Cheap, Critter Resistant Caches?
Feb 23, 2021 at 12:52 pm #3701113
I’ve seen and heard of several hikers on the Ouachita trail and the Ozark Highlands trail using 5 gallon buckets with lids to store their resupply caches. I’ve made the stupid decision before to “hide” a resupply cache on the ground, in a silnylon bag, when I couldn’t find suitable trees for hanging in the near vicinity, and I paid for that mistake by losing 6 days of food to the local raccoon community. It seems to me that a snap lid on a 5 gallon bucket would pose as much difficulty to a raccoon as a flimsy fabric bag. Is this not the case? I’ve seen 3-5 gallon buckets with screw-top lids and rubber gaskets, that allegedly make them water/air proof. They’re only a few dollars more than snap lids can be found in hardware/home improvement stores.
I’m allowing myself plenty of time to properly hang my resupplies for this hike, I’m just curious what people think about screw-top lids vs snap lids, buckets in general, etc., especially if bears weren’t an issue. What would give a raccoon a run for it’s money if I couldn’t afford to buy 3 Ursaks or Outsaks?Feb 23, 2021 at 2:29 pm #3701123
There are some snap-on bucket lids that take a lot of finger strength to open, but I would be concerned that an animal might start trying to chew its way through the container if the contents smelled interesting enough. I’ve never seen that happen, but I’ve also never created a bucket cache. Maybe an odor-proof bag inside the bucket to reduce interest, or as you said, a gasketed lid?
We use screw-tops at work for various things; they open easily unless there’s some sort of locking feature…especially after you screw/unscrew them a few times.Feb 23, 2021 at 2:35 pm #3701125Ben CBPL Member
Given enough time, I’m convinced there is nothing a raccoon can not do. They are skilled and persistent. And their claws are almost like hands.Feb 23, 2021 at 2:50 pm #3701128Bob KBPL Member
Military surplus 20mm ammunition and 81mm mortar cans hold a bit more than 5 gallons and are airtight and rodent proof. The latches are probably raccoon-proof.Feb 23, 2021 at 7:48 pm #3701174Chris RBPL Member
12 inch duct or stove pipe with end caps held in place by self tapping screws?Feb 23, 2021 at 8:12 pm #3701177
Bob beat me to suggesting surplus 20 mm rocket boxes. Availability varies, they virtually vanished in the U.S. during the height of various overseas wars, because it was cheaper to dump them there than ship them back.
I used rocket boxes for many years to carry whitewater rafting food and supplies. Known to be varmint-proof on river trips where others suffered from raids by raccoons and ring-tailed cats in heavily-used camp sites. Not bear-proof enough according to some river managing agencies.
Smaller alternative: .50 caliber ammo boxes. Might need several per cache, depending on your needs. Often easier to find than rocket boxes.
.30 caliber or 7.62 mm ammo boxes are too small for something like this. Larger military surplus ammo cans are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and latch mechanisms, including the mortar cans.
If you are especially paranoid about nimble-fingered raccoons, you could run a wire through the latches and around the box. Just make sure you can cut or undo the wire when you need the contents!
Some ammo cans come with gaskets in better condition than others. If you are also worried about waterproofness, look for cans in better condition. Surface rust isn’t a big deal. I spray-painted my cans white to reduce solar heating; choose a color that works for your situation.
You can find a variety of plastic ammo boxes in big box stores, but I’d worry about critters chewing into them. No direct experience.
Some rafters carried supplies in cheap used food-grade plastic pickle or olive barrels (or drums) with screw-on or lever-lock lids, available in sizes from 10 to 55 gallons. Should be tough enough.
Let us know what works for you!
— RexFeb 23, 2021 at 8:43 pm #3701184
Just remembered that I store some extra backpacking food in our formerly-mouse-infested garage in five-gallon buckets with screw-top, gasketed “Gamma Seal” lids.
Kept the mice out :-)
I’d consider drilling holes in the lid, then wiring the lid tight to the bucket, to prevent clever Procyonids and similar critters from unscrewing the lid. Might want to seal the holes with silicone caulk when you are done.
— RexFeb 23, 2021 at 8:58 pm #3701186
Here’s another idea, similar to Chris R’s, using tough plastic drainage pipe and caps:
As Chris suggested, I’d run screws through the lids, too.
Even without screws, our local raccoons didn’t bother the water bottle in 7 months. But that’s not a very good test!
— RexFeb 23, 2021 at 9:21 pm #3701188
Higher priced, but available in a range of sizes, designed to store pet food outdoors, so probably raccoon-proof:
By the same people who make the Gamma Seal bucket lids.
— RexFeb 23, 2021 at 10:29 pm #3701202
From the Vittles Vault FAQ:
What do you mean by “Pest Proof?”
When we say pest, we mean insects such as ants (a very common problem). Rats can chew through metal if they have reason to think there is food to be had. We do not guarantee our product against mice, rats, raccoons, possums, squirrels, bears, etc. However, we do make it difficult for these pest to chew through the rounded angle corners. It’s tough for them to get their mouths around these corners.
We suggest that if you have a problem, place a piece of wood (13″X 13″) over the top, or store the Vittles Vault upside down.
Customers have also had success covering their container with a milk crate or putting a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil on the container to act as a natural repellent.
— RexFeb 24, 2021 at 5:55 am #3701210Ken LarsonBPL Member
@kenlarsonLocale: Western Michigan
@rex While Five gallon buckets (new and with locking covers) are a SAFE devices for some critters, in bear county for food resupply they are NOT!Feb 24, 2021 at 7:42 am #3701214
I’m glad to hear what everyone thinks about this. Ken, I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’ll be hanging all of my caches – properly! As experience and wisdom increase, I’m grateful that my one, inappropriate cache was found only by raccoons. I think that the numerous buckets and such that I’ve seen are products of ignorance – while many people believe that black bears hibernate here throughout the winter months, and aren’t searching for food, many people don’t realize that’s not always the case. My question was born of curiosity and the hypothetical, nothing more.
Bonzo, that makes more sense, in theory, if those lids are very hard to open (I’ve never had the pleasure). Browsing the internet, many of the lids for 5 gal paint buckets seem to be of the non-reusable variety. I’d still be leery of leaving it unattended for any length of time – whether or not raccoons are able to pop the lid off is moot when they can simply chew through it.
Bob and Rex, ammo cans definitely entered my mind, but I agree that you’d probably need at least two. Fortunately, many people around here have them, so they’d be easy to borrow if bears weren’t a consideration. I’ve never seen rocket boxes before, but they look plenty big enough, compared to the 50 cal cans. I did come across the Vittles Vault, which looked pretty critter resistant. I read one review that raccoons would knock theirs over and unscrew the lid afterwards. They may be onto something by suggesting it be turned upside down. I’d imagine an upside down container with a gamma lid would be pretty critter resistant that way, especially if it were weighted down and difficult to tip over. When it comes to raccoons, I’m sure that, given time, they could get into almost any container if they wanted to badly enough. Thanks for all of the ideas!Feb 24, 2021 at 9:56 am #3701228
OP: “especially if bears weren’t an issue.”
Bear-resistant is a whole different story. None of my suggestions would work without extra protection. Bears in some parts of the U.S. have figured out how to break into virtually every bear canister on the market – including rolling them off a cliff and feasting on the smashed mess below.
A few areas have required rodent-resistant food storage several feet inside electric fences for more than a decade. Those setups make bear cans look ultralight – and cheap.
— RexFeb 24, 2021 at 3:06 pm #3701276
Absolutely. Luckily, the area where I’m hiking doesn’t *seem* to have any problem bears, at least so far. I hope it stays that way. I’m grateful that my stupid decision last year only created a few chubbier raccoons instead of a problem bear – a mistake I have no intention of repeating. Live and learn. It just got me wondering which other methods that others have successfully employed to keep the smaller critters at bay.Feb 24, 2021 at 3:26 pm #3701281Michael BBPL Member
Razor wire? 😂Feb 24, 2021 at 6:21 pm #3701303
How about wiring a standard pop-off lid to the bucket beneath? I know that wiring was mentioned about other things, but maybe a few holes and some baling wire are easy and cheap enough. I have a literal stack of 3-gallon buckets at work; I could take a crack at it. 🤔Feb 24, 2021 at 7:56 pm #3701311
🤣 Michael, that’s hilarious. And I thought of several things along the same line, Bonzo. I’ve ggot a big roll of hardware cloth and a bear-free wooded area a couple of blocks away. Might not be a bad experiment. Maybe even something like a dog crate could be an option, as long as it could be retrieved (no pun intended) post-hike. It wouldn’t work for rats or mice, but should keep out the larger varmints for awhile. Especially if there’s easier pickins nearby.Feb 24, 2021 at 8:13 pm #3701314
In my corner of the firmament, I’m more worried about the mices than Mr. Bear…
This is a very interesting question. The flat 81mm mortar case might be a good bet. I think I have one of those… somewhere… 🤔Mar 21, 2021 at 3:32 pm #3705673MinerBPL Member
Out west, to protect from the various rodents, coyotes, etc (but where bears weren’t likely). I put my stuff in those large plastic salad tubs from the grocery store and use duct tape around the seam to make it mostly waterproof (though I wouldn’t want to leave it under water, it’s good enough in rain). Put that in a lightweight garbage bag and bury it. Done it in the ocean mountain range along the Pacific, in the desert, and the interior mountains of the southwest.
Usually look for a large rock that is hard for me to move (which also makes it easy to find), so a smaller animal will find it even harder, roll it over a short ways, dig under it so my bag will fit in with 10-12″ of dirt above it, put in some smaller rocks as I bury it to make it harder for something trying to dig it up, and then roll the larger rock over it again (Buried Cache with no Rock, Cache dugged up, Salad Tub cache) I also make a GPS waypoint of the place, just in case.
While I use a real shovel to bury it, or at least a folding shovel (if I have to hike it in), to dig it up, I’m using my aluminum potty trowel (Duece of spades), so it takes awhile. But if it’s only in the ground for less than a month, the ground is still soft enough to dig it up with the trowel without much difficulty. I do fill in the hole and replace the rock afterwards to return it like I found it.
Once I couldn’t find a large rock, but found a large number of heavy logs that I used to cover it up instead. Another time, I made a large pile of rocks out of shoe size ones. I’ve put out 10 caches like this over the past 6 years (for 3 different trips) and never had my cache disturbed in any way. That said, I do have a backup plan to get food, just in case, even if it’s going to add a lot of time hitching out and back in.Apr 7, 2021 at 8:21 pm #3708174
Thanks, Miner. I’m relatively new to all of this (less than 2 years), so I like hearing about the different methods that people use in different areas. I just found it strange that I’ve seen so many hikers caching food out here in 5 gallon buckets and other containers that are unarguably NOT bear proof, as this is, technically, bear country. I also think it’s strange that bears never seem to mess with these caches. For example, I saw a 5 gallon bucket on the OT in October, and when I took my son back there for an overnighter last week, it was still there – 6 months later (which deserves its own thread, called ‘collect your caches’).
On my recent LASH of the OHT (104 miles) I ended up getting in a rush and hanging a cache that was in plain view of any hikers passing by. I wasn’t much worried about other hikers taking it, but I was still worried about critters. When I arrived, it was thankfully untouched.Apr 8, 2021 at 2:34 pm #3708291Dean F.BPL Member
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
Whatever container you use, how about burying it? Should work well for the various surplus ammo cans. And it shouldn’t be an LNT ethical issue if it is near a road or somesuch.
EDIT– I now see that Miner mentioned this.
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