For some preppers, an underground shelter can be seen as something of a Holy Grail item when it comes to their personal disaster preparations.
There is hardly anything more appealing than a secured and well-stocked underground shelter or even a proper bunker that you and your loved ones can retreat into whenever danger looms close.
Though these have long held and nearly mythical status in prepping lore, modern manufacturing technology has made them more viable and attainable than ever with a variety of kits, plans and professionally-installed options available to suit.
What could be better than something like that? Well, I guess it depends. Out of proportion with how much they are lusted over by preppers, bunkers and other underground shelters are not the solution to all problems.
Any fixed defensive site or fortification, no matter how well defended, can be breached by determined invaders. Even if it isn’t there is an inherent vulnerability that comes with entering and exiting an underground shelter by only one or two points.
As you are probably expecting, keeping your underground shelter hidden is of maximal importance if you want to rely on it during a genuine disaster or SHTF situation.
In today’s article we will provide you with five ingenious ways to keep your underground shelter secret and safe so what is available when you need it.
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Secrecy is Paramount
Any underground shelter or bunker, no matter how it is constructed, no matter how fortified it is, is highly vulnerable to attack whenever it is detected.
Considering that you and your loved ones or survival group are likely going to be occupying it for the entirety (or the vast majority) of the time in a survival situation this is something you can ill-afford.
Should your bunker or shelter be discovered ahead of time it might turn into a point of interest for another opportunistic survivor when the same event threatens.
If it is discovered after the event has taken place, that same survivor or survivors might stop at nothing to breach the shelter and access the probable supplies hidden within.
It is easy to fall in love with the idea that an underground shelter is an impenetrable redoubt that will allow you to close and lock the hatch to keep all of the dangers and all the many denizens enduring them safely outside where they belong while you are comfortably ensconced within.
Don’t give in to this mode of thinking! Fixed fortifications may wind up being where people go to die whenever there are conflicts.
Even a comparatively high-tech bunker will be vulnerable to primitive attack by those on the outside who can seek to breach the door, attack the air handling system, flood the bunker with smoke or gas or by attempting to start a fire.
There is no easy way to protect a bunker from the inside out. A bunker can only be defended from the outside in, and if you are not on the outside you are not effectively going to defend your holdings.
It is for this reason that the secrecy of your shelter is absolutely paramount, and nothing more so than concealing your shelter’s entrances and exits.
The most intricately designed and expertly constructed professional, doomsday style bunker will not last a month in an SHTF situation if its presence is heavily advertised.
5 Ingenious Ways to Hide Your Underground Shelter
The following methods are more or less applicable to the variety of underground shelters and bunkers that you could reasonably expect to install and most climates for most purposes. Depending on your specific application, some of these will be more or less viable.
That is okay, and you should not attempt to adhere to any given solution just because it is on this list. Let your own ingenuity, the terrain and your requirements inform your concealment solution.
1. Natural Growth
Utilizing natural growth is often an excellent solution for an underground shelter that is accessed from the outdoors.
This can be something as simple as some decorative hedges surrounding the entrance to a tornado shelter
Be careful to keep them trimmed back enough so it won’t slow you down or impede opening the door when the time comes to enter it, or something as elaborate as a wall of creepers or vines used to cover up a door or similar passageway.
Natural growth has major advantages over temporary cut vegetation because it will largely take care of itself, remaining green and looking completely natural so long as the plant is healthy.
The disadvantage is that left unchecked that same growth might impede your access to the shelter when you need it most and time is of the essence.
This might not be a big deal if you need to cut back some vegetation from the entrance to your once-in-a-lifetime doomsday shelter, but it could spell certain death if your rapid entrance to a tornado or fallout shelter is blocked.
Depending on your terrain, the climate and where your shelter is situated this method will be a high-probability-of-success method of concealment or less so, and the vegetation may also need seasonal rotation.
2. Ground Cover
The ground cover method is useful for concealing the entrance to shelters that are accessed vertically or at an angle from ground level.
The technique is accomplished typically by using a large, rigid sheet or trellis that is dressed with soil, grass or any other ground cover that is typical to the area around the entrance before being placed over said entrance.
With some time for settlement, additional growth and careful dressing the ground cover will blend seamlessly with the local topography, completely concealing the entrance to your shelter.
You must use caution when employing a ground cover, however.
If the entrance to your shelter represents a fall risk through the use of a stairwell or ladder that is uncovered, then the object that serves as the base of your ground cover must be capable of supporting substantial weight so that it does not turn into a hazard.
You should also take care that your ground cover is not detectable just because someone walks over it. Any cover that yields a noticeable sound or drastic difference in “feel” underfoot might invite someone to investigate.
On the other hand, you must also be sure that you can both locate and access your shelter when the time comes – very important if your shelter is concealed in a large and otherwise featureless landscape!
3. Wall / Fixture Concealment
Wall and fixture concealments are ideal methods of concealment for shelters that are accessed from the inside of an existing structure. These typically take the form of the quintessential hidden room with accompanying passageway.
Significant care must be used when designing and implementing a wall or fixture concealment for underground shelter because, done poorly, they will typically be far more noticeable to casual observation than an equivalent outdoor concealment.
For a typical, basement-accessed subterranean shelter the entrance could be concealed by blending the door or hatch with the masonry of the unfinished basement wall.
For any finished wall large picture frames, mirrors, movable bookcases, “Murphy” doors and similar installations work well.
Elsewhere in a structure hidden staircases can be employed beneath free-standing fixtures like kitchen islands that can be opened or pivoted away to reveal the entrance.
Installed properly with plenty of care given towards setting and blending these can be among the most effective concealments, assuming your shelter is accessed from within a dwelling or other structure.
4. Tarp / Netting
For rapid concealment that is easy to emplace and reset, camouflage tarps, netting and similar improvised solutions can go a long way towards hiding your shelter entrance from aerial or long-range observation.
You should diligently match the color, texture and pattern of your tarp or knitting to the local to rain, and be advised that this should be rotated depending on seasonal changes to the environment.
The biggest disadvantage with this type of concealment is that it is a less effective up close, though it might still have some utility and very dense or foliated terrain.
The best results can be achieved much of the time by utilizing custom coloring techniques with inks, dyes, and spray paints.
Off-the-shelf camouflage patterns that are environment specific might work well enough, but they are rarely the ideal solution for any given environment if maximum concealment is desired.
You can consider adding texture through the use of tide on burlap, fake foliage or even real foliage taken from the environment, but you must understand that any real foliage that is cut or otherwise removed will quickly begin to wilt and die, making it stand out obviously from the other plants around it.
Live foliage should only be cut and used for short duration efforts to greatly increase concealment in order to thwart a known threat of detection.
Sometimes, the best way to hide something is to convince the people looking for it that what they are searching for has already been found. Sound esoteric? Not really; I’m referring to a decoy.
A properly implemented decoy is among the most effective concealments because it exploits the perception or whatever might be searching for the known or suspected presence of your shelter.
Decoy theory, application and implementation is an entire discipline unto itself, and a thorough examination is beyond the bounds of this article.
For our purposes, the best way to conceal the presence of an operational shelter is to show someone a secondary, dummy shelter that has obviously been thrown open, looted or already emptied out. Basically it is useless for their purposes.
This can require a significant investment of time and energy, because a genuine decoy will appear very much like the real thing and this means you might need to install an entirely separate shelter!
This is also a fine line, because a secondary shelter that is too intact might invite someone to move into it, refurbish it and start making use of it. If you are hiding nearby in your actual shelter, you now have an unwanted neighbor that you may or may not have to deal with.
Decoys are an excellent way to throw seekers off the trail, so to speak, but they are definitely a solution that requires much finesse to employ properly.
Underground shelters are an excellent option for facing down certain survival situations, but even in an ideal situation, they are only valuable if they cannot be detected or attacked by people who would out of desperation or malice attempt to gain access to the shelter for the protection it provides or the supplies that are likely stored within.
Discretion, secrecy and concealment are paramount for successful use of any underground shelter. Make use of the concealment techniques shared in this article to keep your underground shelter your business, and no one else’s.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.