The Art and Science of Caching

I used the terms art and science because a cache is often misunderstood and often as not, mispronounced. The word cache comes from French and is pronounced “kash” or “cash” just like the word for the Federal Reserve Notes in your wallet. Literally, a cache is something of value hidden for later use or retrieval. In the world of the survivor or prepper it has a deeper meaning. Sorry about the pun.

It was obvious when I purchased my refuge in New Mexico that I would be gone from my refuge for extended periods of time. So to offset the distance disadvantage I devised a series of caches that would make it easier for my family and myself to return to our refuge in time of trouble. My first challenge was to decide what I needed to cache and how, how much and later, where?

Let’s start with where.

Just like the three rules of real estate so it is with a cache, location, location and location. In 1968 I became an avid metal detector enthusiast and remain one today. Over the years I have located my share of caches. So when it comes to hiding things I have learned to improvise, like the old timers did. Some of the locations I will give you may sound unconventional at first but, I will give my reasoning on each one. But first let’s tackle the overall strategy of where.

When I first purchased my refuge I determined that I needed at least three routes to get to my refuge. The primary route was using the fastest means of transportation available, automobile, i.e. truck or car, on the shortest route through the fewest large towns or cities. I did a fuel analysis and realized that if I carried 30 extra gallons of fuel so I did not need to cache fuel.

Now, if the situation arose that, for whatever reason you can imagine and some you can’t, and I was unable to use a vehicle, I would need to cache critical supplies (more on this later) somewhere along the way. I calculated that, all things being equal, I could cover 30 miles per day and live out of my bug out bag for up to 5 days. This gave me a maximum range of 150 miles between caches. Using this information, I needed between 5 and 6 caches along my various routes. I went with 6.

Abandoned railroad bridges make great Get Out Of Dodge highways and cache sites.

So, my first route of choice was to use the prevailing east-west railroad network that traveled to within 60 (highway) miles of my refuge. I broke this down knowing full well that the last 60 miles of my trip would be the toughest, uphill over broken terrain. (I know some of you are going to ask so, “Yes, Virginia, I did hike the entire route”.) So I began making caches at the points that I needed them. I ended up needing 7 rather than 6 when I was finally done.

My sites where easily recognizable landmarks and my cache was usually dug, most often with a posthole digger. In case you are wondering, my caching run was separate from my hiking run to determine the necessary locations. I marked these on my hike with red/white/blue surveyors flagging on my hike. After the cache was buried the flagging was removed and the location was marked on a map with the necessary landmarks written in code.

I know, I know, sounds a bit extreme. Right? Well, surviving is a bit extreme when the SHTF. If you do not have the gumption to do this much you won’t have enough gumption to survive. There, I said it. A lot of folks say “put up or shut up.” So, I put it up.

The next of the location is, where do you hide something near your refuge? That is easier in some respects, you don’t have to hike 850 miles, but it also has the burden of being easy to find, easy to defend and easily concealable.

Any prominent landmark on your property is prominent for everyone. Choose something you like but less prominent. When I began metal detecting I heard about posthole banks. These were hiding places that farmers and ranchers used to hide their valuables. It was usually a special fence post that was easy for them to recognize. The hole for the fence post was dug deeper to allow room for the cache, then covered with dirt for several inches and then have a fully functional fencepost placed in the hole. This is still a good strategy and, I would suggest that the fence post be located within sight of the refuge’s main house or LP/OP.

The next best place to hide a cache was within the area encompassed by the chicken coop or chicken yard. Chickens will squawk and raise 9 kinds of hell when they are bothered, especially at night, when most thefts occur.

Now, let’s differentiate between a cache and a bank. A cache is usually a one time needed depository of critical or necessary supplies. A bank is usually a depository of valuables in the form of gold, silver, or currency. A bank may have to be accessed repeatedly. For the bank, look for such things as a garden, flower or

Do you really want to tell him he has to move?

vegetable. There is always some form of cultivation going on in a garden and it is easy to hide the disturbing of the soil by simply hoeing or tilling around the affected area. Also, areas where animals wallow, scratch or dig, i.e. a hog wallow, stinks but works, chicken runs, doesn’t smell much better but usually drier than a wallow and also a favorite place that your dog has hollowed out under a tree during the summertime. Do you really want to mess with a pissed off German Shephard or Rottweiler whose sleep has been disturbed to look for a bank?

Now are you beginning to see the logic used in locating a cache?If you use the railroad track scenario, follow a pattern. If you are following an east/west track, hide your caches on the north or south side of the track, whichever you prefer. Use bridges, crossing guards, sideswitches or whatever you choose as your landmark but be consistent. Always use the same number of crossties from the landmark as your reference point. Hypothetically, let’s say you use railroad bridges and you choose to use the west side of the creek, stream or river as your reference point. Then count out 10, 20, 46 or whatever number of ties from the end of the bridge to the tie marking your cache. Always use the same side of the track so in a hurry you won’t have to remember is this the second or third or fourth. Most often you will be in a hurry and working at night to avoid detection. Got it? Why do it this way? When the railroad replaces worn, decayed or missing ties they usually go back into the same place as the one they are replacing, so your landmark should be very, very close.

A lonely stretch of road and a railroad crossing make a great landmark.

An alternate method is to use rest stops along highways but I would suggest that you avoid ALL highways in a SHTF emergency. Highways and roads are a great place to get ambushed, killed, looted, raped or whatever. Use smaller roads, trails, railroad tracks or just trails that you have already “blazed” prior to the emergency happening.

In the old days, there was a term called trailblazing. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were a trailblazers. What these people would do would be to follow game trails or rivers, streams or natural features such as valleys to discover new land. The most common way of marking the trail was to cut or “blaze” the side of a tree with three notches. When the first people traveling across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi came to the huge trail cut by the gigantic herds of buffalo, they followed this trail and blazed the trail with three notches. It became known in English as the Natchez Trace, or Tres Notches, or three notches. Some of these old frontier roads were simply called The Three Notch Road in English. This method is time tested and proven. Take heed.

What is needed in a cache?

Now that you know where let’s take a look at what you need to cache. Eache cache should consist of those supplies that you have already PREDETERMINED that you will need along the way. How do you know what is predetermined? Good question.

In the SHTF scenario, where you are now separated from your refuge by X miles, what will you need? You will need water, food, shelter and defense items. I am presuming that you just happened to be traveling in a rental car and forgot to transfer your bug out bag, B.O.B., or as we called in in Vietnam our G.F.O.O.D. (Get the F*&^ Out Of Dodge) pack, to your rental car. At all other times I know you will have you B.O.B. with you, right? RIGHT?!

Now, you have just made it to you first cache site in your rental car. You need a supply of water, at least 3 liters a day, food (about 2500-3000 calories a day due to stress) and a rifle, handgun AND shotgun, plus ammunition. Did you catch that? You should have one of each, a rifle, a pistol AND a shotgun. 

This is your primary cache buring tool. Don't forget to buy some leather gloves.

OH MY GOD! How can I afford that? You can purchase a Moisin-Nagant rifle in 7.62x54R for about $90.00. You can also purchase a Nagant revolver for about $100.00 and a very inexpensive shotgun for about $150.00. Plus, you should have at least 100 rounds of rifle ammunition, 100 rounds of pistol ammunition and 25 to 50 rounds of shotgun ammunition. I recommend at this point that you have MRE’s AND some Survival Tabs (www.survivaltabs.com ) (With this cache you should be able to get to your next cache. Also, I would stock water purification tablets, a water filter or iodine. Also, stock a “metal-match” and trioxane fuel tabs as well.

Your next cache should consist of food and water plus 20 rounds of rifle ammunition, 50 rounds of pistol ammunition and 25 rounds of shotgun ammunition. It should continue this way all the way to your refuge.

Once again we are talking about a survival situation, there is no room for anything that is not absolutely necessary. Again, let me stress that at this time you do not want to be wearing cologne, perfume, aftershave or any fragrance of any kind. When the SHTF, anything that doesn’t smell like the “S” in SHTF, you know what, will stick out like a sore thumb. No fragrances, period!!

That brings us to the how.

There are several methods for storing necessities such as food water, weapons, ammunition and everything else and insuring they will keep for years.

Sonobuoy transport tubes. Don't forget the toilet paper in your cache.

The first method is to use a thing called a sonobuoy transport tube.This tubes are made out of tough polypropylene and can hold a lot of your basic needs. Use the photo to get an idea of what can be fit into the

tubes. The interior dimensions are 38.5″x6.5″. This will hold weapons, broken down, ammunition, survival tabs/MRE’s, and the most important thing to have in any survival situation, a roll of toilet paper. I suggest you place one or two in each cache. 

The next technique is to use monotubes. They usually come in two different sizes. If you shop around you may be able to save money but they can range from $75.00 to $150.00 ea. depending on size. the smaller of the two sizes. The smaller size is 28.5×8.75 interior dimension and the larger size is 10.75×45 interior dimension. They are tough and can accomodate some of the things seen in the photos. All three of these can be purchsed from www.cheaperthandirt.com . You may have to check several times because they sell out quickly. Also try www.jgsales.com  as they have comparable items on their site from time to time. You might want to check out the steel tubes used to hold the 155mm projectiles for the M1 tank. These tubes are very good steel and have a rubber seal to prevent moisture infiltration.

Small monotube.

The next best method is to use 5 or 6 gallan “plastic” buckets that can be had for free from McDonald’s, Burger King or whatever. The pickle slices usually come in them. Some stores charge a dollar or two or you can buy them brand new at Lowe’s or Home Depot for about 6 bucks. You can use the regular lids or for about 7 or 8 bucks buy the GAMMA lids that allow you to screw them on and off for easy access. This can be purchased at numerous sites and also at Cheaper Than Dirt.

The next method is to use ammo cans of various

Large monotube. Again, don't forget the toilet paper.

sizes. Anywhere from 5.56 NATO to as large as the 20MM rocket boxes which will almost hold your mother-in-laws body. (Just an expression.) Just make sure of one thing when burying buckets and ammo cans, make sure the top is upward. I have seen well meaning people bury these things with the top down and invariably water will bet inside of the buckets and the cans. It would not hurt to wrap them in a very thick trash bag before burying.

You can also purchase 6″ or 8″ PVC pipe and get a cap for one end and a screw top for the other. You can cut them in any length that you would like. Once again, make sure the screw top is up.

Now, before you drop your favorite SKS, AR-15, Moisin Nagant or any othe firearm into a burial vault please use at least one of the following protection aids. First, is the Protect “No Rust” bags. If you store a firearm for an extended period i recommend one of these. The United States Government has started using these bags instead of Cosmolene for keep guns rust free. Second, spray the weapon thoroughly with silicone spray and add dessicant packs to the tube before sealing shut.

I wrap everything I put into the ground into two separate trash bags, One with the neck down inside the outer one with the neck up, tightly sealed. This will give you multiple layers of protection.

 Now here is a tip from my wife, who really believes in these valuable assets. Two-liter and 3-liter soda bottles are indespensible for storing small grains and bean, distilled water and also for ammuntion. You simply drop one or two bullets at a time, or in the case of .22 Long Rifle, a brick at a time, through the neck of the bottle until it reaches the desired level, spray with a silicone spray or add a dessicant package and you have a small ammo dump that will fit nicely into a post hole.

Now, in review, use the buckets or cans to hold your secondary needs, such as food, ammunition, matches, first aid gear, extra changes of socks, underwear and for women who are still menstruating, tampons. Remember to include some Kotex or Maxi-pads since these can be used in an emergency to plug a puncture wound or gunshot wound. Also, it would not hurt to include at least a thirty day supply of B-complex multiple vitamins. B vitamins are quickly depleted in a stressful situation and when the SHTF you will be under stress. If you have the funds available I would invest in a Katadyn filter called the Vario Microfilter. They run about $80.00 and will easily fit into an ammo can, 5-gallon bucket or a storage tube. Just for good measure throw in an extra Swiss Army knife, not a cheap look alike but the real thing.

It may be a long hike from where you are stranded to your refuge, but if you use some of the strategies outlined in this article you can and will make it there in one piece.

Stay prepared, stay vigilant and get packing.

6 comments to The Art and Science of Caching

  • Ben

    Excellent article CC! One of your best yet.

    May I also recommend a wonderful site for caching gear and storage. Mostly watertight stuff and they have a good article on caching gear/stuff.

    http://www.fuertecases.com/Underground_Cache.html

    They have some of the best stuff around.

    Article.

    http://www.fuertecases.com/Underground_Cache.html

    Well done!

  • You’re article just made me realize that I have an Amtrak station right across the river from where I’m staying. I looked up the tracks on a maps program and they go to within 50 miles of my bolt hole. I cannot believe that I did not think of this before. It looks like I’ll be going on a hike soon. Thanks for all the great advice! I’m going to go post this comment on your codgerville.wordpress.com blog also. Coach David

    • aurochs

      There are bicycles adapted to ride on the RR tracks that you may want to consider those. Carry more and move faster and quiet, even travel in dark, then ride them off tracks for that last 50 miles too perhaps? If you can avoid big towns the tracks may be a fairly safe way to travel and stay off the roads when tshtf.

  • trailhiker

    Great advice CC, I have been trying to figure out how to safely store and this has solved my problems. It is very simple and I guess I was trying to overthink, please keep up the good work!

  • Country Codger

    @Aurochs

    Rail bikes have been around since the 70’s that I know of. If you are on an abandoned line and the rails are still in place they are okay. It is easy to adapt any bike to make it into a rail bike without doing any damage to the bike itself.

    In a collapse scenario you may have to be careful riding on rails. The train system may be the only transportation system left operating for any period of time, especially if the government abandons all other forms of transportation and shores up the rail system. It is still the most efficient form of commercial transportation (cargo) there is. So it is conceivable that it may continue for some(?) period of time after collapse. It would be bad to round a curve or crest a hill to come eyeball to eyeball with the old Cannonball express.

    If you use railbikes before the crash and are caught by RR employees you can be fined heavily since RR property is private property.

    Good luck, God bless and keep stacking

  • ohne geld

    I like OB tampons for my kits, great for lots of uses and small and light as well.

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