How & Why to Create a Storage Unit Survival Cache
Much is written about secret stashes in the preparedness world, and people hide supplies in a variety of different ways. One way to put aside extra food and gear is by using a rented space to create a storage unit survival cache. Before you argue and say, “I want access to all my stuff all the time,” let me explain why (and how) my family uses this philosophy.
This is a topic made famous in prepper circles by Franklin Horton’s awesome book, Locker Nine. In the book, a father sets up a storage locker for his young daughter who has gone away to college. In the locker, he stashes gear and instructions for her to make her way home if things hit the fan while she is living in the dorm. Some of the items cannot be stored in the dorm for legal reasons. Others, he wants to make sure are available for use when she needs them. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for some enjoyable prepper fiction.
But you don’t have to have a kid in college to make use of public storage lockers. Read on for more information.
Why would you NOT have all your survival items at home?
If you look at the statistics, prior to 2020 and the advent of nearly everyone working from home in their pajamas, the average adult spent less than 10 hours per day at home – and that includes the time that they were sleeping. While it’s great to imagine the epic SHTF event will occur while we’re all gathered around the family dinner table together, it’s statistically unlikely.
It’s more probable that we’ll all be at our various regular locations: work, school, church, working out, shopping, or pursuing some kind of leisure activity. And whether or not we’ll be together with our loved ones is also kind of a crapshoot, given the fact that most of us go our separate ways during the days.
So, for this reason alone, having gear you and your loved ones can access away from home can be important. This is where having a storage unit survival cache might be very desirable. (We’ll talk more about choosing locations in a moment.)
But that’s not all. Many of us live in small homes or apartments and simply do not have the space to store all of the prepper gear we want to keep on hand. A storage unit can provide that “spare room” for which many of us with stockpiles yearn.
Another compelling reason is the old adage about not keeping all your eggs in one basket. If things go sideways, as much as we like to think it couldn’t happen, you might end up losing the supplies at your home. This could be the result of anything from an attack by marauders to destruction from natural disasters. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a backup stash of guns, ammo, and food?
I talked a little bit about it in this video, but I wanted to go into more detail.
What should you look for in a storage unit you plan to use for survival purposes?
If you’re considering a storage unit survival cache, here are some qualities I find important:
Climate controlled: Particularly if you are storing food there, you don’t want to subject your belongings to extreme temperatures.
Humidity controlled: Same as above, but humidity can affect gear and guns as well as food.
Indoor entrance: While some folks prefer the kind with an outside, garage-door style entrance, I’m not a fan. First of all, it’s easier to break into something like that because you only have to breach one door. Not so with a unit inside a building. Secondly, when you open it up to the great outdoors, you could be inviting in pests that will feast on your carefully stored food. Finally, these units are less likely to have reliable humidity and temperature controls.
On a middle floor: If you can find a unit in a multistory building, being on a middle floor reduces the risk of water damage from both above and below. If a second-floor storage unit has flooded, you’ve got way bigger problems on your hands. And if there’s a leak due to heavy rains and storms, that will affect upper units before yours.
A final consideration is whether or not you might use this as a hideout. When I left the country, my daughter moved to a large city where riots are not unheard of. I rented a larger storage unit than we needed, and I set it up as a place she could retreat to if things got really bad in the future. It is set up with the following:
- air mattress
- sleeping bags
- food that doesn’t require cooking
- 2 weeks of drinking water
- pet supplies
- battery operated lighting
- books and puzzles
- supplies to make a kitty litter toilet in a bucket
- other sanitation supplies
- seasonal gear for both hot and cold weather
- an NOAA radio for information from the outside world
If she needed to lay low for a few days to let things settle down, this would be an ideal place to do it. People who are out rioting are breaking the windows of Starbucks and banks and clothing stores. They’re not going to old office buildings that have been turned into storage units, breaking into the controlled-access parking lot, breaking into the lobby, then hacking the code to access the elevators and fire doors on the stairs. At least that certainly isn’t typical rioter behavior.
This isn’t perfect for a long-term bug-out location, but it would be a good place to settle in and wait for things to calm down.
What do you put in a storage unit survival cache?
How you load up your cache depends on your purpose.
Is it a place for your overflow supplies that won’t fit in your home? If so, put your stuff with the most distant expiration dates there and be sure to package it up properly.
Is it a go-between stopping point? For this, you’d stock it with the items you or family members need to travel the rest of the way home or with what you need to get to your bug-out location. Imagine how much easier it would be to carry half the food instead of loading up your heavy backpack with enough for the whole journey. Think about how nice it would be to stop and get a drink of fresh, clean bottled water that you’ve put aside. (This will differ based on climate, the distance the user will have to travel, and their skill set. The more you know, the less you carry.) This could be a super small unit the size of a closet or one with just enough room to unroll a sleeping bag and rest safely.
Is this a backup to your backups? As preppers like to say, one is none, and two is one. If you are in a position to do so, you might even consider duplicating some of your bigger preps. This way, if your home is devastated by a tornado or another natural disaster, you aren’t left completely bereft. As well, if for some reason, you must hand over your supplies, you don’t have to risk your life because it’s literally all you have. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Out of your cold dead hands. But for the rest of us, we’d prefer to live and have a backup.)
Where should you locate your storage unit cache?
This is going to vary for different people. I like to have one within reasonable walking distance of my home base. I have one in the city where I live that is about a 5-minute walk away, and my daughter’s unit takes her 10 minutes to reach on foot.
However, if you plan to use your unit as a waypoint while heading to a bug-out location, you’ll want to choose something along your route. And depending on the distance between your home and bug-out location, you might need to think about having more than one unit for restocking.
What is the downside of storing your things in a public storage building?
As with so many things of late, one of the biggest downsides is OPSEC. You don’t want people to see you hauling tons of food and water on a dolly cart up to your unit. As I box things up, I have a little code I like to use. I write “Thanksgiving” on anything food-related and “4th of July” on things that are weapons-related. You get the idea.
The point is, I take everything to the unit in a box, and it just looks like decorations.
Another issue is that if security is poor at your storage unit, you could discover it emptied out by thieves. Be sure to find a safe environment for your storage unit survival cache. As well, if an actual SHTF event has occurred, you could find that somebody else has already ransacked the storage units for anything that could be of use to them.
Finally, if money is tight, spending the extra on storing things off-site might not be the best use of your resources. Be sure that it fits within your budget. If you do not pay your rent at a storage unit, the owners have the right to auction off your belongings. The length of time before this happens varies from state to state.
Other random considerations
Here are just some random things to think about:
Access: Who will you allow to access the unit? Family members? Friends? Members of your group? If multiple people will be accessing the unit, you may wish to choose combination locks. These combinations can be changed in the future if someone has proven to be untrustworthy.
Rules: Most facilities have a rule that no one may store food on the premises. Of course, you’d never do such a thing. You’ll just put your “Thanksgiving” supplies in there.
The Business: Has the business been around for a long time? How are the reviews on Yelp and Google? Are there any signs that they aren’t doing too well? You don’t want your things to somehow end up in the possession of someone else if the bank were to foreclose on the building.
Cleanliness and Safety: Is the building clean and well-maintained? Is there a lot of trash in the parking lot? Is the neighborhood relatively safe? If the building looks dirty and there are a bunch of vagrants in the area, you may want to go elsewhere to prevent the likelihood of pests.
Article posted with permission from Daisy Luther