7. This is a good video of a DIY shipping container home:

        Around here a 40 foot Hicube (9 1/2 foot high) container goes for $4,300.00 delivered. These are like new, only one trip across the ocean hauling vehicles.

      8. Day one, evening
        The 4 hour ride to camp was uneventful a whole caravan headed into a twisting valley system. I rode most of the way out there chatting with my cuz and his wife about what to expect she’s a quiet solemn woman rugged weathered face. Carries a SAA on her hip. She will be my interpreter and lead my cousin will not be joining the hunt as I said he’s a 300 lbs pussy lol from what I’m told the forward hunting party is still out there scouting and will return to camp after marking the lead bull with a small arrow painted bright orange. They are expected to return in the am. Camp was pretty much set up when we arrived teepees everywhere and a main lodge all covered in decorated animal hides camp fires and the smell of dinner we got in the same two kids that took my horse yesterday were the same ones that took him today I was kinda glad to get off that heavy footed fucker lol everyone was gathering at the main lodge to eat food as far as the eye could see rabbit squirrel wild greens bread made from some kinda wild type wheat some kinda berry mush mixed with smoked moose meat and the main course oh to die for fresh caught river salmon stuffed with local wild spices and tossed right into the coals there cooking pit was about 10-12 long 3′ wide everything was being prepared on there. I’ve never eaten so much lol I was informed I’d been assigned to a hunting party that included my cousins wife her brother my self and 2 others I’ve yet to meet. My shelter is a small teepee like tent set closer to the outside if the camp placement is important to these people the closer your proximity to the chief the more your status. Tomorrow the the forward hunting party returns we will prepare for and strategize the hunt.
        All hunters will receive a blessing from the chief himself. The rest if the day will be filled with games eating and rituals all designed show off their skills and earn honor and respect.
        I will be expected to participate.
        The camp is mostly quiet now I lay here in my shelter on Buffalo hides my guns hanging on the teepees center support at the ready my fire is low but warm the sun has set my belly is full.
        Tomorrow is a big day
        Have a good night all wish me luck

        • Luck on the hunt!
          Sounds excellent

      9. One can buy lots of lumber for $5000. As far as ‘codes’, you’re never going to get a permission slip from .gov

      10. Well the USA seems out to pick a fight with Russia by sending war ships to it’s borders and then get upset when Russia sends out a few jets without any missiles under the wings to to take a look.

        The USA is also poking it’s nose into the south china sea and is messing around in Europe so now might be a good time to get yourself kitted out with some off the grid living equipment or in the very least to stock up on food.

        if we don’t stop the bankers then they will get us all killed the way they are going and the cancer needs to be removes for everyone sake unless you like eating food that glows in the dark

      11. Don’t worry about a bugout container shelter. Don’t bother with prepping.
        The establishment says everything is just lovely and clicking right along fine. The collapse was called off.

        The Dow just hit 18 k for the first time in about nine months.
        The NASDAQ is only 40 points from returning above 5 k again.
        The S & P is above 2 k again.
        Unemployment is almost below 5 %.
        The Mexicans are returning to Mexico.
        The pos potus is meeting with the satanists..oops I meant saudis, next week, to get the price of oil back up to stimulate the bush cash flow…oops, I mean the ussag fracking destruction of water aquifers business…oops, i meant the USA oil economy that gives us all that ….oil independence from that nasty green energy which was given billions by said potus years ago, to set us free from the bonds of Middle east terrorism…aka, under the table kick back funds to said potus and cronies.

        The nwo Pope is taking in refugees.
        And hitlery is spanking the socialist’s butt.

        Life could not be better for you whiny Americans. Want a little cheese with that whine?
        The gov has warehouses full and it’s free for the asking.

        sarc off…………………………………….

        • Thank you
          You have opened my yes
          I will go and get rid of all that useless stuff i have collected,
          What was i thinking,,
          BRB gotta go get a facebook account and a twitter account and up my farm production so i can get me some of that government regulation
          Its the patriotic thing to do since i got all that white privelege going on

        • Passinwiththewind says,

          THANK YOU for the heads UP, I feel better now and i guess i can go out and celebrate!! wow, don’t know how i miss read all the media stuff. BUT now that i know all is good, i can start to unload all my preps. HA, i needed that this morning.

          LOL. too bad there are lots of sheeple who really think all is well!

      12. I imagine you would have to insulate it well. Maybe spray foam it(commercial application). It would be deafening during a downpour without it as well as an oven in the summer and freezer in the winter.

      13. Container: hot in summer and freezing in winter.

        I’ll find a nice cave.

      14. Great a dumpster that is the right place to be when the shtf no one will have to come, and pick up the trash because it’s already in there.

        2018 folks tick tick tick tick………

      15. You gotta roll it over and weld steel plate on the bottom. Bury it upside down use iron beams or heavy timbers to box out the inside walls to provide strength from the heavy soil collapsing the walls in. They are just fine to use the way they are above ground. They are a good place to start for any project. Bury it in a hillside and you got a nice root cellar. Get the rust brown colored ones. Some have nice wood floor.

      16. Good Morning.

        yesterday I had a SHTF experience. Major pileup of two tractor trailers and two cars completely closing off all lanes of traffic for about two hours. I had water to drink and a few munchies to nibble on. Had plenty of gas and the air worked fine.

        Now my wife and I were stuck and I’m thinking were are safe and we are going to have to push through this adventure.

        Sitting stationary on the interstate is no fun. I am glad we did not have to use a rest room. Or it was jump in the bushes time. There was no fire or hurricane that would have made an external danger but it will work on your mind and body being confined in a small vehicle. Oh and we had people running the side of the road.

        But that is not all!

        We were again stopped by another accident involving three schools busses blocking the road for another forty minutes.

        I can not fathom the stress that a stalled vehicle would create from many hours in one place out in NOWHERE. Or running out of gas.

        I want you all to think about bugging out and what road blocks that can come your way. How many people will be in the same boat as you and what external forces that may impact you personally. Mind and Body.

        We have talked about it and have prepared for it with preps but until you get caught in it you do not know for sure.

        I definitely know how it feels. Could not live in Atlanta or L.A. with any type of traffic jam.

      17. Hey hcks hope flooding didn’t effect you.

      18. Old shipping containers are taking the place of old railroad cars.

        More available now I think, and probably cheaper and easier to move too.

        With little reinforcement you can always bury them as well for storm and bomb shelters if you live in a flood and high groundwater free area.

      19. We own one at our pasture for lawn tractor / tool storage. We put it on a caliche bed and four railroad ties to further elevate it in case of flooding. I guess you could make one of these work …

        but …

        … to me, these containers make the most sense as a storage /root cellar / shop than a residence. Make good interior courtyard walls – attach pipe or steel angle supports under laminated steel for covered exterior breezeways. Containers definitely need to be removed out of full sun unless you insulate the heck out of the walls. Forced air as well to remove heat gain from interior lighting / cooking (better yet, use a ‘summer kitchen’ to remove that source) if residential use is done.

        What about insulated refrigerated trailers ? Already offgrade to remove any concerns of flooding. A trailer outside for a raised porch – no tax burden, not a permanent addition to residence.

        Thank you for great ideas above.

      20. Who’s thinking what I’m thinking?


      21. I think these make good storage but the effort needed to make them livable is excessive. I bought a used portable schoolroom in Texas, delivered and leveled for $5000. It was wired and finished out, with insulation, windows, steel door and a window unit air/heater put into the wall. I was able to live off grid immediately. It was very easy for me to work on, because it was built with 2×4 and 2×6. 660 square feet and no code problems.

      Commenting Policy:

      Some comments on this web site are automatically moderated through our Spam protection systems. Please be patient if your comment isn’t immediately available. We’re not trying to censor you, the system just wants to make sure you’re not a robot posting random spam.

      This website thrives because of its community. While we support lively debates and understand that people get excited, frustrated or angry at times, we ask that the conversation remain civil. Racism, to include any religious affiliation, will not be tolerated on this site, including the disparagement of people in the comments section.