Strategic Survival Cache Placement and Recovery
OK, pause the mouse clicker thing for a moment. This is a long article, but I guarantee it’s well worth your time. Get a cup of coffee and settle in.
This article has been a long time in the making. Back in March 2012 I sent an email to SNO subscribers asking their input on survival caches, and boy, they responded. I encourage you to take the time to study the letters they sent (reproduced at the end of the article), for they contain a tremendous wealth of information. Also, check out the long Survival Caches thread at Zombie Hunters for much more info.
In fact, it is because of their responses that I delayed publishing this article. Now, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. I’m 45 years old, been married 19 years, have 5 kids, been rich and poor, I’ve been a lawyer, a real-estate investor, a movie producer, an author, I’ve travelled much of the Western world, I speak two languages fluently, two not so fluently, and I can find the airport in a few others. As a child I lived in a house with no plumbing or electricity and in an old-world city apartment. I’ve had the finest sole tartare and the meanest rice and beans for weeks at a time, after the salt pork ran out. In 2001 I bought a bottle of Rioja for $4, and it turned out to be the finest wine I might ever taste. I’ve been “surviving” all my life. Twice I’ve come within a gnat’s hair of death.
But when I read the responses I got about the survival caches, I realized I needed to do more research before sharing what I know. So that’s my explanation for the delay, and I’m sticking to it. No apologies. And let me take the opportunity to thank those who shared the info. You know who you are.
A survival cache is a hidden stock of goods you’ll need in an emergency. It’s pronounced “cash,” and it comes from the French word for “hide.” It’s a “hide.” So of course you hide your cache. In previous articles we’ve discussed what to put in your cache, and what to put it in. In this article we’ll focus on where and how to hide it, although we’ll duplicate some of the previous info for clarity.
The real meat of information you want is in the letters at the end of the article, but I’ll provide some structured points for your convenience.
Also keep in mind that none of the methods discussed here are foolproof. If the state sets its mind to find your stuff, it has tremendous resources at its disposal, including ground-search radar, economic leverage (seizing your property), and unsavory interrogation methods. But let’s be practical — if the state is directing that level of resources against you, you’ll probably be in custody anyway, so access to a cache will be a moot point. These methods will effectively protect your cache from accidental discovery and even reasonably systematic searches by scavengers and opportunists.
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Principles of Hiding a Cache
There are three principles you need to learn: Disguise, distraction, and concealment.
Disguise is where you make your cache look like something it isn’t. You can hide canned food, tools, and weapons in a bin labeled “chicken feed,” for example. Just place the stuff in the bottom of the bin and cover it with chicken feed.
I found an old truck carcass in the woods. I removed the fuel tank, carved out the top, filled it with goods, then secured the tank back in place with a concealed cover over the hole in the top. I also drilled a couple of drain holes in the tank. From the engine compartment I cut through the firewall to access the space under the dash and stuffed some more goods in there. My cache looks exactly like a truck.
An effective form of distraction is the use of decoys and “false positives.” A decoy is what you want someone to find instead of your cache, so after you’ve hidden the cache you want for yourself, you can place another one that’s more easily found. That way the thief or whoever will make off with whatever you’re willing to sacrifice, safeguarding what really matters. For example, bury your cache two or three feet in the ground, then tuck the decoy under some roots and partially cover it with leaves.
A “false positive” is pure distraction — a failure for the thief. Your cache can most likely be found with a metal detector. If you bury guns and ammo, bury them under a junk pile or collapsed barn. All the scrap metal will make a metal detector useless, and a digging operation becomes a random search.
You can also scatter scrap metal like buried plugs of rebar and junk iron. This is controversial — it might signal the alert scavenger that he’s close to scoring. He might give up as night falls, or a storm approaches, but if he’s determined he’ll watch the area, and you’ll have to be very careful about your recovery methods. See the discussion of Recovery, below.
Another way to generate a false positive is simply to prepare an empty cache. Consider a scavenger on the hunt. You have two caches, one full, the other empty. By deliberate search he finds your empty cache. His likely response is to figure the stash has already been depleted, and move on. But even if he assumes he’s been fooled, he might well abandon the search in frustration and seek easier targets. If he stumbles across your real cache, well, you should have done a better job of setting the decoy, but you’ll then have to rely on redundancy (see below).
Concealment is that which impedes visual acquisition of your cache. Burial is the paradigm of concealment. Camouflage is a type of concealment in which your cache is made to blend in visually with its surroundings. If you paint a PVC tube brown and gray and hang it in a tree, it will be visually difficult to distinguish from the tree trunk, unless you know right where to look. Just an idea. Or imagine trying to spot a white PVC tube in a field of snow even with binoculars. You could frankly set a gray case in the open on a rocky mountain slope and expect to find it undisturbed many years later.
The caches must be located along your path of travel, and within sustainable intervals. These intervals must account for your mode of travel. If you’re driving, you should place fuel caches in intervals you can cover with no more than 3/4 tank of fuel. On foot, the primary consideration is water. In areas with plenty of surface water, 3- to 5-day intervals are entirely doable, assuming you have the means to purify the water you find on the way. You can even go longer if necessary; it just depends on how much food you can carry.
On the other hand, if you’re in a dry climate and have to carry your water, your caches must be staged as frequently as necessary to replenish your water supply. You can only carry so much, and how much you need depends on the heat. In case you have to bug out in the hot dry season, figure a gallon per day, and in extreme heat, that might not do it.
If you’re “buggin in,” most of your caches will be close, and the primary considerations will be concealment and recovery.
Be careful about hiding your cache in areas subject to flooding.
Urban and Rural Caches
In rural locations you need to use natural features for concealment. Overhangs, caves, trees, stumps, abandoned vehicles and buildings, and simple burial are your best friends.
In urban locations your ability to conceal your cache depends to some extent on how well you know the movements and habits of the indigenous population. Identify buildings and lots that don’t get much traffic. Coordinate with like-minded neighbors, but also keep some entirely to yourself.
The key here is understanding ingress and egress. Ingress is when you go to the cache, and egress is when you leave it. Assume a scavenger is watching you. He’ll see you go into the woods with an empty bag, and come out laden with sardines, hard tack, and medicine. What do you think he’ll do when you’re gone?
Never approach the same cache by the same path. Never leave the cache by the same path you took to it. Check six (look behind you) frequently for a tail on ingress and egress. If possible, have a spotter. Put a team member on a viewpoint who can watch your progress to and from the cache, and spot a tail. Of course, you’ll need some form of communication.
Plan your cache placement with ingress and egress in mind. In a rural setting, enter the woods a good ways from the cache, and travel under the canopy to the cache. Your exit from the woods should likewise be far from the cache, but from another direction. Although counterintuitive, cloud cover is not your friend. The higher contrast of direct sunlight makes your progress through the woods more stealthy, so go to your cache on sunny days, if you can. Obviously, the darkness of night is the best cover, but it makes travel more difficult and dangerous.
The same concepts apply in an urban setting. If your cache is in an abandoned tenement, for example, use different entrances to the building.
Here’s another counterintuitive point. In an urban or suburban setting, travel in daytime for greater stealth, and in small numbers, or alone. Mobs at night attract attention.
By the way, it should go without saying that you need some way to find your caches again. Don’t trust your memory; you need a map. OPSEC dictates that your map be coded somehow, and that you have two or more, none of which indicates the location of all your caches.
Within any given sustainable interval, maintain two or three caches in case one is discovered before you need it. For example, if you have a cache in the New Mexico mountains three days from your previous cache, you might arrive there only to find it has been looted. Be sure you have another near enough that you can resupply. You might never use it, but if you need it, you’ll thank God you had the foresight to stash it.
Letters from our readers
This is but a sampling of their letters. Some readers offered their input but asked me not to quote them for OPSEC reasons, so their letters have been omitted, but the knowledge they shared with me is reflected in this article. Others requested varying degrees of anonymity, which I have honored.
Hello there. I am sure this will sound crazy, but if I have a cache I would want to use a ready made type container. I was thinking of a washer or dyer frame with another lid welded on the “top” which would actually be the bottom. This would protect against some of the rodents that might want to get in. I would bury it about 1 to 1 1/2 feet deep, then place items inside. Having some ammo would be the first thing on my list of contents, for I would have to be leaving my safe haven to get to a secondary location. Some long shelf life foods products that are meant to be used on the go, ie beef jerky or MRE’s. I would also want a couple of water purification tablets, along with paracord (traping) and a roll of bandage. Distance/location from the first safe haven would depend on the actual secondary location I am heading to…want to avoid the roving hordes and all. I would have a hand drawn map and verbal directions for the others with me as a back up plan. To me, safety-defense and wate/food would be the most important things of all! Look forward to other responses!
I think a cache or series of caches to support an individual or small groups are essential for long term sustainability. I would suggest emplacing them near hides (half a day’s march) and adjacent to natural features like near a lake, park, butte, saddle, or some distinct marker and then recording them with compass bearings, a sketch, and or GPS (do not rely on this exclusively). This information is something you do NOT want to carry on your person for security reasons. Make a copy/ies and secure cache details in a waterproof container and conceal in locations known only to you or your trusted number two. Concealing cache records inside a gas tank of an abandoned automobile is perfect. A hard copy of site location and contents is preferable to trusting memory. Memory degrades under stress and is just too unreliable.
Caches should contain only essentials dedicated to life or combat support operations: food, water, meds, ammo, fuel, spares, clothing, communications. It is important to weather proof your cache by using grease, plastic wrap, tarps, silica gel, and or waterproof containers to prevent water contamination and rusting. Caching fuel and water requires addition of preservatives such as STABIL and or bleach. Ammo cans make good storage containers if primed and painted. Color coding containers can simplify content identification.
Use the lay of the land and natural features to conceal the cache, and make sure the site is well drained and free of tree roots and direct observation. Always conduct a security check before retrieval and make sure you have a support team to provide security when constructing or using a cache. Never use the same cache location. Leave the cache by another route, if possible. Check your back frequently after departure for a tail. Check your cache for possible interception and emplacement of electronic devices. Use tell tales, like broken twine or trip wire, and markers, such as footprints, broken vegetation, tire tracks to detect interception. Leave immediately if you detect anything untoward as ambush is likely at your cache site.
Some cache locations to consider are: rock piles, downed or hollowed out trees, junk piles, manure piles, abandoned vehicles, burnt out buildings (hide in plain sight). The French resistance concealed caches underneath culverts, near outhouses, inside wells and grain bins and inside locomotive boilers under repair. Smaller caches dispersed about your Area of Operations (AO) are better than one huge stockpile. Building a large cache takes too much time, uses up valuable resources and can be devastating to your life if contaminated or intercepted.
You do not want your cache dug up by animals. Dogs, mice, porcupines, racoons, badgers, bears are likely to be your most common cache robbers. Make sure the containers are vole and mice proof. That is one reason to use plastic containers with a tight seal to limit food odors as well to weatherize the contents.
Disperse your goods in cache segments in a geometrical pattern about your cache site if practical. An equilateral triangle or square formation some 10 yards apart between segments is easy to remember and insures some hedge against total loss if one cache segment is destroyed or intercepted. Dispersion is easily obtainable with using four five gallon buckets containing 25 lbs. of supplies each.
Five gallon lard, butter or margarine containers used by commercial restaurants are available for the asking at restaurants. Sonar buoy tubes and food grade buckets make excellent cache containers for weapons and ammo, clothing, food and meds. Do not cache at a specific location anything more than you can carry on your back on one trip (75 lbs. max). Laying sonar tubes or PVC pipes horizontally is preferable to digging a five foot hole in the ground, which is always not practical. Thus, camouflage the tubes by inserting them inside or under a wood pile or rock pile and spiking the area with nails or other metallic junk to throw off detection.
Whether the cache is buried, hung, or concealed behind or under structures is immaterial. What is important is cache weatherization and proof to exposure, concealability, access, retrieval, security, and energy spent on making it. If the cache location is subject to search then spreading nails or other metallic junk consistent with the site is in order to confuse metal detectors. If situating caches at your hide or retreat consider emplacing caches at a secondary or tertiary hide within half a day’s march.
Do not put all of your eggs into one cache, thus limit caches to 100 lbs. or less. A cache should contain elements of life support (food and water), meds, clothing, fire making, ammo, protective clothing (winter or summer, socks, parka, ponchos), how to manuals consistent with supporting up to three people (fire team) for 30 days (100 lb cache considering expenditure of supplies at 1 lb per person per day-excluding water). Foodstuffs should consist of packaged dry legumes, cans, freeze dried pouches all wrapped in plastic wrap and segregated by use and weight. For example, five bundles of plastic wrapped food at ten pounds each makes up an easy to transport module of 50 lbs that can go into one backpack. Just remember that you are going to have to hump everything in a SHTF situation, thus use your common sense and limit caches to no more than 100 lbs. for a group of three.
Again, before approaching a cache, slip off trail and watch your back for a tail. Never approach the cache site before conducting a perimeter security check and keeping it under observation for some time. Keep your lips sealed about caches as your life and others depend on maintaining cache security.
Note: Do not use my email name or addy and I do not want credit. My experience with caches originates from using them in the field for security operations.
From Frank at NewAmericanTruth.com:
1) How it’s built: two ways because I have several different caches. First is out of PVC pipe with threaded ends, sealed using screw on caps; threads sealed with plumbers tape and then duct-taped on outside. Second, using locking hardcases such as those from Storm Hardigg. Contents determine size of box or length of tube.
2) how it’s stored: dependent on location. Buried in one case, stored in two others in the basements of people I trust. If I don’t claim the cache within X-number of days of certain preset events, they get to use it.
3) How close to home? buried one is relatively close, along the path of bugout travel. Others are within driving distance of about a half-tank of gas of my bugout vehicle(s). I have three different bugout paths and there is a cache along each one.
4) finding it: the two stored at friend’s houses are easy. the buried one is in a preselected location far away from any utilities but easily found by landmarks. Just in case, I do have the long & lat written down.
5) What’s in it: each one contains a complete set of what I deem necessary to serve basic needs of shelter, food, water, first-aid and self-defense. This can get complicated to explain but I’ll do the best I can without writing a book. ”Shelter” (to me) can be as simple as a mil-surp poncho, some paracord and a few aluminum tent stakes. Or it can be a tent, or a large tarp w/ tent poles. Dependent on the size and location of the cache, I’ve tried to guesstimate my needs along that travel route and included shelter accordingly.
Food and water: since it’s ludicrous to store water, I have a water filtration system and a “water bottle” in each cache. Water bottle is in quotes because in one case it’s a hydration bladder, and in the other two it’s collapsible 5-gallon jugs w/ taps. Each filtration system should clean 1,000 gallons of water each. The food I have stored is an assortment of MREs and other dehydrated food, some having a shelf-life as much as 25 yrs. I have enough in each cache to feed me and my family three meals per day for three days.
Each cache also has a prepackaged basic first-aid kit that includes basic trauma care items (tourniquet, pressure bandages, chest seal, pneumothorax needle, etc). The only thing we really can’t treat is dental issues (obviously there’s no field surgery stuff or vision “repair” items).
For self-defense I will simply say that there is one folding and one fixed knife in each cache. There is also one firearm with 250 rounds for that firearm.
There is plenty of other “stuff” that could be included but in addition to the caches I have a layered and redundant preparedness plan enacted at my home. My vehicle bugout stuff stays packed; my bugout bag stays packed; my vest stays prepared; my gunbelt and weapons stay ready.
I’d like to extend my cache “reach” further, but realistically speaking, they are placed to support initial travel away from the population density of the eastern seaboard along preplanned evacuation/bugout routes. They would support me getting far enough to relax, recoup and recover, to plan further travel and assess needs.
If you use any of this, please reference me as “Frank from NewAmericanTruth.com” And, just FYI, if you check NewAmericanTruth’s Links page, you’ll find a link for your site. If you can / choose to, reciprocity would be appreciated.
I use two caches, neither is related to a bugging out situation but geared to hunting. We like to make our hunting camps in a state forest, not at a sanctioned camp ground. They are a combination of pvc pipe and ammunition boxes appropriately painted. I am not going to get into what’s in them or buried vs stashed but I do have some advice. Be prepared to loose it. In our case it was at a spot that we had been using for more than 20 years and always went to on the opening day of hunting. After a two and a half hour drive, arriving after dark, we found that the state had leased the area out for logging and the entire area on that side of the road was clear cut. So the advice is to not use just one container but several. This means you can use smaller containers that are cheaper to make easier to hide and be content specific. One of mine is a 1″ diameter pvc tube, well sealed with extra ammunition that I rotate out once a year. Using several containers allows you to spread them out, if we had done this we could have easily put one or two on the other side of the road and not lost all of our stash.
Unless you know the area like the back of your hand use a GPS in combination with a map and compass. A GPS in my experience gets you within 10 to 15 feet depending on how many satellites it can pick up and may not work at all with cloud cover and a heavy woodland canopy.
From Jack in Texas:
I have some PVC pipe caches with long arms and ammo buried. I also have employed the use of a prop. An artificial tree stump. I store things that I can get to without digging or using tools. The stump is located just inside a clear cut area so it blends in. I planted ivy around it and it has taken root. So, now if I wasn’t sure of which one it was, it would be lost. I have GPS coordinates and have mapped it so some one can find it with a map and compass — i.e. A.N.T.S. if needed. Inside I keep a handgun and some MREs a basic first aid kit, mirror cable saw, knife, water filter, tarp etc… along with a cheap napsack. Most of this is located within walking distance from my house.
Oh, here is a link for the tree stumps. http://www.commercialsilk.com/artificial-tree-stumps_giant-fake-tree-stumps_p_669.aspx
Hope this helps
Jack in Texas
Hi, I don’t at present have one, kind of wish I did am having a tough time getting my things saved in my basement, wife is already yelling at me that the dates are going to be past date and then have to give all this food away and waste all this money( I am sure you have heard all this before) but when you are 77 its kind of late to be going out and building a stash someplace else. I will just sit out what ever comes along here and fight to keep what I have. They will have to get past a mean old man a 12ga. shotgun,pistol and rifle to take what I have first. I do have plans in a few weeks to be traveling to OK I have a brother that lives on 40 acres in the middle of nowhere and look into buying a Mfg. home along side his property and get away from this area. I am 50 miles south of Chicago in a small town but that’s not far enough away to suit me.Keep the video’s coming I enjoy them and wife and friends think I have gone crazy but, I just tell them not to show up at my house and ask for any handouts. I have not gotten a steri-pen,ceramic filters and will be making that homemade filter out of two 5 gal. cans. I have two 30 gal.buckets of water and many more containers with water, soda pop on sale at 4-for 9.00 so slowly I am getting some things together. I have made many batches of your hard tack with my own add-on’s. And just yesterday I saw another receipe on a hard tack trail mix and prepared that and its very good.
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the site, and I hope that whatever I can contribute may be of soome value; truthfully, though the only things that have been continually on my mind the last few weeks are what we ( and our country have lost, and why )…Like Nineveh, when Jonah was called by God to preach repentance to the citizenry, I think we have lost our freedom’s to the Obamanation and other usurpers of our freedoms, and consequently it is God’s judgements upon an unrighteous people, and we are going to feel the lash and sting of a totalitarian and unholy government which has taken over the reins of control of our nation, and we, as Nineveh are doomed to slavery, and misery…UNLESS we, as Nineveh did to repent in sackcloth, and ashes ! More seriously, I think God will not allow this to occur, and He ( meaning specifically the God of this world, who is Jesus Christ, will not allow this to happen…not for the current population, but for the rising-tides of the coming generations of children. I think He will direct His wrath in an effort to “cleanse the world” through cataclysm, and the upheavals of a nature out of all control ! These are destined by history to be the “days of vengeance”, I fully believe! Does this sound biblical ? Yes, I believe history, as mankind, and the many governments that have risen…is cyclical. As eccleiastes reminids us, “there is nothing new, under the sun. all things new, are old ( and vice-versa ). We are at a pivotal point in a nations history ( as history attests so eloquently ). I think we, as a nation need to be of a repent-mindset, or rue the future…and hopefully, as Nineveh dis, so can we. If not, they will remember our nation, and its God-given freedoms, and the blessings of liberty we enjoyed, will be lost to history. Well. I will get down off-the-soapbox, and sign-off.
As a final-note, I think our nation needs to be reminded of what we have lost…
As always, the olddustduck, often found in residence at Yahoo.Com
Hey this should be an interesting article.
I have several caches around my house, to me my caches are not mainly “food and ammo drops” they are redundancies in case I should lose my pack as such they are a little different.
1) The ones that I bury are 4″ PVC pipe that is capped at one end and has a threaded “lid” on the other end. Ones that I put in above ground locations are .50 cal ammo cans.
2) Some are buried the “long way” in a deep narrow hole. The cap has an eye bolt on it so once I dig the 3″ of soil on top of the cache i just thread something through the eye bolt and pull it up. Some of them are locked ammo cans that I keep in friends garages, Still others are ammo cans in abandoned structures, think old barns and silos.
3) As some of my caches act as redundancies for my pack I have 2 that are with in 2 miles of my house. I then have caches that are 1 day’s hike apart along my planned BOR [Bail Out Route] these are more of a “restock cache”.
4) I have a couple of different ways to find my caches. My “main” method is to just rely on my memory, no batteries to die, no maps to lose or be stolen, and not Government run GPS constellation to be shut down. That being said I keep a list of my caches in my notebook with the coordinates. BUT the coords are not in the traditional LAT/LONG [DMS, DMD, DD] format, they are kept in the UTM coord scheme. I run all of my gear on this format of location so it integrates quite well. Coincide the following: these coords both describe the same location: DMS: 41° 31′ 59″ N, 87° 10′ 1″ W, UTM: 16T 486073 4597947. For most people the the UTM looks like just some random gibbering, this helps keep the locations stay a little more secure.
5) As I run two mentalities to my caches I am going to include both of these
*Cold steel Bushman knife
*Soda can alcohol stove with wind screen that also acts as a biomass stove
*1 Quart of denatured alcohol
*1 reusable casualty blanket
*2 quart steel water bottle
*3 Datrex bars
*Bottle of Polar Pure
*20 rounds of .357 mag on SKS stripper clips [sealed in a non vacuumed vacuum bag with a desiccant]
*60 rounds of 77 grain .223 in a Bandoleer Repack Kit [also sealed in a non vacuumed vacuum bag with a desiccant]
*60 rounds of M855 in a Bandoleer Repack Kit [also sealed in a non vacuumed vacuum bag with a desiccant]
* First aid kit
* 1 Quart of Denatured alcohol
* 1 Datrex bar
* 1 brick of romen in a vacuum bag
* 1 vac packed serving of tortellini
* 1 Brick of vac packed “survival bread with Jello” [link: http://readynutrition.com/resources/make-your-own-survival-bars_01092010/]
* Small pack of beef jerky
* 2 Packs of instant oat meal [left in the paper envelope but in a vacuum bag over pack]
* 4 500ml water bottles
* 1 small box of strike any were matches
* 10 rounds of 357 mag on SKS clip [also sealed in a non vacuumed vacuum bag with a desiccant]
* 10 rounds of M855 on strippers [also sealed in a non vacuumed vacuum bag with a desiccant]
* Small bag of Pampas grass fluff for fire starting
Just my thoughts on caches, If you do end up using any of this you can credit it as “Fermi91 or Fermi91 from US.
Great blog and video channel. Keep up the great writing quality.
of The Last Free Nation on Earth, The US of A
My cache would be a commercially made storage container. I would definitely bury it. Probably under a junk pile that contains metal. I would relocate it by memory and GPS coordinates. (Coordinates in case the topo was changed drastically. It would be 2 hours away in a remote location (everywhere up here is remote). Far enough away where I am not known by the locals. My cache would contain: AR 15 and repair/lube kit. 10 mags and 300 rounds. One 9MM semi auto and 100 rounds. 2 Meter Dual band HT radio with solar charger. Survival knife (Gerber LMF 2)or Glock Field knife times two fire starting kit, esbit stove and fire cubes, Small surgical kit, basic first aid kit containing pain killers as antibiotics have a shelf life, silver coins, 100 feet of paracord, 10′x 10′ roll of plastic. Beef and chicken bullion cubes, drink mix, compass, Small fishing kit. If room allowed – dry socks, underwear, fleece top, rain gear, freeze dried foods and compass.
If you have anything to add about survival caches, please share your thoughts in the comments.
Manny Edwards is a lawyer, producer, and author who blogs as the SnoMan at www.SurvivalNewsOnline.com on emergency preparedness and libertarianism. He is the author of The Truth About Liberty, and is working on God-Given Liberty: The Biblical Case for a Libertarian Ethic. He lives in Tennessee, USA with his wife and five children.