One of the most common mistakes made by preppers, according to Practical Preppers’ Scott Hunt, is putting too much money and effort into building an impenetrable fortress. “I’ve seen people who literally put millions of dollars into building bunkers, and then didn’t have enough money left to buy adequate supplies of food and other essentials,” he says. “A lot of them are just out of balance. They put all their eggs in a bunker, so to speak.”
And while there’s an argument to be made for designing a structure with features that can to provide shelter against natural disasters or nuclear attacks, thick walls and sturdy doors in themselves may not be sufficient protection against security threats. Hunt’s partner David Kobler, a military combat veteran and security expert, advises that it’s smarter to design layers of security that surround your dwelling, so that intruders can’t actually reach it. No matter how thick the walls, “If the bad guys get close enough to fire a shot at your house, you’ve already failed,” Kobler warns. “And if they can drive a vehicle up to your front door, you’ve lost.”
Instead of focusing merely on survival against threats, Hunt advises preppers to put more thought into how they’ll actually live in a structure for extended periods. “Shelter means a lot of things,” he says. “You have to think about how you’re going to heat it, how you’re going to cook, how you’re going to generate electricity, how you’re going to collect water. Your shelter has to be sustainable.”
Location: Perhaps the most crucial aspect of shelter is not what sort of building you build, but where you put it. Hunt advises picking a location in a valley, near a water source and woods, and ideally close to arable cropland where a prepper can grow food as well. Proximity to energy sources is crucial as well. Hunt advises: “My optimum location would have southern exposure for solar energy generation, a decent amount of wind, and a creek that falls a couple of hundred feet for hydroelectric power.”
Bunker/Safe Room: There are a variety of shelter designs to pick from, ranging from custom-built circular homes that provide greater energy efficiency and resistance to hurricane winds, to repurposed steel shipping containers. Another option is to build a “rammed earth” building with thick, sturdy walls made of clay and sand. Building a portion of the structure underground adds to the protection from disasters, and also can provide residents with a cool cellar for storing fruits and vegetables without refrigeration. A metal roof is a good investment, because it provides better-quality water from rain catchment systems.
Power Generation: Ideally, multiple sources of energy will help protect preppers against running out of juice. Houses should be built facing south with pitched roofs, so that they can be outfitted with solar panels for either passive water heating or electricity generation. Wind and hydroelectric power are other options for electricity. A generator that runs on biomass fuel is useful as a backup.
Heating/Cooling: If a source of firewood is nearby, Hunt favors using a wood stove. “Wood really is the best renewable resource out there for heating your home and your water,” he explains. “That’s what the Amish do.” Another option for heating water is to have a passive solar water heater, but it’s still necessary to pump the water, which requires additional energy. An on-demand propane-fueled water heater, which only burns fuel when a prepper actually needs it for showers, cooking, or washing, is another option.
Cooking: Again, wood may be the best option for cooking stoves, and it’s possible to use the same stove to heat a room and cook as well. According to a 1991 article in Mother Earth News, preppers who cook with wood as a heat source may need to learn different culinary techniques. The surface of the stovetop is hot enough to fry foods in a skillet, and at the same time has enough area for simmering and slow cooking, and the oven inside the stove can be used to bake bread and roast meat.
Bug-Out Location: Preppers may want a back-up dwelling at another location, where they can seek refuge in the event of a fire, an attack or another disaster. One option is to buy a custom-made “tiny house” structure on wheels, which can be towed from the main compound to another site if necessary.
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