Ultimate Bug Out Shelter Ideas for Preppers and Survivalists

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When it comes to bug out shelter ideas, there are numerous options for both urban and rural locations. In this blog post, we will discuss various shelter options for both urban and rural settings that can provide safety and comfort in a survival situation. For preppers both seasoned and novice, this post will provide creative ideas to assist in selecting the best for survival shelter solution for individual requirements.

We’ll delve into different shelter options such as temporary and long-term solutions in urban settings, natural and man-made structures in rural areas, as well as expedient shelters like tarp tents and debris huts. Additionally, we’ll discuss easy-to-setup alternatives for those who need to keep moving during a bug-out scenario.

Furthermore, this comprehensive guide will cover essential materials needed for building a survival shelter along with crucial safety tips to ensure you stay protected from potential hazards like fire or wildlife encounters. Lastly, we’ll touch on maintenance practices to keep your chosen shelter functional and ready when disaster strikes.

Bug Out Shelter Ideas for Urban Locations

In urban locations, finding a suitable bug out shelter can be challenging due to the high population density and limited resources. However, with some creativity and resourcefulness, you can still establish a safe haven in case of emergencies. Here are three types of shelters that you may consider setting up in an urban environment:

Emergency Shelters

Emergency structures for urgent protection when you are dislocated from catastrophes or conflicts, like hurricanes, earthquakes and civil strife, are known as emergency shelters. These shelters can be set up quickly using materials like tarps, tents, or even large plastic sheets.

  • Tarps: Tarps are versatile and lightweight materials that can be used to create a makeshift tarp shelter by attaching them to nearby buildings or vehicles.
  • Tents: Tents offer more privacy and protection than tarps but require more space for setup.
  • Plastic Sheets: Large plastic sheets can also serve as emergency shelter when draped over sturdy objects like cars or fences.

Temporary Shelters

If you have access to abandoned buildings or unused spaces within your city’s infrastructure (e.g., subway tunnels), these areas could potentially serve as temporary bug out shelters during times of crisis. 

When selecting a location for your temporary shelter, prioritize safety by choosing spots away from potential hazards such as flood zones and unstable structures.

Long-Term Shelters

In situations where long-term survival is necessary (e.g., extended power outages or pandemics), you may need to establish a more permanent shelter. This could involve converting an existing structure like a shipping container into a livable space, or even constructing your own small cabin.

  • Shipping Containers: These sturdy structures can be retrofitted with insulation, plumbing, and electrical systems to create comfortable living spaces.
  • Cabins: Building a small cabin in an urban setting may require special permits and adherence to local building codes but can provide long-term security during extended crises.

For optimal preparedness, make sure your shelter is stocked with necessary items such as food, water, and medical supplies for personal safety. Additionally, always prioritize personal safety by keeping your bug out location well hidden from potential threats whenever possible.

Urban shelter ideas are often limited by space and availability, but with a bit of creativity and resourcefulness they can be made to work in many cases. Moving on from urban locations, rural areas offer more options for finding the perfect shelter.

Bug Out Shelter Ideas for Rural Locations

In rural locations, preppers and survivalists have a wider range of options when it comes to bug out shelters. From natural shelters to man-made structures and even underground bunkers, the possibilities are endless. 

In this section, we will explore various types of bug out shelters suitable for rural areas along with the materials needed to build them and safety tips for their use.

Natural Shelters

Natural shelters are an excellent option in rural settings as they often require minimal effort or resources to create a safe haven from harsh weather conditions or potential threats. Some examples of natural shelter ideas include:

  • Caves: Caves provide instant protection from the elements and can be found in many wooded or mountainous regions (source). However, always check for signs of wildlife before settling down.
  • Dense Forests: The canopy provided by trees can offer some protection against rain and wind while also providing concealment from potential threats.
  • Riverbanks: Building your survival shelter near a water source is essential; however, ensure that you’re not too close to avoid flooding risks during heavy rainfall.

Man-Made Shelters

If you prefer constructing your own shelter in a rural location, there are several designs that can be built using locally sourced materials such other debris such as wood logs or fallen tree branches:

  • Log Cabins: A classic choice among preppers due to their durability and insulation properties (source). Log cabins can be built using simple hand tools and materials found in the surrounding environment.
  • Earthbag Homes: These eco-friendly structures are made by filling bags with soil or other natural materials and stacking them to create walls. Earthbag homes provide excellent insulation and protection from extreme weather conditions (source).
  • Tiny Houses: A popular trend among minimalists, tiny houses offer a compact living space that is easy to maintain while still providing all of the necessary amenities for survival (source).
  • Shipping containers: A friend of ours has a small prepping group a couple of hours north of us in Wyoming. They had 3 small off grid homes manufactured out of new shipping containers. They’re super cool but are quite expensive. If you’re handy, you could build yours out of a used shipping container. 
shipping container shelter

Underground Shelters

In some cases, going underground might be the best option for your shelter. This type of shelter offers increased security against potential threats as well as more room and better insulation from temperature fluctuations:

  • Bunkers: Building an underground bunker requires more planning and resources than other options but provides unparalleled safety during times of crisis (source). Bunkers can be constructed using concrete blocks or reinforced steel panels, a ton of rebar and sweat labor.
  • Culvert Shelters: Large metal culverts can be repurposed into makeshift shelters by burying them partially underground and sealing off one end with a door or hatch (source). This type of shelter is simple to construct and provides good protection from environmental conditions.
  • Root Cellars: Traditionally used for food storage, root cellars can also serve as a descent shelter. They are often built into hillsides or partially underground, providing natural insulation and protection from extreme weather conditions (source).
  • Snow cave: A snow cave can be constructed by digging in to a large drift. Caution should be taken to prevent cave in and keep it as small as possible to maintain a warm environment. Elevate the sleeping area above the entrance to keep your body heat.

No matter which type of rural bug out shelter you choose, always consider factors such as accessibility, proximity to resources like water and firewood, and potential threats in the area. Building a secure and well-equipped shelter will increase your chances of survival during times of crisis.

snow cave survival shelter

In conclusion, it is important to be aware of the various shelter ideas for rural locations and prepare accordingly. With this in mind, let’s explore some expedient shelter ideas that can help you stay safe during an emergency situation.

Expedient Bug Out Shelter Ideas

In a survival situation, time is of the essence. When you need to create a shelter quickly, expedient options are your best bet. Given the urgency of a survival situation, quick and efficient shelters should be built using minimal materials to protect against external factors.

Tarp and Paracord Shelters

A tarp and paracord shelter is one of the simplest yet effective expedient bug out shelters that can be set up in no time. Only a tarp and some paracord are necessary for constructing this simple, yet effective expedient shelter. By tying the paracord between two trees or sturdy objects at about waist height, then draping the tarp over it to form an A-frame shape tent or lean-to structure (depending on your preference), you’ll have instant cover from rain, wind, or sun.

Lean-To and A-Frame Shelters

Lean-to shelters are another easy option for quick bug out situations as they require only basic materials like branches or poles for support along with natural resources such as leaves or grasses for insulation against cold weather conditions:

Lean to shelters
  • Lean-To Shelter: Find two sturdy trees close together; tie one end of a long branch horizontally between them using cordage; lean other branches against this horizontal support at an angle so their tips touch ground creating triangular space underneath which will serve as living area.
  • A-Frame: Similar to the lean to shelter concept but instead use three vertical supports arranged in a triangle shape; tie horizontal beam across top of two supports then lean branches against it to form an A-shaped structure.

Debris Huts and Wigwams

Debris huts and wigwams are also expedient shelter options that can be constructed using natural materials found in your surroundings:

  • Debris Hut: Create a simple frame by leaning one long tree branch against another at their tips, forming an inverted “V” shape; next, use a longer ridge pole to go from the “V” to the ground. Cover this frame with smaller branches, leaves, or grasses for insulation and protection from the elements.
  • Wigwam: Construct a dome-shaped framework using flexible saplings or poles secured together at their tops; weave additional branches horizontally through vertical supports before covering entire structure with bark, leaves, or other insulating material.

No matter which expedient shelter you choose to construct, it makes sense to always prioritize safety when gathering materials and building your temporary home. For more information on how to build these shelters safely and effectively, check out our guide on Bug Out Shelter Safety Tips.

Expedient shelter ideas are a great way to quickly and easily create protection from the elements in an emergency situation. With some basic supplies, these survival shelters can be constructed with minimal effort and time. Moving on, easy survival shelter ideas offer more flexibility for those who may need to keep moving during their escape plan.

Easy Bug Out Shelter Ideas to Keep Moving

When bugging out, mobility is crucial, and setting up a simple shelter very quickly can make all the difference in your survival journey. Lightweight and easy-to-assemble bug out shelters are essential for those who need to keep moving.

In this section, we will discuss three simple yet effective solutions: hammock camping, bivouac sacks and tents, and sleeping bags with blankets.

Hammock Camping

Hammock camping has become increasingly popular among preppers due to its lightweight nature and quick setup time. A good quality hammock allows you to sleep off the ground while also providing comfort during rest periods.

When selecting a hammock for your emergency kit, take into account the weight capacity, material strength, and convenience of use.

  • Weight Capacity – Ensure that the hammock can support your body weight comfortably.
  • Material Durability – Opt for materials like nylon or polyester that are weather-resistant and long-lasting.
  • Ease of Use – Look for features like carabiners or straps that allow quick attachment between trees or other anchor points.

Bivouac Sacks and Tents

Bivouac (bivvy) sacks provide an ultralight solution when it comes to portable shelters on-the-go. They’re essentially waterproof covers designed specifically for sleeping bags which offer protection from wind, rain fly, exposure snow & precipitation without adding much extra bulkiness into one’s pack loadout.

Additionally you may use a small one-person tent known simply as a “bivvy tent,” perfect choices if minimalism appeals more than anything else during emergency situations where speed matters most.

  • Bivouac Sacks – These waterproof covers for sleeping bags provide protection from the elements without adding significant weight to your pack.
  • Bivy Tents – Compact, lightweight tents designed for one person offer a more enclosed shelter option while still maintaining mobility and ease of setup. Bungee cords and two trekking poles can be used to set one up quick.

Sleeping Bags and Blankets

Sleeping bags are essential for maintaining your body heat during cold nights in the wilderness, but they can also serve as makeshift shelters when paired with blankets or tarps.

When I was first stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, part of cold weather orientation was to sleep in our military issued Gortex sleeping bag.

Choose a high-quality sleeping bag rated for the temperatures you may encounter on your bug-out journey.

Combine your sleeping bag with a tarp or blanket to construct an expedient shelter.

  • Sleeping Bags – Select a bag rated for the expected temperature range and consider factors like insulation type (synthetic vs. down) and weight.
  • All-Weather Blankets/Tarps – Durable, waterproof materials like Mylar or polyethylene can be used in conjunction with your sleeping bag to create an expedient shelter when necessary.

Having a shelter is essential to staying safe in the event of an emergency, and there are many easy ways to build one. Constructing a shelter can be done securely with the right materials and precautionary measures in place. To begin, let’s gather the necessary items to construct a bug out shelter.

Materials Needed for Building a Bug Out Shelter

For building a survival shelter, it is essential to be equipped with the right instruments and components. This section will outline the necessary supplies, building materials, and natural resources needed to create a sturdy and safe refuge.

Tools and Supplies

To build your bug out shelter effectively, you’ll need some basic tools such as:

  • Survival multi-tool
  • Hatchet or saw
  • Hammer or mallet
  • Nails or screws (depending on your chosen material)
  • Tape measure
  • Rope or paracord for securing structures together

The bottom line is, you’ll have what you’ve packed in your bugout vehicle or bag. Besides a first aid kit, have a small kit for shelter construction.

Building Materials

The type of building material you choose will depend on factors like availability , cost, durability , insulation properties, and ease of construction.

Some common options include:

  • Wood: A versatile option that can be used in both urban and rural settings. Wooden shelters are relatively easy to construct but may require regular maintenance due to rotting issues. 
  • Metal: Durable , strong , resistant against weather conditions. Metal sheets can be used for walls while metal poles provide structural support. Consider using corrugated metal roofing if available. 
  • Bricks or cinder blocks: Suitable for long-term shelters in urban areas. These materials offer excellent insulation properties but require more time and effort to construct. 
  • Tarp: Lightweight , portable , and waterproof. Tarps can be used for expedient shelters or as a temporary solution while constructing more permanent structures.

Natural Resources

In rural locations, natural resources such as rocks, leaves, leafy branches, pine needles and branches can be utilized in the construction of your bug out shelter.

survival shelter ideas

Some ideas include:

  • Rock walls: Use large rocks to create sturdy walls that provide insulation against cold weather conditions. Be sure to use proper techniques when stacking rocks for stability. -.
  • Debris hut: Gather fallen branches and leaves from the surrounding area to build a simple debris hut. This type of shelter is best suited for short-term stays. A fallen tree will expedite the process.
  • Mud or clay: If available, mud or clay can be used as an insulating material between layers of other building materials like wood or bricks.

When selecting materials for your bug out shelter, consider factors such as availability in your location, ease of transport (if needed), durability against weather conditions and potential threats, and how quickly you need the shelter constructed. 

Remember that safety should always come first when choosing materials – avoid using anything toxic or hazardous in your construction process.

Frequently Asked Questions Bug Out Shelter Ideas

What materials are best for constructing a bug out shelter?

The best materials for constructing a bug out shelter include sturdy and weather-resistant options such as tarps, paracord, wood, corrugated metal sheets, concrete blocks or bricks. Consider the availability of natural resources in your chosen location to minimize transportation costs and ensure sustainability.

How can I make sure my bug out shelter is secure and safe?

To ensure your bug out shelter is secure and safe, choose a discreet location away from potential threats. Reinforce doors and windows with locks or bars. Regularly inspect the structure for damage or signs of intrusion. Implement fire safety measures like smoke detectors and extinguishers. Be aware of local wildlife risks and take precautions against them.

What type of location should I choose for my bug out shelter?

Selecting an ideal location depends on factors such as accessibility, proximity to resources (water sources), climate conditions, elevation level (avoid flood-prone areas) , vegetation cover (for concealment) , soil stability (to prevent landslides), defensibility against intruders or wild animals.

Are there any special considerations to keep in mind when building a bug out shelter?

When building a bug out shelter consider factors like long-term sustainability by incorporating renewable energy sources (solar panels, wind turbines), rainwater harvesting systems; proper waste disposal methods; insulation techniques to maintain temperature control; ventilation systems to improve air quality; storage space for supplies and equipment.

What are some creative ideas for making a comfortable and functional bug out shelter?

Creative ideas include using multi-purpose furniture, maximizing vertical space with shelves or loft beds, incorporating natural light sources (skylights), creating an outdoor living area (fire pit, seating), adding personal touches to make the space feel more like home (artwork, plants) , and designing efficient storage solutions for supplies.


As you can see, there are many good bug out shelter ideas that will help keep you safe and secure in both urban and rural locations. With the right materials on hand, it’s easy to create a makeshift shelter quickly or build something more permanent if needed.

No matter what kind of bug out shelter idea you choose, remember to stay prepared for whatever may come your way. You may start with an extravagant survival shelter built from a shipping container and as the situation progresses, you may have to move and live out of a tarp shelter.

You never know when you’re going to find yourself in extreme circumstances. It will be a heck of a lot easier if you’ve practiced your survival skills. Building a shelter out of fallen trees, building snow caves in deep snow or just setting up most tents gets easier with repetition.

There are a ton of different shelter designs that you can build. You’re only limited by your resources and imagination. Check out YouTube videos on different ones. There are a lot.

Take control of your future and start preparing now! Learn how to build a bug out shelter, find the best survival gear, and become self-reliant with our comprehensive prepping resources.

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