Even if it’s possible to weather an emergency or disaster at home, caching food, medical supplies and survival necessities is a sound investment that makes good sense. The whole idea of a cache is to safely store items you will need for later use. Concealment is key, if your cache is discovered it may disappear. With all the high tech ground penetrating technology available today, a remote site with difficult access, far from houses, roads and trails is the safest bet. However, if you plan to bug in, having a cache close to home is far better than nothing at all.
Use the heaviest material you can find. Place contents inside. Press out all the excess air while wrapping the bag tightly around the object. Tie the end and fold it over. Use zip ties or cord to secure the bag around the object. Place the sealed object upside down in another bag and repeat the process several times.
Advantages; this is the fastest, easiest and cheapest method. It allows rapid recovery if buried shallow or it can be stashed above ground.
Disadvantages; it is not effective at keeping oxygen, moisture, insects, burrowing rodents or animals out of your cache. It is only a short-term solution. Also, many trashcan liners contain pesticides so avoid using them for food storage.
There are many different colors and grades of buckets, drums and pipe available at http://www.usplastic.com/. Beware, they are not all created equal. You may be able to save some money buying low grade products for storing things like tools but only use food grade buckets for food items. The dies and chemicals used to produce the low-grade buckets can taint food and make it inedible.
Always include moisture-absorbing material in the bottom of the container. Silica gel desiccant inside a pair of nylon pantyhose and ultra absorbent diapers should do the trick. Removing the oxygen will increase the storage life of dried food items such as meat, flour, sugar, fruit and vegetables while inhibiting rust on metal objects. If supplies are sealed in a water and oxygen impermeable packing material like "Mylar bucket liners" or small individual Mylar bags, oxygen purging the protective containers (bucket) is unnecessary. Take care not to puncture the liners. These Mylar bags/liners can be sealed individually using a household clothing iron but the oxygen still needs to be purged before sealing and placing them in a protective container.
Prior to sealing the bucket lid, oxygen can be removed by melting dry ice in the container. Dry ice releases an inert gas called carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide will slow spoilage by preventing the growth of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. It also retards the oxidation of fats that cause rancidity. Be sure to protect your health and avoid injuries while handling this product. CAUTION: Use gloves to avoid freeze burns. Don’t taste or smell dry ice and maintain adequate ventilation. Do not transport dry ice in an enclosed vehicle.
Place a 4-ounce piece of dry ice in your storage bucket and allow it to fill with the visible gas as the ice melts. Once the bucket is filled, gently shake it to allow pockets of trapped air to escape. Loosely place the lid back on and wait about 3 hours for all the ice to melt and all the remaining oxygen to escape. Any amount of oxygen trapped in the container can cause condensation to occur. The resulting moisture will eventually settle to the bottom, so stack items accordingly. After all the oxygen has had time to escape, tightly seal the lid. A while later, check the bucket to insure it is not budging due to over pressurization. Carefully bleed off any excess pressure without allowing any oxygen to re-enter the container. Use caution, rough handling during transport could break the seal and allow the carbon dioxide to escape.
Compressed nitrogen is even more inert than carbon dioxide but it requires additional equipment, knowledge and experience to safely administer. For example, nitrogen gas can cause suffocation and mixture with liquid oxygen can pose a combustion hazard. However, there are “do it yourself” nitrogen kits available. The “kit” is really nothing more than a regulator valve, hose and a nozzle for directing the gas into a container. If this part of the process is concerning, consider paying a professional to nitrogen purge your seal-able storage bags and storage containers.
Another option is “oxygen absorber” patches that come in air proof packaging. These patches are food safe and easy to use. Air is approximately 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen. If used in sufficient quantity, these patches absorb nearly all of the oxygen through a chemical process leaving only nitrogen gas in the container. A patch will continue to absorb oxygen until it is saturated so there are some long-term benefits to using this product.
Advantages; buckets can be prepacked, oxygen purged and sealed at home. They are easy to acquire, stack and move around. Buckets hold a fairly large volume of supplies. They can be buried or submersed. They can also be resealed and reused. Once empty, they have many other beneficial uses.
Disadvantages; Plastic buckets are slightly porous and allow some oxygen to seep through the walls over time. Colored buckets and lids contain a toxic die that excludes them from being “food grade” quality. Beware; there may be a temptation to mix items that can potentially cause cross-contamination. Due to emissions, don’t mix food items with any kind of perfumed soap, glues or chemical solvents of any kind. Canned items and liquids can freeze and burst if the bucket is not buried below the frost level. If the burial site becomes saturated with water, the bucket could float to the surface and become exposed. Choose a burial site located on a slope or above any potential high water mark to avoid floating buckets.
ABS is heavier, stronger and more expensive than PVC. Both types of tubing require their own special cement. Avoid using any kind of multipurpose cement for sealing cache tubes.
First, make sure the ends are cut straight, remove any burrs and wipe the surface clean with a moist towel. Cementing the PVC dome cap and threaded cap is a 2-stage process. The primer is applied before applying the cement. To make handling easier, always apply cement to the cap first and coat the pipe end last. Immediately after applying cement to both surfaces, mate them together while turning ¼ turn and maintaining pressure into the fitting for about one minute. While still holding the parts together, wipe off any excess glue. Removing the excess glue will help speed the drying process. ABS is fitted using the same process but it doesn’t require the use of a primer. Use Teflon tape to seal the threads on the removable end cap. Optional; Fill the tube with water and let it soak over night to check for any leaks.
The threaded end caps come with a square block on top for receiving a wrench to tighten and loosen the cap. Make sure you bring a wrench for removing and replacing the cap when you return to recover your stash.
If you plan to use pipe for storing food, let the cement fully cure in a warm, well-ventilated environment for at least a couple days prior to placing any food inside. There are a wide variety of pipe sizes to choose from but the local hardware store may not stock pipe or end caps over four to six inches in diameter. Pipes over 6” in diameter can be quite expensive and they require special glues for the caps and rubber o-ring seals for the lids. If you can’t find what you need at the local hardware store check out http://www.usplastic.com/ for more options.
The tubes can be buried either vertically or horizontally, as well as being submersible under water. A post hole digger will punch an ideal hole for burying a vertical standing tube. Standing the tube on end with the threaded end cap facing up allows for easy access and resealing without fully unearthing the tube. Cover the top of the tube with a plastic bottle or sheeting to protect it from dirt and moisture.
In order to access the vertical tubes contents a recovery cord must be installed during the packing process. To install a recovery cord; attach three lengths of Para cord to a plywood doughnut. Hold the cords by the opposite end and drop the doughnut to the bottom end of the tube. Secure a handle to the top end of the cords, and then pack the tube. after unearthing the cap, everything can be quickly removed from the tube by pulling on the handle located just under the lid.
Good quality ice chests can be sealed using RTV silicone around the lid and drain petcock before strapping them shut. However, the seal is not guaranteed and condensation remains an issue if oxygen is not fully purged.
A lined steel drum will hold a lot of stuff (for a while) but they are prone to condensation because of the volume of air inside and they will eventually rust out. However, barrels are a good place to store things like vacuum packed clothes, bedding, towels, toilet paper, tents, and other bulky items. Vacuum packing bulky items like cloths or bedding will reduce the consumption of space and protect the items from mold and mildew. In a pinch, garbage bags will offer some level of protection if carefully sealed. A plastic drum with a removable lid and rubber seal will outlive the steel drum while sharing its other advantages. Large steel or plastic drums can be loaded on site for easier transport. This is where the nitrogen kit could really come in handy if food or other valuables are to be stored in large containers.
Clean paint buckets are cheap but they are not suitable for food storage. Ammo cans seal tightly and are corrosion resistant. When placed inside a garbage sack they will provide moderate protection for extended periods of time. Mason jars are a time-tested option having proven their long-term ability to store food and other items safely. However, in a high moisture environment like burial the metal lids will eventually rust if not adequately protected. Dipping the sealed tops in hot wax will prevent moisture from corroding the metal lids.
A well-constructed and concealed underground cellar excavated in a steep hillside may be preferred to direct burial. The roof and walls will need to be supported, preferably with pressure treated timbers to prevent cave-ins. If freezing is a concern, the roof and entry should be buried under 2-3 feet of ground cover to insure that the contents won’t freeze during the winter months. Sawdust also makes excellent insulation and will even withstand a certain amount of moisture without failure. Slope the floor to a French drain leading outside to control potential flooding during heavy rains or spring runoff. Burying perforated pipe in sand or gravel and then covering it with topsoil will allow any seeping water to leach out slowly underground while concealing the drains presence.
GENERAL CACHING TIPS: Leave no trace. Make sure and restore the burial site to its original state or better. Take a tarp along; place the spoils on the tarp during the digging process. This will keep the site much cleaner and minimize any evidence of disturbance. Make sure your buckets sit level on the ground and cover the tops with stones, boards or limbs to prevent them from being punctured or damaged when unearthing them later. Haul the excess dirt far away from the cache site and scatter it wide. Once you’re finished with the burial process, scatter forest litter over the site to further conceal the disturbance. If possible, don’t put all your supplies in one place. And, don’t bury your cache too near a future campsite.
Items like electronics that are extremely vulnerable to moisture can be wrapped in cellophane and waxed paper before dipping them in hot paraffin wax for added protection. Be sure the temperature of the hot wax won't damage the item. Pack storage containers tightly and fill any voids so they don’t rattle or shift during transportation. Delicate items should be padded with bubble wrap or possibly even diapers if rust or corrosion isn't a concern. If your cache becomes inaccessible due to surface freeze, clear any snow from the site and then build a small fire over the location to slowly thaw the ground.
Submersing your cache requires the same precautions as burial but waterproofing becomes absolutely critical. Seal-able pipes with 2 solid end caps may be the best option for this application. Submersion is really best suited for heavy items. If the tube is filled with something heavy (like lead) it will remain submerged on its own. However, if the tube has a lot of air space or light packing it will need to be securely anchored in place to avoid floating to the surface or drifting down stream when a current is present.
If the water ever becomes clear, the color of the container becomes a major consideration or the stash may attract unwanted attention. A big white tube or bucket will be easy to see unless painted or carefully camouflaged. Some additional considerations are; changes in water depth, speed of the current and potential ice cover. Will you need to swim or dive in order to place the cache and what challenges might this option pose in the future? Attaching a recovery line may be convenient but changes in water conditions could expose the line placing the cache in danger of accidental discovery.
What you need to cache depends on countless variables. Every situation will be different. Some considerations include; the length of stay, the number of people involved, their health, their ages, their sex, and their ability to use tools or help with chores. Also, will you be able to receive additional supplies from outside sources, how far will the supplies need to be carried, how many people can pack the supplies, how much does the load weigh, what natural resources are abundant and which ones are scarce, what is your ability to do without certain comforts and most importantly, what can you afford? The list of variables is seemingly endless. The point is, it would be of no value to state, “you will need five pounds of beans” if there are twenty people in camp that all love or hate beans and the length of stay ranges from 1 day to 6 months.
Up until the last 100 years man knew how to live in this world without being dependent on banks, malls and supermarkets. However, even the early explorers took supplies when heading into remote regions of the mountains. Every choice concerning what to bring is a compromise. Unless you can make multiple trips over time, pack in with stock, fly into a remote airstrip or take a raft or boat you will only be able to carry so much stuff and will need to prioritize your list accordingly. Bring quality tools, try not to double up on items and choose the most versatile options.
A good variety of food is very important. Cache enough storable foods and snacks to meet most of your expected needs. In bad times, don’t count on hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering as your only food source. If food becomes scarce or so expensive that few can afford to buy it from commercial vendors, everyday could look like opening day of hunting season. An excellent source for obtaining high quality, fresh, non-GMO freeze-dried storable foods is efoodsdirect.com. Bear in mind that any major change in diet or increase in stress can cause digestive problems so be sure to include some familiar meals for making the initial adjustment.
You could stash more or less stuff but covering the following basics should make life pretty easy for quite a while. The main idea is to have your cache ready in case the need arises.
NOTE: Don’t forget the pet’s needs.
NOTE: If you’re in a remote area cell service is unlikely. However, it may be possible to receive a signal from a high peak or by moving closer to a known tower or service area without traveling all the way into a town or city. By now everyone knows, that anytime a cell phone is receiving a signal it can also be tracked and traced.
Finding a cache is a two-stage process; first you must find the site and then you must find the buried cache without too much difficulty. A cache may hold thousands of dollars worth of life saving provisions. A fail safe plan for recovery will employ triple redundant safety measures; 1) know the location 2) map the location 3) discreetly mark the location.
To find the relative location of the site, use permanent landmarks that will be easily recognizable year around. Areas look different during different times of the year making an otherwise familiar place difficult to recognize. Flash floods can alter the terrain. Forest fires, logging operations or windstorms can erase small-unfixed points of reference.
Even if you were intimately familiar with the cache location, it would be wise to determine the exact Latitude and Longitude of the Point using a Global Positioning System (GPS) and back up the data with a written record. These fixed points of reference can be accurately plotted on a map using a map ruler even if satellite services are interrupted. Google Map also has a Position Finder Gadget that can be installed on your computer. This “Gadget” will find any coordinates on a printable map without you having to do any math. Although, using the program has its privacy concerns.
The GPS can also determine the distance from a known starting point to the destination. Make a note of this information as well. Never rely on a GPS as your sole means of navigation for returning to the site, or anywhere else for that matter. The device may work fine today but there is no guarantee it will work tomorrow.
Space orbiting satellites may be disabled from a catastrophic event or the data’s precision may be intentionally diluted to prevent hostile forces from using it as a missile guidance system. The U.S. military uses the Precision Positioning Service while civilians access the Standard Positioning Service. Each service has separate controls. A civilian, hand-held GPS is not accurate enough to pinpoint tubes or buckets buried in the ground. It will only mark the location of the site.
Don’t rely on your memory. Draft your own treasure map and make consistent notes of GPS coordinates, compass headings, travel times, distances (miles, feet and paces) and notable features leading to a large, easily identifiable landmark. Take the GPS coordinates at the center of the large landmark, chisel an “A” or your initials in a permanent feature and record a detailed description of the location.
Next, choose a pair of smaller landmarks closer to the actual destination. Take the compass headings from the A, point and count the number of paces leading to the smaller points of reference. Chisel a “B” and a “C” in the secondary landmarks and record both distances and compass headings. Repeat this process from the B and the C points of reference to the final destination, take the GPS coordinates and record all relevant data. This will provide you or even an unfamiliar member of the group with enough details to accurately triangulate the relative location of the site with or without the added benefit of a GPS.
TIP: Time, speed, distance, maps, distinct permanent landmarks and compass headings are the only surefire means of navigating your way back to the cache location.
Finding the relative location is one thing but finding the precise location to dig is yet another challenge, especially where multiple containers are scattered about the area. If the site is well disguised, over time, finding the exact place to dig could prove more difficult than ever imagined. Taking pictures of the site layout could save a lot of unnecessary digging later on but exact orientation of the photo is still a concern.
At this juncture the site needs to be accurately surveyed. Two additional points of reference and an accurate measuring device are needed. Natural markers could be used, but for the sake of discussion we will use two twelve-inch pieces of steel rebar driven nearly flush into the ground beside natural stake markers. These markers should be within fifty feet of the burial site and twenty feet or more apart for good triangulation.
The holes for the containers can now be excavated and the containers placed in the holes. Before covering the containers take two additional measurements for every container. Take one measurement from each of the two steel pins to the center of every container. Record the measurements. Place a protective layer of small stones or wood over the containers to prevent damage during recovery. Fill in the holes, restore the site and the job is complete. By finding the point where these last two measurements intersect each other you can precisely relocate the exact center of every container.
By now, you should have a complete inventory including the type and number of containers, every item they hold and the date of placement. Make a backup copy and store the maps, records and inventory sheets in a safe and secure place.
NOTE: When returning to the site for recoveries don’t forget to bring your site map, records, GPS, compass, measuring device, ground probe, shovel and a pack for transporting the cache.