Bury Extra Food and Gear

(Plan B)

During and after an emergency or crisis, ordinary things like food, clothing, shoes, tools and so on, can become difficult or impossible to find, at any price. If you're taking the trouble and expense to stock a survival retreat or even a BOB, take a little more trouble and stash some extra supplies where you can recover them later. Why would this be necessary? A few examples:

1. At a roadblock, you are forced to surrender your vehicle and all of your supplies to armed bandits ("Gee, they looked just like police."). If you survive that, now you are walking and have nothing. Did you hide extra supplies someplace?

2. You prepare and stock a survival retreat, but when you bug out, you find it occupied by unfriendlies who are happily eating your food and enjoying your retreat. Do you have extra stuff in a cache somewhere?

3. You lose your BOB a) while crossing the river, b) while sleeping, someone steals it, c) in a barn which catches fire, or by any other means, you lose all of your survival food and gear. Got a stash burried?

Obviously, this secret stash or cache should be in a place remote enough for you to dig it, stock it and cover it without being seen. It should also be close to where you bug out, so you need not travel far. If Plan A fails (you lose your vehicle, your survival retreat and/or your BOB), you have a backup (Plan B).

The best containers I know for this purpose are polyethylene barrels with gasketed removeable lids. Standard sizes are 55 gal. and 30 gal., they are often blue or white and about 3/16" thick, even 1/4" in places. However, these barrels are large and difficult to burry. Gasketed five and 6 gal. buckets are also options and for most gear and food probably a better choice. Bucket and lid are about $6. Ammo cans are also good for short-term burial, as they may rust.

 Screw-on, gasketed lids (Gamma is one) can be bought for standard 5 and 6 gallon buckets and are common containers for food storage among preppers. If you are buying buckets, get the thicker ones (90 mil not 70 mil).

Since you may have lost most or all of your supplies, consider stocking this CARE package with everything you need to survive, in other words, a backup BOB. That's right, a duplicate of your original BOB, including all 14 categories. In addition, I suggest adding the following to your barrel/bucket cache: pistol, holster, magazines and 500 rounds of ammunition; rifle*, magazines, sling, and 1000 rounds of ammunition; water, lots of food, shoes, boots, gloves, jacket, tent, tarp, socks and anything else you would welcome. Consider burying or hiding a mountain bike nearby, wrapped in three layers of heavy plastic sheeting, with extra tires, tubes, chain, tools and large front and rear baskets or panniers. I suggest padding the sharp places so they don't poke holes through the plastic. Tape each layer closed. With fresh clothes, food, water, guns, gear and wheels, you are now back on the road (or off-road) and ready for action.

*Rifle - My suggestions for a burried rifle would be a 'survival' model, a Kel-Tec SU-16 or Sub 2000 (see Defense) or a Ruger Takedown .22. Consider the greater power of the larger/rifle calibers an advantage for defense. I can think of no folding rifle better for this than the SU-16, a .223-caliber carbine which folds in half, holds two 10-round mags in the stock or one 30 round and could be your battle rifle. Next I'd take the Sub 2000, a pistol-caliber carbine that shoots 9mm or .40 caliber from mags that match your handgun's. Both fit folded in a daypack.

Repeat: Consider burying (or hiding) a mountain bike nearby, wrapped in three layers of heavy plastic sheeting, with extra tires, tubes, chain, tools, pump and large front and rear baskets or panniers or both. I suggest padding the sharp places so they don't poke holes through the plastic. Tape each layer closed.

With fresh clothes, food, water, guns, gear and wheels, you are now back on the road (or off-road) and back in the game. Is that a smile on your face? Believe me, as you walk or pedal away, you won't be able to stop grinning. You can thank me for the idea, but give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for making it happen. Burrying a lot of expensive gear is an act of faith (Will I ever see this stuff again?). It's far better to have a Plan B (backup cache) and not need it than need it and not have it. If you have the resources, this is a solid Plan B.

Tips on stocking and burying your barrel:

1. Isolate rubber/smelly items (shoes, gloves, tools with rubber handles, etc.) by nesting them in two or three zip lock bags, to prevent the rubber smell from impregnated your clothing, bedding, food, etc. Alternatively, put them in a separate 3 or 5-gallon bucket with tight lid.

2. Isolate clothing in the same way in zip lock bags, to keep it free of smells from other items.

3. Store food with oxygen absorbers or in a neutral gas (carbon dioxide or nitrogen) to prevent oxidation and to kill any parasites/eggs. Several grains, beans, etc. can be packed in one 5 gal. bucket by first putting each one in individual cloth bags, or even socks or nylon stockings.

4. Oil your pistol and rifle and wrap them in plastic (pistol in zip lock bags) to prevent contact with humidity, and toss in some silica gel/dessicant.

5. Check the bucket's lid and rubber seal to make sure it is water proof.

6. Place all soil removed on a tarp, keep the turf, weeds and topsoil separate, and replace them later.

7. Bury the bucket in soil which will not be affected by erosion or standing water after a rain. Avoid low spots and animal trails.

8. Mix cayenne pepper in the final inches of soil covering the top of the barrel, to discourage digging by dogs, coyotes, skunks, etc. Another barrier to consider is a square of chicken wire larger than and over your container perhaps 6" below the surface.

Notes: You'll have to remove a lot of soil to bury several 5-gallon buckets a foot below ground level; I hope you brought a shovel! You may not have a shovel when you return to uncover it, so avoid using rocks in the top foot of soil, you may be digging with your hands. Or hide a small shovel nearby.

If you bury a bicycle, it should be far away from the bucket. If one is discovered, the other may not be; if they are together you could lose both. When you come for the bike, you can leave the bucket in place with some of your stash, just cover it again. Fill the bike hole as best you can with soil from nearby, no need to attract attention to the area. In an extremely remote area, you could also cover the bike with a camo tarp and hoist it by rope and pulley into a dense tree, making stashing and recovery much easier. Or stash it in thick bushes, like Juniper, which remain green all year. Other long and bulky items, like bow and arrows, machete, spear, external-frame backpack, etc. can be stashed in the same way, provided they are sealed against weather. In this way, smaller items can be stashed in buckets, eliminating the need for a 55-gallon drum. Rifles, however, might be safer burried. You can make a rifle cache tube from PVC pipe capped at one end and fitted with a screw cap at the other. If screw caps are not available, use a standard cap and seal with silicon caulk. Oil your rifle and place it in the tube with dessicant (silica gel) to absorb moisture, cap and seal and bury in a horizontal position (easier).

If you bury a rifle and/or backpack, these items may not fit in a 5 or 6 gallon bucket. Some folding rifles from Keltec might fit (Sub 2000 and SU 16), as might a 'survival rifle', so consider your contents first, then get the container they will all go in. An external-frame backpack could be wrapped in plastic like (or along with) a bicycle, but I would not recommend burrying a rifle like that. A 30-gallon barrel might be a better choice than several buckets, and it might hold your rifle and backpack.

This is called Plan B. If Plan A had worked as planned, you would probably not have to come back to dig up your backup cache. Even if Plan A works, leave your stash buried (just in case) until your 'world' returns to normal. Plan A should not involved your backup cache.

However, you can also bury extra gear and food as part of your Plan A, to keep them safe or to make a long trip easier. Let's say you prepare a survival retreat very far from your current home. In order to bug out, you may have to drive hundreds of miles. But maybe the roads are not safe: roadblocks, ambushes, carjacking's. Or there is no gas available. You may have to walk or pedal off-road. If you bury food, water and other supplies along your proposed route in advance, you need not carry so much.

A gasketed 5-gallon bucket with lid costs about $6 and can hold a lot of food and gear. Bury one every 20 mi. (but not visible from the road) or so and you will be able to resupply on your way. If you walk about 3 mph, you can go 20 mi. in 7 hours, with some time for resting.

Another reason to bury some of your supplies is simply to spread them out, not to keep all of your apples in one basket. If you have one big stash, for example your retreat, you could lose all of it, if you're retreat is taken from you. Bury some or most of it a mile or so way, in several small caches. Keep a record of what is buried where, and bury or hide the record. When you need more rice or honey or whatever, you know where to find them.

How to bury, mark and recover your cache using a GPS: You will need: your gear, food, water, etc., a large tarp, small roll of chicken wire, your barrel and/or buckets with lids, a shovel, a pound of cayenne pepper, a GPS and a compass. Find a tree, boulder or other immovable natural landmark with soft soil nearby, in a remote place where you will not be seen. Stand at the landmark and, using your feet, pace (heel touching toe) 10 or 20 'feet' west (or any direction you can confirm on a compass) and mark the spot on the ground, but not in your GPS. Make sure you can also pace 50 (or 100) steps north of your landmark (tree, rock), and mark that waypoint in your GPS, giving it a misleading name like 'cactus' or 'snake'.

Go back to your spot marked 10 or 20 steps from your landmark and remove a circle of turf, if present, saving it on the tarp. Dig a hole big enough for your container to sit a foot below the surface, piling the soil on the tarp. Review points 1-8 above, then put all your items in the barrel/bucket and seal the lid. Lower it into the hole, making sure its top is a foot below the surface. Begin filling in around the barrel and tamping as you go, so the fill won't settle later, leaving a teltale sunken area above your barrel.

Before adding the last 6" of soil or turf, unroll enough chicken wire/screen to cover the area above your container. Bury the screen under the remaining soil and turf to prevent animals from digging beyond it. Mix cayenne pepper in the last 2" of soil, to discourage digging by dogs, coyotes, skunks, etc., then top with the original turf, sprinkled with more pepper. Carry the remaining soil away from the area and dump. Scatter leaves or other debris to hide signs of digging.

To locate a cache with your GPS (and compass): Locate the waypoint called 'cactus', 'snake' (or whatever), walk 50/100 paces/feet south (or whatever) to the landmark (tree, rock, whatever), then 10 or 20 steps by the compass to your cache spot. If someone else tries to find your cache with your GPS, they will be 50/100 feet away. Using this system, your cache will always be 10 or 20 steps from a landmark (boulder, tree) which is 50/100 feet fromyour GPS waypoint. You can increase the number of steps, but I would not suggest decreasing them. You can replace west and north with whatever directions you want, but to avoid confusion, I suggest using the same system each time you bury a cache.

Why bother with the landmark? Why not just use the GPS waypoints? A GPS's accuracy is not precise enough to locate something small, like a barrel. Its accuracy can vary by several YARDS. The landmark gives you something large to find, so long as you don't pick one tree in a forest of crowded trees. Pick a lone tree or boulder as a landmark. That way, you will not wonder WHICH tree or boulder it is. Once you find the landmark, your cache will be 10 or 20 steps west. Measure your steps exactly, and you won't have to dig holes all over the place trying to find your cache.

If you don't have a GPS (get one): Make a simple map, but don't mark an 'X' for your cache, and don't mark the landmark - someone may find your map, and your stuff. Again, mark the spot 50 or 100 steps from the landmark, and call it 'cactus', 'frog' or whatever. Using your map, nobody will be able to find your cache, because they will always be 50', 100' or more off. The spot you do mark on the map should be the same spot as for a GPS, but to find it, you give directions from another landmark, in the opposite direction as your cache - you don't want anyone walking over your cache to find the spot. Use a prominent landmark that's easy to identify, and give the number of steps to your locator spot. Your locator spot has nothing there for anyone to find, unless you want to leave a cactus or frog as decoys. A small ceramic frog, that would be cute. Then, if you want to frustrate someone more, write on the frog, "I am waiting for you 500 paces north". Let them wander around until they give up on your map. Make two maps, enclose each in three zip lock bags, and bury them in different places where you can find them, or under a large boulder or in a rock crevice.

Update Summer 2014

I have been busy burrying 'stuff' these past months, and I'd like to share some tips. For food, I use the 90 mil plastic buckets exclusively - they are good and cheap. I use one 2000-ml Oxygen packet on the top of the food before I seal each bucket. I bury from one to five buckets in a single cache. I leave about a foot of soil above the top of the bucket, so they remain in moist earth and stay cool, even in the desert heat. I pick the north side of a tree for shade.

Non-food items I place carefully in a freezer (thicker) ziplock bag and lay it gently in the container to be burried. I was short of good containers and had to use ones that don't seal water-tight. If you live where it rains more, this may not be a good idea, but in the desert in a drought, I'm willing to do the experiment. The sealed plastic bags will keep out any moisture that enters the container. I know, not ideal, but perhaps it will be fine. I'll report back next year, after (hopefully) my area had at least one good rain.

Update 2015: I dug up two containers which were not buckets, they were Rubbermaid tubs with lids. I had sealed items inside in plastic bags. Both were under flash-flood water flows during a heavy rain, and the weight of the wet soil crushed one of the tubs, because it had become brittle from exposure to sun. The shards of the brittle plastic punctured the bag inside and some moisture got in, but fortunately, damage was minimal. Had I left it for a year, items would have been destroyed by rust. Lesson: no tubs. The second was not brittle and handled the crushing weight of wet soil better. Everything in the plastic bag was dry.

So after a lot of digging and burrying, here's my current system. I take a shovel, gloves and a tarp, my GPS and the filled and sealed container(s) to an area that had many flashfloods in the distant past and is now rather quiet. Where washes exit mountains, they fan out, creating alluvial deposits that are quite massive and eventually part of a new ecosystem, with trees, cactus and bushes. The sand can be several feet deep in places and easy to dig. I locate a place in the shade of a tree, if possible, and dig a hole, placing the sand on the tarp. The sand from the surface goes in its own pile. When the hole is big and deep enough, I press the bucket into the bottom and begin filling around the sides, then I heap sand over the bucket until I'm two inches from the surface. I pack it by walking around on the fill sand, stamping my feet. Before putting on the last two inches of top sand, I press in a marker stone.

Now I replace the sand that first came out, so the color matches. When the hole is level and invisible, I scatter small rocks and twigs to make it look just like the rest of the area under the tree. The marker stone is not visible when I'm done. This stone confirms that I have, indeed, found my hole, so I don't wast time digging two feet away. It's easy to locate the general area and then just probe for the stone. I describe the marker stone in my notes, so I know it's not just some random stone. In fact, I look for unique stones or shapes to use as markers.

Now I stand on the spot and mark it in my GPS, giving it a code name that I recognize. I also write in a small notebook the same waypoint and coordinates, plus the details about what was burried, how much, date packed and possibly depth, plus type of marker stone. I also note down landmarks, like the tree, large boulders, cliffs and such, and how many paces the hole is from each. I hold a compass, stand against a tree, for example, aim towards the cache and place one foot in front of the other until I'm at the cache, noting the precise compass reading. I do this from two or three main landmarks to get an X marks the spot where two or more bearings cross. When all my caches are done, I pack the notebook in a ziplock then in a glass jar and bury that where I know I will never forget. I could also bury my GPS (remove batteries first), because I have a backup. That way, even if I lose my main GPS, I can uncover my burried one and recover all of my other gear and food, from the notebook alone if necessary.

Time is running out for caching some things. Food prices have soared and still rising. Ammo in some areas is still available, the but prices are unstable as is the supply.

Update 2015: Notice I'm not using the system I describe above, for two reasons: I'm in the desert, no soil just sand, few landmarks and no people. Second, even if someone finds or steals my GPS, the names are in my own code, mixed with many other names that may or may not be cache locations. For example, if you look at my list of waypoints and see 'horses', are you going to dig holes over a huge area in hopes of finding something? How about 'flies' or 'bees'? As I said above, a GPS is not accurate, so the area around a waypoint can be yards in all directions. Without my notes, nobody will know which waypoint is a cache and which is not, and even if they suspect one marks a cache, where are they going to dig? Here, or five yards away in all directions. It would take a hundred holes or more to find what may not even be there. And with only my notes, I can find the cache, because I mention how many paces from trees, boulders and compass directions. I can improve my notes by using a tape measure, because some places are hard to pace, due to trees and bushes. I found two caches so far and each took about five minutes to locate - not too bad.

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