This post may contain affiliate links. Buying something through these links doesn't cost you anything and helps support Know Prepare Survive. For some light reading, check out our affiliate disclosure.
Table of Contents
Shelter is a prepper’s most valuable asset. Food, water, and security mean nothing if you are constantly exposed to the elements.
Whether you’re preparing for a natural disaster, a strike on the electrical grid, or worse, your first question should be: do I have access to sufficient shelter or the means to build my own?
Why Houses Don’t Work
The average house these days is irreversibly connected to a grid that will fail within hours of a major disaster event.
The modern American home is connected to the public power grid, water supply, gas, and internet lines.
Many of these systems are co-dependent, so the failure of one will lead to the failure of others. What’s more, they require constant maintenance by trained personnel.
Even if these systems are not directly destroyed by an event, they are not likely to survive more than a few weeks, if not days, on their own.
Without electricity and water, the modern house is not much more than an oversized wooden box.
At best it keeps minor natural threats like rain and wind at bay. At worst it’s an enormous liability.
For these reasons, preppers should look elsewhere when thinking about the right kind of shelter for a survival situation.
What Makes Good Shelter
There are six qualities to look for in good survival shelter. No one type of shelter is likely to have all of them in equal degrees.
Instead, preppers should become familiar with several types of shelters so that they can be prepared to use whatever a particular situation calls for. Here they are:
- Durable: Shelter should be able to stand up to the elements for as long as you need it to.
- Independent: A good shelter should be reasonably self-contained, not relying on outside elements for its function.
- Mobile: The modern trend of sticking to a single location for a very long time is made possible by aspects of technology, community, and government that may not exist in a post-disaster world. Mobility frees a survivor to go where the food, water, and good conditions are.
- Discreet: Without a police force to keep the peace, survivors will have to find their own ways of staying safe. One of the best ways to stay alive in a hostile world is to avoid being noticed. A good piece of shelter won’t stand out like the modern-day mansions and designer homes do.
- Secure: Similar to above, a good shelter will provide a first line of defense against potential intruders.
- Comfortable: Often underestimated, having a comfortable place to stay can be critical to keeping up morale in a post-disaster world.
With these factors in mind, let’s look at some potential shelters.
Some of the best shelter that you can find will be pre-disaster in some way. Check these out:
- As discussed above, homes are non-ideal in many ways. They aren’t mobile, they’re not independent, and they’re definitely not discreet, but they can be quite durable, secure, and comfortable. A pre-existing house can be made to work in the short term or modified to include things like a rainwater collector, a gas-powered generator, or solar panels for longer stays.
- RVs: RVs are already used by millions of Americans who don’t want to be locked down to one place, so they make sense for preppers who have the same desire. Disasters can strike worldwide or just affect a small area, making the mobility that an RV offers key for survival situations.Plus, they can be weatherized for all seasons, to help someone survive everything from a catastrophic drought to a volcanic winter.
Not every disaster situation lasts for very long. It’s entirely conceivable that one could be forced to use survival tactics for as short a time as a few days or even just an hour.
These sorts of situations might include natural disasters that knock out local utilities and support, forcing inhabitants to survive on their own for the 72 hours that it might take for FEMA to respond.
It could also be something a lot milder, like an afternoon hike disrupted by a surprise thunderstorm. Whatever the need, here are some temporary shelter options.
- Tarp Tipi: Quick and dirty, a tarp tipi is usually enough to keep the elements at bay for a short while and it’s a very quick setup. To make one you’ll need a tarp, several straight sticks tall enough for your comfort, and some rope. To complete, arrange your sticks in a rough circle so that they all come to a point in the center of your tipi to-be. Some Y-shaped branches can add support to the structure here by propping up this centerpoint, but they aren’t necessary. Finally, tie your bundle of sticks together where they all cross and wrap this structure in a tarp or something similar.
- Round Lodge: Similar to the above, but with larger branches and without the tarp. While the tipi uses a tarp to keep out the elements, the round lodge aims to do the same by stacking many large branches together. The round lodge can take longer to set up, but it will keep out the elements and accommodate a small fire. Plus, you don’t need a tarp to make one.
Although disaster situations requiring us to make our own long-term shelter are rare, they’re also some of the most dangerous.
A volcanic winter could cut off air travel by throwing unbelievable amounts of ash into the air.
A coronal mass ejection could knock out the power grid indefinitely.
Or, at the worst, a nuclear attack could make major population center uninhabitable for years to come.
Whatever could happen would certainly be deadly to those unable to prepare their own long-term shelter.
- Log Cabin: With any form of shelter that you make yourself, always keep in mind that people used to live this way and got along pretty well. Nothing captures our ideas of pre-industrial living better than the log cabin, making it one of the most advanced “primitive” shelters that you can build by hand. A solid log cabin is about as durable and secure as you’re going to get without enlisting a post-apocalyptic slave army to build you a castle.
- Mud Hut: One of the oldest forms of shelter, a mud hut can last for years if it’s taken care of properly. It’s not perfect, but a good mud hut will be reasonably durable, independent, discreet, secure, and comfortable. You can watch YouTuber Primitive Technology make a mud hut with a tiled roof from scratch here:
The ability to find or make good shelter should be in every prepper’s back pocket. Without it, the other basics of survival are meaningless.