S1E9: Geocaching 101 – Advice for Beginners

When you first start geocaching you may have a lot of questions. What is geocaching? What equipment do I need to geocache? How do I find a geocache? What advice is there for beginning goecaching? If you’re new to geocaching, this episode is made for you. Join me as I share some of the best advice I’ve learned for geocaching. I also reach out on social media and get some great advice from other geocachers.

Places and Things Mentioned
CacheToolBox
CachingToolBox

Sources
– “Geocahcing 101″, geocaching.com
– “13 Tips for Geocaching Beginners“, geocaching.com
– “Geocaching: The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Geocaching“, by Marc McDermott, smarterhobby.com
– “How to Get Started Geocaching“, rei.com

Cache Highlight: “As Easy As it Gets #2

Transcript

At this point I have found 132 caches and have hidden 2.  I know I’m still new to this compared to those with hundreds or even thousand of finds.  So it might seem odd that I am handing out advice for beginners but maybe it’s not.  Since I am still new at this I’ve searched the internet and read social media post and articles that I find in search of advice and tips and tricks to help me in hunts for geocaches.  I thought it might be helpful for anyone else out there who is still new to share the stuff that I have found helpful.  Some of this may seem obvious but maybe not to everyone.

The most common advice I have seen and heard is to always bring a pin or pencil or sharpie with you or one of each or even bring two pins incase one doesn’t work.  Not all caches are large enough to able to hold a pin and even if they are you don’t know if the pin still works or is broken or missing until you get there.  Some CO’s (cache owners) get frustrated when they see a new digital find log that reads “didn’t have a pin to sign” but the cacher logged it digitally.  Now some CO’s don’t if this is the case but I have heard from some that it bothers them and even a few others that have said they will delete a find if the comment left says they didn’t sign the physical log because the cacher didn’t bring a pin.

Pay attention to the difficulty and terrain level.  If you are new to caching or are caching with young kids, it’s recommended that you stick to a lower level terrain and difficulty level.  A park and grab cache that is quick and easy for an experienced cacher could prove more challenging or someone just starting out.

A hint left by a CO is great but you may find helpful information in other parts of the cache page.  Always read the description before trying to find the cache.  Sometimes the description will give you additional information about the area the cache is located at such as a near by parking area, if a bushwhack or long hike is needed to get to it, if the cache is only accessible during curtain hours, if it’s intended to be a night cache, or other valuable information that can help lead you to the cache like what kind of container you’re looking for.  With puzzle caches it is especially important to thoroughly read the description as that is what typically leads you to the puzzle.

Read the activity log.  The activity log can often be a great source for additional information.  For starters, if there are several DNF’s logged you may decide not to go after cache.  Other information I’ve seen can be anything from a picture of the cache container, which is helpful if you have no idea what you’re looking for and the description didn’t tell you, or if the posted coordinates are off, or the container is damaged and needs maintenance. 

If you are writing a log, be mindful before posting a picture of the container.  Some CO’s will post in the description that they do not want pictures of the cache posted and will remove them if posted.  So please be mindful of that.  If you do post a picture of the container in the log, don’t post one of it at the spot you find it.  Remove it from it’s hiding spot first and then take your picture if you’re including it as part of your log. 

Reach out to other cachers.  Weather your having trouble finding the cache, solving a puzzle cache, or just need some advice, reaching out to other cachers is a great tool.  You can always message the cache owner or someone one who previously found the cache if you’re looking for a hint or have a question about a cache.  I have done this a few times and usually can get a response from either the CO or another cacher if I’m in need of a hint or help solving a puzzle.  Do keep in mind that if you are out at the cache and send them a message, they may not be able to respond to you right away.  It’s possible you many not hear back at all but there’s no harm in trying.  Another great way to reach out for help or advice is social media.  Facebook has all kinds of geocaching groups, some dedicated to beginners or puzzle cache help.

Bison tubs are a common container for micros but not everyone knows how to replace the log correctly.  When you replace the log, roll is up and place it in the lid and then close up the tube.  This prevents the edge of the log from getting jammed up in the threads.  I had found a handful of such containers before I came across this tip on Pinterest.  The next time a came across a bison tub, I tried the tip and it was so much easier to get the cap on because the log didn’t get in the way.

Always put the cache back where you found it.  You may think you can hind the cache better but it doesn’t matter.  The CO put it there for a reason so please put it back.  As a CO, it is very frustrating when I go to check on my caches and find them in a different spot than I placed it.  I have one that is a magnetic key box on the underside of a park bench  and, while it is always at the correct bench, it is almost never in the place that I left it when I go to check on it.  Now it possible that it’s been moved by someone at the park that happened to spot it, but the way I hide it help tuck it out of sight and it’s not a very busy park.  So I’m inclined to think a cacher moving it after finding it is the cause at least some of the time.  If something about a cache doesn’t look right or you think it might be out of place, snap a picture and send it to the CO in a private message.  The private massage will ensure you don’t give the cache location away by accident.

Cache safely.  Sometimes we end up grabbing a find when we weren’t planning on it and it is what it is.  But if you’re planning a day or caching there are a few basics outdoor safety tips to keep in mind.  Make sure you dress for the weather and area you’re caching in.  If you’re planning a caching adventure that you know will require hiking and bushwhacking, you may not want to be out doing it in open toe sandals and shorts or you may end up with some unplanned blisters and scraps.  Learn how to identify poisonous plants such as poison ivy and poison oak.  Otherwise your find may also lead you to an unpleasant rash.  And don’t forget your bug spray.  Mosquitos bits are unpleasant enough but ticks and chiggers are even worse.  A great way to  rid yourself of any crawling hitch hikers before your get into your car, is to take a lent roller to your closes.  The sticky tape will pick up any ticks crawling on you before they bit or find their way into your car.

Make sure someone who’s not going with you knows where you plan to be.  This is especially important if you are out caching alone but is also a good idea even if you’re caching with a friend.  You never know what might happen when your out hiking and or driving around.  It’s good to make sure someone knows your plan incase you get injured in the woods or end up in a finder bender on the way to a park and grab around town.

Google it!  There are resources out there for geocaching.  A lot of information can be found on the geocahcing.com blog but there are other sites as well such as geocachingtoolbox.com which has link to tools for converting different coordinate systems, distance calculators for midpoints and intersections, downloads for printable geocaching logs, and different encryption and code deciphers to name a few things.  There are also articles on sites such as rei.com and smarterhobby.com for example, about geocaching with different information from the basics of what geocaching to and how to get started, to caching with kids, or placing your first find.  I will post links to a couple of articles in the show notes.

When you get to the cache coordinates, put down the phone or GPS and look around.  GPS accuracy can very between devices.  Even the most accurate devices have an accuracy of +/-16 ft.  Which means when with a highly accurate GPS device with a strong signal, the cache could be within 16 ft in any direction of the posted coordinates.  That’s assuming the posted coordinates are dead on.  So put away the device and look up, down, around, and all over.

Look for something out of place.  Nature doesn’t stack rocks or sticks in neatly organized piles.  If it looks like it may not belong in the area, it could be the cache.

Before you go sticking your hand down a whole you can’t see in, use a stick to check the area out first.  That way you won’t get bitten if you accidently find a snake while looking for a cache in the woods.

Try different cache types.  While traditional caches are the most common, you may find that you enjoy multi caches or Earth caches more.

But the most important tip may be to remember to have fun.  It is a game after all.  I know how frustrating it can be when you’re at a cache location and just can’t seem to find it.  Just take a breath or take a knee and try to look at it from a new perspective.  But remember, it is just a game.  Keep trying and don’t give up but it is okay to log a DNF and come back another time to try again.

I want to thank everyone on Facebook and Instagram that responded to my post of “If you could give a newbie 1 tip, what would it be?”  While there were a lot of comments, several of them where similar to each other and to the outline I had planned for this show.  But I picked out a few unique ones to highlight.

From Facebook

Phil Wilder wrote, “Use waterproof log sheets and bring some along to help CO’s maintain their caches.”

Jim Lanzikos wrote, “Don’t find all the caches in the immediate area around where you live.  You’ll want easy caches available nearby in bad weather if you’re going for a steak of you’re trying to fill in a calendar day.”  As an add on to Jim’s comment this is also good for if you need a cache for a special souvenir day and it’s bad weather out.

Kim Smith Riggs wrote, “Main thing we were told by cachers when we 1st started……if you really enjoyed a cache, it was more fun & creative than an average pill bottle in a bush please write a little bit more than TFTC. I know us COs love it when people log a bit more, espically if we’ve tried hard to make it more fun to find than average. You don’t need to write a story, although those are fun too, but like 1 or 2 sentences about it is always nice for the CO and even cachers behind you also. Happy Caching! You’ll be hooked fast!”

From Instagram

Fuechse_cachen_pandas wrote, “Take your time and enjoy every journey.”

Gardenerchick13 wrote, “After you search for 30 minutes try shutting your eyes…open them, and it’s usually right in front of you.”

The cache was called “As Easy As It Gets #2”

Cache ID: GC4TVMB

Difficulty rating 1, Terrain rating 1

The description read:

This is a simple park and grab.  It is wheelchair accessible.  This is a perfect cache for beginners.  Good luck and happy caching.

********* Congrats to N0WNV on FTF ********

Hint:

None needed, but if really necessary, can you give me a light?

While out on a recent caching trip, I stopped on the way home and picked up a quick lamp post cache.  When I scrolled through the activity log I noticed that it was a recent hot spot for newer cachers.  A lot of people had commented that it was there first find or how hard it was and how long it had taken them.  My first instinct was to think of how easy it was but then I thought back to my first lamp post cache and felt differently about it all their those logs.

When my son and I set out to find out second ever geocache, we targeted “As Easy As It Gets #2”.  I figured it would be quick and easy, after all it was in the name.  The cache coordinates led us to a lamp post in a CVS parking lot.  We parked near by and walked over.  We got to the lamp post and had no idea what we were looking for.  I looked up and down the post for a magenta but didn’t find one.  We looked around on the ground and didn’t see anything.  I finally thought to look through the activity log and found a picture someone had posted of them holding the cache, which was a small prescription bottle.  I stood there with my son at a lost as to what to do, feeling discouraged.  The thought of “If I couldn’t figure out a 1/1 rating, how was I supposed to any cache at all,” running through my head.  I took a breath and tried again.  I knelt down to get a different perspective and realized the skirting around the base of the lamp post was loose.  I lifted it up and there it was.  We found the cache.  My son pulled it out and I signed the log for us.  That park and grab took us a good 10 minutes to find and now we can it in seconds.

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