PVC is one of those things no survivalist or prospective guerrilla should be without. It’s one of the most versatile items you can have around a retreat, being used for everything and anything including hydroponics, water routing and storage, shelter frames and even in one case from a student in the RTO Course, a ladder rack on his truck. It was really cool- and really well done. But one of the most common uses I have for PVC tubing is making caches for anything from weapons, ammunition and communications support items to basic sustainment items like extra knives, fire making tools, ponchos and tarps or medical items. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do it though, and it’s not as simple is stuffing things in a tube.
One of the big advantages of using PVC is its simplicity. With a larger diameter pipe, a rounded end cap and a screw-in cleanout cap you’ve got a basic water resistant tube that can virtually disappear anywhere. You can find the smaller sizes at any Lowe’s, Home Depot, or ACE Hardware, but the larger diameters you’ll need to hit up the local plumbing supply store.
But with that said, caching with PVC in the long term is a little more complicated than it looks. Storage of anything for extended periods requires some care and a little more work than just stuffing things in a tube. And while we’re talking about DIY canisters, I follow the same rules for any cache container.
Caches do us no good if they can’t seal out the elements. With PVC tubes the first thing you’ll need is glue to seal the caps. The more, the better. It’ll create a permanent bond while being watertight. The next item you’ll need is plumber’s tape. This is used on the screw threads of the cleanout cap. Like the PVC glue, liberally apply the tape to the threads to form a watertight seal.
Just because you’ve sealed up the outsides from water intrusion doesn’t mean the internals are safe from mold, mildew and rust. Residual humidity inside the container will cause condensation over time and ruin the items you’re caching. This is especially true for ammunition. The last thing you want is to dig up a cache years later to find that your ammo is corroded and your primers are dead from not knowing what you don’t know.
PVC has a tendency to seriously collect moisture on the inside. One rule of thumb I use when making caches is to seal each item individually in its own sub-container. Ziploc bags work well, as does vacuum sealers to starve residual oxygen out of the container. Another thing I always make sure to include is a few silica gel packets to soak up any remaining moisture, just to be on the safe side. If its ammo or anything metal or electronic, its just a good idea from a redundancy standpoint. A little insurance for down the road never hurts. Plus it keeps everything neatly organized inside the tube.
If you’re planning on caching weapons, it’s wise to invest in cosmoline as a protectant. Cosmoline is that nasty goo you’ve spent so much time scrubbing off com-bloc surplus, and for a good reason- they apply it as a preservative to much of their military equipment for long term storage. Your stuff will not rust but you will need a solvent or degreaser to clean your equipment once you’ve dug it back up. If you’ve cleaned cosmoline you know exactly what I’m referencing.
Concealment and Recovery
Concealing PVC is really simple. How often do you see PVC? Its everywhere. Think outside of the box and make it look like where a pipe might go, and it’ll likely go unnoticed. But if you’re carrying it into areas where it might be discovered, a better bet is painting it up in a hasty camo pattern and sticking it in the ground, off the beaten path with some way of marking it.
Most often we think of caches as being hidden in the ground, buried somewhere to be recovered at a later time. Caches can serve multiple purposes, from long term storage of items in non-permissive environments to, more often for guerrillas, clandestine resupply. While there’s no hard and fast rules for them, you have to know how they’re marked and how to relay that information to friendlies. In the RTO Course we use the UNDER Report for caches to standardize how we relay that information. What you do is up to you- as long as those in your group know how to recover it, you’ve done your job.
It All Hinges On Thinking Outside The Box
With a few considerations, PVC is an almost idiot-proof way of caching supplies in non-permissive environments. It’s cheap, rugged and plentiful. And while its hard to go wrong, as long as you’re not that guy burying metal Russian spam cans, you’ll be good to go. Make plenty of them, practice often to build that working knowledge, and remember that your greatest asset is unconventional thinking.