Getting to your bug out location on foot is slow and strenuous, but it’s reliable. If an EMP has disabled all the vehicles, if the roads are choked with refugees, if fuel supplies were cut off weeks ago and your reserves won’t get you to your BOL, you can still rely on your feet to take you there – if you can carry the gear you need for the trip.
Maybe you’re thinking “Well, my BOL is a day’s walk away. A handful of granola bars, two-quart canteens and a shelter half will get me there. If your BOL really is a day away, then you’re almost certainly right, and this article isn’t for you (but check your estimate is correct – walking cross country with a heavy pack can be a lot slower than you expected when you scouted the route).
Oh yes, that heavy pack! Some of us are looking at walking for days – maybe over a week – to get to our pre-planned refuge. Packing all the gear you need for a hike that length is going to get heavy in a hurry. Unless you’re in special forces shape, it can quickly get heavier than you can realistically carry. If you even think you might end up in that situation, you need to consider building a survival cache.
What Is A Cache?
A cache is simply a quantity of extra supplies prepositioned, and usually hidden, near a route you plan to take. The big advantage is that you can set up a cache when times are good – when you can use your vehicle to move supplies and materials easily, and spend time selecting the perfect location.
Then, when the SHTF and you have to move to your BOL on foot, you know there are supplies waiting for you along the way. You don’t have to try to carry enough food and water to get all the way to your BOL – just enough to get you to the next cache.
Obviously, a good cache has to protect its contents. The container you base it round needs to be waterproof at a minimum, airtight if you can manage that, robust and easy to conceal.
Its size depends on how many days its contents must keep you going for, but at a minimum it should be holding two days’ worth of food and water, so something like an ammo can is going to be too small.
Ammo cans can also be vulnerable to rust, if there are any scratches in the paint. Plastic is usually a better material.
Large Tupperware containers can be used to make a waterproof cache, but an even better option is a canoe barrel.
Designed to keep our gear dry, if a canoe ends up capsizing, they’re tough and well-sealed. They also come in a variety of sizes, so you can pick one that holds the amount you want to cache. Don’t get over-ambitious here.
You need to make sure there’s plenty of room for your stores, but at the same time you may want to keep in mind that a bigger container will be harder to conceal.
Hiding Your Cache
A cache is no good to you if someone else finds and empties it, so you need to conceal it. The first part of that is choosing a location. Your cache should be near your route to the BOL, but not actually on it. If you’ve chosen overnight rest points along the route, you can place the cache a quarter mile or so from one of those. Pick a spot that doesn’t have line of sight between the cache and the overnight location, for security.
Your cache needs to be in a place you can find easily, but not too obvious. If there’s one tree on a mile of river bank, don’t put it under that tree. Many people will gravitate to the spot, and one of them might just stumble on your cache.
Ideally you want to put it somewhere most people won’t look twice at, but that’s distinctive to you.
Choose a permanent, natural feature that isn’t going to decay or be removed – ten paces east of the rock outcrop is good; ten paces east of the dead nettles or Beware Of The Dog sign might not be.
Once you’ve picked a spot, the most effective way to conceal your cache is to bury it. This doesn’t mean plant it six feet down. You can carry a folding shovel in your bug out bag, but that’s extra weight. Your cache should be buried deep enough to hide it effectively, but not so deep you can’t get it out with a knife and a stick, to scrape some dirt away.
If you’re burying your cache on grassy ground, cut away a square of turf and put it to one side. Then dig out a hole big enough for your container, plus an extra six inches at the bottom. As you dig out soil, put it in strong sacks – don’t dump it on the ground, because that’s very visible. When the hole’s ready, put your container in a plastic sack – for an extra layer of waterproofing and to make it easier to get out again – then lower it into the hole and back fill with soil.
Tamp the soil down firmly to prevent it settling and leaving a visible depression over your cache – this will funnel rainwater down onto your cache, as well as making it detectable. When the hole is filled, replace the turf on top and tidy up. Inside a couple of days your cache should be invisible. Now carry the rest of the soil at least a couple of hundred yards away and dump it somewhere inconspicuous – among the roots of a fallen tree, for example.
What Should Be In It?
The aim of the cache is to make sure you have enough essentials to complete the trip to your BOL, so obviously the basics are going to be food and water. Store high-energy, long-life foods like jerky, granola bars and dried fruit, as well as easy to prepare items – like ramen or dehydrated meals. Food can be vacuum-sealed to give extra protection.
Water in sealed bottles will last a while, especially if it isn’t exposed to sunlight – which it won’t be in your cache. Buy plastic bottles of non-carbonated water, or store tap water in sterilized bottles and add a purification tablet to kill any bacteria.
Some ammunition is a good thing to have. If you had to fight your way out of your neighborhood and you’re down to your last magazine, having some more in your cache could be a lifesaver. Store boxed ammo in sealed plastic bags, but don’t vacuum-seal it – that can cause moisture problems when the seal is broken. If you decide to add magazines to your cache, you might as well fill them to save space; the springs will be fine.
Finally, consider some first aid supplies. Hopefully you won’t need them, and you’ll have a first aid kit in your bug out bag anyway, but if you’ve taken any knocks along the way, your supply of bandages, Band Aids or other items might be depleted. It’s better to have more and not need them, than need them and not have them.
Well-placed and well-equipped caches can make all the difference when you’re bugging out on foot. The truth is, a lot of people just can’t carry all the gear they’ll need to make it to their BOL. If you can rely on caches along the way, it becomes much more practical. Re-evaluate your bug out plan now and see if prepositioning some extra supplies will make it more practical.