Survival Bunkers: 5 Ways To Create One, Pros, and Cons

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By Bryan Lynch •  9 min read

For several decades now, survival bunkers have been one of those topics that remains fascinating among certain circles. I am not sure if the interest surrounding them has to do with the idea of ultimate protection or how they have been portrayed in modern media. 

Survival Bunkers Guide

Either way, emergency bunkers certainly have their ups and their downs. And I wanted to take a moment to lay out some of the aspects that I think about surrounding these vaults of security. 

But before I get into the pros and cons of them, lets quickly go over a few bunker options. 

5 Ways To Build A Survival Bunker

Build it yourself

These can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. I have seen a few where someone had simply dug a hole into the side of a hill and excavated it to the size they desired. This may be one of the cheapest options, but you certainly need to know a few things before attempting this, especially how to reinforce such a structure.  

Shipping containers 

In recent years, metal shipping containers became available to the general public as an affordable building material for bunkers and other structures. I use the term affordable a bit loosely because depending on the size of the container, it can cost many thousands of dollars. 

Shipping containers are a neat idea because they are a bare-bones framework that you can put together as you choose, kind of like building something out of Lego. 

The biggest downfall of shipping containers is that they were not designed to be buried underground. So they may not be able to hold up to the stresses of being underground and they are prone to rust.

Find out more details why a shipping container is not ideal, and how you can build an underground bunker to hold your food stockpile. View this video.

Prefabricated Survival Bunker 

Several reputable companies specialize in building and installing smaller scale bunkers. Almost everything that is needed to live underground is thought out, designed, and installed by the manufacturer. To me, this seems like one of the best options available in terms of affordability and making sure the project is done right. 


There are many underground silos and other military installations that over time, became abandoned and were eventually put up for sale. 

For those with the means, these installations can be quite the deal. Millions of dollars were initially spent to create such underground structures but given their locations and years of neglect they can be purchased cheap. Again, the word cheap is probably not the right word but replicating such a structure today would be an astronomical cost.

Usually, the biggest downside to preexisting underground complexes is the years of neglect in upkeep and maintenance. All of the excavation has been done, and the shell of the structure is there but more than likely a large amount of money will have to be invested for cleaning and restoration purposes.  

Rented Space

For those that truly have the means and want nothing to do with building a shelter, don’t fret as there is an option for you. Survival and emergency products have become big business, and bunkers have not been forgotten about. 

When it comes to bunkers there are some individuals out there that have done all of the leg work for you. They have purchased preexisting underground structures (or are building one) and are turning them into luxury bunkers in case the SHTF. All you have to do is have a deep enough pocketbook to cover the entrance fee. 

Some of the costs I have heard for entry into these luxury spaces are well above six figures. But considering that all you have to do is to walk through the door, that price may be worth it to some 

4 Pros of Survival Bunkers 

So I have talked a little bit about some of the popular bunker options available, but now I am going to go into a little more detail about the pros and cons concerning bunkers as a whole.

Instant security

For locations where a bunker can be placed right in the backyard or very close to home, the idea of instant security is pretty appealing. No matter what situation arises the ability to climb in and shut the door quickly, and effectively protect you and yours is hard to beat. 

Follow this blueprint to put a bunker in your backyard.


A bunker doesn’t have to be used just for Armageddon. It can be used as cold storage for food items and a secure location for other supplies. It can also be a haven during times of war, civil unrest, and offers protection against mother nature, such as severe storms and tornados. 

Camouflage and Security 

Given that most bunkers are located underground, they are out of sight and out of mind. Meaning that would be threats could walk on top of you and not even know it. An underground bunker is about as discreet as they come when it comes to a bug out location. 

As far as security goes, most bunkers only have one or two points of entry. No windows, a limited number of entry points, and being underground is a location that can be easier to protect against would-be threats.

Long Term Protection

While a bunker can be used for short term protection like a bad storm, they can also provide protection and a place to ride out a long term event. Some disastrous events are not over in a matter of hours or days. The unsafe conditions they leave behind can take time before they dissipate and it is safe for you to go above ground.

There are several variables to consider and specific threats to analyze, but if a bunker is done right and enough supplies are on hand, they can be occupied for a long time. And when I say a long time, I mean years.

6 Cons of Survival Bunkers 

Bunkers certainly have some positive attributes but like anything, there are downsides to them as well. 


Creating a bunker for cold storage or short term protection, i.e. storms wouldn’t be terribly expensive or difficult to accomplish. But to do them right and for long term survival requires a big chunk of change. The reasons for why they are expensive are listed below. 

Air Quality

Clean air is one of our most important survival needs because we can only survive a few minutes without it. Air quality is not all that great when you start digging a hole in the ground and encase yourself in a closed structure. 

Fresh air needs to be brought in, filtered, and circulated. So a well thought out ventilation system needs to be planned out. This means a constant power supply and fans and motors. Back up replacement parts and knowledge of how to fix the system will be needed because you will not be able to call someone to come fix it for you.

A filtration system will also be needed. And your typical furnace filter is not going to do the trick. Since we never know what a survival situation will be like, a system that is equipped deal with biological, chemical, and radioactive materials would be best.   

Controlling Moisture

Being underground will introduce the problem of having to deal with groundwater and moisture. While we depend on water for life it also brings a few issues we must deal with. 

If there is not a way to deal with water it could potentially flood a bunker, destroy supplies or create an environment that breeds germs and mold. 


One of the best reasons to be in a bunker can also be one of its biggest downfalls. Security. A limited number of entry points can be easier to defend but it also offers a limited number of exits. 

An intelligent threat above the bunker or an unfortunate threat within the bunker, i.e. a fire, may make you wish you had some windows or additional exit points.


Unfortunately, some regions just are not conducive to placing a bunker underground. Examples include along coastlines or other locations where the water table is shallow or areas where there is frequent seismic activity. 

Psychological Aspect

Human beings are not underground creatures. We need space to move around, fresh air, sunlight, natural sounds, and seeing the blue sky. 

Anyone who as spent time in isolation away from the above list will tell you that is not a pleasant experience. Being in a confined space for a long time will have a negative impact on your physical health as well as your mental health. 

If you plan on having a bunker for long term protection think about ways to incorporate aspects of nature underground. Install UV lights and imitation sunlight. Hang pictures of outdoor landscapes or screens that display the natural world. Have a way to listen to recordings of natural sounds that include storms, running water, and birds.  

Wrap Up

Logically speaking, for most people, a short term survival bunker is going to be the best bet.

A structure that can be put in the backyard for cold storage and a place to go during a nasty storm is realistically the most affordable option. Space and the funds needed for someone, or multiple people, to survive underground for a long term event just doesn’t seem like a plausible idea in my mind. Bunkers can be a great investment for you and your family but take your time and conduct the proper research. Because there is more to them just digging a hole in the ground and shutting the hatch.

If you want to learn more how to put together a backyard bunker, view this presentation.

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.