How/where to buy/build an outdoor container for emergency supplies?
July 27, 2015 2:56 PM   Subscribe

As everyone here in the Pacific Northwest freaks out simultaneously about the Big One, I'd like to store our family emergency kit somewhere outside for easy access, just in case. Where/how can I buy/build a container for that?

I estimate it would have to be somewhere around 10-15 cubic feet to hold emergency supplies for a family of four. It would also have to been weather- and critter-proof since there will be food in there. Basically a mini-shed that's impervious to raccoons and the elements.

I initially thought something like this might work, maybe two or three, but I'm not convinced they're tough enough to be stored outside for an extended period. So I've started thinking about building one from scratch, but have pretty no idea where to start.
posted by gottabefunky to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure what you mean by "tough enough." Since you were on Amazon, you probably saw The Rubbermaid Shed. It might help if you tell why you've ruled it out.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:26 PM on July 27, 2015

A relative here in the bay area stores his family emergency kit in a plastic 55 gallon drum in the backyard.
posted by gyusan at 3:30 PM on July 27, 2015

Clarification: not that particular drum, but one like it that has a removable lid (the one I linked to does not).
posted by gyusan at 3:33 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Campers/hikers will carry food in bear proof containers. They are built for portability so aren't that large but a couple may work.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:57 PM on July 27, 2015

10 to 15 cu ft is roughly 100 gallons or two 55 gal drums. You can get those in food grade plastic. I'd avoid the metal ones.You can buy them new, but many restaurants will have an excess of 45 or 55 gal drums for liquid products or things like pickles. These are quite compact for their size and varmint and weather proof when sealed.

The main problem with drums is size. They're just barely movable by hand full. You really need a proper dolly to move them about and you can't lift them full without a crane.

A more mobile system would be the biggest rough totes Rubbermaid makes. They go up to 50 gal or so also and might be a bit more convenient shapes.
posted by bonehead at 4:22 PM on July 27, 2015

What about a rugsack?
posted by k8t at 4:24 PM on July 27, 2015

5-gallon buckets are portable, stackable, and extremely tough. They are cheap (or free, if you scrounge) and you can get them with airtight lids. One bucket holds 0.67 cubic feet, so you'd need about 22 of them for 15 cubic feet of storage.

That may sound like a lot, but in my experience anything bigger is a severe pain to carry when full. Your typical adult male can lug two 5-gallon buckets at a time. (5 gallons of water weighs about 40 lbs, which is manageable. Get the kind with a plastic cylinder thingy on the bail, so that they don't cut into your hands too badly.) Also, having your cache separated into a couple dozen buckets allows you to easily organize things by labeling and/or color-coding them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:18 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah - I'd recommend a bunch of smaller containers that are sealed sufficiently airtight (5 gallon buckets for some things, dry-bags for others, etc) and collect those in a structurally sound bear-proof larger container or structure.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:01 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

whups - hit post too soon.

Multiple smaller containers gets you several advantages: transportation is easier if you're going by hand, you get to raid just part of the collection if needed, you can replace it bit by bit if you want to rotate through supplies (like, take the rice container in front on that shelf and replace it with another new one at the back of the shed), which is a good way to keep supplies fresh, and if something goes wrong and you do get rot, you've only lost part of your stash.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:03 PM on July 27, 2015

I have the same question. Can't rats chew through plastic? I mean, I've been at a campground where squirrels chewed through a Sprite can.
posted by salvia at 6:16 PM on July 27, 2015

A Tricon 1 mini-sea container is the real deal and starts at $4,000 USD (pdf, starts at page 6).
posted by furtive at 8:33 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

What about a Job Box?
posted by jferg at 8:52 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing 5 gallon buckets. Family of 4 you say? CDC recommends 1 gallon of water per person per day - so one bucket holds 1+ day's worth of water for your family. Counting buckets makes it easy to see how much you've got left.

I'm no expert on this, but I think you're making the problem rather a lot more difficult and expensive by insisting that it be stored outdoors. Weather and animals over a period of years can wear shit down. If all you need is 10-15 cubic feet, I think you'd be better off cleaning out a few closets etc.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:04 PM on July 27, 2015

The removable lid idea is good. And since anything you seal inside will be air tight and probably plastic wrapped (or at least the lid) there should be nothing that attract any animals. Gallons of drinking water, filter straws, freeze-dried food packs, first aid kits, etc. In fact, pretty sure you can BUY kits already assembled, like "survival in a bucket" or such. :)

And yes, you need a handtruck / dolly to move the big drums.
posted by kschang at 11:47 PM on July 27, 2015

I would go with a job box + 5 gallon buckets with lids. Job Boxes are made to store expensive things, like professional power tools, in a work site that is open to vandals, thieves, and the elements. Use that for primary security, then buckets for the removable storage benefits others have outlined above.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:08 AM on July 28, 2015

If you want a shipping container, try your used pages. I've bought them used for less than half the price of that new figure. They are big and mostly water tight (if you look after them).

You need a lift truck to move them though and a well-drained bed to put them on. They can rust like the dickens if you leave them on the ground. We put ours up on concrete curbs, front and back.
posted by bonehead at 7:29 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

> I think you're making the problem rather a lot more difficult and expensive by insisting that it be stored outdoors

In the recent flurry of articles about how we're all going to die (or at least those of you who live west of I-5), I read an expert saying that our houses will probably get through an earthquake. Sorry I can't find the article right now.

I understand wanting to store your emergency supplies outside the house -- I've had the same thought -- but it probably isn't necessary. YHMV.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:30 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

We expect most of our homes and structures to fare relatively well, especially if you are a wood-frame construction. (That's not the one I was thinking of, but maybe it's reassuring.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:32 AM on July 28, 2015

How about a heavy-duty plastic compost container?
posted by sixpack at 8:47 AM on July 28, 2015

Any plastic will break down quickly in sunlight. Metal containers are vulnerable to metal theft even if they don't look "valuable" to you.

If you are storing outside for an extended period, you probably want to bury your containers. This will add some complexity to keeping the supplies fresh.

It's going to be much easier to buy a small garden shed. If you put your supplies on the floor, no need to worry about the bins shaking off the shelves. Even if the shed collapses, a small shed does not weigh all that much and it should be easy to get at your things.
posted by yohko at 9:57 AM on July 28, 2015

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