Urban Survival Cache – All You Need to Know About Caches

A well-planned out cache can make all the difference and boost your chances of survival regardless of the cause of emergency or unrest. So what is an urban survival cache?

An urban survival cache is concealed storage for vital survival supplies. In a perfect world, you should have several caches in different locations. Some can store weapons and tools, while others can hide food supplies. Ideally, caches should be hidden in isolated areas with little traffic.

If you’re curious about urban survival caches and want to know how to set them up, then you need not look any further. In this article, we’ll break down all you need to know about survival caches and how to hide them to boost your chances of survival.

What Is an Urban Survival Cache?

A survival cache is a well-hidden collection of supplies that can come in handy in emergencies. Urban survival caches, as the name suggests, are hidden stockpiles of emergency supplies located within urban areas.

While you can have one urban survival cache, having multiple caches spread out in different locations is highly advisable. Spreading out survival supplies means you won’t be at a huge loss if one location is compromised.  

How Many Caches Should You Have?

You can have as many caches as you need, provided you are able to keep up with and maintain them. SHTF situations can escalate pretty quickly, turning friends into foes as everyone looks to survive and supplies become scarce.

The knowledge that you can access important supplies such as food, water, and even medication should give you peace of mind if your main home is inaccessible.

The number of caches should depend on your needs. For some, even five caches might not be enough for a large family.

This is because you might need to store your food and water in one location. Weapons and tools might be in a separate location, while you can also hide your medical supplies in an easy-to-access cache.

You may also choose to create a one-stop shop that has a combination of each, which is the preferable method.

Tips to Consider When Planning Your Survival Cache

There is no perfect cache. However, a proper cache should be well-planned and stocked with the right type of supplies. The rule of thumb is that caches should include more diverse products the further you move from your main area of operation.

That is, as you continue to move further away from your central location, your caches should have more supplies, especially food and water, utility tools, and medical supplies.

Below are important tips to consider when planning your survival cache.

Review Your Needs

Before you decide on a location for your urban survival cache(s), it’s important to review your plans. Do you have a bug-out plan or perhaps a bug-in plan?

What are some of the potential threats that you’ll likely be facing? Finally, you should set up your cache based on your intended travel routes in case of emergencies. What about alternate travel routes? Be sure to plan for those as well.

Therefore, the first step is to align your cache to your survival plan. If you have been preparing a bugout location for emergency situations, then it’s best to hide your cache somewhere along the route.

If your plan is to bug in, then hiding your cache at a safe distance from your home should get the job done.

Identify Potential Locations

Once you’ve integrated a cache into your basic emergency plans, it’s time to think about where exactly to hide your supplies.

While burying or hiding survival supplies might appear straightforward at first, finding the right spot to hide supplies can prove daunting, especially if you’re new to the topic.

Compare several spots, thinking critically about the pros and cons of each. Ideally, you should eliminate potential locations based on the amount of traffic the area receives and how accessible it is.

Since you’ll be caching in an urban area, you’ll need to be creative if your cache is to help you get to your bugout location (BOL) in an emergency.

As you continue to weigh the pros and cons of the potential locations you identify, look at factors such as ease of implementation. The last thing you want to be doing is digging up a hole in a public park where everybody can see what you’re doing.

Therefore, if you can’t modify a potential caching location to suit your needs, then you should consider somewhere else.  

Brainstorm on What You’re Likely to Require

Most people fail to get this part right. When preparing for survival, it’s highly advisable to think about what items you’ll need most. Storing all items in a single cache isn’t advisable for a couple of reasons, as listed below.

  • Others might discover your cache and steal all your supplies
  • Your cache might be inaccessible, meaning you won’t get to use your supplies when needed
  • You might forget (Don’t be this person) your cache location, thus leaving you without any backup

As can be seen, having a single cache location isn’t the best idea, at least if you want to boost your chances of preparedness, but then again, one location is better than none.

So, if you can manage only one cache, then be sure to make it as convenient, easy to locate (from your perspective), well hidden, and well-stocked as possible.

There is one train of thought that says survival stashes should be stored separately by type. That is, you can have one cache that focuses primarily on food while another cache can store your tools or maybe some self-defense items.

However, my personal preference is to have caches that are well-rounded in regards to what they store. In other words, if I’m only able to access one cache, I want to make sure it has a well-rounded assortment of what I need in case I cannot access my other locations.

This ensures that I won’t be as desperate to get to another cache since I can get what I need at one location.

Document Your Cache Locations

It’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure you know exactly where your caches are and how to locate them.

While some might not see the need to document their caches due to the repeated use of the same locations, it’s highly advised to take notes about new locations, focusing on the immediate surroundings and permanent identifiers.

If you prefer to use a map to document your cache locations, keep in mind it’s a highly confidential document. It would be wise to annotate your caches in a way that is not easily identifiable to the casual observer.

Keep in mind, you may have to share this information with family or close friends at some point in time if you are physically unable to make the trip. If that’s the case, be mindful of how you are going to pass the location information along.

Best Locations for Emergency Caches

Although not straightforward, setting up a well-stocked urban survival cache shouldn’t be too hard either. However, since you may not be able to find many trees or open spaces to hide your supplies, it’s important to get extra creative to find good enough hiding areas.

Below are some of the options you have when hiding your urban survival caches


Not too many options compare to burying your survival caches. If you properly bury your supplies, you won’t need to worry too much about someone discovering them. Your biggest concern should be finding the cache when the need arises.

Fortunately, there are several areas to bury your caches in urban settings. Try moving away from central areas where police and human traffic are always high.

While some people gravitate towards using parks as caching locations, it usually isn’t advised. This is because park entry is usually determined by park management (in some areas), and entrance might be somewhat restrictive when SHTF situations occur.

They also have increased foot traffic during normal situations, which increases the likelihood of your cache being discovered.

However, if you know of an isolated area free of CCTV cameras within your home area, then perhaps you should try burying your cache there. You want to bury your supplies in a convenient location that you’re 100% sure you can access in the event of an emergency.

When to Avoid Burying Your Cache

In case you live in a crowded area

There is no secret when it comes to digging. Even worse, it’s practically impossible to dig in a public area without attracting attention. Therefore, you should avoid burying your cache if you live in a crowded urban area where doing so would draw unnecessary attention.

If you live below sea level or in flooding prone areas

Burying caches is rarely the problem, but successful retrieval is the hardest part of hiding survival supplies. If you live in an area that’s prone to flooding or heavy rains, then you should consider other options instead of burying. Heavy rainfall can saturate the soil and your survival cache could easily float up in the event of erosion due to floods.

If the ground is extra hard

Setting up an urban cache isn’t as easy as hiding your survival supplies in more rural areas. First off, you won’t have access to isolated areas, which means fewer options when it comes to burying. If the ground beneath is too hard to dig, chances are the soil won’t be compact enough when burying the caches, and the last thing you want is a by-passer stumbling on your supplies due to improper burying.

If you don’t plan on spending the proper time

Digging to bury your supplies is completely different from digging your garden. You’ll need to dig your cache in a way that allows you to cover it up in a way that’s undetectable. If you doubt your ability to do a thorough digging and covering job, then you should try other hiding techniques.  

Bike or Running Trails

Another option is to hide your cache along (off of) hiking trails. If your urban area has hiking or running trails, then you can try setting up your cache on trees.

Look for tall trees that are located outside of the trails. The trees should be healthy and well-clustered to provide proper protection to your cache.

Trees are high-risk caching locations and can leave you disappointed if you don’t seal the caches well enough. You’ll need to seal the contents of your cache and/or cover the entire package with a waterproof sealant. 

As you place the cache on the tallest branch, be sure to secure it firmly in position. The higher the cache, the higher the risk. However, it makes it less likely someone will take a chance to “figure out” what they’ve spotted from the ground.

You might also need to camouflage the package to ensure it blends perfectly with the surrounding.  

In my opinion, this is a more risky option because of the increased likelihood of being spotted. However, in evergreens, it is still a viable option if done correctly.

Ceiling Panels

Ceiling panels are ideal for storing caches in urban centers. However, this technique can backfire if the structure is destroyed or compromised in some way. This method could work well if you placed several caches in your main home, office, and BOL ceilings.

Spreading out the risks means you can still gain access to your supplies even when one area becomes inaccessible.

Abandoned Structures

Abandoned buildings or structures are tricky, but potentially effective options to hide your cache. While abandoned buildings might make perfect hiding places, they may become high-traffic areas in emergency situations.

When using abandoned buildings as your hiding area, try as much as possible to avoid the obvious places and go for hard-to-reach or hard-to-access areas.

The only caveat with using abandoned buildings is that they’re likely to become hotspots for survivors seeking shelter in SHTF situations.

Therefore, if you hide out your cache in an abandoned structure, try as much as possible to get your supplies immediately when the SHTF situation happens.

You can also store your caches in an abandoned car, especially if the car is along the route to your BOL. However, similar to hiding survival caches in abandoned buildings, you shouldn’t place your supplies in obvious places.

Disclaimer, abandoned cars don’t make perfect hideouts for large caches. Therefore, if you’re going to use one as a hiding area, place small supplies like knives, spare keys to your BOL, money, or even medicine. 

A well-sealed PVC tube can come in handy when storing caches inside abandoned cars. You can gently tear up the car seat, especially towards the less exposed side, and slide in the thin tube as deeply as you can.

Garbage Can

Did you know that you can store your cache in a garbage can that you never empty? Anything goes when it comes to urban survival caches, so you shouldn’t overlook the potential of your garbage can.

However, if you opt to go the trash can way, it’s best to store weapons and non-food material.  

Once you’ve placed your supplies, proceed to add non-recyclable trash inside. Non-recyclable trash like pet hairs, stones, and broken bottles can prevent other desperate (and potentially dangerous) survivors from perusing deeper inside the trash.

You can also hide your cache in plain sight as long as you can disguise it perfectly. If you prefer to throw in a couple of supplies in your garden, try as much as possible to camouflage the containers or bags such that the cache blends well with the garden environment.

Storage Unit

Storage units make perfect hideouts for survival caches. However, you should avoid storing potentially lethal weapons and gun-related supplies in storage units to remain on the safe side of the law.

Instead of weapons, consider placing food supplies, plastic water, helmets, emergency wear, portable survival shelters, and other utility tools in storage units.

Since other survivors are likely to break in and ransack storage units in SHTF situations, try as much as possible to get your supplies immediately or a couple of days after the SHTF situation occurs.

The Best Survival Cache Containers

To successfully store your survival supplies, you’ll need proper containers that are waterproof and can resist rodents and bugs. Tough containers will ensure your supplies are well-protected regardless of the harsh environmental conditions.

Below is a list of some of the best cache containers.

Plastic container with weathertight lid

Storing your dry food and water needs air and watertight containers. Luckily, there are several options when it comes to lidded plastic containers. A 5-gallon bucket like the Screw Top Life Latch Bucket might be enough to hold your food supplies in place. The idea is to use a large enough bucket with an airtight and watertight lid.

Ammo storage containers

They can come in handy when setting up survival caches. You’ll find that most ammo storage containers have a tough exterior to compliment a spacious interior. For instance, the Plano Storage Trunk is weather-resistant and perfect-sized for carrying both large and small equipment. High-quality ammo storage containers should keep your guns and knives in tip-top shape for months, if not years.  

Mono vault containers

Mono vault containers like the MTM SAC Survivor Ammo Can are ideal for caching ammo and small items. Mono vault containers come in different shapes and sizes and can help you in underground storage, especially in water-logged soils. You can also use the containers to store food, valuables, and other things.  

Pelican cases

Pelican cases come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but for caching purposes, it’s best advised to work with small to medium-sized cases. For instance, the Pelican 1510 Case with Foam is an ideal option for underground caching. The pelican case is watertight, dust-proof, and crush-proof, features that make the product perfect for urban survival caching.

Important Tips to Consider When Recovering Your Survival Cache

Setting up your cache doesn’t mean abandoning it until the next emergency arises. Instead, you should cultivate a habit of regular inspection, at least once or twice a year, all to ensure that everything is okay.

Regular inspection also gives you the chance to do the following:

  • Verify that the cache contents are still present
  • Change and replace expired items such as medicines and food
  • Verify that the contents are not water or pest-damaged
  • Examine your ability to find your caches and develop alternative routes to the cache site

Here are some tips to consider to ensure you successfully retrieve your survival cache:

Keep Your Location a Secret

The importance of keeping your cache location a secret cannot be overstated. If you’re going to recover your cache during the night, it’s best to use moonlight. Using a flashlight might attract attention, thereby giving your location away.

At the same time, daytime recovery can prove risky, especially if you hide your cache in a high-traffic area. If you’re planning on accessing your supplies during the day, try your best to do so when it’s raining, early morning, or after a thorough inspection of the location.  

Keep an Eye on Your Surroundings

While it’s crucial to monitor your surroundings before digging out your cache, it’s even more important to stay alert when unearthing the supplies.

Digging or excavating noises can easily grab the attention of bystanders or survivors in nearby locations—and the next thing you know—everyone’s flocking around you, desperate to get their hands on your supplies.

Urban areas are notorious for CCTVs. Therefore, be sure to check around for cameras since new ones might have been installed long after you hid your cache.

Work Fast

You won’t have all the time in the world when recovering your cache, and since you’re always a second away from being discovered in SHTF situations, try to spend as little time as possible in your cache location.

Don’t go looking for tools at the cache site. Instead, go with the right tools and start digging immediately after confirming the area is safe enough. This means preparing your tools well in advance.

Always Have a Back-Up Story

Urban caches aren’t as deserted as caches dug deep in the wilderness. Chances are you might get discovered when retrieving your supplies in public parks, hiking trails, abandoned structures, or even parking lots.

To be on the safe side, you should always have a backup story on standby. Perhaps you could be a city employee, a passerby who stumbled upon hidden supplies, or a concerned civilian who saw someone hide and retrieve items.

Just have a story that’ll help you look like the victim and not the aggressor, especially when dealing with groups of angry survivors in SHTF situations.  

Cover Your Tracks

Leaving your cache area messy after recovering crucial supplies is a recipe for disaster. When dealing with caches, the rule of thumb is always to clean up and leave the area looking just as it was before.

Therefore, to ensure that you cover your tracks perfectly, always take some time (a couple of seconds is enough) to examine the cache area’s appearance before you start retrieving.

Erase all your tracks and leave the soil level just as it was before you started digging. A simple misjudgment on your side might leave your cache area compromised.

Items to Include in an Urban Survival Cache


Survival caches need a generous supply of food to keep you going after your main supply runs out. Invest in energy bars, dried fruits, peanut butter, dried beans, brown rice, and canned foods.


If you think water might be a huge factor in SHTF situations, then it’s best to store bottled water if possible. Water bottles are not best for stacking but might prove useful when the need to refill arises.

You might also want to store water in packets like the SOS Emergency Water Packets, which allow for proper rationing in emergencies.  

If you live close to natural water sources, you might want to throw in a reusable water filter or pack up some purification tablets like the Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets, which are known to make contaminated water safe for consumption after 35 minutes.

Guns and Ammo

Weapons are a huge expense and you definitely don’t want them to end up missing. Store these at your own risk and be sure to use extra precaution when doing so. Use ammo storage containers to keep your weapons safely secured.

First Aid Kit and Medical Supplies

Almost every cache needs a first aid kit packed with bandages, disinfectants, wound-closure strips, and pain killers. You should also include enough medical supplies if you have an underlying medical condition. Trauma gear is also advised.


In emergencies, you won’t have the time to scratch rocks to start a fire. You’ll need a fast, quiet, and efficient method to start up a fire. Throw in several Bic Lighters to be on the safe side.

You might also need a backpacking stove like the Solo Survival Low Smoke Stove to prepare your meals without the need to start a campfire.

Winding Up

Planning ahead is crucial in survival situations, hence the need for survival caches. Caches give you an edge over other survivors, granting you access to vital food, tools, self-defense items, and medical supplies when your main stocks run out.

However, for caches to serve you in emergencies, you’ll need to hide them away safely from the public eye. This means being creative and planning for contingencies.

While it’s possible to have several cache areas, the most important thing is to remember the exact locations. Therefore, as you continue to plan out your cache hideouts, remember to document every location to be on the safe side.

When it comes to retrieving your supplies, do your best to act fast and leave the cache area exactly how you found it.  

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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