Letter Re: Interim Retreat Caches

In How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, you missed mentioning one of the great uses of “bypassed areas” — that of an en route cache.  There is no question but that it would be plain stupid for any family to wait to leave the big cities and urban areas until the very last moment when TSHTF, urban riots have broken out, and the freeways have become one big parking lot full of shooting and looting.  But many families will want to hang on in the cities as long as possible because of employment, family commitments for the care of elderly relatives, and other reasons.  When they do leave, it would be much safer for them to quickly exit along the back roads with only the clothes on their backs and half a tank of gas than to take the time to stuff their vehicle full of survival goods and become a visible target of great interest to looters along the road. 
Their first destination would be their own unimproved wooded one acre lot in one of the “bypassed areas” within an hour’s drive of their urban home, with only a small, used, stripped down camping trailer on it and maybe an outhouse.  It is not going to draw much interest from potential looters.  By stripped down camping trailer, I mean an old one with the wheels removed and sitting on concrete block.  Its propane tanks and battery would also be removed.  To an outsider looking in the window, it would look very Spartan with no supplies or anything useful.  There would be no source of water there.  So what good is such a property?
Somewhere on the property would be a 20 foot long metal CONEX shipping container completely buried under about a foot of soil (deep enough so you can cover it with plants and its location will not be obvious) and a specially constructed entrance to the back doors of the shipping container that is also buried under the same foot of soil and plants.  It might take an hour of shovel work to dig out the entrance to your buried shipping container.  This is your supply cache with the important supplies and gasoline that you will need to safely travel the rest of the way to your permanent retreat.  It also contains the wheels to your trailer along with the propane tanks, battery, generator, and plenty of gasoline for your vehicles and what ever else.  It contains food and water, and pre-positioned supplies that you would need for safe travel or to remain at that site for a few days or a little longer.
The advantage of such an arrangement is that there is little that is visible from the road to tempt thieves.  And if they loot an old, empty travel trailer – so what?  Your real cache is buried underground and is well out of sight.  It is also out of danger from forest fires that would likely burn your trailer to the ground.  In such a forest fire, you will not have lost anything that is not easily and inexpensively replaceable.   The best part of all — such an acre of worthless ground that is covered with brush, stumps, and scrub trees should not cost very much.  The general impression that people will have of it will be, “This guy is really hurting if that is his retreat.”
The disadvantage is that [in northern states] it is only likely to be accessible about nine months out of the year with snow closing the roads during the other three months.
Hope this helps and adds something to your work – Paul O.

JWR Replies: As has been discussed several times in the blog, CONEXes cannot be buried without concrete reinforcement. This is because they are designed to take loads only on their corners. With the weight of rain-soaked soil, their walls and roofs collapse. So, when all is said and done, it is actually more expensive to buy, reinforce, and bury a CONEX than it is to build a dedicated reinforced concrete shelter. From a practical standpoint, I’d instead recommend burying a much less expensive poly water tank with a man hatch cover just below the ground surface.

As for the camping trailer: Why have anything above ground at an unattended property? That just attracts junkies and assorted lowlifes. Storing a wall tent inside an underground cache makes more sense, to me. If you need to store a trailer, then make it a simple box trailer, with the wheels and lug nuts buried nearby. The advantage is that an open box trailer won’t prove to be an attractive place for drug addicts to use as a recreational cabin.