Aug 292014
A bizarre approach to dispensing toilet paper.

A bizarre approach to dispensing toilet paper – sighted at a rest stop somewhere between SD and MN.

A little known side effect of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant problems in Japan was a shortage of toilet paper that affected the entire country.

Japan has had toilet paper shortages before, back in the oil crisis of 1973 (you never thought that expensive and scarce oil would create a toilet paper shortage, did you!) and so the nation has become particularly sensitized to the potential of future shortages.  As a result, the Japanese government is now urging the public to stockpile toilet paper, and has even arranged for a special type of toilet paper roll (without the inner cardboard sleeve) that allows more toilet paper to be stored in less space.  You can read more about their public promotional campaign here.

We see two interesting things about this.  The first is the government’s determination that it could take a month for any disruption in supply to be resolved, either due to factories returning to production or by way of importing supplies from other countries, and so they are recommending everyone keeps at least a one month supply in their homes.

Depending on your point of view, a one month supply is either a generous amount or woefully inadequate.  A lot would rest on the type of disruption to local manufacturing, of course, and if it was a broader global disruption (such as another oil shock) then even a one month supply might be exhausted long before new supplies were on hand.  Of course, this is a Level 1 type preparation only, not a Level 2 or 3.

The second interesting thing is the focus on stockpiling a month of toilet paper.  We don’t disagree with this at all, of course, but how about other things, too?  Like, ummm, water and food?  If toilet paper is liable to disruptions in supply, surely food supplies too have to be considered as being at risk of some future disruptions, and if we had to choose between no toilet paper and no food, well, that’s an easy choice, isn’t it!

Don’t get us wrong.  It is great to see a national government advocate a one month stockpile of anything, but we see this as begging the question – why do we need to maintain a one month supply of toilet paper, but not a one month supply of everything else, too?

Aug 262014
We love traditional printed books, but storing them all is becoming an ever greater and more costly problem, demanding we switch less essential titles to eBook format.

We love traditional printed books, but storing them all is becoming an ever greater and more costly problem, demanding we switch less essential titles to eBook format.

Are you building up a library of prepper resource materials?  You definitely should be.

If you’re like us, you probably already have somewhere between hundreds of thousands and literally millions of pages of resource material, spanning tens or even hundreds of gigabytes of data on your hard drives.  It is very easy to download and save material from many different sites and sources.

If you’re like us, you’ve maybe also bought some CDs or DVDs filled with prepper type content, adding still further to the vast resource of material you have.

Indeed, our biggest ‘problem’ with our data is not knowing what we have.  We’ve so much of it, indeed we just counted and we have 137,000 prepper files, including some zip files that have in turn hundreds more files within them, and we know we have sometimes downloaded things twice, and if we had to find information on a specific topic, well, that could be a time-consuming problem!

Again, if you’re like us, not much of this is printed out, and most is sitting in abstract electronic form on your hard drive(s).  It is easily to download a five hundred page manual that you might never need – it costs you almost literally nothing to download and save onto a hard drive, for a ‘just in case’ future use – maybe sometime, probably (hopefully!) never.

Now think about the future that you’re saving all this material to help you with.  What happens if we suffer an EMP and most of our electronics are fried?  Or what happens if your hard drive simply dies – how thoroughly backed up is the material you downloaded?  Or, even worse, if your computer fails.  Never mind the data backup – how many spare computers do you have, too!

Did you know that CDs and DVDs have finite lives?  Sooner or later, the data on them will start to corrupt and eventually become unreadable.

And even if the data remains secure and readable, sooner or later, your electronics will die.  Maybe they will die quickly, through an EMP or power surge or something.  Maybe they’ll just slowly fail as the natural lifespans of the electronics passes, or maybe they’ll die quickly of ‘infant mortality’ (electronic devices tend to either die quickly, or else last most/all of their expected lives before failing).  For that matter, did you also know that some electronic components age and expire whether they are being used or not – specifically, electrolytic capacitors, which have about a 20 year life and at some point subsequently, will start to become ‘leaky’ (in an electrical more than physical sense) and fail.

Our point is simple.  A printed out book is a remarkably long-lived device, and while it has some vulnerabilities (eg to water and fire, also to dogs and small children) you’ll usually find books are more reliable and guaranteed to ‘work’ in adverse situations than is the case with modern electronics.

Should you therefore be printing out everything you download and save?

The answer to this question is a modified ‘no, not really’.  We’ll wager that probably 95% of everything you download is stuff you’d never look at, no matter what happens WTSHTF.  But, and here’s the catch – can you be sure which of the many things you’ve downloaded will be in the 95% unnecessary and which will be in the 5% of necessary/essential reference resources?

But what do you print out, and what do you leave in electronic format?  Furthermore, there are more downsides to eBooks than ‘just’ the concern that the electronics will fail.

If you can only read eBooks and other electronic files on your computer, how truly convenient is that?  Your computer – even if a laptop/portable rather than desktop unit – still weighs many pounds, needs power, and is somewhat fragile.  You probably don’t want it sitting out in the field alongside you as you work out how to construct something.  If you drop a book, you pick it up again.  If you drop a computer…..

You can’t have your computer or eBook reader in more than one place at once – you can’t have someone in the kitchen using it for cooking, someone in the workshop using it to repair something, someone in the living room using it to read for relaxation, and so on.  Sure, each physical book can only be in one place too, but you can have each of your many books in a different place.

Call us old-fashioned, but we see a clear role for hard copy printed books in our retreats.

However, let’s also look at some of the upsides of eBooks, as well as their downsides.

We keep coming back to the gigabytes of downloaded ‘just in case’ reference material we have here.  We’ve no idea how many hundreds of thousands of pages of content there are in all of these, but even if we say there is ‘only’ 100,000 pages of key content, how much paper/space/cost would that require to print it all out?

You can partially answer that question with a visit to your local office supply store.  Look at the size of a box of ten reams of paper (10 x 500 sheets = 5,000 sheets).  Now look at the size of a pallet full of those boxes of paper.  That’s quite a lot of space, isn’t it, particularly if neatly laid out on bookshelves rather than stacked on pallets.  100,000 sides, (if you can print double-sided, and if you can’t, you’d probably be well advised to buy a duplex printer prior to this enormous printing project) would require 50,000 sheets, or ten of those boxes, plus extra space for covers and whatever else.

That’s an appreciable amount of space, and we’ve not started to address the question of how you’d bind the printouts together (probably either in ring-binders or, more space efficiently, by simply stapling short works and using re-usable fold-over binding posts for larger works).  Plus there’s the cost – the paper cost is minimal, and less than a couple of cents a sheet, but then add additional for the ink or toner to print onto them (get a low cost per page laser printer rather than a high cost per page inkjet printer), and all up, 100,000 sides/50,000 pages of content probably end up costing you $2,500 or more.

Now you need a way to store and index all this material, too.  So you need some shelving and space to put it, and some sort of indexing system so you can find it in the future.  That’s more time, more money, and more hassle.

If you have a million pages of material (we’re sure we have at least that much, ourselves) your $2,500 project has become a $25,000+ project, and you’ll literally need a library room in your retreat.

So, much as we love traditional physical books, it seems there is clearly a need for balance, with some content in hardcopy form and much more remaining in electronic form.

Our suggestion is to invest in some eBook readers – not just one, but several.

However, don’t necessarily rush out and buy an Amazon Kindle type dedicated eBook reader.  There’s one huge problem with all Kindles (and some smaller problems too).

Kindles have a limited degree of on-device storage, and for more than that, they need to be synched with Amazon’s cloud service.  That works well at present, but in a ‘grid down’ situation, there’ll likely be no internet and so no way to synch your Kindle with Amazon.  This is, obviously, their very big problem.

Their smaller problem is that they’re not as ‘open source’ as a regular Android tablet, and try to lock you into the Amazon ‘eco system’, making it harder for you to view other eBook formats and files.  You don’t have this problem on a generic tablet that would conveniently allow you to view all common eBook formats.

You should get tablets that can accept SD or micro SD cards, as well as being able to be connected to a computer and to be directly synched that way.  Almost unavoidably, these will probably be Android based.

Sure, you’ll be spending money for each tablet purchase to do this, and more to buy up a supply of memory cards, but that is all probably both essential and also much better than spending some thousands of dollars printing out all those slightly weird and very out-of-date manuals and scanned pdf copies of things.

You’d be astonished at how inexpensive tablets can be, these days.  While Apple still charges way over the odds for their iPads, you can now get competing products for astonishingly great values.  Amazon have tablets for sale that cost less than $100 each,.  You don’t need the most modern state of the art super-tablets when all you need them for is reading books.  Just make sure they have a version 4 or greater of Android, and a micro or full size SD card reader on them.  A rare and not really essential bonus would be a replaceable battery.

When you have your tablets, you need to load a PDF reading program onto them, and also probably Amazon’s Kindle eBook reading software.  That way you have the best of both worlds – you can directly read your own PDFs, and can also download – and store – any Kindle books you buy through Amazon as well.

We suggest you keep your electronic library resources – the tablets that are designated as primary readers, and the removable media (micro or regular SD cards with the files on them) in a Faraday cage type storage unit.  This doesn’t need to be anything fancier than a lined metal container (lined with foam or something, keeping everything inside the container away from the metal sides) with a securely fitting metal lid and a good electrical seal between the container and its lid.  That makes everything reasonably secure against both EMP type attacks and other external environmental threats (extreme weather, rain, and animals/insects) too.

You’d want to take the units out and discharge/recharge their batteries once every quarter or so, and of course from time to time you’ll update your inventory of data files on your memory cards.

If you do this, then whenever you need to be able to access your electronic library, and in a grid down situation with your normal electronics no longer available to you, it becomes an easy thing to open up your cookie tin/Faraday cage and start using your eBook readers.

We’d be sure to have two copies of everything on memory cards, and at least one hard drive full of the files too, giving you plenty of backup and options for accessing your files in the future.

Currently (ie Aug 2014) the ‘sweet spot’ for micro SD cards is to get cards holding 64 GB per card.  You probably only need a few of these.  If you were buying 128 GB cards, your cost per GB of storage goes up.  If you buy 32 GB or lower capacity cards, you’re still paying the same cost per GB, and end up with more of the cards to keep track of and not lose.


If you don’t already have a huge collection of prepper files and texts, you should work on growing it as best time allows.

While some clearly essential titles should be purchased in print form, or printed out if purchased electronically, we encourage you to get as much material in electronic form, and to keep this on micro SD cards and view the files on inexpensive (ie less than $100 each) tablets.

Oh yes.  Do we also need to say – be sure to keep backup copies of all your files!

May 082014
Patterns of volcano ash fallout from past mega eruptions.

Patterns of volcano ash fallout from past mega eruptions.

Although there are plenty of people who are concerned that the Feds are indeed secretly preparing for future problems (ie, not in the way we might wish and hope for), maybe we should also be pleased to learn of such things.  Is it possible the Feds have both a bug-out plan and also a distant safe retreat for us all?  Or, at least, for some lucky souls among us?

Here’s an interesting article which, on a very thin level of evidence, suggests that maybe the Feds have made – or are making – or are trying to make – plans for a mass exodus of Americans in the event of a national disaster such as an eruption of the mega-volcano in Yellowstone (and probably in the case of other major disasters too).

According to the article and its sources, in such a case, the US might send (ie, fly) an unknown number of millions of us to South Africa, or maybe Brazil, Argentina, or Australia (can I put my name down for Australia, please).

But, really and realistically, how practical is this?

First, do you remember the Iceland volcano eruption of a few years ago, and how it disrupted air traffic for weeks?  A mega-volcano eruption in the US may cause similar problems in the air.  Or the ash (and possibly lava too) may impact on runways and ground operations, making it impossible for planes to land, spend time on the ground, and take-off again.  How would the millions of people affected by the eruption get to staging points and to operating international airports?

But, let’s ignore that for now.  Let’s simply consider how long it would take to fly 10 million people to South Africa.  For the sake of argument, let’s say people fly on 500 seater Airbus A380s, the largest passenger planes currently flying.  That means we need 20,000 flights.  At the time of writing, a total of 128 A380s have been delivered by Airbus, none of which are owned/operated by US airlines.  But let’s say the US can charter half of these – 64 planes.  That means each plane has to do 312 roundtrips between the US and South Africa.  In other words, it would take over a year to evacuate all 10 million people.

Okay, so there’s no reason why the US couldn’t also use 400 seater 747s and 300 seater 777s as well.  Could it possibly cobble together a fleet of 250 planes, averaging 400 seats each?  We’re not sure about that, but let’s say it could be done.  That means each roundtrip would see 100,000 people moved out of the US – assuming perhaps 36 hour roundtrip durations, that would mean in five or six months the 10 million people had been successfully evacuated.

But, what if it is 20 million or 200 million?  That means one year, or ten years.

And, ummm, what will people do while patiently waiting weeks, months or years for their turn to be evacuated?  Where will they live?  What will they eat?

Talking about eating, how will the host country then suddenly handle a massive influx of millions of people?  South Africa has a population of 51 million, many (most?) of whom live in severe poverty.  How could it handle a sudden addition of many millions more people?  What living standard could we expect?  (Of the other countries mentioned, Argentina has 41 million people, Australia 23 million, and Brazil 199 million.)

That also begs the question – if it takes six months or six years to evacuate a person, and if there will be major infrastructure and support problems where the people are being relocated, is flying them half-way around the world the best way to handle the disruption?

The article in the South African newspaper says we would have ‘a few weeks or days’ of warning prior to an eruption.  But, with an evacuation rate of 100,000 per day – and an uncertain amount of time to spool up the evacuation process to that rate, combined with the unwillingness of people to suddenly abandon their lives and homes and leave, perhaps forever, with no more than one or two suitcases each, how many people could actually be evacuated in those few days or weeks?  A million?  That’s probably only a very small percentage of the people who would be impacted by the Yellowstone volcano coming cataclysmically to life.

So just how impactful and helpful might any such evacuation program be?  Is this the best the government can come up with – evacuating as many of us as possible to South Africa?  And, oh yes, South Africa doesn’t want us, no matter how much our government is offering to bribe them ($10 billion a year just to have the contingency open!) for fear that their country would be overrun by white people.  Hmmm – why is it only offensive outrageous racism when white people say that about blacks, but never vice versa?  There are 45 million black/colored South Africans at present – just how many white Americans are too many?

One also wonders, based on the objection of being inundated by too many white folk, whether or not such relocation is being proposed as a temporary or permanent measure.  Still it is nice to think that maybe the government is planning to fly us to some exotic location rather than intern us in a FEMA camp!

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the article is the map image at the top (we have a small size version of it at the top of our article, too).  It is interesting to see how the ash from past eruptions has spread across the country – and when you think that radioactivity would follow a similar dispersion/fallout path (assuming similar release locations, of course) it is clear that it is much better to be west rather than east of any potential events.

Oh – and as for the government being there to save us after a national disaster?  And should you keep your passport current, just in case of a sudden unexpected relocation to some far away foreign country?  Call us cynical if you must, but we think you’d be well advised not to rely on this ‘deus ex machina’ coming along to save you.  Continue to plan and prepare to be self-reliant is by far the wiser choice.

Apr 252014
Happy second birthday to us.

Happy second birthday to us.

Just over a year ago, we were writing a retrospective on our first year, and it seems appropriate to give you a second ‘annual report’ of sorts.

It has been a strange year in many respects.  The ammo shortage that appeared after the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012 has lingered much longer than anyone would have ever expected, although the occasional reports of government departments buying extraordinarily huge quantities of ammunition probably provide some degree of explanation.

On the other hand, any year with no appreciable level 2 or 3 crises is a good year, right?  And while we’ve had a few ‘tremblers’ we’ve had no major earthquakes or eruptions or tsunamis or other natural disasters, and precious few unnatural disasters, either.

North Korea has gone through some periods of ebullient threatening, but nothing has come of it – yet.  We would do well to keep this country in our sights, because – as this article unsurprisingly and perhaps even unnecessarily reminds us – the North Koreans could easily destroy us, pretty much at any time and with no warning, with a single EMP pulse.  Less public, but more worrying, is the continued and apparently unimpeded progress by the Iranians towards the completion of their own nuclear weapons capabilities, and in the last month or so, Russia has roused itself and taken back some of its former territories, in Ukraine, that it had previously considered as its own.

Like much of Europe (and Asia and Africa) the validity of any nation’s claim to a contested area is never clear, and depends on how far back in the history books you choose to go in an attempt to see who were former or ‘original’ owners.  In the case of eastern Ukraine, however, it is clear that the people there identify themselves more with Russia than Ukraine, they speak Russian rather than Ukrainian, and they want to be accepted back into Russia.

You might think we should simply let the people on the ground choose whichever country they wish to belong to, but the leaders of western Europe (and our own leader too) seems to fear a resurgent Russia and are keen to keep Russia down.  Will the ‘Ukrainian crisis’ create a flash point and be the spark that lights another global conflict?  There are eerie parallels between some of the matters at present and those of exactly 100 years ago, in the months preceding the start of World War 1 (on 1 August 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia).

The new strength of Russia is hard to ascertain, and its economy is weak, continuing to rely primarily on energy product and sales, and secondarily on the sale of other raw materials.  But what is obvious is the country is generally united behind a strong martial leader (President Putin) and both literally and figuratively, he could beat our leader seven different ways to Sunday.  Unfortunately, weak leaders are more likely to result in wars than strong leaders, because they allow themselves to get bullied too far into a corner and then find themselves with no obvious peaceful opportunity to then extricate themselves.

In the east, China’s astonishing growth continues, albeit with some recent faltering in its economy.  It is now the world’s second largest economy, although we in the US are still much larger (still nearly twice the size of China).  Interestingly, if one is to view the European Union as a single economy (which is how they try to see themselves) then the EU is slightly larger than the US in terms of GDP.  The third largest economy is Japan, and Russia comes at about 8 or 9 in most rankings, which makes it about eight times smaller than the US or EU economies).

Is China an ally or a threat?  It is hard to say; at present, there is so much economic interdependence between our two countries that we are reluctant allies, but we are perhaps like an unhappily married couple with both partners cheating on each other.

In terms of non-country based threats to our world, no less a source than NASA is predicting that the world may collapse in the next few decades.  And our overall vulnerability caused by the imbalance between city-dwellers, who rely upon other people providing for every essential thing needed for all of their lives, and the percentage of rural dwellers, not all of whom are involved in agricultural production anyway, continues to get worse, not better.

As for the website here, the last year has seen another enormous outpouring of content.  Although there were some quiet months during which we’ve been unavoidably focused on other issues, we’ve added over 100 new articles totaling over 200,000 more words, and there is now more than half a million words of content for you here.

There’s one other question that we should all ask ourselves, at least once every year.  Are we better prepared now than we were this time a year ago?  In our case, the answer ranges between ‘yes’ in some areas and ‘not so much’ in some others.  As will probably always be the case, more work, more preparing, is always needed.

We hope you continue to find material of value and that you continue to visit, and wish you great good fortune in your own ongoing preparing.  May none of us ever need them.

Aug 272013
The powerful but uncommon .357 SIG in the middle, others are 9mm, 7.62 Tokarev, 10mm and .40 S&W.

The powerful but uncommon .357 SIG in the middle, others are 9mm, 7.62 Tokarev, 10mm and .40 S&W.

We all know about the dreadful ammo shortage that has plagued the country for the last nine months.  Less well-known is the reason for this – sure, a lot of people bought extra ammo after last December’s school shooting in CT, fearing new government restrictions, but the biggest reason for the continuing ammo shortage seems to be massive buying by the federal government.

You may have read about the billions of rounds of ammo being purchased by the Department of Homeland Security, who are buying more ammo than the US Army – and whereas the Army is fighting wars overseas, the DHS has no apparent reason for using ammo at all, other than training.

It is easy to shrug this off as just government overspending – a sad but far from uncommon event.  But then, once in a while, something comes along that makes you stop and wonder.  Here’s one such example.

The Transportation Security Administration has published a tender for the supply of 3.454 million rounds of .357 SIG pistol ammunition.  On the face of it, there’s nothing astonishing about that.  But – stop and think about it some more, and you’ll end up scratching your head until it bleeds, trying to understand why the TSA needs such a large supply of ammo.

The thing is this.  You’ve all seen TSA employees – they’re the people manning the screening stations in airports.  The TSA is a relatively new government department, formed as part of the knee-jerk panic responses after 9/11/2001, under the assumption that a government department could provide better airport security than could private contractors.  The main feature of ‘better’ seems to be ‘more hassle’ rather than ‘more secure’, alas, and the events of 9/11 were not a result of any security failure.  It was legal to take box-cutters on planes; the problem was not the box-cutters as such, but rather our ridiculous policy of cooperating and complying with hijacker demands that caused the problems of that day.

Anyway, here’s the thing.  Almost every one of the 55,000 TSA employees has no law enforcement powers, can not arrest people, and do not carry guns.  Sure, they like to dress up in fancy new semi-police style uniforms, and they wear police style badges, but they are not sworn peace officers.

Which brings us to our question.  What does the TSA need with 3.454 million rounds of .357 SIG pistol ammo, when its employees are not armed?

Can anyone answer that?  In what new way can we expect ‘our government to be here to help us’?

Jun 052013
Prepping is open to all, no matter race, color or creed.

Prepping is open to all, no matter race, color or creed.

We received an interesting email from a reader – let’s call him Bill.  He writes :

My family and I are well aware of what is coming down the pike in terms of serious unrest due to a collapsed society.  However we are barely making it financially due to low paying jobs and we have no savings.

We would like to know how can we begin to prepare and most importantly how can we use what little resources to pool with other preppers or like-minded individual so that our family can at least have a chance to survive.

Also because we live in Billings MT, how can we navigate this area to get to people who won’t hold Our RACE (African-American) against us.

Please help us with this if you can.  Thanks, Bill.

Bill raises two very good points (thanks, Bill!).  Let’s look at Bill’s last point, first.

Preppers and Discrimination

Preppers are color blind.  We, perhaps more than any other group in the country, look at a man and first see who he is, what he can do, how he could contribute to our community, what talents and skills he has, and only after considering all these things, notice if he is white, yellow, brown, black or, for that matter, purple with blue stripes (okay, so we’d probably notice that up front!).

Preppers are least likely to be racist in either sense of the word.  They don’t automatically react negatively to any particular race, but also, neither do they automatically believe that any race deserves entitlements or special allowances or anything else.  We treat everyone the same – they are as good as they are.  They’re not any better, but they’re not any worse, either.

It is unfortunate that there is this vague fuzzy linkage that some people perceive between ‘prepping’ and being a ‘survivalist’ which then leads to being a ‘wild mountain man’ which ends up implying either that we are the Unabomber or an Aryan supremacist.

This is unfortunate nonsense.  We are of course nothing more than ordinary folks, added to which is having a responsible concern about our future and a desire to safeguard it.

So, when it comes to discrimination, we know all about it, because we are ourselves discriminated against.  We are sneered at, we are ridiculed, we are insulted, and we are typecast as something we’re not and never have been.

If anything, a typical prepper is probably less concerned about a person’s origins than is common for most other groups in society.  All that matters to us is that you’re not expecting special treatment, and that you’ll pull your own weight as an equal honest productive decent member of society.

This isn’t just me being idealistic.  It is a common thread running through most leading prepper sites and advocates.  I have to believe it is reflected among preppers in general, because it is rational and sensible, and surely preppers, more than anyone else, are the most rational and sensible of people!

So, Bill, hurry to find us and join us.  We understand the challenges you have when people are quick to judge you by applying inappropriate labels just because it is convenient for them to do so; rather than to challenge their prejudices.  But also beware – if you join with us, you might find yourself now doubly pre-judged, being now guilty of being both black and a prepper!  The only good thing is that such stupid people will struggle to also consider you a white supremacist.  🙂

Now for the specific question Bill raises, about how to prepare on a very low-income/budget.

Prepping on a Low Income

This is a huge topic that needs lengthy article series devoted to it (and we’ll doubtless publish some in the future).

But, as some quick commentary in timely reply to Bill’s question, the good news is he isn’t locked in to a high paying job where he currently is.  Maybe it is relatively easy for him to move west some, and to seek alternate employment in one of the small towns in NW Montana.  If he can do that, then he’s much of the way to where he needs to be, both literally and figuratively.

There’s a curious reality in Bill’s position (and that of the many other people in a similar situation).  By not earning a lot of money, he is actually freer to make lifestyle changes than would be the case if he had a job paying, say, $7,000 a month, but with a mortgage, car payments, and other commitments soaking up nearly all of the $7,000.  He has less to lose by changing jobs, and more to gain.

Moving to a safer more viable location is a huge plus, allowing Bill and his family to then consider a future strategy that involves surviving in place rather than needing to create a separate retreat.  That’s a huge plus.  As part of a surviving in place strategy, it is essential to integrate into your local community on as many levels and via as many paths as possible – we’ve several very relevant articles in our section on community related issues, in particular the article on becoming part of the solution rather than part of the problem when your community confronts the stresses arising from WTSHTF.

The next thing for Bill to consider is building up a stockpile of essentials to get him and his family through difficult times.

The first essential thing to possess, in a case where you don’t have a lot of cash, is (are) skill(s).  Indeed, if we had to choose between having a bank full of cash or an in-demand skill, we’d take the skill every time.  As we’ve written about at length, cash will quickly become valueless WTSHTF, whereas if you have an appropriate skill, it will become much more valuable.  That’s not to say that cash, now, isn’t a nice thing to have, but longer term, skills are more valuable.  They don’t run out, and they are more easily transported and converted into other things.

Ideally, you should learn a trade that you can simultaneously hopefully work at now, and also which will continue to be needed in the future.  There are very many such trades, and you’ll know if the work you do is a job that is likely to continue to be needed in the future or not.

A computer programmer?  Probably not.  An investment banker?  Also probably not.  And – gulp – an internet writer?  Hmmm…..  But if you are a basic service provider of some sort, with a skill/trade, and if the things you do/work on are things that will continue to be relevant in the future WTSHTF, then you’re well on your way to successfully surviving.

Note that the skill/trade you develop needs to be one that not only will be relevant in a lower-tech, grid-down, fuel and energy scarce economy, but also needs to be one which can be performed using low-tech tools and equipment.  Furthermore, if it is a type of service or activity which requires consumables, you’ll need to stockpile up on those consumables now, with the assumption being any and all supplies you’ll need to continue your work in a Level 2/3 situation will become essentially unavailable.

So the most valuable asset to accumulate is a productive skill.  That will be most beneficial in the medium and longer terms.  But, short-term, there will definitely be challenges as the local economy goes through an upheaval, so you do need to build up an inventory of essential things to live on/with/from, too.  It is very likely that there’ll be a period of some days, weeks, possibly even months as things adjust to the new reality where very little work and income will be available to anyone, no matter how essential their skills and services.  An economist would say this is due to the market becoming very inefficient, we’ll simply say ‘trust us on this’.  🙂

One way to stockpile food and other supplies on a very limited budget is to build a ‘food coop’ with other local families and work it so you buy a bulk and cheaper supply of food items than you’d normally buy yourself, splitting each purchase up between the members of your coop.  Instead of buying food, one meal sized portion at a time, from the local supermarket, you buy food ten or twenty meal sized portions at a time, and buy from Costco or the local wholesale grocery supply store.  Spread that between several different families, and then you’ll discover some magic.  The money you were previously spending to buy one meal is now stretching to buy you two.

Now for the important part.  Put the extra food that you got with your money into your preparedness store, meaning you paid what you’d normally pay for one unit of food, you received the one unit you need, and you also got some extra bonus which you’re now using to grow your food supply.  If you continue that way, you’ll find your store of extra food is slowly growing, and at no cost.

As you start to grow a food supply, the next thing to do is to now start shifting the money you’re saving by buying food in bulk and instead of using it to accumulate food, use the savings to start accumulating other essential items you need.

As for water, the key constraint with water is not the cost of the water, but means to store it.  What we do ourselves is to keep all the empty glass and some of the empty plastic containers we use, thoroughly clean them out, then fill them to the absolute top with boiled water and store them in a cool dark place.

We fill them with boiled water, all the way to the top, so as to keep as little oxygen mixed in with the water as possible, thereby discouraging the growth of whatever nasty things there are that might otherwise start to grow in the water.  We have these stored in date order, and every few years, we’ll empty and refill them again in sequence, on a rolling basis, so we always have a mix of ‘new’ and ‘old’ water.

We also have water purification equipment so that we can ‘make’ our own clean water from whatever other sources come to hand.

We’re not saying any of this is easy, and for sure, we all wish we could win the lottery and be able to prep free of financial constraints.

Don’t expect to instantly create a ten-year supply of everything.  But start off building up a 24 hour reserve, then grow it as best you can, and if you consistently keep doing this, before you know it, you’ll find yourself massively better prepared than you are today.

It is amazing also how some life-style changes can make major differences in the amount of disposable cash remaining out of each paycheck.  We know some people with fairly high incomes who are poor, living from paycheck to paycheck, because they waste so much of their money.  And we know some people with low incomes but who have surplus discretionary cash as a result of living carefully.

Don’t eat out so much.  Cook food from basics, rather than heat up prepared foods.  Eat more vegetables and fruit and less steak.  We’re not saying you should give up smoking and drinking if those are (two of) your vices, but maybe smoke/drink a little less, and choose a slightly cheaper brand.  Downgrade your cable tv package.  Don’t go to movies as often.  Plan your travels in your car so instead of making two separate trips, you do everything in one trip.

Pay down high interest debt, and don’t fall into the careless trap of running up late and overdraft fees.

Stop buying Starbucks coffees, and instead make yourself a coffee at home to take with you.  Even make a box lunch rather than buy take-out each lunchtime.  And so on.

The most important suggestion we have is to remember the old saying about how a successful journey is made not in a single leap, but by a consistent ongoing series of small steps, all in hopefully the correct direction.

It is amazing the difference that small tweaks change.  We estimate that by planning our driving, we save probably $30/week in gas for our vehicle alone, and if you use a rule of thumb that other costs for a vehicle are about the same as the gas cost, that means we’re saving $60 – plus, by better managing our travels, we have more free time and waste less of it stuck in traffic.  More money, and more time to spend it – oooops.  Nope, that’s not right.  More money, and more time to develop new skills.  🙂

Don’t go looking for easy answers.  They don’t exist.  But don’t despair.  Simply dedicate yourself to a slow steady series of steps moving you closer and closer to your goal.


Although it is true that many very wealthy people do invest heavily into prepping for their future, being a prepper is not something exclusively reserved to members of the unofficial ‘rich white boy’ club alone.

Preppers span the entire spectrum of age, race, income, occupation, education, and every other demographic you can consider.

Prepping is an inclusionary concept – we who currently prep always welcome more people to join us and become preppers too, because the better prepped our neighbors are, the more likely they are to positively ‘add value’ and help us mutually survive in a future adverse scenario, and the less likely they are to become a problem.

So, Bill, please take heart and in good cheer move your own prepping forward as best you can.

Apr 012013
Happy First Birthday to Code Green Prep.

Happy First Birthday to Code Green Prep.

It is now exactly a year since our site went live.

It has been a busy year, with everything from the massive non-event of the prophesized end of the world on Dec 21, 2012 to a Presidential election, the result of which some people feel brought us closer to the end of the world as we know it than anything on Dec 21!

We’ve had our share of natural disasters too, but nothing even rising to a Level 1 type event other than at a micro-regional and very brief level, plus some manmade disasters – most notably the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting and the headlong rush by the government to restrict our Second Amendment Rights.

Economically, we have suffered through the ‘theater of the absurd’ with the nonsense of sequestration being used as an excuse by the government to cut back on programs the public values while leaving their nonsensical pet projects untouched – indeed, on the same day the sequester started, our Secretary of State John Kerry was giving away a quarter billion dollars to the new government in Egypt (followed a few weeks later by half a billion given to the Palestinians by President Obama), both being societies that seem to have less and less in common with the west and our values, and more and more in common with regimes and religions implacably opposed to all we stand for.

A year with no Level 1/2/3 events can be considered a good thing, but it for sure in no way guarantees that the next year will be similarly blessed with good fortune.  If anything, it seems we are sailing ever more closely into the wind and could suffer a cataclysmic turnaround in our society at any unexpected moment.

Here, behind the scenes, we’ve been productive.  We’ve published just over 300,000 words of content during the year in 175 articles.  How much is that?  About the same as you’d see in four regular sized books – in other words, a huge amount, and more than twice our target level of output.  But there’s still such a lot more that is important and essential to get out to you, so we continue publishing as much as we can, as often as we can.

Most importantly, our huge big project – the Code Green Community – is slowly but steadily moving forward.  We’ve seen some strange other proposed communities suddenly blaze into view, and then fade away again, so when we fully reveal our community, we want to present you with sustainable certainty rather than speculative concepts that may go nowhere.  Stay tuned for more on this, as and when we feel it appropriate to share with you.

Most of this year we’ve been flying beneath the radar.  We are only now starting to get ourselves out there.  Again, we wanted to have a track record and a good solid library of credible content before introducing ourselves to the broader prepper communities.  We think we now have both those things; hopefully you agree, and hopefully also, you’ll start to generously share our site with your friends and link to it from other prepper resources.  Links are our veins and visits the lifeblood that flows through them.

We had 23 page views by visitors in our first full month (April 2012).  May saw us get into the hundreds, and in November we were into the tens of thousands a month.  Our next target – to get over 100,000 page views a month.

Thanks for being here during the last year.  Here’s hoping for another good year for the next twelve months too – yes, for us, and absolutely, for you too.

Mar 152013
The famous 'Wolf Map' purportedly shows the location of treasure buried by Jesse James.  You'll need location data for your buried cache, too.

The famous ‘Wolf Map’ purportedly shows the location of treasure buried by Jesse James. You’ll need location data for your buried cache, too.

Note this is the first part of a two-part article on how to record and locate a buried cache.  Please also visit the second part to complete your reading of this article.

There are many reasons to bury some of your prepper supplies, and to do so at a hidden location.

The main reason is usually not because you have something illegal you want to hide.  The main reason is more likely to be because you want to protect your supplies from an uncertain future, and most of all, from people seeking to steal your supplies from you – either by theft/burglary while you’re away from your store, or by violence/force while you are present.

A buried cache is probably the most resilient form of storage there is.  It is (relatively) safe from man-made threats and also from natural threats such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and fire.  It is a constant temperature cool environment.  Obviously flooding is a threat, but equally obviously you shouldn’t have your retreat location in a flood plain to start with, and as long as your cache is waterproofed (which it should be, no matter if there’s a flooding risk or not) then some surface water above it for a while shouldn’t be a problem anyway.

The process of preparing items for burial, what to bury them in, and so on are all subjects for other articles at other times; our focus today is on a very important aspect of the complete process – being able to find them again.

Depending on where you locate it, finding your hidden buried cache may not be as easy as you hope and assume it is, and so you should carefully consider where to bury your cache, and what to use to help you locate it again.

On the other hand, if you make your cache location too obvious, then you run the risk of having other people find it, too.  It is entirely possible that if people think you may have a cache, then in the future they might go looking for it with the aid of a metal detector.  But while they’ll look for it close to your retreat and close to other objects, they’ll probably not painstakingly search through every square foot of all the acres you own, so it behooves you to avoid some of the easiest cache locations, because they are probably also the most obvious.

The few minutes it takes you to read this two-part article now, and the extra time it takes you to apply the ideas and concepts we explain, may be time extremely well spent.

The main things to consider are your choice of reference points, how you describe your cache location with relation to your reference points, and how many reference points you specify.

Using Multiple Reference Points/Bearings

We urge you to use multiple points of reference that you work from to calculate your cache location, either in terms of distances and/or angles/bearings, for three reasons.

First, the tools you use to identify your cache may not be available to you at an unknown uncertain future time.  For example, if your references are all compass bearings, maybe you don’t have a compass with you when you need to dig up your cache.  If your references are all distances from known points, maybe you don’t have a measuring tape with you.  And so on.

Second, some of the reference points you are using to locate your cache may disappear or change.  It is highly possible that fence posts might fall over, trees might be cut down, and so on.  Or maybe a reference point simply gets obscured by something else being built (or naturally growing) in front of it.  It you can’t see your reference point, then that becomes essentially the same as it no longer being there if you are using visual bearings.  If you are using distances, if something is built in front of your reference point, it becomes much harder to calculate the straight line distance when your measuring now has to do a loop around the obstacle.

Third, the more bearings or measurements you have, the more accurate your location fix becomes.  Maybe the first set of two bearings ends up giving you an oval area perhaps plus or minus ten feet on one axis and five feet on the other axis – that gives you 160 sq ft of space within which you’ll hopefully find your cache, and depending on what you’re using as a reference point, this is close to a best case scenario.

If you add another bearing, maybe that gives you a 4′ radius circle instead, – about 50 sq ft of space in which to find your cache.  That’s a huge improvement.

A fourth and subsequent bearing (or measurement) won’t necessarily reduce that area much – perhaps it might make it a 3′ radius circle (ie about 30 sq ft), but it gives you backups in case of problems with some of the other reference points.

The Closer Your Reference Points, the Better

Your reference points will give you a much more accurate ‘fix’ on your cache location if they are close to it.  For example, if one reference point is ‘The cache is six feet west of this fencepost’ then how hard is it to miss the cache?  You know you can measure six feet to within a few inches, and even if your measurement of what is west is off by an enormous 30 degrees, that only shifts your measurement by 3½ feet.

On the other hand, if you are measuring from the barn in the distance – let’s say it is 500 yards away – then if you have a 1% error in your distance measurement, that adds 15 ft of error.  In addition to the distance measurement, your bearing might be off too.  Lets be kind and say that you are not off by a huge 30°, but by only a tiny 3°, but that adds 78 ft of uncertainty. giving you now a zone 15′ long and 78′ wide – a huge 1170 sq ft within which your cache might be located.

As for a bearing to the mountain peak 10 miles away, even if you were to measure the bearing to it to an extraordinary 1° of accuracy, that still gives you 950 ft of uncertainty, which is close to useless.

Far away bearings can be okay to help you locate the general area, such as which field out of a dozen fields your cache is within, but you need your ‘real’ reference points to the cache to be as close as is possible in order to secure the most accurate fix on your cache.

Choosing Your Reference Points

Of course, you need to describe your cache location in terms of where it is related to a number of reference points around it.

The first thing to appreciate is that you want to have multiple reference points (see above) and they should be spread more or less around on all sides of the cache location if at all possible.

Ideally if you have only two reference points (which is not ideal) they should be at right angles to each other, when viewed from the cache.

If you have more than two, try to get some on the opposite side of the cache to the others.

Your reference points should be things you can readily find at any time of year, and ideally that you can see from your cache.

Your reference points should be as permanent as possible, and least likely to change or become unclear or obscured in the future.

Some things are vulnerable to changing over time.  For example ‘the highest tree, which is near the middle of that row of trees to the south’ – what happens if one of the trees next to it grows higher?  Or if the highest tree dies and falls down?

Even buildings are impermanent.  They may get pulled down, or they might get altered (so, eg, a reference point like a high point on the roof line or a corner of the building changes), or other buildings might be added in front, obscuring the reference building and making distance measurements now difficult.

If there are nearby official survey pegs and/or memorial markers, these are excellent objects to work from.  They probably look inconspicuous (make sure you can be sure of always finding them!) and are normal things to find on any property.

If you are in an area with utilities, then things like fire hydrants, power pylons or lampposts, manholes, and utility boxes can also provide semi-stable reference points.

There’s no reason why you can’t create your own markers to make things very much simpler.  Maybe you build a pig sty or a cattle water trough close to your cache and use that as a marker.  Maybe you run a fence line or dig a ditch or make some other sort of appropriate landscaping change.  Maybe you have a compost bin or a trash incinerator.

Angles, Bearings, and Distances

There are many different trigonometric techniques you can use to locate your cache with reference to external markers.  Essentially, they fall into three groupings – angles relative from something to your cache, bearings from a compass, or distances from a point.

While there are reasons to like bearings (ie as taken by a magnetic compass) we prefer using angles with respect to other objects if possible.  The reason for this is due to the earth’s magnetic north moving.  In the American redoubt area, every six or so years, magnetic north has shifted, with respect to true north, by a degree (note that this rate of change may speed up or slow down in the future and possibly even reverse).  There are also some people who theorize that the earth’s magnetic field may be due to flip over entirely in the foreseeable future; and if such an act were to occur, not only would you for sure be forced to your retreat and need to access your cached supplies, but magnetic bearings would become totally invalidated.

On the other hand, being able to say ‘follow a line that goes 25 degrees to the north of the heading from here to that other place’ is a relatively fixed reference that does not rely on a slightly unreliable magnetic north.

Of the three techniques, the best to use are measured distances.  These are much more exact than angles and bearings.  When specifying a distance, you generally give the magnetic bearing the distance should be measured from the reference point to the cache, this does not need to be quite so exact.

If you inscribe a partial arc on the ground at the measured distance from the reference point, with the arc swinging around even 30 degrees relative to the approximate line of travel, this is fine because your second measurement from another point will then intersect with the arc at only one or two points.  Add a third measurement and arc, and you now are starting to create a ‘hot zone’, and more or less in the middle of that hot zone is where your cache should be.

You can also use a concept of ‘run a line between this object and that object.  The cache is located at a point x feet from the first object on that line.’  Or, ‘run a line between this object and that object.  At a point x feet from the first object, now measure another y feet at an angle of z degrees from the line to reach the cache’.

There’s another form of reference you can use as well.  Boats will use sets of markers ashore and line them up, one behind the other, to allow them to know exactly where they are at sea.  You can use the same sort of technique – if it is possible to take advantage of, or to create, two objects that are lined up so they are (inconspicuously!) pointing to your cache, that is an obvious easy visual aid as well.

Read On for Part Two

Note this is the first part of a two-part article on how to record and locate a buried cache.  Please also visit the second part to complete your reading of this article.

Mar 152013
Some type of a diagram of how to find your cache from reference points will help you make sense of your notes.

Some type of diagram showing how to find your cache from reference points will help you make sense of your notes.

Note this is the second part of a two-part article on how to record and locate a buried cache.  Please also visit the first part to complete your reading of this article.

Recording Your Reference Points

In general, there is less possibility of mistake if you express each marker both in terms of how it is calculated from the marker to the cache, and from the cache to the marker.

To start with, when you have no idea where your cache is located, you’ll want to first go to known markers and use the information expressed in terms of how to find the cache from the marker.  After using one or two of these, you’ll end up with a likely location for your cache, and you can then fine tune the calculation from the cache using the directions from the cache.

Depending on the time of instructions, it is usually easy to express them in either direction.  A distance remains the same, no matter which end you’re measuring from, of course.  A bearing from a marker to your cache becomes the bearing from your cache to the marker by simply adding (or subtracting, whichever is easier for you) 180 degrees.  For example, a 50 degree angle from the marker to the cache becomes a 230 degree angle from the cache to the marker.

Some things won’t be so readily measured both ways.  If you’re using a relatively distant point (a bad thing to do, as discussed above) then you probably will only use the direction from the cache to the distant marker, so as to cut down on the travel.

There’s another aid to assist you in locating your cache as well.  You can take photos – both of the cache site from nearby points, and of the views you see from the cache site.

If you take pictures, don’t just leave them on a memory card.  Print them out.  That way you are protected in case your memory card fails, or the system you’d use to read the pictures off the card fails.

It is very helpful if you can also make up a diagram showing the angles, bearings, distances, reference points, and everything and how all the different parts line up and result in locating your cache.

How Do You Orient Your Cache to your Ground Zero Point?

You also need to plot how your cache lies in the ground so you know the overlap between where your cache actually is, beneath you, and the invisible ‘X marks the spot’ point above it that your calculations are hopefully directing you to.

If the first trial dig down to where you think the cache might be doesn’t locate it, are you best to now widen your hole to the north, south, east or west of that first point?

Our slight preference is to use more or less the center of the cache location as your reference point, but do whatever works best for you.

How to Measure Distances

This might seem simple, but the chances are that the distances you want to measure will be more than ten or twenty feet, so your choice of measuring tool starts to have an impact on the accuracy of your measurement.

On the other hand, if you have some flexibility in choosing your cache location, maybe it is prudent to locate it closer to a reference point, making it easier to return to in the future.

For longer distances, a laser rangefinder can be a great convenience, although it is obviously a high-tech product that you can not guarantee to be reliably available and functional in a future scenario.  We discuss laser rangefinders and other high-tech aids to locating caches in a separate article.

The best low-tech method of measuring longer distances is usually with a long measuring tape.  You should buy a couple of long measuring tapes – Amazon has a 400 ft tape and a 300 ft tape on convenient spools, for example – this link takes you to a selection of long tapes they offer.  These are much easier to use than a shorter tape that you have to keep ‘flipping over’ or ‘leapfrogging’ and reusing, and this makes them more accurate too.

You might want to consider buying two tapes.  That way, when figuring out your cache location, you can stretch both tapes out from different reference points simultaneously to see where they meet up.  Oh – don’t forget that with two reference points, there will be two points where the distances meet up, and sometimes a long way apart.  You need a third reference point and measurement, or accurate bearings to/from the two reference points, so as to know which of the two reference points is the correct one.

When you’ve measured out the distance from the reference point to where your cache should be located, be sure to pull the tape reasonably tight (not so tight as to stretch it, but tight enough to ensure the tape is in a direct line).  This will straighten the tape and give you a more exact measurement.

There are also measuring wheels available, but we don’t like these quite as much as tapes.  There are two possible errors introduced with a wheel that are not as prominent with a tape.

The first is that on uneven ground, the wheel may not read quite as accurately as on even ground.  This error can be minimized by using a larger diameter wheel – use a 12″ instead of a 4″ wheel, for example.

The other problem is that you need to move the wheel in a direct and straight line from the reference point to the measured distance.  If you weave about a bit rather than proceeding directly straight, then this will introduce some error, too.

These errors can be quite small, however, and you could also help minimize the error by measuring each distance twice and averaging the results.  Indeed, if the difference in measurement was significant, measure three or four times.

Identifying Cache Locations in a Forest

Much of our discussion to date has assumed that everything is in nice easy unobstructed straight lines from each other, such as in an open field.  But maybe you are instead hiding a cache somewhere in a forest.  All you can see around the cache are trees, and they all sort of look the same.

That is very much more difficult a scenario to work from, and is made harder by the fact that most forests have trees falling down from time to time such as to distort your perceptions of locations, tree counts, and so on.

There are various ways you can ‘signpost’ your way through a forest.  If there’s a clearly established trail, then that should be your reference point, and we’d probably then choose to use a wheel type distance measuring device.

We would segment the trail into lengths, each of which had a clearly recognizable tree or stump or other feature at the start/end of it.  The directions might be something like this

  • Proceed about 150 ft until finding two large trees on the right and no trees for at least 10 ft on the left of the trail.
  • From the further away of the two trees, now proceed another about 200 ft until you come to a fallen over tree parallel to the trail on the left.
  • From the base of the fallen over tree, proceed another about 180 ft until coming to a point where two trees on the right line up, one in front of the other, at a 30 degree angle.
  • At this point, head off the trail on a 75 degree angle until …..

Sure, you could simply say ‘Go 530 ft along the trail until reaching two trees lined up at a 30 degree angle’ but by splitting the path into segments, you give yourself recalibration points, and furthermore, if one of the points disappears, you still have other points to guide you.  Maybe the fallen over tree has been cut up and hauled away for firewood.  If you can’t find it, you instead know to proceed 380 ft from the two large trees on the right.

In addition, we don’t much like following trails, because other people follow trails too.  Trails are also not fixed.  They can disappear if they are not regularly used, or one lightly used trail can be superseded by a slight change in usage – a downed tree further along the trail might redirect people a new way, and so your trail now follows a different path.  In winter, snow can obscure the traces of any trails.

Probably the key consideration here is that if you’re going to hide a cache in a forest, it is best to hide it not too far into the forest, or, if further in to the forest, not too far from an obvious impossible to miss reference point.

Another technique you can use in a forest is to consider marking your trail by way of subtle signs on trees.  What is the most subtle sort of marking?  Hammer a nail or two into the tree at a specific height (say 3′ or so above the ground) and perhaps on the north side of the tree.

The nail will quickly disappear into the tree bark, but if you then go searching it out with a hand-held metal detector, it should be easy to spot if you know to focus on the north side of trees about 3′ from the ground.  Then plot a chart showing the ‘chain’ of marked trees, with bearings/distances from each to the next, and follow the ‘hidden’ trail you’ve created.

Hiding Your Instructions

Do we need to point out that you don’t want to print out your cache location data in large bold type and stick it with a magnet to your fridge door?

The first thing you want to do is keep all knowledge of you having a cache as tightly restricted as possible.  If people don’t think you have a cache, they’re less likely to search for either the cache itself or for directions to it, and they’re less likely to recognize your directions, if they should stumble across them, as being related to finding your cache.

You do need to have your instructions written down.  You can’t trust electronic devices to remain operable in the future, so you need a good old-fashioned written in ink on paper set of instructions.  We’d also recommend having multiple copies of the instructions, so if one copy gets lost or damaged, you still have others you can use.

You can secure your instructions several different ways.  You should adopt several of these strategies.  But make sure that whatever you do and however you do it, you are then sure to remember the details, so in the future you know where to find your directions and how to decode them.

  • Hide them somewhere really secure and secret and safe.
  • Write them in invisible ink so people see a ‘normal’ piece of paper somewhere in a normal (not hidden) place and think nothing of it.
  • Alter the instructions – perhaps add 5 to everything.  A 15 yard distance becomes 20 yards.  A 35 ft distance becomes 40 ft.  A 35 degree bearing becomes 40 degrees.  The 2nd tree on the left becomes the 7th tree on the left.  If there are some numbers you can’t change because they’d then look ridiculous, use a special code marker to indicate that it is a real number rather than a changed number.  Perhaps spell the number rather than write it in numerals, or have a word like ‘about’ as an indicator that the number following has not been altered.
  • Transpose digits.  Swap the ones and tens digits on any numbers.  If the number is 13, it becomes 31.  If the number is 2076, it becomes 2067.  And if you have single digit numbers, think of them as, eg, 03, so swapping that becomes 30.
  • Make notes on pages of a book on your bookshelf, with perhaps only the notes on pages where the page number is divisible by three being valid notes.  Hopefully people won’t go thumbing through the book to start with, and if they do, they won’t know what is what.
  • Split the instructions up and keep half somewhere and the other half somewhere else.
  • Hide them ‘in plain sight’ in a pile of other junk and papers.
  • Write them in code so they appear meaningless.  For example, use A, B, C, D instead of NSWE, use F for feet, I for inches, and Y for yards.  Maybe E for degrees, and X for ‘looking from the cache to the marker’ and Y for ‘looking from the marker to the cache’.  So you could encode the instruction ‘the cache can be found by following a line at an angle of 15 degrees for 50 ft from the gatepost as 15E50FYgatepost.  If this was all in a notebook with lots of other semi-random jottings and notes, they’d not stand out as directions to a cache.
  • If you have photos identifying your cache, or from your cache, maybe have a family member posing at the cache point (if a photo to the cache) or in the foreground (if a photo from the cache) so as to make the photo seem like a typical family photo rather than a cache location photo.
  • A bothersome but ultra-secure strategy is to have your directions leading to a ‘sacrificial’ cache, and your main cache being a secret distance and direction from your sacrificial cache.  This can help you two ways.  If someone finds the cache map, then when they find your cache they’ll stop looking for more caches.  Secondly, if you find yourself forced to reveal your cache, you can show them the map to your sacrificial cache and not need to disclose the second more substantial cache.  Make sure the main cache is far enough from the sacrificial cache so as not to be accidentally found when people are searching for the sacrificial cache!

If possible, have the instructions typed/printed out rather than handwritten.  If someone finds them and demands that you interpret them and lead them to the cache, you can say ‘Joe did that, and he isn’t here, so I’ll try to help you, but only Joe knows exactly what he means’.

That way, when the instructions don’t work, they’re not going to pressure you to tell the truth, because you’ve already said that the instructions are Joe’s, and relate to his cache.  You don’t know what is in the cache, where it is, or how to read/decode Joe’s instructions – clearly Joe didn’t trust you or anyone else with that information.  They are not in your handwriting, so it is hard to be contradicted on that point.

Note this is the second part of a two-part article on how to record and locate a buried cache.  Please also visit the first part to complete your reading of this article.