HomePosts Tagged "Shelter"

A frequent topic in Preparedness and Survival circles is the subject of Bugging Out and more specifically the question of whether you plan to Bug Out or will you Hunker Down. This simple question easily elicits all manner of responses and you will rarely find consensus on which is the better option. The only good thing about this question is there are only two options and one of those has to be the correct one in someone’s eyes. A 50/50 shot of getting this right isn’t too shabby if you are looking at odds, but there will be those who maintain an absolute position on one option or the other.

To Bug out or not bug out, like most questions that we must ask ourselves as we prepare for emergencies is an individual question and there is no universal wrong or right. This question is probably only second in notoriety to “What caliber is the best defensive round”.

If you can imagine going into a big underground bunker full of Preppers who are getting ready for the next Emergency and shouting that question; you will get as many answers as you have people. In reality, there are only a few common calibers but each person will have their own reason, preference, or bias toward one and they will tell you in a very matter of fact tone, their choice and more importantly why you should take their word as the Gospel. Actually, it is probably simpler but just as much fun to pose this question in a survival forum and watch the sparks fly.

The factors that drive each person to reach their own personal decision are too numerous really to discuss in detail, but I will attempt to add my own opinionated two cents to the (already well covered, I know) argument and in doing so, completely invalidate everything I just said above. The reason is that I believe there is only one real answer to this question in almost any situation and my way is the right way. Most of the time.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, you may be asking “What the heck is he talking about?” so a quick definition is called for here. “Bugging Out” is the act of packing up your supplies and leaving home to go to another location. This may or may not coincide with the belief that you will never come back. A common example of Bugging Out is people who are forced to leave town due to a natural disaster like flooding or a Hurricane. They pack up their cars and get out of dodge. This is one of the reasons FEMA and other places recommend having a Bugout Bag or BOB with supplies that will keep you alive for 72 hours so that you can leave at a moment’s notice.



Bugging In or Hunkering Down is the complete opposite of Bugging Out. When you Bug-In you are staying put in your home with your supplies intending to ride out the storm of chaos that is coming. Thus the question is asked in preparedness circles usually in the context of political, biological, or terrorist types of chaos: “Will you Bug out or Hunker down?”

To answer this for yourself, you have to ask several questions to determine which is the better option for you in your circumstance. The questions are pretty basic and revolve around:

  • Your Situation – What pushes your button internally that says “We have to leave”?
  • Your Location – This can apply to both where you are and where you plan to go
  • Your Health – Are you physically able to leave and possibly walk the distance
  • Your Dependents – small children or old relatives. Pets?
  • The Threat – What is the threat we are planning to leave for?
  • Your Destination – Where is the place you are going to?


Your Situation – can greatly affect the decision to Bug-Out or not and you have to decide when you will actually make the choice to go. If you are planning for an economic collapse, what events will trigger you to leave home and head somewhere else? How bad would things need to get before you made that call? What if you are away from home? In that case, you will be more concerned with getting home. What will your family do until you arrive? Is it the middle of winter and there is 2 feet of snow on the ground? Do you have a means of defending yourself and your family?

Your Health – Are you physically able to get up and strap a backpack to your back, walk out the door and never come back? Would you be able to run if needed? Do you require medication that must be refrigerated or taken daily? In some cases you simply won’t have a choice, you will need to Bug-In and plan accordingly.

Your Dependents – Do you have smaller children who may not be able to travel long distances. Are your children still in diapers or do they have special needs? Even healthy children below the age of 10 would have a tough time coping with a Bug-Out situation if the event lasted a long time and there was no stability. Are you pregnant? Do you have pets that you would never leave in a million years or that you would not be able to transport?

Your location – Are you located in a major city or a rural area with miles around you and nothing to look at. Do you live in a place that would allow you to live if the grid came crashing down tomorrow? I am not discussing whether or not it would be difficult, but could you plant a garden, or do you live in a high-rise apartment in Chicago? Would you possibly need to walk with millions of other people out of the city? If this is the case, where would you go?

The threat – This one may be the easiest to answer but you will most likely have more than one answer given the specific threat. If we are talking about a flood or natural disaster and you have plenty of notice you may decide to leave. If we are talking about a viral outbreak or Mutant Zombie Bikers from Mars you may decide to stay. Has your city descended into chaos with riots and fires and mobs of people looting?

Your destination – Where are you heading? Do you have a place to go with a survival kit filled with supplies to last you? If the threat is a natural disaster like a hurricane and you have time, you can probably go stay with relatives for a few days. This may be one of the first things you should think of. Will you pack up the family, load down the car, and hit the highway? Where will you go? For me, I think this was the first factor I built all of my other choices off of. I do not live on a retreat in Idaho with 50 acres of land and an underground bunker complete with livestock and solar power. I do live near a large pond in a relatively small city with enough land to have a garden that would feed my family. I don’t have any retreat property (yet) so I don’t know where I would go. I would not go driving off into the sunset to try and live off the land unless I was desperate. This may be the circumstance that you are facing too and when the time comes you have to decide.



One factor I really like about the Preparedness and Survival community is the wealth of knowledge and experience we have out there. Just like me, everyone has an opinion. Some are based upon experience and others have made decisions after much reflection. Regardless of the experience, one has you have to ask yourself questions when making a decision like this as it could affect everything you have and/or love. No expert can tell you what will work best for you and your family in your situation.

Taking all of the criteria above into consideration, I think for the average person with no place to go Bugging in is the best option. You will not be able to walk into the forest, killdeer, and squirrels and live like a boss. That simply isn’t happening for the “average” person. For one thing, you won’t be alone. There could be millions of others with you too.

I have thought long and hard on this question and I know that if circumstances in my life were different I would most likely have a different answer. As it stands now, my vote is for Bugging In. I have all of my supplies here and we live in a relatively rural area. I am not naïve to believe that we would be insulated from the chaos but I think we would have a better chance here with some shelter as opposed to walking in the woods sleeping under a tarp. As much as I like camping, a home is a better place to defend.

Could that change tomorrow? Sure it could. I am constantly evaluating my situation and when things change, my plans change. Who knows, I might update this site before it’s all said and done with one last message.

“So long folks! I am outta here.”

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A frequent topic in Preparedness and Survival circles is the subject of Bugging Out and more specifically the question of whether you plan to Bug Out or will you Hunker

The majority of Preppers are well equipped in survival skills, including finding food, keeping warm and making temporary shelters, but how many of you are prepared for a total life-long power cut? Would your home stand up to being totally cut off from the grid?

This is where survival retreats come in. Many people choose to have an emergency shelter to prepare for a SHTF scenario, others just want a back-up place to go in case they lose their primary residence, or perhaps some just want to get off the grid and be less visible.

Preparing such a location, is a great way to ensure your safety should you ever need somewhere to escape to. But regardless of that, even if you don’t end up using it as a retreat, it can have many different purposes – to store your personal survival cache, or even just a great place to meet up with family and friends.

Whatever your reason for wanting an emergency shelter –there are so many different options, from

shipping container homes, homes made from trailers and old school buses, to log cabins.

Many Preppers already have an off-grid shelter prepared just in case of an emergency, and one of the cheapest and most natural ways to do this is to build a log cabin. To build a cabin from scratch is going to take you months, possibly years. But there is a way to get around that time-frame if you don’t have that much time to dedicate to a build.

You can build an emergency prepper shelter in just a couple of days if you choose to buy a log cabin kit. The main purpose of your log cabin is literally just for shelter and warmth, so you don’t need to build anything fancy. You can get an extremely basic one, which will be perfect to live off-grid in for as little as $20,000.

Building your own cabin can be an extremely rewarding process, and will provide you with your own place to get away from it all, soak up the natural world and practice your survival skills, but this is a serious undertaking and you need to do your research properly. So, how do you know which cabin kit is right for you, and which suppliers to trust with your build?

There are four main steps to buying a survival kit; understanding kits and what you should know before buying, how to choose a supplier, what’s included in your package and the total cost. I’m going to share over 30 years of experience with you to help you get the best deal.

Step One: Understanding Kits

There are so many different kits available, it’s difficult to know which one to choose but really, it’s just a matter of personal preference.

The first choice you’ll need to make is whether you want milled or bespoke logs. Milled logs are those that are all identical and uniform in shape because they have been machine processed. Bespoke logs are hand peeled which preserves all the natural characteristics of the logs. Bespoke log kits are rightly so, more expensive than milled.

Once you’ve chosen the finish type, you’ll need to choose the lumber and profile of the log. The four-main species of trees used for log cabins are pine, cedar, spruce and cypress. The most common is pine because it’s so readily available. Cedar is also very popular but comes at a premium price.

The next step is to choose how the corners of your kit will join. The traditional round logged cabin is joined using a Scandinavian Saddle Notch, other common joins include the dovetail notch, butt and pass, tongue and groove and corner post.

The log profile is how the log is finished; round logs, half-logs, square logs and D-logs. D-logs, with a tongue and groove join are the most popular, because they are so easy to slot together.

You’ll also have the choice between air-dried and kiln dried logs. It’s important that the logs are dried to prevent warping and bowing, kiln dried logs are more expensive due to the energy intensive process they go through. Whichever you choose, the logs should have around a 10% moisture content before building.

Step Two: Choosing a Supplier

With over 300 suppliers to choose from across the US, how can you be sure you’re choosing a reputable and professional company to buy your kit from?

There are a few ways to tell if a company is reputable, and therefore offering quality kits. The first is to look at whether they are a member of the Log and Timber Homes Council, or another association which requires the supplier to meet certain standards.

Once you’ve found out if they’re registered, ask if you can visit the factory where the kits are made and if possible, visit a model home. You’ll get a good feel as to whether the people building your cabin are real craftsmen or just technicians. You can also ask to talk to previous customers to hear their experiences and reviews.

Additionally, to these standard checks, other things to keep an eye out for are whether the logs and blueprints are graded and stamped. Whilst this is sometimes included in the price of a regular kit, with other companies it can come as an extra, but ensuring plans and logs are stamped and graded gives you assurance that the materials and plans are quality.

You should also ask whether the company offer an installation service, and on-site assistance if you require it. You may have no intention of taking them up on this service, but the very fact that the offer it shows they are confident in the level of quality of the product they are offering.

The last thing to consider is the warranty. Any decent company will offer you a minimum of 10-year warranty.

Step Three: Kit Contents

Kits normally come in three different stages of completion; shell only, dry-in package and turn-key packages. The kit you opt for will most likely depend on how much you want to pay, and the completion of package you want.

A shell only package, also known as the log wall system, comes with all the logs and beams that you’ll need to construct the basic shell of a cabin. You’ll have to source the windows, doors, possibly the roof and all exterior and interior finishes.

The dry-in package usually provides you with all the materials you need to create an air-tight log cabin, including all the logs, windows, doors, floors and roof, as well as all the exterior finishes.

A turn-key package will provide you with everything you need to complete you cabin, including interior finishes. This option provides you with everything you need for the cabin to be ready to use straight away.

Depending on which kit you opt for, you’ll receive some of, or all the components you need to build a log cabin shelter.

Step Four: Total Cost

The most important cost you need to look at is the turn-key cost. This is the complete cost of the cabin including the logs, roof, floor, windows doors, interior fittings and labor cost.

The shell package will cost you in between $50-80 per square foot, the dry-in package around $70-$130 per square foot, and a turn-key package in between $130-$180 per square foot.

You should compare like-for-like packages in cost, there is no use comparing a shell price from one company to a turn-key price with another. Figure out what the additional costs will be for the shell package before making a comparison.

One thing to keep in mind with any package is this will not be the total cost of your survival cabin. The golden ratio to use is 1:2. So if the kit costs $20,000, you can expect your final cost to be closer to $40,000 if you intend to carry out all the work yourself. If you employ someone to build the cabin for you, use a 1:3 ratio.

Is a Log Cabin Kit Right for Your Emergency Shelter?

Having an emergency shelter is a wise idea, if the day comes that for some reason your main place of residence is no longer a viable place to be.

In the mean-time, it doesn’t have to go to waste – it can have multiple uses such as somewhere just to go a hangout on the weekends with friends, or a place to store all your survival supplies.

A kit might work well for you if you really want an emergency shelter, but don’t have months or years to spend building a log cabin. All the difficult work is taken out of the build, and it is delivered straight to you ready to assemble. The assembly of a kit can be done in just two or three days with a handful of people.

The majority of Preppers are well equipped in survival skills, including finding food, keeping warm and making temporary shelters, but how many of you are prepared for a total life-long power cut? Would

Caching Supplies

There are numerous articles dealing with the caching of supplies on this and other Prepper sites. Within the context of abandoned mines, my principal suggestion is to evaluate caching locations that are not in the immediate vicinity of the mine workings. The simple reason as that recreationists visit abandoned mines and there is no point in setting a cache that can be discovered by people wandering around the site.

By most definitions, abandoned mines are located in and surrounded by rugged terrain. That gives you virtually limitless ways to conceal a cache that no one will ever find. Take your time. Plan the cache with an eye toward a secure location. One suggestion would be to set the cache some distance beyond the primary point of interest. Most casual visitors are only interested in seeing and photographing a historic mine site; then they are on their way. Mines that are more distant from well traveled 2-tracks, or that are not visible will be less frequently visited.

Planning Considerations

Out of 400 nearby mines, there are twelve sites on my preferred-use list if circumstances require that I abandon my home. A far greater number are ‘workable,’ but not desirable. Even where the use of 4WD is necessary, I can reach any of these twelve locations without consuming more than a quarter-tank of gas. Some are more difficult to reach than others. Some offer superior defensive advantages. Some are more suitable for long term occupation than others. Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to use any of these sites should the situation require it.

It is my choice to stockpile fuel reserves on my property, rather than near the mine site. Simply stated, they are all viable and I cannot predict which of these dozen sites I would want to use in a SHTF situation. I’m fortunate because I have a multitude of choices, but it is impractical for me to preposition fuel and other supplies at or near that many sites. Your options may be better or poorer than mine.

Here are some suggestions that you should factor into your planning:

  1. It is reasonable to assume that you will not be the only one to discover a prospective mine site retreat. You should, therefore, assess several sites.
  2. He who controls the high ground controls the land, especially in a SHTF situation. If the first to arrive is not you, then you will need an alternate location that is still within your driving range.
  3. The drive distance from your home to an abandoned mine may be considerably greater than mine, and the difficulty in reaching your site may be compounded by circumstances that are entirely unpredictable. Effective resource planning dictates that you include considerations for fuel and other basic needs along the way, not just at your chosen destination.
  4. A secure retreat does not necessarily require extensive space. Mine adits may be only a few feet wide, but can still provide hundreds of linear feet of usable area for a group.
  5. Planning factors for situating a camp site within an adit should consider the availability of light. Mines interiors are dark places.
    1. You want to be able to utilize as much ambient light as possible during daytime hours. Thus, an east or west facing adit will maximize the availability of light. South facing adits may be favorable during winter periods.
    2. You will want to be forward toward the entrance during daylight hours.
    3. Regardless of the time of day, cooking and warming fires should be set as far back from the entrance as is practical.


This adit is entirely unusable. A lower level stope has penetrated the adit floor from below and ore car tracks obstruct any possible use of the floor. Discussion of other characteristics are irrelevant.

The thought here is that you need to evaluate the availability of morning and afternoon light, the direction and flow of air in the adit, as well as the structural space where fires might be best located.

  1. Adits that have no air flow will require that your fires be located at, or outside of, the entrance. Depending on the terrain, you may still be able to use these sites. (More on that subject in the section that follows.) An example would be an adit that is situated near a wash, but that is surrounded by steep terrain.
  2. Campfire resources are generally abundant in the mountainous regions of the western U.S. Whether the fuel source is pine at higher elevations, creosote or mesquite at lower elevations, you should be able to locate fuel sources within a short distance of the adit. This has several practical applications. Foremost, it allows you to conserve your use of propane or other gas canisters.  Second, the adit enables you to collect and store a significant volume of fuel that can be kept dry and hidden from view. Regardless of your resources, plan to keep your fires as small and concealed as possible. Avoid wood that generates a lot of smoke. If you are not familiar with fuel resources in the area, you may have to experiment.
  3. Determine a safe way to dispose of ash and residue from cooking and warming fires. Do not plan to use an interior shaft for disposal. Shafts, winzes and stopes often contain very significant amounts of timber, and careless disposal of coals and embers can ignite a fire that could burn for weeks. Remember, ventilated mines will have a constant (and sometimes substantial) flow of air, and fire loves oxygen. Visualize a brilliant cone of flame erupting from a shaft and a column of smoke that is visible from great distance. I guarantee you this will get the attention of any functioning government in your area.
  4. Expect that your source of water will be some distance from the adit. Supplying your daily water needs will likely require transporting containers on a daily basis, either on foot or by use of a vehicle, between the source and the camp. Obviously, large groups consume more water, thereby increasing the frequency and/or volume needed for resupply. Anticipate your need for water based upon the group size, as well as the risk of exposure while you are replenishing your needs.
  5. Frequent resupply trips will increase your exposure. What if an unknown group suddenly sets camp next to the source? Can you wait them out?
  6. Anticipate that all sources of water will require some from of treatment to kill or remove harmful organisms.
  7. Even short term occupation of a mine adit requires that you consider the need for sanitation. You will need to provide some means of accommodating and disposing of human waste. A shaft or winze may be a tempting place and convenient place to dump bagged waste, but avoid it if at all possible. Bury your waste away from the adit. In any case, will want to have a portable potty somewhere in your camp. Enough said.
  8. As the accompanying photos show, most adits will have moderate to extensive debris in the form of dirt, rocks, trash and (possibly) timbers inside the passage. If you plan to occupy your chosen site for any length of time, you should plan to clean out the area where you will set camp. Constant back and forth movement will kick up dust and other irritants that will settle on your sleeping and cooking areas. In any case, a clean camp is good for morale. You will probably have the option of deciding where you want to move dirt and debris; that is, outside the entrance or farther back in the adit. It’s your choice. Prevailing air flow (inward or outward) may help that decision. If there is an interior winze or shaft, I would opt for dumping it to a lower level. The obvious reason is that it reduces your outside activity and minimizes the risk of detection. Resist any temptation to clean out the entrance of an adit once you have selected it, but before it becomes necessary to occupy it. Leave it in its original state. There is no point in making ‘your’ adit more attractive and easier to occupy by someone else. Don’t forget to bring a broom.


This photo illustrates another adit that is unsafe to enter. Note the collapsed post and cave in. The structural integrity of this mine is zero.

Locating and Evaluating a Mine Adit Site

There are several factors for determining whether any mine site is suitable for your needs. I have compartmentalized them into a series of S’s, followed by bullet notations.   These lists are by no means comprehensive. They represent my best effort for a geographic environment that I am most familiar with. Hopefully, they will be useful and inspire you to consider issues that are unique to the locale that you would consider.

Evaluating Seclusion

  1. Remote, secluded mines are less likely to be visited.
  2. The less well known they are, the less likely that someone will view them as desirable SHTF retreats.
  3. Mine sites that are unnamed on geological survey maps are generally preferable to named mines that were historically significant.
  4. Other, more secluded mine workings will be located near sites that are shown on maps. Many prospect adits are not recorded on current or older versions of maps.
  5. Mine sites that are protected (by favorable terrain features) from long distance surveillance are desirable.   In other words, your candidate site may not be visible at close range due to ground slope or intervening vegetation, but can be seen from two or three miles away at a high point, such as a mountain pass.
  6. A corollary to the above statement is that elevated mine sites may be detectable from some distance, but the trail leading to them may not be obvious at the viewer’s angle and distance. The point is that as long as there is no easily discernible way to reach an abandoned mine site, the risk of compromise may remain low. You must evaluate these potential exposures.
  7. Mine sites that are situated low on hillsides, or that are surrounded by steep, unapproachable ground can offer ideal seclusion, but may provide little advance warning of an approaching vehicle or group.
  8. In desert areas, concealment is easier to achieve where mines are located near washes. The simple reason is that they can support large stands of dense brush and trees.

This photo illustrates how an adit cans be used for camping. Note that the adit is not particularly wide and the ceiling is of moderate height. You can more through the area without crouching.

Evaluating Security

  1. Do not rely on the mine adit as your sole defense point.
  2. Set surveillance LP/OP points that maximize your awareness of approaching vehicles or groups.
  3. Select a site that is defensible. Evaluate and select defensive positions that can be reached day or night.
  4. If you cannot maintain around the clock surveillance, make the approach to your site as difficult as possible.
  5. If you have the means, utilize motion detection and/or noise producing trip-wire devices on trails leading to the adit.
  6. Utilize two-way radios for communication between the adit LP/OP sites and other outlying security points, but avoid standard GMRS/FRS frequencies that are available on common walkie-talkies.       Use the minimum wattage needed to maintain reliable communication. Programmable dual band (VHF/UHF) radios are available at a modest cost and feature selectable power output and switchable antennas. Equipment of this type enables you to have your own SHTF frequencies.
  7. When using radios, do not give specific geographic references that would help someone locate your site.
  8. Minimize outside activity.
  9. In the Southwest, 2-track roads and trails are frequently forced to use long stretches of dry washes. These serve to confine approaching vehicles.
  10. Empty food cans that are suspended on a line can be used as a type of trip wire warning system.  This may be a useful tool that alerts you to approaching foot traffic. Be innovative and put resources to their best use, even if you would ordinarily think of it as trash.
  11. An important factor that bears on site security is having a place to conceal your vehicles. You will want them nearby and visible to you, but not to others. Anything you can do that breaks up the profile and that masks color and reflective components is useful. The solution may require one or more of the following options:
    1. Cover the entire vehicle with dark blankets, topped off with camouflage netting or parachute material.
    2. Park next to or behind an existing structure, such as the wall of a building.
    3. Clear an area in thick brush that is large enough to park.

Frankly, it is advisable to use option ‘a’ plus whatever other means are at your disposal. Shiny reflective surfaces, such as chrome bumpers, wheels and windshields can reveal the vehicle’s location, even at night. Your objective is to be a hole in the dark.

Evaluating Sustainability

  1. No site, regardless how physically secure it may be, can fulfill your needs without water and food.
  2. Sources of water that I have found near mine sites include:
    1. Springs
    2. Surface streams
    3. Livestock water tanks (earthen water catchments) that are seasonal
    4. Shallow wells at the mine site (frequently with a rock or concrete collar)
    5. Working windmills that provide continuous flow to a metal tank or cistern
    6. Wildlife water catchments, sometimes referred to as “guzzlers,” may have been established by the BLM or a state Game and Fish agency in some areas near mines. Some will be marked on geological survey maps if they predate publication.
  3. Hunting can supplement your food stocks, but wild game can be rapidly depleted. Sustained human activity in any area will cause game to disperse.
  4. As you evaluate various mine sites and the natural resources that are locally available, you will inevitably be forced to determine two vital facts:
    1. What size group is needed to provide essential security, food and water gathering, and camp maintenance? Will the necessary sustaining activities at this location require more people than you can muster?
    2. What size group will the adit and local resources support? Will the adit accommodate 20 people, yet locally available water is only sufficient to sustain half that number?

These are tough questions, but they must be answered with absolute objectivity.

Evaluating Safety

  1. Adits that are at or very near the margins of a wash may be subject to episodic flooding. The presence of silt on the mine floor will confirm whether flooding has occurred in the past.
  2. Determine if there is plant debris high up in trees or brush near the adit entrance. This will provide a good indication of the high water mark from the most recent storm.
  3. Narrow washes that pass through steep terrain can experience catastrophic flows, particularly during monsoonal storms in the Southwest. I have found high water marks that were 10 feet or more above the top of an adit.
  4. Mine entrances that have the appearance of partial collapse are inherently unsafe and will be beyond your ability to repair.
  5. Before entering the adit, examine the area above the entrance. Is there loose material that could fall onto the mine opening?
  6. Assessing the safety of an adit will require that you illuminate and thoroughly examine the entire interior structure.
    1. Use high lumen flashlights and a continuous ‘look-ahead’ method so that you are constantly aware of what is in front of you.
    2. Begin your evaluation by determining if there is any wildlife present.
    3. Next, study the floor to identify open winzes, shafts or stopes that penetrate the adit floor.
    4. Determine if the floor is wet.
    5. Repeat this process by thoroughly examining the ceiling of the adit. Identify any raises that lead to an upper level. Assess the character of the rock. Is it highly fractured? Are there large sagging boulders extending downward from the ceiling?
    6. Evaluate all timber structures (posts and caps) in the interior. Wet or collapsed timbers should be viewed as an indicator of risk.
  7. The absence of posts and caps in an adit is an indicator of the stability of the country rock. Adits that have many posts and caps, or that are covered with a roof of planking suggest a high degree of overhead sloughing.

Concluding Thoughts

Over the course of 30+ years of exploration, I have lost count of the number of mines that I’ve entered. I have also lost count of the number that I refused to enter for safety reasons. The notion of entering an abandoned mine – much less living in one for a period of time – may be intimidating to many people. They are dark and mysterious places where unseen dangers (real or imagined) may lurk. It is unfamiliar ground to the vast majority of people. Nevertheless, the contemplation of extreme events, particularly if they threaten your survival, can challenge you to examine options that you would not ordinarily consider.

As a Prepper, you contemplate potential risks and choose to deal with them in a proactive manner. You understand that mere reaction is often inadequate and that it is never preventative.

Hopefully, this article series has provided you with information and tools that you had not previously thought about. I cannot say that using an adit will work for you, but this primmer can get you started on a safety-based course of study and evaluation that can give you the answers you seek.

I welcome in your observations and questions on this topic. Drop me a note any time.

Caching Supplies There are numerous articles dealing with the caching of supplies on this and other Prepper sites. Within the context of abandoned mines, my principal suggestion is to evaluate caching locations

What lured the early settlers and adventure seekers to the vast territory of the American West? In a word: Gold. Early exploitation of minerals and ores were greatly hampered by the lack of economical milling and transportation resources. Unprocessed ore was frequently transported overland in pack trains to seaport locations like San Francisco. From there, the ore might have been shipped around the horn to a mill on the east coast. As the railroad system expanded in the 1870’s and beyond, the extraction of less valuable metals, such as silver, copper and manganese became more viable endeavors. Eastern industrialists and speculators became more willing to invest in prospects – often without proper due diligence. Mining activity exploded and, as a result, there are many thousands of abandoned mines in the West and Southwest today.

How could that bit of history factor into your planning and preparation if you have to deal with a SHTF scenario? Let’s say you made the decision to shelter in place, but now your regional or area security has deteriorated, and you need to move yourself or family to a safer location; if only for a few days or weeks? What if you don’t have that ideal piece of land in the mountains with a lake or trout stream to retreat to? You have an exigent need to abandon your preferred location because it is about to be compromised.

The answer could be a specific type of mine structure known as an adit.

Within a one hour driving radius of my home there are more than four hundred abandoned hard rock mines. That may seem like a startling statistic, but historical records indicate that my state has more than 100,000 mines dating from the 1850’s through the depression era of the 1930’s. Some of these were good producers of ore and have extensive underground workings. Others never got beyond the ‘prospect’ stage of development, yet still managed to establish one or more tunnels, adits, shafts, drifts and/or stopes. Some of them have been destructively collapsed by the BLM in recent time, others are unsafe or possess unsuitable characteristics; but many surviving mines can be used for temporary occupation if you know where they are and have the means to get to them.

Mine entrances may be elevated on a hillside or at lower levels, near a wash or creek. In this example, the adit is at the base of a steep hill, but is several feet above a wide wash.

A cursory examination of geological survey maps in any western state will give you an appreciation for the number of hard rock mines (named or otherwise) that were developed in the west. Map symbols that denote the location of shafts, adits and tunnels provide only a partial census of mining activity. In other words, the number of mine workings greatly exceeds what you will find on any map or reference site. I should add that older geological survey maps tend to provide better information than ‘newer’ editions.

A Serious Word of Caution:

I would be completely remiss if I did not warn you that abandoned mines should be treated with utmost caution, at all times. If you are like the vast majority of people, you will have no working knowledge of underground mines. Frankly, the act of reckless exploration makes you the primary source of risk to yourself and others. People die in abandoned mines because they were uninformed, ignored indicators that would have been obvious to an experienced individual, or they were reckless thrill seekers.

This article is emphatically not about exploring deep subterranean passages or rappelling down vertical shafts; those are activities that, at best, should be left to experts or avoided entirely. Rather, this article attempts to provide you with an option for the use of a specific mine feature; one that bears no practical risk to the safety of you or your family if you use good judgment.

Stay clear of mines with vertical or incline/decline shaft entrances. Aside from the fact that they are not practical selections for shelter, many shafts are flooded at some depth. Moreover, shafts that have no protective collar at the opening may have loose, slippery material. Mine tunnels and adits frequently have vertical passages in the interior that connect to lower workings. Some of these may be hundreds of feet deep. Some adits may have been purposely collapsed, or the entrance may have been rendered unsafe by the passage of time.

This adit is about 20 feet in length and is located on the margin of a narrow wash. Note the presence of silt on the floor.

A good GPS unit could help you locate your hidden caches of supplies that you store for a SHTF scenario.

Determining whether a mine is ‘safe’ requires preparatory research, on site investigation and a thoughtful evaluation of its construction and current state, as well as an assessment of the resources that may be locally available. There are mines that I will have no qualms about using because I’ve studied them; but there are many that I would not enter for any conceivable reason. In the final analysis, you must determine whether a mine is safe to use and whether it would meet your temporary security needs. Importantly, you cannot wait until SHTF to begin thinking about the selection of an adit.

Basic Terminology

Listed below are a few important terms used to properly identify pertinent aspects of a mine. These are taken from the American Geological Institute.

  1. Adit – A horizontal mine passage driven in from the surface. Adits have a single external entrance point, but may connect to other interior mine workings, such as shafts. This is in contrast to a tunnel, which has openings to the surface at each end.
  2. Country Rock – The ground material around (surrounding) an ore body. In this case, ‘ground’ does not mean dirt. It refers to rock, such as basalt or granite.
  3. Crosscut – A horizontal underground passage driven perpendicular to the strike of an ore body. A crosscut does not have openings to the surface of the mine.
  4. Drift – Usually a horizontal underground mine passage driven parallel to the strike of an ore body.
  5. Dump – Waste rock removed by mining and deposited on the surface.
  6. Incline/Decline – A mine passage driven from the surface at an upward or downward angle from horizontal.
  7. Manway – A vertical underground passage with ladder for upward or downward movement of miners. This could be a winze, raise or shaft.
  8. Muck – Waste rock that is sometimes stacked internally or used to fill stopes.
  9. Pillar – Usually a column of ore left to support the roof in a stope (or room) or to support the country rock above an ore body.
  10. Post – A vertical support member (often timber) used to support a cap (often timber) that in turn supports the roof.
  11. Raise – An underground mine opening driven upward from below to access an overlying ore body or to provide access to an upper level.
  12. Shaft – A vertical mine passage opening to the surface for removal of waste rock, ore or entry of miners.
  13. Stope – An underground cavity left by removal of ore above or below a working level.
  14. Strike – The linear orientation of an ore body relative to the surface. For example, a north-south strike.
  15. Tailings – The finely crushed material left after a milling operation, not the same as a dump, dump rock or waste rock.
  16. Tunnel – A horizontal underground mine passage open to the surface at both ends.
  17. Winze – An underground mine opening driven downward from inside to access an ore body below, or to access a lower level of the mine.

There are many other terms that describe various characteristics of a hard rock mine, but these provide a basic description of features that are relevant to the assessment of a mine.

This adit contains an interior shaft with one or more lower levels. The pipe transported water from a sump area to the outside. Note also the ore car rails.

Reasons Why Mine Adits Might Be Considered

We’ve already established that your primary safe site is in jeopardy of being compromised. We can assume that you have no other quickly accessible and secure fall back location. So, what makes certain types of hard rock mines a suitable place of retreat?

A short list of benefits includes:

    1. Adits are horizontal at the point of entry and possess the general characteristic of having a flat floor. There may be rubble that needs to be removed, but the reason it is flat is because it served the needs of the miner. For example, there may have been ore cars that were pulled by mules, a mechanical winch, or engine at one time.       Mine scavengers will have removed most rails and ore cars long ago.
    2. Frequently, the entrances of adits were situated at a point that facilitated the easiest and most economical way to remove waste rock and ore bearing material from interior mine workings, such as shafts and stopes. That means the adit may be located at or near the same level as the operations that occurred outside. Moreover, the adit may have provided a convenient path for laying electrical cables, drainage pipes and air hoses. Because of this, adits may be relatively wide (eight feet or more).
    3. Adits that date from territorial days are frequently large enough to permit you to stand fully erect. Mines that date to the Spanish colonial era (1500’s to 1700’s) were dug by slave labor and are more likely to be very narrow, cramped passages.
    4. Many mines in remote areas are still accessible via 2-track or 4WD trails. You might have to hike the last couple of hundred yards, but the mine trail is still there. This means that your vehicle can be kept close to (and in view of) the mine entrance.
    5. In the mountainous regions of the West, adits are generally located on what I would call “steep ground.” That is, they are on the side of a hill or mountain. Importantly, that means it has some degree of elevation and a defensive field of view.
    6. The temperature in the interior of an adit is pretty stable. If you are several feet inside the entrance, the temperature may not fluctuate more than a few degrees during a 24 hour period. I have been deep inside some adits where the temperature was quite warm.
    7. It may be raining or snowing outside, but you will be dry.
    8. Many hard rock mines have small, lateral ventilation tunnels. These provide a flow of air that moves at a steady rate. If the mine has additional adits, tunnels or shafts, the flow of air will be in the direction of least resistance. This means that you can have cooking or warming fires inside the mine and the smoke will be dispersed away from you. As long as your fires are not at the mine entrance, no one outside would be able to see the light. The airflow would carry and disperse smoke to other surface openings, making it hard to detect (especially at night).
    9. Successful mines (those that produced ore) generally had an area outside the adit(s) and shafts that accommodated workshops, housing, and a place for dumping waste rock and mine tailings. Although the buildings may be long gone, it means there could be space to set up a bivouac or open air camp (but carefully consider whether you would want that type of exposure).
    10. Successful mines generally had a reliable source of water. Whether it was a creek-fed well or one powered by a windmill, there will be evidence of it. Just remember that in many areas of the arid southwest, water may be below ground level.
    11. Contrary to most imaginings, the vast majority of hard rock mines were not very large. In other words, there is a good chance that the adit might not extend into the mountainside more than 100 feet. I’ve visited quite a few prospects that are no more than 40 feet in length.       Once the prospector determined there was no economically viable ore vein, he abandoned it. Simple adits (those without additional shafts or interior working levels) are easy to evaluate.
    12. Even at relatively shallow depths, no one approaching the entrance of an adit will be able to see you. You have the defensive advantage.
    13. Many abandoned mines in the inter-mountain west are often located on federal or state land that is leased by ranchers for grazing. Cattle need water, so this means that operating wells may be located nearby.
    14. Some abandoned mines will have scrap material, including pipes, sheet metal, angle iron, nails and timbers that can be used for a variety of purposes.
    15. Depending on the depth and bearing of the ore body, successful hard rock mines often had more than one adit to reach the ore strike. While one adit might not be satisfactory (or safe) for use, there may be another suitable entrance nearby.
    16. Adits will sometimes have drifts that branch off in the direction of the strike. Storage or workshop areas may also have been dug into the country rock, providing added space on the same level.

This photo shows an area of the mine where waste rock (muck) was stacked in a stope. It illustrates that interior spaces can be used for storage of supplies, but may require using a portion of the mine that is on a lower level. If it can be reached via a short winze, you may consider using an extending metal ladder. Similar spaces may be available in adits or in drifts that branch off from an adit.

The Downside:

There are a lot of serious reasons to reject a mine site that you might be considering as a potential fall-back location. Here are a few:

  1. I’ve intensely studied more than 4,000 mines and, as noted, there are more than 400 within a one hour driving radius of my home. My definition of “suitable” and “ideal” may not match yours. There are several locations that I would be willing to use if the need arose, but their selection is based upon my personal knowledge of local terrain, water and game resources, remoteness and accessibility. The point is that you cannot simply select a mine site without having some working knowledge of the surrounding environment. Failure to do so is an invitation to disaster.
  2. A wet adit floor could mean that interior shafts and lower levels have become entirely filled with water. The mine may have flooded to a point that the water has reached the level of the adit and is now flowing to the outside.  It may be possible to set a camp outside of the mine entrance, but your use of the adit is limited to purely defensive (bunker) purposes. This also means that there is probably a flooded shaft somewhere beyond the entrance that you cannot see.
  3. Many adits have shafts and winzes that lead to lower portions of the mine and some of them can be hundreds of feet deep. If you are contemplating the use of a mine that contains these features, you absolutely must also consider the safety of your family. My earnest recommendation is to keep looking. You might feel comfortable sleeping in front a shaft, but do you want a child anywhere near one?
  4. There are a variety of wild animals that favor the safety and seclusion of a mine. I once encountered a hibernating black bear in an adit while backpacking in high country wilderness, and I’ve found rattlesnakes in more than one mine entrance. The point is that you may have to clear an adit of wild beasts, even though you didn’t find any the first time that you inspected it. Some mines will provide seasonal or permanent habitats for bats. I am a great fan of bats, but I would avoid mines occupied by them for health reasons.
  5. Selecting a mine adit that is near a well traveled 2-track road may compromise your security. Remember – other people may also be seeking the shelter and security of a mine. If your objective is safety through seclusion, don’t opt for mines that are situated near frequently travelled roads.
  6. Adits that contain wet timbers (posts and caps) may indicate water seepage through seams and fractures in the overhead rock.
  7. Collapsed posts and caps are an indicator that the roof of the adit may be unstable.
  8. Adits that were dug into highly fractured rock may slough material from overhead.
  9. Shafts and inclines/declines with ore car tracks and/or ladders constructed from timber should be avoided. These structures could easily be 70 to 150 years old. They may have been well built at the time of construction and they may appear to be in good condition, but no longer possess structural integrity.   All it would take is one loose or weak rung on a ladder to send you plunging down a shaft.
  10. Mines with incline (upward sloping) or decline (downward sloping) entrances have both practical and tactical disadvantages, even if the rate of slope is modest. In such environments, footing is less secure, moving loads into or out of the entrance are more difficult, and your angle of view from within the adit is either pointing toward the sky or down at the ground.


Generally speaking, abandoned mines are located in terrain that is not favorable to the use of towed trailers or motor homes, and many of the mines I have studied are not accessible to passenger cars (including some with all wheel drive) because of low clearance. In other words, you will need high clearance four wheel drive trucks to reach most mines. There are even a few that are best reached by OHV type vehicles, at least within the last mile or so. If you are a “flat-lander”, some of these trails may be intimidating. Heavy storms may lead to rock fall, wash-outs or minor land slides that weren’t there last time you used the trail. When in doubt, it is best to walk the road and clear any debris that might damage your vehicle. Take your time. Be safe.

Roads leading into mining areas may not be maintained by federal or state agencies. In some cases, 2-track roads are only maintained by local ranchers on an as needed basis, even though they are on ‘federal’ land.

Some mines will be located on patented, private land, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the owner is present. While you are in the scouting and research phase you may want to determine whether the location that you favor is sitting on someone’s private (but otherwise unoccupied) property. In my own research I have located several abandoned mines that are on patented parcels in remote locations. I’ve corresponded with or spoken to some of these land owners and they are all good people. If you establish a fallback site that happens to be on private land, respect their property rights. Do no harm or damage.

Primary all weather roads on National Forests are pretty reliable; however, there is no guarantee that the Forest Service will allow access to forests during a SHTF incident – particularly if martial law has been declared. When you consider that the Forest Service is bent on preventing citizen access to our forests during ‘normal’ times, you would be wise to anticipate complete closure when SHTF. If the intended fall back site requires use of a Forest Service road, I would recommend that you find a ‘back door’ alternate route. If no such route exists, find another mine site.

If you are compelled to use a remote abandoned mine then you are beyond the stage of worrying about brush marks on your vehicle. A lot of mine trails have become overgrown with brush over the decades, which reduces the width of the trail. It will result in some scratches. My advice: Get over it. While we’re on that subject, I would also suggest that you resist the urge to clear the trail. Freshly cut brush and tree limbs are a dead giveaway that someone is using the road. It would be counter productive to leave your calling card where the trail branches off from a frequently traveled 2-track road. At minimum, leave the initial portion of the trail in its native state. You should also consider brushing out any tire tracks that indicate where you turned off.

You may want to consider creating some type of temporary roadblock on the trail leading to the mine site. Vehicles that are already constrained by narrow trails, thick brush or trees will have a more difficult time getting around an obstacle that you have placed on the trail. Anything that impedes or slows down approaching traffic will give you a tactical advantage. Just remember – you will have to clear the roadblock on your way out.

The term “accessibility” can be stretched to include your ability to depart from the fall back site once it is no longer needed. In this context, accessibility implies that you have enough fuel to go both directions. These sites do not come with convenience markets or gas stations, so you will need to bring or pre-position the fuel and supplies needed when you are ready to exfil.

It should go without saying that once you have established your site you should remain in place and limit movement as much as possible. Vehicular movement can be spotted from a distance of several miles when an observer has favorable elevation. The glint from your windshield will alert others to your presence. Button up your site and stay put.

Google Earth can be an invaluable research tool to help you locate and assess the terrain and resources near a mine site.

What lured the early settlers and adventure seekers to the vast territory of the American West? In a word: Gold. Early exploitation of minerals and ores were greatly hampered by

This article acts as a comprehensive guide to batoning. Be sure to pay close attention to the last two sections (the one on proper batoning technique, and the one on troubleshooting the difficulties of batoning), as these two sections will help you most out in the field.

What is Batoning?

Batoning is a survival and bushcraft technique whereby a sturdy knife is lodged in a piece of wood then struck repeatedly by a baton-like object, a heavy piece of wood for instance, in order to split the wood.


Among other purposes, batoning is often used to split logs and other wood to create kindling, to create access to the dry inner portion of a wet log for generating dry tinder, and to produce shingles, slats, or boards.

Advantages of Batoning

In many instances, batoning makes the process of splitting wood far easier than it’s alternative, chopping wood. Batoning requires less effort, takes less time, and results in a much cleaner cut than chopping. Batoning also requires much less experience to master than chopping, as aiming while chopping may be difficult to do at first. Batoning is an extremely handy technique to know when you do not have a chopper lying around, as may be the case if you’ve forgotten to take a chopper camping, for instance.

Disadvantages of Batoning

Under certain conditions, such as in the case of batoning wet logs, batoning can be somewhat difficult. Batoning can also sometimes damage or even break the tool being struck. Thus, some caution must be taken when batoning. To reduce difficulties and knife breakage, proper batoning technique should be used (see the section below on proper batoning technique).

Why Knives Break When Batoning

In most cases, knives break when batoning because they are being batoned at an angle. If they are placed and batoned straight, the knife is far less likely to break. Batoning with the wrong baton (like a rock or brick for instance) will obviously also cause damage to the knife, which is why wood should really be the only thing used as a baton when batoning. If proper batoning technique is used, however, this can all be avoided, or at least mitigated dramatically.

batoning-large-log-with-bokerBoker Plus Vox Rold Knife

Ideal Baton

A piece of wood is the best tool to use for a baton. Rocks, bricks, and other extremely hard objects will work, but they will severely damage the spine of the knife you are using to baton. The best piece of wood to use is a piece of hardwood. If you would like to make a more comfortable batoning tool, say if you’re going to be batoning a lot of wood, shape your piece of wood to look something like a short baseball bat: debark it, and thin out a handle, then shave it down until it is smooth to the grip. The goal is to make a batoning tool with a wider hitting surface, and a thinner handle surface.

Ideal Batoning Knife

Batoning can be done with nearly any fixed blade knife, so long as the blade is strong enough to be able to stand repeated batoning. Knives with full tangs (where the metal from the knife extends past the blade and through the entire handle) are stronger and because of that will work better for batoning, as they are less likely to be damaged or break. The size of the ideal batoning knife depends on the width of the piece of wood you are attempting to go through. The edge of the blade of the batoning knife should be approximately 2-3 inches longer than the diameter of the wood you are trying to baton. That being said, if you’re looking for a single versatile batoning knife to use, you may want to stick to a longer blade. It is obviously possible to baton smaller pieces of wood with a longer blade, although it might be a bit tricky, but you will not be able to baton thicker pieces of wood with a shorter blade. The thickness of the knife’s blade doesn’t make much of a difference in batoning, only the length of the blade matters.

Rigid knife handles will very often create uncomfortable vibrations when struck with a baton, but handles that are completely encased in a synthetic material (like rubber), will normally absorb the shocks reasonably well. Thus, the ideal batoning knife will also have a synthetic material handle. If the knife you intend to use does not have a synthetic material handle, to reduce the felt vibrations, handles can be covered with synthetic material like bicycle inner tube.

proper-batoning-techniqueGerber Bear Grylls Parang Machete

Proper Batoning Technique

When batoning, there are many ways to mitigate damage and potential breakage to your knife. Use these guidelines to attain proper batoning technique:

Center the knife in the middle of the piece of wood you are trying to split.

Place the knife straight down, and not at an angle, when getting ready to baton (this is very important to mitigate damage or breakage to the knife). Hit the center of the knife with the baton until the knife is properly lodged in the wood, then proceed to the next step.

Baton on the blade end of the knife, but do not hit the very tip of the blade when batoning, as the tip of the knife is usually relatively weak and susceptible to breakage. The metal of the knife should protrude from the wood far enough so that you can hit, not the tip, but a part of the spine that is strong enough to take the batoning.

Readjust the knife, correcting the blade orientation by making the knife straight again, if it happens to shift to an angle after having been batoned for some time. Make gentle, corrective taps to the handle end of the knife when batoning whenever the blade begins to stray from it’s original downward alignment. Do not hit the handle as hard as you would hit the blade end of the knife, as the force may cause the knife to break or be damaged, but feel free to make light hits to the handle end when you feel it is appropriate.

Troubleshooting Difficulties with Batoning

Other than using proper batoning technique, the following is a list of adjustments you can make to have an easier time batoning. Try using one or more than one if a particular piece of wood is giving you a hard time.

Baton with the grain of the wood, not against it.

If possible, baton around and not through knots in the wood, as knots create sometimes extreme resistance and can, in certain situations, damage the edge of the knife.

If the log already has a crack, take advantage of it, as mother nature has already done most of the work for you. Align the knife on top of the crack and go through as you would normally.

Move the piece of wood you are trying to baton to rest on the hardest surface you can find. Ideal surfaces include large rocks, a second log, or, in more urban settings, concrete.

Use a more appropriate knife (see the Ideal Batoning Knife section above).

If you simply cannot baton through a particular piece of wood, try batoning a smaller one (in terms of it’s diameter or radus), as batoning becomes easier with thinner pieces of wood.

Hardwood is of course much more difficult to baton through than softwood (like balsa). Adjust expectations accordingly in terms of expansion of energy, and if it doesn’t matter whether you have hardwood or softwood, switch to batoning a softwood instead.

This article acts as a comprehensive guide to batoning. Be sure to pay close attention to the last two sections (the one on proper batoning technique, and the one on