Excellent portable survival shelter you already have….and don’t even realize it

A huge topic on many preparedness sites and forums revolves around shelter. Obviously if you are bugging in your house is your preferred shelter. If heading to a retreat then that is your planned shelter. When considering shelter a wide array of types are considered from wilderness lean-to, hammocks, tarps, tents, and sometimes nothing but a military poncho.

I was thinking the other day, “What would make the ultimate expedient shelter?“. What characteristics would it need to possess? Here is what I came up with in midst of daydreaming:

  • shelter from the elements (rain, snow, sun)
  • provide some source of power
  • ability to store supplies
  • sleep system included
  • provide heat in the winter and cold in the summer
  • integrated¬†communication system
  • provide a defensible position¬†


Obviously I am not talking a shelter system you carry around in your backpack. I am talking about a vehicle – a car, truck, SUV….whatever. Think about it – beside the fact that your vehicle can transport you over great distances quickly – it provides power via 12V power port or direct from battery, communication via radio (and added devices if installed), can cool you with air conditioning or heat you with the heating system. It can shelter you from the elements quite easily and you can even sleep in it.¬†

Maybe I am stating the obvious here when looking at a vehicle as a survival shelter – I just have never really heard it discussed. Of course for many of the systems to work gasoline is going to be required to run the vehicle. Doing a little research most cars can run for a couple days on a tank full of gas while idling. Yes- letting a car idle for that long is not good for it – so rev it up once in a while – but we are talking “survival” here.

So – maybe if your fretting because you feel like you need more supplies to be better prepared – you are a little further along than you thought.


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26 thoughts on “Excellent portable survival shelter you already have….and don’t even realize it”

  1. only problem is if EMP hits, car won’t run if its newer…but yes, it could serve as shelter, might need some preparing tho if looking at long term shelter…but def an option not previously considered…

    • Arte –

      If you want to be an ass-clown go somewhere else. I am comparing the vehicle to other shelters like TENTS and LEAN-TO’s. I am fairly certain a vehicle has an engine block which provides much better cover which to DEFEND yourself from than a tent.

      And I am the moron.


  2. John, I just have to laugh at Art Cesspool’s (SIC) comment. But, I am not sure that recognizing and replying to it is the best action here. Maybe we should just ignore them as I am convinced that the only reason he (they) visit the site is for attention. What do you think?

    • BB –

      Yes – I did a search on his IP address as I was suspicious – and it was flagged as a comment spammer. Guess he goes around making rude unneeded comments all over the net.

      I was going to delete it – but figured someone else may have the question regarding the “defensive position” aspect. I full realize a vehicle is not the Alamo – but just much better than a tent.

      Thanks BB!


  3. Good thinking! People have lived out of their cars n rough times forever. Rather sleep in it in middle of forest than cold tent any day!

  4. If I didn’t have to stay on the go,I would choose a vehicle in a heartbeat. And if the roads where so bad I would find the best spot away from everyones eyes and ears and park and live it up!. Have heat,cold air,and shelter,pluse power. If EMP hits and couldn’t fix an old vehicle,oh well it was nice while it lasted! Back to the good times homemade shelters,tents,and camping? Hey Rourke, I’m sorry I juust post like once a year,but I read your site every day!..Thanks for everything you do!! -Tommy B.

  5. Glad to see this post. How many families have the proverbial minivan and don’t even think about it being a shelter. We have a Ford Freestar and when traveling across country we took out the second seat and folded the third down to make a sleeping area. Add a piece of carpet to cover the seat holes and we had a great camper. All of our cargo was in a small trailer and we had ample room to stretch out and sleep. Our plan is to stay put in a SHTF situation, but if we had to go we have something that will at least keep us up off the ground. Keep up the great posts.

  6. we always discuss having a BOV available, sounds like a good idea, always try to think of three ways to use your rescources

  7. Having slept in a van in the middle if winter, during a “warm” 20 degree night, I can tell you that the vehicle doesn’t hold heat well.

    While it is better than just laying on the ground, you have to make certain you have plenty of blankets and / or sleeping bags unless you plan on buring your fuel up over the next day or so.

  8. Rourke, you’re right about folks overlooking a vehicle as potential shelter for the short term. When bugging out, most would prefer driving as far as they could toward an undetermined destination. When they run out of gas they hoof it.

    Bad idea in my book. Use that temp shelter for short hops between secure locations and search for supplies & fuel as you go. This is why grab and go packs (72 hrs) were thought of. With winter coming that vehicle should be stocked (soon).

    Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Hey John! I have to agree with you 101%. While traveling from Salt Lake City back to MO about 6 years ago, I got caught in the most miserable snow storm on I-70, just outside of Denver. Motels were packed and I do mean packed!!! I managed to find one that supposedly had 1 room available and she wanted to charge me $189.00 for a 3 star motel room. I told her that I couldn’t afford that, hubby was retired military, our income was limited and that I was by myself on this trip. She wouldn’t budge her price gouge. I asked her if I could sit in the lobby for awhile, just to warm up and then get going. The answer to that was a firm “no, we don’t allow loitering”. Man, I was so tired, it was late, close to midnight, and I wasn’t allowed to use the restroom there, warm up in the lobby, nothing. So, I got back in the car, managed to find a rest area about 20 miles away. It took nearly an hour to get there because of the white-out and the ice and snow on the roads. Being that tired, I couldn’t see well, so I just thought that if I was going to die out there in the snow, at least go to the rest area where I could be found the next day.

    I parked the car far away enough from the trees to keep branches from snapping off and falling on top of the car, got out and dug snow away from the back of the car about 3-4 feet out and made sure that I dug all the way down to the concrete so there would be plenty of room for the exhaust fumes to escape, opened the windows about an inch, got out all the blankets, my coat and sweaters, put an extra pair of socks on and used the car heater occasionally to take the chill off, said some quick and earnest prayers for safety and fell asleep. That little Hyundai saved my life that night.

    Yep, cars do work just fine. They keep you out of the elements, keep you safe from lightening storms, and if one uses common sense, will keep you safe in blizzards like I got caught in. Good thing I was prepared in that storm. And, seeing your post reminds me of how fortunate I was, and how others need to prep their vehicles to have that same protection.

    Great post as always! Keep up the good work John!

  10. Almost any vehicle can be rewired if you have the knowledge and patience. It may not get great gas mileage, but in a shtf event, it could get you home, etc. Time to research your own vehicles and see if this is a doable fix for you.

  11. Rourke,
    Don’t listen to Arte Pustule. When the skeeters and ticks are out in force playing pin the tail on your donkey, a vehicle (even a small hatchback) is a Godsend. It’s at least a shelter against weather and wildlife that can ruin your day. But let me say “defensible” in this case means just long enough to make a quick escape or fill some sandbags. Park up on a hill or behind a berm. Keep a camo tarp to hide it. Beyond that, you’ll need an MRAP.

  12. Hey remember the vans and hippie buses of the 60 and 70’s. They made a lot of sense then and still do if properly built and insulated. Take them over sleeping on cold ground any day. Just thinking

  13. Sorry ,way ahead of you there . Got an old 85 Chevy van with a bed in back and if it’s cold ,use a propane heater with a 20# tank . I’ve been asked many times ,why do you keep that ole Gas Hog , and I reply “Cause I might be living in it ,one day , down by the River !!” Look up van camping on U-tube ,to see some nice rigs. LOVE my ole van !!……Keep Prepping !!

  14. I have a 98 Infiniti qx4. I have a queen sized single height air mattress and pump in it, if I pull out the back flip up seats and put them in the front seat, I can inflate it and securely close the back hatch. In my truck I have enough food stashed for 3 comfortable days, 1/2 flat of bottled water, pull out straps, tarps, small tool kit, 100 rds of ammo, my edc pack with a tiny trauma kit, a bullet proof vest that lays under the back seats, and a med size Tupperware bin that holds a lot of it in addition to a fire extinguisher, some led flares, and a bunch of crap. And you could park next to me at walmart, look inside my vehicle and not realize any of that stuff is in there. If shtf for real, I need to know I can get wherein going and then some for the sake of the ones I love that fit in there as well. Your vehicle should be as much of an asset as your basement or root cellar.

  15. we camped one weekend this summer in MIL’s minivan…had a tent outside to hold our supplies…and it worked out quite well…IDK about how it would be in the cold weather, but surely better than nothing! we do have an older Blazer that we likely could use in the same manner…currently up on blocks as DH is working on it, but that could be a great disguise as well….

  16. Man made E.M.P.s are different then solar events. Solar events are much less likely to fry vehicle electronics. It’s disputed as to what percentage of post 1970s vehicles would be knocked out by a man made event.
    As to using your vehicle as an emergency shelter,…. Tens of thousands of homeless Americans are doing that this very day. Whole families are reduced to living in their vehicles.
    There are a few who actually choose to live in a van, or suv full time, as a money saving life style. There are even web sights devoted to the subject. It’s not as easy as you may think. “Normal” folks, and the police really don’t like to have van, or car dwellers around.
    Info can be found on the web about modifications you can make to your vehicle to make it at least a little more comfortable to live in. Much more is possible than you would expect. Even cooking, heating, computer and TV hookups, even sometimes, a camp toilet, and running water.
    As to just how far you will be able to take your vehicle in a SHTF situation, well that’s anyone’s guess.


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