Hide your Spare Key Like a Spy with this DIY Dead Drop Key Hider - ITS Tactical

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Hide your Spare Key Like a Spy with this DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

By Bryan Black

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

Do you have a spare key hidden outside of your home and wonder just how secure it is? Perhaps you have one of those magnetic key hiders or fake rocks that have been around for so long, thieves know to be on the look out for them.

Today I’ll show you how you can build an overt key hider that can hide in plain sight and not attract any undue attention. With a sprinkler head and a few cheap parts you can easily assemble you own DIY Dead Drop Key Hider.

Covert vs. Overt Concealment

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

What we’re building today fits the definition of a Dead Drop, which is a discreet means of exchanging items or information between individuals utilizing a predetermined secret location. However, in this case it’s more of a concealment or a CD (concealment device) since you probably won’t be using it as a way to communicate with a confederate. You certainly could though!

Just like a Dead Drop, the location of this concealment won’t be know to those who don’t need to know. It isn’t foolproof though, it can still be compromised if you find yourself accessing it while under surveillance. Without getting too deep into the world of espionage, just maintain your situational awareness when you’re placing or retrieving items.

This key hider is an overt concealment because it doesn’t need to be covertly concealed, it “hides in plain sight.” An example of a covert concealment would be the magnetic key hider, which you’d need to “conceal” somewhere because it would stand out and be easily recognized.

Constructing the Key Hider

While the video above will walk you step-by-step through the construction process, I’ve also provided detailed photos, a parts list and full instructions below that will take you through the process. As you’ll see in the materials list, you can use a 2″ long adjustable sprinkler head like I did, or pick up a 4″ long sprinkler head for more storage space.

Materials Needed

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

Don’t Skimp

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

The benefit of using a real sprinkler head for this project is two fold, first, it ensures that those that might be looking for this kind of concealment will have a hard time telling it apart from others you may have in your yard. Even if you don’t have other sprinklers, placing a few of these will add to the cover that you have a sprinkler system. I even share a tip in the video that can help to further make the sprinkler head look authentic if pulled up out of the ground.

Secondly, a real sprinkler head has a rubber gasket that can seal your concealment if there’s something else you’d like to keep in it. This could be a literal document or even spare cash you could access in an emergency like a house fire, etc. Completely sealing the unit will also require the addition of silicone to seal the bottom of the sprinkler head.


Start by removing the locking ring on the top of the sprinkler head and pulling up on the white gasket and spray nozzle. This will remove the guts of the sprinkler head. Set the body and screw cap to the side. Pull the gasket and compress the spring to access the spray nozzle. This piece is threaded and needs to be removed for the time being.

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

A note here is that the spray nozzle is adjustable, meaning it goes from a closed position to a fully open position by grasping the dial looking top and turning it.If you’re going to be sealing the unit for a watertight concealment, make sure the spray nozzle is in the closed position.

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

Once the spray nozzle is unscrewed, pull off the gasket and discard everything else but the gasket and the spray nozzle. Next, apply a bead of superglue around the edge of the spray nozzle that interfaces with the white gasket. Glue this in place and then take the screw cap and apply superglue to the inside rim where it makes contact with the white gasket. Stick these two components together and wait for them to dry.

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

Now grab your screwdriver and back out the screw on the bottom of what you’ve assembled. Be careful to support the spray nozzle so that you don’t break the superglue by twisting the screw. You can also back the screw out before you glue the assembly so that it’s easier to manipulate at this step.

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

You’re now going to tie a slip knot of some kind in one end of a 6″-8″ section of dummy cord. This goes around the screw as is pulled tight before twisting the screw back in to secure it further. Make sure it’s fully secure and that your knot isn’t going anywhere. Next, attach your house key to the other end with a Bowline. Click here for our Knot of the Week on how to tie a Bowline.

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

Knock out the cutting of your Sprinkler Pipe Adapter at this time. This is also a good thing to do while your superglue is drying too. Simply cut a 45 degree angle at the desired length. The overall length of my cut was 4.5″ at the longest measurement of the 45. The purpose of a 45 degree angle here is to help when you press it into the ground. If you’re going for a full sealed device, this is the point at which you can add some silicone inside the pipe to seal against any moisture that might find its way in.

Screw the pipe section onto the bottom of the sprinkler head and add a little more silicone here if you’re sealing it, just to ensure a full seal. I outlined in materials list that you needs a 1/2″ inlet sprinkler head which matches the 1/2″ thread on the sprinkler pipe. If you’re using a different size inlet, just make sure the pipe threading matches the inlet size.

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

The last step is to screw the top lid back onto your sprinkler body and figure out where you’d like to overtly conceal it in your yard. Sprinkler heads are fairly rigid and can take some abuse, which means you can stand on it to use your body weight to press it into the ground if you need to.

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

Now that your DIY Dead Drop Key Hider is installed into the ground, all you need to do is unscrew the cap, pull the key out with it and take it to your door to let yourself in if you get locked out. The base of the sprinkler head stays in the ground and you simply replace the lid after you’re done!

DIY Dead Drop Key Hider

What do you think, is this something you’d utilize? Do you have any other sneaky concealments you’d like to share below in the comments?

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  • Michael VanSickle

    This is an awesome idea!!

    • @Michael VanSickle Thanks Michael, glad you found it useful!

    • CMB 98

      Great video great idea! My questions is what is the watch you are wearing in the video ,brand and model? Thanks. Chris

  • green_vaccine

    Or you could just buy a combination lockbox and screw it to your house.

    • @green_vaccine The issue there is that if you think like a criminal, that’s the first thing I’d try to gain access to.

    • green_vaccine

      bryanpblack Agreed sir, but as someone who has worked at remote radio sites for many years, most of which have the keys in such a lockbox, I can vouch for the fact that you will not gain access to one of these without at minimum a battery operated angle grinder. I’ve tried, in vain, to get into them on numerous occasions (when I was authorized to do so), and have broken more than my fair share of Klein screwdrivers, pry bars and knives.

      It would be far easier at that point for the criminal element to break a window or kick in your door. In fact, in 20 years I’ve never seen one of them successfully breached.

    • @green_vaccine Fair point, but I have seen some lockboxes that seem easy to pry into. Thanks for the reply.

    • dunsho

      one of my project home got it’s lock box taken,   thief came back with the key from the box and took the appliances.

  • Pat

    Awesome tutorial Bryan,

    I have seen this done in Geocaching before and you can buy the faux sprinkler heads from Amazon already set up so that you don’t have to disassemble the valve if you want to save a minute and maybe a dollar. http://www.amazon.com/Fake-Sprinkler-Key-Holder-Geocache/dp/B002TKBM2E


    • @Pat Thanks brother, I have seen those, but as I mentioned in the article. Skimping on a real sprinkler head has it’s downsides. The real sprinkler head is built a lot tougher and made to last in all kinds of weather conditions. An added benefit is the gasket they feature as well, which helps with their waterproofing. Also, if you’re truly trying to create an overt concealment, the molded plastic top on these can be a dead giveaway that it’s fake and a hider.

  • ben butler

    I’ve done this with Geocaching. Make sure it is sealed well. I don’t guess water will hurt the key, but if you want to store something else in it that may be an issue. I also just used a pipe plug of the appropriate size instead of the pipe. May try the pipe next time.

    • ben butler The pipe certainly helps Ben, glad you’re using these for Geocaching. I’m sure the concealment has perplexed more than a few people 🙂

  • Joe Dew

    A very interesting article. I do not have a sprinkler system (xeriscaped yard) so a sprinkler head would stick out like a sore thumb. But it does get me to thinking about contingencies and keeping spare keys in plain sight. Perhaps securing a key inside a solar light or some other yard fixture that doesn’t receive a lot of attention. I will definitely ponder this further! Thanks

    • Joe Dew Maneuvering Mom There’s always the thought of adding multiple faux sprinkler heads to give the appearance that you do. You’d only need to convert one into the Dead Drop Key Hider.

    • Maneuvering Mom

      Absolutely correct. 😉

    • Maneuvering Mom

      10-4 , Absolutely correct. Now my hamsters are spinning for other ideas. 😉

  • Maneuvering Mom

    Same here, we do not own a sprinkler system, but we do have solar lights along our walkway. I converted one into a key holder. great idea for the sprinkler head.

  • Colin1248

    As mentioned by others, if you don’t have a sprinkler system as single sprinkler head can look odd.  My first thought as an alternative would be a Termite bait station.  Get a DIY kit, have one as your dead drop and the remainder can protect your home from a gang of 6 legged predators.

  • randypb

    Great idea Bryan! This is what I’ve grown to expect from you guys and why I check this site daily.

  • lightfighter

    Hmmm, what can urban apartment dwellers do ?  

    Imagine a four story walk up with a locked vestibule entry but no garden.

    • patrickj1962

      lightfighter Use your own imagination?

    • lightfighter

      patrickj1962 lightfighter

      Oh, I do but it gets kind of lonely in there sometimes.  Imaginary friends with imaginary answers are always nice to have : D

    • Evil Queen

      lightfighter I took one of the magnetic key holders, painted it green to match and stuck it on the post of a nearby stop sign as I stopped to “adjust” the height of my bike seat one day. It’s not the closest sign to my building, so if someone did find it they wouldn’t immediately guess what it opens. It’s up high and behind the sign so it’s unlikely to be seen unless you know it’s there, but I can see it as I pass by. It’s been there almost 2 years.  Note that the sign itself is apparently aluminum,  and not magnetic.  I found this out the first time I “adjusted” my seat,  and necessitated a new can of spray paint (dark green instead of metallic silver) and further seat adjustment. 😉 Be creative and put a couple more around your neighborhood as backup

    • lightfighter

      Evil Queen   Thanks for your response. I love your choice of a remote and / or seemingly unrelated location.  I’ll be keeping my eyes open for possible spots

    • ImJacob

      lightfighter Remember the old “key under the doormat” trick? People may check UNDER the door mat… perhaps, in their own paranoia, just lifting it up slightly to quickly check for a key. Usually one won’t pick up the entire doormat to thoroughly examine its underside. Take a relatively thick doormat and towards the middle, cut out a section of it using some sort of tool like an exacto knife or something of that sort. Cut pretty deep into it but not deep enough to go completely through the other side and make a space where you can tape the key inside. You might have to slice off a horizontal portion of that part of the mat that you cut out. Once you tape the key inside of the bottom then put the cut out back in with perhaps another layer of tape or some sort of glue on the upper inside part to keep it in place in a way that it will look inconspicuous even in the rare case that someone gives it examination.

      You might even consider piecing together multiple of the same type of doormats for this purpose but it shouldn’t be necessary if it’s done properly with a doormat of the right thickness. You don’t even necessarily need to return the faux bottom to the doormat — you could just leave a chunk open on the bottom where you can scotch or duct tape the key in — but I would recommend it just to be safe. Most people aren’t smart enough to check such a thing so thoroughly.

  • Jameos

    Anyone remember the late-90’s Norm MacDonald sitcom? There was an episode where he lost his apartment key, and had a spare hidden in a fake rock…in the apartment hallway! One of the funniest tv moments I’ve ever seen!

  • LaurenAdams

    I must admit that this is quite a clever trick. I would love to have something like this in my home. After all, the first place that an intruder would look would be under your rug. However, I doubt that many potential intruders would consider looking under a sprinkler. Also, I have heard that fake rocks are great for hiding your keys. http://www.ameenslocksmith.com.au

  • grahair

    Any creative ideas to make this sprinkler dead drop RF blocking?  Or…other dead drop devices more suited for RF blocking?

    • ImJacob

      grahair Yeah, that’s simple… just use conductive material to create a Faraday Shield, much like a Fawxbox or skimming shield.

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