Caching Today for an Iffy Tomorrow
The desire to hide items is inherent in human nature. Buried treasure is the classic example. One of the most historic instances happened thousands of years ago when the Copper Scroll was hidden among the Dead Sea Scrolls near Qumran. It listed more than 60 locations where treasures were buried, along with directions on how to find them. Of course there are also the more modern infamous pirate stories. Hiding stuff was second nature to those guys.
At the dawn of modern man, as our nomadic ancestors migrated, they’d bury items that they couldn’t carry to their next destination, but which they would need upon their return to that area. Doing so allowed them to protect and preserve life-sustaining resources in their absence. This knowledge gave them peace of mind and a measure of safety in an uncertain world. In this regard, not much has changed for the preparedness community today.
Hiding objects, or caching, is nothing new. Like our ancestors, we want to protect what is ours, whether from prying eyes, confiscation or as a means of pre-positioning items for when they may be needed most. I decided to build and bury a survival cache in the woods, about 100 miles from my home and on the way to where I plan to bug out. I did this because I want to have access to the items that I need to reach my destination safely without having to carry it all. After all, my BOB weighs 35 pounds, and if I end up on foot with a rifle and ammo and water and food to carry too, this extra bulk is impossible, yet the items are vital.
Here’s how I did it, and how you can too. It’s really a simple matter and one which may literally save your life if worse comes to worst.
The cache itself is a 2-foot length of 4-inch wide ABS plumbing pipe. I figured if the pipe is meant to contain water, it will also keep it out – a great asset for something you plan to bury. One end of the pipe is sealed with a cap. ABS glue is applied to the inside of the cap and the outside of one end of the pipe. Fit the cap on tightly and let it set. The other end is another cap, but this one has a female adapter (a threaded hole, basically) and a plug that screws into it. Repeat the gluing process, being sure that none gets in the threads. This, after all, is how you’ll open it up to get the items in and out. I found a number of helpful videos online that show the construction process in detail.
Inside, packed very tightly (it took a few tries to get it just right) are:
– Medical Kit – 11 Benadryl antihistamine tablets, 50 naproxen pain reliever / fever reducer, 25 multi vitamins, 24 anti-diarrhea tablets, 50 antiseptic baby wipes (wounds or sanitary use), 30 band aids, 30 Tums anti-heartburn pills, 1 oz. tube of Neosporin antibiotic, tube of zinc oxide anti-rash ointment, sun block lotion and assorted bandages.
– 10 AA batteries
– Mini-Maglite flashlight (no batteries in it so they don’t leak and corrode)
– Paper pad and 4 large pencils to leave messages, take notes, keep sane by writing letters or a journal
– Small can opener
– One can of tuna fish, one package hard candy (As I said, I will be carrying food and water. I intend to cache more food, but it was simply not the goal or intent of this particular cache.)
– Tin of salt
– 3 candles
– 5 feet of twine
– 20 feet of 550-paracord
– Fire starter (Vaseline soaked cotton balls)
– 8 oz. bar of soap
– 2 oz. hand sanitizer (disinfectant or fire starter)
– Miniature American flag
– 250 rounds of .22 long rifle ammo
– Topographical map (including roadways and paths) of surrounding 20 sq. miles
– 12 packs of matches
– 2 Bic butane lighters
– Mylar emergency blanket
– 10 fish hooks, line and bobber
– Half pint of 190-proof grain alcohol (antiseptic, fire starter, painkiller, water purifier)
– 6-inch hunting knife
– 25 water purifier tablets
I can hear it now. “Wait! I can’t believe he left out a widget!” I’ve always done the same thing with any list I’ve read in someone else’s article. Clearly, this is not everything that I will need, but it’s a manageable size and weight, and it’s not meant to be my only source of items. Rather, it’s a waypoint cache to provide me with what I may have used up, forgotten, or traded along my way. If you’ve got the means and desire, you certainly can go bigger.
After building the cache, it was time to bury it. Location is everything so consider it carefully. There are different needs for different plans. Mine is to bug out with what I can easily transport, head to the cache, resupply, and move on. I can’t advise what’s best for you without knowing your goal. Maybe you plan to be in a souped-up anti-zombie truck, carrying almost everything you need and you just want some backup items. Or you want to pre-position food & water, hide some firearms from possible gun-grabs, or stockpile building supplies for your retreat. Perhaps you just plan to stash a bag of pre-’64 silver coins in your back yard.
Put some real thought into it because the labor comes next.
After you decide on your cache location, make sure you bring the right tools with you when you bury it. I thought I could use a small garden trowel but at the last minute packed up a pick and a large shovel. As it turned out, the soil was very hard packed and I couldn’t have dug the hole without the larger tools. Digging the hole was harder than I thought. Bring gloves and be ready for a workout. I chose an area that won’t be developed, that’s away from all paved roads and man-made structures, and which has enough foliage to prevent the ground from appearing on an aerial survey map.
I dug a hole three feet long, one foot wide and three feet deep. It was about two hours of digging in the particular soil I was working with. After ensuring that the cache tube’s plug was tightly screwed in, I buried my cache. When you’re done, make sure to conceal the evidence of your dig. Tamp down the earth along the way as you add dirt so it doesn’t settle and leave a tell-tale indentation in the ground. If you’re digging in grass, be sure to cut out a plug before you start so that you can replace it and not leave a bare spot. When done, ensure that the area looks undisturbed. Move branches, leaves, etc. over it without being too conspicuous and ending up with the whole affair looking out of place.
A buried treasure is no good without a map. So my next mission was to make one, giving landmarks, headings, and also GPS coordinates. I’m no cartographer but it’s really easy to put together something that will guide you back to the spot.
Bring along measuring tape and a compass. Have a real obvious landmark for a starting point. Be aware that nature evolves, and that trees may fall, rocks may roll downhill, and vegetation will grow and change. But the combination of a solid starting point, GPS coordinates and your map will let you find your cache in short order. I won’t rely solely on GPS since I may not have it with me, or it won’t function, or the whole system may be shot at that point.
My map shows a drawing of the area and I’ve indicated landmarks and left physical markings on objects along the path to the cache that can be seen with the naked eye. Bullet holes in a pattern in tree stumps leading to it. An otherwise meaningless shape inscription carved into the bottom of the rock that sits atop it. Three empty pop cans buried six inches under that to indicate I’m on the right track, and also to hopefully stymie someone with a metal detector. The idea is they find the cans and think that it’s all there is. Scattering old nails throughout the dirt as you bury the cache would also confound all but the most intent metal-detecting efforts. Alternately, these buried metal objects will help me find the site should the landscape change drastically.
I’ve left a copy of this map and detailed instructions with my personal papers so that if something happens to me, my family knows where and how to find it. The total cost was $40 for the tube materials and about $60 for the rest. For $100 I have what may prove to be priceless one day. Be sure to bring a shovel along when you intend to dig it up! I’m thinking a wrench also will be handy if the pipe’s plug has become seized in the threads.
This endeavor left me with a little more peace of mind than I had before. All my eggs aren’t in one basket and I’ve got a little rest stop waiting for me on my escape route. I’m hoping I’ll never need it, but like they say, “Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”