What is caching? In short, it is taking something you value, or something you think you will need in the future, protecting it from the elements, and hiding it.
You may want to have a cache (pronounced cash, not cash-ay) filled with food and water along a route you may be traveling in the future. You may want a cache filled with money, gold and silver as your, “get out of Dodge” financial resources. You may want a general purpose cache filled with all of the above, plus guns, ammo, shelter materials and communications equipment if thing really get hinkey.
It’s up to you to decide why you’d need one or more caches. The size, location and types of materials cached would be dependent upon the level of independence you think might be at risk if your anticipated event were to come to fruition.
Building The Cache
Far and away, the easiest cache is made out of either PVC or ABS plastic pipes. Everything I’m going to talk about is going to assume you’ll make a tube-style cache that’s going to be buried underground.
They are strong, easily accessible and easy to work with. The pipe itself is not too expensive, but the attachments can get a bit pricey – things like butt caps, female caps and male screws.
Regardless of the type of cache you build, it must be strong, re-locatable, and impervious to nature – air, water, dirt, bugs. Water is your biggest worry.
Take a look at this video, then read my comments afterwards:
It appears as though this guy mixed black ABS with white PVC. I’m not a plumber, but when I’ve walked the aisles in Home Depot, I see that they have one type of glue for ABS and one type for PVC. They may mix and match, I just don’t know. For the caches I’ve constructed and buried, I’ve only used black ABS.
Also notice the treads to the screw. This is a weak place for water infiltration, especially if the tube is buried in water, or in an area that stays damp for long periods of the year. I used a very cheap wax toilet ring and very liberally coat the threads with the wax before sealing up the tube.
Your other option is to fully seal the tube – using two butt-caps instead of a butt cap on one end and a male screw cap on the other. Of course, you will have the issue of needing some way of cutting open the cache tube when you retrieve it, and the tube will be largely useless after you’ve cut it open.
Personally, I’d use black ABS before I’d use white PVC because of its better ability to stay “stealthy” if the tube is partially unearthed.
Filling The Tube
You need to determine what is going to be in your cache. Will it be a few pounds of grain? Some water and MREs? A handgun and some ammo? A rifle, ammo, and cleaning kit? This will determine the length and diameter of the tube you will be building in the previous step.
Once you know what you’re going to be caching, you will want to add precautions against natural infiltrations into your tube. Assume failure!
If you are storing grain, don’t just dump a bunch of grain in the tube and seal it up. Use some sort of plastic bag barrier – a vacuum sealed bag, Ziplock bag or the like. Perhaps even double-wrapped. If it was something a bug could eat, I’d also toss in an oxygen scrubber (or two) as well.
If you were going to cache ammo, be careful. DO NOT place a box of ammo under a full vacuum. There is a belief that the vacuum might have an adverse affect on unseating the bullet or primer. If you’re going to use a vacuum bag on ammo, pull as much air out as you can before the hard final “suck” is achieved, and start the heat seal. Double-wrap as well.
If you were going to store equipment – weapons, knives, camping equipment, survival gear – you need to consider the effects a long-term cache will have on the equipment. Is it made of wood? Wood rots. What will you do to protect it?
If the part of the equipment that is made of wood rotted (say an axe handle or rifle stock) and would make the piece of equipment useless without it, reconsider storing it. Can you obtain an axe with a fiberglass handle, or a rifle with a synthetic stock?
Is it made of metal? Many metals rust. What will you do to protect it and/or clean it after retrieval? At the very minimum, I would liberally slather the piece of metal with grease or oil and double-wrap it in plastic. I would also include some sort of a cleaning kit – a gun kit for your specific weapon, or some way of removing rust from other equipment. Spare parts and a user manual might be a good idea as well…
Regardless of what you are putting in your tube – food, water, equipment, ammo – you will need to toss in some desiccant packets to absorb as much water as possible that WILL infiltrate your tube. The number of packets will be determined by the size of your tube. See what the desiccant manufacturer recommends, and double it.
Before you seal up your tube for burying, consider how you will be burying it. Will it be in the vertical or horizontal position (more to follow on this)? If it will be a long tube (over 3 feet long) buried in the vertical position and you intend to reuse it in its current location, you will need a method of retrieving the contents.
Consider a plastic or metal disk attached to a chain at least the length of the tube (both of sufficient strength). The disk (slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the tube) is first placed in the tube and the contents filled on top of it. The end of the chain (with some sort of pulling handle attached) is then at the top of the tube and is used to pull up on the disk, bringing up the contents with it. In this way, you can access the contents and re-use the tube without having to dig up the entire cache.
Site Location and Burying
Clearly, this is the most difficult part of the equation. You need the location to be stealthy, yet easily retrievable.
You also need to think about what kind of cache it will be. Will it be a one-time access cache, or a regularly used location. Think about how some African tribes bury ostrich eggs filled with water for the dry season when they are out hunting.
Will the cache be in a location that regularly gets “treasure hunters”? It would suck badly if your cache filled with ammo, weapons or precious metals were to be found – and emptied – by some guy on a leisurely weekend jaunt.
There is also a growing “sport” called geocaching. People bury items that are intended to be found by others. Might your selected site be the “cat’s meow” for such a group? Think hard about others that might stumble onto your cache.
With that in mind, any cache that is buried in a vertical position will have a smaller “foot print” than one buried in the horizontal position. If you are caching anything with metal, seriously consider the vertical position. While it takes much more time bury, you are much less likely to have someone stumble upon your goods (remember to bury the tube screw-side up!).
Once you’ve found your perfect site, stand on it, and take a 360 degree look around. Can you be seen by anyone that might be on a trail, road, ridge or crossing? If so, pick a new spot. You must be completely stealthy when you are filling or retrieving your cache.
Regardless of how you bury your cache, you want to leave as few clues as possible that you were there. You will want to take a mental picture of the area before you start digging and return it to that state when you leave.
For instance, use a trick that people that install lawn sprinkler systems use.
If you’ve found the perfect place, but it is covered with weeds or grasses, cut out a chunk of “turf” few inches wider than your hole will be, and keep it intact. Dig it out a good 3 or 4 inches deep, and set it aside – root side down – out of the sun.
Dig your cache hole, install the cache and fill it in with as much dirt as you need. Then place the chunk of “turf” back on top. In this way, the grasses will not die off, and your cache location will remain virtually invisible. Scatter the left-over dirt naturally around the area.
Retrieving Your Cache
To be able to find your cache, you need to have bullet-proof directions. Depending upon your reasons for having a cache, you might be forced to have directions which are not perfectly understandable.
If you are caching food and water, for instance, you might be inclined to have very specific location instructions. GPS coordinates, Google maps, etc.
If you are caching things such as precious metals, ammo or weapons, you will want to be a bit more careful.
You will want to locate at least two very prominent, non-movable landmarks near the cache. A specific structural point in a nearby building (if you were caching on your own property, for instance). A rock out-cropping. A bridge.
Your directions will be very specific in relation to the landmark, but very obscured regarding what is the actual landmark.
With your back to the large granite outcropping with the “V” formation, facing in a due west direction, walk 15 feet forward. Now face due south and walk 10 feet. The cache is located under a large flat rock directly at your feet. You may also start in the dry creek under the bridge. While standing under the northern side of the bridge, directly beneath the center expansion joint, walk 40 feet in a northern direction. Face due east and walk 60 feet. The cache is located under a large flat rock directly at your feet.
Only you or your most trusted friends/family know which out-cropping or bridge are being referenced. Were these directions to fall into the wrong hands, they would be virtually useless in locating your cache.
Just be sure not to be too descriptive with your landmarks. Don’t say, “From the Highway 99 bridge over-crossing in Galt…” You might as well place a homing beacon and flashing lights on the site.
If you noticed, the directions also include a very specific on-site marker (large flat rock). Assume the out-cropping has deteriorated because of a landslide, so your distances are off by a couple of feet. You want to locate and access the cache as quickly as possible. A marker will get you right to the cache. Obviously, don’t use a marker that stands out from the surroundings. If your location has nothing but sandstone, don’t bring a chunk of black igneous rock to place at the site. That will DRAW attention to your cache.
And why two landmarks? Assume that the immovable object has been moved. Humans tend to do things like that, and it would again suck badly to not be able to locate your cache because your landmark no longer exists.
Now, go forth and cache. I strongly recommend a test run so you can judge your tube-building and retrieval directions skills. Make a cache, and fill it with loose toilet paper just to see how much dampness accumulates during a given year. Maybe throw in a couple of desiccant packs, a small amount of vacuum sealed grain, and a piece of junk steel wrapped similarly to how you will wrap your gun or axe.
See what happens. Practice before you need to do it for real…
Want More Information? See Hidden Cache Locations.