Digging a foxhole isn’t very difficult, but it’s time consuming. Make sure you budget your time so that you can spend between 1-5 hours (depending on the level) preparing your foxhole.
Foxholes are a great way to defend your property from potential looters when SHTF. If you have a prepping group, you can dig foxholes around your property and rotate in shifts pulling security where they are located. This way, you don’t have to wait for a threat to come to your house, you can stop the threat before it even gets there. A great location to place a “home defense foxhole” is near the end of your driveway, if you have a long one.
Another great location to dig a foxhole is near your bug out location. This way you can safely recon your bug out area in case there are any looters who found it post-collapse.
The worst thing you can do when SHTF is panic, this makes you prone to mistakes that could cost you your life. When you’re on your way to your bug out area, it’s best to check it out from a safe distance, in a safe foxhole.
The best tool to dig a foxhole is a United States Army surplus “E-Tool”. The E-Tool is a very lightweight, very versatile piece of equipment used for cutting, as well as digging. The E-Tool has a folding capability so it can break down to the size of about 10”x6” (depending on the model). This is a great feature because it can be easily stored in your BOB, and it’s so lightweight (1-3lbs) so you’ll hardly feel the added weight.
To use the E-Tool, fold it open, and screw it together with the turn-dial attached to it. Most newer E-Tools have a serrated edge on one side. This is an excellent feature because you can hack down tree branches for firewood or to fortify your foxhole (we’ll get into that), and cut roots while you dig. If you can, get an E-Tool with this feature, because you will more than likely run into roots when you’re digging your foxhole.
There are other tools you can use to dig your foxhole if you don’t have an E-Tool. While not as effective, they can prove useful when you don’t have room to carry an E-Tool.
With this being said, I still highly recommend purchasing an E-Tool and putting it in your BOB. Digging a hole without a shovel can prove to be very challenging, so do yourself a favor and get an E-Tool. The following items are useful for digging your foxhole in case you don’t have an E-Tool.
- Gardening spade
- Your hands
Hasty Fighting Position
A hasty fighting position is a shallow foxhole that is dug very quickly, usually when you are short on time (when you spot an enemy in the distance that you weren’t expecting, for example). Hasty fighting positions generally take no longer than 10 mins to dig, and can be very effective if done right. Tip – when digging a foxhole, screw your E-Tool in so that the shovel head is 90-degrees from the handle. This way you can hack at the ground like a pickaxe to break the dirt up faster.
To dig a hasty fighting position, configure your E-Tool so that the head is 90-degrees from the handle in an L shape. Then hack at the ground like a pickaxe to break up the dirt, it should be roughly a foot longer than your body length. Once the ground is broken up, the fastest way to dig down (a hasty should be at least 2 feet deep) is to use the 90-degree configuration and dig with it like a dog, throwing the dirt behind you between your legs.
Once the hasty is dug, curve the part where your head will be at a 45-degree angle. This allows you to lay in the prone comfortably while pulling security in that direction. Then, grab a thick log and place it at the head of the hasty to provide extra cover from small arms fire. If you can’t find a log, that’s fine, it’s not necessary to make a hasty fighting position effective. You can also sleep in your hasty (though it’s not recommended), if you place your head where your feet would be while pulling security. This is so if the threat presents itself again, you can simply sit up and engage your targets.
The Standard Foxhole
There are many ways to dig a standard foxhole, however I find that the following method is the most effective. They take much longer to dig compared to a hasty fighting position, but they offer far more protection. The standard foxhole takes between 1-3 hours to dig, but can be shorter if you have more than one person to assist you. These types of foxholes can accommodate 2 people comfortably, and is more effective with a 2-man team. This is so one person can pull security, while the other rests.
To dig a standard foxhole, you need to break the dirt up (look in the above section to learn how) in a 6-foot circle. Once the dirt is broken up, start digging. For the standard foxhole, it is recommended that you use the standard shovel configuration on your E-Tool because you’ll be digging deeper. You need to dig down to the tallest person’s height, plus another 6 inches after that. This is so you can stand up in your foxhole comfortably without exposing yourself too much while shooting.
Once your hole is completed, take some of the dirt you dug up, and make a step along the front of your foxhole so you can step onto it to see higher if need be. Also, dig a couple of steps into the dirt so you can hastily crawl out in case SHTF and you need to relocate. Once your hole is complete, position some vegetation carefully around your foxhole so you can conceal yourself from your flanks. Make sure once you conceal it, you can still see in every direction.
The Fortified Foxhole
This is the most fortified, effective method to dig your foxhole. If done right, it can protect you and your home from looters, or other threats post-collapse. Being that it’s the most fortified, it takes the longest to dig. A great method to use this type of foxhole for, is digging them pre-collapse so that you have a position to be secure in for a few days while you are on the move. The fortified foxhole is the same depth and width as the standard foxhole, but with some minor adjustments.
The fortified foxhole has three added measures of security compared to the standard foxhole. The first level is adding a hard-structure above the hole, the second is added camouflage to help keep yourself hidden, and the third is traps set around strategic areas in the vicinity of the foxhole. Most preppers with a house in a rural environment will want at least two fortified foxholes pre-made so they can use them when they bug out.
The first foxhole should be within 200m of your residence. This is so you can get there fast, and keep security on your house at a safe distance, but close enough so you can engage your target effectively (see my article “How to Shoot Like a Sniper”). The second foxhole should be at the halfway point between your house, and your long-term bug out location. This is so you can have a safe place to rest between bugging out of your house, and relocating to your bug out area. Another reason for this, is so you can recon the area around your new bug out location in case it’s been discovered by potentially hostile people.
To add above fortification to your completed foxhole, gather branches that are longer than the width of your foxhole by at least one foot. Then, gather some thicker branches or logs of a shorter length. Place the shorter branches or logs in a diagonal pattern on 4 corners of your foxhole. There should be at least 4 spaces that you will be able to see out of around your foxhole (north, east, south, west). Then, place the long branches on top of the shorter ones. Make sure you use two layers at least, because you won’t be able to successfully put the branches in a complete row due to the spaces. This also adds security.
Once the beginning stages of the fortification are complete, put a tarp (or another waterproof material) over the branches on top of your foxhole. Then shovel some of the dirt (at least 1 foot thick) over the tarp. This adds light waterproofing for light rain, and creates a structure capable of sustaining light ordinance. Once the dirt is piled on top, gather vegetation from the surrounding area and place it in the dirt on top of your foxhole in such a way that it looks natural.
To camouflage the area around your foxhole, you will need to walk at least 100m away from it. Then, look in the direction of your foxhole and see if you notice any obvious mistakes you’ve made in concealing it. If you have, make adjustments as needed. The more natural your fortified foxhole appears, the less attention you’ll draw to it, and the less chance you have of someone discovering it before you can use it.
A great way to camouflage the area around your foxhole, is by uprooting small bushes from another area, and planting them strategically in open areas around your fighting position. Don’t attempt to conceal it too much though, because then you won’t be able to see as clearly at a distance while you scan your area for threats.
Traps are an incredibly effective way to further protect you in your foxhole, if done correctly. There are multiple types of traps to use when protecting yourself from other people, the two most effective ones are pits, and sound traps. Both are very easy to make, and take minimal time to set up. You can choose to make your pit trap lethal, however it’s unnecessary.
To make a pitfall trap, you’ll need burlap big enough to cover a 3-foot-wide hole, and an E-Tool. Dig your pit just like you would dig a fox hole, but make it at least 7-10 feet deep. This is so whoever falls victim to the trap must use great effort to free themselves. Once the hole is dug, if you wish to make it a lethal trap, sharpen some branches and stick them straight up from the ground. If you don’t, simply leave it be. Place the burlap over the hole, and shovel a small amount of dirt over the edges to help hold it in place. Then, place some light foliage over the burlap to help conceal it. Once the victim steps on it, they will fall deep enough to injure their leg and take them out of the fight.
Place these traps at strategic entry and exit points (A.K.A. “choke points”) around your foxhole, this helps keep you more secure at times of vulnerability like sleeping.
There is no minimum for the number of traps you should have, but make sure you leave a small marker somewhere near the trap so you can remember where they are. Nothing is more embarrassing than falling victim to one of your own traps.
To make a sound trap, one of the most effective ways is to use high strength fishing line, and a “confetti popper”. These poppers are just loud enough to hear within 50m of your foxhole and will alert of you of possible dangers coming your way. Tape the confetti popper to a stake with the string facing a 45-degree angle downwards and towards where your tripwire is going to be. Place the stake in the ground so that the popper is about as high up as the average human ankle. Next, tie some fishing line to the string, and run the wire out no more than 5 feet long.
Then, tie your tripwire to a sturdy object like a tree, or a firm stake in the ground. Make sure your tripwire has no slack, it needs to be very tight for this to work. Once your victim triggers the tripwire, it will pull the string on your confetti popper and create a mildly-loud bang. This will startle whoever sets off the tripwire, and alert you at the same time. Since confetti poppers have a history of being faulty at times, make sure you place numerous sound traps along your perimeter.
Tip – place one after your pit trap in so that in case they miss the pit, they’ll set off your sound trap. Then, place another sound trap 10m away from the first one.
There are many types of dirt (clay, mud, frozen earth, rocky, sand, snow), so you need to take into consideration these things when digging your foxhole. Different climates also offer different types of soil (southern states in the US have more clay, northern states often have frozen earth in the winter, etc.), so plan accordingly when you set out to dig your foxhole.
Clay can be difficult to dig in, it’s much heavier than regular soil, and can be more time consuming to dig through. If you run into clay, simply configure your E-Tool into an L-shape and hack at it like a pickaxe to break it up. After the clay is broken up, you can simply dig it out. You can also reuse that clay to pack in a step to get out of your foxhole, because clay is easily moldable and sturdy when packed.
After it rains, more than likely the dirt in your area will turn to mud. If at all possible, wait until the soil dries before you dig your foxhole. Mud is very difficult to dig into, because you’ll have muddy water seeping into your hole as you dig. If you must dig into mud, make sure you throw the mud far away after you’ve dug it up. Mud should be avoided to dig into if possible, save yourself the trouble.
In the colder months, the soil around you will freeze making it very difficult to dig into. Frozen earth is as hard as a rock, and you might even break the tool you’re using to dig when you’re in the process of it. If you’re around your property and digging your foxhole, use a pickaxe to break up the soil. If you’re not near your property and you’ve already bugged out, a hasty fighting position might be your best bet for a foxhole, since they don’t take long to dig.
In some areas, especially around mountains or streams, the dirt can be filled with larger rocks. This can slow your digging process, but won’t stop it completely. To dig in a rocky-area, do your best to navigate around the rocks as you dig. If you run into a boulder in the ground, dig around it or choose another spot to dig your foxhole.
Sandy areas can be difficult to dig in. Due to the sand being very fine, the slightest movements can bring more sand into the hole you’ve already dug. While the first few feet of sand is very loose, the next layer down is usually wet and clay-like. If sand is your only option to dig in, place logs (or larger branches) around the perimeter of your foxhole. This helps you keep unwanted sand from falling back into the hole you’ve worked so hard to dig.
Snow can be your worst enemy when digging a foxhole. It offers little to no protection for gunfire, and when it melts it’s gone forever. Try to avoid using snow to dig a foxhole if possible. What good is a foxhole, if it doesn’t protect you from bullets? If there’s nothing but snow around you, put in the extra work and dig into the frozen earth.
Foxholes are an imperative security method if you’re going to be in the wilderness when SHTF. Knowing the different types of foxholes, and in which situations you can use them, can potentially save your life (or property). Make sure that if you make a foxhole, try to make it on the high ground. This is for two reasons, if it rains, the water won’t drain down into your hole. Another reason, is if you do get into a firefight, fighting high to low is much easier than fighting low to high.
Those who have the high ground, have the higher chance of winning.