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Resistance S4: The Logistics of Successful Re-Supply Cache Planning, Part Two

September 8, 2012
(In the previous installment of this article, we discussed–well, I discussed, you read–a great deal of the art and science of locating and hiding caches, in an overview sort of way. In this installment, I will endeavor to get you thinking of methods of packaging the materials to be cached, the contents of the different types of caches, and how to develop a written cache report format. –J.M.)
Packaging
In reference to caches, the term packaging refers not only to whatever container you decide to hide your goodies in, but also the additional processing needed to protect those items from adverse storage conditions. Proper packaging is absolutely crucial, because inadequate packaging, in the face of those adverse storage conditions (and let’s face it, being buried in the dirt, or exposed to the elements, is generally adverse for most manufactured goods), WILL render the cached items useless in short order (how bad would it suck to be ten days into a planned four-day foot-mobile patrolling movement, dig up your food re-supply cache…and find out the cans of Spaghetti-Os had rusted through, leaking them all over the beef jerky, which had been gnawed on and shit on by mice?).
Determining Factors
All packaging needs to be tailored to the specific cache. The method of packaging, size, shape, and weight of the container need to be predicated on what items are to be included in the cache, as well as how you anticipate it being recovered (in MY dream world, all my caches would be in 24′ CONEX boxes, would include a generator, refrigerator full of Coca-Cola, a month’s supply of Copenhagen, a queen sized bed, and recovery would be accomplished with a Case backhoe…). For individual-specific caches, intended to be recovered by one person, the container should generally be no larger than a small suitcase or backpack, with an upper weight limit of around 30-40 pounds, to facilitate ease of recovery and the necessity of moving the cached goods. Obviously some equipment will automatically negate this as a possibility, but those should be the exception that prove the rule. If more than one person will be expected to recover the cache (i.e. a cache of ammunition re-supply for a 4-6 man paramilitary team), then the packaging should still be divided into separate packages that are readily portable by the individuals.
 When it confronting the specter of those adverse environmental conditions, the logistics cell must recognize that any or all of the common threats to caches may be present: moisture, external pressure, freezing temperatures (in the northern Rockies? No way….), bacteria and chemical corrosive agents found in much soil, and even the threat of animals digging into the cache (insects or rodents…in larger caches, concealed in exterior sites, larger animals may pose a threat of damage. There’s a reason Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks require bear-proof containers for food storage in the backcountry). The suitability of packaging typically depends on the care taken in analyzing the site-specific considerations during the planning process (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance, remember?). The method of cache to be used (concealment, burial, submersion), must be determined in the earliest planning stages, long before any packaging is undertaken.
Even in typical, active UW scenarios, it is often difficult to know when a specific cache will be needed. In the case of the modern American resistance, most do not even know when the active phase of operations will begin, let alone how soon after that a specific cache will be called on. For these reasons, a doctrinally sound rule to follow is to design the packaging to withstand adverse storage conditions for at least the duration of the normal shelf life of the contents of the cache.
The Packaging Process
The exact process for packaging a specific cache will depend upon the unique requirements of the cache and on what packaging material is available. Typically however, there are certain steps that are almost always necessary:
  1. Inspection: Inspect any items to be included in the cache for serviceability. It would suck doubly bad to be running an E&E corridor, recover an arms cache to re-arm yourself, and discover that the dumb motherfucker who established the cache didn’t know that the AKM he cached was missing the firing pin.
  2. Cleaning: All corrodible parts, such as unfinished metal, must be thoroughly cleaned immediately prior to packaging, before any final preservative coatings are applied. Any foreign matter, but especially any known or suspected corrosive agents, should be removed completely. It is a good idea, and generally accepted best practice, to handle any items to be cached, with rubber gloves between the cleaning stage and final packaging, to prevent corrosion from the salts and acids in human sweat from your hands (never mind the whole reality that any fingerprints inadvertently left on the materials would paint a giant target on your back if the cache was discovered by regime security forces!).
  3. Drying: Following the cleaning process, items should be thoroughly dried. While any one method might suffice, I suggest a three-fold process. Wipe the contents down with a dry, highly absorbent towel, then oven-dry or air-dry on a sunny day, and finally, add a desiccant packet inside the packaging. To oven-dry items, place them in an oven for at least 3 hours at a temperature of about 110 degrees F.
  4. Coat with Preservative: A light coat of preservative oil may be applied to weapons, tools, or other unpainted metal surfaces.
  5. Wrapping: Items should be wrapped in a suitable material for the added protection offered. The wrapping material should be as nearly waterproof as possible. Each item should be waterproofed individually, in order to prevent one un-noticed perforation exposing all the items in the cache. The wrapping needs to fit as tightly as possible, with little or no air remaining, and any seams or openings should be sealed with a waterproof substance.
  6. Packing: When final packing of the cache is conducted, all moisture should be removed from the interior of the container by heating or applying desiccant (again, there’s no harm in overkill–do both). Air pockets should be eliminated, as much as humanly possible, by tight packing within the container. If nothing else is necessary, or desired in the cache, use clean, dried clothing, or other soft, dry padding material that might be useful to the recovery party, whenever possible, to fill in the extra space, and to provide extra protection against shock.
  7. Enclose Instructions: If necessary, or possibly necessary, enclose instructions in how to use the specific items in the cache to facilitate use or assembly by recovery party personnel. If a weapons cache, it might even be a good idea to enclose the technical manual for the particular weapon, including armorer’s instructions for field-level repairs of the common shortcomings of the weapon(s) systems in the cache.
  8. Seal and Test: When packing is complete, the lid of the container must be sealed to make it watertight. Testing should be conducted to ensure that it is, in fact, waterproof. Testing should be conducted, if possible, by completely submerging the container in a hot water bath and watching for escaping water bubbles (hot water will reveal leaks that might not be revealed by cold-water. I don’t understand the science behind it, but that’s why I’m not a fucking scientist).
Wrapping Materials
The single most critical characteristic of wrapping material is that it is moisture-proof. Additionally, it should be either self-adhesive, or allow the use of an adhesive sealing agent. The material should be pliable enough to to wrap tightly, with close folds and it should be tough enough to resist tears or punctures during handling. The simplest way to ensure both pliability and durability, is to combine two layers: an inner, pliable layer, and an outer, more resilient barrier. The tough outer wrap is absolutely essential, unless the container and padding is adequate to prevent items from scraping together inside the cache. There are several generally recommended wrapping materials that are easy to use and readily available, and I’ve used everything from aluminum foil and trashbags wrapped with 100-mph tape, to Zip-Lock baggies, to Tyvek house-wrap that I taped tightly and then glued the seams shut on. For my use now, I stick to two methods, both of which I heartily recommend:
  1. For items small enough, the best wrapping available is a FoodSeal-type vacuum sealer. Simply place the item in the plastic, cut it to size, use the vacuum-sealer, and you have a waterproof wrapping, with little or no airspace left inside. It’s idiot-simple.
  2. For larger, bulkier items, I wrap the item tightly in heavy-duty kitchen-grade aluminum foil (one of the most highly recommended wrapping materials, doctrinally. It’s waterproof, unless it gets perforated or torn, self-sealing, and conforms tightly to the shape of whatever is being wrapped), then I wrap it in asphalt-type roofing felt, sealing the edges together with roofing tar. It seems to work like a charm, even for several years.
Container Criteria
While many items could theoretically be concealed in just the inner wrapping materials (especially when using the roofing felt method), the outer container helps to protect the contents from shock, pressure, moisture, animal depredations, and other hazards that the cache may be exposed to, especially when buried. The ideal container should be completely waterproof and air-tight after sealing, resistant to shock and abrasions, able to withstand crushing pressures, lightweight, and equipped with a sealing device that can be closed and reopened easily and repeatedly, and capable of withstanding highly alkaline or acidic soil conditions.
  1. instrument containers: high-end containers such as Pelican cases are resilient and waterproof enough to be used for caches, and they come in various sizes. The biggest drawback to the Pelican cases is, of course, the expense. A less expensive alternative would be to scour military surplus stores and government liquidation auctions to find the steel containers that aircraft and other precision instruments are shipped in. These have waterproof seals, for obvious reasons, and range from 1/2 gallon to 10 gallons in size.
  2. Ammunition cans: the standard favorite of “survivalists” and “militia” types everywhere, steel ammo cans with the rubber gaskets intact do work remarkably well, and are relatively inexpensive. The only potential drawback is the size limitations, which are negligible, since you can find anything from a small .30-caliber can, all the way up to the larger cans used for 40-mm grenades, or even rockets.
  3. Steel Drums: the other classic favorite, the steel 55-gallon drum, actually suffers from a couple of drawbacks. The obvious one is the sheer size. No recovery team is going to get that barrel out on a hurry, and depending on what the cache contents are, they might not even be able to carry all the shit that will fit inside. Secondly, the most common types available lack suitable sealing lids. If used, waterproofing sealant must be used around all openings (seriously, unless you’re planning an arms cache to resupply a fucking platoon, I recommend staying away from 55-gallon drums. If you must use them, use the heavy-duty plastic type, since they will withstand corrosion better.
  4. Paint cans: Often overlooked by most, these are actually a recommended container in SOF literature on the subject. They do require a waterproofing seal around the re-closeable lids, and they are thin metal so they don’t hold up to corrosion for very long, but they are almost a perfect size for a one-man pistol and ammunition re-supply, if placed for an evader who will be using it within a short period of time. It is highly recommended that you either paint the exterior of the can, or, better, treat it thoroughly with several coats of roofing tar compound.
  5. Five-Gallon buckets: What survivalist/prepper doesn’t have a metric shit-ton of plastic, five-gallon buckets with resealable lids laying around for food-storage. As long as they are not buried too deep, where crushing from pressure becomes an issue, these are almost perfect cache containers. One bucket can hold almost an entire outfit of gear for one man (LC-2 type LBE, a can of ammunition in magazines, a change of clothes, some boots, and some food. Even a small carbine or rifle, broken down, can fit. A shop-built SMG would be a good fit here, after it had been thoroughly tested for function. I may have a couple of these with AR lowers, complete, and SBR uppers stashed away somewhere. Or I would, if it wouldn’t be a violation of BATE fiat regulations…)
Types of Caches
(The following section is completely non-doctrinal. While it may have existed in SF doctrinal literature at one time, I am not aware of it. These are strictly my personnel concepts. –J.M.)
For an underground resistance, I envision three basic types of cache functions.
  1. The first is the guerrilla re-supply cache we’ve been discussing. These would be widely dispersed over an organization’s entire projected area of operations, to facilitate re-supply on the move in the future. These may also, in the future, be short-term emplacements made by members of the subversive underground or the auxiliary, to facilitate operations by the subversive underground or the paramilitary guerrilla force, based on specific operational requirements.
  1. The second is the “storage” cache. This is a method of dispersing your normal preparedness supplies stockpiles. Instead of having everything in your basement or “doomsday bunker-retreat” where it is easy and convenient for regime security forces, foreign peacekeepers, or roving bands of criminal looters to locate and steal it, this would allow you to maintain control or possession of various critical elements of your preparedness items, even if you had to “bug out” into evasion mode.
  1. The third, and final cache function, as I see it, is the individual evasion cache. These would be small, one-man re-supplies, along planned evasion corridors (primary, secondary, and tertiary, at a minimum). Caches should be placed within one or two days’ walking distance of each other, to act as en route waypoints for re-supply as the evader moves. This would allow him to minimize the load he carried in his “go-bag” evasion kit, facilitating faster travel during the evasion.
Potential Cache Contents Concepts
Caches typically contain certain combinations of items, based on the mission requirements of the recovery element unit, and the projected operational needs within the area. An alternative way of looking at possible cache contents is to consider the “go-bag” paradigm. What categories of items would you include in a “go-bag?” Include those categories in your caches, unless it is a specialized cache (such as an arms cache, or a water or food-resupply cache). These might include:
  1. Water: again, canteens, bladders, filters or other purification methods.
  2. shelter and clothing: sleep systems, clothing, tarps, tents, etc.
  3. Fire starting methods: matches, lighters, tinder, magnesium strikers.
  4. Food: MREs (the only application I still have for MREs, because I’d have to be dying to eat the fucking things!)
  5. Medical supplies: A feasability study should be conducted to determine the need for caching medical supplies. While some items, such as CAT-Tourniquets, bandages, and other non-perishables is self-evident, the expiration dates and the actual expiration of other medical supplies, from blood-expanding fluids in IV bags, to anti-biotics (tetracyclines, for example go toxic after expiration, instead of just losing potency), must be weighed against the projected time-table of recovery.
  6. Communications: GMRS/FRS two-way radios, HAM receiver, or complete radios.
  7. Light Sources: flashlights, candles, lanterns, batteries, fuels.
  8. Tools: knives, hatchets or axes, saws, wire, repair kits, pioneer tools.
  9. Money: silver, gold, or cash, depending on the projected scenario, and who exactly you expect to be spending it with. For use in the black-market, any of the above might be an option. For use with the civilian populace, cash will generally be the most readily exchangeable, since they will be able to turn around and spend it as well.
  10. Weapons: Whether complete weapons, critical parts, support supplies (cleaning kits, magazines, load-bearing equipment, etc), these are an obvious cache item (all three cache functions).

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2 Comments
  1. GoneWithTheWind permalink

    I cached a few items in the woods near where I grew up in 1955. I never went back and have always wondered if they were still there and still in good condition.

  2. Sgt. Psycho permalink

    If you can recover those caches, it would be educational to the rest of us to hear how the items were stored, and their condition upon recovery.

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