Are you planning on purchasing a shipping container to use as a survival shelter? Before you make any alterations or decide on a location for the shelter, there are a few things you need to know. Here are four tips for using a shipping container as a survival shelter.
1. Don’t bury it.
Many survivalists and preppers buy shipping containers with plans to use it as an underground shelter. It’s a bad idea. While a shipping container can be an affordable and practical above-ground bug-out shelter, it’s not made to be buried. Yes, the steel is strong, but the containers are made to be stacked. When shipping containers are buried, they are exposed to pressure not only on the tops and bottoms, but from soil pushing on the sides as well. The soil on top alone causes considerable pressure because one cubic yard of topsoil can weigh 2,000 pounds or more. Factor in time and exposure to the elements, and you’ll find that burying the container is a recipe for disaster.
2. Put it on a foundation.
Some of the same dangers that put your shipping container at risk underground can also affect it if it’s left on the surface—namely, contact with the soil and moisture. To prevent this contact, it’s essential that you create a foundation to rest the container on. The most affordable option is wood, but that will decay in time. If it’s in your budget and practical at your bug-out location, concrete footings or a concrete pad will offer the best protection against corrosion from the soil.
3. Add an extra door.
Most shipping containers have a standard out-swinging two-door setup or roll up door on one end to bring cargo in and out. These doors should not be your only point of exit. If you are ever in a true survival scenario and fear that someone will attack or take your supplies, having only one point of exit makes it easier for the attackers. All they have to do is wait you out—and you do have to come out at some point. Not only will adding an extra door allow you to escape an attack, if needed, it’s also a practical means of escape in case of a fire or a blockage of your primary exit.
Here are some tips for adding a door without compromising security:
- Use an industrial steel door. It’s more secure than a wooden door against force or impact.
- Add extra support around the door to avoid damaging the frame.
- Plant some trees or shrubs near one of the exits to help shield it from view.
4. Set up the interior for extended occupation.
Shipping containers are often smaller than most rooms in your home. In a survival situation where you have to get to your bug-out location, you and your entire family may have to live in the container for a few days, weeks or even months. It’s important that you have a strategy for maximizing the small living area to avoid cabin fever.
The following tips can help you make the most of your tiny space:
- Build bunks that fold in on the bottom and are fixed on top to maximize both the sleeping space during the night and the floor space during the day.
- Install a secure closet for nonperishable food items. Keep this locked when you’re away from your container.
- Bring some entertainment. It may sound frivolous when you’re trying to prepare for surviving a disaster, but taking your mind off of a bad situation can help keep everyone’s spirits up. Keep on hand a few board games, books, puzzles and other activities. Use a storage bench to double as seating and storage for these items.