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7 Ways You Can Survive And Thrive In A Tiny House


James Burnette’s Tiny House

Editor’s Note: Please welcome James Burnette from In his guest post, James talks about surviving in a “Tiny House”, and why is a good idea. After reading this article, be sure to view the video tour of his tiny house at the bottom of the page!

I’m here to prove to you that you can both survive and thrive in a tiny house. That you can be a prepper and not have a huge home. You don’t have to sacrifice food storage, survival gear, or your firearms to live in a tiny house. Not only that but you can be better prepared in a tiny house over a traditional home.

In case you are unfamiliar with a tiny house and the movement behind them; a tiny house is typically between 100 to 400 square feet. This is in contrast to the American average of 2,600 square feet for a home.

Most but not all tiny or small houses are built on trailers. This is for two reasons. First by building it on a trailer bed you bypass many home building laws. Doing it this way you will not need permits or to pass many codes and zoning laws. For us preppers, this means that the government does not get involved in our business. They don’t have a copy of our blueprints on file. No need to pay ridiculous amounts of money for permission to build.

Some folks also build or modify sheds to be tiny homes. This is in many ways an easier solution than building a tiny house on wheels. But there could be some legal ramifications and zoning issues. With a tiny house on wheels, it is considered an “RV”, and you can skirt some of the potential problems you might have with an “accessory dwelling unit” ie fixed tiny house. Be sure to check your local laws and ordinances for more details. Here is a great link for more details on this.

Food Storage

Are you wondering how you can have food storage in a tiny house? Well, I can tell you that I have no issues with food storage. With proper prior planning, you can have plenty of room for food storage in a tiny house. It will involve creativity with building food storage into your home design.

In a tiny house you will need to utilize vertical space for storage. I have three storage lofts in my 12×20 home. My main sleeping loft is 8 feet long and spans the width of the home. Up there I have a queen sized mattress for sleeping in the middle. On either side is storage space. This is where I keep my tools and my survival gear. I have my backup BUG Out Bag up there, as well gun cases, sleeping bags, and more.

I keep my freeze-dried camping meals and MRE’s in the sleeping loft. With all the stuff stored up there, I still have room. And it is not even optimally stored. When I get it better organized, there will be even more room!

Above the kitchen, I have my pressure canner, electric dehydrator, and dutch oven. Above my pantry, I have my bulk rice storage.

Another few places to store food is behind books on a bookcase. Most books on a shelf don’t go all the way to the back. You can store a ton of cans behind books.

For years I had an end table that was an MRE case with a blanket covering it. I never had a visitor question that it was not a normal end table.

If you are creative there are so many ways to find spaces to store food.


With a tiny house, chances are you are not going to be hooked up to the water main. Which is probably best. You have to look no further than Flint, Michigan to know that there are issues with the municipal water supply. That is not even taking into consideration the issue of fluoride. (I fully believe is not healthy to be ingesting fluoride in large quantities.)

Water brick container

In a tiny house, you have a few options for water. You can carry it in and store in containers (like the one pictured here). This is the cheapest and easiest option. With a few water containers, you can live fairly comfortably.

The next step is to move to rain catchment system. With rain water being fed into barrels or a cistern you have water sustainability. With a tiny house, building rain catchment is dirt cheap.

For more information on long-term water storage, be sure to check out this link!

Back Up Power

I have backup power in my tiny house. With the house being so small it is really easy to power it. I have a small fridge that can be powered for quite a while on my battery backup system. I detailed how I built my battery backup system a few years ago. Really easy process.

Building a solar power system to power one of the aforementioned 2,600 square feet home is crazy expensive. Building a system to power a tiny house though is not nearly as bad. Depending on how you build the system. you can save a lot of money. If you have money to throw at an installer or a kit then you are looking around ~11k. For just some redundancy in power, you can grab one of the harbor freight kits for less than $200.

I’m a fan of getting the charge controllers and batteries and then adding panels over time.

Heating And Cooling

The great thing about a tiny house is it’s tiny. Heating and cooling such a small space is easy and economical. Since you are building it you can make sure it is well insulated to retain the heat and cold.

The first winter in my tiny house here in Tennessee we had a week-long ice storm. I couldn’t get back out for seven days. For heating I had a small kerosene heater, electric blankets, and a tiny space heater. On the way home as the snow was falling, I filled up my kerosene Jerry can. That 5 liter can lasted the entire time. It didn’t just take the edge off the cold. I was very comfortable the entire week even when temperatures plunged to negative digits.

For the hottest parts of the summer I am comfortable with the tiniest cheapest AC you can get. The first summer in my tiny house I just had a window fan and house fans. It was livable. I prefer it cooler but in an emergency the power needed to run those fans is minuscule.


Being movable is maybe the biggest survival benefit to living in a tiny house. Just think in the event of a disaster being able to bug out with your home. I dubbing it the Bug Out Tiny House, a BOTH, cause “us survivalists” love acronyms.

With a tiny house you take a lot of the guesswork out of whether to bug in or out. If the situation dictates you bug out then baton down the hatches and go. Just pull your house to a location of safety. You will have all your gear and food storage with you ready to go. No need to pick and choose. No need to be limited to just your BOB.

For example, you won’t need to try to find a hotel because a hurricane is coming to your area. You just drive outside the affected area, find a place to park, and call it a night.

Even with shed type tiny houses, moving them is not that hard. Find a shed moving company and have them move it. Usually, you need to have the house emptied, or you could end up paying more. Of course this may be worth it to you. I have had to have my tiny house moved to a different city and the total cost was less than $1,500.

Get Out Of Debt

Building a tiny house is much cheaper than building a large house. The price can vary depending on several things. Whether you build it or have it built. If you buy top of the line everything or scrounge Craigslist for freebies.

Regardless of the route you take, it is cheaper and will be paid off MUCH sooner than a conventional house. You will not be paying a mortgage the rest of your life. You will be a home owner now. And no more paying rent.

This means that one of, if not the biggest bill in your life, is gone. You can pay off any remaining debt so much faster without rent. In most cases, you will have an extra 400~1,200 a month to pay bills. Using the debt snowball method with that extra cash will destroy your debt much faster.

Learn Skills

Now that you have gotten out of debt, you have spare money. You can do a few things with it. With the need for less money, you work less. You now have more time for the people and things you love. And you can go learn some hard skills.

When you are in debt taking a thousand dollar PDC course (Professional Development) that can last 3 days or more is pretty much impossible. When you are debt free with a paid off tiny house it’s not that hard.

You will have the time and money to go take survival courses, tactical shooting classes, permaculture workshops, etc.

Skills always trump having stuff. Having all the fancy survival gear in the world, without the skills to use them, is worthless.

In Conclusion

I hope I have made you think about how a tiny house is a great tool for survival. It’s coming up on my second year in a tiny house and I can’t imagine any reason to go back to an apartment or a large house. If anything I would get another tiny house or a tool shed to move tools and gear to. Being able to bug out with your home is the ultimate in bugging out.

The fact that you can heat, cool, and power a tiny house so cheaply and easily is a huge benefit. In a large house, the wasted power to heat and cool mostly unused space is throwing money away.

Why should you be paying for life and killing yourself at a job you hate to have room to store things you don’t use? Do you really need a guest room that never gets used? Do you need seven boxes of tangled Christmas lights from ten years ago that you will never use? Get rid of the junk, live life to the fullest, and be prepared in a tiny house!

James Burnette is the creator or the Survivalpunk blog and podcast. He takes a rational and creative approach to Survival with a punk attitude. His site takes a look at DIY projects, survival, and nutrition. Be sure to check it out!


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3 Responses to 7 Ways You Can Survive And Thrive In A Tiny House

  • “..American average of 2,600 square feet for a home.”
    This is not accurate. this number is the average size home “built in 2015” not the average american home.
    In addition, 400 sq ft is not all that tiny. Tell the truth if credibility is important.

    • Over the last 40 years, the average home has increased in size by more than 1,000 square feet, from an average size of 1,660 square feet in 1973 (earliest year available from Census) to 2,679 square feet last year. Likewise, the median-size home has increased in size by almost 1,000 square feet, from 1,525 square feet in 1973 to 2,491 last year. In percentage terms, the average home size has increased by 61.4% since 1973, while the median home size increased by 63.3%.

      The term “Tiny House” has been given to those dwellings that are around 500 sq ft or less. The term is of course subjective, but those within the “Tiny House movement” generally agree on that.

      Credibility is obviously important here. However, arguing semantics is not…

    • The article I was quoting said the average size of american homes was 2,600 sf. After looking at several sources it would seem that average of all home not just the ones built last year is 2,400 and some change. So I was obviously lying to you about a whopping 200 sf. If you want to argue about 200 square feet, which is about the size of my entire house, then have fun. My credibility is not harmed. You sir have a blessed day.

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