What to include in a wilderness cache:

I have a number of favourite spots I visit every now and then sprinkled around the Gippsland bush mainly far from roads. Many are on the other side of large rivers which sometimes rise unpredictably and can cut you off for many days from ‘civilisation’ – whatever that is.

Here I was two days ago just finishing a visit to two of them in the Wonnangatta Station before the gates are closed till November. This is last crossing (of seven) before you begin the truly terrible climb up the Hernes Spur.

And here I was in the same spot (just behind the car) putting the pack raft in back on 17 Dec 2017. What a lovely trip that was: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/wilderness-siligloo/ See also: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/pack-rafting-the-remote-wonnangatta/

Frankly I feel much more ‘civilised’ when I am alone in the bush than when I am thrown together in some urban crowd, but each to his own I guess. In the event I do find myself isolated by floodwaters for example when I may rather be at home, something which has happened to me on more than one occasion, it is comforting to know that I have a stash of necessities which will see me through such a situation safely and in some degree of comfort.

Because I often hunt/camp many days from my car there are many other mischances where I may find such a stash a great solace. If I should lose my pack for example several days from my vehicle, I would be most distressed. The closest I came to this was having lunch high up. My pack nearly rolled down a slope where it would have lodged high in a tree well out of my reach. One can imagine your pack disappearing off the edge of a cliff into the sea (this nearly happened to us on the South Coast Track, Tasmania (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/south-west-track-tasmania/http://www.theultralighthiker.com/tasmanias-south-coast-track-hells-holiday/ or being swept away by a raging river, falling down a (mine) shaft, &etc.

I have also had the misfortune of having other people interfering with my gear over the years. Someone stole a paddle for example I had left underneath my canoe on a multi-day hunting/canoeing trip. Once I had my front hub locks stolen from my locked vehicle on a very long steep slippery $WD track. Twice folks stole my radio tracking collars from my hounds (which i noticed when i was putting the dogs back in the truck). I had then to go and hunt for the collar with my tracking antenna. Of course it was moving In each case and I needed to holler out something like, ‘If you don’t put the collar down I will shoot’ or I would not have got it back. Lots of folks have had similar experiences, I’m sure.

This is why I like to go as far away from where there will be other people as I can. Even though you hope to leave such perils of ‘civilisation’ behind, the barbarians are ever ‘at the gate’. I am also always mindful that I might come back to my camp to find it ransacked by wild dogs, or (unlikely) that my smouldering fire has managed to creep along the ground and burn my tent down! In all such circumstances having a cache is a handy back up.

Another reason to have such a stash is if you plan to winter hunt beyond a seasonal road closure such as applies in many Alpine areas of Victoria. This can be the best time to be there, not only because you will be more likely to have the place to yourself, and the animals settled down into a tamer state, but because winter camping is just so much better than summer camping (but you need a warm mat).

A winter fire serves so much more of a useful purpose without endangering the bush to the risk of wild fire. Because the winter air is cold and dry (and winter is the driest season), the skies are most often shot by the most brilliant display of stars you ever saw lighting up the frigid nights. A veritable Aladdin’s Cave entertains your every night.

For that reason I leave a canoe drum or more in strategic spots where I can easily find them again, but where they are unlikely to be stumbled on by even the keenest-eyed hunter. Some folks say they bury their stashes but I do not. I doubt they do either. I usually tie the drum up under a pile of logs somewhere so that wombats etc will not roll them away. Obviously I place them well above the highest point to which floods in the past have come in that particular locale.

These excellent 30 litre drums (they also have a 60 litre model) are available very cheaply from Ampi Plastics (something like $10 each last time I bought some): https://www.ampiplastics.com.au/

I find you can fit 8-10 days food in each drum, plus a shelter (such as Brawny’s or mine), fire lighting materials,  small billy, a couple of cups, plates and spoons and a metho burner (plus a litre of meths). A small cheap blade is always a good idea (as is something to whet it with. Enough tissues and wet ones for a fortnight is a great idea. When I drank I used to decant some overproof rum into a 500 ml bottle. A tipple of rum on a chilly night warms the cockles. I think a couple of survival blankets or bags is good too – or a Blizzard Bag if you can afford it. A fishing line and a small frypan may come in handy (or some heavy weight Alfoil such as barbecue dishes available in the supermarket are made from) – for cooking fish or venison. A jack saw blade with two attached large key rings will fit around the inside of the lid. Such an impromptu saw can come in handy. When I get round to making some up, I think a ‘fire umbrella‘ would also be good in case you are stuck there with rain for ages.

Of course the food I leave is all dried or canned with long ‘use-by’ dates. The canned food is usually tuna/sardines to add a bit of protein to a dehydrated meal. The Hormel Bacon is good for this too. Everything is in sealed plastic or Alfoil packages which will not absorb water (you might be putting the tarp away wet sometime). I may not after all get round to eating it this year, though I plan to. I would want it to be safe in a few years time.

Snap lock bags are not impervious to water. Dehydrated contents will absorb water through them if it is there to be absorbed. Oven bags are better. Just twist the ends around tightly a number of items and seal with a wire bag tie or similar. A pack of dry biscuits such as Vita Weats will keep well in them (and a jar of peanut butter goes well with them as do many spreads). Grains and pulses (such as McKenzies) will remain edible for centuries – so do not get too carried away about those ‘use by’ dates, but do make yourself aware of the causes of food poisoning.

I choose Carmen’s Porridges for breakfast (with canned powedered milk). The former will not spoil in their foil wrappers, and the milk will be fine until it is opened and can be decanted into snap locks.

For dinner there are so many pasta, risotto and coucous dishes (which can be improved with the addition of a can of fish). Then there are two minute noodles and cupasoups of various sorts.

For hot drinks I usually leave tea bags (in an oven bag) and alfoil sachets of drinking chocolate. Coffee just goes into a hard undrinkable lump after a time.

A large 370 gram pack of Nobby’s peanuts in foil will stay fresh for many months and can be eaten as 50 grams snacks at a time over a week. Similarly Craisens.

That should get you started.

Some places I have two or even three drums so I have many more ‘luxuries’ there. You have no doubt seen photos of some of my larger fire shelters which half a dozen could enjoy together. For example, a hammock is great for a relaxing lie in the sun on a warm day. Even an emergency pack raft can be left here and there eg for getting the meat out in the winter time. Some spare ammo can also come in handy – but you’d better not leave your name on the drum!

Of course if the dogs are going to join you, you should include some dry dog food. It keeps best in an empty plastic screw top jar. PS: Honey did actually survive the encounter below:

On this trip I left two drums containing 8 days food each approximately four days walk apart and around three days walk in from where my car will be in the winter time. I expect I will go in there later on in the season for 2-3 weeks by myself, or for half that time with a companion – if someone foolish enough turns up!

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2 thoughts on “What to include in a wilderness cache:”

  1. Trevor Mustey

    Good stuff Steve!! but more importantly you posted the D.H.A #2 and I cant read it, page can’t be found. Help!

    1. It was an accident. I was updating the draft and I accidentally posted it before I was ready to, so I have removed it until it is complete. As you can see though I am working on it from time to time. Not long now I think. Done now Trevor (17 June).

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