Napoleon learned an army marches on its stomach. Cut off from supplies, he struggled to survive the Russian campaign as he found the Russians destroyed anything of value the invading army could have exploited. As a result, his army suffered a crippling loss and the return trek to France claimed many lives from malnourishment and hypothermia. Resupply while in the field was difficult and largely impossible for Napoleon but it doesn’t have to be for you. Learning how to create practical caches and discreet drops will ensure you have critical supplies in hard times.The key to this survival plan is foresight and proper prior planning.
My parents taught me never to put all my eggs in one basket. Therefore, I don’t keep all my emergency equipment, provisions and gear in a single location. I have spread them out in a couple homes (these locations need not be your own as long as you coordinate your cache’s with your friends/family) as well as other undisclosed places. Have more than one cache, a sizeable collection of equipment and supplies, and make at least one a mobile “disaster box” you can grab and go with. Should a major catastrophe occur, don’t run the risk of losing all your gear. A spare change of clothes, some cash, a toiletry kit, some psychologically comforting EDC items, all can be placed in this practical cache. Think of where you can leave a disaster box like this with a reliable person in case your worst-case scenario becomes your reality. Ask yourself who you can count on and who is within a practical distance from you based on the scenario you have in mind.
Think about the type of most likely scenario when determining how a practical cache or discrete drop will help you.The scenario you create in your head will largely dictate the contents of each of these caches. Sometimes, a large cache is not the best answer when smaller discrete drops are a better plan. If you anticipate needing to get home but don’t know how you will carry enough water, gallon containers are easily hidden along your travel route ahead of time. Considering a gallon of water is approximately 8 pounds, having 8 pounds off your back for each gallon strategically placed is a welcomed relief. If you have a favorite hunting or fishing location, think about leaving a waterproof container concealed in a natural hollow with creature comforts to help extend your day and limit the need to return home. This container can hold extra batteries, energy bars, repair kit items or other frequently used supplies. A discrete drop like this is a game changer reducing travel, fuel or energy used and the need to return to a location that might not be safe. Geocacher’s already train this habit albeit for recreation instead of survival. Lessons can be learned from their pastime.
Learning how to store extra gear in the woods or in the open when not needed helps improve overall woodsmanship and situational awareness. Of utmost importance to the success of creating caches and drops is remaining inconspicuous. On a few long hiking trips, I’ve stowed equipment in my rucksack off the trail with markers only known to my hiking party as I’ve hiked summits with just my modular daypack. Flagging tape, reflective tabs and a trail of breadcrumbs are not advised as they are easily spotted and recognized as trail markers. In the process of learning your environment, you will discover places others would not likely look, travel and hide as well. You’ll begin to see these features as resources in the field and will find ways of stretching their utility. Should your drop be discovered and looted by a fellow outdoorsman or group of kids, the contents are generally inexpensive and not much of a loss. This is why you should not leave irreplaceable items somewhere they can be taken. Furthermore, there are issues with having a known resupply point in a hostile environment. Find the safest location and as always, adhere to local laws not trespassing where you should not.
Consider also how a practical cache or discrete drop affects the idea of a “Bug Out Bag” or “Get Home Bag” framed by a finite timespan. These premade kits are designed for leaving a problematic location for a period of time and hopefully returning when the home, workspace or location is safe again. 72 hours is a general standard for most kits and some will feature provisions for a week or more. Many of these kits are built well and address the need of the survivor while others are constructed with fantasy needs in mind as people ignore the truth in favor of drama. Assuming your kit is well stocked, you can resupply some of your gear extending the amount of time you are afield. With a practical cache in a safe rally point, you can carry less allowing you to move faster with only what you need to navigate safely. This will set you apart from those with heavier unwieldy bug out bags.
Caches and drops should be known by as few people as possible. Just as the ill-prepared and naive shake their head to pocket carried items like multi-tools, lighters and emergency kits, they will respond with even more criticism to the added layer of preparedness you are creating. There is no sense in alerting others to your actions if they do not have the same mentality as you. When you are living well they will be scraping by and their problems do not have to be yours if you have prepared ahead of time.
About the Author
Kevin Estela is the Founder and Head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education. He conducts private and semi-private wilderness and urban/suburban survival courses, tests and evaluates knives and equipment for various companies, is a Mountain Khakis Professional Ambassador, and is a life-long outdoors enthusiast with additional pastimes in canoeing/kayaking, fishing and cooking. Kevin's work has taken him from Los Angeles, CA to the United Kingdom and many points in between. Kevin is ranked in both Sayoc Kali and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a shooting enthusiast. Kevin is formerly the Lead Instructor for the Wilderness Learning Center. When not teaching outdoor skills, he is a full-time High School History Teacher and Track and Field Coach who lives in Connecticut.