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The Cache
© 2006
If you are camping in remote areas, even one day, then the local inhabitants (animal type) will know it and (usually) try to avoid you. However, some animals in national parks have totally lost their fear of man and "mooch" food. I don't remember which park it was, but on a road trip with my parent back in the 1950's, huge bears of all types could be seen sitting beside the roads waiting for passing motorists to throw them food. Every one of these bears was grossly overweight. Despite all the signs along the road, people would stop and throw the bears some food. These bears had almost forgotten how to forage for "normal" bear food. Warning signs were liberally posted WARNING: BEAR MOOCHERS AHEAD. DO NOT FEED THE BEARS. Nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to them. Traffic would back up as some family would feed the bears and take pictures.

Unfortunately, as the family ran out of food, the bears would get up and go over to the cars. An 800 pound bear is cute at a distance, but terrifying up close. Their claws could be up to 6 to 10 inches long. They climb trees faster than some raccoons I've seen. But the bear is not the only animal that will go after your food supply.

Raccoons are probably the best thieves in America. They are camouflaged, stealthy, fast, and can fight like the devil when cornered. My kind of animal. But, they are ALWAYS hungry. I don't think you can fill up a Raccoon.


My ex-boss Al was a professional SCUBA diver in his spare time. In the Florida Keys, diving for lobster takes a special permit. The season for SCUBA diving for lobster is measured in hours, not days. You had to enter a lottery to get the permits because there are too many divers, and too few lobsters.

Al spent hundreds of dollars on new SCUBA gear and camping equipment when he found out that both he and a few of his dive club friends managed to secure permits from the State of Florida. They drove 12 hours down to the Florida Keys, setting up camp in the dark awaiting the opening of the 48 hour diving season.

Al and all his friends dove all day the next day, and everybody caught their maximum number of allowed lobsters on the first day. Fish and Game wardens tagged every lobster as the divers came ashore. Poachers were arrested.

Exhausted from diving, the men put their lobsters on ice inside several Playmate Coolers, similar to those seen in the photo on the left. You know the type. Push a button and the lid rotates off to one side to allow you to get into the cooler.

Al and his buddies slept hard that night. When they got up in the morning, disaster had struck.

Every single cooler was wide open and all the lobsters were gone. Looking around for the human scoundrels that robbed their lobsters, they came across a very large tree with little bits of lobster parts scattered on the ground. Looking up in the tree, they found about 10 or 12 raccoons sitting on the branches, munching away on their hard earned lobsters. The raccoons had learned (a long time ago) how to open these ice chests. According to Al, (who wanted to chop the tree down), the raccoons just sat there, out of reach, and ate their lobsters until they almost could not walk. They had a feast.

Every time I remember this story I break out laughing because Al couldn't talk about it - ever - without breaking into yet another rage against the raccoons. Al never even got one bite of lobster. The raccoons spent the rest of the day sleeping in the tree. One day left on the season, and no tags left.

2006 Lobster Mini-Season
2006 Lobster Mini-Season in the Florida Keys

The two-day Sport Lobster Season is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, beginning at 12:01 A.M. on Wednesday and ending at 12:00 midnight on Thursday. This year, that will be July 26 and 27, 2006. There was a request to change the Lobster Season dates.

State and Federal Waters

Bag Limit: Six (6) per licensed harvester (you must have a saltwater fishing license with a lobster stamp) per day in Monroe County; twelve (12) per licensed harvester per day throughout the rest of Florida where the harvest of lobster is permitted. The two-day total of twelve lobster per licensed harvester in Monroe County can only be possessed when transporting your catch by car on, or after, the second day.

Bag limits are only for properly licensed individuals and those people exempt from license requirements who are actively harvesting, and those people harvesting may not exceed their individual bag limit and take someone else's bag limit. That is, people (including children) who are not actively harvesting or are not properly licensed (if a license is required) may NOT be counted for purposes of bag limits.

Diving at night for lobster is NOT permitted in Monroe County. Only bully netting and hoop-netting is permitted at night. "Night" is one (1) hour after official sunset to one (1) hour before official sunrise.

Different counties may have slightly different rules concerning this diving program.

For more information use: and Click on the box "Link to Licensing and Permitting".

Big Al was a terrific SCUBA diver. He was a terrible camper. What did he do wrong? He forgot to cache his catch. He didn't protect his lobsters from marauding raccoons. The rest of this article is to show you just how to do this.

(Note: Big Al drove a very large Dodge Van down to the keys. If he had just put the coolers inside the van, he would have saved his lobsters. But then, I would have lost this great story to tell. I'm still laughing as I write this article.

I'll start this section with another sample of Daniel Beards, Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties, first published in 1914.


...Whenever man travels in the wilderness he finds it necessary to cache - that is, hide or secure some of his goods or provisions. The security of these caches (Figs. 98-104) is considered sacred in the wilds and they are not disturbed by any person; but bears, foxes, husky dogs, porcupines, and wolverines are devoid of any conscientious scruples. Unless the cache is absolutely secure they will raid it. ED: Add to this list, squirrels, rats, snakes, ants of all kinds, and especially raccoons.

The first cache (Fig. 98) is called the "prospector's cache" and consists simply of a stick lashed to two pieces and another long pole laid across this to which the goods are hung, swinging beneath like a hammock. This cache is hung high enough to be out of reach of a standing bear.

The tripod cache (Fig. 100) consists of three poles lashed at the top with the goods hung underneath.

Another form of the prospector's cache is shown by Fig. 102, where two poles are used in place of one and an open platform of sticks laid across the poles; the goods are placed upon the platform.

The tenderfoot's cache (Fig. 105) is one used only for temporary purposes as it is too easily knocked over and would be of no use where animals as large as bears might wreck it. It consists of two sticks lashed together at their small ends and with their butt ends buried in the earth; their tops are secured by a rope to a near-by tree while the duffel is suspended from the top of the longest pole.

The "Montainais" cache is an elevated platform upon which the goods are placed and covered with skins or tarpaulin or tent cloth (Fig. 99).

The "Andrew Stone" cache is a miniature log cabin placed on the ground and the top covered with halved logs usually weighted down with stone (Fig. 101). ED: Even a full-sized log cabin is no match for an 800 pound hungry bear. If bears are in the area, hang your stuff high on something the bear cannot climb, or cannot knock over. An angry bear smelling food will maul you to get at it first. Don't even think about trying to take it back if he/she gets a hold of it, unless you have a really big rifle and are a very good shot...the first time. Bears are FAST! BT, DT. If you have an automobile, put food in the trunk, you sleep somewhere else, away from the food.

The "Belmore Brown" cache consists of a pole or a half of a log placed in the fork of two trees on top of which the goods are held in place by a rope and the whole covered with a piece of canvas lashed together with eyelets, like a shoe (Fig. 103).


All odorous items that may attract bears, including food, cooking and food storage gear, toiletries, and garbage, must be kept secured from bears. Proper methods for storing bear attractants include: 1.) in a vehicle (the trunk of a car or cab of a truck), 2.) in a solid camping trailer that is constructed of non-pliable material (never in a tent or tent trailer), 3.) in a food storage box (provided at some campgrounds), or 4.) suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet horizontally from the tree trunk.

Human Scent and Bears

"Old Wives' Tales": According to the National Park Service, there is no statistical justification for the rumor that menstruating women attract bears. They did several studies concerning all the known mauling of women over the years, and no connection could be made.

They did, however, associate Polar Bear maulings with used tampons. However, the statistical basis is very small so this may, or may not, be an accurate study.

Their studies did go on to mention that in the woods, both men and women should avoid using any product on their person that has an odor. Scented sheets, deodorant with a fragrance, shampoos and soaps with any smell, as well as scented tampons, should be avoided.

Don't bury your trash around your tent. Any animal may come along and dig it up. If the animal smells (for example) a scented tampon – and also discovers some food, you have just associated the tampon smell with food. You have just trained the animal that the tampon odor means food. Not a good thing to do. To animals, smell = food.

Some wilderness areas in the National Park system offer to cache food and supplies for you at their Ranger stations or remote lock boxes. There are a lot of rules, however, so contact the park or go to their web site for more information. In a survival situation, the Ranger stations may, or may not be open, so don't count on them for help.

"Our Bear Resistant Containers are top quality. They are expert tested (by bears), and have proven very effective in not only reducing odor transmission of the food inside, but also in keeping even the hungriest of bears out of your food supply." - Backpackers' Cache Products

Model 812 Backpackers' Cache
8.8" dia. X 12" long, weight 2.7 lbs.
Designed to slip into camper's backpack; holds approximately 6 person-days of

Model C-12 Carrying Case
Nylon carrier with webbing straps and buckles; will allow the container to be fastened to a backpack, pack animal or hand carried

This commercial product above may be a good answer to protecting your food. With no edges or corners for the animals claws to catch on to, it should be very resistant to being opened. The carrying case would be invaluable both for packing it around, and for hanging it on a tree limb at night. If you go to the web site listed above, you will see their company logo along with a photo of a bear trying to get into this cache. The photo says it all….1000 words, etc. etc….


A good plan of escape into wilderness areas should include pre-positioned caches of both food and water. Freeze-dried foods will probably last the longest in a really cold or harsh environment. The actual site and its construction depend entirely on the terrain. The key to caching food and water is to keep it hidden from both man and animals. All containers must be rodent proof. PVC containers would be my first choice, with metal a close second. Rodents can get into almost everything. They can squeeze through holes so small you wouldn't believe it. They are also mean little devils when trapped. So, open your cache carefully. Snakes can also get into spots you didn't know existed.

If you bury your cache, moisture is also a problem, so the heavy metal and plastic has to also be water tight. Rodents dig too. Bugs and worms will ruin your day if you don't pack your cache properly.

Make sure that on the day you make your cache, there are no "tourists" in the area watching what you are doing. If more than one outsider knows the cache location, your cache is NOT secure. Be sure that every member of your party knows the EXACT location of your cache. If your party gets separated, its important that they know where to look for life-saving food and water.

Other items to consider including in the cache: Blankets, cooking utensils, fuel for heaters and stoves, ammunition for your weapons, knives, fire starting materials, maps, compass, dry clothing, coats and sox, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, toilet paper, and toilet paper. (Did I mention toilet paper?) I hate using leaves.

Make time to mark the location on a chart and identify landmarks that tell others in your party where it is. Include instructions on how to get into the cache. Don't use man-made landmarks, unless you are certain they will still be there when you need it. A shed that burns down is not available as a marker. You can't get there when the directions include "turn south 15 paces from the burned down barn". If you have a GPS receiver, mark down the numbers for future reference.

Caching food and supplies in an urban (city or town) environment is even easier since there are usually a lot of mini-storage units available. Make sure the one you get has an outside door available 24 hours a day. You don't want to have to break into an abandoned building to get your stuff. You can also rent storage from farmers with extra outbuildings, from city folks with empty garages and sheds, or purchase small lots or buildings and use that site as a way-point shelter and re-supply point. The last one is my favorite, but it will cost a LOT of money. However, since its not MY money, I can just recommend it, but not have to pay for it. Normally, you're not supposed to spend the night camping in one of these facilities, but in a emergency, use whatever works.

If you lock your cache with a padlock, make sure everyone in your party has a key or the combination to the lock. Burglar tools and bolt cutters are not usually included in backpack supplies.


Common sense tells you not to build a wooden building in an area devoid of trees. Nor should you build a concrete monument in a forest. Both stick out like a sore thumb, and both will be easily seen because of their square corners (straight lines) that will fool nobody. Hunters, scavengers, kids and bums will have days (or weeks) to work on your cache, and eventually they will get in and rob you blind.

A cache in the mountain rocks should look like mountain rocks. A cache in the forest should look like a tree – or be underground.

Underground storage is probably the best there is. The easiest way to successfully hide your cache is to use good old plumbing supplies. PVC Pipe can be buried and left in place for a long time.

PVC: Polyvinyl chloride pipes and two pipe caps make an easily transportable, easily water-proofed storage container. Safe from rodents, unseen from above ground, it is no more visible than the sewer pipe in your home. Deep enough underground, they are safe from fire, rodents, wind and water damage. You can bury one or ten at the same time. Cheap to purchase and easy to construct.

Here you see the type of pipe cap you may want to consider. Sewer pipe is available up to very large sizes. However, the pipe caps, particularly with screw-in clean out fittings, can get expensive for larger pipes.

You can probably get all you need inside a 4-inch or 8-inch pipe. Some types of caps are "press-on" types with rubber gaskets that will work as well as the "solvent-weld" type sealants. The press-on types are easier to use (but more expensive) than the solvent-sealed type. The press-on types can be opened by tapping on the edges with a small hammer or axe head. The solvent-sealed types must be cut open with a saw. Unless you have extra caps around, as well as more sealant, once you cut open a solvent-sealed tube it is totally useless.

The cleanout pipe cap, seen on the left, is solvent-welded to the pipe, but has a screw-on cap that can be sealed to be waterproof using Teflon tape. This type is reusable since you can take out what you need, and reseal it easily. You will need a large pair of pliers or some type of tool to make a tight seal. You only need this fitting on one end of the pipe, and a pipe cap on the other end.

Burying PVC pipe is best done with a post-hole digger. Placed up-right, the end cap will be the only thing detectable, even if the soil is washed off the top during a flood. It will be very hard to find. Paint the top black.

Some people use high-priced metal detectors now for treasure hunting. Being up-right, the "target" for the detectors is very much smaller than being buried length-wise. Detector operators use a horizontal sweeping motion to find their treasure. By offering a smaller target, the detectors will be much harder to find. Once found by treasure hunters, they will dig them up just to see what they have found. They may or may not rebury them, depending on the honesty of the treasure hunter. If there are weapons inside, they will probably be long gone when you need them.

Burying in damp ground presents another problem that is easily overcome. Moisture condensation inside the pipe. Desiccants are naturally occurring minerals that absorb moisture. Gypsum is a prime example. You've all seen desiccant packs. Those are those little packs included in dry food that read "do not eat the contents of this pack, throw this pack away". They absorb any stray moisture that may intrude into their food, keeping the food dry.


Drierite is a typical example of commercial desiccants available for purchase. Calcium Sulfate, gypsum, is the material used for this type. It has a high absorption rate and is reusable if you bake it slowly in an oven at low heat for about an hour.

Drierite has a 32 page web site that will give you prices, sizes, and generally more information than you can ever need about desiccants.

Desiccant packs can be placed in the bottom of your PVC cache tube and will absorb most of the moisture that will flow by gravity to the bottom of the tube. This keeps the rest of your items inside the tube high and dry. If your survival items are heat sealed into plastic bags, so much the better. Weapons should be covered with a grease suitable for long-term storage. Cosmoline (available in Surplus and gunstores) comes to mind right away. But, there are other products out there also.

You can make your own desiccant packs by removing the paper covering of regular drywall. DO NOT USE THE "GREEN BOARD" OR WATER RESISTANT TYPES" of drywall. Once the paper is removed, cut up the drywall into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the cubes onto a cookie sheet and bake at about 150 to 200 degrees (f.) for about an hour. (Leave oven door cracked open.) Once they are cooled off enough to handle with bare hands, place them into bags made out of cheesecloth. Tie off the top of the bag, and immediately pack the bag into the bottom of a very dry cache tube. Pack the tube as quickly as possible and seal the top. This way, you get the maximum protection value from your desiccant pack. I recommend a pack at least 3-inched deep, and as big around as the tube it's packed in.

There is no reason you cannot bury more than one tube. That way, if one is found, others may be missed, leaving you with (however reduced) supplies. It's not a good plan to put all your eggs into one basket.

When burying your cache tube, make sure you put all the excavated dirt onto a ground sheet or tarp. That way you wont be leaving a mound of dirt around that will be easy to spot. Bury the tube so that the cap is about 4 to 6 inches below the surface. Pack extra dirt around it, and scatter the remaining dirt around the area. Replace the surface debris and sweep the ground until there are no signs that you were ever there. MARK THE LOCATION ON YOUR MAP AND TELL EVERYONE IN YOUR PARTY WHERE IT IS. Don't let all this money, time and effort get lost because you forgot to do this.



Long recognized as the favored preservative for long-term storage of guns, tools and other metal objects. Provides superior protection against rust and corrosion. Made to original G.I. specs. Can be brushed-on directly or warmed in hot water for dipping small parts. 12 oz. can. It sells for about $12.00 per jar.

World War II veterans will immediately recognize this as the preservative they had to scrub off their newly issued weapons during WWII. A lot of elbow grease and solvents went into the cleaning of these weapons. Army Sergeants would calmly and peacefully explain just exactly was wrong with your weapon, then send you back to clean it again for the 100th time. (sic)

Cosmoline is a petroleum based preservative with the consistency of heavy grease used to protect metal from moisture during long term storage or transit.

Army Sergeants are neither calm nor peaceful with new recruits. Follow the manufacturers instructions to remove this sticky but very effective protective substance. Be prepared for a few hours work.


Water can be successfully cached in plastic factory bottles. However, I wouldn't put anything else in the same cache tube unless it won't matter if it gets wet. Check out the area you are going to put them and find out what the "frost line" depth is. The frost line is that depth under the ground that is not affected by freezing temperatures. Don't get me wrong, it will still be cold, but not frozen. All water in the tube should be kept below the frost line. That may mean you have to dig a very deep hole. Mark that spot with a shorter piece of small-diameter PVC to help you locate it later on. Several smaller PVC containers would be better than just one big container with a lot of water in it.

The reason for keeping the water in the factory bottle is that it is already purified and sealed by the factory. If you open the containers, the purity of it may be lost. Check out the diameter of the bottled water to make sure it will fit inside your cache tube, or other selected storage container.

Cached water may lose its "freshness" after a while, but will still be perfectly safe to drink. To make it more palatable, pour some back and forth several times from cup to cup. This aeration will make it taste a lot better. If stored underground, it will still be cold when you dig it up.

Other items that could be included in the water-dedicated cache could be: food in hermetically sealed packets, cosmoline-coated and plastic-sealed knives, ammunition stored in sealed mason jars along with desiccants, or anything made of plastic. Don't put firearms in there. If you have accidentally missed covering ALL the parts of the weapon, the rust will eventually get to it should one of the bottles spring a leak.

A secret known to more than one person is no longer a secret. Share the knowledge with only the friends and family you trust completely...and then make them swear that they will never tell a living soul where these caches can be found. Keep your maps safe from prying eyes.