Survival store outfits for camping fun to living off the grid

Sharon Kuhlman and her son, Austin Kuhlman, with a display of camping and survival gear at their new store, The Bunker. (Brenda Young Photo)

Sharon Kuhlman and her son, Austin Kuhlman, with a display of camping and survival gear at their new store, The Bunker. (Brenda Young Photo)

By Brenda Young

In consideration of natural disasters occurring throughout history, it’s not uncommon for modern day consumers to think about survival skills in the wake of a crisis. This could range from major power outages to catastrophic weather events that leave large populations wondering how they will weather the storm.

The Bunker, located at 719 US Hwy. 183 North in Leander, opened last month and co-owner Sharon Kuhlman said the store is equipped to provide for any disaster. She owns the store with husband Tye and their son, Austin, who helps with store operations.

“We’re here, and we’ve got a lot to offer,” Mrs. Kuhlman said. “What we are is an outdoor camping, hunting and survival store with all the basic outdoor gear anyone would need from long-term survival to weekend camping.”

The mother and son team strives to provide expert advice, and each offers their own specialties. Mrs. Kuhlman said her son is more knowledgeable about knives and amunition, and she is more knowledgeable regarding the gear.

“We make a good team. What I love is we’re building something here, not just for our own family, but for our community,” she said. “It was a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it, and it’s been a really fun journey.”

According to Mrs. Kuhlman, plans for opening The Bunker were years in the making. She said it was best for their family to plan everything over time and open when they were on a strong, financial footing. Their plans paid off, and now they continue to grow their product lines and manage operations without debt weighing them down.

“We love to provide as much information as we can, so we have articles, cheat sheets and even specialized classes that show important items everyone needs to have on hand. I’m an information junkie, a big reader, so we’re very involved in giving information and talking to people about things that have a big impact on our lives. We want to help people because things change quickly and could impact our daily lives,” Mrs. Kuhlman said.

She said they are seeing a growing population of like-minded individuals coming together wanting to learn more about survival training. The new trend, especially among women, is for people to find and identify their niche within a group setting — to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Mrs. Kuhlman explained that long- term survival is more for preparedness and enduring manmade or weather disasters. It allows people to take care of their family and loved ones until the situation is stabilized, as many people find themselves cut off from emergency services and need food, water and basic supplies to be self-sufficient.

Those who study, prepare and devote their time toward practicing long-term survival now have a name all their own.

“They’re called preppers, and there are a lot of them in this area,” Mrs. Kuhlman said. “Some people are even joining prepper groups and planning for things that might happen in the future. They learn about things such as the use of long-term, dehydrated foods, water filters, etc., so they can keep items on hand for emergencies and remain self-sustainable. For the most part, these are just average families who take prepping into their own hands to become self-sufficient.”

Groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and families are benefitting from the opening of The Bunker, too. The store sells tents, camping supplies and a variety of innovative products for campers and hikers.

“I think it always starts off as a hobby, and later it becomes a way of life — you start to look at things differently. Those who lived in the Depression era re-used everything and had to make do with what they had,” Mrs. Kuhlman said. “They prepared for fuel and cold weather by chopping wood, canning food, etc., and life has evolved over time to make living off the land easier.”

One of the most unique and innovative items The Bunker carries is the Biolite stove, which allows you to pick up twigs as a fuel source to cook food, and it doubles as an energy source for powering small electronics such as cell phones, iPods or tablets.

“It’s a lightweight and pretty innovative product. There are some really neat items on the market that cross reference prepping and are good for outdoor activities,” said Mrs. Kuhlman. “Those are the type of things we strive to bring in, and you won’t see them in large, big box stores. We have the knowledge because we’ve used the products ourselves.”

Another popular item is the bulletproof clipboard. Mrs. Kuhlman said it’s a big hit with local businesses.

The Bunker is located close to Smokey Mo’s in Leander in Building B, Suite 116, and you can reach the store by calling (512) 456-7015.

“We are open seven days a week, to truly serve our customers and the community,” she said. “As long as there is no imminent danger, we would be the store to turn to if we had bad weather or a disaster of any kind.”