So You Want To Go Geocaching?!
WHAT IS GEOCACHING?
world wide web; and user information to locate “caches” hidden in various locations around the world.
Here’s how to get started. Go to http://www.geocaching.com and sign up for a free account. Key in your location by zip code or area. Caches available in your area will show themselves.
DO I NEED A GPS?
A GPS allows you to enter or follow coordinates of the cache you want to find. GPS’ run the gamut in price. A very basic unit can be had for $100 or less today. Pricier units have more bells and whistles and allow you to access information in the field, but all you need is a unit on which you can enter/follow coordinates. For information on the kinds of GPS units available, the geocaching forum is a useful resource.
Most people find it useful to invest in a GPS unit. But you can go geocaching without one. Some folks find caches using only clues listed on the web page-no GPS, no compass or maps! Below are a few links to maps, aerials and blogs of budget minded folks.
MINIMUM NECESSARY EQUIPMENT
HINTS FOR THAT FIRST HUNT
When viewing caches in your area, look for one marked ‘easy’ for terrain and ease of find. One star is easiest, five stars hardest. There are also different types of caches. The Mystery CacheThe Virtual Cache,
The Multi-Cache The Letterbox The Wherigo
There are many variations. For your first trip, choose a regular cache
Using your notebook, log the unique number and name of the cache you will be seeking ans well as information about the cache such as coordinates and type/size of cache. There may be additional clues available (some people consider these spoilers and only use them as a last resort. You will get a feel for the information you might be comfortable with.) There are even driving directions available to get you to the general cache area. This can be helpful if you are in an area you are unfamiliar with.
A bit about cache size. Regular caches range in size from rather large (think 5 gallon paint pail) to Nano (a magnetic container about the size of a pencil eraser.) Smaller caches like nano’s and micros (film canister, perhaps) usually contain a log only. People seeking these caches are doing it for the thrill of the hunt. The finding of a cache is reward enough. Larger caches usually contain small trinkets. More about trade items later.
LOOKING FOR A CACHE
Where will the cache be hidden? In a word-ANYWHERE!! Some caches have clever camouflage and are ‘hidden’ right out in the open. A cache can blend in so well with it’s surroundings that you may spend quite a bit of time searching. Others are designed as a ‘park and grab’. Some caches are ‘devious. Misleading clues designed to throw the seeker off track. Caches can even be be flat, and did I mention the use of magnets in hiding caches? Then there is terrain that can add a caches difficulty rating. Is the cache in an urban environment or in the woods? Is it hidden high or low? Caches are never buried. You will not need a shovel to find a cache. That is not to say that some camouflage is not a bit misleading. I have seen a cache designed as a sprinkler head. You have to pull the thing out of the ground to get to the pipe holding the log book.
- This brings to mind another point to be mindful of when searching for treasures. I live in an area with lots of snow in the winter. Not all caches are accessible year round. Usually this is noted on the cache web page. Take this into consideration when searching on line for a cache.
- Geocachers should never vandalize property to hide a cache- meaning, that if you remove the cache no damage will have been done to the property holding, and/or surrounding, the cache.
- Be mindful when seeking a cache of where you are putting your hands. Spiders, snakes, scorpions, or other debris can present a danger to cachers.
HEADED OUT FOR THE HUNT
- Print out, copy, or enter the information you need about the cache. Even if you do not think you will use the clues provided it is a good idea to take them along as well as several past log entries. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to get out in the field and not have as much useful information as possible- especially if you are traveling or have hiked a long way to get to the cache site.
We keep a ‘geocaching box’ in our car. Additional equipment I find useful.
- Hand wipes
- headlamp, pen light or flashlight. (Kids LOVE to be in charge of these items!)
- extra logs in various sizes for cache maintenance
- duct tape for cache maintenance
- rare earth magnets for cache maintenance
- small zip lock bags for cache maintenance
- explanation of geocaching to hand out to people we may meet
- local maps
- trinkets for trade
- trash bags leave each place cleaner than you found it!
- activated travel bugs and geocoins to circulate
- digital camera to document our finds
- extra batteries for GPS and flashlight
- extra writing sticks- weatherproof is useful
- tweezers or hemostats for removing logs from nanocaches or hard to reach areas
- DO NOT try and navigate while driving
- Obey laws regarding parking
- Pay attention to signs marking private property
- Depending where you live, check dark holes with a flashlight or stick before putting your hand inside. In warmer climates snakes, spiders, scorpions, etc. may have taken residence in such spaces.
“I FOUND IT!” A WORD ABOUT THE CACHE AND MUGGLES
After you find the cache, but before you remove it from it’s hiding spot, take a minute to do two things. First, look at the cache in it’s hiding spot. Memorize how it is hidden. Sometimes I even take a picture of a cache in it’s hiding spot to help me remember how it should be replaced. This is VERY important to protecting the integrity of each cache. Nothing is more frustrating than searching for a cache and finding the remains strewn along the ground because a muggle spotted a cacher’s sloppy re-hide.
Second, stop and look for muggles. Some caches are hidden in low traffic areas, but others are hidden where special care (read patience and time) must be taken to protect the cache from being found out. This means in high traffic areas you may have to wait. You may even have to leave a cache for a less busy time. Protect the sport and be stealthy.
- Build in extra time to account for the possibility of muggles.
- Read notes from previous finders. This can give you clues as to traffic as well as other *spoilers*.
- Be prepared to leave a cache unsigned if it is inaccessible. Bring a camera to document you location and GPS coords.
TREASURE! AND SIGNING THE LOG BOOK
Once you have removed the cache from it’s hiding spot, walk to a neutral location some distance from the cache coordinates. You are going to have your attention turned to removing contents of the container, signing the log, and possibly trading items. The cache will be safer from muggles when you are away from the hide site. Now for the discovery!
Open the container. I keep a large ziplock bag to pour the contents of the cache into. Use your common sense. If the ground is dry-just spread the contents of the cache out. There will be a log book-probably stored in a baggie. Sometimes there is a writing stick, but don’t count on it! Keep a weatherproof writing stick on hand. You may encounter a log that is damp because they are not stored in a weatherproof container or a lid was not properly restored by a previous cacher. (Decon canisters, while excellent weatherproof containers,are notorious for spilling contents because the back tab gets stuck when replacing the lid. Watch this video for foolproof decon lid replacement. You must hear each corner snap as you push it down.)
Space is a premium in all logs-especially smaller ones! When signing the log, be concise. Here’s a sample of how I sign a log.
drgnflyz TFTC! T-1 TB TBXXXX L-1Geocoin OCXXX T-plastic butterfly L-bouncy ball.
‘drgnflyz‘ is my screen name. TFTC– thanks for the cache! TBXXXX is the tracking # for the TB I took. OCXXX is the tracking # for the geocoin I left in the cache. I took a plastic butterfly and left a bouncy ball.
You will notice many abbreviations associated with geocaching. TNSL (took nothing signed log) TFTC (thanks for the cache) T (took) L (left) etc. To learn the vernacular of your new favorite sport, take a look at this geocaching leixcon.
PROVIDING CACHE MAINTENANCE
From time to time you will run across a cache whose log book is full, or whose container is in poor shape. Cache owners most often do a great job of maintaining their hides. Just in case, I keep a few zip lock baggies handy for protecting a damp cache, or replacing a weathered bag. I also keep extra log sheets from nano size to large in case I find a log book is full. I find this a fun part of contributing to the geocaching community.
If you have done some sort of maintenance on a cache, you can select “needs maintenance” icon when logging your find, to alert the cache owner of the service you provided. I always keep the full log removed from a cache in a ziplock bag (labeled with the cache name and number) and offer to mail the log to the cache owner. Use your common sense about removing damp or wet items from a cache and note your actions when you log your visit.
TRINKETS FOR TRADE, AND TRACKABLE ITEMS: TRAVEL BUGS AND GEOCOINS
When you find a cache with trade items or trackables, you have several options. Some folks like to travel light. They carry only the basic aforementioned equipment; find the cache, sign the log- done. For these people, the thrill is the hunt and the reward is the find. Others keep a stash of trinkets for trade. Toys from fast food restaurants, small plastic ‘guys’/ animals, logo pencils/pens, key chains, etc. When you find a cache item, just trade something of approximately equal or greater value. We go to garage sales and dollar stores to restock our trade items- recycle, reuse. Use your imagination! (This sport is designed for people of all ages, use your common sense. Do not put fireworks, drugs, or weapons, in a cache. Also forgo food items, candy, perfumes, toothpaste, etc. as these items may attract animals or bugs.)
Trackable items, geocoins and travel bugs, are a fun part of geocaching. You decide if you want the pleasure and responsibility of incorporating these into your geocaching experience. Travel bugs and geocoins are NOT considered trade items (trinkets). When taking a trinket/leaving a trinket TB’s and geocoins are not part of the ‘treasures’. You should only take a geocoin and/or travelbug if you intend to take it to another cache in the immediate future. Please do not remove these items and keep them as souvenirs.
REHIDING THE CACHE AND LOGGING YOUR FIND
Maintaining the integrity of the hidden cache is all important. Double check that you have secured the lid/closure properly. Use your common sense when re hiding the cache. Look for muggles. Hide the container a well as, or better than you found it-as close to the original coordinates as possible.
Take a few minutes to log your experience in your notebook now. You will not remember details later. Here is an example of what I write in my personal log book.
- GCG9ZQ (It’s All About Skippy)
- N 33 41.714 W 117 56.920
- Found with Daron and boys. Daron made his first discovery! 9×11 tupperware container in juniper bushes at public park. Log book slightly damp-replaced weathered ziplock bag. T- Orangie Bear TB 56XXX L- Movin’ Moose TB 493XXX and Iraqi Freedom geocoin MTXXX. TNSL L-purple metal whistle.
When you go to the geocaching website to log your find, you will have the necessary information at your fingertips!
THE GEOCACHERS’ CREED
- Do not vandalize property when creating or rehiding a cache.
- Practice cache in-trash out
- Tread lightly on nature. Stick to trails when possible, be aware of and have respect for your environment.
- When caching outside the U.S. be mindful of language barriers. Babel Fish can help with translations not already provided on geocaching’s home page. We find it useful to print out calling card sized translations to hand out to curious cab drivers or others we may encounter while caching in Mexico.
LINKS FOR GEOCACHING
- Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.
- TerraCaching a community of cachers and a listing of TerraCaches hidden all over the world with a little help from handheld Global Positioning System receivers and available exclusively to TerraCaching.com members.
- NaviCache is your online geocaching community here to provide you with the resources you need to enjoy all the fun!
- Cacheopedia Cacheopedia is a wiki-based online encyclopedia, reference, and guide for the sport of geocaching. It is a source for geocaching FAQs, articles, definitions, guides, and a whole lot more.
- Google Earth is a powerful program that models the earth in 3D with aerial or satellite photo overlays. It also can display things like roads, businesses, and driving directions. Additionally, if you download the “Google Earth KML” from your geocaching.com profile page (it’s on the right-hand side column), you can view the approximate location of up to 150 geocaches at a time in your Google earth screen.
RELATED GPS GAMING AND OUTDOOR FAMILY ACTIVITIES
- Earthcaching. An earthcache is a special place that people can visit to learn about a unique geo science feature or aspect of our Earth. Visitors to EarthCache sites can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage the resources and how scientists gather evidence to learn about the Earth. As a part of geocaching, earthcaching is treasure hunting for the caches that the Earth has stored. EarthCache sites do not use stored containers; their treasure is the lessons people learn about our planet when they visit the site.
Degree Confluence ProjectThe goal of the project is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location. The pictures, and stories about the visits, will then be posted here. The project is an organized sampling of the world. There is a confluence within 49 miles (79 km) of you if you’re on the surface of Earth. We’ve discounted confluences in the oceans and some near the poles, but there are still 10,733 to be found.
You’re invited to help by photographing any one of these places. Read the Information pages, and contact us if you have questions.
GEOCACHING INFORMATION AND DOWNLOADS
- Cacheopedia is a wiki-based online encyclopedia, reference, and guide for the sport of geocaching. It is a source for geocaching FAQs, articles, definitions, guides, and a whole lot more.
- Geosetter For Windows is a freeware tool for Windows for showing and changing geo data of image files (e.g. images taken by digital cameras).
Express Log CacheMate™ is a database for tracking GPS cache hunts. You can store information about caches or benchmarks, decode hints, and transfer data between CacheMate and the MemoPad application.
- EasyGPS easy-to-use software for transferring data between your GPS and your computer, especially if you own more than one GPS receiver.
Written by drgnflyz
April 16, 2009 at 3:08 pm
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged with babel fish, cache, cachemate, cacheopedia, caches, caching, camouflage, cito, decon canister, degree confluence, earthcache, express log, garmin, geocoins, google earth, google maps, GPS, magellan, Map/GPS related, muggles, nano cache, navicache, orienteering, rare earth magnets, spoilers, swag, technology, terracaching, trackable, trade items, travel bugs, tread lightly, treasure hunting, trinkets, wikiloc
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