Todd’s Note: Here is part 3 of Troy Brooks’ Survival Cache Series. Don’t forget to checkout Pt.1 and Pt.2.
This is the 3rd of a series of articles about caching. Some consider it as the the third most important tool a Survivalist or Prepper has. The first being knowledge of how to survive under any circumstance, the second is being in good enough physical condition to survive under any circumstance.
Cache construction is one thing that is both critical and varies from person to person. The size and shape varies according to your personal survival strategy. I have vaguely covered construction of a fuel cache in the last article. It is a place for you to start and then improve as you tailor the caches to suit your own needs. Now let’s get on to the discussion on how to construct caches for some of the rest of your supplies.
My absolute favorite type of construction is the tube style caches. These days the availability of plastic pipe in a wide variety of sizes has made it simple and easy to construct caching tubes in the size you need. You can purchase PVC pipes in sizes large enough to place fully loaded backpacks in them with room for your weapon of choice. If you’re planning on bugging out on foot then your first cache (if your plan is to take it all with you) should be in a pipe of this size. Smaller pipe sizes (and therefore cheaper) can be used from this point on to hold food and water caches for restocking.
To construct these caches a minimal investment in tools (you may already own them) and a small amount of knowledge is needed. To cut the pipe I use a normal circular saw. You can also use a hand saw. Get yourself some PVC end caps, PVC glue, and cleaner made for the PVC pipe. Follow standard procedures to glue one cap on the chosen length of pipe. The hardware store will explain how to do this if you don’t already know. Just remember, the glue is cheap, a leak can be expensive. The other end cap is generally not glued. I have heard of some survivalist placing stores that do not need to be rotated in tubes and gluing them shut. This requires you to cut the tube open to retrieve your cache. The end that is not glued is always kept up towards the surface. If you use a normal end cap you can (if your climate is not wet and the ground water level is not a problem) coat with a liberal coating of petroleum product and just slide the end cap over the end of the tube. However, you can purchase clean-out plugs that glue on the end of the tube (a necessity if you are in wet climate with high level of ground water) and have a threaded plug that tightens enough to be watertight. On our Survival Seed Capsules we have specially end caps that screw in and have rubber O-rings that helps to make the Survival Seed Capsules have a water tight seal. The Survival Seed Capsules can be buried and will protect your Heirloom Seeds from rodents, bugs, heat, humidity, water, and more.
I have been using end caps for a smaller size pipe that I turn down on a lathe to fit the inside of the pipe. I then turn groves in the cap and put O- rings in the groves. I also drill a hole across the cap on the “outside” of the O rings to side a piece of brass stock through to use as a handle to remove the end cap with. The O rings are lubricated with petroleum jelly and the cap slid into the tube. It is a nice water tight fit but you have to have access to a lathe, it is too expensive to have it done for you.
One important point to make while discussing construction of your caches is the depth of the combined earth and depth of the constructed cache. If the bottom of the cache is a further distance from the top of the ground than you can reach you need to provide some sort of retrieval system. This can be as simple as a piece of monofilament tied to the bottom item in a tube cache and then tied to the top piece so that you can pull the bottom piece & and all those in between up out of the cache. If you are using a different type of cache then you will have to provide proper means of retrieval for your cache. I have seen barrel caches in which all stores were in ammo boxes inside the barrel. A 3 foot metal hook was also in each cache with a T handle on the other end that would allow you to hook the handles on the end of the ammo boxes and pull them out.
Other types of cache construction vary from things as simple as watertight plastic barrels to elaborate marine plywood boxes (or vaults) that are coated with all kinds of waterproofing. I would have them coated with a thick coat of Polyurethane foam to give it the added strength. The main emphasis is WATERPROOF with a second emphasis on being strong enough not to collapse when you remove your cached items for rotation of stores.
One thing that helps our cause is that anything buried 18 to 24 inches under the surface maintains a temperature of approximately the average temperature of the area it is buried in. In other words, even if the temperature gets into the hundreds the temperature (in most areas of the U.S.) of the cache will probably remain in the seventies. Also, if the temperature drops to 10 below it will still remain at the AVERAGE (yearly) temperature of the location. Building codes realized this many years ago and it is referred to as the frost line or frost upheaval line; in most building codes. Check the building department in the area your caches will be in and they should be able to tell you the frost line depth. Maintain this depth and you have less problems with your caches. Since the cache is waterproof anything in the cache will be in a dry cool environment that is usually recommended for storage of almost everything you would want to store. Even medications are recommended to be kept in a cool dry place (the medicine cabinet in your home would not even qualify as a good place to store medications) and the cache is almost ideal in all ways.
When burying multiple tubes in a cache I like to use a pattern and bury them at a prescribed distance apart. That way when you find one use the pattern and distance to find the others. Having them slightly separated like this helps protect the rest of your cache if one tube is accidentally discovered. Use the points of the compass as your pattern. One at due north of the center tube and one a due south, east, west, however many tubes you have in the cache.
OK, now we know the basics of how to build and bury a cache. Now, where do we put it and how do we find it again. If you’re good at concealing our caches, you could almost place them anywhere. However, other than the front yard cache I discussed in a previous post the need for seclusion is important. They need first of all to be placed away from traffic and residences so that you can bury and “refresh” your supplies as needed without being detected. The need to space them has already been discussed.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not your caches can be detected by the government. I don’t care how good you are at hiding your cache, “big brother’ can find it if they really want to. However, they will have to suspect that you have something hidden that they want really bad in the first place. Then they will have to have a general idea where you’ve hidden it before they can find it. The advances made in “underground radar” and satellite imaging make finding almost anything possible. If you do nothing out of the ordinary to make them think you are someone that has something of great importance hidden somewhere then you don’t have too much to worry about.
Another point to bring up is that if you are in an emergency situation and using your caches on the bugout trail care should be taken to take your trash along with you. Don’t leave a trail of garbage for someone to follow. Carry your garbage with you and place it in the cache that you take your next supplies out of. You really do not need to be as particular about hiding the evidence of your cache if you are taking the supplies out and putting trash in. Go ahead and bury it but don’t worry about complete concealment. The caches will be far enough apart that no one will likely be able to trace your route by finding them. Besides, if you take the added precaution of placing your cache 100 or so feet off the side of the trail it would be very hard to find. If the cache is full of garbage what have you lost?
The system I intend to use for locating my caches will be as follows. First of all I will have my complete bugout route mapped out on my laptop and hard copies for all in my group. On the map I will have coded (in case they fall into anyone else’s hands) annotations for locations of overnight camp sights and caches. (The laptop has just been added to my bugout plans.) Also, soon to be added to my plan is a GPS. This will be used to place my caches within a few yards and then triangulation of local topographical features to locate the cache in a more refined way. And finally, since most of my caches will have metal cans, equipment, whatever in the cache I plan on using a metal detector to pinpoint the cache. If you are concerned about others finding your cache with a metal detector (why on earth would anyone be using a metal detector way out there in the middle of nowhere) you can bury junk (pistons, ring gears, old crankshafts, etc.) in the area around your cache to mislead them into thinking they have happened on an old junk yard or an area used to strip a car.
The cheapest and simplest method, and probably one of the most time consuming things would be a form of dead reckoning. On your map make note of landmarks near your caches. This will put you within range. Then make notes of triangulation on specific landmarks for the actual cache site. One word of caution here, do not use “volatile” objects for triangulation. In a years time a forest fire or hurricane, tornado, or other natural or man-made can remove or alter your “landmarks”. Use hill tops, mountain peaks, railroad tracks, the base of power line towers, etc. as landmarks. These will more than likely still be in the same place. To triangulate you need a good “scout” compass or “surveyors” compass. These usually come with instructions on taking “bearings” on landmarks. If not many books are available on the subject of navigation or map reading that will give you this information. For the location of a cache it is important to have at least two recognizable landmarks to take bearings on in order to triangulate properly. I prefer at least 3 myself. After you are close a metal rod with a not too sharp point can be used to probe the ground till you “hit” your cache.
If at all possible use the same compass to locate the cash that you use to place the cache. If their is any inaccuracy in the compass at least it will be the same as it was when used to place the cache. If you are using a metal detector to pinpoint the location of your cache then any minor inaccuracy in the compass will not cause enough discrepancy to cause you to not be able to locate it.
I have seen a new device that is a compass built into a pair of binoculars that allows you to read the bearing of an object as you view it through the binoculars. IF these prove to be accurate then this would be an ideal device for triangulating on a cache. However, consider the problems you would have taking the same bearing readings with a scout compass. Never rely totally on technical assistance because you never know for sure if you will have it with you to help. After taking your readings with a device like this (or a GPS) it wouldn’t hurt to take (backup) readings to verify with your trusty pocket (scout) compass to assure that you would be able to locate it without the added technology.
When using multiple tubes in a tube cache I like to bury them in a pattern. Something like a star. A center tube (that is actually what I take my bearings on) and then the other tubes buried a given distance between 12 to 18 inches, away from the center tube. That way I can locate the others once I locate one. A spot of different colors of paint on the caps would tell me which “point” of the star it is and therefore what direction to go in to find “center”. This also (because of the distance between them) makes it less noticeable when there is more than one tube in the cache if accidentally discovered.
I have found a 2 liter plastic soda bottle that is just the right size to fit inside one of my standard caching tubes so I always make the center tube of the cache (the one that I hopefully find first) my drinking water cache. If you shop around you will find that you can locate cans just the right size to fit your caching tubes. This of course assumes that you want to cache over the counter foods in cans and plan on rotating your stores on a regular basis. There is a lot to be said for emergency rations being the same foods you are use to eating in a non-emergency situation. There is no “shock” to your digestive track (nobody needs a case of diarrhea or constipation at a time like this ) by eating all freeze dried trail food (or other emergency rations) all of a sudden instead of your normal diet. You can also cache items that are not your ordinary emergency foods in caches, such as canned meats, chicken, fish, etc. if using and rotating standard canned foods. This will help you plan and keep a balanced diet.
In your daypack, first cache, at intervals along the trail, and, of course, the end retreat cache you need a supply of personal toiletry items. Things like your favorite antacid, aspirin (or substitute), diarrhea medication, laxative, razor (shaving equipment) toilet paper, and dental hygiene supplies. If you have long hair and are not removing it for the bugout then you need a brush and ties to tie it back into a pony tail to keep it out of your way. Hair, however, is a good handle for anyone that might be doing personal combat with you in a hand to hand situation. This is one of the reasons why the military practically shave recruits heads.
Weapons are a different story entirely. Great care must be put into storing weapons and ammo. I may ask an expert in this area to post an article later for those caching these items. I am not including this information in these articles.
I hope this has given you a place to start. You can of course develop your own methods and style of caching as long as you keep these basics in mind.
About The Author: Troy Brooks is Managing Director for MyHeirloomSeeds.com Heirloom Seed Company. He together with his family have been homesteading, raising livestock and living Off-Grid on their Ranch in West Texas. He is also a Certified Master Herbalist and enjoys living a Self-Sufficient lifestyle for more than 20 years.
This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.
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Good series of articles. You spoke of binoculars with a compass in them to get a bearing. Those are excellent tools. I just wanted to say that there is also an app called Spyglass for Iphones that does the same thing. It might be worth checking out. Good luck to everyone.