The Best Bug Out Shelters

October 11th, 2013 . by Felix

bug out shelterIn a perfect world we would all have a permanent well stocked survival retreat in an undisclosed location. But the reality is few of us have that luxury. In reading over a number of survival websites and forums there is much discussion about bugging out. Most have well stocked bug out bags, some have well stocked bug out vehicles that will take them anywhere but it seems there is not as much thought to what you are going to live in once you get there. I know some are bugging out to a family or friends cabin or hunting shack, others may be staying in a trailer or motorhome while others think they are going to build some type of rustic brush shelter in the woods when they get there. Now it is entirely possible to live in a rustic shelter. People have been living in huts, sod houses, bush shelters, and tents for thousands of years. That is fine if you grew up living in a hut with a dirt floor but most of us would not be very comfortable living that way for any length of time. If you have a reason to bug out, then the situation must have gotten pretty extreme. Chances are if you have to bug out of your current location then there is a good chance you may not have a home to come back to. Your bug out will not be temporary but a permanent relocation.

Some may have a dream of building a log cabin but how long will that take? A month? 6 months? What if you have never even cut down a single tree? If you are thinking about a log cabin then you may want to start cutting logs ahead of time and have them ready to go when the time comes. Tents are probably another option for many but what if you had bugged out to the Black Hills of South Dakota last week and had to survive 4 feet of snow? A tent would not be the best option. Even in warmer weather a week of rain can make life pretty uncomfortable in a tent. Even an expedition tent equipped with a wood stove may not be the best long-term solution.

Having some type of a permanent structure that would give better protection from the elements would be a preferred choice. If you are bugging out with your family it becomes even more important to have a warm dry shelter. If you don’t believe me try camping with the wife and kids for a long weekend in the rain. If you already own some land building a small shelter ahead of time would be ideal. There are a number of options available from prefab cabins that you can either build yourself from a kit or have a completed building trucked in and dropped on your site. The tiny house movement has shown it is possible to have a very comfortable shelter in a very small size. Most of the tiny houses being designed and built are built on a trailer to get around some zoning laws. A shelter on a trailer would allow you to bug out with your shelter in tow but how convenient that would be in a bug out situation would be anyone’s guess.

The other question you need to ask yourself is what if your preferred bug out location is no longer available either because it is no longer habitable or you can’t get to it. Even a well-stocked remote cabin will be of no use if you can’t get to it.

What is needed is a bug out shelter you can take with you anywhere, something that offers more protection than a tent or brush shelter made from natural materials. One that can be built quickly with little construction experience and something that doesn’t cost a fortune. Many prefab cabins and tiny houses could run you $15,000-$50,000. So, what type of shelter meets those criteria? Years ago I built a simple 12 x 12 shed on some wooded land I owned. I built it by myself in a week for about $1000 in materials. It wasn’t pretty but it got the job done. I was planning on converting it to a small cabin but plans changed and I never got it done. Over the years I looked at several prefab sheds and barns and thought they could be converted pretty easily into a livable cabin. I have always thought that the sheds the local building centers were nice but overpriced and you could probably build your own for less. Many hunting shacks started out life as a pre-built garage or shed so the idea is not a new one.

Several years ago I was at a local hardware store and came across these shed building kits. They are simple brackets that allow you to build small sheds using only straight cut lumber. No cutting complicated angles, pretty straightforward construction. I was always intrigued by them and started looking at them again when I was thinking about bug out shelters. The smallest shed you can build with them is 7 x 8. With two kits you can build an 8 x 14 and with three kits you can build a 10 x 22. Now the two larger sizes are the dimensions of many of the tiny houses that are being built. The nice thing about these kits is it allows you to vary the size of the lumber giving you a smaller or larger building. The other factor is ease of construction, especially for someone whose building skills are limited.

So I was thinking how could you use these to build a bug out shelter. First it may go against the grain of the idea of bugging out. Grab your bag and go, not haul a ton of stuff with you.

But as I see it the advantages are as follows:

First the bracket kits themselves are small, easily packed in your bug out gear.

Low cost–materials and finishing probably less than $2500 even less with recycled and found materials. The bracket kits themselves are only around $69 each. They can be found from several sources online.

Easy to build–no complicated cuts, using straight lumber only, easy to put together even for a novice

Quick to build–can go up in a day or two, finished within a week, or built over a few weekends

Transportable–easy to carry materials to site even if no road access, all materials flat packed, could be carried on a ATV trailer to remote site. Even if you don’t own the land you could set one of these up in a remote location. Also because of the smaller size it would be fairly easy to camouflage it either by using natural materials around it or a camo net over the top.

The materials could all be pre-cut and easily stacked in a pickup or on a trailer ready to go. We are not talking about a semi-trailer full of lumber that is required to build a larger structure.

You could buy all new materials at once from your local lumberyard or it should be pretty easy to scrounge up the materials from other building sites or find them on craigslist for cheap or free. A few 2 x4’s here, a sheet of plywood there. I am sure some resourceful individuals reading this can build it for a few hundred dollars or even free.

You could also use materials found on your planned bug out site saving you the trouble of hauling to your site. Reusing tumbled down buildings may provide you with all the materials you need.

Depending on where you are planning on bugging out to, you have several options.

If you already have land you could build in stages. Build the foundation first, and then build the rest of structure when you need it.

Prefab–have all materials pre-cut and labeled, stocked and ready to go.

Store materials on site or nearby and build when you get there. If you are building with used materials, a pile a scrap lumber is less likely to attract thieves than a padlocked shed.

Build on site, leave empty as a deterrent to theft, and then just move in and finish when the time comes.

Build ahead of time and use as camping, hunting cabin or storage shed. If you store your preps there, it may be convenient but you run a greater risk of theft. If anyone asks, it’s just a “camping cabin”.

Now I am sure the manufacture never intended these sheds to be lived in and structurally they probably don’t meet codes for anything but a shed. In a survival situation and a remote location the last thing I would be thinking about is passing inspection. To add strength you may need to buy an extra kit or two so you could build the walls 16” on center rather than 24” on center and/or add extra bracing. I would probably frame in a standard door but leave the shed doors so it still looks like a shed. I like the barn style shed as it gives you a little more headroom if you build a loft. A few windows and your shed will be a place you can call home.

How you finish is out is up to you but having it well insulated would help keep you warm and protect you from the elements. A small wood stove should keep it warm enough even during the coldest weather. Adding solar panels or a wind turbine will provide off grid electricity to provide lights and power.

Much of your bug out gear you already have will allow you to set up an efficient survival camp. In a survival situation having a small shelter like this will go a long way in helping you survive in relative comfort for the long-term.

Even if you didn’t go with these kits, there are dozens of plans for sheds, small buildings and tiny houses. Many of the designs lend themselves well to building ahead of time and assembled on site. A small shed like building is probably the most cost-effective off grid bug out shelter you can build. At the very least it will provide you with adequate solid shelter while you build a larger retreat.

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