Your Survival Cache Guide
Real quick, for those new to preparing and survival, a Survival Cache is a well-hidden stockpile of survival supplies. It’s a collection of extra supplies you want to keep hidden and in reserve just in case.
There are many reasons why survival caches useful. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- To prevent all your survival supplies being in one single location. By spreading our your supplies in unique hidden locations, if one site becomes compromised, you don’t lose everything.
- To support a bug out. A strategically located survival cache can provide extra supplies along your bug out route. This helps keep your pack weight down but allows you to restock on critical bug out gear and supplies (food, water, ammo, etc.)
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- For those who plan to bug in, you want to avoid the Feds from confiscating all their guns (should that day ever come to pass).
- Maybe you have a remote survival retreat in the woods somewhere and want to hide some extra supplies when your not there. Stocking your retreat without hiding those supplies properly puts them at risk. Without caches, you will probably lose your entire survival stash if someone stumbles on that location while you’re away.
So as you can see, there are lots of reasons to develop survival caches. However, behind all these reasons, there nearly as many survival cache options.
Options such as:
- The best and worst type of containers to protect your survival supplies from the elements
- The best and worst supplies to add to your survival caches
- The best and worst locations to keep your survival cache hidden for the long term
- The best and worst methods on how to hide or bury your survival cache
- The amount of survival supplies you should add to your survival caches
One of the major factors in making the right decisions for your survival cache is adapting to your geographic location. Different environments have unique survival cache best practices.
Swamp Caches vs. Desert Caches vs. Mountain Caches, etc.
Each environment has its own unique survival cache challenges you must be aware of and overcome to achieve long-term success.
In this article, I will provide you with my favorite survival cache ideas and also give you the most common survival cache mistakes. That way, you’ll get to learn from others mistakes and get it right the first time.
So let’s get started.
Survival Caches: What, Where and How
What, where and how are the three biggest questions to chew on when you’re preparing to assemble your survival cache.
What Container and Which Supplies
Selecting a survival cache container is the first step in building your survival cache. But even before you settle on the type of container, I advise you plan out your supply list first. That way you will have a better idea of how much space you need and how many cache containers you should prepare.
So let’s go over the most common items stored in a survival cache.
Typical Survival Cache Items
- Fire: One of mankind’s most important survival tools. Keep your cache filled with waterproof matches, lighters, and strikers. Otherwise, you may be forced to try starting a fire with sticks; doable but it’s so much easier with a Bic.
- Medical Supplies: I don’t recommend caching a full paramedic duffel bag. But keeping a few bandages, sterilizers, and basic over-the-counter medications improves your chances of survival exponentially. In disaster situations, when medical supplies are short, even basic infections can prove deadly. So prepare for that, and decide how far you want to take it. Here is an excellent article on How To Build a Tactical Medical Bag.
- Light: Artifical light is important for low light and night survival scenarios. Plus, our countries electricity grid is very fragile. So keep a high-quality EDC flashlight and some spare batteries stored in your cache. Also, throw a few candles in there, and maybe even keep a gas lantern and some fuel as well.
- Defense (guns & ammo): Few things are as important to survival as having the tools to defend your family. Weapons and ammunition enable you to do this. Storing ammunition in your survival cache is a good idea, and I highly recommend it. Similarly, survival knives and survival hatchets double as key survival tools. Storing an entire survival gun? … that’s up to you. Obviously, there are some potential problems with stashing guns – they are expensive, for one. They are also hard to keep from getting rusty. And if someone does find your cache and steals your firearm, who’s to say they will not commit a crime with the weapon registered under your name? It’s a risk you need to consider.
- Utilities: Tools are helpful for all aspects of life (survival or not). As I already mentioned, hatchets and knives are both tools and weapons, so they are ideal for survival caches. Paracord is another, easy to store utility that has innumerable survival uses. Wrenches, small saws, nails, screws, hammers, and screwdrivers are some other tools that are useful during times of chaos. However, they are cumbersome and less of a priority than previously discussed items.
- Entertainment: Keeping the mind healthy helps both morale and sanity, especially if you’re holed up somewhere remote. Having a few survival guide books, games, a survival card deck, art supplies or other forms of entertainment at your disposal will keep you from leaping off the deep end. They can also be decent bartering supplies if you need to trade.
- Communication: Everyone should have a hand crank radio to help receive broadcasted disaster information. So you should add one in your survival cache.
- Vices: Even if you do not partake in any of these vices, they are often one of the best bartering supplies in dire times (and if you do partake, “smoke em if you got em”). Cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis, coffee, porn, are not necessary for survival but highly desired. These are also great for making friends – and friends are important allies in survival situations.
- Money: This item goes last on the list of necessities because, the more chaotic and disastrous things get, the less important paper money will become. By the time you get to your survival cache and break into its supplies, those hundred dollar bills might have more value as kindling than for trade…
The More Caches The Better
When it comes to survival caches, I can’t think of a situation where more is not better. If having one survival cache is good – having 10 is better. The bottom line is more caches increase your odds of having hidden supplies available when resources become scarce.
However, just because more is better doesn’t mean more is easier. And that’s the rub…
Planning more survival caches means you need to 1) purchase more supplies 2) buy more cache containers 3) find more hidden locations and 4) work harder to hide them all 5) and remember where they are all located.
So you need to decide for yourself what’s the right amount and size of cache network.
I recommend a couple of medium-sized comprehensive survival caches along with several smaller caches. This strategy helps spread out your survival supplies, effectively taking all of your eggs out of one basket. Keeping your entire network of caches less vulnerable to a single theft/destruction/decay. That way you can afford to lose one or two caches and still be ok.
Plus medium and small caches are easy to hide and manage than large ones.
Which Container Should You Use?
Once you have a general idea of how much and what to stockpile, you get to decide which type of container you want. Your choice should be primarily driven by the environment you plan to store them in.
Obviously, the old-fashioned buried wooden chest or barrel is not going to cut it because wood is porous, holds moisture, and is prone to rot over the long term. Rot is bad for survival caches.
Moisture is your survival cache’s enemy number one. So instead of wood, only use plastic and metal containers for your survival caches.
Yes, metal does rust over long periods of time, but metal is also highly resistant to rodents and insects, thus, making it an excellent container in low moisture desert conditions.
Wet regions require your caches to be waterproof, like plastic cases – but unfortunately, plastic is more vulnerable to the gnawing teeth of rodents.
So you have to evaluate your environment and plan accordingly. Here is a list of some potential configurations for your survival cache containers:
- PVC tube – PVC is designed to be buried in the ground and comes in just about any size you can imagine. And PVC is a relatively inexpensive and readily available. PVC caches make for a fairly straightforward DIY project. Just make sure you use an amazingly tough sealant to lock and seal the end caps. It needs to be 100% waterproof!
- Garbage Cans or Barrels – These can be plastic, or metal but the biggest challenge is sealing them from moisture. If you plan to bury a garbage can underground, duct tape or cordage isn’t a good enough seal. You’ll need to figure out a way to create a high-quality waterproof seal. Also, big caches are difficult to bury because of their size. For these reasons, I prefer medium sized or smaller better-sealed caches vs. a single large, poorly sealed cache such as these.
- Storage containers – Pelican cases can be used for survival caches. They are built to be tough and weather resistant, so they perform well under stressful conditions. These can be bought in both plastic and metal options and also come in a variety of sizes. That’s why they are my preferred cache container. Again, use the best sealer you can find and apply it liberally to the lid to ensure you keep moisture out.
- Waterproof boxes/bags – Easily obtainable online and at outdoor or surplus stores. They keep moisture out, are resistant to weathering.
- MonoVault: Another survival cache option (watch review video below).
MonoVault Survival Cache Container
The most important aspect of your container is that it’s waterproof. As soon as moisture gets into your supply, everything will become compromised. Even small traces of moisture will spoil organic items (foods), ruin supplies (matches) and rust metal (gear) items.
For this reason, I always recommend adding an extra layer of moisture protection to your container no matter which container type to pick. Zip locks work well for this task and are very cost effective. Heck, you can even double bag your items with zip locks.
You should also put smaller waterproof containers inside larger ones to help provide another level of moisture protection. You could put a smaller PVC pipe inside a larger one, both with excellent waterproofed end caps. Or you can put a PVC cache inside a container. Redundant moisture protection will help ensure your cache does not become compromised.
You also need to consider trapped moisture. Many items inherently hold moisture by default. If you store these items with moisture in it, that moisture will eventually release and turn into condensation and humidity inside your sealed cache. Potentially developing rust on your gun barrels and ammo.
So if you store anything with moisture in it (i.e. paper, foods, woods) make sure you dry them out as best you can before you store them. Then keep these items in separate sealed bags to prevent any condensation from affecting other items in your cache.
Starting to see a theme here? Moisture is awful for survival caches.
Where To Hide Your Cache
The first place most people think of when hiding their survival cache is to bury it. But you don’t HAVE to bury your cache.
Intuitively, that’s what you might imagine doing – and indeed, it is an effective way of hiding and preserving your valuables. But I just want to be clear that it’s not the only option.
For instance, survival caches can be stored high up in evergreen trees. You can tightly wrap them in multiple camouflage tarps to protect them from weather and use lots of straps to secure it extremely well to the trunk. The benefit of this is that it helps keeps large animals (including humans) from gaining easy access to your survival cache.
Another option is to hide it in your car. This tactic serves a few purposes: It keeps your supplies close at hand, so you won’t have to travel far to collect your stash. It also acts as survival insurance; should your car break down or crash in remote locations. Plus, it’s always a good idea to keep your vehicle stocked with a few survival supplies anyways.
Again, burying your cache is entirely fine, but also don’t limit yourself. Honestly, survival cache locations are only limited by your creativity.
So here are just a few ideas to help get the ideas flowing:
- Under Floorboards
- High Up In An Evergreen Tree
- In A Hollow Door
- In A Vehicle
- In A Secret Room In Your House
- A Hollow Stump
- An Old Abandoned Well
- In An Out Of Commission Chimney
- Inside An Old Tire
- Inside A Gutted Out Appliance
These locations can all successfully hide your caches. The key is to make sure your cache locations are:
- Well hidden
- In a remote location
- Accessible in a crisis
- Well secured
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How To Bury Your Cache
Ok, so while burying your survival cache is not your ONLY option, it’s still a good one when done properly.
The key word here is properly. If done incorrectly, your buried cache will not last.
Assuming you found a good location to bury your cache (more on this later), the first thing you must do is dig.
Most people have access to a shovel for digging, and shovels work fine. But they require manual labor. And if you’re digging in a remote location it’s easier to carry a light weight survival shovel.
Another tool to consider to get deeper faster is a post hold digger. These are ideal for burying longer slimmer caches such as PVC ones. But again they are operated using manual energy.
For those who are lucky enough to own powered augur, this makes this process even easier. You may even consider renting a small augur for a day to save time and your back.
And if you can get your hands on a full-fledged backhoe, then you’re all set…
The majority of use will probably plan to dig by hand. So if your cache is small (water bottle sized), then this should be fairly easy. However, if it’s larger (garbage can size), this might take some significant time and effort.
Hopefully, you’re digging in forgiving soil. But if you’re trying to bury a garbage can sized cache in the hardpan of the desert you may want to rethink your location choice. However, there is an upside to digging in hardpan desert. Deserts lack moisture.
The reason it’s so hard to dig there is because the ground lacks moisture. And remember moisture is one of the biggest enemies to your cache. So if you can suck it up and dig through it, you won’t have to worry about as much about double bagging and waterproof sealing your cache. No moisture means no moisture.
Now at the opposite end of the spectrum is burying your cache in a swamp. Digging will be relatively easy but keeping the standing water out is going to be the real challenge. My best advice in this scenario is to use a plastic container with a superb rubber gasket and to permanently seal the access hatch with a lot of waterproof sealant.
You may also want to bury it upside down with the access hatch facing down. This way if the seal does fail, it won’t fill up with water. Instead, water may seep past the failed seal slightly, but the trapped air in the container will prevent your cache from filling up with water. Which in turn will limit the water damage should your seal fail.
Now most buried caches won’t be in these two extreme conditions. However, I still recommend double bagging all your gear with zip locks and burying your container of choice upside down (just in case). Both these techniques are cheap water damage insurance.
Also, if you’re burying a metal container use a ton of heavy duty basement cement waterproof sealer to help keep moisture at bay. Be liberal with this stuff, lay it on thick and put multiple layers on it before burying. Encase your metal cache in this stuff.
Where To Bury Your Cache (or where not to bury your cache)
Many people want to bury their cache on their own land but before you do, be strategic.
Your backyard might sound like an excellent location (its close and easy to access) but anywhere near a home’s buried utilities tend to be bad locations.
Stuff happens and utility companies may someday require digging in your backyard. So instead, I’d suggest burying them under a concrete slab. You’ll need to dig both down and sideways to retrieve it, but this location significantly reduces the chance of an accidental encounter.
However, I don’t recommend burying one under garage or basement slabs since it’s a ton of work to access them. You’ll need to break through the slab with a jackhammer which is going to create a mess and a racket. Enough mess and noise to attract unwanted attention.
Another decent solution is burying one under a sidewalk slab. Especially if you have a path along the side of your home or in your backyard. Sidewalks are less prone to accidental discovery, and you can pry them up pretty quickly with the right tools in a crisis. You just need a good crowbar, a stable fulcrum, and enough weight to pry it up.
A nice side benefit to sidewalks is they will hide metal containers from metal detectors. Why? Because metal detectors will pick up the rebar in the concrete masking the metal signal from your survival cache.
Bury a cache on land you don’t own
While burying near a remote road seems to make sense for ease of access, what do you think will happen a decade from now when the road gets expanded? It gets discovered, that’s what.
Plus utilities tend to run alongside roadways so new service lines installs could dig up your buried cache.
The bottom line: The harder it is for you to access your cache the less likely it will be found. Also, the deeper you bury it, the less likely it is to be found. So don’t get lazy and get to work.
Just because you found a great cache location doesn’t mean your task is complete. The next challenge is remembering exactly where your cache is located 10, 20 or even 30 years from now.
Don’t Forget Exactly Where You Left Your Survival Caches
Do whatever you have to do to ensure you remember where your hiding spots are. If you’re burying your cache on a remote land location be very careful if you’re solely relying on markers that can be moved or cut down.
Trees and rocks seem like good position markers but will that rock or tree still be there in a decade or two? A lot can happen in 20 years. So unless you’re 100% certain your marker will still be there 20 years from now, you might want to use a more permanent location maker.
Once you have your chosen locations, take the time to create an accurate cache map. But make sure that your map is very well hidden (preferably locked up too) and drawn in a way that only you and your family can understand.
It is important to keep others from finding your map and then using it to find your caches. But if they do find your map, make sure it doesn’t include a bright red X on a topographical map. If you do, they will quickly rush off on a treasure hunt for your survival caches. So code the map and hide it extremely well.
One idea to code your map is to keep the map and the location points on two separate sheets semi-transparent paper. Keep these two distinct sheets of paper hidden and locked in 2 separate locations.
This strategy makes the topographical map without the locations useless and the locations without the map useless.
Someone would have to 1) find and break into two separate locations AND 2) figure out these two items go together. Highly unlikely if you do this right.
Another option is to use a GPS device. You have to ensure you keep the GPS locations secret (similar to a topographical map) and also have plenty of backup batteries or a way to charge your electronic device.
Hand crank radios work well for this and allow you to charge small devices like your phone.
However, you should share your map(s) with your family. It is best that you trust your cache map to only one or two trustworthy responsible family members/friends.
Why? Because in the regrettable event that you do not make it, it would be a shame for your supplies to be wasted while your friends and family struggle. Make sure there is a way for your loved-ones to get the cache, even if you can’t do it for them.
The Importance Of Burying Treasure
People have been hiding their valuables since the beginning of time – it is a classic human survival trick. From cavemen stashing seeds to pirates burying treasure and grandparents stuffing mattresses; people tend to hide supplies that will help preserve their future (financial or otherwise).
So why wouldn’t you invest in a survival cache that does the same thing? Sure, it’s not just gold coins and jewels, but a survival cache can help extend your survival in a disaster or emergency. I would argue that kind of buried treasure is worth even more than anything monetary.
It is up to you how far you choose to take your survival cache. Maybe you go all the way and dot every i, cross every t. But you do not have to do that.
Even just preparing and stashing one single small survival cache is better than doing nothing at all.