Shipping Containers As A Bug Out Shelter

by suburban on October 20, 2010 · 5 comments


Well, in investigating options for Bug Out Shelters, I have investigated modular homes, cabins, log cabins, earth shelters, travel trailers, campers, etc.  The one thing I have found (and not just recently) is one that is pre-built and can be shipped and dropped off right to you.  You can lease, finance, or purchase them, get them from 20 feet – 60 feet long, single or double wide.  Each one is eight feet tall.

Interesting…  So, let’s see.  You can buy them new or used.  Used is less expensive.  You can get them as is or repainted.  I might suggest repainted, as any rust would be scrubbed away and the container would be primed to help protect it underneath the paint.  You can get them with windows (they have office type configurations), air conditioning units, and more.

Now, all of that said, you can spend anywhere between $1,500.00 and 4,000.00 for a shipping container.  I am thinking used, bare bones, with nothing else.  No windows, nothing.  If you are handy, you can cut out your own windows, and install them yourself.  The other issue, as I see it, at least where I live (northeastern United States), is insulation.  You have to insulate it on the exterior, interior, or both, somehow.  In the summer here, you will be in a sweat box.  Conversely, if you do not, in the winter, you will freeze because the metal will get ice cold, or colder when the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  With that, the windows are a necessity, for the cross breeze, and some OPSEC.  In the winter, you would definitely need insulation as well as a heat source to heat the unit.  Oh, and those windows might come in handy to let some of the heat out when the wood burning stove gets a little hot.  While your at it, the doors might need to be sealed a bit better, as to not let out the heat, as well.

A kitchen unit of some sort may need to be added so cooking is a bit easier.  Maybe one of those wood or coal cooking ranges.  Here are a couple to review:

Cooking in the summer might be a little warm, but then again, you could always cook over the fire or on a grill.  Overall, however, they will serve the purpose of heat, cooking, and purifying water for cleaning, drinking, and bathing.

You might also want it close to a water source, and to build an out house out back as well.  Or if you wish, design and build a small septic system and add a toilet yourself.  Just mentioning it, as I am sure you will have thought about it.

The interior, you can frame out yourself if you wish, and add dry wall for a more finished off look too.  Add a couple of solar panels, a couple of deep cycle batteries, a decent sized inverter, and a few low voltage appliances, such as one of those Coleman PowerChill coolers, some low voltage lighting, and I think you might have a bug out location.

As for the thickness of the steel, I am not sure about that, so I am not sure if it will withstand a round from a high powered rifle or not.  Just mentioning it, in case any of you took pot shots at railroad cars or shipping containers as kids.  If you did, please let me know the results.  I am curious for reasons of OPSEC.

Another down downside of a shipping container for your bug out location is that it looks out of place.  If you leave it unattended most of the time, someone might come upon it, break the lock and make themselves at home.  That would be bad, especially if you are caching supplies there.  You may have to seal and bury them.

Here are a couple of resources for shipping containers:

And… Here are a few resources on designing and converting shipping containers to homes:


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Apartment Prepper October 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Neat idea; first we’d need to find the bug out land. Was originally thinking RV, but shipping containers are worth considering as well. Thanks for the links.


MasterPo October 20, 2010 at 11:03 pm

A moble home (as in a trailer park) or a small pre-fab house is pretty cheap too. Not as cheap as a container but when you factor in all the extra work you have to do to a container it may be better.

Interesting idea though.


dkmn October 26, 2010 at 9:19 pm

If you buy a 20' trailer that can hold 12,000 lbs, then you can put a 20' container on it. And if you don't have a truck you can rent a U-Haul or some other truck to move it.

That is my plan.


Shipping Container Homes February 5, 2011 at 10:47 am

The steel on the side walls of a Shipping Container are 1.6 mm – 2.0 mm thick ( the two outside panels from the 11 making up the wall of a 40 ft container are slightly heavier gauge – so containers are definitely NOT bullet proof : ) – maybe ok for .22 and air rifles but not anything more.

There is a free video on the anatomy of a Shipping Container here if anyone is interested in more detail.


Modular Home Manufacturer China March 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm

We have been involved in converting shipping containers into remote structures and have found that when it comes to homes, most residential people enjoy the steel frame structure with panelized walls.

But when you are talking about bug-out shelters or emergency shelters, shipping containers are a perfect fit. Just make sure you remember to insultate!


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