I have this idea for a post-apocalyptic setting where my characters live in these RVs made during the pre-war era. That are basically mobile fallout shelters. Also, the setting takes place in my world's version of the USA.

They look like Kharkovchankas.

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They are designed to be an alternative to underground fallout shelters. Where people don't need to dig and build, but instead can buy an RV that can protect them from a nuclear bomb. The idea is the survivors can leave the area of the attack, without leaving their shelter and move to a safer location.

It protects people from nuclear fallout but also, protects survivors from the elements and even other people in case society ever collapses. It's also designed to be comfortable and to have all the necessities needed for survival.

So is it possible for a company or companies to design an RV that can withstand a nuclear bomb While keeping everyone safe inside and still functional?

Edit: Okay so I'll explain in more detail. Originally the idea was for the RV to drive to a rural location, like a homestead, campground, or small town. It was originally designed just to handle nuclear fallout and nuclear bombs. Then I was wondering if it could withstand an actual nuclear bomb.

So I'm just gonna only focused on whether it can survive a nuclear bomb. I doubt it would but if anyone has any other information.

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    $\begingroup$ first thought though brain: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landmaster $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Nov 22, 2022 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ To survive the blast itself there are two basic choices. 1) At least 10 km of distance, the more the better. 2) Several 100 meters of shielding in the form of soil, rock, etc., the more the better. No way to design for that. You either have one of those at the moment the bomb goes off, or you don't. $\endgroup$
    – Boba Fit
    Nov 22, 2022 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ The main problem I see is that RV's get under 10 mpg and Nuclear Apocalypse armored RVs even less. How would you get fuel after it runs out everywhere? $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2022 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @SurpriseDog Nuclear Thermal Generator, of course... ;) $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Nov 22, 2022 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ VTC:Needs More Focus. You are allowed to ask one and only one question per post. While some allowances could be made for similarity, I'm factually counting seven (7) questions. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Nov 22, 2022 at 20:29

3 Answers 3


Bunker or Fallout Shelter?

A fallout shelter is supposed to protect mostly from nuclear fallout, not from a direct hit. And usually not for long. The occupants would stay inside for a few days, a few weeks, until either the worst of the fallout had abated, or somebody comes to decontaminate the way out.

In that sense, something mobile could be a great idea. Assume that the bombs are either going to hit, or already have hit somewhere upwind. The would-be survivors enter their vehicle, check the weather reports, and drive out of the fallout plume. Their vehicle needs to maintain a sealed environment for a couple hundred miles, maybe.

It might have to drive into destroyed areas if there is no way to detour around them. Shielding against radiation might require an impractical mass, but shielding against radioactive dust should be possible. Add an airlock and decontamination supplies.

Of course this assumes there is an uncontaminated area to escape to.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer! Kinda I was thinking, the idea that the people buying the RV, already live in a suburb or some rural community, as I doubt it would fit in an urban environment. Also, I was kinda confused on the whole fallout shelter or nuclear bunker. As I thought they were the same thing from google search. But yeah the RV is more like a mobile bunker. $\endgroup$
    – Borbman
    Nov 23, 2022 at 12:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Borbman, the RV is not a mobile bunker. A nuclear bunker is meant to survive a direct hit or a fairly near miss. Look at pictures of Cheyenne Mountain, with rooms mounted on springs. That makes it quite expensive. You won't get RVs to survive a near miss. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Nov 23, 2022 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ It should be pointed out that this would work ONLY after the bombs fell (if you survive the bombings, there is a decent window of time before the fallout hits), but civil defense instructions generally recommend not taking shelter in or near a vehicle for the same reason you do not stay in mobile homes in a Tornado and for the fact that most Nukes in service today were made before smart weapons technologies and precision targeting of nukes is a lot of money for "we'd probably destroy the target anyway". $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Nov 23, 2022 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ Unless you're traversing directly through the worst area (and it was a dirty bomb instead of a nuke), even a regular car shields you a lot if you manage to tape any leaks (or air con) shut. So not too much mass needed after the first couple of days. I'd suggest removable lead plates for the first week or so (remember: the more radioactive an element the faster it subsides), and then just regular thermal insulation plus heavy duty air filters $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Nov 23, 2022 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ @o.m. I call it a mobile bunker I thought it sounded cool. Not meant to be really literal, technically is just a armored RV and less like a bunker but you get what I'm getting at. $\endgroup$
    – Borbman
    Nov 24, 2022 at 11:36

is it possible for a company or companies to design an RV that can withstand a nuclear bomb, nuclear fallout, and nuclear winter?

A nuclear bomb maybe, nuclear fallout with some difficulties, a nuclear winter hardly. Why?

Browsing around for how to build a nuclear shelter, I have found that most sources agree on having per person minimum 2.5 square meters, 140 liters of water plus food supplies and clothes. Add to the above a toilet and things start to become difficult.

Let's go in order: 140 liters of water might be sufficient for the first days after the explosion, not for the whole winter. Unless you want to try your luck with using outside water, possibly contaminated, you have to find a way to reuse all the water you have. This means that your toilet can't be a hole toward the outside, but you actually will need to collect all your wastes and recycle all water they contain. This takes a not so simple system and energy.

Same for air, you can't really trust outside air unless you filter it, which again takes a dedicated system and energy.

And moving the thing around, which will not be flimsy like a car but will need some serious thickness to absorb all the bomb emission, takes also additional energy.

All that energy will need to come from the fuel you carry along. I wouldn't rely on gas stations along the road, either because who is going to stock them or who would step out to do the refueling?

Additionally, the more mass you want to stumble around, the more difficult and slow your movement becomes, especially in a post attack situation, as the Germans learned the hard way with their humongous wunderwaffen tanks during WWII. I assume you don't want to get stuck into a muddy ground and waste all your fuel into attempting to get out of there.

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    $\begingroup$ The gas station issue assumes that the EMP hasn't rendered the pumps inoperable. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Nov 22, 2022 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Nuclear explosions produce an EMP pulse which will destroy all electronic devices that is line of sight to the detonation. During the Cold War, it was believed that the first Missile from the USSR would detonate in the Upper Atmosphere above North America, knocking out the lower 48 states. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Nov 22, 2022 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ @hszmv I believe the fact that most gas stations and trucks would get pulverized by the bombs are a bigger concern than the one they are disabled by EMPs. A tank-like vehicle really need a lot of gas ^^. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2022 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena The two most destructive forces in a nuclear bomb are the heat, which is line of sight from the blast, and the pressure wave, which would only be limited in radius based on geographical features. The EMP detonation I discussed would be so far above the ground that those forces wouldn't reach surface level. It's purely an anti-infrastructure attack so that the surviving electronics systems in the country would be crippled. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Nov 22, 2022 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ I am reminded of a recent episode of Practical Engineering, where he discusses the effects of a nuclear EMP strike on the electrical grid: youtube.com/watch?v=FksEGpBLfis $\endgroup$
    – Frodyne
    Nov 23, 2022 at 8:02

Lotta questions here...

So is it possible for a company or companies to design an RV that can withstand a nuclear bomb?

No, although this is mostly a question of distance from ground zero. To block a nuclear blast, one simply needs thick mass, which is incompatible with a vehicle that's designed to go places. That said, blocking a nuclear blast is also quite simple, you just need mass. Simply encourage people to park their RVs in ditches or specially dug underground garage pits and they will likely be fine since the blast/shock-wave simply passes overhead.

nuclear fallout

Sure. Nuclear fallout is not difficult to handle on an individual level, it is broadly speaking just irradiated dust. Any vehicle that's already designed with desert operation should be fine. Sealing the cabin to dust would be a bit more difficult, because you would need an integrated airlock/shower system instead of conventional doors, but again, totally doable.

and nuclear winter?

This one is a bit tricky because staying warm is a combination of preventing heat loss and generating more heat. Insulating such a vehicle well is doable, but at the end of the day, you are simply going to need large amounts of stored energy to make up for the energy loss (big fuel tanks).

While keeping everyone safe inside and still functional. What fuel does it need?

You need an energy dense fuel that holds long. This is because, realistically, the apocalypse RV is going to spend a lot of time sitting around being ready, but not going anywhere. Diesel holds a bit longer than Gasoline, however even with stabilizers, they are only going to hold 3 years top. Kerosene is probably be a better pick, because it is stable for up to 5 years standard and that's before adding fuel stabilizers and since it's basically heating oil, it should be salvageable from homes in an emergency.

How will survivors get clean water and air?

A reverse osmosis filter will clean water handily and they are quite simple and portable (although the do eventually require filter replacements) and can even treat wastewater. Water can be scavenged from basically anywhere and run through it into an onboard 'clean water' tank. Air filtration is even easier, since fallout-laden air is heavy, an air intake that simply faces downwards will already do a great job. Just slap a standard AC HEPA filter on it, and ensure that the RV is a positive-pressure environment, and you will be fine even if it isn't airtight.

How will they get food, if their rations run out?

They can simply buy/scavenge prepackaged food. Unless they are literally at ground zero where food has gotten irradiated directly, canned or otherwise airtight-packaged food that was made before the nuclear event will be fine. Fresh produce or other unpackaged food should be avoided though, since it may be contaminated with fallout.


Unless you are killed due to the immediate effects of a nuclear blast (shock/fire wave, collapsing building, radiation flash, etc) or die soon after the blast due to absorbing too much radiation, managing fallout isn't that difficult for an intelligent and prepared individual. The average home could easily be converted to be fallout proof with just a caulking gun, a HEPA filter, and an HVAC set to positive pressure. Similarly, your simple basic N95 mask would quite effective at dealing with fallout if you need to go outside (although a good shower afterwards is still recommended)

Hell, there are plenty of modern vehicles that are already "fallout proof", notably the Tesla Model S with the "bioweapon defense package" air filter system. All it takes is a decent filter, positive pressure, and you're golden.


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