How-To Survival Caching Part 2: Building a Cache and Preserving Your Supplies

Burial_Cache

 

Read the entire series! Part 1 | Part 2

In part 1 we looked at the proper mindset and the types of supplies you would want to seal up in a cache. In part 2, we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty and see how to properly store your gear so that it will last until you need it.

Types of caches

There are multiple ways to hide things: false walls in a house, a buried stash in the yard, a hollowed out log in a forest, or a false PVC pipe stuck to the side of your house. Each have their own considerations depending on what the cache contains, but generally speaking they can be separated into aboveground and underground caches.

A buried cache can be quite effective, and is great for weapons and ammunition

A buried cache can be quite effective, and is great for weapons and ammunition

Underground caches have the advantage of temperature stability, and the fact that they’re not usually disturbed as often. They can be used for just about any item in your storage, but are particularly well-suited for guns and ammunition over caches aboveground since the metal/wood likes the stable temperatures. They are typically less accessible than aboveground caches, however, which can be a disadvantage if you need to access it frequently. A PVC pipe makes for an ideal container for almost any item you wish to bury, and since you’re burying it you won’t need to worry about camouflaging the container itself.

Aboveground caches require a degree of ingenuity to stay hidden.

Aboveground caches require a degree of ingenuity to stay hidden.

Aboveground caches rely more on blending in with other structures, garbage, and vegetation than hiding out of sight. They are great for food and other basic supplies, particularly if you need to refill them or exchange products more frequently, but their susceptibility to temperature and weather means that more delicate items made of metal (guns and especially ammunition for example) will typically do better buried. They can require a bit more ingenuity as well, since you’ll need to craft hiding places that are reasonably accessible and safe for your gear but also capable of blending in with your surroundings.

How to build a cache

Although there are specifics for each kind of stash, here are some general principles that apply to both:

  • When possible, they should have design features that make it possible to get your stuff out quickly and easily. You may have only moments to pull what you can carry out of the cache, or you may be in dire need of food, clothing, weapons, or medical supplies. Consider how you would get to a cache buried underground if you lacked a shovel, or one up in a tree or on the roof if you didn’t have a ladder. Assume a worst-case scenario and make sure you will still have an accessway to get to your stash. For example, since actually digging out a big PVC pipe and removing it would be troublesome, you can add a smaller container on the inside that has a rope sticking out, enabling you to grab onto the rope and pull out all your supplies while leaving the larger pipe firmly anchored in the earth.

    Remember these little guys? Turns out they soak up moisture, and if you have any lying around you can dry them out and reuse them in your cache!

    Remember these little guys? Turns out they soak up moisture, and if you have any lying around you can dry them out and reuse them in your cache!

  • Moisture and oxygen are your enemies. Moisture causes metal to rust, food to rot, and encourages fungus and mold to grow on any available surface. Oxygen is needed for aerobic bacteria and for larger pests like bugs and vermin. Desiccant packets, moisture resistant packaging (mylar bags) that have been sealed airtight and vacuum sealing all help to reduce the effects of these two destructive forces. In the case of underground caches you need to consider runoff that may leak into your hole and your storage container, while aboveground stashes need to worry about seals breaking down faster due to temperature fluctuations and weathering.

    Bears are more than willing to find your cache for you unless you hide the smells of food from them.

    Bears are more than willing to find your cache for you unless you hide the smells of food from them.

  • Prepare for other hunters. Animals are sensitive to strange smells, and the smell of stored food and even oil from preserved guns may attract unwanted attention. Dogs, rats, squirrels, and even bears will dig for potential food sources. Nesting birds may elect to build a nest on the convenient platform made by your new cache, and rats may chew through the plastic looking for morsels and a dry home. Seal everything, and keep scents to a minimum particularly when the cache is first being placed or when it is being refilled.

When building underground

After packing items into plastic bags, and then the silvery mylar, it is recommended that you seal them to keep moisture at bay.

After packing items into plastic bags, and then the silvery mylar, it is recommended that you seal them to keep moisture at bay.

  • Pack objects multiple times in layers of sealed containers. If something happens where the outer layers are compromised by snow or rain, an extra plastic bag or mylar sleeve may be what saves your precious resources. Suggested layering: outer PVC pipe, inner removable tubing, sealed mylar bag, plastic bag. Include desiccants and oxygen absorbers in all but the outermost layer. Food that is already prepackaged in buckets to last for a long time may only need to be stored in one outer layer of PVC, since they tend to include gamma seal lids and oxygen absorbers anyway.
  • A very light coating of oil will be helpful for firearms. You could go and cover every weapon in a coating of Cosmoline, but the light coating of gun oil is probably more practical for the average person. Ammunition just needs to be properly packed in multiple layers, though a few extra desiccant packets probably wouldn’t go amiss.
  • If possible, dig deep enough that you are at stable temperatures. You’re not really concerned about keeping things cool (which would require a hole 10 feet or more deep) but rather just stable, so dig down about 3-4 feet for maximum benefit. If you want more easily accessible caches I recommend building them aboveground, since keeping your underground stash too close to the surface could present a whole host of difficulties.
  • Locate them in places away from common runoff spots or low-lying areas. You don’t want your cache to become an underground pond, so why put it in a spot where rain and snowmelt drain? Furthermore, if you place it in areas where water runs over the hole erosion may take the loose soil away and expose the cache!

    A bunch of metallic junk lying around can help keep your buried cache secret, just watch for metal thieves!

    A bunch of metallic junk lying around can help keep your buried cache secret, just watch for metal thieves!

  • Fool the metal detectors with false positives. If you can make it seem natural, have a few pieces of scrap metal, rebar etc buried in a wide scattering in the area around your cache to hide from looters/confiscation officials looking for buried stashes of weapons and supplies. Actually burying your cache under a scrap heap may backfire however, since scrap metals may become more valuable in a survival situation and desperate people may find your cache digging for submerged pieces.
  • Take multiple routes to the same location in order to prevent a trail from forming. When building the hole, dragging the PVC over, and then transporting all of the materials there is a strong probability that a track leading to this conspicuous loose earth will form. Try to take different paths to avoid creating a trail.

When setting up aboveground

  • Keep in-house caches to a minimum. We’ve had the Drug War going on for quite a long time now, and confiscations and thieveries of other kinds have been going on for centuries before that. Homes generally have very limited hiding spots that can be quickly checked by experienced confiscators or even looters who can easily use tactics and knowledge used today to determine the most likely places. Furthermore, putting too many stashes in the house may cause you to loose a great deal of supplies if the retreat were to catch fire or otherwise be damaged.

    If you use a snake to guard your cache, be sure to have some thick gloves one when you need to retrieve the goods!

    If you use a snake to guard your cache, be sure to have some thick gloves one when you need to retrieve the goods!

  • Consider current residents. If you elect to place a stash in a log or other dark place, make sure you aren’t going to run into a venomous serpents or spiders that may already have made a home there. Alternatively, use these animals as guardians of your treasure that will discourage any searching fingers looking for loot.
  • Follow basic principles of camouflage. As mentioned in part 1, the human eye can easily pick out “artificial shapes” like hard right angles and perfect cylinders that we tend to use for containers. Break up the solid lines with blotchy and random colors appropriate to the environment, covering with leaves, vines, branches etc or else blending them in with other artificial shapes (if on a house or in an urban envrionment). The last thing you want is a “this thing is not like the others” moment!

    When gale-force winds go tearing through, will your cache be safe?

    When gale-force winds go tearing through, will your cache be safe?

  • Remember that temperatures will fluctuate and wind, rain, and snow can damage a cache. You will need to ensure that paints, the container itself, and any items inside are protected from the elements properly. If you have a false branch on a tree, can it stand up to 60 mph winds? Will that spray paint from Wal-Mart last through a severe thunderstorm with heavy rain and hail? Pick durable outdoor materials for your caches and be sure to reinforce and repair any supports year to year.
  • Feel free to use these for frequently rotated items. If you have canned goods with 3-6 month shelf lives, use these more easily accessible caches rather than buried ones that require more time and effort to empty.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to setting up the perfect cache. Whether aboveground or below the earth, be sure to conceal it from prying eyes and always have a way to know where your supplies are kept!

 

What do you think?

Are there any other tips that would help make for a better cache? Let us know in the comments.   

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