Make Your Survival Shelter Invisible With These 10 Tips

We are living in times when people believe that a growing economy and an increase in job opportunities equates to some strange kind of mayhem, destruction, and chaos. 

Also foreign adversaries are just as eager to cause problems no matter what we do to advance ourselves and our allies.

Combined with all the natural disasters that are increasing in rate and severity, prepping and complex survival scenario planning become more important than ever. Having a survival shelter helps you survive, and so is ensuring that others cannot find it.

Keep reading to find out how to keep your survival shelter our of sight!

1. Build the Shelter Underground

One of the easiest ways to make a survival shelter invisible is to build it underground. People that are looking for food, supplies, or other resources will usually look for buildings that may house what they are looking for.

If you build your shelter underground, there are some other advantages when it comes to keeping its location as secret as possible.

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Underground shelters are some of the best when it comes to noise dampening, which is especially important if operating machinery underground, or having children living with you in the shelter. Remember, even one stray sound, no matter how faint, can reveal the presence of a shelter and people taking refuge in it. Minimizing this risk with an underground shelter will be an advantage.

Once you start tunneling underground, you can build the shelter a good distance away from the entry point, giving you plenty of room and options for making it harder to locate the shelter from above ground.

For example, you can use decoys as well as other methods to make people think they found your hiding place, even though you are still in a safe place with all of your supplies. Unfortunately, if you have only a small amount of land, creating decoys and distractions can be very difficult for above-ground shelters.

2. Choose Materials for Avoiding Radar and Other Sensors

Not so long ago, metal detectors and other devices were fairly expensive. Also, various kinds of radar devices and thermal heat signature detecting devices were either extremely expensive or unavailable to the public.

But today it isn’t impossible to build or get a hold of this equipment on your own, which means that protecting your shelter from electronic detection means may be more complicated than expected.

One of the most important things to do is make sure that thermal signatures such as bodies, heating systems, and other heat generating devices remain undetected while in operation. Also make sure that metals and other signatures are not easy to pick up in shapes that might interest those looking for supplies or anything else that can be used.

Underground shelters can shield from a lot of different devices, but there are others that can pick up cavities, metal signatures, and many other things that may reveal the location of your shelter or any decoys connected to it.

So if you decide on an underground shelter, make sure that you know how to break up the appearance of key signatures or find other ways to hide them, using paints that block or absorb certain frequencies, or other materials used to make the entire area look like an old debris field.

3. Choose Unusual Shapes

If you are building a shelter from scratch, unusual shapes that fit the landscape will offer the best insofar as invisibility. For example:

  • Terrain with a lot of boulders or outcroppings would be a good place to build something that looks like a natural cave. You can use stones from the local area for more of an effect. Just remember to avoid setting the rocks into an unnatural building pattern. It is also important to avoid squares, rectangles, circles, or anything else that doesn’t look like a random pile of rocks.
  • In a forest, build your shelter to look tall and narrow. If you are cutting down trees to clear a small area, you can build the house in a tall, cylinder shape, and then put bark around the outside of the shelter for a more realistic effect. Put vines along the outside of the structure or other plants that will grow and cover what should look like a dead tree trunk. This may be a fairly small shelter, and you can also build more than one to hide caches of good and supplies.
  • Underground shelters on grasslands will be best if they are as even as possible with the ground. Unless you enter and exit the shelter too much near the cavity, it should remain well hidden once the grass grows over it. Ground penetrating radars can still be a problem, so try building the shelter in odd shapes that look like an underground cave or something else that would be of no interest to people looking for you or your stockpile.
  • If you live near a waterfall or other area with running water, explore the possibility of building a shelter behind the waterfall, and research on underground mining and tunneling carried out by Cornish miners. When it comes to building an invisible shelter, very few people will even think to look under a pond or some other area deep below the surface of the running water.

4. Make the Shelter Amenable to Different Coverings

In any environment, brush, dust, and many other things will build up around items where people don’t clean up or move things around. When it comes to keeping your shelter invisible, making it look like no one is there is very important.

If you are using a conventional wood or brick structure for your shelter, make the walls, roof, and other surfaces amenable to different coverings, using vines, dust, and even garbage that may blow into your yard from time to time.

If you think of shelter coverings as being like a ghillie suit for buildings and shelters, then it may give you some good ideas about how best to hide your shelter from prying eyes. You want the shelter to blend into the landscape so that people don’t see it or recognize it for what it is.

Even breaking up the impression of straight lines in a shadow can make the difference. No matter how you look at it, coverings that break up light and shadows are bound to be as important as they are when you need to hide your physical presence in various settings.

5. Pros and Cons of Making the Shelter Look Abandoned and Unliveable

Making your shelter look derelict on the outside can have advantages and disadvantages.

On the positive side, people looking for expensive things to steal, food, weapons, or other valuables will more than likely look for buildings that are in better repair. If your home looks rich and expensive, then there must also be something worth stealing inside, so better looking buildings and their occupants will be looted and invaded first during a riot.

On the other side, in the later stages of a major crisis, most rioters and others will be homeless and looking for any place to stay. So homeless and desperate people will look for shelters that are the most run down to inhabit.

If they think the building is abandoned, the homeless will crawl into just about anything and build a fire or do something else to make the shelter more comfortable. Under these circumstances, homeless people passing through your area even now may decide to try and inhabit your survival shelter.

6. Disguise it To Look Like Something Else

Unless those searching for you have advanced radar or other detection systems, appearances can be your best weapon for making a shelter invisible. Aside from terrain specific shapes, there are some other ways to disguise the shelter to look like something else:

  • Never allow the outer walls of the structure to look like man-made formations. This means the shelter should have an irregular appearance with crooked outcroppings or plenty of areas that look like they will fall down at any moment.
  • Large enough cement sculptures or ones made from other materials can be used for very small external panic rooms or other shelters. They can also make a good place to hide trap doors to underground shelters. You can even use plastic bottles filled with sand, or many other materials that will simply look like a garden ornament or something else that isn’t related to a survival shelter. Even if you only build something that is 10’ x 10’, it may be enough to hide a trap door or a cache that you can live on for several days.
  • Building a shelter that looks like something else may be as simple as getting an old car frame from the junk yard. You can take this exterior and make it look like an ornate flower planter, or an unusual sculpture. While this “artwork” may be in plain view, people may not realize that the entire inside has been hollowed out and that there is enough space for you to sleep, cook, and even store away some supplies underground.
  • When it comes to disguising your shelter, creativity must also be balanced by effectiveness of the design. Depending on the neighborhood and the area, you may want something that will blend in and look normal. In other situations, you may want something novel that makes people think of anything but a shelter.

7. Use Smaller Modules Across the Property

When looters and thieves are looking for viable targets, they focus mainly on larger buildings that promise enough material to make it worth breaking in. This is just one of many reasons why you should always break up your stockpile into smaller groups of materials even if you aren’t interested in making your shelter invisible.

In some cases, if thieves find small items “hidden”, they may leave the rest of your stockpile alone.

When building a survival shelter, do not put all your focus on fitting everything into one location, but have two or three different shelters scattered throughout your property.

For example, you might make one small underground bunker, one above ground hidden in brush and brambles, and one in some other location. Even if people spot one, it is not likely they will look for a second and third shelter.

8. Avoid Telltale Signs Like Utility Pipes and Meters

Even if you have lived through a catastrophic hurricane, it can still be hard to believe that a bigger crisis will occur, or that extreme prepping is a matter of paranoia.

There may also be a level of prepping that you won’t go simply because you think the odds of a social collapse that spans decades is a matter of “if” as opposed to “when”. It also means that you may overlook critical things when it comes to concealing your survival shelter.

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You might think that running water in the shelter, electricity, gas, and phone service are very important. While digging a well and placing the pipes underground would be suitable for concealment purposes, you might choose to simply hook up some pipes from your home and extend them into the secondary shelter. If anyone comes to your home, those pipes will be easy to spot and can lead other people right to your hiding place.

Burying those pipes underground may work better, but remember that the water meter outside your house will continue to run. All anyone has to do is see that meter moving to know that someone is living close by.

Power lines with meters attached and other utility wires can also make it easy to track the location of your shelter. Rather than take these chances, find a way to live without power as much as possible, and use communication means that don’t rely on cable or internet access.

Foxhole radios, bullroarers, and many other devices can be used for communications in a time of need. In fact, it would be better to have these systems on hand if more complicated equipment is wiped out as it was in Puerto Rico.

9. Avoid Obvious Pathways To or From the Shelter

As with power lines, obvious pathways worn into the grass or the surrounding area can alert others to the location of your shelter. Even trampling sand or soil can leave signs of packing that will make other people curious enough to investigate. If you are still adding provisions to the shelter, or need to access it on a routine basis, there are some things you can do to avoid the signs of pathways to and from the shelter:

  • use vines or ivies across paths instead of grass. The vines can be pushed out of the way easily enough with your foot, and then back into place after you are done working in the shelter.
  • For dirt or sand paths, carry a rake with you. Use the rake to loosen up the compaction created by your feet. Do not forget to use the back of the rake to smooth out the lines made by the rake.
  • You can also set up stepping stones all over the yard. When you need to get to and from the shelter, step only on the stones. Just make sure that the stones are set randomly enough that a trail isn’t easily visible.

10. Avoid the Shelter When Others are Watching

It’s obvious that you should never enter or exit your shelter when other people are watching. No matter whether you created a liveable “lawn ornament” using an old car frame or some other object, disappearing into it or exiting it will alert anyone watching that something is hidden in the structure.

If your shelter is hidden in the woods, ensure you haven’t been followed to the site. If you can do so without alerting others to your hideaway, install trail cameras around the area. This will help you find out if other people followed you, or if they are nosing around. Conceal the cameras as high off the ground as possible so that they escape detection.

When it comes to concealing your entrance and exit times, don’t rely on night time to cover your activities. Given the availability of night vision gear and cameras, you never really know what kind of surveillance is going on all around you. Visit the shelter in daylight hours, or at times when electronic surveillance devices may have the hardest time picking up on your presence. Experiment with night vision enabled cameras to see when they convert from color to black and white as well as lighting patterns that they may not easily work well in.

Concealing your survival shelter isn’t something you may be able to do as an afterthought. Instead, if you are making plans to build a new shelter, figure out how to build in features that will make it hard to spot by humans, tracking animals, and various kinds of surveillance and detection devices.

Stay up to date on all emerging technologies or tracking methods that might be used to find your survival shelter. Once you know what you are up against, you have a better chance to revise your shelter and ensure that it will stay invisible and safe!

Written by

Carmela Tyrrell is committed to off gridding for survival and every day life. She is currently working on combining vertical container gardening with hydroponics. Tyrrell is also exploring ways to integrate magnetic and solar power generation methods. On any given day, her husband and six cats give thanks that she has not yet blown up the house. You can send Carmela a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.

Latest comments
  • How can i build a hiding plase im crippled an dont have much money ,help

    • KEN, THERE ARE ALWAYS ALTERNATIVES. cONSIDER A DEBRIS SHELTER. oN yOU tUBE, THERE ARE A GREAT MANY VIDEOS ON THAT SUBJECT, AND MOST ARE EASILY BUILT. i HAVE SERIOUS SPINAL ISSUES, BUT i’VE BUILT SEVERAL, HAVING THEM SCATTERED AROUND MY AREA.

      • Ken, sorry about the all caps. the sight refuses to let me undo that.

      • Lol, got MY attention.. 😉

    • Hi Kenny. Empty vehicles, piles of brush, a potting shed, anything not too big but big enough to crawl into could be a temporary hiding place. This year I’ve lost most of the use of my dominate right hand and left knee. Hopefully it will change with PT. I couldn’t escape to the mountain above me on foot if my life depended on it.
      My plan is lay low. Look somewhat poor and not too interesting. Weapons are scattered about as are stashed food, water, seeds, et. Piles of brush abound from where I’d started cleanup before a steel plate and 7 screws in my arm. My rocket stove heats my home with assorted sticks or pellets. Very little smoke. 12 volt and a manuel winch can supply water from an “unused” well on my property. Chicken are running loose in picturesque pairs since winds tore the top off of their pen. Ducks are still in the pen. Rabbits are in an old cinder block structure so well protecyed. Until they start hiding nests the chickens are all fine. If you need shelter be creative. Play out a scenario that you must hide right now. Figure out how and where for now and a future plan just in case.

  • I’m clearing trash trees and brush. That would be a perfect prepping cover for coming and going setting up something. Yard cleaning or making a garden sculpture is a reasonable time to do far more than it looks like you are doing. I live in a small, rural community. Have to think stealthy.

  • the round igloo shape to me is very natural in the woods. no angular lines, its round so blends in with trees that have the same shape and project the same shadow, instead of straight lines like the straight lines of a standard home do.

    For that reason, the soil filled sandbag construction is what we are contemplating.. Diy methods, little construction materials hauled in and are low cost. “low Cost” usually equals hard labor though.. Fill sandbag with soil in a circle, place barbed wire on top, then add second course of bags, coming in slightly less. repeat until you have an overhead cover.

    These bags degrade in sun, but a stucco coat waterproofs and stops the light degradation from occurring good insulation from heat and cold – its worth looking at.

  • Natural growing native foliage is the best camo – having plantings of bushes/saplings/vines/ect ect in portable movable containers like buckets or barrel halves is advantageous – move a camo screening into place when necessary ….

  • why not use sand and gravel with dry cement in your sand bags? When the bags got wet they would set up and be a permeant shelter.

  • a friend has multiple caches. One is big enough to hide in. They dug out a pit 6’6″ deep and 7′ Square. Then they BUilt a small potting shed over most of it. A “roof” over the exposed area had a storage shelf unit so no one would be walking on it. A trap door INside has empty heavy PLASTIc plant pots attatched. You expect a hollow sounding shed floor as it SIts on skids. Dirt is pulled up to the bottom of the walls.
    It’s pretty far From the home. A normal work area with lawnmower et inside.
    Space has propane camp stove. Food, water, sleeping bags, old metal bunk bed and a folding cot. Dry practicle clothing, hiking boots, med pack, and more. Could be lived in short term or a space to leave from.

    My CHOIce would be something up on the mountains. I have tiny CAChes of things scattered far from home. Quick temp shelter AND matches et in a cook pot.
    Branches can make a walled IN safe AREA with AN angled roof over your sitting/sleep area. Build a FIre in the enclosure to warm your sleep area and cook. No FRESh wood on the fire to avoid smoke as much as possible. Roundis shape under trees or even partly dug out.
    It could be built ahead or when you find a spot. Owning the LANd could be good but locate IT well.

  • Google Thomas Johnson, Nantucket for a real life example of an underground home. Johnson lived underground for ten years, amid all the expensive mansions and upper-crusty inhabitants. It was small, roughly 8′ by 8′ but it was enough of a studio apartment for Tom for 10 years. There was very little external evidence of his underground home. It was discovered in 1998 by a deer hunter who just happened to be crawling on hands and knees (following a blood trail, perhaps), when he spotted a short section of stove pipe sticking out of the ground.

    The Boy Scouts — who owned the land Tom built in — were inclined to let him stay. Tom had become a bit of a local celebrety. But, the local government couldn’t abide by such informality. His hideaway was condemned for not meeting building codes.

    It turned out that Tom had a few other camouflaged hideouts on the island. He had a tree house and a hut made — wicker-like — out of saplings and brambles. It, too, was only discovered by accident.

    It CAN be done.

    • Awesome! Love hearing those stories.

  • Chimneys and other vents are a problem. Perhaps a hollow tree trunk could be used to place the opening high up. or use a post that has some other use.(nesting box?) Inlet and outlet pipes could be in the same post, but need separating at top.

  • Pretty good article, Carmela. You’ve given us a lot of good ideas. In a true societal collapse that may last years or even decades, water and power meters are a non issue. I’d be more concerned about people smelling the smoke from our wood fire and tracking us down like that. We’ll have to become quite creative in hiding our stove pipes. And the obvious signs of habitation. Just as one example, we need wood for a wood fire which means cutting down trees. As for the meters giving us away, if everything has gone to heck in a hand basket and we are living under anarchy and chaos for an extended period of time, more than likely we won’t have water and power to worry about. If we still do have even sporadic water and power and we don’t want others to know there may still be someone living in “the house” then just pull the power meter. There’s a security wire crimped onto it so that under normal circumstances the meter can’t be pulled without the service provider being aware of what you’re doing. But under the conditions of a true, extended societal collapse you just cut that wire and pull the meter. I’ve seen it done and it’s VERY simple. As for the water meter, mine is inside. Where I live it’s too cold in the winter to have anything to do with water outside. It would freeze very quickly. If your water meter IS outside just do the same thing under the conditions of a general societal collapse. But this has to be planned beforehand. Pull the water meter and just run a small section of pipe where the water meter used to be and make it look like someone ripped it off the wall. But this may all be a moot point as under the conditions of SHTF we may not have electricity or water for quite some time. But stash the meters away some where as sooner or later order WILL be restored. The thing that worries me more are signs of habitation. Even the path you take every day to the outside privy. No matter how careful you will try and be, there will always be some signs that someone is living near by. Unless you’ve hidden yourself away in a bomb shelter type of underground shelter where you don’t have to come out. But even that has it’s pros and cons. After a while you will WANT to come out. Your food stores will only last so long. Your food stores should really only be used to supplement what food you can harvest topside. Again, no easy answers. Too many variables. The people in the big cities will be the first to be screwed and that will make them very dangerous. I fervently hope I don’t see this come to pass in my lifetime.

  • You do Good Work, Carmela ! Remember the Basics . . . Keep it Simple, Not Complicated. ALWAYS USE Psychological Camoflage – 1. ) Make it look like something it Ain’t; -or- 2.) Make it look like Nothing at All. And for goodness sakes set up a network of “Wireline” phones – Do Not Use RF emitters at All.

  • Always camouflage the entrance hatch of an underground shelter. There are lightweight artificial “rocks” that can do the job. I never cease to be amazed at so many otherwise expensive underground bunkers that have obvious surface hatches that scream “THERE”S A SHELTER HERE” if someone stumbles across it. Some people like to beat their chests and boast about all the firepower they have to defend their shelters, but it is far better to have a place that no one knows is there, even if they are standing on it!

  • 2-cents worth – There is a Youtube video showing how to hollow out a huge tree trunk to make a dugout boat. It took them, 3 guys chopping by hand, less than 10 days. The point is to a set time daily and suddenly you are done. Make your own hollow trees. Or get creative and make a cement tree and paint it to look like a hollow tree trunk. This is to help disguise air vents, antennas, and other pop-up stuff. Sandbags filled with dirt and a cement mixture will harden and become like a war pillbox. Then you cover the shelter with inches of good dirt and grow native flowers and plants. How about a briar hedge around it? Caution! If you are extremely concerned to the point of fear today, (false evidence appearing real), you are already in trouble before any tragedy occurs. Fear robs you of logical thinking. Consider hunting a rabbit. Rabbits hide when they hear you coming. To make the rabbit jump and run, you stop walking and be real quiet. The fear in the rabbit makes him start to run and he is dead. Remember that your best is always your best! There is always time for improvements and modifications. Just don’t put off starting today! Hope this sort of rant helps!

  • Most of the article was OK but when I got to “Foxhole radios, bullroarers, and many other devices can be used for communications in a time of need” I had to shake my head. Foxhole radios only work with VERY STRONG AM radio signals, and bullroarers- I thought the idea was to make as little noise as possible.

  • She mentioned using the plastic bottles filled with sand the could be used and it seem many ignored or overlooked that. they can easily be filled using a funnel.makes them easy to fill..
    Put a layer or a level of them down and cover with dirt and repeat until you each your desired size shape.
    .
    Bags of “Read Mix” Cement or Concrete can be THOROUGHLY soaked with water an will harden and can be stacked/layered covered with dirt and repeated.

    No one mentioned anything about a toilet either a chem toilet OR a 5 gallon bucket with a seat that uses plastic bags that are sealed and replaced after use…..

    A problem not mentioned is that an unknown number of people have low water tables and water will seep into the underground structure and also when it rains there could/ would be more seepage so digging down may not be a very good option.

    I suppose one might dig a hole down as far as they with post hole diggers and see if they hit water or dig big/larger hole and and call it a future cooking pit..say to roast a pig on for example.or a trash debris pit or your going to put in a garden or coi fish pond……you can always change your mind……….

    Putting in a safe place under the Coi pond would be good camouflage IF the water table allows it……….When the power goes out for good the pump will die and so will the fish due to lack of oxygen and no doubt become a mosquito haven

    Just some random thoughts….

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