I doubt there is a prepper topic more popular than “bugging out”. Search the term on Google and you’ll end up with nearly 2 million results! Add “bug out bags“, “bug out vehicle” and “bug out location” to the mix and you’ll be overwhelmed with information — reading material for a lifetime.
It’s relatively simple to come up with items for a bug out bag and a bug out vehicle could be an old Ford pick up truck you pick up for a couple thousand dollars. The priciest bug out item, by far, is a bug out location, that is, if you want something more secure and sturdy than a tent or a lean-to.
This is where a “tiny house” might fit in with your plans for bugging out.
When I first heard of tiny houses, I knew it wasn’t for me. Not so much because of the small size but because those espousing the beauty of tiny houses were hipsters, cool singles with no messy kids or the need for a home office. Yes, they looked mighty cool sitting on their tiny porch in front of their tiny house, but as any mom will tell you, put 4 or 5 people in 200 square feet for more than an hour or two, and someone won’t be walking out alive.
I couldn’t get the idea of a tiny house out of my head, though. I even started following a couple of tiny house Pinterest boards and was intrigued enough to check out a few online floor plans — and that’s when it hit me. A tiny house could be the perfect answer for the biggest bugging out dilemma of all, and that is, “Where do we bug out to?”
What the heck is a tiny house?
In order to be considered an official “tiny house”, a dwelling should be less than 400 square feet. Considering that the average master bedroom in a typical home runs right around 300 square feet, a tiny house is stinkin’ tiny!
Only about 1% of all real estate transactions involve tiny homes, so it’s not like this is a huge and growing trend. Rather, it’s a housing option that fills specific needs for certain people.
Advantages of a tiny house
For the purpose as a bug out location, a tiny house has many advantages. In fact, I’ve almost convinced my husband to buy a few acres and begin building a tiny house on it — first, one for us and then one for each of our kids!
Tiny houses are an affordable option because fewer square feet obviously requires less expense for building materials and labor. Now, some of these tiny houses are virtual works of art made of expensive woods, with beautiful, intricate detail work, but a bug out location only needs to be secure and sturdy. The smaller size also allows for a quick build, and no need for advanced construction skills. In fact, this college student built his own tiny house in response to his frustration to high college housing costs.
As a very small shelter, not a whole lot of land is needed. Even on a rather small lot, say 1/2 an acre, a tiny house leaves a good deal of land available for a very large garden, chickens, beehives, and an outbuilding or a second tiny house. Half an acre is very budget-friendly in a world of survival experts who recommend many times more than that.
In fact, with the money saved, maybe you can afford more easily to buy a tract of land in a prime location or spend the money saved on fencing, which is quite expensive, or farming equipment, or a second tiny home right next door!
TIP: For the most realistic piece of information I’ve ever read on the realities of rural living and that enormous bug out piece of property touted by the survival experts, read this ebook by my friend, Patrice Lewis. It’s worth every penny of its $1.99 price tag.
Once you’ve built your first tiny home, it will be easier to build a second, and then a third. Why might you want multiple tiny houses?
- A bug out location for your grown children and grandkids
- A separate home office
- Use as a guest house
- Homeschool classroom
In fact, a large family (or survival) group could easily build a survival community without the need for a large amount of land. Having close relatives and friends nearby is a huge advantage. If we ever do build our own tiny house, you can bet that we have 2 more planned — one for each kid!
A few more advantages to consider:
- Blueprints can be found online. Some are free, others are fairly inexpensive.
- Tiny house designs are well-planned and make good use of every square foot.
- It’s likely you’ll be able to build your tiny house using cash — no need for a loan or mortgage.
- A tiny house could come in handy for families in danger of losing their home. 400 square feet is way better than a homeless shelter or living out of your car.
- Some building materials can be found for free or are very inexpensive. Check to see if a Habitat for Humanity ReStore is located near you.
- A well-insulated tiny house will be inexpensive and easy to keep warm or cool.
- A tiny house would be easy to conceal in a wooded area.
- These can be built indoors (a large garage, outbuilding, or even a storage unit), completely or in part, and then transported to your property.
- Each house can be upgraded over time and as needed, with a porch, an additional room, improved fixtures, etc.
- Depending on where the tiny house is located, you can utilize the outdoors for laundry, cooking, and entertainment. Build a patio, add a barbecue, a fire pit, etc.!
- Far less maintenance, easy to keep clean as long as you resist the urge to keep only the items you absolutely need. Less time spent cleaning means more time available for all kinds of homesteading activities, online work, developing a home based business, etc.
- Once built and situated on land, your tiny house becomes an inexpensive getaway on weekends and vacations.
It’s not the answer for everyone
This past summer, my family spent a week in a tiny house. At just around 500 square feet, it was plenty tiny for 2 adults and 2 adult-sized teenagers! We were fortunate that it overlooked a beautiful, lonely beach, but we were actually in the house only to sleep, cook, and to use the shower/toilet.
We spent hours outside on the small porch or down at the beach. I felt that the very small single room that housed a kitchen sink, tiny oven, tiny refrigerator, and virtually no counter space was designed for preparing only a quick meal like a sandwich or to heat up some soup. The fire pit outside was far more practical for cooking something in a cast iron pot.
This tiny beach house had a few windows but, overall, the house was dark and even during the day we needed to use the overhead light. This particular house had no storage at all, other than a single shelf above the toilet and one small cabinet in the kitchen. For sure, much better use could have been made of the space available.
Fortunately for us, the weather was beautiful and there was no need to stay cooped up inside the tiny house all day and night. That would not be true in colder weather or in parts of the country that experience a lot of rain and snow. In that case, I’m not so sure our family would have been on speaking terms after a week!
A tiny house may be perfect for one person, perhaps two, but humans need some privacy, some alone time, and that’s hard to come by in a couple hundred square feet. One woman wrote about staying in a cute tiny house with her mother and pointed out that when it came time to use the restroom, the entire tiny house was the restroom!
There’s also the consideration for a few basics of living:
- Cooking — What type of stove/oven will you use and how will it be powered?
- Sanitation — Planning to use an outhouse or outdoor shower is all fine and good when the weather cooperates, but what about at night? During the winter?
- Adding babies, toddlers, young kids to the mix can turn a much larger home with every creature comfort into total chaos. Imagine what it could do to 200 square feet!
- How will pets fit into your tiny house plans? In extreme weather conditions, how will your farm animals survive?
- Security issues — Tiny houses have been known to be stolen! Yes, the entire house! Consider how you will keep that from happening and the steps you’ll take to make your home and property as secure as possible.
- Noise! — If you’re alone, you won’t have to listen to the chatter of other people but add just one more person and some bad weather, and not being able to have silence might drive you nuts.
- Most tiny house designs have just a single room with no separate spaces designated for sleeping, eating, studying, etc. This makes it difficult to stay organized.
And then, there is the ever-present government, at various levels, with zoning regulations and building codes. Even on your own land, you may not be allowed to park, or build, your tiny house.
You may very well love the concept of a tiny house as a bug out location or for something more permanent, but make sure you and everyone in the family has realistic expectations.
A few design tips for your tiny house
Lack of privacy is a concern, so consider adding a room divider and a tiny, separated toilet/shower area.
Counter tops that are hinged to the wall can be lowered when a workspace is needed and than raised back up to create more floor space.
Be creative with furnishings and choose those that provide storage space. Have strict rules about adding more stuff. When your home is 300 square feet, it won’t take much to turn a tiny house into a hoarder’s paradise.
A tiny house doesn’t necessarily need a foundation unless you plan on keeping it one spot permanently. Many tiny house owners keep their homes on a trailer with wheels, ready to move it somewhere else when the mood strikes. In fact, for some, a tiny house on wheels has become their alternative to an RV.
For energy, add solar panels, use propane tanks, or possibly connect the house’s small electric system to a windmill or even a generator powered by natural gas. More importantly, plan on living a lifestyle that requires little or no reliance on electricity, especially the power grid.
A composting toilet and an outside well will provide your tiny house with the basics for sanitation. It won’t make for an easy lifestyle but for a bug out location, especially in the midst of a major crisis, hauling in a few gallons of water per day will seem like a small inconvenience.
Continue to apply common sense. Have one or two fire extinguishers in the tiny house and ask your insurance agent about coverage for the contents of your house. The house itself is unlikely to qualify for coverage, but that could depend on your insurance company and state regulations.
So, could a tiny house be the answer to your bug out dilemma?
A tiny house will provide an inexpensive shelter, far more secure than a tent. It can be built inexpensively, placed just about anywhere, and is portable, depending on its size.
Compared with the far less practical bug out location recommended on most all survival sites, this is one you can actually afford to build, own, and maintain. A tiny house isn’t the answer for everyone, but for some, it will be a perfect fit.
VIDEO: A few more thoughts…
More resources for you
- Emergency Evacuations – My newest book! A bug out location is only one part of a good plan.
- The Big Tiny: A Built-It Myself Memoir by Dee Williams
- Tiny House Living by Ryan Mitchell
- Tiny Texas Houses — A good website for overall information.
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