Is a Storage Unit a Viable Survival Cache?

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Is a storage unit a viable survival cache?For quite some time now, caches have been rather popular amongst the prepper/survivalist crowd. Most commonly, this involves filling a large diameter PVC tube with gear and supplies, sealing it up, then burying it. Often, these caches are hidden somewhere along a bug out route, thus allowing for resupply during the journey.

One major problem, though, is finding an appropriate location for the cache. To avoid any legal issues, it should always be placed on land you own or that is publicly owned. Several times I’ve heard a recommendation of using cemeteries for cache locations. This is an extremely bad idea. Think about it. Just as you get the hole dug, along comes Officer Friendly, who is very curious to hear your reasoning for being in the cemetery in the middle of the night with a shovel.

Another issue with this type of DIY cache is inaccessibility for rotation and inspection. Remember, these PVC tubes are generally meant to be buried. The idea is to fill them with supplies that will last quite a long time. You’re not going to be digging these up every six months to rotate out canned goods and such. Once buried, it is there to stay until you truly need it. That’s usually how caches work. Because of this, most people don’t store their “good” stuff in a cache.

Might a storage unit survival cache be a viable option?

One option worth considering is to utilize a storage unit as a cache location. Once, these self-storage facilities were most often found in the seedier parts of the city but today they are everywhere. Here in the upper Midwest, I find them out in the sticks as well as in urban areas. There are usually different size units available, from the size of a closet to as big as a two-car garage. For our survival cache purposes, the smallest will usually suffice.

Quite often you’ll find these facilities are climate controlled, so you don’t have to worry about your stuff freezing or going bad in the heat of summer. While there is a cost involved, these units could serve a dual purpose. Not only could you stash some emergency gear there, you could clean out some of the clutter in your home and store it here as well. You know, the stuff you don’t really need on hand but you don’t want to throw away – kids memorabilia, household goods you’re saving for your child’s first apartment, old clothes that you keep promising to yourself you’re going to fit into again.

I’d be willing to bet that if you examined your bug out routes, you’ll find at least one or two of these storage unit businesses along the way. Look for one that is at the outskirts of town or, even better, out in the country. If you can find one that is family owned and operated, you might have a bit of room to haggle on the price, especially if you’re willing and able to pay for several months in advance.

The bonus with one of these storage units is you might be able to use it as an impromptu shelter as you’re bugging out. Not just a resupply point but a place where you can hunker down for a day to catch your breath and plan your next move.

While I would fully expect these places to get looted eventually, should the disaster go on long enough, I think it would take weeks before that starts to happen. There are just too many more appealing targets, such as supermarkets, drug stores, big box retailers, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants. My guess is that people will flock to those before making it to the storage businesses.

As with anything else related to survival and disaster planning, you need to take into account your own individual circumstances and determine whether this option would work for you. If it does, great! If not, just keep researching the different options available until you find the perfect fit.

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Jim Cobb is a disaster preparedness consultant and author. His books include Prepper's Home Defense, The Prepper's Complete Book of Disaster Readiness, and Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide.

5 thoughts on “Is a Storage Unit a Viable Survival Cache?”

  1. I would like to know more about pvc pipe caches. Would like to know how to prepare and store supplies so they would be safe from critters and from damp. I think this method would be good to keep emergency supplies in the event of break in and robbery. No one else would know where they were if camoflaged well.

  2. many storage units in larger cities are enclosed within buildings, with key pad codes needed to gain access. Around where I live the actual units are outside, so no climate control there, and they are surrounded by 8 foot fencing with key code pads to get in the front gate. With either type of facility you need to take a lack of electricity into account, which I think would be typical in a bug out scenario. For example, if I stored stuff in a unit at the facility a block from my house, I would need to cut through the fence then break into my unit. Unless we are in a permanent apocalypse with all laws and rules out the window, I’m eventually gonna have to answer for that.

  3. Secure units have electronic locks controlled by the facility’s computers, relying on electricity. Frequently the resident “owners” are actually paid caretakers who may be long gone (along with the access codes) when you arrive. You might not even be ABLE to break in if the gates and door are secure enough – if there are elevators they may not be functioning. They have many restrictions as to what may NOT be stored (fuels, ammo, other flammables) – precisely what you might need the most when you are on the run.

    Open exterior units are extremely vulnerable to break-ins and thieves, as well as not climate controlled – in the north that means subzero temperatures in the winter, with rusting a high risk.

    I’d not rely on a storage unit for anything I’d need urgently.

  4. I have been a Resident Manager of a self storage facility for 9 years. I am bugging in. If people decide to store their preps at a SSF they should become “friends” with the managers that live there. Some SSF’s do not have Resident Managers. We here in Frederick have had several preppers rent units here. They are all welcome. But I jokingly told them that they only have 30 days to get here. After that it’s mine. I have a few tenants that I have invited to come to my location if the SHTF because they will be able to contribute resources that will be vital to our survival. I can shut the elevators down. I can open and close the gates manually. What I would need are watchmen to keep an eye on the emergency exits and stand guard on the roof of a four story building. I have spread the word through my tenants and I think some of them are coming around.Just be careful how you broach the subject with the managers. They may not be like minded.

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