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Bug Out Cabins: What They Are and How To Prep Yours

Wondering if you need a bug out cabin? The term “bug out” is seven decades old and is a term that American defense developed in the 1950s as a word used to indicate a need for an urgent solution for survival. Today, the word means the same, with the term bug out cabins referring to a place to bug out when an urgent solution is needed. In defense, bug out’s literal definition is to leave quickly, and this is why preparing bug out cabins well in advance is critical to survival in the bug out location.

Bug out cabins are the emergency solution for the layperson or survivalist when a personal residence needs to be vacated or evacuated. Learn more about what a bug out cabin is, and be inspired on how to prepare yours.

An old cabin in black and white.
An old cabin

What Is a Bug Out Cabin?

Bug out cabins are locations developed for people who want a place to relocate to in the event of an emergency. The emergency could be a weather disaster, terrorist event, or any urgent situation where you have to get out of your home. A significant problem such as a fire in the home or crisis with your structure could lead to the necessity of a bug out location.

Typically, bug out cabins do refer to a location that is needed for survival. People that use them are often colloquially called “preppers” as they are prepping for the worst-case scenario in survivalism. You don’t have to call yourself a prepper to consider implementing bug out cabins in your long-term goals.

A bug out cabin needs to be prepped in such a way that you can survive there. You need to think of what you will need to survive when you are getting it prepared. Think of everything from the roof over your head to how you will use a latrine or restroom facility. You also need to think of security, building supplies, water supplies, how you cook, and what you will cook. Preparing a bug out cabin is all about knowing how to create and survive in a long-term shelter.

When you are planning a bug out cabin, you don’t usually know what it will be that will send you there. Thus, you won’t be able to plan timelines in advance. The best thing for you to do for time planning then is to plan as if you will be there for a long time. When you are preparing a building as a second home in an emergency, you aren’t thinking of having a three-day supply of food.

Why You Need A Bug Out Cabin

Bug out cabins are not intended to be your next summer vacation. That is what a cabin or cottage is for. This is a survivalist tool that you will use in an extreme circumstance that could very well be one of the worst days of your life. For many, it is. If it’s not the worst, it will be near the top of the list of absolute crisis points in your life or the life of your family.

That is why you need one. We do not know how uncertain the world, or our world, will become at any point in our lives. This is why people need a place to leave quickly to. There may be injuries you are dealing with, a lost home, or even a lost sense of Self if a crisis has come into your region.

You can turn a hunting cabin into a bug out shelter, and most people with bug out cabins do. It’s a natural switch. A hunting cabin is an investment you will use and a bug out cabin you never want to use in your life. Supply your hunting cabin for the worst-case scenario. If it is accessible while also being a secure location, it’s an ideal bug out cabin.

The crisis that sends you to the bug out location could be local, regional, statewide, or national. It could also be a global crisis. You won’t know until you get there, and you may not even know then. You need one to prepare for that moment when you say to yourself and your family that you are getting out of there to a safer and more secure  location.

Supplies in a remote bug ouy cabin
Supplies in a remote cabin

Bug Out Cabin Considerations

There are several considerations to keep in mind when preparing a bug out cabin. Remember that it is for that moment you are in survivalist mode. Picture yourself having nothing when you arrive. You need to have everything that you need already there. Roads may be disabled, you may not even have a vehicle, and arrive at your bug out cabin with nothing but your premade bug out bags so you can get out quickly.

Plan for it as if you are arriving empty-handed, even if you aren’t. Accessibility, water supplies, security, defense, building supplies, and tools for everyday life such as a latrine and hygiene should be at the top of your mind for consideration.


The first thing you will need when bugging out is a means of getting to your bug out location. This is your first move in preparing for your bug out cabin. You don’t know now what it is that is going to necessitate the evacuation. You can’t know what you will need to get there either.

Roads may be blocked, there may be a significant weather disaster that makes travel difficult, transit lines may be down, planes could be downed, you may not have the ability to walk.

At the same time, a bug out cabin is supposed to be for safety. You need to be able to get to it. Consider every option, including bug out bicycles and how to survive with a bike, because you need to know in advance what every step of this journey will look like. Make plans and contingency plans for your contingency plans. That is the mindset of a bug out cabin.


Protection and security are why you need bug out cabins, especially if this crisis has reached beyond your own home and family. People tend to act desperately during a crisis. Foolish and horrible decisions are a normal thing to expect from human nature during a regional crisis.

Plan for this. Prepare your bug out cabin with the kind of security that will protect you from others’ bad decisions. Even if you can see the bad choices coming, you can get help. During a crisis, law enforcement will not be disabled. Include connectivity to them as part of your security plan.

Create the kind of security plan you would have at your own home, with additional layers that will combat survival problems.


Climate is a factor to consider when you are planning your bug out cabin. Again, plan for it the way you plan your home, in the most rudimentary way possible. Make sure your bug out cabin is insulated if you live in a seasonal climate. Construct it or design its interior in a way that will ensure you have heat inside, whether that is from fuel or fire.

If you are keeping fire on hand, be sure you also have fire extinguishers in an accident or crisis. For fuel, know how to stockpile it and the tools you are using to avoid a unique fuel disaster in the middle of your bugging out experience.


When preparing your bug out cabin, a key resource to start off with is to stock up your food supply. You want to start with non-perishables and have a lot on hand. Think basics. A handy list for this would be:

  • Beans, canned and dried
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Pasta
  • Coffee, instant to start
  • Rice
  • Any canned food
  • Powdered eggs
  • Powdered milk
Stockpile of food and household supplies
Stockpile of food and supplies

Water Supply

Water is even more critical than food supplies, and you will need it for everything. You need it to survive if you have nothing else to consume. You will need it to cook with. You will need it to clean with yourself and your utensils and cabin to keep life sterile and hygienic.

Many choose the locations of their bug out cabins based on water supplies. If you can get a location near a natural resource such as a river or stream, you may be in luck. Rainwater is a good source of water if that is all you can collect. If you are using a natural source of water for your water supplies, the smaller the water source, the safer it will be as it has less opportunity to get dirty, become poisoned, or contain germs.

All water collected from outdoors needs to be purified or boiled before you can use it. A stockpile of bottled water is a good idea as well.

Rustic outdoor toilet
Rustic outdoor toilet 

Latrine / Sewage

You can do many things to set up a latrine or restroom facility at your bug out cabin. If you don’t know if you’ll have running water or not, digging one out is the ideal way to handle a potential sewage problem. Build a small box over a hole in the ground, and keep the top open.

You can install a toilet seat from the hardware store on top of your latrine for a system that will work for survivalist purposes for any member of your family. Ideally, you want it above the water table by six feet and away from the water source. You don’t want it to contaminate your water source.

Keep this downwind from where you will be sleeping and eating. A waste can for used toilet paper is all you will need to finish this job. Some sanitizer on hand or sanitizing wipes will be effective for clean up.

Cabin Defense

A key element of bug out cabins is their security. Cabin defense is integral to this protocol. You want a location that is remote and secluded, and not easily seen by anybody. Keep it far from roadways if possible. When you are choosing locations, you also want to use sightlines to your advantage.

You want to be able to see what is coming in, if anything. There are ways you can keep the are guarded. A big dog is effective here if you do not already have one.

Many preppers also keep firearms and ammunition in supply at their bug out cabins. A cache that is weatherproof and fireproof to store this stockpile is effective.

Building Supplies

You may be in constant building mode once you arrive at your bug out cabin. You may have the most prepared cabin in the world, but you may still need to adjust it as you begin to live there while you are in survival mode. Be sure you have the right supplies on hand for any change or renovation you may consider along the way.

Here is a starting list for you:

  • Construction siding and adhesive to prevent bugs and rodents from getting in
  • Screens for all supply areas, the sturdier, the better
  • Vents and screens for them
  • Waterproof caulking
  • Pressure-treated wood
  • Basic manual (non-electric) tools: Hammer, nails, screws, screwdriver, saw, machete, ax, pliers, wrench

Zoning Considerations

The last thing you want when you are bugging out is a legal problem. A zoning consideration could be just what it takes to burn a year of preparation to the ground. Make sure your bug out cabin is zoned correctly and that it meets the minimum requirements.

If there are previous owners, talk to them, but discussing this with a real estate agent will also help. Consult with the local health department or municipal office if you are confused about zoning matters.

Avoid a location with covenants, land easements, or HOA attached to it, or the zoning could be a nightmare.

Supplying Your Bug Out Cabin

Food and tools are a great start to your bug out cabin preparation, but you still need supplies for your tools and food. For every area that humans will be in, you will need supplies.

Make sure the latrine has an ample supply of items such as toilet paper and waste plans. The kitchen or cooking area and eating area will need supplies. You’ll need something to cook with, something to eat off of, and something to eat with, such as a fork and knife.

You also need supplies for cleaning everything that you will be using and working with. A basin for human cleaning and a basin for dish cleaning is a good start.

It may be most useful for you to use disposable dishes and have a stockpile of disposable dishes and cutlery for eating off of. You will still need tools to cook with if you plan on cooking, which most people do.

For additional supplies, consider things around the house that you already have that you can’t do without or may need in an emergency. Look at your utility drawers or emergency supply kits at home for this. You may want work gloves, flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, ropes, cords, garbage bags, and any tools or resources you currently use for recycling. Include an extensive First Aid Kit for long-term use.

Does It Make Sense?

A bug out cabin makes sense for anyone that understands the importance of the survivalist mindset. In this day and age, anything can send us from our homes at any time. It seems we can’t turn on the news without hearing of a roadblock, wildfire, or disaster that leads to a tragic evacuation.

Yes. Bug out cabins make sense, and you never want to wish you had one.

Alternatives To Bug Out Cabins

You don’t have to have a fully decked out hunting cabin to have a good bug out cabin. You need a well-supplied and safe place to be. That can be any location whatsoever.

Here are a few common locations that people use for bug out cabins.

Land / Camp

Depending on your situation, a tent and a kettle may be your bug out plan. Bugging out on land in the worst-case scenario happens. Plan the ultimate camping trip if this is your bug out plan. You don’t have to be stuck with a tent and a crisis. You can prepare for this too.


RVs are ideal bug out locations as well, and in some cases even safer than a hunting cabin, particularly if yours is insured and can get on the road. You may want to store your RV off-site from your home in the event that a disaster to your home creates a disaster with your prepared RV. Do your research on every accessibility plan to come up with the RV bug out scenario that is best for you.

Hand-Made Cabin

If you are a natural do-it-yourselfer, you may enjoy building your bug out cabin. You can get cabin kits that will give you this opportunity. It could be an ideal summer project to build your bug out cabin. Be sure you have an alternative, such as a tent and a kettle, for a bug-out location if a crisis happens while you are building this dream.

Prepare Your Bug Out Today

The thought of needing bug out cabins to stay alive can be scary. That is human. You never want to have to think of it when it is too late. Begin preparing for your bug out location today, and you will see that you feel more relief at the thought of being prepared than you do fear over why you are doing it.

If you’ve prepared a bug out cabin and have any tips or suggestions you’d like to share, please leave a comment.