Survival bunkers are not typically large structures, so you must use every single inch of space to your best advantage. There are two vital aspects to take into consideration when deciding how to fill your emergency bunker: storage space and morale.
Living in a bunker will be a lot like calling a tiny house home or living in an RV – with a SHTF twist. The scale of everything that you need must be downsized as much as is humanly feasible to make room for everything you need.
Thankfully, tiny house living is all the rage, so you will not need to squeeze in single use standard size furniture into your small survival space – or build everything you need.
America is over five million preppers strong (at the lowest estimate) which also opens up another avenue of multi-purpose shopping opportunities when decking out your bunker.
Concealing furniture was once a complete DIY proposition, but now you can simply tap a few keystrokes on your laptop and have a couch with a hidden rifle compartment delivered right to your doorstep.
Building your own concealed multi-purpose furniture will still be a lot cheaper than buying the mass manufactured version, and a growing number of free plans are available online.
Table of Contents
Top Features of Bunker Furniture
- Lots of Drawers
- Multi-use furniture
- Firearms – supplies concealment compartment
- Sturdy construction
- Tall and narrow
- Fold away design
There are only three types of furniture that are essential for bunker living. If you choose or build multi-purpose furniture each piece of furniture moved inside of the survival bunker will serve at least two purposes – leaving more freedom of movement.
Even if you will be staying in the emergency bunker alone, you will want as much room to move about as possible. The mental and emotional impact of being sequestered inside of a bunker for an extended period of time can be lessened by the ability to do physical activity.
- In the bunker you will need storage containers – lots of storage.
- A place to eat.
- A place to sleep.
Survival Bunker Furniture First Steps and Tips
Placing furniture in the bunker that offers as much storage space as you will need is priority number one. If your bunker is especially small you could make due with bedding down in a sleeping bag on the floor, if necessary. You back will not be thanking you, but your stomach will if the space allowed for enough food storage.
If you plan well when buying or building survival bunker furniture, there should be no need to go to such sleeping extremes. Before you buy or make storage unit furniture for a bunker, you must determine, down to the last square foot, how much storage space you will need.
The best way to decide how much space you will need is to literally place in front of your absolutely everything that is going to be taken into the bunker. Only then can you know how much space it will take to house all of those items and be able to make or build multi-purpose furniture in an economic, smart, and usable manner.
I bet you never once thought your life might depend on furniture purchases, but it just might. You may be well advised to weigh and measure items, or groupings of items, to determine down to the last knowable detail how it will fit into any bunker furniture you plan to buy or build.
A thorough prepper, one with a lot of helping hands preferably, would pack all of the preps that will go into the bunker actually into the bunker. Stack them all up against the walls to get a good visual of the amount of items and space they take up when placed inside.
Go yet another step further and have everyone who is going to be staying in the bunker, Fido included, go into the survival structure and sit down somewhere.
Seeing all of the people and all of the supplies inside the bunker together for the first time will drive home the need for not only multi-purpose furniture and how much space essentials take.
Give every member of the family a reality check when making decisions about wants – luxury items they can bring with them and how crowded their SHTF domicile will feel.
Better to have that shocking realization now, and not 5 minutes after the world has gone pear-shaped, and the entire family is rushing inside the bunker.
Next you will need to make a determination on how many “wants” or comfort items everyone can bring with them. Streamlining the bag size before setting a quantity limit.
This will save a lot of stress and fussing, especially if you have children or teenage girls … just an observation from a woman who survived raising one.
Trash bags would be perfect for streamlining a bag size, remember, the bag the items are packed in will have to remain in the bunker as well. If the bags the items are transported in will serve as hanging wall storage, you can still use trash bags as a measuring tool to place any items your family members will be bringing with them, inside.
Remember, the trash the family makes while in the bunker will take up space, as well. Factoring in both how trash will be disposed of should be considered when factoring the available storage space inside a survival bunker.
Types of Furniture Needed
The first furniture items you buy or build should be general storage items because they are the mosts important – and will be the largest. If your bunker is not an open space.
If you have built and- or hanging beds, make sure to measure them before purchasing or making any storage units when decorating the survival bunker.
You do not have to buy expensive storage units, or to spend a plethora of weekends making them. You might be able to repurpose something you have or score bargain storage units at yard sales, flea markets, or auctions if you start thinking outside the box.
The items that will make the best storage units are not metal shelves (although they are handy for large and self-contained items) but furniture with lots – and lots of drawers.
Keeping your bunker preps in specific drawers will make them easy to find, organized, and avoid fussing over items being misplaced (yes, even in a small space like a survival bunker) when tensions are already strained.
Best Repurposed Storage Unit Ideas
- Dining Room Buffets
- Tall Dressers – also called Hi-Boys
- Library Card Cabinets
- Metal Hand Tool Storage Cabinets – typically the kind that are on wheels.
If using or making shelving units that will run floor to ceiling and attach to the bunker wall, include or add dividers on the shelves to compartmentalize the space.
You can also put plastic storage chests in a variety of sizes to place onto the large shelving unit to infuse the drawer concept into the unit and allow it to be stacked tighter – making better use of the space.
Typically, these plastic storage chests have three to four removable sections and come with different colored frames and – or drawers. You can color code your preps to better organize the bunker, or simply make labels to put on the front of the drawers if they are all one color.
Drawers are substantially better than storage tubs because you will not have to pull them down to sift through them to find a needed item, you simply slide out a drawer and the grab and go.
The only up side to using storage tubs is the top can double as an eating space, or a tabletop for sanity-saving hobbies, like board game playing or crafts for children.
If you are used to a spacious king-sized bed, better spend a few nights in your bunker as practice to get used to the more austere digs. Unless the beds will be suspended and set up bunk bed style so they can be folded up out of the way when not in use (Murphy bed style), they should serve at least one other purpose.
A bed that will remain on the floor at all times must be built with storage compartments underneath to make up for the massive amount of space it is using in the survival bunker.
A sofa bed or futon bed, at least for parents, is ideal. This bed will fold up and give the family a space to gather during the day. Do not underestimate the value of normalcy when hunkered in very close quarters with your family for weeks or months – especially if you have young children or grandchildren.
Sofa beds can also have slender storage tubs or storage drawers built beneath them to better take advantage of the space they are using. If the wall behind the sofa bed is not going to be used entirely for storage consider placing the sofa bed on a fold out wooden or metal platform to snag more storage underneath.
If you have not yet built or ordered you bunker, strongly consider installing storage beneath it that can quickly be accessed via a hinged piece of flooring.
If your bunker is already on-site, it might be feasible to put in a false floor to accomplish the same goal. Whether or not adding in a false floor will reduce wall space too substantially to make the remodel worth it, will depend on the size of your survival abode.
Fitting a large safe inside of a bunker might not be ideal, or even possible. You can use a wall rack for weapons and storage drawers for ammo, repair kits, and gun cleaning supplies.
Concealed furniture, especially the space saving type you will need for bunker living will not hold a lot of firearms, but can keep guns handy, safely away from children, and keep them stored without taking up much space.
A firearms storage bench can be used as seating or a table area, and a makeshift gun cabinet at the same time.
Firearms concealment shelves, often referred to as “stealth shelves” are the perfect size to hold a handgun, and a few boxes of ammo. You could place these shelves up and down along any bunker wall to uses that storage space well and keep your firearms within quick reach, as well.
Under table, desk, or shelf holsters that screw into place and often magnetized attachments to hold an extra filled magazine, are yet another economical way to store handguns inside a survival bunker – if keeping them out of reach of young children is not a concern.
If you are handy, you can make your own gun storage attachment system to place under the mattress frame of a sofa bed or under a futon bed to house a rifle.
You can also build or buy a shadow box style picture frame and use it to house ammo and weapons. Some retailers are now selling concealment picture frame.
As a morale booster, take photos of the outdoors around your home or a favorite place so the picture in the frame can mimic a window to help alleviate at least some of the closed in feeling the bunker inhabitants will increasingly feel the longer they are in the survival structure.
You can make or buy a murphy bed style kitchen table that will not only fold up and hang on the wall when not in use, but some versions also have storage space for a few items and the folding chairs that come with it as a set.
A single fold away table will work just fine if you are going solo in the bunker or want to make space for each child to store some toys, learn, and do activities.
You can also build small or long tables that are hinged to a bunker wall with fold away legs that can be popped down to serve as sturdy support when in use and folder away back to the wall when it is not. This type of table only sticks out a few inches from the wall.
If such a table is not in your budget, purchasing a folding square card style table will still provide eating and gathering space without taking up too much of.
The table and chairs can be folded away, and hung on hooks on the bunker wall when it is not in use or slid under the sofa bed to avoid taking up too much wall space.
Rolling stand style table and chair units that also fold to only a few inches wide are yet another option for survival bunker dining and gathering space. These tables will always take up floor spacpane, but far less than even a small table that cannot be folded away to a wall or placed under a bed.
Use hooks to hold all utensils and utensil holders in the bunker kitchen that are not so large that they have to go into a cabinet. When doing a chore, like cooking, as much as what you need should be within arm’s reach.
The first aid kit and fire extinguishers should be kept in the kitchen area as well, and be stored low enough that the youngest responsible member of the bunker family can reach it in case of emergency.
If you are using paper plates and cups to conserve water while in the bunker, these items will take up a copious amount of space and should be placed first in the cabinets and on wall storage in the cooking area.
The kitchen counter will likely be small, so consider buying or making a unit with at least one but preferably two pull-out chopping blocks to give you added work space when preparing a meal of doing other tasks.
A fold-up stool could be kept in the kitchen and hung on the wall for use at the pull out draw. The stool will not take up much storage room and can give a family member a little quiet space away from the group at the couch when they feel they need it.
Personal Storage – Morale Boosters
Be space-conscious but do not skip on morale booster and learning items. By learning, I mean both homeschool and self-reliance skills – which can overlap substantially.
Use not just wall space, but under the top bunk bed, on the outside of bunkbed, a hanging storage flap that dangles out from the edge of the mattress, and even the ceiling.
You could use a pulley system, bungee cords, or build a loft to house additional items of all types. Building a wood organizer bin on the bunk bed wall can house toys, books, art supplies, socks, and other items of similar size and shape.
Bungee cords could also be stretched from side to side on the base of the lower bunk bed to hold blankets and clothing folded as neatly and small as possible into bags or similar containers.
You could also build a folder over and down little tray or desk top for the person sleeping in the bunkbed to use for work or pleasure – an old school desk style pivot and fold mini work space.
Using netting in corners of walls to hold lightweight items like stuffed animals, extra pillows, etc. can also make use of small but valuable space.
The back of the bunker door could be turned into a top to bottom bookshelf to hold books, board games, playing cards, etc.
When planning for the education of the children while inside the bunker, consider items that can be re-used instead of being wasted after only one learning session and taking up space as trash.
A wipe-off board can be hung on the wall for each child and used to practice writing (they sell lined paper versions of wipe off board at Dollar Tree stores), and other lessons as well as using it for fun time drawing instead of paper.
Document and Vital Items Storage
A small fire safe should be part of the bunker storage plan. Important documents, maps, keys, and similar items should be stored inside the fire safe, so all of these essential items are not accessible and in danger of being damaged during the time the family spends in the bunker.
An inventory of the supplies in the bunker should be kept and updated regularly so the family has an exact count of all the supplies on hand and can adjust the rationing plan accordingly.
The inventory should be kept on a clipboard that is hung on a hook or nail in a prominent place that is not reachable by children – such as the upper side of the primary storage unit.
Planning for the Day You Exit the Bunker
When packing items into the bunker and storing them, spend some time thinking about what you will need the day your and your loved ones leave the bunker.
Although many of the items you have with you can help sustain you, there are other valuable supplies that may also need added to your list.
- Knives, axes, and archery supplies. Remember, all the ammo you have inside the bunker may be all that exists when you come out.
- Outerwear And Footwear. Even if you enter the bunker during summer but you might be leaving the survival structure during the middle of winter. During the time you are inside the bunker, babies and young children can grow substantially.
While you and your loved ones were riding out the apocalypse safely inside the bunker, a lot of chaos and looting was likely going on outside. Consider hiding caches near the survival bunker that you can quickly reach and recover upon your exist.
A map to the caches including an inventory list of what is inside should be laminated and stored inside the bunker in a spot the entire family has been drilled to remember.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.