How To Make A Survival Cache And What To Put In It

Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason January 31, 2020 09:59

How To Make A Survival Cache And What To Put In It

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.

How To Make A Survival Cache And What To Put In It

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.

How To Make A Survival Cache And What To Put In ItYour 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.

Related: 10 Awesome Food Ideas for Your Bug Out Bag

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.

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Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason January 31, 2020 09:59
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37 Comments

  1. Jabba January 31, 15:29

    It is a great idea but…
    What if you can’t/don’t take the planned path you had intended? So now you have to think of every possible route you may or may not take to the BOL… Where are you going to bury supplies that isn’t trespassing on someone else property?

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    • barbuto January 31, 21:37

      the cemetery is a great place…..look for the oldest dated tombstones…chances are there are no relatives visiting these deceased……then dig a shallow trench and hide the tube ( i use tubes….like ammo storage tubes…or large PVC but ammo tubes are cheaper than the pvc)….and cover them up like the article…no one will question someone going to a cemetery…just go with your pack and get your stuff when you need it…parks are NG cause when shtf…people may be camping out in the parks so u will have company when u retrieve your goods….its also good to have an outside storage unit…i rent a small one just to have access to the grounds…in the back of the grounds there is a forest, a fence seperates the property from the forest…i have buried a tube that is half on inside of the fence half on the outside…this way i have access to the tube from in or out of the property grounds….u must make sure the location is not on their CCTV if they have one ( usually the CCTV points at the access gate and the office…not the rear of the property)…just some ideas…

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    • left coast chuck February 1, 22:54

      Jabba: National forests and Bureau of Land Management land which theoretically belongs to the public and is held in trust on behalf of the public by the Federales. Out here in the west most of the western states is owned — excuse me, managed, by the Bureau of Land Management. Sometime look at a map of everything west of the Mississippi River and see how much is federally own–managed. You will be astounded. Kallyiforniya supposedly came into the union as a sovereign political body yet significant parts of it are claimed by the federales. How in the world did that happen? How did the federales manage to get title to Yosemite other than we’re bigger than you are, we’re taking it? If they wrote a check for it, I hope it cleared.

      So there is lots of space where one can bury one’s caches the big question is: Is it on the way to where you are going?
      The answer is that you would be surprised at just where all federal land is located. There may well be some pieces that you never knew belonged to the federales. If caching, it might be well to obtain maps detailing BLM and national forest land along your route. It might not be as far off your trail as you imagined.

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  2. Papa January 31, 17:14

    Good write up. Depending on how long your trek is will determine how many caches you’ll want. Also plan on losing one or more caches. Have a little more than needed in each cache to sustain you to the next. Anything can happen to your caches to include finding the area with your cache occupied by another individual or group.

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  3. Old242 January 31, 17:55

    It is also a good idea to bury some of these around your current home in case you are staying in place and someone ransacks your home, you have some hidden backups close at hand.

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  4. Boo January 31, 18:55

    this is a good idea but probably won’t do you any good. When the SHTF in all likelihood you won’t be at your ideal starting location, to begin with. You are better off with a bugout bag in your car or with you at all times because there will be a lot of people all over the place all in the same predicament. Many might follow you, or you might be herded along with them by military or police personnel. The best thing to do is live at your BOL and stock it with all the supplies you need for 6 months to a few years just in case. With the “gig economy, you can now work from an internet connection anywhere and be safe. If you have to be in a metro area your chances of survival diminish without weapons!

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    • left coast chuck February 1, 00:04

      Except in the PDRK where gig workers are now by law at least in this state full employees. Watch for the unemployment rate to climb in Kallyforniya. Even out-of-state companies are affected if they hire somebody in the PDRK to do a short term job.

      The major problem is we have a full time legislature with nothing to do except pass stupid legislation. They brag about how many bills they introduced and how many they got passed as if there is some sort of grand prize for the most idiotic legislation introduced in a single year.

      I solemnly promise to vote early and often for the candidate who promises to rarely appear in the capitol building and to spend most of his time fishing and hunting in the splendid areas in the drainage basin of the Sacramento River.

      Adam Clayton Powell, where are you now that we need you to not be in the capitol building almost ever?

      Sudden thought. I wonder if we will see a mass exodus of gig workers to Reno, Las Vegas and Phoenix again. After the Northridge earthquake a lot of my suppliers moved to Nevada. Their comments to me ran something like, “Well, I had been thinking of moving my company out of state and I figured as long as all the equipment was already loaded on the trucks, might as well continue on east to a more business friendly state.”

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      • IvyMike February 1, 02:00

        The Texas Legislature meets for 5 months every other year, that’s why they’ve been so much slower than California to improve our lives. Maddeningly last year the SOB congress persons who are supposed to be flaming MAGA red conservatives didn’t support Gov. Strangelove’s proposal to roll back property taxes. So another 4000.00 of my off book gig economy money is going to School and County taxes.
        Sadly, my knees are officially too old for me to bug out. In my day I counted it nothing to hump a full load on mountain trails, but this morning I dug up and replaced an old sprinkler valve and found I had to use my belduque shovel as a cane to kneel down and get up.
        Folks planning to bug out need to get up early one day a week and cover some miles with a couple sandbags in their pack. If it hurts later my RX is 4 Advil and 2 shots of Tequila.
        I agree with you on the utility of the wheeled conveyance, I would also appreciate a strong young feller who would push me along in one.

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        • red February 1, 05:17

          I’m always telling the kids, I had to carry you for years, now it’s my turn. Saddle up! 🙂 Yeah, you must have raised teenagers to be that unhealthy:) (Please, please, please, God, get the last two married! I need revenge… (cough), I mean more grandkids!) (Let’s see their hair turning white when the oldest one get into his teens 🙂

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        • allen February 1, 14:07

          I too, could not kneel down and get up without pushing on something, would hurt my knees. Then I read an article about using WD-40 on them. That was over 10 years ago when I was still working. Put WD-40 on twice a day, 3 times is better, let it absorb in for a couple of minutes and wipe off excess so it doesn’t get on your clothes. Try it for a week, see if it helps. I have not needed any help getting up since using it. Try it, WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?

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          • left coast chuck February 1, 22:46

            I went and looked at my can of WD40 to see what the ingredients might be. It says “Petroleum distillates. May be harmful or fatal if swallowed.”

            I realize Allen’s post fortunately did not recommend swallowing a shot of WD40 two or three times a day, but letting petroleum distillates sit on your skin doesn’t seem like good medicine to me. Sure, I know that there are many topical ointments that have a petroleum jelly base, but they also are not recommended to free up rusted bolts either.

            For those who will say, “Well, I use WD40 on a daily basis and get some on my hands all the time with no ill effects,” I would reply, in case you hadn’t noticed, there is some difference between the skin on your hands and the skin on other parts of your body. If you think not, spray a spritz of pepper spray on your hand. Now spray a spritz of pepper spray on the skin of your thigh near your groin — careful, the thigh, not the other parts. Notice a difference in how the skin reacts?

            I hope that one would wash their hands per day more times than they lavage their knees.

            So the advice is to spray WD40 on your knees two or three times a day, let it stay on long enough to be absorbed by the skin and then wipe off the excess and what could possibly go wrong?

            Shoot, why not spritz a little gasoline on your knees two or three times a day? Use Coleman fuel, don’t mess around with that junk that comes out of the pump at Costco. Why mess around with WD40, go mainline. Use the real thing.

            I know, people used to wash their hair with kerosene to get rid of lice. People also used to apply arsenic to syphilis sores too. Doctors used to prescribe bleeding too. That seems to have gone out of style along with arsenic treatments.

            Mike’s remedy is okay for an occasional use, but continued use is very hard on the liver. I think the warnings include limiting alcohol intake when taking any kind of ibuprofen. Those two remedies are safer used singly. You know the old saw, “He was feeling no pain.” There is a basis to that. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. That’s why they used to give the patient whiskey just before they hacksawed off his leg.

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            • IvyMike February 2, 01:41

              The main problem with NSAIDS and alcohol seems to be that a small number of people have a genetic susceptibility to rapid, severe, even fatal liver damage occurring when they mix alcohol and Tylenol. Sadly, there is no test for this, you only learn if you are one of the few when the last thing you see is a bunch of Doctors shaking their heads. Everybody should take better care of their liver than I have.
              My knee problems are miniscus related so WD40 isn’t an option. Lots of people with arthritic knees recommend golden raisins soaked in gin, but I like gin even less than I like raisins. My Mother In Law was a wonderful beautiful human with terrible foot pain, she had a RX for 15% Lidocaine topical lotion. I tried that on my knees and it was great! Better than Oxy, and non-addictive. The Nanny State lets us have 4% Lidocaine OTC and it helps, easy access to 15% would put Big Opioid out of business.
              If I was the Doc hacksawing your leg off the whiskey would be for me, sorry, this is going to hurt me more than it does you is a true saying.
              Pepper spray on the…I was carrying a small cylinder of it in the front pocket of my jeans years ago and it discharged in that very inconvenient place. Burns.

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              • left coast chuck February 2, 22:30

                I had exactly there same experience while working on my car with a canister of pepper spray in my pocket. Somehow I managed to spritz right where the front pocket ends. For the first minute or so I thought nothing of it. HOWEVER, I was soon sprinting for the bathroom and a liberal application of cold water. WHOOOOEEEEE! ! ! That was fun. Remind me never to work on the car with pepper spray in my front pocket.

                That was sort of indirect application. I can’t imagine what direct application must feel like.

                “Mommy, why is that man jumping around and screaming?”

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                • red February 3, 09:53

                  LLC: Hot time tonight! I thought you lived in Kali? Um? maybe down in Sacramento…I was 14, and an older brother, home on leave, was harassing this girl I was going with. She was getting angry, something not to do with someone as good a shot as her. Later, he was complaining of a heat rash down there. I thought about it, how he made fun of her and me, and said, “Ya know, Mom always uses alcohol on a heat rash. He said, but, there? Won’t it burn? Oh, just for a little. Not really certain about it, he headed up the stairs and I headed for the woods. A minute later and still gaining speed, I heard a scream, “Jesus Christ, when I get you!” I had a fun time camping out for a week, fishing, a little snaring, and enjoying nature till he had to go back to base. With the girl, I might add 🙂

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            • Allen February 2, 04:58

              LCC, have you ever used Vaseline Petroleum Jelly on your skin or on a baby’s butt for diaper rash? Many people have and still use it. What is it made of? . . . Petroleum distillates, discovered and used in the oil fields of Pennsylvania way back in the 1850’s.

              Of course, you don’t want to eat Vaseline either, just like you don’t eat Ben Gay or WD-40. Don’t try it if you don’t want to . . . but it works with no problems

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              • red February 2, 07:12

                Allen: the man who discovered Vasoline thought it was natural, so good for you. He ate a teaspoon a day of it and died young. I go along with LLC on WD-40, niio

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            • red February 2, 06:12

              LLC: One brother worked at a truck stop for years, then climbed up to manager. He had to have a cancer removed from his sinuses the doctors thought may have been caused by breathing evaporated diesel and gas 6 days a week. niio

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              • Allen February 2, 11:44

                Red, Wikipedia says chemist Robert Chesebrough developed Vasoline in the 1800s. He was born in 1837 and died in 1933, hardly a young man. The person who told you that about Chesebrough was evidently thinking about another product.

                There are a lot of things that we shouldn’t breath in; cigarette smoke, paint fumes, acid fumes, etc. but what does that have to do with putting Vasoline, WD-40, Bengay, etc on your skin?

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                • red February 2, 16:47

                  Mea culpa. Oil rig owner, then. The ‘Vaseline’ I mean is naturally occurring on pumps in PA. https://littlegreendot.com/vaseline-why-petroleum-based-products-should-be/ I used the term because it’s short and people can visualize that better than saying petroleum jelly. I’m from PA and we read about him in school. That was a lot of decades ago, but it stuck with me. So far, the only thing we’ve disagreed on is WD-40.

                  Cigarette smoke? Like all things shrieked about by liberals, it’s half lies and little actual truth. The only places in the world its considered harmful was Nazi Germany. Now, in the UK, where it was ‘discovered’ to be bad, by neonazis, the Labour Party. the US where Penn State/Rape U claimed it is, and Mexico, where the PRI always has its nose stuck as deep in DNC anal as possible. Vasoline is considered safe, WD-40 has issues. I don’t use Bengay, but Korean accupressue. All Bengay does is heat the skin with chili oil. I can get that out of the garden and down back in the brush where chilis grow wild.

                  I do editing et al. Even atheists will not allow me to use wiki because it’s all too often wrong.
                  niio

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                • left coast chuck February 2, 22:37

                  Back when I was young, long, long ago and far far away, Vasoline used to say, “Manufactured and distributed by Cheesebrough Corporation.”

                  Now it says, “Distributed by Unilever.” I wouldn’t be dumbfounded if all petroleum jelly is currently manufactured in China.

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                  • red February 3, 09:23

                    Yeah, probably China, using oil they got from us or stole from Vietnam. a jar of chest rub says India… the only use for that is, it kills and chases off ear mites in the dog.After reading your posts and my own research, I’m thinking we need to make our own–without the petroleum jelly. niio

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              • left coast chuck February 2, 22:45

                Unfortunately, a college classmate of my daughter worked in aircraft maintenance. As related to me, one of their tasks was cleaning out the a/c’s fuel tanks for residue and other contaminants. Too early in life she contracted cancer in multiple areas of her body and after a course of miserably uncomfortable and painful treatments, expired.

                Of course, the company she worked for denied that there was a casual connection between JP4 or whatever jet fuel they were using and her multiple malignancies. I recommended filing a workers’ comp claim anyway but I don’t know if she followed up on it. Perhaps she was just too ill and discouraged to want to undergo the annoyance of litigation.

                Was it related? I don’t know. She was assigned to the clean-out task more frequently than her co-workers because she was small and could get into spaces the larger male employees claimed they couldn’t reach.

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            • mickey d February 4, 07:06

              WD 40 is made from fish oil, some guys use it on their fishing bait.

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        • matrix February 15, 06:34

          With that Rx, I hope you have a strong liver.
          There’s no right end of a bildukey to be on.

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  5. left coast chuck January 31, 19:11

    I will play my old refrain again: Why carry it when you can pull or push it? If you are going cross country, use a travois. Before the American Indians discovered horses, they pulled travois when they moved their village. Even Fido pulled a travois. The women and kids pulled the travois while the men walked guard duty on the outside perimeter. A game cart makes a perfect travois. Use wheels where on a paved surface or smooth dirt or short grass, drag it where the way is narrow or too rough for wheels.
    Remember, there were no paved roads when the Indians were dragging travois across the plains. Usually they were moving to a totally new spot, so there wouldn’t even be paths.

    You can pull a lot heavier load a lot further than you can carry it on your back.

    You can still cache supplies along your route, but be aware, as Jabba pointed out, that once in the ground and you walk away, the cache is vulnerable to being pilfered or just maybe some undesirables have infested the area and there it sits unavailable.

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    • red February 2, 07:36

      LLC: Yeah, but it’s a game of high stakes hide and seek. Most caches squirrels hide are forgotten not stolen tho by spring, even red oak acorns are turning to sugar. You should be better able than most of us to ‘play’ it. Rent a small, remote hunting cabin on the line you want to travel if bugging out. It should have no cellar but wooden floors. It should be easy to remember in case you lose the map it’s marked on. Cache under the floor, or between the walls. Camp out at a places easy to remember. Cache nearby and mark landmarks for what you squirreled away.

      I’m staying put because this is a good area to do that, even if Tuscon 40 miles down the road. thick brick walls that will be beefed up with adobe block, the pitch roof will, when we have the money, be lifted and replaced with a flat one with a meter high wall around it. the roof will be steel girders and a foot of adobe and so on over that so it can be used just like the old folks used to, for defense and a porch. The windows will be replaced with narrow ones, and the wooden outbuildings replaced with adobe block. Again, when the money comes in, the water catchment will be a good place to store things. A number of us in the area have discussed this, how to improve and improvise. We help each other, and I have to say it, they’re far better prepped than I am. niio

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  6. Josey Wales February 1, 01:23

    I would not use any plastic for a cache! Squirrels, mice etc. will chew through it very easily even if they smell nothing!

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    • IvyMike February 2, 01:43

      “Chained blue lightning!”

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    • red February 2, 07:09

      Joesy, one of my sisters lives in a rural valley, farms and brush. She had some problems. Every bird feeder she put up, squirrels would wreck if a bear didn’t first. Garbage cans had to be kept inside till the trashman came. Outside, even a box made of 2-by-4s would be ripped apart. Her youngest son had given her a birdfeeder he made in school. Nice, fancy. Squirrels gnawed a hole in the top. She was going to throw it away, but I said, I’ll handle it. Two small bottles of hotpepper seeds. One in the bird feeder, the other over bags of trash. the squirrels came for a visit. 4 of them from last year’s litter. the big one climbed an apple tree and jumped on the feeder. He stuck his head in and jumped screaming form the feeder to run over the yard and them into the trees. Next one fell off the feeder and ran away. The 3rd one about the same. The 4th one crept quietly down the tree and ran for the woods. The bear found the garbage bags and ripped open one only to start bawling and running back and forth in the yard, then stumbled into the brush. Even when the apples ripened, he would not come closer than the compost heap. If these things are sprinkled over what you bury, and over the packaging used, there should not be a problem. I know, because we have ground squirrels and packrats, and they do not burrow near things we ‘planted’. Here, in Arizona, we have oleander, which even ants try to avoid. that alone should last for several years. niio

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  7. red February 1, 05:07

    If hiding food, sprinkle hot peppers over it or black pepper. Sealed in the container, it should keep dogs from sniffing it out. metal objects, we grease everything,then wrap in plastic. Plastic will not degrade fast if out of the sun. buried deep, then the rocks over it, then dirt mixed with rubble and junk metal. Water well to soak the earth, then plant something over that, if it’s outside. niio

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    • left coast chuck February 1, 23:03

      According to the tree huggers, plastic lasts 500 years. I have yet to see the critiqued study where that test was undertaken. Red is correct, buried underground plastic does last a long time, just not indefinitely. I have some stuff wrapped in plastic in the overhead in the garage where I think we could cook meat in the summertime. The heat in the overhead eventually disintegrated garbage bags, although it took in excess of twenty years to do so. I am confident that thicker plastic will last much longer even in the blast furnace-like temperatures of the overhead in the garage.

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  8. red February 2, 06:23

    LLC: They do make solar resistant plastics, but the bags I get coffee grounds in, if exposed over a few weeks, will crumble. Very thin crap. Out of the sun, it might last two years, but I’m not betting on it. A good, heavy plastic like a swimming pool liner seems almost eternal, but 500 years? How many types of bacteria and fungus feed on petroleum products? Hundreds of them, if not thousands. I should have made it clear, heavy plastic, not trash bags or other eco-freak designed plastic. Thanks for the reminder. Keep on. niio

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