Commercial Storage Buildings (Self-Storage) and Prepping

Self-Storage units

Having a self-storage facility that you pay a monthly or yearly fee for will make sense to some preppers, so does it make sense for you, and is there a downside.

The Pros

  • Plenty of clean space for food and water and other prepping supplies
  • Relatively secure
  • Dry and protected from insects and rodents and in some cases climate controlled with lighting
  • Privacy
  • Availability, you can likely rent one close to home

The Cons

  • You do not have immediate access to your supplies (but you do not have immediate access with any cache of supplies that are off site)
  • There is a cost involved, and failure to make payments on time may mean your supplies are seized and held until payments are caught up and in extreme cases anything in the unit can be sold at public auction if you fail to make payments
  • Storage units may be a target of looters during any crisis
  • Can be broken into at anytime
  • You will have to make monthly, if not more often, visits to refresh water and possibly rotate supplies based on expiration dates

Note: If the unit you rent is not climate controlled, which means you gain access from inside of a larger structure (called inside units) the unit will experience climate change based on outside temperatures.

Food, water, and other supplies can freeze in some cases, if not properly protected in cold weather. You can pack water, food and other items sensitive to the cold in coolers or other containers to prevent damage from the cold. Use newspaper or other insulating materials inside of the containers.

You will need to take measures to prevent damage from heat, as well, if you have items that can be damaged from high temperatures. The shelf life of Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) for example is reduced dramatically at higher temperatures. Wax candles will lose their shape at a relatively low temperature. These are just a few of many items that can be affected by temperature change.

Keep in mind the heat inside of a metal structure will exceed the ambient air temperature outside of the structure.

Moisture can be a problem, so make sure any item susceptible to moisture damage is not stored directly on the floor of a unit that is not climate or moisture controlled. Use wooden pallets to elevate items off the floor. Store items in sealed plastic and ensure all boxes are sealed properly.


The facility will typically have a blanket policy and it is usually capped at a low amount, $2,000 for example, so if you have items worth more than the allowed amount you should purchase additional insurance for your protection. In some instances, you may have to provide proof of insurance to the management. Insurance policies can generally be purchased at the time of rental and added to the contract.


If you rent a unit large enough, you may be able to store a Bug-Out Vehicle (BOV) in your unit. However, any material considered “inherently dangerous” cannot be stored in a unit you rent. This would include propane tanks, gasoline in containers, explosives and any toxic waste and so forth.

You can generally store vehicles and a certain number of spare tires in self-storage. Obviously various storage units have differing requirements on what is allowed and what is not.

Ideally, the unit you rent would be close enough to where you could easily walk to it if the roads are impassable. This means you would have to map a route that allows you to walk “cross country” to get to the unit.

When choosing a unit you want one that allows unlimited access 24/7. Typically, storage units are surrounded by a security fence with a controlled access gate that requires a key card or code before opening. You should also make sure the entire complex is under video surveillance to help deter break-ins. Of course, during a SHTF situation, all bets are off and likely, the gate will be compromised rather quickly.

Make sure the unit you rent allows you to put your own lock on the door, and ask about management access rules. Typically no one is allowed to enter your unit unless you have failed to make payment or by law enforcement with a warrant. However, in most contracts you sign with the management of the units, the fine print will state they can be granted access if they suspect you are storing illegal or otherwise banned items. Ensure you know exactly under what conditions the proprietor is allowed legal access.

 Additional Considerations

Once you have stockpiled your supplies in a self-storage unit you must consider what happens if you need to retrieve those supplies.

Do you have a vehicle stored so if you have to walk to the unit you have a way of transporting your supplies away from the unit

Do you have backpacks stored at the unit so you can at least carry food and water and other essentials if roads and bridges are destroyed

Carry bolt cutters with you when retrieving supplies during a crisis because the security gate may be inoperable because of the loss of electricity, so you may have to cut your way in. Additionally, someone may have cut the lock off your unit and replaced it with one of their own, thinking they can come back and retrieve (steal) your supplies, so plan for every eventuality.

Logically, the amount of supplies you have in the unit can be packed into one vehicle otherwise; you may have to leave supplies behind in a crisis.

Once you rent a unit and begin adding supplies here and there you may not be paying attention, and soon you have more supplies than can be easily transported. Ideally, you want to be able to pack all of your supplies in a matter of minutes and have them all fit into one vehicle.