Hidden Caches

Like buried treasure, these caches are usually protected from discovery by burial, creating secret compartments in walls and floors, etc. To preserve the secrecy, you shouldn’t visit these caches often, no more than once every few years, so there is little or no opportunity for adding or removing items. This means items stored in hidden cache must be suitable for long-term storage, possibly 10 or more years.

If you choose to hide thing in buildings, consider building false walls, putting thingss above a drop ceiling, installing safes, and building hidden compartments under stairs, at the back of closets and in furniture.  This is easiest to do during construction or renovations.  Remember, anyone seriously searching for your good will probably find them, so do not keep illegal items in on-site caches.

One of the key benefits of a hidden cache is that you can store items that may be — or may become — illegal to own. You may not wish to give up the fully automatic weapon you inherited from your grandfather who brought it home from WWII.  Maybe you think that your high-capacity assault rifle will become illegal due to future legislation and you no longer want it in your home. (While Captain Dave does not advocate the breaking of laws, he is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and an individual’s right to own a gun, even one with a magazine capacity that exceeds most gun control advocate’s IQ. )  Burying the gun in a hidden cache will preserve it and protect you from being arrested for a firearms violation,

Coincidentally, guns and ammunition are one of the most popular items to be stored in a hidden cache. And why not, when imported SKS rifles can still be had for less than $250?  Or a Russian Mosin Nagant bolt action rifle for less than $100.  You could buy and bury 4 or 5 SKS rifles or stash 12 Mosin Nagants for the price of a single M4 or similar assault rifle, giving you more of that valuable redundancy survivalists should strive for.  When specially prepared for long term storage (traditionally packed in cosmoline or grease but now often vacuum sealed) guns can and have been successfully stored for decades. Ammo should be packed in sealed surplus military ammo boxes or sealed in tins. A dab a sealant around the primer is a good idea for those who reload. You can further increase the seal of steel ammo cans by lubricating the rubber seal before you close them and spray painting the sealed can with primer and or paint. Different colors of paint  can serve to identify the contents: food, ammo and first aid supplies so when you dig them up, you can grab what you really need.

Captain Dave never caches a single can filled with one type of ammunition.  He is likely to have a .50 caliber can with 400 rounds of .223 ammunition on stripper clips, two M16/AR-15/M4 magazines, 25 12-gauge shotgun shells, several hundred .308 rounds, 100 .40 caliber bullets and a Glock magazine, and as many .22 caliber bullets as will fit.  This way, whatever gun he is carrying or using at the time, each hidden can will have ammo for it and possibly a magazine.  In fact, with the price of most firearms magazines under $20, it makes sense to store a couple spare mags with each can of ammo, because the ammo is next to useless without an appropriate magazine.

Other items appropriate for long-term storage caching include gold and silver. It is commonly held that paper money will have little or no value after a cataclysmic disaster (plague, revolution, nuclear event, etc.) but that silver and gold will always have some value. Other items with a possible barter value, such as knives or hand tools, may also be stored. Again, take care to prevent rust and corrosion.

Evaluate your personal needs, cache location and long term survival plan to determine what you need to store. Perhaps a good knife, hatchet, frying pan and tin cup are your choices. Maybe a box of fish hooks, lead sinkers and line is on your list. Use the information presented in this guide to develop your list, but keep in mind that not everything is suitable for long-term storage. Choose durable items that will not rot, decay, or disintegrate over time.

One item you may need when you open your cache is food.  Yet food is not the best item to store in a cache that may not be accessed for five or 10 years because it can deteriorate.  Certainly most ready-to-eat items, such as Power Bars, will suffer or deteriorate if buried for a decade.  Captain Dave advocates storing dried food such as rice, beans and pasta because these will have the longest storage time.  Maybe a powdered soup mix.  Remember, for a buried cache, long shelf life is critical so these items should be package in a way that will enhance their shelf life (such as vacuum packed) and help keep it separate from other contents (you don’t want your gun oil to mix with your food products, for example).  If you can find freeze dried food with a 30-year shelf life, these are probably a good bet, especially if packed in cans

Creating Your Cache

The ideal hidden cache is one that is buried so far off the beaten path that no one is likely to stumble upon it, yet is in a location you can remember and find in the future. There are a number of items sold today specifically for burial. These include sonar buoy tubes and PVC pipes six or more inches in diameter. The tubular design is intended to be buried in a vertical position, to minimize the signature should someone with a metal detector try to locate it, but manually digging a hole two feet in diameter and eight feet deep is easier said than done. For this reason, they are often buried horizontally in a trench.  Large caches can also be made from 15, 30 or even 55-gallon drums.

There’s nothing wrong with a cube or rectangular box built out of 2x4s and treated plywood. Of course, the box must be strong enough to keep the walls from collapsing, as well as supporting the weight of at least 18 inches of dirt on top. Because a plywood box — even one lined with plastic — will not prevent moisture from penetrating, your items must be packaged to withstand water.  And even exterior grade plywood will not resist rot and deterioration forever.

For long term secret storage, caches should be buried in secluded areas, on ground high enough to avoid flooding, in open areas where tree roots won’t be an immediate problem. If you are using tubes or caches with limited capacity and need multiple caches to accommodate all your goods, bury them in a geometrical pattern. If your caches are buried in a line, 50 feet apart, or a square, finding one cache will allow you to more easily locate the others.

Once you have built your box or purchased your tube, assembled and packed your items for long-term storage, you will need to transport everything to the cache location. While you may be able to make most of the trip by car, you might have to trek everything to the site on foot, perhaps under the guise of a backpacking trip.  This is especially the case if you are caching your material on public land.  While many would recommend digging your cache in the middle of night, if you pick a secluded enough site, this may not be necessary. Clever camouflage or misdirection can be used to allow you to bury your material without attracting undue attention. Existing caves, abandoned buildings (think log cabins that are collapsing in disrepair) also make good cache locations but will also attract attention should anyone else stumble upon the cave or cabin.

Of course, if you have your own retreat, the entire process becomes much simpler. If you are choosing to bury your goods near your retreat, pick an area where there are metal scraps or junk around that would hide your stash from a metal detector or an area scan. The authorities also have radar and sonar that can identify buried items. If you are building an outbuilding, hide your cache at the same time, perhaps under the floor or buried next to the foundation.  (Just remember where.) If you are burying a fuel tank or installing a septic system — good excuses to have earth moving equipment and to be digging holes — why not make a cache at the same time?  You can also bury items under the old clunker you’ve been meaning to restore or under the woodpile.  This makes them easier for you to find, but harder for others.  Be creative!

Finding Your Cache

There’s nothing worse than realizing you can’t remember the exact location of your cache, filled with more than $1,500 worth of supplies.

To prevent your cache from becoming a brain twister for future archaeologists, you must not only pick your spots very carefully, but draw or mark a map of the location. Note the GPS coordinates and take sightings to prominent landmarks.  While you should obviously memorize the location, storing partial directions in your home survival stash is not a bad idea. Unless you are hiding contraband, a complete map should be stored in your safe deposit box. This will allow your family or loved ones to benefit from your advanced planning (or at least recover your goods) should you meet an untimely demise.

While Captain Dave recommends marking a tree or bolder in the areas, painted blazes on trees are likely to attract unwanted attention, and can fade over the years. Carving a set of fictitious initials on a tree, however, will help you confirm you are in the correct location without giving away the store.

To test your ability to find your cache, return to the site two years after burying it and try to locate your loot. You don’t need to dig it up, just dig enough to confirm you are in the correct spot.