Why a Prepper Cache?
In this article, we’re going to cover a little-known technique that could make the difference between success or failure for you in a real-life SHTF situation. In fact caching could benefit you in a number of scenarios where you find yourself mobile and separated from your primary supplies. Caching can also help to safeguard against all-out confiscation of your supplies. We’ll address all of this in our article here.
What is a Cache?
Before we move into the prepper application and employment of a cache let’s discuss the basic definition. Cache in noun form is a collection of similar goods hidden or stored in a secret location. In verb form, cache means to stash away or hide something for future use. Cache also has a meaning to do with computer memory. Until the last decade or so the term cache was relatively rare outside of the military, intelligence, or computing circles as the civilian world, in general, were not very familiar with the term, and even less likely to be involved with one.
However, a number of years ago the sport/hobby of geocaching caught on with the public and has become relatively widespread. Because of this the concept and term of a cache is much more known to the public. For those not familiar with it; Geocaching is a sport where participants seek out caches located all over the world using a GPS to assist in finding them. It’s kind of like hide and seek with little prizes to be found. If you haven’t tried it you may want to give it a shot. Besides the recreational fun that could be had it could also help improve your navigational skills. This article however is not about Geocaching but rather planning, designing, emplacing, and employing a prepper cache.
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Preppers Cache: Planning it Out
Now that we have a general understanding of what a cache is let’s take a look at various conditions and ways it can be utilized from a preparation (Prepper) perspective to benefit us. Examining and locking down these details will help us in the next stages of designing and emplacing our actual caches.
Ultimately you want to ask yourself what scenarios could you find yourself in need of various supplies and unable to get to them in your usual manner (ie. walk into the pantry and grab it). Below I will cover a few primary reasons that should fit most families, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. Your particular needs, location, and planned evacuation routes, etc… will all contribute to your unique situation and dictate your personalized plan. The following examples however will give you a good starting point to work from and brainstorm.
General Prepper Cache Use Cases
- Your stored supplies are destroyed (fire, weather, enemy, etc..)
- You’re traveling home and need supplies en route
- You’re evacuating from home and can’t carry all supplies needed along the journey
- You’re intentionally hiding needed contraband (in the case of a firearms ban)
- Your home has been secured by an enemy and you can’t access ammo and higher caliber weapons (rifles)
- You become wanted (criminal element or tyrannical government) and need to change your appearance
- External EMP protection; you’re away from home and all electronics on your person die
- Clandestine Supply to Others
Planning Considerations for the Use Cases
A quick note here. Each use case will call for some variations in the ideal location of the cache. The intent is not to have you placing 40 caches all over the place as that would be quite expensive and hard to keep up with. Instead, you should look at the overall picture and make ‘best case’ compromises where it makes the most sense for you. This will allow a single cache to cover multiple use case scenarios.
Your primary supply stores are destroyed. This is a terrible situation anytime, but especially so in a SHTF situation as there is no easy way to rebuild or outside assistance in your time of need. It’s easy to speculate that this isn’t that far off of a scenario either in that during an actual collapse type situation emergency services will no longer exist or be operating. That means a house fire that may have been minimized with the assistance of the fire department will now run its full course destroying your entire home.
Understanding this possibility it is good to have a secondary set of supplies and critical gear. Ideally, you would have these stored at a trusted location such as a relative’s home or someone in your prepping network. This however is not what we’re addressing when we talk about the prepper cache as it would be a bit too large of a supply to cache in the traditional sense. Instead, here you need to consider if you are starting with nothing what do you need to get to that secondary location. This cache would ideally be located in relatively close proximity to your home so you don’t have to travel too far to obtain the goods, but far enough that it would not be destroyed by the same event that took out your primary residence.
Returning Home and Need Supplies en route. Let’s start by considering the most likely situation here in which you are at work and the collapse happens. You now have to travel home or to your predetermined primary location for this scenario. Ideally, you keep an emergency work BOB (bug out bag) that you can quickly grab and depart with, however, there are certain cases that this may not contain everything you want/need for the journey such as a firearm. To further complicate it you may not be able to have that firearm in your vehicle due to security measures at your workplace (government site, etc..). It is in this type of case you may consider having a survival cache located between your home and the workplace to allow a quick acquisition of the needed items. I’ll note here that this isn’t necessarily needed by all, as many of these aren’t, but you should consider each and use or discard as appropriate to your situation and risk mitigation strategy.
You Can’t Carry All Supplies Needed During an Evacuation. This is (IMO) a common and most probable needed cache for most of us. It is also one of the more challenging to complete. I see this primarily as a fuel resupply for a journey to a Bug Out Site or secondary homestead. In the event that the journey takes more fuel than you can carry you will ideally cache some along the way to resupply. An important note here is that fuel is perishable so it must be treated and rotated to properly serve you in this manner. It’s not a set-and-forget survival cache. Also due to the size of this cache, it could be problematic to truly hide it.
Regardless, with some networking or creativity, you can come up with a plan needed. A commercial storage unit may be a consideration here. Another consideration would be to place it on the property of a close friend that falls along the intended route. This of course isn’t completely limited to fuel. Food, water, and other survival gear should be considered for placement at this cache location. Having a few smaller style caches like these along the route can also serve as emergency supplies on an if-needed basis. I would stock these with set and forget type of items as they are meant only for extraordinary circumstances (e.g. you lose your vehicle along the way, you’re robbed, etc..)
Intentional for the purpose of hiding contraband from an occupying force. Obviously, at MWP we do not promote criminal activity, in fact, we despise criminals. That said there are scenarios where the criminals are the ones making the laws, not the ones breaking the illegal mandates. One such case would be the outlawing of firearms or other goods by an occupying force (invasion). These are the type of use cases we are discussing here, of course, bootleggers and other criminal elements have surely used similar methods. Bottom line this specific type of cache can be created/used to help circumvent tyrannical oppression. With this type of cache, you want to ensure it is off of any property that may be subject to or likely searched. Now if we exercise some rational logic it is very unlikely that even an occupying force is going to go to the lengths of thoroughly checking your property for such contraband without cause. Let your intended role and lifestyle in such a situation dictate the prudent distance and location of the cache (greyman vs. active resistance member).
Home has been Secured by an Enemy Element. This is somewhat a two-fold consideration here. One is that you determine the location is not worth or unable to be regained by yourself. In this case, the first survival cache we discussed ultimately meets the same intent (supplies destroyed). The second consideration is a cache to specific allows you the capability to retake your property. Obviously, tactical and communication supplies would be the main focus of this cache. At the end of the day ideally, you can resolve them leaving peacefully, but the cache can potentially provide you the advantage should a peaceful solution not be possible. Guns, Ammunition, Radios, Night Vision Capability, and other tactical gear may be considered for placing in this type of cache. Location with this type of cache should be somewhat close to the home, but not so close that recovery can be observed from the home or surrounding lot.
You Become Wanted and Need to Change Appearance. This is obviously a very specific type of cache. The use case here is that a criminal element or tyrannical government has begun to search for you and you need to quickly change your general appearance to aid in preventing capture. A disguise cache can be set up for this very purpose. It should consist of clothing, and other look-altering options (makeup, wigs, glasses, grooming kits, etc..). The location for this one is really hit or miss, but ultimately I would place it at a location between your home and places you spend most of your time (ie. work, recreational locations you may frequent). Once again these needs can be covered to an extent in a BOB, but due to the unlikely nature of actually needing it, you may choose to employ a disguise cache rather than burden down your emergency bag with it.
External EMP Protection. Ideally, you have taken EMP precautions at your primary bug in location already. Precautions such as storing select electronic items in a faraday cage for protection from an EMP event. Even so, an external EMP Cache could serve to aid you in the event that for some reason you cannot reach your primary supplies.
Clandestine Supply To Others. While the intent of this is from a rebellion standpoint it can offer more conventional benefits as well. Essentially all of your cache sites could be used to secretly (or openly) supply someone else. In the area of clandestine resupply, we would be looking at a use case where you are secretly supplying a rebellion force against a tyrannical government. This allows you to essentially aid the cause and minimizes your exposure or alliance with it. In the less dramatic use case, you could simply offer these up in an appropriate situation such as to aid someone during a crisis.
Cache Location Considerations
After you have considered the various use cases and supplies you intend to cache it’s time to figure out where to cache them at. There are a number of general and relatively simple rules you’ll want to follow for your cache locations. Let’s start with the general basic considerations first.
Accessibility: The cache location must be able to be discreetly accessed by the intended recipient, preferably offering multiple angles of approach. After all, it’s dead in the water if you can’t get to it because a road shut down or it’s constantly being observed by outsiders. This goes for both placement and recovery. No one should see you place it or recover it!
Ease Of Locating: Ideally, you want to hide it well, but be able to recover it easily without an extensive search for it. Obviously GPS coordinates help this effort tremendously, but I would also try and incorporate the use of landmarks as well for times a GPS may not be an option.
Well Hidden: It should go without saying that you don’t want the cache to be found. Either by an enemy force or happenstance. Understanding this it is important that you give due diligence to the task of ensuring the cache is well hidden.
Anonymity: If for some reason the cache is found you do not want it to lead back to you. This is important in a number of scenarios. Most obvious in the scenario that you are discreetly aiding a rebellion effort. Ensure there is nothing in the cache that tips your identity or location.
Well Stored: Given that a cache is to one extent or another (placement dependant) exposed to the elements it is important that the items are properly stored. Your chosen container must protect your supplies. Obviously different setups may require different containers to meet these needs. For instance, a sealed PVC tube may work for a buried cache but a well-disguised tote may work fine for a food cache in an abandoned building. Evaluate each location and environment and plan accordingly.
Mapping It Out
Taking into consideration the above principles you can now work on narrowing down the specific locations you want to place your caches. This is very unique to each person and situation, but I’ll hit on some general practice that will put you in the right direction.
So go ahead and pull out a map and start working locations. You want to consider everything discussed up to this point such as the purpose of the cache to help determine the general locations (eg. between work and home, etc..). Moving beyond the general location you want to look at accessibility, but also weigh in low visibility. Remember it’s important to not be seen emplacing the cache or recovering it. With this in mind, you want to avoid busy or congested areas as well as strategic areas that may warrant a guard post or the like during a time of hostility. While still looking at the map you can also try and identify areas that may offer good reference points for a location such as a bend in the road, or other landmark depiction.
Boots On Ground
Once you have a generally good idea of where you would like to place your cache it’s time to recon the location in person. This the recon, not the placement. I recommend you get a good feel and location before you ever take the cache to the site. For the purposes of this article, all of this is being done in a permissive environment (not under enemy control). If the environment were hostile there are more precautions that should be taken throughout the in-person steps. That said, you still want to exercise a fair amount of Operational Security (OPSEC) to safeguard your general endeavor. You may want to phase in your recon of the area by doing it in stages (drive by, walk by, etc…). You also want to have a reasonable reason you are in the area should you come in contact with someone while there. Have this already thought out and just treat the situation as if it were nothing more. Often times when people are conducting secret activities their demeanor draws attention to them. There is no reason to act like a criminal or Jason Bourne, it simply makes you stand out. After all is it really that far-fetched to be out on a hike or looking for arrowheads, or whatever you come up with. No, so don’t be nervous when telling the tale.
Equipment. You’ll want to have the proper equipment with you to evaluate and properly annotate the location you finally choose. You should have on you a GPS, Compass, Camera, Measuring Line or comparable device (550 cord), Notepad and Pencil, Probing Pole (could be as simple as rebar) if planning to dig the cache. All of this is relatively easy to discreetly carry except the probing pole. Measure the environment and determine whether it is better left out of the equation. The benefit of it is it will allow you to get a general feel for the ground and the ability to dig in it ahead of the operation.
Once you finally decide on the site you want to do a very thorough job of capturing all the details you can for recovery efforts. Treat it as if you are going to send someone else who has never been there to recover it…after all, that may be the case. Take pictures, measure from landmarks, annotate coordinates, etc, etc. Be very thorough here. Don’t underestimate the benefit of a well-drawn-out sketch of the area. A photo and map do not replace this. Additionally, I recommend that you try and recapture pictures in the various seasons as the location will likely look much different in the summer than it does in the winter. This is not to say you have to wait for all those before you place it, but if possible to go back and discreetly capture pic after you should.
Another important note on cache site location. While buried is a common and good option it is not the only one. An abandoned facility, an unused cave (though caves attract people so it should still be well hidden), high in an identifiable tree, and underwater, are just a few other options. Ultimately you are aiming to emplace a hidden cache of goods for a future unknown survival situation where no one else will find them. The rest is pretty straightforward.
How Many Cache Locations Should I Have?
We somewhat hit on this earlier in the article, but it’s worth addressing a little further. Ultimately the more cache sites the better, but there are numerous factors that have to go into that process. Probably primary for most of us is cost, after all, you have to buy all this equipment you intend to cache around the world. As well as time. It takes time to set up a good cache and if it has any kind of perishable or diminishing factors (food, gas, batteries) it also takes maintenance. Both of which take you away from other life duties. Considering all of this determine the best number for you. At a minimum, I recommend a few larger caches and a number of small caches. The larger ones would be those intended for bigger purposes (ie. help you get to your bugout location, etc..) while the small caches could be simple food caches containing some canned goods, or basic survival supplies (firestarter, fishline, etc..). The small caches are relatively cheap to place and could serve you well in a critical situation.
What Kind of Container Should the Cache be Stored In?
As mentioned earlier this is heavily dependant on the chosen location and environment it will be placed in. Ultimately it should meet two agendas.
Hidden (whether buried or disguised)
Protective (of the equipment it contains)
There are a number of commercial options for these such as
Ammo Cans. Another good choice is PVC Pipe with a sealed end cap
I hope this article has given you the knowledge and helped to point you in the right direction for planning out your prepper’s caches. Remember as with all things prepping it’s easy to go overboard on things once we start down the ‘what if’ rabbit hole. Nonetheless, that is exactly what prepping is…a strategy to mitigate the what-ifs. If you evaluate the likelihood of any given event and determine a reasonable protective measure appropriate for the threat you’ll do well. Have any tips to add to this topic or questions on it? Hit us up in the comment section below! Until next time ad victoriam.
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Modern Warrior Project Co-Founder
As a 20-year Army Special Operations veteran with numerous deployments and extensive S.E.R.E. and Personnel Recovery expertise, he is a respected leader and trainer with extensive experience in planning and executing high risk, low visibility evolutions in volatile and austere areas across the globe. He is married to Jennifer Blevins of Beaumont, Texas and is the father of five.