ProGeocaching Quality in geocaching

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Excellent creative geocache

A friend got inspired by the high quality geoaches he saw on Progeocaching and put together one which is an

Great geocache

Great geocache!

example of how to make an excellent creative geocache. He suggested that I might like to check it out and put it up on Progeocaching. It's located in some bush in the south of Sydney, Australia.

The cache was placed on 11 November 2011 (11/11/11), so the co-ordinates and numbers used to solve the final co-ordinates are based around that.

I know that he went to some trouble to make this as high quality as possible.

So what is it that makes this a high quality geocache?

  • Adventure. It's a great walk/ride in to areas that few people visit.
  • Physically challenging. It involved mountain biking, some bush-bashing and rock climbing - but nothing exhausting;
  • Mentally challenging. It required doing some research, solving a puzzle and following some instructions on how to operate the equipment - but you didn't need to be Einstein;
  • Educational. Because of the research involved I learnt things that I didn't know before.
  • Nice location. It's in the middle of a nice piece of bush and is somewhere that I wouldn't have visited if not for this.
  • Overall good experience. I came away with a sense of achievement and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Isn't that what's it's all about?

There is no comparison to some dodgy micro located in a non-descript location.

I rated this very highly. It's an example of a high quality geocache and is what we all should be aspiring to.

Well done mate!

Check out the video.

If you can't see the video, click here.


How to make a geocache for extreme conditions


Do you get tired of finding poor quality geocaches with containers that don't keep out the moisture?  Often these are sheltered locations as well.

You end up with stinking, sodden logbook and contents. YUCK!!  Not a pleasant experience.

How to make a floating geocache buoy

Floating Geocache Buoy

To to see if it's possible to create a waterproof geocache that stays dry in the most extreme environments, I created a Floating Geocache Buoy that is placed in open water. It  is constantly being pounded by wind, waves and every passing storm.

The cache is called "Buoy Oh Boy" and the GC code is: GC33XG0

OK, to you Americans, that name doesn't sound very good (Boo-ee Oh Boy).  However here in Australia, it's pronounced "Boy Oh Boy"!

The video below shows how the  geocache was created and placed.

Also because of all the quality geocaches that have been shown on Progeocaching I was inspired to create a high quality one of my own. Hopefully it will give you some inspiration as well.

How to make a geocache buoy

So how do you make a geocache buoy?  In essence it's a waterproof container inside a waterproof container.

The outside container is made from a 5 inch plastic drainpipe cut to 450 mm (~18 inches) in length.  It is sealed at one end with a plug and a screw top at the other end. The inside container is a 4 inch plastic drainpipe that is sealed in the same manner. The overall length is about 500 mm (~20 inches)


To float vertically a buoy needs to be weighted in the bottom.  To determine how much weight was needed, I kept adding sand (in ziplock bags) until the buoy floated at the right height in a water tank.  It took about 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) of sand to achieve that.  I then took a short length of 5 inch drainpipe, sealed it at the bottom with sticky tape and measured out 2.5 kg of Quickset concrete.  This was mixed with water in the tube and allowed to set overnight.

Surprisingly, after setting hard, it still weighed 2.5 kg.

Because concrete expands slightly, I needed to use an angle grinder to take off some of the concrete from the circumference of the block so that it fitted inside the geocache.

Cavity Filler

Once that was in place, the cavity above the block was filled with expanding foam (Space Invader), up to the bottom of the inside container.   This is so that even if water does manage to get in, the buoy will still float.

Some expanding foam was also put inside the screw-top lid to give flotation, just in case it's dropped into the water. The thread of the lid was masked with sticky tape and given enough room around the foam to be able screw the lid on.

Attaching points

The buoy needs to be anchored, so it needs an attachment point.  How do you attach a rope to the geocache without breaking the waterproof integrity of the container?

To do this, a stainless steel screw clamp was attached to the bottom of the buoy.  A couple of brackets from a bike rack were used as the attachment points.  A screw was inserted into each one, then the brackets were slid under the clamp, and the clamp was tightened.

2 Nylon cable ties were used on each bracket to attach a loop of chain.

2 carabineers (for redundancy) were used to attach the rope to the chain.  This is to allow finders to remove the buoy from the rope and bring it into their boat so that they don't drag the anchor. A slice of pool noodle was attached to the carabineers as flotation when they are removed from the cache.

The anchor

An 11kg (24 lb) concrete garden block was used as the anchor.  A hole was drilled through the middle and a long bolt inserted.  An old pulley from a sailing dinghy was attached to the bolt and secured with a couple of nuts that were locked together.  This setup allows the pulley to swivel around the bolt as the buoy drifts with wind and tide.

Waterproof Geocache Logbook

OK, so if it all goes to water (ha ha), then the last line of defence is to have a waterproof logbook.  I found one at the local Office Depot.  The pages are made from some sort of polymer and shouldn't mind getting wet.   It was cut down to size to fit inside the inner container.  I inserted 3 different writing implements - a normal ballpoint pen, a retractable ballpoint pen and a mechanical pencil. The purpose is to see which one survives the best in such a salty environment.

Placing the buoy geocache

Finding a secluded location

Because it will be in plain site, the most important thing is to find a location that doesn't get a lot of passing traffic.  We found a spot in the backwaters of a bay near some old oyster leases.  Not many boats come here because there are so many submerged posts from the oyster farm.  Even if you know the GPS co-ordinates, it's not easy spot until you are about 30 metres (100 ft) away.

Tide watching

The other benefit of this location is that the water is fairly shallow, so it doesn't need a lot of rope.  However the anchor block was still lowered over the side very carefully in case it disappeared into the depths and took the buoy with it.  It turned out that there was plenty of rope - even taking into account the highest tide of the year.

In this location, maximum tide height variation during the year is about 1.5 metres (5 ft).  Average variation is about 1 metre (3ft).  So it was important to check the tide tables for maximum height throughout the year to make sure there was enough rope, otherwise there was a risk that the buoy would be completely submerged at some times.

GPS co-ordinates were marked at the anchor point. This is because the buoy will move around with wind and currents. It was difficult to keep the boat located in one spot long enough to average the co-ordinates.  However they don't need to be that accurate because the cache is easy to spot when you get near GZ.

Anchor drag

Cache finders need to be careful not to drag the anchor.  There is enough weight in the block to hold the buoy, but any sort of boat will pull the block along the bottom. Talk about a bad case of cache creep!

This is why it is recommended that people remove the cache from the rope when they sign the log. There is an instruction in the cache description for this purpose. If they do drag the anchor they will need to bring it back to the original co-ordinates.

I'll check back in a few weeks or months to see how it's faring in the environment.  Hopefully it's still there!

The cache page for "Buoy Oh Boy" is here.

My thanks to Usat31 for helping me to place it.  It was quite windy and choppy on the water that day which made it difficult to place it by myself.

Check out the video.  If you aren't interested in the construction details, skip to 10:45 on the video to see where and how we placed it.



Geocaches that can Kill

I've been hammering on about poor quality geocaches for a while now. One of my least favourites is the Lamp

Electrical hazards of geocaching

Electrical hazards of geocaching

Pole Cache (LPC).  Once you've done one, you've done them all.  They are usually located in the middle of a parking lot at the local mall.  Nothing to see here - move along please...

The other types that you come across fairly frequently - especially in the US - are green power boxes (padmount transformers), electrical transmission tower legs and sometimes even FAKE electrical boxes/equipment.

I have found quite a few such caches but never really seriously considered the risks involved.  After all, whoever heard of anyone getting zapped touching those things?

I recently came across a blog that woke me up to the risks involved.  The blog is by Johnnygeo who is a Health & Safety Professional working a large Canadian power utility company.  He warns of the dangers of placing and finding geocaches that are located on or near electrical equipment.

Geocaches placed under the skirts of  LPCs expose finders to the risk of being electrocuted from wiring that has shorted.  What is particularly dangerous is when the cache is hidden inside the pole, where people are sticking their fingers near wiring.  Even if the cache is not hidden inside the pole, people will still investigate there if the cache doesn't turn up immediately.

What's the danger with fake electrical boxes?
Johnnygeo says, "Children tend to stick their hands in anywhere and if a child can open a cover to something they’ll do it cause they’re curious. They learn what's safe and what's not safe by watching adults. If we teach kids that it’s okay to open up fake electrical boxes because caches are hidden in them, then I feel that we are placing children in danger."

What about green power boxes that you find in neighborhoods, parks and schools?

He says, "Generally those boxes are safe. Are they meant for playing on? The answer is no. A question is asked of me all the time, "Could this electrical equipment ever be unsafe?" The answer is a definite yes."

Cars hit this type of equipment all the time and the damage is not reported right-away. If damaged the equipment can be sitting there with their metal case energized. As soon as a person touches a piece of equipment they would be electrocuted.  Also, a city can have the best electrical maintenance program in the world and still have the odd piece of equipment fail. This could be a green electrical box in front of your house or a lamp post in a park.

What about geocaching on a piece of electrical equipment (i.e. a transmission tower leg).  The probability of a piece of

Geocaching - risk of electrical burn

Geocaching - risk of electrical burn

electrical equipment failing is low. However if it did fail, then if a person touches it, they become the path to ground - which is usually fatal.  Even if it doesn't kill, it could still give you severe burns - as the nasty picture on the right shows.

So don't  place geocaches on electrical equipment.

The other issue he deals with is that LPCs and electrical equipment are usually on private property, and you need the owner's permission to place geocaches there.

So in summary, if you are thinking of  placing a geoache under the skirt of a lamp pole, or on a piece of electrical equipment - think again.  Not only are these types of geocaches poor quality, and worthless pieces of trash they can also kill or maim.

Groundspeak needs to consider banning  the hiding of any geocache on electrical equipment.

It would eliminate a lot of trash caches and reduce the risk for all of us.

Now if only we could find a way to ban all micros and nanos on the grounds of safety! '-)