I was recently reviewing options for living arrangements at retreat locations during a crisis situation. I was looking for reasonably priced options that met certain minimum criteria: significant living space, affordable price tag, flexibility, and peace of mind that it will be there when I need it to be.
I’ve looked at Preppers as fitting into 3 basic types over the years. There is the nuclear family or small group Preppers who plan on surviving with a handful of adults and perhaps a few children. The next type is what I’ll call the mid-range group of Preppers, those whose plans are based on 20 – 30 adults and more than a few children. Finally there are the large group Preppers, a relatively recent concept where a location is intended to be the retreat for perhaps hundreds of adult Preppers and many children. Having gone through each of these types over the years, I felt comfortable considering the shelter needs of each Prepper type, which served as the motivation for this article.
Surprisingly, the needs of each type for living arrangements at their retreat locations are very similar with the only real changes being to size, number, and infrastructure requirements. Each type of living arrangement I thought of comes with its own set of pros and cons, influenced heavily by the common weather patterns in the area.
I broke the various types of living arrangements into two main categories; permanent and on-demand, basically those that once set up stay set up versus those that are more flexible or portable. The permanent living arrangements would include houses, cabins, and potentially caves. The on-demand living arrangements would include RVs, campers, tents, tee-pees, and portable shelters similar to those used by FEMA as well as state and local emergency management agencies during disaster response work. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each:
- Houses – Pros include; the most homelike living arrangement and thus the most adaptable in terms of floor-plans, amenities, furnishings, etc. Can be somewhat hardened against attackers. Cons include; potentially much higher priced than the other options but financing could be an option, vulnerable to squatters or Meth cooks, probability of having to pay more in real estate taxes, harder to keep a low profile as it will show up in county records and Google Maps etc. Good choice for areas with more extreme weather and temperature weather patterns.
- Cabins – Basically the same as Houses.
- Caves – Pros; best defense against fallout, EMP, and attackers, constant temperature, and weatherproof. Cons; you have to find land with caves in place, if the cave is listed on local maps it might attract outside attention, many caves only have 1 opening so it could be a death trap, and local critters might also call the cave home. Excellent choice for all weather conditions.
- Recreational Vehicles (AKA RVs) – Pros: mobile under their own power, available with a wide array of features and capabilities, largely self-contained, relatively low profile approach for a Prepper. Cons: The most expensive option per square foot of living space though financing could be a useful options with these, highest maintenance requirements of the options considered here, specific skill-sets required for driving, operating, and maintaining the vehicle, and not terribly fuel efficient.
- Campers (such as pop-up trailers, solid-sided trailers, and similar) – Pros: mobile when towed, a variety of sizes/features available, can be placed in relatively small areas. Cons: must be towed-which ties up a hitch that might be better used to haul a trailer full of supplies and such, most offer very little storage space, and towing can be a challenge for some drivers.
- Tents, Tepees, and similar – Pros: highly portable, inexpensive, very flexible, small footprint, and can be set up inside open buildings to improve their performance in hot or cold weather. Cons: can fly away in strong winds (well below tornado or hurricane levels), minimal living space, no storage space, most have no meaningful insulation.
- Portable Shelters – Pros: very flexible (units can be joined together, there are lots of optional items that can be incorporated, many are designed to fit in a pickup bed),
highly portable, much more stable than most tents and similar, options include; solid floors, insulation, dividers, power and data runs, light kits, heaters, etc. Cons: The 2nd most expensive on-demand option and set-up is probably the longest of these options.
I mentioned price a few times till now, and price tags are important, but I feel that the key consideration is cost per square foot when comparing them.
- Houses and cabins – lots of options, and regional variances, which could affect pricing of these. For simplicity let’s consider a 1,000 square foot floor plan at $100,000 which gives you a $100 per square foot cost. Obviously one could go cheaper and one could build smaller, so feel free to adjust these numbers to suit your specifics.
- Caves – No real way to price these as they’re part of the land cost plus whatever you spend to improve their living conditions. If the land is cheap and the cave doesn’t need much in the way of work or upgrades then this can be an inexpensive option. If the land is expensive and the cave needs a lot of work/upgrades this option could cost more per square foot than the house option.
- RVs – Pricing used Class A RVs gave me pricing from $80,000 to $500,000. For the sake of argument, and knowing most of us aren’t named Rockefeller or Gates, we’ll use the $80k price tag for this comparison. Most of these seem to be 25’ or 27’ in length with between 6’ and 8’ of width which suggests a maximum (lots of the interior is filled with assorted components) of 200 square feet. So, as a rough estimate, this option would probably equate to around $400 per square foot. There are smaller ones (Class B and C), with smaller square footage and price tags, but I’m not seeing much difference in the price per square foot.
- Campers – Lots of variety with these, so they are hard to quantify. But I’ll offer my best guess here with a size of 18’ X 6’ as a median estimate for 108 square feet. Pricing bounces around quite a bit but I feel a median price would be $15,000 which would mean this option would have an average price tag of $138 per square foot.
- Tents and tepees – Simply put these will have the lowest cost per square foot of usable space by far. But they are also the least conducive to a long term survival situation. Personally I relegate these to my groups bug out plans and kits.
- Portable Shelters – I’d never considered these as options for Preppers, at least until I nearly landed a job with one of the shelter manufacturers. Having seen them up close, walked the manufacturing floor, and learned how they are set up, I decided to take a look at them. The low end (smaller) shelters are priced between $10,000 and $15,000 for 286 square feet or between $35 and $52 per square foot. Obviously much depends on the options one picks, but I see these as very reasonably priced living options for Preppers.
Each Prepper must make the determination for how, and where, they will live during and immediately after a crisis situation. How long that will be needed will depend on the specific nature of the crisis and the ripple effects it creates. So do the best you can with your available resources and your particular requirements. As you can see there are a lot of options available to you.