Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

Why you shouldn’t bury shipping containers for bunkers

There's a lot more that you have to consider if you're thinking about burying a shipping container to be used as a bunker. They're not designed for that and you could end up being crushed if you don't know what you're doing. - Don't bury a shipping container as a shelter until you read this article - http://graywolfsurvival.com/2625/why-you-shouldnt-bury-a-shipping-container-for-a-shtf-bunker/Why is it so dangerous for underground bunkers to be made from shipping containers?

I bet you were thinking that I was about to give you plans about how you should dig a hole for a cheap underground bunker with a door to be used for a simple SHTF/TEOTWAWKI survival bunker. Well, you’re wrong. What I’m here to tell you is that if you listen to pretty much all of the crap advice on the web, that you’ll be wrong again.

Shipping containers were built to be stacked. They’re called Intermodal Freight Containers because they can be moved on trains, boats, helicopters, whatever. They are meant to be large portable closets. They were not to be buried or cut into, and certainly weren’t designed to be used as underground bunkers. Once you do that, you start changing their effectiveness. They are not built for lateral pressure and not designed for long-term wetness or acidic/caustic soil.

If you really want to know how to build a shelter, check out this book.

I spent quite a lot of time in Iraq and saw some of the buried shelters that were only underground partway, and they were all buckling under the pressure. Guarantee they aren’t still safe even today. Not saying that you CAN’T bury a shipping container as an underground SHTF bunker if you do your homework and spend a lot of extra money and effort supporting it but you CAN’T just bury one in the ground at any appreciable depth without some supporting engineering and there are other considerations above even that. Just for reference, a cubic yard of dirt weighs somewhere between a ton and 2700 pounds or so. Imagine how much pressure a buried container bunker must have to withstand and then realize that the whole thing is surrounded by metal that’s only about as thick as a saw blade.

Now imagine if it rains. Now imagine if someone drives a truck or even just walks over your supposedly-hidden bunker? Also consider that you have to add in some safety margin just for shits and giggles plus to compensate for the materials aging over time. If you’ve never studied mechanical engineering, you need to understand that something that can withstand a LOT of pressure on one angle won’t necessarily withstand even close to that pressure at another.

Think about an egg. If you push down from the top of an egg, it’ll hold up to a lot more pressure than you’d think. Press it on the sides though and it crushes before you even start pushing. Same thing for a beer can. You can stand on one with no problem but then push your finger into one of the sides and the whole thing crushes. That’s because the force pushes down on itself, which is why shipping containers can hold a lot of weight if they’re stacked. These containers are designed to hold a LOT of weight as long as it’s held in the right spots, but anywhere else and you might as well just bury an enclosed car trailer. Take a look at what happened with this container that ended up being sent to auction.



Why? It’s physics, baby! Go to college and learn why. I’m just here to tell you that it happens, even though you may not have heard about it. Start vetting your sources before you listen to them and you’ll start seeing a pattern, and then you’ll start seeing which stories are true and which are just fluff to get you to click on their links.

Other reasons why you may want to rethink buryThere's a lot more that you have to consider if you're thinking about burying a shipping container to be used as a bunker. They're not designed for that and you could end up being crushed if you don't know what you're doing. - Don't bury a shipping container as a shelter until you read this article http://graywolfsurvival.com/2625/why-you-shouldnt-bury-a-shipping-container-for-a-shtf-bunker/ing a shipping container – or underground shelters altogether

What are you trying to accomplish? Sure, you can get a shipping container for a few thousand dollars. Those few thousand dollars buy you a very small room. A room that I’ve lived in for many, many, many months overseas on different deployments. They’re called Containerized Living Units (CLU’s) or Containerized Housing Units (CHU’s). I used them just to sleep in, along with anywhere from one to three roommates and I gotta tell you, it’s not fun. I couldn’t imagine being stuck in one of them with other people for months at a time.

A shipping container is pretty much a rectangular metal tent. Imagine living in an underground bunker for months before coming up. If you’ve never spent weeks living out of a tent at night, you have no idea what it’d be like living in a bunker for months, both day and night.

That’s not even counting the actual logistics of not leaving the container, including human waste, trash, emotional pressure and the actual tactics involved. I’ll be visiting the tactical idiocy of almost all underground bunkers I’ve seen in a later post but if you just think about things from the enemy’s viewpoint and how they’d attack you, you’ll either quickly see how stupid it is or you really need to just go ahead and do it now so you’re out of the gene pool before you procreate. If you’ve ever been in combat in an urban environment, you know just how shitty of a decision it is to hole up in a room with only one entrance. One entrance means one exit. If they control the entrance, they control the exit, and they have a lot more room and supplies outside than you could have in a bunker. No matter how fortified your structure is, unless you spend a CRAPLOAD of money, all they have to do is wait you out and can easily speed up your schedule to come out.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider fortified underground bunkers at all, but if you do, just realize that you’ve shut out a lot of your capabilities such as escape, resupply and support if you don’t make a pretty extensive plan. They’re great for storm shelters but  not so much for defense, although I’d go with a cement storm shelter anyway (just be careful on storm shelters that your entranceway is tested to see that it can take high-speed debris damage or you’ll be essentially sitting in your shelter watching the storm rearrange your furniture).

Not to mention the fact that shipping containers are prone to have toxic paint and chemicals in the wood, including fumigation sprays that will likely require you to replace all the wood and strip all the paint to be safe.

Enough of that for now though because there are ways to plan around these problems but I wanted to mention them because people who are drawn to burying shipping container bunkers are the same idiots who’ll not consider what I’ve mentioned already, let alone the tactical disadvantage of being buried in a box a few feet below the surface with limited air supply and exits. I may go into the tactical ways to design and protect an underground bunker in a later thing but at the moment, I just want you to realize that if you’re going by what you’ve most likely been reading in some pretty popular articles about burying shipping containers, that you’re probably wrong.

The plain and simple truth is that a shipping container is designed to be stacked and have pretty much zero horizontal external pressure. Burying it will add a LOT of side pressure, especially if you’re in a rain-prone environment or have certain soils. They’re just not built for that. Might as well just build a frame and fill it with cement in the walls for a lot cheaper.

Here’s another example from Texas. It was placed above ground because they weren’t too far above sea level. This is after about 10 years:

Don't bury a shipping container before reading this article - shipping container roof crushing in from just 18 inches of dirt - http://graywolfsurvival.com/?p=2625

Buried shipping container – front view

Don't bury a shipping container before reading this article - shipping container roof crushing in from just 18 inches of dirt - http://graywolfsurvival.com/?p=2625

Buried shipping container – side view

Don't bury a shipping container before reading this article - shipping container roof crushing in from just 18 inches of dirt - http://graywolfsurvival.com/?p=2625

The biggest lesson you need to learn is that if you’re gonna build an underground shelter, you need to have someone who does this kind of thing for a living come in and take it all into consideration. If you have electricity running through it, have an electrician check it all out. If you bury it, make sure that you’ve supported it with will withstand rain for many years, not just as soon as you’re done burying it. Why on Earth would you try to save a few hundred bucks to risk it caving in on your family or electrocuting your kid to death during the first rainstorm? Are you a really a prepper?

If you’re gonna use a shipping container bunker as an underground shelter, realize that it’s most likely made out of Corten Steel. Pretty decent stuff as long as it doesn’t get scratched and dented. If it does, it’ll start rusting through. Not a good thing if you’re 10 feet underground. They are pretty cheap and have their place in your plans if you’re smart. Here’s an example of one I found on Amazon for about $2500:

As long as it’s sealed, you can make it useable if you spend some time reinforcing the walls, depending on the soil and rainfall in the area. Just make sure that you don’t bury a 9-ish foot container under 6 feet of earth in an area that has a water table 12 feet under the ground. If you want to see some common specifications of shipping containers, check out this wikipedia article.

Basically, a shipping container is pretty good for above-ground fortification as long as you fix any chemical problem. You can decide to bury one (or more) but to do it properly (not even counting the tactics and other considerations), you’ll have to spend a lot more money to make it right than just buying and delivering the containers.

Remember though, just because it’s metal doesn’t make it bullet-proof (one big advantage to an underground bunker) Don’t take my word for it, do some research specifically looking at the limitations and dangers of burying shipping containers for yourself instead of just looking at the cost savings. Structurally, pipes are MUCH better at withstanding pressure, from any direction. The problem is that they’re round and we like our stuff to be on flat floors with flat walls. If, however, you could put a rectangular shipping container into a cylindrical pipe underground, you’d be set structurally. You’d still have to deal with the fact that you’re buried underground though. Here’s a video of an example of one made out of metal:

So what should you do if you find shipping containers for sale and really want an underground bunker using these metal boxes?

Think it through. Have someone come take a look at your plans before you commit. Don’t be an idiot. A shipping container is a great starting point for an above-ground shelter or if you’re planning on adding a supporting structure to it (provided you’ve figured out all the tactics of being stuck in a hole in the ground with people who might want to get you out). It just might not be the cheapest way to go if you’re planning on burying it.

The biggest thing though is that if you’re trying to use it, or anything else, as a buried defensive bunker, you’d better have a hidden exit somewhere to get out if you’re found, and should be thinking about some serious camouflage around it for your entrance and vents. It would suck to spend all that money, planning, and time just to make yourself a ridiculously overly-complicated coffin. Underground shipping container bunkers are possible; just don’t think that all you have to do is dig a deep hole, drop a shipping container into it, bury it and decorate.

If you really want an underground bunker and you want to do it the right way, you should be talking to someone like Vivos Shelters or or someone else that has a lot of experience and references. Nothing says you can’t do all the research yourself but the point of a shelter is to keep you safe. It would kind of suck if your shelter were the very thing that got you hurt.
If you’re still considering building your own underground shelter, at least check out The Bomb Shelter Builders Book and get a good base of what to do, or even better, check out this page that has plans you can download to build one.

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. 1_no_political_lemmings_1 says

    Thank you Graywolf for sharing your wisdom. Have a good one…………… (former B 1/75 ‘old scroll’ Rangers)

  2. Rumfitt Booya says

    Hi graywolf, firstly id like to say excellent advice, I have seen many “preppers” online recommend shipping containers and until reading this was along the same line of thought myself.

    Can I ask, where in the UK would you recommend to go in a SHTF situation? I was thinking wilderness like scotland would be a good idea but wanted an experts advice? THanks

    • graywolfsurvival says

      I haven’t been to the UK since I was in RAF Mildenhall in the 80’s. It would all depend on what the situation is really. A group solution is best though. At least you have a lot of land that you can live off all around there. If it were up to me, I’d head to St James’ Gate in Ireland and hole up in the Guinness brewery.

    • Kevin Burress says

      A shipping container can be fine just expect to have to weld steel beams on the top and sides and maybe use rebar reinforced concrete around it.. in which case you may just opt for the concrete or steel I beam reinforced concrete beams and of course plenty of rocks for concrete fill.. you can get educational autocad inventor structural steel programs free and model the weight as well. The main thing about shipping containers yes they will make a dry shelter but they can’t be load bearing you will need vaulted brick or something.. walls etc around it.

  3. Inkognito Jones says

    Reinforce the container, properly prep the exterior and interior for corrosion resistance, and then bury it. I’ve had mine in the ground under 3′ of dirt for almost 6 years now. During a recent ‘remodel’ of some of my plumbing, I dug up one side of the container and not a spot of rust – looked as good as the day I covered it up. Don’t be stupid, and you’ll be fine.

    • Katherine Lee James says

      Can I ask you a question? what made you only have your container 3 ft under dirt? I am thinking of using shipping containers (several of them) and reinforce them but going 20 ft under dirt.

      • Daniel Lunsford says

        Keep in mind that shipping containers are only rated to hold about 325 pounds per square foot- and even premixed, bagged topsoil weighs 125 pounds per cubic foot. In other words, be wary of burying a shipping container that deep. If you are going that deep you might want to go with a more robust design such as the Atlas products that the author mentioned (barrel vault- very strong)

      • dragon5126 says

        the weight of 20 ft of even the driest soil will cave in the top of the container in short order. you are talking about tons per sq. inch of pressure at that depth. Add a single rainstorm and it will become a tomb . The strength of the containers is in the frame not the sides or top.

      • graywolfsurvival says

        You have to consider the worst cast scenario for the soil you’re under, while it’s completely soaked (because it’s gonna rain hard some day) and you have to have some room built into that (such as someone walking or driving over the hidden bunker and just a little extra just to be sure.

        Here are some material weights per cubic foot.


      • I doubt anyone who is building these connex box shelters are making them to withstand a direct bomb hit. 3 ft of dirt is adequate enough, along with a power supply to power small cpu-style fans for filtered air to live though the 3+ months it takes for 90% of radiation to go dissipate ( not saying the remaining 10% isn’t lethal) and wait it out. Placing them in a hidden spot helps, too. This is just something to hide in, not to take direct blasts.

  4. Katherine Lee James says

    I am very new to prepping & was thinking of using containers under ground for my family but also thought I would certainly need to have them reinforced & was told its best to bury at least 20ft under ground,is that correct.. Im concerned now as what to do, I am not in a position to purchase the bunkers that are sold specifically for this purpose.I live in Australia and there isnt anyone selling them on the market over here.Maybe someone should start up a business of sorts as there are plenty of people wanting them. I have a large family and want to do whatever it takes to keep them all alive but in saying that want to do it right. I would appreciate any ideas or suggestions,thanks, Kat James.

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Hi Katherine

      The deeper you go, the less likely you are to be discovered and the more protection you’d have from radiation, blast, attack etc. the problem is that your engineering requirements go up due to increased pressure, more difficulty in cycling air, danger of hitting the water table – especially during rainy season, etc.

      You also have to consider that your entrance and escape avenues have to be just as deep. Remember that if there’s only one way in then there’s only one way out.

      I’ll have to write a post some time on how to properly bury and defend a shipping container because there’s a lot to discuss, especially when it comes to tactics.

      • Katherine Lee James says

        Hello Graywolfsurvival,
        Thank you for your reply, most appreciated. I’m looking into proper air filtration which is the same used in the bunkers sold by Atlas Survival Shelters which suggest you bury your bunker 20 feet down so I’m thinking I’m on the right track. I am also interested in canning meat if you have any ideas on this.. From what I’ve seen Americans use glass jars & call this canning, we call it preserving. I would certainly have a few escape tunnels & security camera’s with night vision. Wow there is so much to consider & take into account & to organise. I am doing this solely on my own which is going to take some time, thank
        you for any suggestions.

        • graywolfsurvival says

          In a lot of cases, a buried bunker is so expensive and complicated that it isn’t the best choice. By the time you get it all safe, secure and working, you could have paid for a fantastic above-ground facility that has its own benefits. You get a LOT more room and flexibility for the same price.

          Burying a couple of long escape tunnels and camouflaging their exits can be pretty damn expensive to do it right, but you might want to consider putting one or two of them in even if you don’t go underground. All depends on your layout and what exactly you’re planning for. Just remember that if your escape hatch is within view of the place you’re escaping, it’s shit.

          For most people, using a fraction of that money for tactical and medical training is much better spent. What would you do if you spent everything on your bunker and had to leave it or couldn’t make it there when the time came? Learning is much preferable to buying.

          I don’t know jack about preserving. I have started to at least buy canning jars and freeze food when I make too much though lol.

          • Katherine Lee James says

            We don’t have access to guns unless you obtain a licence which I might add is not easy to get, actually almost impossible so to live above ground frightens me especially when Ill have small grandchildren & no protection & nothing in the way of protection against nuclear disaster..We are buying acreage early next year so we will have the space and the bunkers will be placed on our property. To buy one of Atlas Survival shelters or any of the other one’s its going to cost about $60,000 + just for one and that’s only big enough for 6 people, so I’d need at least 4 of them, then its something like $70,000 to ship one over here, so my thinking is shipping containers is going to be the cheaper option. The tunnels or escape routes will be hidden to the human eye, I have too many lives at stake not to take great care on these crucial parts elements..I have been a mum for 37 years & ten kids later so I have more medical knowledge then most & have done some medical training as well. You are very informative & I take your suggestions seriously. Thank you again. I will have to google how to preserve meat, I do however know how to make jerky.

          • you might think of building ur own bunker , made out of cinder blockes, u can get more space for ur money.and will last a lot longer than a Shipping container and its a lot safer/

          • KableGuy says

            You might want to look at getting a welder and learning to weld It is an amazingly usefull skill and them you can purchase the steel in increments. This has several advantages, First no one will have any clue what you are building because you can build it in the hole. Also you can build it to your own size specifications. You can pay for it in small amounts over time. If there is some sort of issue with the structure you can fix it yourself.

        • Jack Douglas says

          `Most of your protection comes from the ground itself. I built an underground wood bunker. Had 10 foot ceilings, all the heat and electric I needed for 7 of us. The other cool thing about the wood bunker is it had wood floors which were 10 times warmer in winter in socking or bare feet.

          The walls were framed in treated 2 x 6 on 12 inch centers and the exterior was treated plywood sprayed with bitumen. Made it extremely easy to frame new rooms down there.

          Was larger than most with close to 1500 sq feet. Roof was rebar and 3 inch concrete, and the bunker itself had 3 easy exits and one more difficult. One spring it was particular bad rain storm for 4 days and every basement that was in the area leaked. I checked all my specs and was pleased to find out my wood bunker was going to float before it leaked. I had a place under the floor for water to gather and after the storm I checked and it was dusty.
          Mine was extremely habitable, no metal walls which make it hard to run electric and or plumbing, and if you wanted to change something get out your saw and make the changes.

          I was 12 feet down and wouldn’t look at steel, ever to go underground with.

    • You guys haven’t thought of or addressed on thing, the best part about the shipping containers is the ease of which concrete can be poured below and then around them simply by using 2×6’s on edge and plywood tacked onto the 2×6’s. After walls are poured lift out the containers depending on size of project.After that is done and then you can finish by using standard concrete floor decking to pour ceiling after removing container to be used for above ground building.To have giant holes dugout and have a concrete crew use forms from scratch is very very expensive also using cross bracing inside the containers makes them about to withstand much much more weight than can be levied against them.I have been using them for underground grow rooms for many years and never had a problem, but that’s only one level down and 4″ of concrete around with a 1/4″ layer of sprayable rhino bedliner as a waterproofer works great and use a small she’d for air movement and entrance and exit. This will save $15k for every 10×40 area you decide to pour.Please contact me if you have any questions or more detail about getting an underground grow area especially in NE US.

      • Pro420 could you please elaborate more. I was considering a 20 ft container that I could split half and half for flowering and vegetation but I am concerned about moisture and mold I am going to be using 1000 mhb and 1000 hps I don’t know if 20 will be adiauite space or if I would need to go with 40 ft but with inline carbon and exhaust system I think under four feet of dirt should be sufichent. Thank you for any help.

    • If you are going to go down 20ft, you should use concrete U shaped drainage culverts that fit together to make a rectangle or square. They are more expensive but you do not have to reinforce them or spend a lot of money rust proofing them. Plus if you get on tall enough you can put and amazing amount of storage in the bottom by building a floor into it.

  5. Renaissance Ronin says

    Amen, brother, A-freakin-MEN. I wish people would STOP asking me about this. Just because you see idiots doing it on “sensationalista TV” doesn’t discount the “I R a Moron” factor. Listen to Graywolf. PLEASE listen to Graywolf. You CANNOT bury a Corten Steel Shipping Container in the ground and achieve anything but failure.I don’t want to be tasked with digging out your sorry butt and then burying you in a proper grave. (I’ve actually had to do this.) You can throw a ton of money at this “dig a big hole and drop the box – solution” but in the end, it’ll make that container unnecessary. I KNOW what I’m talking about. I’m one of the TOP rated ISBU guys on the planet. 😉

    • graywolfsurvival says

      I kept seeing people suggesting that others should bury these things but they didn’t actually do any digging into how exactly you’d do it. I was originally gonna just write the post about the tactical mistake of doing this (which will come at some point now) but I found so many problems with the logistics of doing this that I completely changed the article. Thanks for your input RR!

    • Shaun Lake says

      Ok please excuse my lack of knowledge as i have many talents but this isnt one. Im planning on designing my own cargo container home. But 2 of them will be underground a bunker if you will, but before putting them under the ground i was planning on using steel beams in a cris cross design along the sides front back and underneath then welding 1/4 inch steel sheets everywhere one will be used for storage of food water etc the other for living ,since most containers are 10 feet high 6 feet will be used for walking around the other 4 feet on top completley sealed and using blue hard plastic barrels connected with high pressure piping thats on the sealed ceiling throughout the containers, using them as ballasts to control the buoyancy, along with coating all the sides tops and bottoms with liquid foam that expands,before the foam i plan to use primer paint,then spray the complete units with a poly resin then apply DURABAK rubber adhesive. Durabak is currently being used by our naval fleets for its anti corrosion from salt water.All steel will be coated in this process from containers to the outside of the steel coated structure. i also plan to have doors that are found on ships that are waterproof. if theirs a global tsunami or great flood the top cargo containers will be washed away with the initial wave. the remaining 2 will be kept under the earth with flooded ballasts. when the time is right i will force the water from the ballasts and the air inside and the sealed off areas of the containers will hopefully allow me to surface enough to only allow a controlled level of the containers to remain above water allowing for fresh air and generator exhaust to be omitted.i didnt mention rubber sheeting to be used as additional insulating.the final step will be to encase the whole structure with wooden pallets as they add buoyancy and the wood is strong. im looking for my family and small group of friends to have a fighting chance to survive. will this work or will it be an EPIC FAIL..i understand that theres other factors like why would you want to survive it anyway or radioactive fallout poisoning us. i owe it to my family to try, the Ballast idea i use is to submerge at will in case of ships hitting me and at night i must stay beneath a certain depth. I ask your opinion since your a go to man regarding this idea.Please go easy with comments as ive done all that i know in my head, and i fear the worst and hope the best, regards Shaun ….irishties@yahoo.com

      • Prep4Today says

        I’ll try to answer your question without offending you, IMHO
        it would be an epic fail.

        .1 Ballast needs to be below the waterline, not in the roof.

        .2 If you are talking about a 40 ft. Hi-cube shipping
        container, then in that case, it has a volume
        of 2690 cu. Ft. you would need 170,000 pounds of ballast to keep it submerged.
        That’s three times the amount of weight the shipping container is designed to
        carry. Also water is poor ballast by itself.

        .3 If you could overcome
        one and two, I would think the sheer volume of the debris in the water, that’s
        likely to hit the shipping container, will rip it open like a cat playing with a

        Anything is possible; some things are just not practical. I
        wish you well, and hope you find a solution.

        • Shaun Lake says

          Ok thanks for your responce..it was just an idea that is not feasable..but thats why were all here to learn.
          any suggestions that can lead me and my family down the right path will be appreciated..thank you for your time. Shaun

          • KableGuy says

            Put the ballast on the sides near the top (Will Add stability), And instead of 1/4 inch mild steel plate use 1/2 HARDOX (Hardened Steel) and encase the whole container with it using 2X6 rectangle tube as a spacer between the container and the outer plate. then fill the void with 10,000 PSI concrete. This will add enough weight that you will probably need very little ballast and the HARDOX will make it very impact resistant. They use it to make digger buckets and firing range backing plates and things like that. However If you are going to do all that it will be very expensive.

    • jeffery mcdougle says

      i’m not sure i would talk the advice of someone from the Islamic Society of Boston University…. no i don’t think so.

  6. I do indeed have plans along this line. I was planning to use a smaller 20ft container, paint it with paint that prevents hydrolisis, and add concrete around the lateral walls and rear. Hadn’t really hammered out what sort of concealment to use at the entrance, yet.

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Adding concrete is the key but you may find that you can use just the concrete and have a little more flexibility.

      The concealment is the hard part, no matter how you build an underground shelter. To do it properly, you need an entrance that is not only hidden from people passing by but also gives you a plausible reason that they lost you if they followed you there so they don’t start digging around. If that’s not possible, you need to at least be able to verify if you’re being followed before you turn off to it without them knowing there was a turnoff in the first place.

      A big thing though is that if you only have one entrance, you only have one exit. A small, buried shelter is a bitch tactically.

      • Agreed. The area is out in the middle of nowhere. More of a “last resort standby and hunker down till (whatever) passes” than a plan A option. I like the ideas of a fairly secure fallback option though.

  7. A: WALLS –

    RSC Steel bunkers are constructed from 1/4″ plate steel and 1/4″
    C-Channel. Shipping containers offer no structural reinforcement and
    the walls are made from thin 14-gauge steel. This means that the ENTIRE
    Rising S unit is a load-bearing structure capable of supporting weights
    in excess of 300,000lbs. Shipping containers are only load-bearing at
    it’s 4 corners.


    Constructed from 1/4″ plate steel and 1/4″ 2′x4′ Square Tubing.
    Shipping containers offer no structural reinforcement and the walls are
    made from thin 14-gauge steel. There are wood floors in most shipping
    containers only further weakening the over all strength of the


    Shipping containers are not easily expandable. Aside from the main
    challenge of cutting away the door and fabricating a connector piece
    between two shelters; removing any part of a shipping container’s wall
    will only further weaken the already flimsy structure.

    In contrast; Rising S bunkers are easily expandable. Using flanges;
    we are able to offer our clients the ability to expand their floor-plans
    and virtually enlarge the bunker to endless possibilities. Between
    each unit; there are also security doors offering redundant layers of
    protection against intruders. RSC floor plans are limited only by budget
    and imagination. If you can dream it – we can build it.


    Every underground bunker that Rising S Company builds comes with a
    steel staircase and entry hatch. This hatch is lockable from the inside
    and acts as your first line of defense in times of trouble. A security
    door lies at the foot of the staircase giving occupants a second layer
    of security and protection against assailants or looters. Shipping
    containers offer no such convenient entry methods nor do they offer the
    added security that a RSC staircase and security doors can provide.

    E: SHIPPING CONTAINERS: Not a load bearing structure!

    WARNING! If you bury a shipping container without re-supporting the
    walls, ceiling and floor; IT WILL COLLAPSE! The thin steel used in the
    walls and ceiling isn’t strong enough to support the weight of the dirt.
    Every shipping container is built to be strongest at the corners. If
    you place significant weight & pressure anywhere other than the
    corner posts; the container will collapse. The only way to reinforce
    the structure is to line it in concrete blocks or in wood… both of which
    are inferior methods compared to the strength of the heavy steel used
    in RSC units. Not to mention that regardless of the re-stabilizing
    method used; it all subtracts from the available floor space.


    The standard shipping container’s walls are very thin (16 gauge steel). These walls are problematic for several reasons. A:
    They are weaker than the steel used in RSC units and without
    significant re-stabilization of the walls and roof; they will collapse
    under the weight of being buried. B: They have no corrosion protection so deterioration is quickened. C.
    The walls are corrugated so installing a sealed floor is near
    impossible …short of adding more steel to the unit, Ideally; occupants
    need to be able to seal the unit off from moisture and potentially
    toxic air. Air filtration is only possible in units that are air-tight.

  8. Timothy Cogdill says

    Totally agree. I’ve looked into the whole shipping container thing and the only viable option I found was to pour a footing/slab, build a block box with sump and then put the shipping container inside of it. Sounds kind of stupid at that point doesn’t it. You can actually build an underground concrete block room for what you would pay for a shipping container. Concrete, and block is cheap. If you don’t mind doing the work yourself it’s cost effective, and a Much better option. Along with an emergency exit.

  9. XBrody Charles Garth II says

    Do you really know what you are talking about? First thing that lead me to think you do not was “they are only about as think as a saw blade”. A standard steel shipping container can withstand a blast from a .357 at 10 foot range,I am pretty sure a saw blade can not do that.

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Here’s a video of your .357 going through a shipping container at 30 feet – http://vimeo.com/38596700

      … And the same shipping container being penetrated by a 9mm at the same 30 feet – http://vimeo.com/38592222

      Still think a shipping container can withstand a .357 at 10 feet?

      Now to the pertinent facts as related to the article…

      The thickness of ISO shipping container walls is about 2mm (14 gage) – http://www.elitebuildings.com/userfiles/ISO_Container_Specifications.pdf

      Here’s just one example picked at random of a selection of saw blades available, showing them to be available from 1.8mm-4.4mm, meaning that 2mm falls within the definition of “about as thick as a saw blade” – http://www.guhdo.com/sawblades/documents/2011SawBlade_004.pdf

      Plus, no where in the article did I mention a single sentence about being bulletproof as a deciding factor in burying a shipping container, only that the walls can’t take the side pressure from dirt when buried.

      Not sure where you’re getting your facts but you should really find more reputable sources.

      • GrayWolf, Your missing the whole point. If I go out and buy all of the good stuff and hire the contractors to dig the hole, build the structure, what stops one of the vendor company people or contractors from coming and removing all of the occupant of the shelter and taking it for their family. Secrecy and security are the keys, so doing it yourself and hiding it from Everyone is also key.

        • No, I’m not. OPSEC has nothing to do with how thin the walls are constructed and how they can’t support the required weight. Totally different subject. Doesn’t make much sense to build a super secret bunker that will collapse on you.

  10. Sean Donnelly says

    Heyya Wolf, I hadn’t really thought about the directional vectors involved nor the corrosion factor. I would have thought that the metal would have lasted ‘long enough’ for what it would be needed for. I would have figured something like a shipping container would only be useful for the primary die-off hence corrosion not factoring for me. As far as tactical considerations go, however, I am in 100% agreement with you. Anything with only one way in is known to thinking people as a “trap.” I have the same problem with people building, what is essentially, a panic room. It’s fine when the police will be showing up in fifteen minutes to half an hour. When you don’t have police, or someone else, coming to flank the people waiting you out … it becomes a death trap.

    • PiraticalPyro says

      The issue with the corrosion time, is that you don’t know how long after you build it, will it be used. We are preppers. That means prepping now for a future scenario, which could be anywhere from a minute to a decade from now. That is where the corrosion factor kicks in. I hope this helps clarify his point some.

  11. Joseph Taylor says

    Good information to know before spending tons of money on something that won’t last and could be dangerous also.

  12. Great article, Great advice.
    Thank you for putting it out there the way it really is.

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Thanks TM. Just kinda stuck in my craw so I had to say something.

      • Euel Robertson says

        Thanks for the work in circular file my plan.
        I 2nd son cashier 373 tec5 company B 605TH Engineers combat battalion..Robertsonn

  13. ibelievein3 says

    Can you bury a mobile home (not motor home/rv) AKA prefab home or “trailer” as in “trailer park”? I am curious if anyone knows the specs.

    • graywolfsurvival says

      I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say no. Trailers are much weaker structurally than a shipping container.

    • That’s simply insane a hailstorm can cave in a mobile home, the walls are only 1×3’s and the ceiling expandable foam over 22ga aluminum with NO ROOF TRUSSES. Noway impossible,

  14. Corey Michael Naughton says

    That Atlas shelter video was stupid. The only 3/8ths steel which will stop “pretty much every bullet but a .50 cal) would be AR500 steel. The door would weigh over 200 lbs and it still wouldn’t stop any sub-50. cal round that is AP (like readily available 30-06 AP). Also, why would you demo your product when it’s unfinished and there’s potential customers inside???
    Anyways, the problem with burying a shipping container is that most people just plain do it wrong. The thing isn’t designed to support lateral load ONLY compression load. If you want a shelter just build an above ground earth bag building. It’s bulletproof and fireproof by design.

  15. Shaun Lake says

    I asked a question and now its been taken off why ?

  16. Shaun Lake says

    Once again i posted a request. And it was removed SCOTT what gives ?

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Hi Shaun, I haven’t removed anything.

      All comments are moderated because I get hundreds of spam comments each month so they sit in a queue. I like this Disqus system for comments mostly but it’s not very reliable with telling me when someone comments. I also can’t check my comments on every page every day.

      I didn’t see your question until just now when I saw this comment.

      • Shaun Lake says

        Im sorry i stumbled across your site and it was refreshing to see a man with your credentials affirm my beliefs. Im 55 and my world was never the same after the JFK assasination. But current events leave me doubting certain events and theres a level of mistrust and uncertainity that has led me to your doorstep. Many of my friends and some family think ive fallen off the deep end. Guess i look at the world as a slaughter house but i want to know when the axe is going to drop. My budget is meek as im disabled but i plan on dropping off the grid grow my own food and getting out of the Boston area. My son 22 and daughter 8 are my concern and homeschooling is a must for my daughter shes studying Wing Chun now and she needs and wants to be able to drop any guy who tries to harm her. Im thinking PA is where ill be heading into the country. The gun laws here are ridiculous and ive been LTC concealed for 27 years but was denied this time for no reason. I have no criminal record sp rathet than fight it im going to be prepping in Pa. I dont know about the water table there but ill find out. The reinforced cargo container with the ballist idea seems way out there but since the Earth is 75 petcent water..i figured a world wide tsunami could happen so why not think harder and well i explaned it all below…i have a good friend whos got a huge backho and another friend whos a long time welder so ill barder my singing talents for their help…lol..their dying to get me out there but are clueless about my prepping. They did mention a doomsday nutjob whos been prepping for years..looks like hes someone i have to meet. Thanks for your weapon advice as i only have a HK USP 45…but plan on buying a HK 7.62 M16 style rifle. And much more crossbows and other goodies…the multiple escape idea is great and if the buggers are coming through one of my corrugated tunnel theyll be surprised its a dead end but the door behind them will drop and ill flood the tunnel. Im planning on using submarine watertight doors and naval hatches. Ive got a hookup with 1/4 inch steel sheets and the ham radio a must..but with what ive written below will it work..i undetstand the sides are the week points and have addressed the posdibility of structural collapse.
        i think. Ive been to Ireland and have family in Cork..My dads mothers name was Kelly but Scott im very sorry for my lack of patience and writing a small novel here..peace to you ,and i hope my path crosses your someday ..i dont drink or smoke but id throw back a Guiness. With you anyday…Is my Idea a Epic FAIL or does it need some tweaking ? Respect and regards Shaun

  17. Lots of great points but you are a asshole, no really, you sir are an an asshole. If you cut out the insults this would be a solid article. Get your point accross without the bs and you might have a better chance of getting people to appreciate your logic.

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Thanks NoBeeS. You’re welcome to read someone else’s blog or even start your own. I’m not really concerned about your opinion, or anyone else’s for that matter.

      And I’ve been called much worse.

      • No Sir you missed the point. You insult a decent amount of the people seeking information.. most of them need clear instruction not trolling. According to your site you have plenty of experiance but you offer little advise “here” on how to defend a bunker or solve the issue of the shipping container bunker system that is pretty popular for the average prepper. More honey, less vinegar…

        • graywolfsurvival says

          The point of the article wasn’t to explain how to defend a bunker, just to stop people from thinking they can just dig a hole and drop one in safely – as is suggested all over the internet.

          Defending an underground bunker is actually quite difficult. The article was much longer than most people like to read as it is. I may write an article about trying to set up a system for underground bunker defense at some point but it’s actually almost impossible other than reducing your signature and having a hidden exit.

  18. Survival Prepper Joe says

    Thank you for this article, Scott! This topic is very popular in this community. Not sure why. But after reading about it several times, I did some research, too.

    These containers are so weakly constructed that a heavy set man can cave the roof in, let alone a ton of dirt.

    They’re a strong fame, wrapped in flimsy metal. That frame is designed to support stacking, but if the load is placed anywhere other than that frame, it’s cave-in time.

    If placed above ground, they’re STILL not a useful solution.

    They’re not insulated, so they get too cold when it’s cold out, and too hot inside when it’s hot outside. Because they’re metal, when the temperature changes they’re prone to condensation, which can lead to mold.

    After all of the modifications you’d need to make a container inhabitable (above ground) you’d have spent nearly the same as you would buying a motor home or trailer.

    The one bright spot I found was a Popular Mechanics article showcasing homes and offices constructed from shipping containers. These looked pretty neat. But probably have as much to do with the original shipping container as a living tree does with a finished home.

    If you want to check it out, that research is on my site.

    Thanks again.


  19. hi guys peter here from australia, i found this site while searching for outlets to sell portable water filtration units transportable for 100 odd people or more ,anyway seen the problems associated with containers underground,may i sugest you could use the container as boxing .there is a lot of labor with laying blocks and filling them ,dig a rectangular hole 150mm larger than the container,poor the floor with cement and reinforcing,lift container onto floor and lock it down with the anchor points all containers come with,then go inside the container and cut timber braces to fit between the walls.then place steel mesh or you can buy the concrete with fibremesh in it and slowly poor the concrete in doing all sides equally with a 600mm lift ,the container can not move as it is locked down and the concrete is on all sides do not do one wall to the top // gradual lifts all round ,the braces inside transfer the load from one side to the other (as the concrete is trying to push one side in it has to push the other out ,it cant push out as the other side has the same force of concrete pushing it in ) go inside habd hit the walls with a large mallet this will settle the concrete and remove air pockets,the end with the door can be formed up with structual ply so you can make the required entry,when the wall have reached there height place some steel dowls 200mm into the top and protruding above 150mm place steel mesh on the roof with clearace supports so the mesh is 50mm of the container roof then pour the concrete on the roof ,now you have one water proof solid bunker,
    NOTE you need a structual engineer to design the roof mesh and concrete thickness depending on the earth loading above the container,also the concrete needs to be at 32 mpa and concrete plastic against the container to stop concrete moisture.
    love and light

  20. David Finley says

    Listen to the man! Being stuck in a CHU with two other dudes for a year IS NOT an enjoyable situation! Say what you will about “just trying to survive”- it won’t matter if you’re at each other’s throats a few weeks later.

  21. Daniel Lunsford says

    I have to disagree with a number of your points, sir. I’ve been working with and designing with steel shipping containers through my architectural firm for awhile now; as a matter of fact, we’re about to roll out a series of survival bunker / storm shelter plans to add to our portfolio. Let’s take it point by point:

    1) Lateral stability: as you note, shipping containers are much stronger in compression. However, any unstable soil that pushes against the side of the containers is liable to cause damage. There are a variety of ways to prevent this, such as sandbags, cement-stabilizing the surrounding soil, or a good old-fashioned log or railroad tie palisade fence. I’ve even heard of people using rock gabions. In fact, if the soil in your area is heavy, dense clay, it probably won’t slump at all.

    2) Rustproofing: steel shipping containers have a functional life of twenty years. They are made of 12 gauge steel, 1/10th of an inch thick. That is actually pretty thick for steel, and the rate of rusting can be quicker or slower depending on soil conditions, humidity, the exact composition of the steel, etc. We recommend that any buried container application be coated with an extra layer of paint, or even better- good old-fashioned roofing tar (cost to cover a 8’x8.5’x40′ container on all sides: about $500).

    3) Reinforcing: not necessary unless you want your container buried really deep. They have a compressive strength of 325 pounds per square foot; very dense, heavy clays like our local Texas ‘gumbo mud’ only weigh about 200 pounds per cubic foot (near 275 if fully saturated). So unless you are going to bury the container more than 2-3 feet deep, it is probably not necessary.

    4) Chemical and pollutants: sure they need to be washed out really well. You have to do that if you are going to use one for almost anything other than storage / transport. Its just the nature of the beast.

    5) Ingress / egress: a valid point to be sure, but wouldn’t that hold true for any survival shelter?

    I am not arguing that there are better ways to build a survival shelter. The video you linked is a great example of a better system: the Atlas shelters are essentially barrel vaults- very strong. But what I am saying is none of the problems you mentioned are really problems if the builder/ designer knows what they are doing.

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Which is exactly what I was saying when I said “Underground shipping container bunkers are possible; just don’t think that all you have to do is dig a deep hole, drop a shipping container into it, bury it and decorate. If you really want an underground bunker and you want to do it the right way, you should be talking to someone…” so I don’t know what your point is.

      • Daniel Lunsford says

        I misunderstood your article to be discouraging people from doing it at all because a, b, c, etc. My apologies if that was not your intent.

  22. Steven Stevo Hampton says

    Has anyone done real research in Monolithic Domes; I originally was looking at burying “containers”, then I discovered ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) but I’m now interested in Monolithic Domes. Egg shape strength, lighter concretes, thermal mass, and high efficient foam insulation.

  23. Laurel Wiltsey Martin says

    OK but what if you built a “block/concrete liner” then used the container? Even lined the interior with something as simple as wood or sheet rock?

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Just lining it wouldn’t help because you’re not just trying to keep it from piercing, you’re trying to keep it from bowing in. You need lateral support to allow it to push out. Having a concrete wall filled with cement and steel could help if it were thick enough, and then the shipping container could be used for just supporting the roof and dirt above but you’d still have to worry about rusting and chemicals.

      If you could build a framework that could be buried and then put the container in it, you’re good. Once you’ve one that though, you probably don’t really need the container anymore unless your framework can’t handle the weight.

  24. dragon5126 says

    The first question that ANY under ground bunker builder needs to ask is what is my soil like? The comment that a cubic yard of dirt weighing a ton is far from accurate. It is an over generalization, and does not take into consideration the content of the soil, including the moisture content. If the soil is loam, it will be under 100 lbs a cubic yd ( I used to throw 1, 2, & 4 cubic yd bales of peat moss around when I worked in a ware house in my youth). When the soil the container is set in is compacted and solid there is minimal pressure against the walls of the container, (key words coming) in the beginning. As time moves on, the earth around it will begin adding pressure and will start to buckle the flat walls, this is why metal culverts are round, it causes the pressures to flow around the pipe and add support rather than becoming destructive. If you want to keep that container intact long term, first it MUST completely free of exterior rust and then tarred, completely encapsulating the exterior to seal it from water damage. Then set it in a properly poured concrete foundation, and surrounded with more concrete, creating a complete concrete vault around the container. this means a substantial amount of prep work, creating the entrance and so forth. The advantage to this is you can build a reinforced literal bomb shelter, and it will be doublely shielded from EMF issues as it will be within a grounded metal structure AND under ground (an earth ground). All this work, how ever can also be accomplished by burying corrugated culvert pipe of suitable dimensions, and prepped the same way you have the advantage of storage under the flat floorboards over the round bottom of the pipe. and you only have to worry about the bed the pipe is in and tarring about half of the pipe before dropping it in place, don’t have to worry about leveling it from left to right, just end to end which can be done by flowing the concrete in under it… in short MUCH less work… just get the pipe weld ends on and tar it then dig the hole, pour part of the concrete base (to prevent formation of any air gaps) and float the pipe and pour the rest of the base. then cut your entrances… In the end Shipping containers ONLY make sense as shipping or above ground storage containers. and not much else, unless they are free. they are too damned much work and hidden expenses. These are the REAL reasons not to mess with them.

  25. graywolfsurvival says

    The weight of the soil above a buried bunker is based on the soil itself and not generic topsoil unless you’ve actually purchased and placed generic topsoil. Plus, if it ever rains, it certainly won’t be at 2.5% moisture. The structure you should be designing for worst-case, not optimum conditions. If you banked on 40 lbs and it ever rained, you’d cave in. If you didn’t have perfect topsoil, you’d cave in. If anyone ever crossed over your hidden structure, you’d cave in.

    Clay is a big part of a lot of the US so it has to be a consideration when calculating it theoretically but you have to actually dig down, wet your soil to a heavy rain condition, weigh it, and then add some for anything that could possibly cross over it plus a little extra for some safety.

    Here are some general weights that you might find, and in real conditions, they’ll be a lot more than 40 lbs – http://www.coyotesteel.com/assets/img/PDFs/weightspercubicfoot.pdf

  26. graywolfsurvival says

    Absolutely correct, and you have to consider the worst-case scenario for the most amount of pressure that could be expected and leave some amount of safety margin. It doesn’t matter if the walls can sustain the weight on average. It matters if they walls can sustain the weight at the highest pressure point under the worst conditions that are possible.

  27. graywolfsurvival says

    I agree. Setting up an underground structure on its own is very difficult. As an addition to an existing structure though, it could work well.

  28. I’m not sure why people would want an underground bunker, but if you must bury something and use it for shelter, try a 2000 gal septic tank. You can install it yourself, it won’t look suspicious, its waterproof and won’t collapse on itself. You can even fit in it if you need to (granted you fit thru the manhole 🙂 ). They’re cheaper than shipping containers too, just not as big.

  29. I was lucky, ran across 20′ by 40′ round culvert, they delivered it to the house, free of charge just to get it out of the way. they dropped it off by where I wanted it, had cables laid to secure it. Bobcatted a trench in a hill side, used the cables to roll into trench, concreted the back end and front end, door in front. Built a root cellar on front end, have to know its there to find door, covered over with 6′ of dirt. Have escape out back end and air vents are hidden, use now as storm shelter.
    Put floor in, space for storage under floor, front to back, 6′ room with tools, generator and fans, toilet. Next, 12′ living area, built in sofas and chairs on sides, 8′ dining and kitchen next, wall, then 4 sets of 3 tiered bunks, 2 on each side, closets on end wall, lots of storage space. Power from solar panels, look all busted up, toilet connected to over grown lagoon. County officials out to inspect root cellar and solar panels when put in. Have had officials commented about solar was bust, they thought had better chance, told them too many trees and too hard to keep up
    Can’t think of a better bolt hole.

  30. Survival Skillcraft says

    Great article. Too many people watch a poorply produced “reality TV” show and then think they are GTG!

  31. My thought was always to use a shipping container as a cheap form. Dig a hole a meter deeper, wider, longer than the container. dump in some aggregate and pour in a concrete pad. Then put in the container and use it as a form to pour concrete around. The side pressure from a 10cm concrete wall pour is within the capacity of the shipping container to withstand. Plywood for the outside forms. Include some bolts in the wall tops. When that’s dry, either bolt steel plate as a roof, or bolt corrugated and pour more concrete on top of that. Cover the top with dirt/sod. You should now have a really solid shelter with the square shape will all love.
    If you’re going all out, you can lay in drainage, water, and ventilation piping in the concrete and it will be protected once the concrete hardens. Leave a few extra PVC pipes for later runs of comm and power cables etc. Plus a vent and intake pipe with a nice HEPA and NBC filter. Voila. your own Diefenbunker.

  32. I am going to build a 40 by 60 metal shed. My thought was to bury a 20 ft. container , at ground level. Possibly lay 12 ft 2 by 8 over the top. With no weight on the top, and the container not being exposed to direet rain am I still subject to the sides caveing? Also, do you know , would this be adequate protection from a solar flare, or EMP ? The shed is 14 gauge. Thankyou

  33. I didn’t tell you, the 40 by 60 building will be built over the container.

  34. Actually, Adding Support Beams is not that difficult and is a very practical solutions.. Especially considering Custom Made Steel or any Concrete Bunkers. The idea of casting the shipping container off for underground is very short sighted. I found several sites with a quick search showing container reinforced with steel beams being used as bunkers. Perhaps instead of just a scare off article it would be better serving the community on how to reinforce, how much for how deep and designs. This article serves only the rip off bunker makers overcharging for custom small shelters.

    • I only know some things you shouldn’t do with them. I’m not a bunker expert so I just suggest people go to bunker experts. You could always do your own homework and become a bunker expert though.

      The support beams won’t help the sides and the tops from crushing in though unless they’re done across every section of sheet metal.

  35. I’m thinking of putting a container buried just to ground level, and a 40 by 60 , 14 gauge steel building over the top. Your thought? Thanks

  36. john cantey says

    Underground isn’t a possibility, if you dig down 3 ft here. You will hit water. Of course one of Hitler’s bomb proof bunkers would probably allow you defend yourself until the ammo runs out.

  37. Buzzramjet says

    IF they are not designed for to be hit by a lot of water then how do all the containers on cargo ships going from port to port to port survive?
    How do the containers sitting in shipyards the world over survive rainstorms, constant water sitting on them and still remain dry? They are supposed to be water tight or no one would use them for shipping.

    As for using them for shelters, sure but who says they have to be three feet or ten feet under ground. They can be put into the ground at just below ground level to be used as tornado shelters, not long term bomb shelters or anything like that as few tornadoes stick around more than a few mintues.

    OF course the best shelters that are tornado proof are built by companies like Monolithic domes.
    EVERY SCHOOL should have them as a place for students to go to. If the school goes down, the rebuild the school with those domes.Yeah the town might look like the movie Planet 51 BUT it is better than seeing your home destroyed and destroyed over and over.

    • Never said they couldn’t be hit by a lot of water. They just can’t hold up to the top and/or side pressure of waterlogged soil. The collapsed container in the pics above was only in 18 inches of soil.

  38. Mark Renaud says

    I read and read the bantering back and forth. People just looking for a little bit of common sense. If you have an idea great! All the power to you brains.

    Think about this now, what you all are doing is building right.? When doing this, it does turn into a “construction site” now if anyone has questions about this? Call a general contractor or engineering firm, you want to make sure its safe! What you want or need is the experience to finish the project.

    Not once did I see anyone mention weaping tile.

  39. Good job. I was glad you mentioned the chemicals that could be in one. I have seen how these things are fumigated / fogged in other countries and then shut up and sealed for the trip to other destinations.

  40. If you are going to bury some sort of shelter, concrete tanks and pipe or steel tanks made for direct bury are an option… hire an engineer and do the hob right the first time….the tactical flaws of hiding are true, being mobile with supplies may be a better idea. Not saying a bunker doesn’t have its place either.

  41. As somebody who has successfully buried more than one shipping container is is great to see some one line out the many dangers. I wish there was a discussion on how to do it properly because it can be done.

  42. Some people have families and even extended families that will need to survive any number of disaster scenarios. The suggestions and advice provided here on how to build a “bug out shelter” are all good but some people have VERY LIMITED funds. So maybe a discussion on alternative cheaper shelters is in order. Or maybe even combine that with a discussion on some depression era shelter that could be pressed into service for an extended period if needed.

  43. Why can’t a person knuckle together tricons and have burry them? All the benefits of a container but without the drawbacks. You have reinforced framework every 6.3 feet as opposed to 20 or even 40 feet. Not just side but too and bottom also. Someone critique this theory.

  44. Nice job explaining the deficiencies. They could be used as a small shelter after stripping the interior, but only if enclosed by 2-3′ of reinforced concrete.

  45. I have had this gnawing feeling to sell our house in Delaware and get out in the country,farther from cities and traffic. My husband doesn’t get it. I am a nurse, have a lot of skills. Initially was thinking of dropping a couple containers underground as a means of getting either to barn or at least out of house. Am planning on building an earthbag house and small barn. With global warming a very real thing how far away from the coast in the NC or SC area should I be? Also what areas in either of those 2 states besides the cities should we stay away from. So many possible things can happen. I am just trying to get thru the grid going down. That’s bad enough. Don’t have unlimited funds (minimal) or I’d just buy a mountain, blow a hole in it and then outfit it like the feds.ANY ADVICE would be appreciated. Thankyou so much.

  46. Tom Russell says

    Please add me to your mailing list, thank you!

  47. I was curious about burying a conex style container as well, however leaving the roof pretty much at ground level? Any Advice

    • It has been common practice in the Army Combat Engineers for decades to use shipping containers as bunkers. Mostly 6′ x 8′ Conex type, but I’ve seen some larger ones too. The trick is to turn them upside down and use the floor as the roof because the load bearing strength is all in the floor. You can safely pack 2 ft of dirt on top with a bursting layer for those pesky soviet 82mm mortar rounds. You can place them right on the ground and berm them up or cut and cover them 50% or 100% of the conex height, depending on the water table. Be sure to put down 1 foot of compacted gravel as a base with some drain tile in it so the container does not stand in water, and be sure to have somewhere for the drainage to go. Spray-on polymer or asphalt water proofing should go on before dropping in hole. You could easily get 10 to 20 years life span or better better depending on the environmental conditions. Remember that water is the enemy in all earth berm and below grade constructions. Don’t forget adequate ventilation, dehumidification, and good structural grounding with a copper ground rod if there are any internal electrical items.

  48. My idea was to use the container as a place to stay cool in the SW deserts during power outages by placing a container 4 feet below ground level then placing a second container on top of the first container because these things ARE designed to take the weight of many containers above IF the weight is distributed above as designed… IE the second container stacked directly on top does this exactly of course.
    This would require good insulation however in the floor of the top container or ceiling of the second container….. and steps down to the floor level of the top container.
    I have no desire to bunker in place.

    Any feedback on the impact of horizontal pressures in these dry areas?

  49. ISO containers under ground are good for forming out the inside space when used with reinforced concrete top and sides and when using proper bracing on the inside to be removed after the concrete cures. THEN u got something.
    ISO,s can be above ground earth bearmed and covered with. not much fuss unless your going with a LOT of fill on top.

    Bearming above ground in the right enviorment would be almost invisible

  50. Yesimthatguy21 says

    Ok so I was thinking of making a bunker above ground with the storage container but not really aware of the chemical and fortifying aspects to it so any help or advice would be great

  51. Hello.

    If you built an above ground container home/bunker by placing several containers around 8 inches apart and welding in steel doorways(and also some window type openings between containers to add a more spacious feeling and to allow good air circulation) and then pour reinforced concrete between and around the containers with a poured roof, would this be adequate? Then bury the whole lot under light and well drained topsoil only a small layer with native vegetation on top. Not looking for a blast shelter, just hidden and insulated from the soil layer as well as obviously being storm proof.

    I’m thinking 3 40ft containers side by side and a single 20ft container as an entry room with defensive capabilities (double steel door entry airlock in first 6 feet and a nitrogen purge in the airlock which will silently asphyxiate hostile entrants who actually manage to find it-nitogen bottles are cheap and effective) as well as decontamination equipment (drained floor and water washing).A pure Nitrogen atmosphere will knock someone unconscious fast(only a couple of breaths) AND they don’t wake up without outside intervention.

    Biggest issue is obviously pouring foundations for the containers and a huge gravel pad with perforated drainage pipework running downhill and then building extensive formwork and finding a concrete supplier willing to do the pour a long distance from the city(remote rural property) without too many questions…Not sure a couple of people could mix this much concrete on their own from pallets of bags!

  52. Purple Heart says

    Anyone believing a Conex Container for a secure habitat on the day the Big One drops, needs to ask the actual sellers and shippers about how many 22 caliber holes they have to patch. Containers, riding the rails, become Arcade fun. The marauders that will come to steal your goodies, will be a little more heavily armed. The lowly AK round would make your above ground bunker into a sieve. In one side, out the other. For an underground bunker, better to find an abandoned mine or cave and seal it up. Mother Nature has some awesome natural protection.

  53. Hello Graywolf

    I read about your comments about the burying of a container. My question is practically the same but I am adding a variable, which is water. The transformation of a container into a pool above ground is fine but underground that is my main question. I wanted to know your insight on that thought.
    Best Regards,
    “Once you do that, you start changing their effectiveness. They are not built for lateral pressure and not designed for long-term wetness or acidic/caustic soil”

  54. This is all bull… to begin with a a steel dumpster much less a shipping container can be an excellent shelter from an F6 – or any other wind driven storm.

    The notion is not to bury it entirely… but allow it’s “roof” to extend (+/-) 6 inches above the surface.
    Anchor it well and hunker down. No storm has the power to pluck that out of the earth. This will NOT protect you from flooding… only wind driven storms like tornadoes.


  55. Ted Brissette says

    Its actually very easy. My buddy has had one in the ground 20 yrs with no issues. You stack RR Ties on each side and the ends. Make them go a little higher than the container and place them across the top. This is for structural integrity but doors and everything else are yours to research.

  56. Using the shipping container as a form and pour concrete around it with reinforcements. Once that is done your good to go but it is not exactly going to be low cost then. I am looking for a cheap way to build a under ground shooting range on my own property but will probably use 50 ft of large cement culvert pipe to do that.

  57. I am a dipshit and don’t know how to write a comment without being rude.

  58. SimpleMan says

    I am not a prepper, but have heard shipping containers make good faraday cages and so on. I initially just thought the idea of an Earth home or underground house would be neat and very efficient. Like a cave, it would stay at a constant temp year round. Eventually set up alternate energy and water collection systems, to live free/ off Grid. Many Great Plains Indians made and lived in Earth lodges, so it’s not a new concept.

  59. I was going to build one for an underground shooting range. Because of local issues.
    Shipping container was $3,000 and free for me to buy as a brother has. Back hoe, I don’t wan to spend more then $5,000 so what are my alternatives? If I was going to spend $10,000 or more I can put it above ground,

    What I want is cheap!

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