Challenges of Apartment Prepping

Apartment Prepping and Preparedness Recommendations

There certainly are some significant challenges that go along with apartment prepping. According to latest US statistics from National Multifamily Housing Council, 44.1 million households are renters. And 37% of renters live in apartments. That’s 16.3 million households who live in apartments.

If you fit into that statistic and if you are a prepper, you’re presented with certain unique challenges for your preparedness.

What are the preparedness challenges for apartment prepping?

What can be done about some of these challenges?

Awhile ago I received an email which posed the following question:

I live in an apartment, and would like to know if you, or the online community, have thoughts or suggestions for those of use who don’t have land, gardens, etc.

I have about a months worth of food, and a couple of weeks of water (more if I drain the water heater). Good clothes, radios, TP, camp stove with fuel, lights, etc.., and a decent Get Home Bag in the car.

Storage is limited as I am in a two bedroom apartment and cannot reasonably relocate.

My current approach is to continue my preps and maintain a low profile, and would like to draw on the MSB community for additional thoughts. Thanks.

Apartment Prepping Challenges

Here are a few challenges that come to mind. Add your own in the comment section below.

INSIDE Space Limitations

While we each have our own space limitations (we all live within walls), the apartment dweller has less space (much less space) than the typical home dweller. Since prepping and preparedness does partially involve a collection of food and supplies, they need to go somewhere… Space is limited.

OUTSIDE Space Limitations

Similarly the apartment dweller may have little or no space outside. No big ‘yard’ to speak of. Probably no garage. No space for gardening. No shed or outbuildings.

Maybe there’s a small outside space such as a patio (container garden?). Or maybe there’s a common area outside for everyone in the building (kinda useless for prepping). But it’s not like having your own personal yard if you live in a single family home.

When it comes to apartment prepping, there’s essentially no outside space.

Closer Proximity (density) With Others

The apartment dweller lives right next to other apartment dwellers. You might even hear them through the walls. Not ideal for privacy and security…


Operational Security. Most preppers try to keep a low profile given the stigma that exists around preparedness (which itself is stunning – why would the masses look down upon preparedness?!). Trying to keep a low profile in an apartment might be challenging.

Okay For Short Term Disruption – But Not Long Term

If you live in an apartment and undergo a disruption event (hours, days, maybe up to a week) you could be adequately prepared to get through it fine. Although a grid-down event (even temporary) may present significant problems to the apartment dweller depending on climate (HVAC systems for example) and other integral related apartment building infrastructure reliant upon electrical power.

However when we go beyond that short term time frame and get into several weeks, a month?!, longer?!) it will become quite a challenge if not impossible to deal with in an apartment.

What Can Be Done About Apartment Prepping Challenges?

This is where the ideas flow. Leave your comments below.

A few initial thoughts to get it going:

There’s only so much space inside for apartment prepping. Instead of haphazardly acquiring ‘stuff’ for preparedness, give it some serious thought first. Prioritize! What are the most important preps? Take care of those things first. At least to the extent that you can. Things like water, drinking water filtration, and food storage should be first. Then evaluate from there.

Space Inside The Apartment

Utilize space in a unique way. Here’s one example:

During an earlier time when we were getting into preparedness, and when we lived in a smaller home, I kept twelve 5-gallon buckets (long term food storage preps) behind a couch. No one knew. I placed a row of six buckets across – stacked two high. I covered (draped) them with a fabric which matched and blended with the couch color. Then I placed a proper size board across the top which I had stained and finished to be a nice looking shelf (I shimmed it to bring to the similar height of the couch back). The shelf board turned out to be a convenient practical thing (remote controls and other such nick-knacks. And it served to hide all those buckets of food storage.

Do you have a second bedroom? That will present more options!

What about under the furniture. Under the bed. Behind furniture. In the furniture. The closet. In your luggage bags. Hiding in plain sight. Stay organized.

If you’re really tight for space, you could rent a storage unit. Many people do this anyway. Sure it costs money, but it’s an option.

Space Outside The Apartment

Some apartments may have a small caged area or ‘lockers’ in a basement or other area for storage. Some people use curtains or shower curtains inside the cage for privacy. Beware of rodents. Use proper containers to keep them (and bugs) out.

As an apartment dweller, if you have a little space outside, maybe there’s enough for a 4×8 raised garden? Probably not though…

You might plant some veggies in ordinary planters on the patio. Container gardening. Even though you’re not looking at life-saving food production, it’ll get you into gardening – which is always a good skill for preparedness.

Other Challenges and Thoughts

One problem is enough water, especially if you live on an upper floor. Can you lug enough water up several floors to supply your family with drinking, cooking, washing water? What if you live on the 20th floor? Is there even a source of water nearby? The amount of water you can store in an apartment is very limited. What will you do after that is used up?

said an MSB commenter

Look around your local area for water sources. Make a mental note of it. You do have a good drinking water filter, right?

Apartment owners, landlords, and/or managers have a key to your door. You have no real security in this regard if someone else owns the apartment (or home) that you live in.

Another problem with living in a rented space is that the owner may tell you to leave, especially if government protection is absent. Maybe he wants the space for his relatives, for storage for his preps or maybe a large part of the city has become uninhabitable due to flooding, fire, etc and he can get a much larger rent from some of those displaced people.


Be aware of your OPSEC. Know that you have more eyes watching you when you live among population density.

Have A Bug Out Location If You Live In An Apartment

I definitely think that an apartment dweller should prioritize having a BOL for just in case. That doesn’t necessarily mean having a cabin in the mountains. Rather, simply a thought out place to go, depending on the events that have transpired. Just think it through – so you don’t have to when the SHTF for real.

Also, have your Bug Out Bag, whatever ‘kit’ you put together, have it ready to go. I always keep at least a minimal kit in my vehicle at all times (72 hour kit).

If You’re Serious, Make An Exit Plan To Get Your Own Place

It’s easy to feel ‘tied down’. You may feel stuck where you live due to various reasons. But the reality is, it’s always a choice that you make. You can (if you really want to) make a plan to get out. It may take some time. However, you are in charge of you.

There’s really now way to be prepared for a long term (some call it SHTF) disaster scenario. There are all sorts of hypothetical scenarios. But apartment prepping will always be limited to a relatively short term. The good thing is that most disruptions are indeed short term. But, if you’re considering anything worse, you’re going to need to get out…

Prepping and Preparedness 1 – 4

That said, lets hear your specific or general recommendations for the apartment dweller prepper:


  1. If the supplies get to be too big, rent an additional storage unit. Store food items in a metal garbage can with tight fitting lids held in place with weights or rope/bungee cords. For long bulky things like rifles or rifle cases, wrap them in colorful beach towels prior to bringing into apartment. Bring them in at night when traffic is minimal. Large cardboard boxes can be purchased from storage places and u-haul travel centers as well. Nobody paid much attention to a middle aged dude using a hand-truck to move large bulky boxes in an elevator.

  2. I know it’s hard for Apartment Prepper to reach out as everyone knows it’s better not to live in cities (I live in the city). We are all where we are for reasons too lengthy to go into here. I am in a small home but was in an apartment before. One suggestion if you cannot rent or buy a home, is to change apartments. We lived in very old to brand new apartments. Many older apartments have much more storage space— really a lot more! The trick to this, of course, is the decency of the neighborhood. I would look in the first ring suburbs around the major city. Many apartments are sturdier and in mixed neighborhoods with homes and parks. Our last apartment had a large closet in every room, including the bathroom! If there is an onsite building manager— be friendly with them. Our manager at this building needed an occasional hand outside. My husband got a key to the tool shed and a corner of it to stash a few of our own things in. Every little thing you can do is a step, good for you in your struggle to be independent!

  3. As already noted, move. The only viable option is having a superb BOB and having a destination. Wherever you’re headed, move your preps there. It could be a storage rental. Even smaller towns have’em. If shtf, everyone will be struggling. Pick your storage rental carefully. Get one on the “back-side” in a small town. It’s at least a roof over your head. From that point, who knows. I’ll give ya some credit, at least you’re thinking about it. Most folks are totally oblivious.

  4. These tips also work for smaller homes as well. One could look into renting a garden plot and adding a small shed/building as a backstop. A friend who traveled to Germany talked about their schrebergartens or community/allotment gardens that usually have small structures on them. I have thought with a composting toilet and small stove this could work for an individual or couple in a pinch. Again if you’re renting there’s risk. As I am property hunting, I have thought, if I purchase heavily wooded property, buying a nearby plot without trees for a garden and including a small structure.

  5. Maybe those large clear bags that can be shrunk down with a vacuum cleaner by attaching the hose to bag would help compact some supplies and put under the bed or slid behind clothes in a closet. The bags are usually used for clothing or linens why not other items. Not every vacuum will work of course.

  6. IDEAS: 1 Under bed , build platform very simple but access need take bedspring and mattress off. Great for freeze dried food and ammo. If put boxes in closet mark as baby clothes or old towels. Water, first thing is have filters, both coffee and manual pumps(hand held and emergency straws). Collapsible containers, soon as event happens start filling. Don’t forget bleach, water purification drops and pool shock. A small 5foot tall gun safe , manual dial in closet covered by blanket. Remember in apartment operational security very important. Most important item…find a like mined friend with a farm and ask if you can come out on weekends and help. Best way to learn and prove your hard working. Last think is knowing when to leave…the longer you wait the more dangerous the trek will be. Better to go and be wrong then be dead. This is part of what I recently told my daughter who moved 839 miles from us for a new job.

  7. To SoulSurvival, Interesting thought, but, no, that’s not practical. Why? Because a dehumidifier requires a LOT of power (watts) to operate. Depending on the dehumidifier, you’re talking somewhere around 1KW, more or less. That means 1,000 watts worth of solar panels (where you going to put them all when living in an apartment?). That also means at least a 1KW inverter. And unless you have a big battery bank for big storage, the power will only produce while the sun shines bright.

    Anyway, without getting overly technical, its not going to work in an apartment. There are better ways to procure water. Hopefully you’ve stored some amount of water to get by short term. Then, assuming you can’t simply drive somewhere to get more, you should look in your surrounding area. Swimming pools hold tons of water. Then there are rivers, streams, lakes, ponds. Rain collection. Here’s a thought… If it’s that bad, you’re probably better off bugging out to that place that you thought out ahead of time… And/or to someone’s place that you’ve agreed with about this scenario.

    1. SoulSurvival,
      the dehumidifier is an option, but it depends on what part of the country you live in and the average humidity in that area.
      where i live now in the So East a person may get a gallon a day just out of their clothes in the summer.
      in the Mohave desert where i grew up in you may get a teacup full a day from a large HVAC system.

      1. SoulSurvival,
        im trying to make the move from anything grid dependent. manual tools, i have a deep well with some well buckets, that sort of thing.
        storms rolled through our area again last night. lights out for 8 hrs and we were happy campers. it was peaceful and quiet, i loved it, like camping in the house. i wouldn’t care if they ever came back on. DW would, she missed her TV show last night. “Survivior”. Sunday mornings it’s the Pioneer Woman marathon,
        i go outside.

  8. Yes, remember that during the Northridge quake much of the region’s aging water system broke down, cutting water pressure to homes. If the water from the spigot starts slowing down… you could fill your bathtub if your apartment has one, and the tub drain can be completely stopped. Fill pots and pans, trash cans, plastic storage containers. And maybe get water from the water heater.
    Can you imagine thousands of people searching for the precious AquaCola, puncturing pipes in buildings, scrambling to catch rainfall in containers, getting sick and zombie-like from contaminated water. Sounds like a summer blockbuster…

  9. I’d prioritize a way to get water. Having plenty of portable water filters would be a massive step in the right direction. If you live in an area that gets rain, consider how you can catch water off the roof/railings/awnings to be put through your filters. If you live in an area with little rain but lots of humidity, consider a passive dehumidifier; essentially a still. It might not collect enough, but it’s worth a try.

    As you said, the water heater is also a source of water, and keep a Water BOB in the bathroom to be filled in the case of an emergency. If you can hold out for a week, in regards to water, you’re better off than most of your neighbors.

    When (or if) to leave is of course up to you and your circumstances. When Dad was here I planned to bug in because he couldn’t walk far. People might choose to “bug in” for a number of reasons, from mobility to the needs of small children. Best to have a place to go if you must leave, though.

    Food can be stacked inside a box spring, under the skirt of a couch, in the kick space of cabinets. A year’s worth of clothing isn’t hard to store, either. Have at least a small garden, even if only a single tomato in a sunny window. One possibility is to look around your neighborhood for those neglected gardens, and ask the owners if you can grow there.

    1. I cannot even imagine living in an apartment, but I’ll throw out a few ideas.
      Community gardens are becoming a norm.
      Not safe nor secure in a time of need, but a possibility.
      End tables and coffee tables are usually taking up useless space, most if not all with accessable doors. Storage space underneath dining room tables. Be creative in hiding contents with drop cloths. Dresser drawers. Unused space in closets
      A vehicle has alot of areas that can be of use for storage. Not so much practical, but usable.
      Trunk, under seats, console, door cubbies glovebox, seat pouches behind front seats.

  10. We have a whirlpool bathtub (no longer in use) that has an access door on the frontside.
    I could store, at the least, a couple weeks worth of SpaghettiOs.

  11. What goes in must come out. Biggest potential problem with an apartment is location. Below or above community water towers? If a pump is required to get water to your place then no power instantly means no water. If there are apartments above then one can drain those lines into tub and other storage but that’s it.
    Below or above sewer lines/ sewage treatment plant? If apartment bldg requires pump to raise sewage to treatment plant then apt dwellers are SOL in a huge way almost as soon as power is off. People disposing of human waste will create a moat of pure nastiness around the building. Renting a little run-down place, or sharing a house, seems preferable to risking such contamination.

  12. I was hoping to see Bill Posters comment on this article, as I know he lives in a flat in Britain. Haven’t seen him post in a while, hope he is okay.

      1. I have replied further down in the comments for what it is worth , op sec ruined but i think you are all worth it .

  13. Lauren spoke of water and that is so true. If you lived in an upper apt. in a climate that gets rain maybe a trip to depot, lowes or hardware you could buy and assemble a rain catcher. I picture some metal gutter pieces which might be sturdy enough to stick out over the balcony and catch rain in a bucket. Not permanent of course but could be assembled at the right time. Would need to filter most likely too.

    1. Mrs. U
      Even a small piece of visqueen can catch a lot of water…
      As an aside, we have a commercial berkey, and also a ‘homemade’ one.
      Top container which holds the filters is a 5 gallon food grade plastic bucket. Lower container is a 6 gallon food grade bucket.

  14. Well since you asked ! lol
    The main thing I do , every unit in the block has a free brick built fully enclosed storage unit this is located in a maze of other units . Mine has racks down one side and much of my LTS is kept there . I keep tropical fish in a 80 gall tank that auto partial drains and tops up from a 5 gall reservoir giving me an emergency water buffer. wardrobes under bed , tops of high furniture are used . I stopped using round storage buckets and now use the square ones these stack better in small spaces ! I have no garden space so sprout a verity of seeds having an assortment of seeds and beans to sprout , the advantage of sprouting seeds is a few pounds of seeds take little space . I cultivate a reputation of being slightly strange such that when my flour mill is running my neighbor just thinks im an over fussy eater keep up to 75 pounds of wheat in three large dog food bins and rotate them . Most important for me is hiding things from visitors apart from a couple of friends visitors need to obtain permission in advance to enter my flat . ( and my kitchen cabinets overflow despite my best efforts )

    1. Addendum to above
      I would like to stress that stocking up on preps is great but I can see the Usk river from my flat and I fish to the right of my flat is a wild park infested with rabbits a good amount of fishing gear and some air rifles / snares help keep costs down and will supplement food in times of need. Off course I would never trap rabbits except in an emergency ;)

  15. Congrats on seeing the need to be prepared. If you can afford a Buddy heater, you might wish to look into one. I say this, because I do not know your current circumstances. If you have a way to use a small tarp out a window that directs water into some type of container, you might start thinking that possibility through. There are also a few propane cook stoves that can be used indoors, with a window cracked. This will take some research on your part and you would have to store some canisters. packages of wet body wipes can be stored under something, like your hairdryer in the bathroom. They are flat and a thousand take up very little space. Be sure to refasten the package, and put in a zip lock bag. Store what you eat and eat what you store. In an apartment, you can not afford to throw a thing away. If you store rice and beans, keep some packets of sauces, like gravy mixes, for different flavors. Dried fruits and vegetables take up far less room. They are healthy and go a long way. Keep some healthy nuts, raisins etc. if you and eat them. Give some thought to your lighting. Cheap little lanterns would allow you to read or function in your space. Use solar of batteries. Don’t mess with candles unless you have too. Accidents happen when you are tired or stressed. Maybe have a folded laundry rack for the tub to rinse of a few things, hand ring and hang up….Hold there are some helpful ideas here. Stay Strong!

  16. The last times I lived in apartments, I lived in the upper floors by choice because: The possibility of water being cut off to upper floors was far less than plumbing of waste water getting clogged on the lower floors. If the sewage was going anywhere, the toilets would overflow on the lowest floor. Does not take much, one under-educated person flushing a disposable diaper or too many maxipads down the commode rather than tossing out in the garbage can, children flushing a stuffed animal that belonged to their younger sibling. Some apartments have a higher % of under-educated individuals as well. (section 8 housing for instance).
    I tried to keep some money stashed away in the bank in order to pay for first and last months rent and enough for a security deposit in event I had to move. The disadvantage of apartment living is you do not have room to store much stuff. The advantage of apartment living is that you can relocate to another/hopefully better living situation in short order. (24 hr or less). Since I worked in police work or security during much of my time in upper story apartments, I kept a can of clay-based kitty litter by the front door to point my weapon into when I came or went out in order to load/unload or chamber check my semi-auto handguns. If something were to go wrong, the kitty litter would stop the bullet from going into the apartment of my downstairs neighbor.
    I would rather live in an apartment with OK neighbors than sharing a house with a person(s) that are not compatible with me. (as a college student, I was invited to room with a bunch of dope-smoking lumberjacks. My job at the jail as a sworn deputy eliminated that house as an option)

  17. I live in an older (32 year old) condominium apartment with mostly seniors. I moved into the building to avoid having drug dealers in the building and having most residents in their 70s, retired, home and very social assists with this as they know what is going on. We have a live-in superintendent which is comforting especially in emergencies as we do not need to call a 1800 number. I live on the second floor but am thinking of moving to a 5th floor apartment unit with no balcony but it has a sunroom. The no-balcony means that nobody could climb into my unit from the outside. The second floor unit could be vulnerable if one person hoisted another from the ground to access my unit via my balcony. Since Covid-19 began I have noticed a lot of people begging in the area and many appear strung out on street drugs (not medical prescriptions). Many vagrants have migrated from downtown to the suburbs. This is a decent suburban area except for this element as it houses families and seniors in a variety of home types from single family, double, townhouses, to condo apartments. There is drug dealing in the area as is typical with many areas. Would you move from the 2nd floor to the 5th floor? I own my own unit clear of a mortgage so I would need to sell it to purchase the one on the fifth floor. I am a single early 60s female living alone.

    1. Condominium Lady,
      From your description of the area, i would move from that location. I understand this might be a hard thing to think about, moving to a new location completely. Look at it this way, your subconscious mind is telling you you are not safe on the 2nd floor. Moving up to the 5th floor is safer from outside entry, but now you have added more issues, like getting out in event of a fire or earthquake. If you have the guts and energy to move to the 5th floor, you have it in you to look around your suburban area to find a better place to live, where you can garden without worrying about junkies trampling your veggies. YOU CAN DO THIS! Be tough, like you know you can. If you don’t have an aversion to firearms, i would also suggest you get some firearm training (lots out there now offered specifically for women), and then buy a firearm for home defense. It will give you a greater since of security than having a live-in superintendent (who may or may not be home when you need him). You need to project “strength”. Yes you are a single, early 60s-ish woman living alone. BUT, you will also want to appear to be a “force to be reckoned with”, it will go a long way to scaring off the undesirables. just my humble 2 cents. God go with you.

  18. Condominium Lady
    Move from a location where you will be able to grow your own vegetables or harvest rainwater. NO
    If the area is becoming overrun with the less than desirable folks, is your area fenced with a NON climbable enclosure? Have there been community meeting for this very issue? If not, maybe the area which you reside have a meeting with the other owners to discuss what is transpiring around your area. If you feel uncomfortable, have you not considered that you are not alone in this feeling?

    1. Condominium Lady. I am a woman of your age cohort who lives in the first ring suburb of a city. I urge you to move to some place different. Like Minerjim says, you seem to have the guts and energy to contemplate an already challenging move. You and I both know this: when a neighborhood in the city starts to go down, it doesn’t come back. You are young enough! You are just in your early 60s. Think about navigating this 20 years from now, when your neighborhood has even more vagrants & drug dealers. My neighborhood has changed, a reflection of the terrible changes in the world. My husband and I take concrete steps every day to move on down the road. You can do it! Good Bless.

Comments are closed.