The Art and Science of Caching

I used the terms art and science because a cache is often misunderstood and often as not, mispronounced. The word cache comes from French and is pronounced “kash” or “cash” just like the word for the Federal Reserve Notes in your wallet. Literally, a cache is something of value hidden for later use or retrieval. In the world of the survivor or prepper it has a deeper meaning. Sorry about the pun.

It was obvious when I purchased my refuge in New Mexico that I would be gone from my refuge for extended periods of time. So to offset the distance disadvantage I devised a series of caches that would make it easier for my family and myself to return to our refuge in time of trouble. My first challenge was to decide what I needed to cache and how, how much and later, where? 

Let’s start with where.

Just like the three rules of real estate so it is with a cache, location, location and location. In 1968 I became an avid metal detector enthusiast and remain one today. Over the years I have located my share of caches. So when it comes to hiding things I have learned to improvise, like the old timers did. Some of the locations I will give you may sound unconventional at first but, I will give my reasoning on each one. But first let’s tackle the overall strategy of where.

When I first purchased my refuge I determined that I needed at least three routes to get to my refuge. The primary route was using the fastest means of transportation available, automobile, i.e. truck or car, on the shortest route through the fewest large towns or cities. I did a fuel analysis and realized that if I carried 30 extra gallons of fuel so I did not need to cache fuel.

Now, if the situation arose that, for whatever reason you can imagine and some you can’t, and I was unable to use a vehicle, I would need to cache critical supplies (more on this later) somewhere along the way. I calculated that, all things being equal, I could cover 30 miles per day and live out of my bug out bag for up to 5 days. This gave me a maximum range of 150 miles between caches. Using this information, I needed between 5 and 6 caches along my various routes. I went with 6.

Old, abandoned railroad bridges along aboandoned rail lines make a great Get Out Of Dodge "highway".

So, my first route of choice was to use the prevailing east-west railroad network that traveled to within 60 (highway) miles of my refuge. I broke this down knowing full well that the last 60 miles of my trip would be the toughest, uphill over broken terrain.  (I know some of you are going to ask so, “Yes, Virginia, I did hike the entire route”.) So I began making caches at the points that I needed them. I ended up needing 7 rather than 6 when I was finally done.

My sites where easily recognizable landmarks and my cache was usually dug, most often with a posthole digger. In case you are wondering, my caching run was separate from my hiking run to determine the necessary locations. I marked these on my hike with red/white/blue surveyors flagging on my hike. After the cache was buried the flagging was removed and the location was marked on a map with the necessary landmarks written in code.

I know, I know, sounds a bit extreme. Right? Well, surviving is a bit extreme when the SHTF. If you do not have the gumption to do this much you won’t have enough gumption to survive. There, I said it. A lot of folks say “put up or shut up.” So, I put it up.

The next of the location is, where do you hide something near your refuge? That is easier in some respects, you don’t have to hike 850 miles, but it also has the burden of being easy to find, easy to defend and easily concealable.

Any prominent landmark on your property is prominent for everyone. Choose something you like but less prominent. When I began metal detecting I heard about posthole banks. These were hiding places that farmers and ranchers used to hide their valuables. It was usually a special fence post that was easy for them to recognize. The hole for the fence post was dug deeper to allow room for the cache, then covered with dirt for several inches and then have a fully functional fencepost placed in the hole.  This is still a good strategy and, I would suggest that the fence post be located within sight of the refuge’s main house or LP/OP.

The next best place to hide a cache was within the area encompassed by the chicken coop or chicken yard. Chickens will squawk and raise 9 kinds of hell when they are bothered, especially at night, when most thefts occur.

Now, let’s differentiate between a cache and a bank.A cache is usually a one time needed depository of critical or necessary supplies. A bank is usually a depository of valuables in the form of gold, silver, or

Do you really want to tell him he has to move?

currency. A bank may have to be accessed repeatedly. For the bank, look for such things as a garden, flower or vegetable. There is always some form of cultivation going on in a garden and it is easy to hide the disturbing of the soil by simply hoeing or tilling around the affected area. Also, areas where animals wallow, scratch or dig, i.e. a hog wallow, stinks but works, chicken runs, doesn’t smell much better but usually drier than a wallow and also a favorite place that your dog has hollowed out under a tree during the summertime. Do you really want to mess with a pissed off German Shephard or Rottweiler whose sleep has been disturbed to look for a bank?

Now are you beginning to see the logic used in locating a cache?If you use the railroad track scenario, follow a pattern. If you are following an east/west track, hide your caches on the north or south side of the track,

A lonely stretch of road and a RR crossing makes a great landmark.

whichever you prefer. Use bridges, crossing guards, sideswitches or whatever you choose as your landmark but be consistent. Always use the same number of crossties from the landmark as your reference point. Hypothetically, let’s say you use railroad bridges and you choose to use the west side of the creek, stream or river as your reference point. Then count out 10, 20, 46 or whatever number of ties from the end of the bridge to the tie marking your cache. Always use the same side of the track so in a hurry you won’t have to remember is this the second or third or fourth. Most often you will be in a hurry and working at night to avoid detection. Got it? Why do it this way? When the railroad replaces worn, decayed or missing ties they usually go back into the same place as the one they are replacing, so your landmark should be very, very close.

An alternate method is to use rest stops along highways but I would suggest that you avoid ALL highways in a SHTF emergency. Highways and roads are a great place to get ambushed, killed, looted, raped or whatever. Use smaller roads, trails, railroad tracks or just trails that you have already “blazed” prior to the emergency happening.

In the old days, there was a term called trailblazing. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were a trailblazers. What these people would do would be to follow game trails or rivers, streams or natural features such as valleys to discover new land. The most common way of marking the trail was to cut or “blaze” the side of a tree with three notches. When the first people traveling across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi came to the huge trail cut by the gigantic herds of buffalo, they followed this trail and blazed the trail with three notches. It became known in English as the Natchez Trace, or Tres Notches, or three notches. Some of these old frontier roads were simply called The Three Notch Road in English. This method is time tested and proven. Take heed.

What is needed in a cache?

Now that you know where let’s take a look at what you need to cache. Eache cache should consist of those supplies that you have already PREDETERMINED that you will need along the way. How do you know what is predetermined? Good question.

In the SHTF scenario, where you are now separated from your refuge by X miles, what will you need? You will need water, food, shelter and defense items. I am presuming that you just happened to be traveling in a rental car and forgot to transfer your bug out bag, B.O.B., or as we called in in Vietnam our G.F.O.O.D. (Get the F*&^ Out Of Dodge) pack, to your rental car. At all other times I know you will have you B.O.B. with you, right? RIGHT?!

Now, you have just made it to you first cache site in your rental car. You need a supply of water, at least 3 liters a day, food (about 2500-3000 calories a day due to stress) and a rifle, handgun AND shotgun, plus ammunition. Did you catch that? You should have one of each, a rifle, a pistol and a shotgun.

This is your primary cache burying tool. Buy a pair of leather gloves to go with it.

OH MY GOD! How can I afford that? You can purchase a Moisin-Nagant rifle in 7.62x54R for about $90.00. You can also purchase a Nagant revolver for about $100.00 and a very inexpensive shotgun for about $150.00. Plus, you should have at least 100 rounds of rifle ammunition, 100 rounds of pistol ammunition and 25 to 50 rounds of shotgun ammunition. I recommend at this point that you have MRE’s AND some Survival Tabs ( (With this cache you should be able to get to your next cache. Also, I would stock water purification tablets, a water filter or iodine. Also, stock a “metal-match” and trioxane fuel tabs as well.

Your next cache should consist of food and water plus 20 rounds of rifle ammunition, 50 rounds of pistol ammunition and 25 rounds of shotgun ammunition. It should continue this way all the way to your refuge.

Once again we are talking about a survival situation, there is no room for anything that is not absolutely necessary. Again, let me stress that at this time you do not want to be wearing cologne, perfume, aftershave or any fragrance of any kind. When the SHTF, anything that doesn’t smell like the “S” in SHTF, you know what, will stick out like a sore thumb. No fragrances, period!!

That brings us to the how.

There are several methods for storing necessities such as food water, weapons, ammunition and everything else and insuring they will keep for years.

The first method is to use a thing called a sonobuoy transport tube. This tubes are made out of tough polypropylene and can hold a lot of your basic needs. Use the photo to get an idea of what can be fit into the tubes.  The interior dimensions are 38.5″x6.5″. This will hold weapons, broken down, ammunition, survival tabs/MRE’s, and the most important thing to have in any survival situation, a roll of toilet paper. I suggest you place one or two in each cache.

This is the small size.

The next technique is to use monotubes. They usually come in two different sizes. If you shop around you may be able to save money but they can range from $75.00 to $150.00 ea. depending on size. the smaller of the two sizes. The smaller size is 28.5×8.75 interior dimension and the larger size is 10.75×45 interior dimension. They are tough and can accomodate some of the things seen in the photos.

All three of these can be purchsed from . You may have to check several times because they sell out quickly. Also try  as they have comparable items on their site from time to time. You might want to check out the steel tubes used to hold the 155mm projectiles for the M1 tank. These tubes are very good steel and have a rubber seal to prevent moisture infiltration. 

The next best method is to use 5 or 6 gallan “plastic” buckets that can be had for free from McDonald’s, Burger King or whatever. The pickle slices usually come in them. Some stores charge a dollar or two or you can buy them brand new at Lowe’s or Home Depot for about 6 bucks. You can use the regular lids or for about 7 or 8 bucks buy the GAMMA lids that allow you to screw them on and off for easy access. This can be purchased at numerous sites and also at Cheaper Than Dirt. 

The next method is to use ammo cans of various sizes. Anywhere from 5.56 NATO to as large as the 20MM rocket boxes which will almost hold your mother-in-laws body. (Just an expression.) Just make sure of one thing when burying buckets and ammo cans, make sure the top is upward. I have seen well meaning people bury these things with the top down and invariably water will bet inside of the buckets and the cans. It would not hurt to wrap them in a very thick trash bag before burying.

You can also purchase 6″ or 8″ PVC pipe and get a cap for one end and a screw top for the other. You can cut them in any length that you would like. Once again, make sure the screw top is up.

Now, before you drop your favorite SKS, AR-15, Moisin Nagant or any othe firearm into a burial vault please use at least one of the following protection aids. First, is the Protect “No Rust” bags. If you store a firearm for an extended period i recommend one of these. The United States Government has started using these bags instead of Cosmolene for keep guns rust free. Second, spray the weapon thoroughly with silicone spray and add dessicant packs to the tube before sealing shut. 

I wrap everything I put into the ground into two separate trash bags, One with the neck down inside the outer one with the neck up, tightly sealed. This will give you multiple layers of protection.

This is the large size.Most people don't have an M-60 or SAW to stick into a storage tube but this gives you some idea of what will fit into them in a cache situation. Remember the toilet paper.

Now here is a tip from my wife, who really believes in these valuable assets. Two-liter and 3-liter soda bottles are indespensible for storing small grains and bean, distilled water and also for ammuntion. You simply drop one or two bullets at a time, or in the case of .22 Long Rifle, a brick at a time, through the neck of the bottle until it reaches the desired level, spray with a silicone spray or add a dessicant package and you have a small ammo dump that will fit nicely into a post hole.

Now, in review, use the buckets or cans to hold your secondary needs, such as food, ammunition, matches, first aid gear, extra changes of socks, underwear and for women who are still menstruating, tampons. Remember to include some Kotex or Maxi-pads since these can be used in an emergency to plug a puncture wound or gunshot wound. Also, it would not hurt to include at least a thirty day supply of B-complex multiple vitamins. B vitamins are quickly depleted in a stressful situation and when the SHTF you will be under stress. If you have the funds available I would invest in a Katadyn filter called the Vario Microfilter. They run about $80.00 and will easily fit into an ammo can, 5-gallon bucket or a storage tube. Just for good measure throw in an extra Swiss Army knife, not a cheap look alike but the real thing.

It may be a long hike from where you are stranded to your refuge, but if you use some of the strategies outlined in this article you can and will make it there in one piece.

Stay prepared, stay vigilant and get packing.

17 thoughts on “The Art and Science of Caching

  1. I have been thinking of this topic. Discussed it with my husband and he was not open to the idea. Now the bury the bank part he gets. I found the info on how to mark and remember a spot the most helpful.

    I buried a piggy bank many many years ago, and had a hard time retrieving it (two of my three land marks were removed – a church across the lot was torn down and a tractor came to remove all the pieces. The goat fence that I was also working with was broken down and removed for repair. All I had standing was a garage – thankfully.

    I will order rust preventative/water safe bags for the firearms asap. I have two already from Cheaper than dirt.

    Thank you for all the detail. BTW, the cheap lids for the 5&6 gal buckets from Home Depot etc are very weak. Spend a couple extra dollars and get the gamma seal.

  2. You’re article just made me realize that I have an Amtrak station right across the river from where I’m staying. I looked up the tracks on a maps program and they go to within 50 miles of my bolt hole. I cannot believe that I did not think of this before. It looks like I’ll be going on a hike soon. Thanks for all the great advice! Coach David (

  3. David,
    When I was just a kid of 19 the government paid a wonderful man to teach us corn shucking country boys how to defend ourselves. His name was Ban Soo Han. We stayed in S.E. Asia and I even reenlisted to go back and look for POW’s and MIA’s before Congress decided there were none. I saw Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iran, Lebanon, and Uganda fall. Agent Orange has eat up my heart and some other organs in my body. I pledge this to my family, I may be too old to do anything, but by God and the Republic, I can pull a trigger.

    God bless you and yours. God bless the Republic. We shall overcome.

      • Yes, but he called it combat akido. He taught us that there was no punch or kick that was finished. Everything was a series of actions in response to a series reactions. This is the opposite that most people are taught or understand. He was an humble man who saw himself only as a teacher. I think when I met him he was a 6th or 7th degree black belt in hapkido. He was also the first person that I ever had to “adjust” my back. I was involved in a bad accident that left me stooped over. He “adjusted” my back. I thought he broke it by the sound of it. In the orient, black belts over the third degree are licensed health practitioners. I tried to learn as much as I could in the short time that I knew him. When you are young, you don’t often realize the privilege you have been given.

  4. Do you have any plans on writing a book on economic collapse? Preferably fiction such as Lights Out, Survivors, One Second After type but economic collapse based? I’m running out of these types of books to read on my kindle. Even a non-fiction book would be great outlining your experience in the other countries you just mentioned. I bet your memoir would be incredible to read. Let me know, I’ll definitely buy one. Coach David

  5. I second Coach David on the book writing. You are pretty talented in that area CC.

    Coach David. Have you read the book “Holding your Own.”- By Joe Nobody

    My wife got me that for CHRISTmas and I havent had time to read it yet. Just a thought.

    • @Hognutz and COach David
      I have given some thought to writing a novel in a post collapse world. All my books have survival tips in them but are not survival books. We (my wife and I) are debating whether or not I should republish some of my books prior to releasing new ones this year or not. It takes a lot of time to market books. It also takes a lot of time to write them, usually. Absidaar only took 12 days but that was different. So, to answer your question, Yes it is a definite maybe.

    • Yes, I read that last month. I liked it. Another good one that has a great description of the first 24-48 hours of a bank run, that got me a little worried that I might not have enough time to get to my bolt hole as I thought, is the book Shut Down by W.R. Flynn available through Amazon. I really liked how the author described the sequence of events that could happen, even faster than I have imagined, after a bank run. I’m sure CC has seen a few of these in his travels. I get most of my books through amazon and to my kindle. I also tend to read a lot on EMP “apocalypse” books, just to see how they cope without electricity. I feel that the grid is going down, due to a currency collapse (who is going to fix the grid when no one is getting paid?), so I am trying to study on what I will need for a grid down scenario. Coach David (

  6. I appreciate the effort you put into articulating your thoughts on this subject. I don’t know if people realize it or not, but having simply spent time thinking about these things prepares you mind to survive. This can be half the battle.

    There is no perfect list of cache items (even though many people claim to have THE LIST).
    I would suggest actually trying you minimal list of goodies on a few camping excursions and fine tune your needs.

    P.S. I’m currently taking all offers for free or cheap bicycles at garage sales. I lock them up along the route. I don’t count on them, but if I find one in tact, then life just got a bit easier.

    • Hi Eastex,

      That is a good idea. I have several bicycles here with me and at my retreat as well. I do nothave horses here but will probably have them by February. If the system is still intact by summer i may wait until then but the closer we get to the election the crazier I feel that it could become. I also have dirt bikes, scooters and other G.O.O.D. goodies as backups to backups.

      About the cache list, I thoroughly agree with you. No one has all the answers. What i find indespensible you might find to be a waste of time. I have lived out of a backpack for up to a year at a time. I hiked along my route and into the Rocky Mountains of NM, Colo., Utah, Nevada (Sierra Nevada) into Cal., Ore. and Wash. State 50 miles short of Canada. I hit Wolf Pass just as a blizzard hit and after the weather settled got my butt to lower altitude really quick. I hae never considered myself hardcore but some people do. I just love the mountains and the outdoors. I guess I am aboutbackpacking like Forest Gump was about running.

      Good luck in all that you do and may the Good Lord watch over you and yours in 2012.

  7. What can a single mom with practically no resources do? I have been watching some survivalist websites like The Survivor Mom. I have a survival manual and have started collecting supplies. It’s me and my 15 year old son, what I have of my manual and supplies and that’s it. I haven’t read any books. I don’t own any of the books or a Kindle to get them that way. I don’t know anyone in my life that even thinks about this stuff like this. When I have brought it up they think I’m crazy, I think. We have no weapons or weapons training. I have physical limitations. We are both very smart though 🙂 We live a faith based life in obedience to God. We love the Constitution and it’s original intent. I need to know what I can do to help us when SHTF. I will follow this website from now on. This article is great. I never thought about ANY of this.

    • Sounds to me you are already doing what you need to. Just keep prepping the best way you can and you will be fine. Don’t forget to get at least 1 good survival army manual or even the good old boy scout manual. Computers most likely will be down when SHTF.

  8. If you have a computer you can get an app to let you read Kindle books on it. You can also get apps to let you read them on most smart phones if you have one of those. I wouldn’t sweat the lack of books too much as there is a true wealth of free information on the web.

    As far as weapons training, see if you can find an Appleseed Project weekend shoot in your area. They will teach both you and your son basic rifle marksmanship as well as some neat bits of history for just a few bucks ($10 women & 5$ for kids under 21). If you contact them ahead of time you should be able to find someone(s) who can bring an extra 22 rifle for each of you. This way all you’re likely to NEED to bring is a brick of 22 ammo each ($20 or less each I’d think) but they do have a list of recommended items. Eye protection and a pad of some sort (I use a chunk of carpet) is probably the minim I’d recommend. This won’t be “high speed” close combat training but it will teach you how to make hits with a rifle.

    Overall you’ll need to prioritize your purchases. Yes, security is important but so it eating every day. Even if all you can come up with is a used 22 rifle it’s something to start with and remember that only hits count. If the world does go down the toilet you’ll at least have something.


  9. A.P. Don’t despair…half the battle is being AWARE and believing God’s promise of protection. I started my preparations with limited financial resources and managed to get a sizeable amount accomplished before my income improved. Make a list of your priorities and start at the top. My first was to store food for my family. Dried beans are a bargain and very high in protein. Peanut butter was a good buy at the time, and considering it’s nutritional value, it is still a bargain. Rice is a staple of about a billion people and they manage to thrive on it, and it is not expensive nor difficult to store. Go to the library and check out a book on preserving food that includes dehydrating. Buy fresh veggies during their peak when they are plentiful and cheaper and either dehydrate or can them. I bought about 8 cases of canning jars at yard sales and flea markets and didn’t pay more than twenty dollars for all of them (make sure not to buy cracked or chipped jars). My first dehydrator came from a yard sale as well for $5.00. It’s a start….and you will find it an adventure as well! I would be happy to help you get organized and offer my experiences (including my mistakes and what not to do!) Our Friend, CC, has my email address and he has permission to share it with you. Get Busy!

  10. Pingback: The Art and Science of Caching by Codgerville : Radio Free Redoubt

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s