Author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival and the online course SHTF Survival Boot Camp
I have used survival caches as part of my prepping for a long time. This is because my experience that says no matter how well you are prepared, one day you may find yourself out with only what you have on you, so any help that you can get in that moment will be important
Why should you have survival caches?
There is a big talk behind having your important stuff hidden somewhere in case that you might need it, but let’s try to simplify it.
A really big SHTF event will usually come as a surprise for us, no matter how much we like to think that we will recognize the moment. In a situation that comes suddenly, you will make mistakes for sure.
You will not operate 100% in accordance with your survival plan – no one does. So even if today you think that you covered everything in great detail you will (because of many reasons) most likely fail in some field.
In a situation like that, some equipment hidden in a couple of places can give you a lot of help.
Actually, it can save your life.
No matter how hardened you think that your home is, your stuff inside your home can change in a matter of days, or sometimes in a matter of minutes actually.
You can be in one moment the best prepper on your street, with everything that your family needs to survive, and next day you can be evicted with only the things that you can carry in your pockets.
Or you may be forced to run for your life, leaving everything in your home, all your preps, no matter how wll armed you are. Some people like to think this can never happen but they are wrong.
You may be even labeled when the SHTF as a person who by the law needs to give all your preps to the “goverment” or whoever gonna have force on their side in a particular moment.
You never know.
People usually think about bugging out like it is gonna happened just like they imagined it or planned it, while in reality, it may be completely different.
Caches on your bug-out route should help you to resolve that change of plans.
Not to mention that your bug-out trip may start out with you not at your home, or without all your bug out bags for another reason.
The philosophy of survival caches
We should simplify it and use the words why, what, where, how, and when.
We went through the why details above, and you have also to add your own personal circumstances there, just like always.
One basic rule that I like to implement is: never cache something that you can not afford to lose.
So for example, if you have only one weapon, and you want to cache it, your survival philosophy might be wrong and you need to reconsider it.
The usual response here is that you do not have enough weapons, so you need to work on solving that, not to mention that it is pretty strange not to have that one and only weapon close to you, not buried somewhere.
Another thing that I use is the rule that the cache (if someone else found it) cannot be traced to me, so no, I am not caching my important papers there.
However, I do keep there some tools that are illegal to keep it at my home (or wherever) with me, but that can help me a lot when SHTF.
It might look like this: you go through your prep list, choose items from every pillar of survival that will cover your basic needs in a particular amount of time (three days, week, month?) and put it in survival cache. Your money is the only limit.
- Medicine: antibiotics treatment, wound treatment, your existing medical condition treatment, antidiarrheal pills, water treatment, etc
- Fire: fire cubes, lighters, flints, matches…
- Food: power bars, MREs, quick soups, canned goods
And so on and so on.
It is completely based on your wishes and the amount of money you want to invest in this.
I do not like big caches. I would rather have more small caches. It is partly because of my budget, but the bigger and more important reason is that based on my experience it is better to have more chances. Usually half of your caches will be inacessible to you when SHTF.
Either it is going to be dangerous to go there, or you are not gonna have a chance to go and take it, or any combination of this.
If your main reason for having survival caches is as a help on your way to BOL you need to factor in the very high probability that the route that you plan and the route that you will take to your BOL will be different, This could be because of many reasons (angry mob, looters, police, fire, whatever). It’s better to have more caches that are not on the planned route but also on alternative routes there.
There is advice like “you need to bury it” or “never put it in building” or similar.
But remember that all of this is very specific to your situation and surroundings. You need to check how things work in your case only.
For example, I have two caches in an abandoned building 10 kilometers from me. It works for me because the building has been abandoned for the last 15 years. It probably will be abandoned until someone buys the land and destroys it. Hopefully, I will learn of that on time and remove my stuff from there, but even if not, I can afford it to lose that stuff.
Of course, the most common way is to bury it, but do not blindly look to bury it if that does not work for your own case.
For burying, I use water pipes (PVC), combined with plastic bags (bags in bags).
Are there better ways?
Yes, of course, there are probably very good brand name survival cache containers that will last much longer and keep stuff much better but I cannot afford it, and even if I could, I would invest that money in something that I find more important.
If you have more of the caches, you need to have some system of keeping the data where you planted all of that.
A GPS system works great for that, but remember that it can be gone one day. Having a map marked with places works well too, but in the wrong hands, it can leave you without anything.
The best thing is to keep it in your head, but again if you have a lot of caches, it might not work.
I heard a long time ago about a system of keeping track of your caches with photos.
In each place where you hid something, you take a photo of yourself with your family, dog or whatever. Just a regular photo from sightseeing, hiking, or taking a nature walk.
Then you will have a memory about the place of your cache that looks like a regular day out.
You can even add on the back of photo sentence of two in simple code so you can know what is in that cache.
Here is your imagination only limit.
I mean, having a map in your pocket or on your bookshelf with red circles and words like “gun, ammo, bandages, MREs” is very helpful but sometimes could get you into trouble.
Having a wall with photos above your desk with of you and your friends or family looks just like that – photos.
It is the question that is the easiest to answer.
Survival caches are things that you might never use, but if you gonna need it you probably gonna need it very hard, so start to work on it now.
Again, you can start small, with very small caches, based on your budget and see where that will lead you.
Don’t rely only on caches to survive.
Survival caches are just one aspect of survival preparedness. They are not the most important one, so do not invest a lot in it and fail to invest in something maybe more important.
I mean do not find yourself in the middle of the night when SHTF without everything useful just because all your cool stuff is buried 25 miles from you.
It is about balance.
Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. He is currently accepting students for his next physical course here.
In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.
He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless of what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.
- Read more of Selco’s articles here.
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Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.
I like that photos idea. Never thought it that way. I would have most likely made a map.
Where we live, we have solid granite one foot down. It took them 4 days with a large piece of equipment to dig out our pool. This whole area is like that. Great once you have it in the ground (that pool is going NOWHERE) but not so good if you want to try to bury something. I’ve considered putting some caches around. But we live in a suburban area and I’m not sure how to do this with out them being discovered by someone else. Would love to hear if anyone has any suggestions.
I love the photo idea. Reminds me of a book I read about an event in New York and they hid food throughout the city under snow and took photos so they could remember where. Great suggestions.
Think of above ground things that are rather commonplace in your area: old stumps, birdhouses, planters, utility boxes. Then modify or construct a cache that matches something usually seen in your location. We made several birdhouses for larger birds (owls, woodpeckers) and then made them larger than the plans called for and made a dividing wall inside the house so that our storage area was separate from the birds home. Stumps could be carefully hollowed out and then a plug of sorts put back in to conceal most or all of the hole accessing the cache. Even a doghouse could have several inches of storage under a false floor and who is going to mess with a doghouse?!
Thank you, Greg for some great ideas! I have the same problem as TC
If you bury your caches you may have a very hard time finding it with seasonal changes.
So bury a couple niobium magnets, (amazon), on top of the cache it self. Once you’re close you can use your compass lashed/taped to a stick to find it.
Also -scattering a bunch of junk steel objects, washers, nuts, etc in the vicinity will mess with anyone using a metal detector to find it.
That´s just GENIOUS. Awesome! thanks.
Excellent advice! I have respected your posts for quite some time, since they are based upon real life experiences under extraordinarily difficult conditions.
Regarding the “How” element of your article, the only real limitation is one’s imagination. I like the use of buried PVC with vacuum sealed packages on the inside. Another tactic is to place small caches in large flower pots (3+ feet tall) that have a water barrier between the cache on the bottom and the potting soil on top. Another tactic is to cut the bottom out of old propane tanks to store items inside.
The point is that you can have caches very close at hand that are “hiding in plain sight.”
Best regards to you.
For decades I keeps caches on the mountain above us in case my sons got cought without time to get off of the mountain. I used metal coffee cans with plastic lids. Each one had 3 Mylar blankets, edibles such as quick soups, drinks to warm, waterproof matches and a lighter, tp rolls filled with cotton balls or dryer lint and Vaseline_packed in a sandwich bag. There were multitools or pocket knives. A small compass, 2 metal cups packed with all the tiny items, a few packets of instant coffee or a tiny jar of instant coffee, a washrag to use for clean up or as a pot holder when the cups were heated. Later I’ve added tuna and chicken packets, 2 small water bottles that were filters and water bottle flavor packets, and some paracord.
I like the idea of PVC. It weather’s quite well. In a city it could look right in place with waterlines in an an abandoned building. Or a larger tube could masquerade as a vent pipe with a cap.
One cashe on the mountain even has blind making cloth.
No cache has a firearm but one has a few shells for the Most likely carry.
In over 40 years oven only had one can dug up. Guys stuck with a broke down pick up overnight. Their dog found it. They used some of the edibles and tea. Kept the multi tool and tin cups. They left me a note sayings thanks and why they needed the items. Noted the dog dug it up. No name. Really, if they had need I didn’t mind.
Be careful setting one up on public land. It’s illegal in some cases.
I ain’t saying do or don’t I’m just saying be advised.
I’m more concerned with what the state or local government might decide to do that would directly impact me considering we now had a “red flag” law and the possibility down the road that the beliefs I hold may one day be deemed unacceptable. Being able to disperse some ‘things’ is a smart move, and I have done so to a limited degree. But I really need to find a reliable means to do more. Remembering locations over time could be a challenge, and communicating locations to those left behind when the time comes and I’m gone is important as well.
Awesome advice, Selco! (as usual with you).
Just for the record: a map that happens to be in your pocket with the annotations you mention “guns, ammo”…it´s a one way ticket for a heck of a ride if a SHTF situation is such that a military wide scale intervention is needed and you get body searched in a roadblock. If you still believe you will be a US citizen with “rights” once reached that point, my personal take is, you´re all in for a bitter awakening. Save yourselves the troubles, listen to Selco and code that map.
As a pirates descendent living in a lawless land, I know what I´m talking about.
15 plus years ago i made some catches from 4″ & 6″ White Charlotte pipe, Water / sewer pipe I bought at lowe’s Glued the bottom end on, NO leaks screw on top end Vasoline the threads so it would open easier, when the time came to open it up,Plus helps it seal. about 4 ‘ in length each.
now I remember where 2 of them are . cant find the third. i know its on hill side but area grown up and the rock i had on top .not there. Nothing really that important. power company had bush hogged the area maybe they found it. didn’t put any metal near it since someone with metal detector would find it easily.