ProGeocaching Quality in geocaching

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8Jun/114

How to hide a (quality) geocache

Geocaches should be placed in great locations

Geocaches should be placed in great locations

Any dummy with a GPS can hide a geocache...  many do; and have.  The result has been a lot of  "plastic trash" littering the countryside.  Many people have left the game because it's hardly worth the effort. It's because so many people don't go to the effort of learning how to geocache properly.

Alternatively some people simply filter out the rubbish when they do searches.  They may filter out micros (I often do!) or avoid caches hidden by certain geocachers.

Sometimes you spend a lot of time and effort solving a puzzle, or trekking a considerable distance or driving out of your way, only to find a micro, something with inaccurate co-ordinates, a location with no redeeming features, or some other feature that makes it hardly worth it.

If you're new to the game and want to learn how to geocache properly I'd suggest finding a variety of caches, say, at least 30 to 50 before even thinking about hiding one of your own.  By variety, I mean traditionals, multi-caches, puzzle caches and containers of different sizes and shapes at different locations.  You'll start to get an idea of what you like or don't like, and may gain some inspiration about what sort of cache you could hide.

A cache is like marketing your own product

Imagine you run a company that sells products.  Your success depends on the quality of your products and the quality of your customer service.

Think of your caches in a similar way.  You want to give people a great experience.  You will get pleasure out of hearing about their experiences. In our survey most people said that they want to have great experiences and adventures.  Give them that and they will love you for it.

Check out what people said they DO and DON'T like about caches.  This will give you a good idea of what your cache should be like.

Planning your cache

So you've done a few caches, and are getting an idea of what makes a good cache.

To help you along here is a checklist of what will make a good geocache:

  1. Great location - spectacular or scenic, historical interest, somewhere people wouldn't normally go to, etc...;
  2. Good size container e.g. ammo container (no micros!!!!!)
  3. Quality contents (not MacDonalds trinkets or the like) - something with some value
  4. Some challenge involved - physical and/or intellectual.
  5. Accurate co-ordinates
  6. Creativity in the hide (use your imagination!)

Is there a spot in your area that would be interesting to others.

Before you start, have a read of the guidelines on the main geocaching website.

If you want a cache that people enjoy visiting, DON'T consider these types of spots:

  • Where there are no redeeming features - you just feel like putting something there because there is nothing there at the moment.
  • The local mall - particularly Light Pole Caches (LPC);
  • The local 7/11 or gas station;
  • Near private property where your customers (err, other geocachers) would be uncomfortable visiting;
  • Near the edge of cliffs or where you may endanger peoples' lives - unless you specifically intend that they use abseiling gear or the like.

Remember... GIVE PEOPLE A GOOD EXPERIENCE!

Quality Containers

I don't know what it is, but there is something satisfying about finding a large container stuffed with quality contents. Conversely it's  deflating to expend a lot of effort (e.g. a long hike) only to end up discovering.... a  micro or it's evil cousin... the nano.

If you really must use a micro, it had better be something very creative!

Here are some examples of good containers:

  • Ammo box
  • Sealed drain pipe
  • Sistema/Klip-It
  • Container in a container

The container-in-a container is sometimes used where extra weatherproofing is needed. This is where a smaller container is placed inside a larger outer container.  Both need to be weatherproof.

Over the years I have used and seen various types of containers in many different situations.  By far the most reliable is the good ol' ammo container.  These things are totally hermetic and are nice and roomy to comfortably hold a good assortment of contents.

Another big reason to use something like an ammo container is that they are a good investment.  You will not need to continually replace the contents because they are waterlogged or replace the container because it is cracked or rodents have eaten holes in it.

I can also guarantee that people will give favourable comments because it is unusual.

And finally your reputation as a hider of quality cachers will be enhanced.

How to get accurate co-ordinates

There is nothing worse than wasting time trying to find a cache, only to discover that the co-ordinates are not accurate.

It's worth spending a bit of time making sure that the  co-ordinates you publish are accurate.   Again, people will give you favourable comments.

So once you've stashed your cache, mark the location on your GPS.  I strongly suggest using a dedicated GPS (e.g. Garmin or Magellan).  Don't use a Smartphone (e.g. iPhone, Android, Nokia, Blackberry) because the GPS is normally not as good as a proper GPS, and they usually don't have an averaging function.

Average the co-ordinates - usually found by pressing the menu button on your GPS.  Leave it for several minutes until the distance to the cache minimizes.  Save the co-ordinates.

Use the Find waypoint/geocache function using these co-ordinates. Walk 20 to 50 metres away from the cache and return to it.  The distance should read less than 5 metres. If it doesn't, average the position again and repeat the procedure.   In a difficult location, you may not get perfect co-ordinates but they will be close.

If you think the co-ordinates are going to be inaccurate, be sure to give a good hint.

So there are some tips on how to hide a quality geocache.  Please feel free to add your own tips in the comment section below, or ask a question.

15May/111

How to geocache – Understanding GNSS

The GNSS constellation has about 24 satellites orbiting at nearly 11,000 nautical miles.

GPS Constellation

A GPS unit is the primary tool for geocachers so it's important to have a really good understanding of how the system works, the limitations and things to consider when using them. A good working knowledge of the system will help you to understand how to geocache properly.

The GPS system is one of the great inventions of the 20th century.  It has revolutionized navigation and many applications have been developed that make use of this system.

The system that we use for geocaching is called GNSS, or Global Navigation Satellite System.  It was set up and is operated by the US Air Force and costs billions of dollars. We get to use it for free!

Basically GNSS is based on about 24 satellites that orbit the earth and transmit a radio signal towards the ground.  The signals from the satellites are all synchronized to incredible accuracy by a ground-based atomic clock.

The GPS unit that you hold in your hand is basically a radio receiver (not a transmitter!) that is able to calculate the time differences from the signals that it receives from the various satellites that it can "see" in the sky above where you are standing.

Remember that these signals are travelling at the speed of light, so the time differences from the various satellites are minuscule.   Even so, your GPS can detect these differences and triangulate where you are down to about 3 metres at best.  The optimal place to get the most accurate fix is when you can see clear sky all around, such as on the top of a hill, or out on the water.  The signal is degraded if you are, for example, under trees,  in a canyon, in amongst tall buildings or anywhere you don't have a clear view of the sky.

Garmin Oregon - a popular geocaching GPS

The GPS receiver is a marvel of modern technology.  To give you an idea of its sensitivity, it is equivalent to trying to see a 100 watt light bulb located 10,988 nautical miles out in space!

So what does this mean for you?

It means that next time you're trying to find a geocache be aware of the limitations in the accuracy of position.  The best accuracy your unit can achieve in the most optimal conditions is about 3 metres (~10ft).  So your search radius is about 3 metres from where your GPS says is GZ - and that's assuming that the cache owner has published accurate co-ordinates.  If you are under trees, in a canyon or some other difficult location, your search radius may be wider.

It also means that when you are placing a cache don't just hide the container, mark the location and leave.  That's a recipe for inaccurate co-ordinates.  Spend the the time to average the position (a good GPS has this function) to get accurate co-ordinates - especially if it's in a location where the signal is not so good.    Your fellow geocachers will have loving thoughts towards you if your co-ords are accurate.

This is a really important subject when you learning how to geocache, so we'll go into more detail elsewhere.

10May/110

GPS for Geocaching

gps
What is the best GPS system to use for geocaching?

The main features to look for include:

  • High sensitivity receiver (e.g. SiRF chip set)
  • Compass
  • Waterproof (floating optional but useful on a boat)
  • Ability to load as many waypoints as possible e.g. 1000 is good
  • Inbuilt maps and the ability to upload new maps
  • Colour screen

The Truth About GPS: How it works