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Survival Caches: What to Put in Them and Where to Hide Them


Survival Caches: What to Put in Them and Where to Hide ThemThere’s an old proverb that says not to put all your eggs in one basket. When it comes to storing survival supplies, this proverb rings true. By keeping all of your supplies inside your home (or at any one location) you are setting yourself up for disaster.

This is where survival caches come in. Coming from the French word for “hide”, a cache is a setup that allows you to hide some supplies in a separate location. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into choosing where to put a survival cache and what to put in it.

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On the one hand, you want your survival cache to be difficult to find so it’s not discovered and stolen. On the other hand, your survival cache needs to be easily accessible, especially if you plan on accessing it during a bug out scenario.

Since most people can’t afford to fully stock multiple locations with duplicate supplies (although you should if you can afford to), the question of what goes into a survival cache becomes relevant as well.

To help you decide what to put in it, what container to use, and where to hide it, consider some of the following ideas.

What to Put in Your Survival Cache

Before you decide what container to use, decide what items you’re going to put in it so you’ll know what size you need. So what survival items should you put in it? Basically, the same things you’d put any survival kit.

While the contents of your survival cache will vary depending on your location and specific needs, here are a selection of items to consider:

• Guns & Ammo – In a situation that requires you to uncover your survival cache, chances are protection is going to be a priority. Also, since firearm confiscation is a concern, having a few guns and a supply of ammo tucked away that no one knows about is a good idea. As for which types of firearms you should store, AR-15 style rifles are ideal since they can be easily disassembled for storage and quickly reassembled if the need arises.

In addition to this, the AR-15 is arguably the most effective combat weapon that is (as of now) legal for civilians to own. If you prefer a more discrete option, handguns are an ideal choice.

• Food – A generous supply of food is an obvious choice for a survival cache. In the unfortunate event that your main food supply is stolen or inaccessible, you will want to have enough food put away in your survival cache to get by until you can secure another food source.

• Water and/or a Water Filter Bottle – Even more important than food is water. If you live near a water supply such as a stream or lake, a water filter bottle is a very space-friendly solution. Otherwise, you’ll want to pack away some bottled water.

First Aid Kit – Purchase or build a first-aid kit that, at the minimum, includes bandages, a suture kit, wound-closure strips, a disinfectant, and a pain-killer.

• Firestarter – The ability to start a fire may prove essential if you are required to spend the day (or multiple days) on the run away from your home.

Of course, this is just the bare minimum. The rest is up to you.

What to Use as a Survival Cache

You can use any container you want, as long as it’s waterproof (nothing made of wood, which will rot) and very durable (nothing made of cheap plastic, which will crack). It needs to withstand high heat, freezing temperatures, insects, and rodents.

Here are a few suggestions for containers:

• 5 Gallon Buckets – A high-quality bucket is both waterproof and airproof and should hold up for a long time.

• Ammo Cans – Yes, a metal ammo can like this one will rust, but it should still take years before it has any holes in it.

Pelican Cases – These are designed to be weatherproof and very durable, but they’re a bit pricey.

Dry Box – This is a much cheaper option, which makes me a little wary. All the reviews say it is sturdy and waterproof, but I don’t know how well it would last after being outdoor for months or years.

• PVC Tube – PVC is designed to be durable and waterproof so it’s an excellent option. Just make sure you use a very good sealant.

Of course, there are many other options. Whatever you decided to use, consider sealing it inside one or more contractor bags just for good measure.

One advantage of doing this is you make it look like nothing more than a bag of garbage to anyone who discovers it. Add lots of crumpled up newspapers to the bag so it looks even more like garbage.

Where to Hide a Survival Cache

Once you’ve put together a survival cache, the next step is deciding where to put it. As I already mentioned, you’ll want to find a place that is both accessible and hard for unwanted snoops to find.

Of course, the hiding spots you have available will depend largely on where you live, but here are a few ideas:

• Underground – Hiding your survival cache under a few feet of dirt is probably the most common means of keeping it safe. Of course, burial isn’t an option for everyone. Those who live in a city will find that most of the ground nearby is covered in concrete while the areas that aren’t (such as in a public park) aren’t a really good spot to grab a shovel and start digging.

Still, if burying your survival cache is an option then it is one of the best ways to keep it hidden.

• Along Your Bug Out Route – Hiding your survival cache somewhere along your bug out route is an obvious choice since the scenario where you are most likely to need your survival cache is a bug out situation.

The options you have available will depend on the route itself, but so long as you can find a functional hiding spot at some point in the route, storing away a survival cache there is a good idea.

• Abandoned Buildings – For urban preppers, abandoned buildings make for a great spot to hide a survival cache. Most abandoned buildings don’t see a lot of traffic outside of a few unruly teenagers, so you don’t have to worry too much about your cache being discovered as long as you hide it well.

Abandoned buildings also come with the advantage that, if there is a lot of scrap metal lying around, you won’t have to worry about someone with a metal detector being able to find your survival cache. Just make sure you keep an eye on the building. The last thing you would want is to find that the building has been leveled and replaced by a Starbucks.

• Disguised in Plain Sight – Locations for hiding a survival cache don’t necessarily have to be off the beaten path so long as they are well disguised. For example, you could hide your survival cache at the bottom of a garbage can that you never empty. Another excellent option for urban preppers is to hide their survival cache in a storage unit.

Since you will have keys to the lock, you won’t be reliant on anyone else to help you access it. Just make sure you grab it quickly when SHTF before thieves get around to cutting the locks off. If storage units and garbage cans aren’t ideal to you, there are still plenty of other places that you can disguise a survival cache in plain sight, and locations such as this are typically great for keeping your survival cache relatively close by.

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  1. Dan on June 22, 2020 at 8:13 am

    The ammo cans will last a long, long time, IF you spray the outside with Rustoleom, or something like it. A lead ingot on the outside will also help keep the rust away. (Courtesy of J.W.R. and survivialblog.com) Another thing on burying food from friends. The rodents can, and will, sniff out the food if you use plastic as the container. Metal is much better.

  2. Not If But When on June 4, 2019 at 8:13 am

    I appreciate this article as a guide for the prepping community. I began as a prepper back in the 70s and early 80s when they skeptically called us “survivalists.” During that time I prepared several buried survival caches on two farms my family owns. My plan was (and is) to “bug in” at one of several defensible locations that I have identified. I have primarily used five-gallon buckets as my cache containers.

    My caches include the essentials for water filtration/purification, fire, a .38 revolver and/or .22 rimfire with ammo, tarp shelters, rope, paracord, first aid supplies and some emergency clothing. Some caches include food items and medicine, and these have been regularly retrieved and refreshed over the years. I used the “old” food on camping trips that help me maintain my bushcraft skills. None of the food has ever gone bad. The few “heavy weapons” (ARs and AKs) I have cached with ammunition are separate from other items.

    As I am now retired in my late 60s and my mobility has begun to decline, I have shared my cache locations and plans with my nephews who are also preppers and outdoorsmen. They have made a few caches of their own to reflect the needs of their growing families. We have begun to cache some basic building materials for building longer-term shelters, etc., along with solar battery charging capabilities. All our caches are located by GPS coordinates now as well as mapped by traditional map grid coordinates and landmarks. Everyone has a “get home” bag which is also a cache of the basics. We have our own GMRS radio net with spare radios, batteries and a solar-powered repeater all in Faraday cages.

    Caching is a good insurance policy if things go sideways and you are forced to evacuate your primary site and “get low” quickly. Last fall we used one of our secondary sites as a deer camp and got a feel for how we would establish the basics in a bad situation. This site includes a dugout cabin and is concealed deep in the woods. We went so far as to establish potential sniper hides and lookout points. It was a good exercise -as well as a successful hunt. Caching is a valuable part of a well though out survival plan.

    • Alan on June 4, 2019 at 9:35 am

      That is awesome! Survival caches are a very overlooked topic but it seems like you got it down. Thanks for sharing!

    • Myles Zale on July 6, 2020 at 8:27 pm

      Wow. That’s amazing. I live in a pretty large city on the Alberta plains, and I am thinking about spreading caches in all 4 corners of the city with the majority in the western regions, in the direction of the mountain range. If I need to I can cross the range and go to the west coast. I am only 18 but living on the streets as a kid has drilled preparedness into me, -30*C in Downtown Calgary with minimal gear? Thanks but I’ll pass.

  3. James Hoefer on April 8, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Where I live, burial is contraindicated – we have BEARS! A bear can smell “man scent” buried as deep as six feet!

    As anyone who has ever seen “cop” movies about drug dealers knows, a dog can smell things (like drugs, for example) that have been hidden using extreme measures. I doubt there is any way to create a cache that dogs (or bears) can’t sniff out. (For example, a German Shepard dog can smell a human hiding in a thicket a over a half mile away! That may not SOUND like much, but wait until you pace that off on foot!)

    However, dogs (and most fully grown bears) are NOT very good a climbing trees. I’d suggest a cache that looks like an eagle, owl, or osprey nest. Surprisingly, magpies also build humongous nests of a size that would easily hide a good sized tote box. The only real concern there is that trees die, and sometimes fall down. Choose carefully. I outside my living room window, for example, is a dead cottonwood tree (suitable for a cache) that has been “standing dead” for over 30 years. Some of the boards for the long-gone tree house are still holding on. (The preteen children who build that tree house are now in their 50’s!)

  4. Nikie on March 25, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    As far as abandoned buildings I think they would actually be safer in the rare instance that they occur in rural areas or on the rural edge of suburban areas. In cities like someone above said stay away. However, in an urban area take a family member or two with you and look for people signs first. Foot prints, recent looking trash, signs of a camp fire being built recently etc. If you only find a few knee-hi soda bottles ( brand that was popular in the 1960s and purple vines ( like red vines but grape out in the 1950s) wrappers,covered in dust it’s probably okay .

  5. Susie on March 24, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    I built raised beds this year in my garden due to bad arthritis and inability to bend and pull weeds, etc.. I built them 36 inches high. Halfway do an I added a shelf. The top part is for plants and the lower section, for whatever I want to use it for. I enclosed it with tin and screws. If found, they would have to have a screw driver with them. Perfect for 10 foot pvc pipe. They are of different heights for different veggies/fruits. I built 18 of these beds. Enough I think for this purpose. Now I need to get a bunch of pvc pipe…. great article. Thanks.

    • Susie too on December 19, 2019 at 8:26 pm

      I did the same thing for the same reasons. I’ve cached a lot of supplies an other things. Enough for st least a couple of years for myself. Great minds think alike.

  6. prsmith on March 24, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Keep a GPS unit, a HAM rig, rechargeable batteries/solar chargers, a tablet computer, several thumb drives, led flashlights, etc. in a Faraday cage These can be made cheaply from a cardboard box and aluminum foil. Look for instructions on Youtube (while you can).

  7. john patrick on March 24, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I used an old frig seld up good lots of room

  8. Mr. MMG on March 24, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Realy great information, except for the ‘abandoned building’ section. As a former investigator in a large US city, the statement, ” Most abandoned buildings don’t see a lot of traffic outside of a few unruly teenagers”… struck me as quite odd. Firstly, on its face, how do you know that? But secondly, let me say that abandoned buildings are often used as gathering places for gangs, drug dealers/crack houses (yes those still exist), etc. My strong suggestion is to stay out for those places..stay out.

    • Marlon Passial on August 9, 2019 at 11:48 am

      Yep, i was thinking that too, Stay as far Out!!!!!

      • TACTICOOLMAN on April 15, 2020 at 12:24 pm

        Yeah,your’e right.Even thieves could rob a house and then hide their booty there and then one day it’s SHTF and then you come to retrieve your cache and then the badguy come’s to retrieve his booty and then he (or she) see’s you and then makes a plan to ambush you when you come back the badguy kills you and takes your cache.Also people could be using that building as a hideout or a shelter and then people would see you take out your cache and then they would chase you and tell everyone you have supplies and then it’s over.

  9. William Charles Talaber on February 21, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    PVC pipe is great for many types of caches. Using cleaner and glue, used liberally, seal waterproof. On the other end, though, unless you have a saw a fitting with a threaded plug is required. Breaking 8″ PVC pipe is harder than you would think. When you bug out, a folding saw is high on my list of things to have. I’ve used 8″ PVC to ship a rifle and ammo to Barrow, Alaska BY MAIL, about 10 years ago. Got there in perfect condition; even the Postal Service couldn’t screw it up! LOL

  10. charmaine on October 27, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    you shoulkd of made a map like the pirats use to do

  11. Jackson Wells on October 24, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Try old electrical boxes. We have several that are almost as big as a closet. They are weather resistant. Most people are afraid of electricity, so they aren’t bothered.

  12. Ron on September 9, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Most smart phones have GPS, you can store the coordinates on your phone so you can easily locate your hiding place.

    • William Charles Talaber on February 21, 2019 at 5:54 pm

      Only problem relying on any brand of “smart” phones is in case of an EMP strike. Phones will be worthless.

      • Mimi on November 8, 2019 at 1:23 pm

        that’s what they make faraday cages for…to keep electronics safe from EMPs.

    • Steve on December 24, 2019 at 10:04 pm

      At least as long as the towers are working. In an EMP attack, the circuits in any towers would be “fried.”

  13. Donny Edwards (real name...no gimmicks) on August 2, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Go to a hardware or sporting goods store and purchase some reflective tacks. Use them to triangulate to position of your cache. Also place a rock or distinctive piece of wood over your burial site to mark it. This is easy for me because I live in a very rural area, you may need to keep an eye on things that I don’t worry about such as development, demolition, and idiots.

  14. to fat to run on August 1, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    It is very hard to find stuff buried, hidden in the woods, in an unmarked place after time goes by. I am still looking for something in the woods. It seamed like a ez spot to refind. Some distance into the woods from the corner of a stone at the base of a tree. Trees fall down, buildings get removed, houses get built, roads get built. darn. My point is don’t count on everything and have another plan. Which should be hide more stuff. Great article I got some ideas.

  15. keebler on July 31, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    i thing my Garden is a good place.. i have 3 tubes burried at My farm— (1) i can’t even find.any more.

    • Mimi on November 8, 2019 at 1:25 pm

      that’s what they make pirate maps for…to find things after you’ve hidden them!

  16. Al Neri on July 31, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Probably not new thoughts/ideas, I have a few cache’s hidden in a large pond about 5-6 feet deep in containers made of 4″ PVC pipe, also a bunch of larger 20mm ammo can cache’s buried in dry gravely soil in river banks (my bug out route is aquatic) also remember to camouflage against metal detectors by using junk as decoy’s possibly even bury an old welded up oil drum filled with scrap steel 🙂

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