Offensive or defensive barriers

This guest post is by R Miller and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

When emplacing barriers of any kind it is important to remember they will keep you in your area just as easily as they keep others out.

  • How many layers (zones) of barriers do you want
  • How much space in between barriers do you want
  • Can you defend that much space
  • Are their clear fields of fire in your last defensive zone

Is the purpose to guide someone around your area of operations/property or is it to block them from entering? People will generally take the path of least resistance in the woods.

Something to consider too is will your barriers keep large game out as well as in. Is that part of your overall food plan or would they be a bonus contingency as opportunity presents itself to hunt or trap.

There are several options to consider, two basic categories to think about, organic or man made barriers. Effective and simple are briars and other plants with thorns (locust tree, barberry), spikes or natural defenses such as poison Ivy, oak and sumac are also good items to consider for limiting access to your area. Immediate advantages are they are pretty much free plants, they are native to the area and are not obvious indicators of human presence or considered as part of a defense. I would suggest they would be used as part of the outside perimeter.

Making a hedgerow with plants of this type is another option. It signals human presence is the downside. Also it will conceal someone from you as well as it conceals you from them. Fall will change how this all looks but it will work just as effectively. Do not burn any plant that causes allergic reactions, the oils will float in the smoke and may cause skin blisters, eye irritation and if inhaled it is possible that it will cause lungs to blister, potentially someone may drown in their own fluids.

Felled trees can also work as barriers as well as cleared brush piled. The idea is not to make a fortress wall but to subtly cause people to move away from your area and keeping them from seeing what you have where you r shelter is or are what you are growing. The older the less obvious it will be.

Wooden rail fencing is another option along with building rock walls. They can offer both concealment and cover.

Man made barriers are usually some type of wire, plain wire, electrical wire, barbed wire, razor wire and tangle foot are the most common. These can be run in strands across post or trees, coils across the ground staked in place and stacked on top of each other. Heavy duty gloves or specialty gloves for razor wire, tangle foot and concertina are recommended. A small pair of bolt cutters is also recommended for ease of cutting.

Openings left can be used to guide people where you want them to go as well as your own ease of travel. Adding a gate is also an option. Generally large game will either jump fences or find a way around. If wild hogs are in your area they may break through the lower strands of wire.

Tube fencing, vinyl fencing, chain link, cinder blocks and even old cars have used to mark boundaries.

Going one step further and using animal tactics, you can dump human waste to discourage trespassing as well. Your water source must be taken into account if you resort to this method of marking your territory.

Trenching is another method to stop movement, over time they will gradually fill in with blown in leaves, dirt, water or all three. Standing water increases mosquitoes and disease potential.

Flowing water can be utilized as part of your defensive perimeter as well. Adding additional barriers increases the effectiveness.

The terrain and flora of your area will be the final word in what you can use for natural barriers.

This contest will end on June 5 2012 – prizes include:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of   A total prize value of over $150.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution”  and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company.  A total prize value of $107.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. benjammin says:

    The best defense is always a good offense. I prefer barriers that incorporate active elements that will engage interlopers. Better still if the active elements are undetectable.

    Barriers should usually follow the rule of threes. Having a scorched earth policy as the last resort might not be a bad idea either. It may not help you, but it will deny the enemy any more resources to be used against others.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      ” I prefer barriers that incorporate active elements that will engage interlopers.”

      Like that thought, benjammin. Barriers can serve a dual purpose as your first few lines of defense. Combined with written and other visual warnings ‘active’ barriers can augment your defensive capabilities.

      The scorched earth final resort makes some cringe but I understand the reasoning. Perhaps an escape tunnel or deep protected hidey hole would make a scorched earth finale only final for one’s attacker’s. Just sayin’……..

  2. JP in MT says:

    All are great suggestions, but you must have people to “man the ramparts”, this means more basic prepping and a team. Something I, unfortunately don’t as yet have.

    • JP nailed it. Without a community to help defend, barriers won’t slow the gangs down much.

      All the more why it is so important to start building your communities now. Enlist your friends/neighbors and relatives.

  3. Do what you feel is best , but never forget ……….. if they want in ……..they are going to get in eventually , and your all alone out there . One thing that was mentioned by another poster is : Do you have or have enough fire fighting gear ? if not , your very vulnerable , and most folks forget to prep for fighting fires . Could they burn you out successfully ? remember , they may figure ” if I cant have it ….. either can you ! ” criminals dont think the way we do . Do you have enough people to deal with a sniper ? The petty criminals will not go to this length and just move on ……. but the determined criminals might .

  4. tommy2rs says:

    I’ve used the native privy (privet) hedge to create barriers. Pretty easy to do as all you have to do is cut off a branch and stick it in the ground. One year I made a simple hoop house (for frost protection of my then fledgling herb garden) using privy hedge trimming and the durn things leafed out. In the winter no less. Makes a nice dense almost impenetrable wall. Some of those have reached 8 -10 feet tall now. Does tend to spread so it takes a lot of maintenance to keep it from taking over. Same thing with wild blackberry and wild rose. I’ve used both of those to make barriers to discourage tresspassers.

    I’ve been studying abatis creation and have marked some trees to be felled if or when the time comes (ah, if only I had some det cord. But then I’d probably have to change my nick to tommy2fingers…lol). Done properly and in the right places whole roads can be blocked. Of course the main weakness with using natural materials like trees and brush is fire.

    Here’s a link to get some very basic info on the abatis.

    • WESTPAC says:

      Interesting use of native vegetation. I’m of the three rings of concentric circles defense myself. First ring discourages unwanted visitors. Second ring channels them ito a kill zone and the third ring entraps them in the kill zone w/o an easy way out while you dispatch them. I would install tangle foot and other forms of barb wire, then let the Privet Hedge grow over them for concealment. If you have ever been in an old military training area and run across left over wire you will know what I mean. Channelization is very important also. The unwanted visitor must not know that they are being channeled into the kill zone until it is too late. Back Door(s) are obviously very important for YOUR escape/survival IOT live to fight another day. Have at least three different cardinal directions of hidden escape routes, with caches buried alond these routes and at rendezvous points. Be aware of setting man-made booby traps. They require maintenance and also get grown over with vegetation. Consider wire activated traps with homeade expolsives that can be activated as you are on the way out. A #10 can filled w/explovives, cap & shrapnel works great.

      Get Creative!

      • Science for you . net is having a special this month on oxidizers, aluminum powder, and a couple other items to Get your Creative juices flowing. Coupon code is “mayflowers”.

        Enjoyed the article, and the comments so far. Think this is all I’ll add to this topic however. Careful out there.

  5. Interesting ideas. Locating an island of dry land within a very swampy area makes access very difficult and if there is only one narrow road in that is easily blocked or defended. Making some obvious traps (perhaps with some well concealed traps that a potential threat will find may make them much more cautious or may even cause them to move on to easier pickings.

  6. In the southwest , Prickly pear and cholla cactus combination makes a good natural barrier . Cholla is especially nasty .

  7. I’m talking to the average American suburbanite here. One that needs to worry about covenants, codes, and the wife. These ideas are for a DIP (die in place) or a Bug IN approach.

    The basic home needs to be masonry exterior with a metal roof. That’s priority. Buy some cheap easy to use hurricane or storm shutter latches, cut the plywood to your window size, and then face the exterior with steel sheet. (Those with picture windows take note!) You can store these in a closet or under a bed. Your home is now more resistant to flame and damage. You can, later, as some have suggested, sandbag the interior or exterior corners and under windows for firing positions if the SHTF. There are some additional suggestions here:

    I also suggest you read through the “before” recommendations for each disaster here:

    Beef up your perimeter ahead of time, too. If you have kids, make a really, really heavy duty tree house out of railroad ties. Put this where you can have the high ground and watch your street. SHTF, sand bag it and it’s your LP/OP. Run a surplus army phone to it. The kids will like it! Then put in a big sandbox, too (for use later, to fill sandbags).

    Make your fencing strong and opaque as you can afford. Were it me, and I had a large yard for new construction, I’d pull in some conex containers as the exterior of my backyard “fence.” The container exterior, facing toward the neighbors, could be covered in spray stucco and would look nice. The extra space inside, on your side, could sandbagged on the interior toward the neighbors and used for storage, or even “barracks” if needed. But not many folks could pull that off. What most can do is sandbag the fence line, using lime or quickcrete in the sand, and lay barbed wire between each row of bags to reinforce the fence up to waist level. Spray the sucker with stucco and “landscape” some planters and beds with railroad ties and sand. It will look attractive and give you a backyard fortress. You can re-purpose the sand and ties for other needs later if the SHTF. Make the plants in those planters edible, such as berries or dwarf nut or fruit tree, and/or, thorny bushes, to add to security.

    For $1,000, or even $500, you can buy a large number (like 1-2000) sandbags, several large rolls of barbed wire, and sandbag fillers like the Go-Bagger (awesome tool, stupid name). Stuff these in a corner of your storage area. SHTF, you have everything the Army uses to make fortifications with. Large stacks of empty plastic buckets can be filled and carried by one person. a single line of them would be helpful for the start of bunker walls, or a hasty fighting position near a front door, and t-posts can be placed in them for running a barbed-wire fence on.

    If you landscape your home, use railroad ties and sand for the flower beds. SHTF, build bunkers and perimeter defense from the railroad ties and use the sand from the beds in your sand bags. In fact, if you can’t pull up the railroad ties from the backyard landscaping and haul them around front and throw up a pretty decent front yard fortification with a barbed wire fence and sand bag bunkers, you need to give up now.
    Put a few heavy concrete planters filled with sand on the front yard corners of your property and beside your driveway entrance. (Build them yourself from concrete blocks and fill all the blocks with concrete — leave a few out on the back side for an entrance and simply stack blocks in the gap, to be easily removed later) These will not look out of place and can become good bunkers in minutes.

    All of this is easier when you have some basic tools (wheelbarrow, shovels, hammer, fence staples, a collection of aluminum cans for making rattle alarms on your wire, etc.). A good “garden tractor,” the big ones which have front buckets and backhoe and other attachments, plus a heavy trailer, would obviously be helpful. If you have a chainsaw, the trees can be cut up and used as fortification material or firewood. Plan on it.

    If I were laying out the ideal surburban home lot, I’d want the home to be at least a hair more than throwing distance from a road or perimeter fence. They can’t firebomb your house if they can’t throw that far.

    • There is also Defense in Depth, a series of defenses. One given up at a cost to an adversary with minimal or no cost to the defender, in favor of a new line of inner defense where the attacker will not know where the defenders are located.
      This requires two sets of defenders. One set on preselected outer defense and the other at preselected locations of the next line of defense. These locations are prechosen based on the probable directions of the attacking forces.
      As the attackers advance the first defenders take careful shots and then fall back, leapfrogging (bounding) over the next line of defense and take up position in a 3rd defensive position. The second line of defense repeats the process. Taking a few devistating shots at the attackers and then bounds over the first group into a 4th predetermined defensive positions.
      Basicly you give up useless “space” at a heavy cost to the attackers.
      The key is creating multiple independent and redundant layers of defense. A small number of defenders can raise the price above what the attackers are willing to pay.
      BTW: This was the basic plan for NATO defense of Eirope during the Cold War. Starting at the Fulder Gap.

  8. Of the 4 questions you asked at the beginning I think this one is the most important one. “Can you defend that much space?”

  9. Steve A says:

    Good article! I can see more than a few folks who commented have had some military time building fortifications… me too, and a lot more than I ever wanted! Here’s some of what I’ve done as well:

    1. Sandbags! Amazon has one seller doing 100 bags for about $33-$35. They’re not the toughest, especially if left in sunlight. But they are cheap, and if covered up with dirt, they last quite a while. Mine have been used to help terrace part of my yard, and have lasted over 3 years, plus I keep a bunch on hand just in case.

    2. I saw abatis mentioned, which is a great way to deny larger animals, like horses, and vehicles from using an area. I built simple movable vehicle barriers, like the WW2 “X” tank traps, out of heavy duty T posts, and placed these between large trees in a ring around the main property area. I strung barbed wired between them, and then transplanted ivy and let it grow. My goats keep the ivy trimmed back, and it looks like a thicket from the other side. A threat could use it for concealment, but it has virtually no cover except for the trees, and they’re rather small (less than 1 foot diameter).

    3. A bunker: this started as a root cellar, but I hit rock sooner than I thought. I used railroad ties to reinforce the walls, and more sandbags to slope the outside. I covered it with dirt from the hole, built a super strong (I can drive on it with my truck) roof, and put a patio/BBQ/gazebo on top of it. The slits are blocked from the inside, and plants help hide. Kind of extreme, I know, but heck, it still gets used as a root cellar, too.

    4. Cactus! While not native to VA, a lot of my neighbors like potted cactus, so it doesn’t look out of place. Winter kills a lot of it, but some is pretty hardy. Great area denial, looks good, and no one is crawling through that stuff.

    5. Farm fencing. Because of the goats and other critters, my little farm has lots of fencing and cross fencing. It’s not super heavy duty, but you can’t push it down. So anyone trying to come “cross-country” has at least two, if not three, hard to climb fences, not counting the outer ring.

    Don’t forget, any prepared defenses must not look like defenses, if you are trying to keep a low profile, or like me, trying to sell the property so I can move. And as someone else mentioned, I think, passive defenses should serve to channel any attacker into a kill zone by restricting their movement. At the same time, for everyday things, they also need to allow you to be able to move about and do your routine. It’s always a balancing act.

    Again, good article, and thank you for writing it!

  10. Ultimately, if you are planning on defending anything for very long, you will need help. Subtle barriers are important, but so is working to build a group / community of trusted people. I live on an acre of property and there is no way me and my wife could defend that by ourselves, especially when considering we have to sleep sometime. Any looter/criminal with half a brain will just need to distract our efforts in one place and hit us in another. Having survival gear, barriers and fortifications sounds great but there have to be enough people defending it to survive. The best defense is people, I say.

  11. Let us not forget HESCO barriars or bastions. Sandbags are a LOT of work for a LITTLE defense. I know… I spent a long time filling them. Howeever, HESCOS can be put up and build large defense with minimum effort. A HESCO is basically a wire framed block(like chicken wire or some type of cage wire) line the wire with a cloth, and fill it with dirt. the blocks can be stack on top of each other to build higher walls and even ramparts!!! PLUS if you dig a trench on the outside of your wall to fill the blocks with you now have a wall, rampart and trench all in one easy procedure.

    l HESCO l
    l———–l———- -l
    l HESCO l l
    l l HESCO l
    ———— ——————————-
    l TRENCH l

  12. not too sure if anyone mentioned it here before but I thought it important to point out that any defensive barrier apart from actual fortification similar to medieval castles are not to provide a completely impenetrable barrier per se, but are to provide deterrent and an obstical that facilitates an intruders detection and subsequent intervention by defending person(s).

    On a cost benefit ratio. If a defence is going to be manned then building something that requires a lot of effort and materials not only to build but also to maintain must be weighed against the expected threat level. if you are repelling a besieging army then large castle walls shouldn’t be ruled out but i believe that very few of us will encounter such threat and are more likely to face small scale lightly equipped opportunistic threats that will not require military level fortifications designed against sustained attack by an organised professional force and may draw attention to precious resources inside if such elaborate barriers are erected.

    I personally believe being inconspicuous as possible is the best way forward and not standing out nor spending unnecessary effort is prudent, using for example, no more than commercial level protection like a chain link fence especially for a semi/manned barrier that would not look out of place in any residential or commercial setting.

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