Code blue! You need to bug out to keep your loved ones safe. You head for the hills, and luckily you find a cave. Can you stay in it? Is it smart to do so?
In the event of an emergency, it’s quite possible that a cave can offer a prepper or survivalist a temporary place to stay and wait out the situation. Caves are natural shelters that our ancestors have used to protect themselves from the elements and other less friendly elements of society.
What makes a good bug out shelter?
The different environments in your living area may require different types of shelters, but in general, there are some key points that need to be applied when looking for that perfect shelter.
1. The shelter needs to provide you with sleeping alternatives that would make it possible to sleep off the ground. You should be able to improvise something to create a layer between you and the ground to avoid losing the warmth of your body as the cold ground draws it.
Moreover, sleeping directly on the ground will invite insects and small crawlers to join you.
2. The shelter needs to have some sort of overhead cover. If you get exposed to the moving air of the night, you will also lose that needed warmth for a good night’s sleep. The sky will draw warmth out of your body, so it becomes mandatory to have a barrier overhead.
3. Since we mentioned the need for an overhead. It’s important to mention that your shelter needs to also provide cover from the sun. Most probably, you will take care of a few survival tasks near or in your shelter, so it goes without saying that direct sun exposure may cause severe burns, dehydration, or even heat strokes.
4. Ideally, the roof of your shelter should be sturdy and waterproof to protect you from the elements. The rest of the design is not as important as the roof. The main idea is to keep the elements out, and you should make sure you will remain dry at all times.
5. Your shelter should have enough room to accommodate you and your gear. You want to avoid leaving your gear exposed to the elements, and for security reasons, you should keep your stuff close, in reach. The more members you have in your party, the bigger the shelter should be as it needs to accommodate everyone without making movement an impossible task.
When heading for the woods, the chances are you may stumble upon a cave, and your first thought would be to use such natural rock shelter rather than spending time and wasting calories to build a shelter from scratch. Even more, if time works against you and if it will get dark soon, you will most probably opt for that cave to become your temporary shelter.
The good news is that you don’t need to be Fred Flintstone to be able to live in a cave and enjoy living in one. In fact, today, there’s a growing number of people today that are doing just that. They have turned caves into a family’s home, and they have equipped them with everything they require to have the same comfort that a conventional home provides them.
Before you turn that cave you just find into a permanent home, let’s see if we can use a cave as a temporary bug out shelter.
To find out more about using caves as a refuge, we checked the work of various cave explorers, and some of the books that helped us draw the final verdict were “The Caves Beyond” and “The Longest Cave.” Read on to find out what you must know about this valuable bug out shelter.
The importance of stability
Safety is a No. 1 priority if you want to take refuge in a cave. It’s imperative that you’re able to recognize whether a cave is safe to enter before you decide to make it your bug out shelter.
People often think that mines can be caved; however, mines pose a serious safety hazard due to instability. The reason mines are unstable is because they have been dynamited and blasted through tunnels, and as a result, the shockwaves tend to crack the rocks around them.
Caves, on the other hand, are generally created by moving water. When the water leaves the cave, anything unstable leaves the cave with it in the form of breakdown. This leaves the cave as typically being extremely stable.
You may find that erosion has caused surface issues around the entrances. We often say ‘entrances are being created and closed all the time through erosion,’ but if it’s open, then you can typically assume the cave is sound.
Getting out and caving can go a long way in helping you should find yourself in a bug out situation that requires you to find shelter; you’ll know the ropes already!
Lions and tigers and bears
If your first vision of a cave involves a four-legged squatter who doesn’t want you to go inside, you may believe in fairy tales.
The fact that caves are often home to furry creatures is a myth. I suppose, in some climates, there may be caves in which bears hibernate, but that’s only in an area with bears. There are cave explorers that have never encountered something furry upon entering a cave in all their years of cave exploration.
But just because a cave is bear-free doesn’t mean it’s ready to be inhabited as-is. When it comes to naptime, sleeping in a cave is deemed safe, but keep in mind that you should bring along a sleeping bag for comfort and warmth.
In addition, make sure you have potable water, which won’t typically be available in a cave.
The rules to follow before using a cave as a bug out shelter
If you’re considering cave exploration, burn these tips into your brain to ensure that you stay safe:
- Never explore alone.
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
- Always carry three sources of light.
- Wear a hard hat or a helmet.
- Don’t enter narrow caves because you may get stuck, or the entrance may be covered by debris
- If you see signs of animal activity (droppings, bones, and other leftovers, fur, etc.) near or inside the cave, leave the premises.
- Pay attention during the rainy season because that bug out shelter you picked can be flooded. Some caves often get filled with water during an increased rainfall.
Safety comes first
- If all of your lights fail, the best thing you can do is sit down and wait on the spot for help to arrive.
- Avoid jumping. Remember that cave floors are rarely level, and even a short jump may result in an injury.
- Carry a small first-aid kit because accidents will always happen.
- Carry a large garbage bag or poncho. These can make a good heat tent if you can use the heat from one candle or carbide lamp.
- Treat for shock if an immobilizing injury occurs. Do whatever you can to keep the injured caver warm and contact the local rescue organization.
- Avoid getting hypothermia by sitting still for long periods of time. Get moving, initiate activity.
- If you get lost, panic is your worst enemy. Remain calm, conserve light, and if you followed the rule about leaving word with people, you would likely be OK.
Equip yourself when looking for that cave but out shelter
If you’re planning on checking out caves for a day trip or you think you might need to bug out in one, make sure you have the following equipment:
Helmet: Get a hard hat equipped with a chinstrap and make sure it is mounted with your primary source of light. Your hard hat should be of good quality. Don’t cheap out and make sure it meets the UIAA standards.
Footwear: We recommend buying shoes that are sturdy. Hiking or work boots with non-slip, lug soles with ankle support are the best.
Back-up lights: We recommend having at least two sources of backup light with spare parts. These are mandatory for safe caving; waterproof flashlights are a good choice.
Clothing: The temperature inside caves can get cold, so layer for extra warmth.
Gloves: In my opinion, gloves are just as important as footwear when exploring the great outdoors as they will protect your main tools. When exploring a cave and establishing if it’s a good bug out shelter, these gloves will keep your hands clean and help minimize cuts and scrapes.
Cave pack: A fanny pack of substantial strength or an old military pack is helpful in carrying needed extra equipment (water, food, flashlights, batteries, etc.)
Food: Carry enough high-energy food for the length of the trip. It would be wise to carry some extra food (even a few more protein bars will make a difference) if the trip takes longer than expected or if you become lost.
In a clutch, a cave can provide safety and a temporary dwelling. Just remember to choose carefully and take appropriate supplies, and you should be able to wait out a disaster in relative safety.
Suggested resources for preppers: