A CONEX Cabin at Our BOL, by Montana Guy. Partitioned 2x4s walls


Editor’s Introductory Note:  This short article (in shorter draft kind) was initially posted in 2016 at Survivalistboards.com, and is posted with the author’s permission. (He retained his copyright.)

Author’s Introductory Caveat: Some government authorities might not permit living like this. It worked for us in Montana but then we chose to not seek permission from them.

Our initial Montana winter was spent in an 8′ x 10′ shelter. We survived. And yes, we are nonetheless married.

This short article is directed toward people who:

  1. Reside far from exactly where they would like to establish a bug-out, and
  2. May perhaps want to sooner or later move to theirBug Out Place (BOL) and commence creating their future homestead.

This short article suggests obtaining land for a future homestead. Initially a CONEX shipping container can be placed on the house. It can straight away serve as a reasonably safe, pre-positioned, pre-provisioned Bugout  shelter. It can be employed for camping vacations. These can be excellent possibilities to get to know neighbors, obtain neighborhood sources, get a head start out on internet site improvement such as clearing, access improvements, installation of electric (grid or solar) and so on.

If the SHTF, people fundamentally just will need to get themselves to their BOL. When the time comes to permanently relocate, the shelter can serve as short-term housing and building workplace. Right after moving into their homestead, they will haves a precious BO shelter set up on the house and straight away readily available for use by loved ones.


We are retirees (husband an engineer, wife a math teacher) who chose to move to the American Redoubt (Montana) largely primarily based on the suggestions of James Wesley, Rawles and Joel Skousen. We owe a debt of gratitude to each gentlemen.

Initially we rented in town whilst taking our time to get to know the region, meet like-minded individuals and search for house. The search took a year. We lastly discovered a pretty rural 10 acre wood lot in Montana. It is situated on a extended dead-finish private road. It has two valuable springs operating by way of it. The only indicators of man on the house was a pretty old but properly-constructed stone-lined outhouse. Though the place is pretty remote, electric and phone have been readily available at our lot. The region has a lot of households living off-grid and/or homeschooling their kids. Each are sturdy indicators that you have discovered a superior BOL. The Icing on the cake was that our nearest neighbors have been superior mates from church.

Initially we cleared for the future creating internet site and driveway. We bought a 20 ft. CONEX shipping container affectionately to be recognized as ‘The Cabin’ and situated it in a wooded region close to our future homestead.

For numerous years we employed our Cabin for camping, practicing bug-out and testing our preps in actual globe circumstances.

By the summer season of 2014 we got severe and ready to move to The Cabin just before winter set in. We graveled the driveway and installed underground electric to the future creating internet site.

On December 1st we moved from our in-town apartment to The Cabin. What a winter! What a excellent feeling to be hunkered down! We survived. And yes, we are nonetheless happily married! Okay, I need to admit that my wife is a trooper.

Winter was challenging but produced a lot easier by not obtaining to travel except for hot showers at a neighborhood RV campground. We managed to construct a 12 ft. x 16 ft. wood shed and fill it with firewood worked up from logs cleared from the internet site. We paced ourselves (because I was properly into my 70s) but at the finish of every single day we knew we would be warm, dry and properly fed back in our cozy tiny ‘Cabin’. By spring we have been prepared to commence building of our homestead. Halleluiah!

Seeking back, we honestly have fond memories of that initial Montana winter in our cozy tiny ‘Cabin’. And now it offers us comfort figuring out that if the SHTF, our tiny ‘Cabin’ is suitable out back, prepared and capable to deliver shelter for loved ones. Of course the grandkids take it more than when they come to check out.


CONEX CabinWe left the rear half open for cold storage and partitioned (2x4s walls and ceiling with R-13 fiberglas insulation and six-mil poly vapor barrier on warm side) the front half for living space. That is only 80 sq. ft. but it was warm, dry and cozy. The floor was insulated with 1” Dow Styrofoam R5 rigid insulation (aka ‘blue board’). Surprisingly, it held up to the foot site visitors reasonably properly. (see ‘Things We Would Do Differently’). Light was critical so we placed a storm door with lots of glass for our exterior door. It was single-pane glass. Yes, it frosted up and we sometimes had to chip ice so that it would close adequately. No massive deal. The interior door to the cold ‘back room’ was just an el-cheapo interior door. We added a ‘sweep’ to the bottom, producing it fairly draft-cost-free. Rigid insulation attached to the cold side kept the door warm and eliminated any frosting issue. From inside The Cabin, each doors swung ‘out’ so as to not interfere with the 1” blue board on the floor.


We initially employed a Mr. Heater Buddy Transportable four,000–9,000 BTU propane heater for camping but it was as well massive. Then we switched to a Coleman SportCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater which place out 1,500 BTU and ran 12 hours on a 16.four oz. propane cylinder. It worked fine for outside temps down to 35F. Each employed compact 16.four oz. cylinders. We refilled these from a 20 lb. propane tank utilizing a Mr. Heater F276172 Propane Tank Refill Adapter ($15). Tank charges dropped to about $1.00 per 16.four oz. cylinder.

The most significant issue utilizing the non-electric propane heater was ‘stratification’ of heat. Translation: ‘hot air rises’. The floor region was pretty cool whilst the ceiling region was pretty warm. Obtaining to retain the window slightly open for ventilation compounded the impact. By Christmas we completed the 20 amp feed to The Cabin. Wow, what a distinction! We plugged in a compact fan-forced 1500 watt transportable electric heater. It had three heat settings: 500, 1,000 and 1,500 watts. Temps plunged to 18F beneath zero on the coldest evening. We have been toasty warm with the heater set to medium 1,000 watts. The fan also solved the temperature ‘stratification’ issue.


CONEX CabinSummer time nights got uncomfortably warm. Even even though we chosen a light colored CONEX shipping container the metal ceiling got hot. (Yes, even in Montana). We painted the roof exterior with two coats of white Black Jack elastomeric reflective roof coating. This alone lowered the temperature highs by 10F. Installation of an exhaust fan also helped in summer season cooling (see ‘Things We Would Do Differently’).


Ventilation is critical but it is fundamentally proportional to BTU output. Extremely tiny was necessary for a 9,000 BTU Mr. Heater. Quoting the owner’s manual, “This heater calls for a vent region of 9 square inches (instance 3” x 3” opening.)” We lost tiny heat supplying the necessary ventilation.

The other manufacturer warning is that if you select to use a 20 lb. propane tank for any device it need to be situated outdoors.

We installed each fire/smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in The Cabin. That was dollars properly spent.


For numerous years we employed a transportable Honda 2000 inverter generator (pretty reliable, quiet and gas stingy) to run operate tools. It could also energy The Cabin which was wired conventionally for lights and receptacles. The entrance feed was a 12/two W/G yellow extension cable by way of the outdoors plywood wall (see yellow cable in image). We could merely plug the cable into the generator.

We have been ready to reside off-grid but ‘The Game Changer’ came just just before Christmas 2014. We had currently moved into The Cabin for the winter. Abruptly we had 20 amps 24/7! We have been living big!

CONEX CabinAn electric meter and pretty compact circuit breaker box have been mounted on a 6×6 stress treated post 50 ft. from our future homestead. This box served only a double duplex receptacle at the post for building tools and the 12/two WG underground feed to The Cabin. (Eventually a 200A circuit breaker panel was installed in our homestead.) The 12/two W/G underground cable was terminated in a receptacle (labelled ‘Flathead Electric’ — referring to our neighborhood energy co-op) mounted on the outdoors plywood wall. We left the yellow extension cable entrance feed as is and could merely plug it into the receptacle or the generator. ‘Simple’ is superior! All the things was mounted on the outdoors plywood wall enabling the shipping container doors to be closed when not in use.


The springs have been superior for most water wants. For drinking water, we filled jugs at the neighborhood RV campground.


We had the current outhouse and also a porta-pottie in the unheated ‘back room’. We employed windshield wash (superior to -20F) alternatively of water. Waste was emptied into the outhouse pit.

Gray water was piped into a bed of crushed rock beneath ground (see opening caveat). That mentioned, our life-style was ‘greener’ than any standard residence right now.


The neighborhood RV campground supplied pubic showers for $five. That worked for us. They also supplied cost-free Wi-Fi so we could remain in touch with the outdoors globe. ‘Free’ is suitable in the middle of our cost variety.


I can not overemphasize the value of an airtight poly vapor barrier on the inside walls. Nevertheless, some vapor will seep by way of, hit the frigid metal shipping container and B-I-N-G-O! you have frost. Frost in itself is no issue, that is, till outside temps rise above 32F. All unheated spaces need to be vented to the outdoors. (See: ‘Things We Would Do Differently)

Moisture inside the heated living region was no issue and effortlessly controlled by window ventilation.


When in use, we chained the open door of the shipping container to a tree and locked the chain in spot so that no 1 could lock us in. Our dog would have alerted us to any movement of the chain.

When not in use, the shipping container’s exterior doors can be closed and locked to make it as safe as initially constructed and seem no unique than any other container.


In this region of the Pacific Northwest a like-new 20 ft. ‘one tripper’ (A single produced in China and with just 1 trip to a west coast port) charges about $four,100 like delivery/set up inside a 20 mile radius). Converting ours to the Cabin added a further $1,600.

The 40 ft. CONEX containers are not considerably much more pricey. The downside to them is that there are a lot of places exactly where you just do not have the open space to maneuver them into spot. Also they necessary considerably heavier gear to move. Otherwise they are a excellent worth.


CONEX CabinOur most significant issue was ice and humidity construct-up in the unheated rear half of the container. We in the end solved the issue with two wall vents (approx. 144” sq. inches every single) with insect screens connected to a Broan 784 80 CFM Exhaust Fan ($50) controlled by a Ventamatic XXDUOSTAT Adjustable Dual Thermostat/Humidistat Manage for Energy Attic Ventilators ($47). The exterior walls have been surprisingly simple to reduce utilizing a four-1/two inch angle grinder.

In retrospect we would frame/insulate the complete interior of 20 ft. container. This would eradicate the interior door and drastically lower the moisture escaping into unheated space. We would nonetheless set up two wall vents (approx. 144” sq. inches every single) at the rear of The Cabin. We would nonetheless set up the exhaust fan controlled by a thermostat/humidistat. The gear would be situated involving the framed walls/ceiling and metal container with an access panel inside The Cabin. The poly vapor barrier would nonetheless be certainly essential. Make it as airtight as feasible.

Lastly, rather than spot 1” Dow Styrofoam (aka ‘blue board’) R5 insulation on the floor, spraying the underneath with a couple inches of closed cell urethane (R10) would make a qualified job.


CONEX shipping containers present some exclusive rewards: Portability. Minimum upkeep. Some ballistic protection. Decent safety. In upgrading to our Cabin we did practically nothing to adversely influence these rewards. When not in use The Cabin appeared like any other container. Though we had no intention to move The Cabin it is comforting to know that in a couple hours it could be produced prepared to move to a further place. You by no means know what tomorrow will bring.

Lastly, this engineer would be remiss to not plead with people contemplating shipping containers: Please do not attempt to bury them. ‘Nuff mentioned.

We hope this offers some useful tips to people. Carry on.

– Montana Guy, Annie Oakley, and Shotgun (Arf-arf!)


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