ProGeocaching Quality in geocaching

8Jun/114

How to hide a (quality) geocache

Geocaches should be placed in great locations

Geocaches should be placed in great locations

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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.

2Jun/111

How to solve Puzzle or Mystery geocaches

Google Earth

Google Earth - a great geocaching tool

Make Google Earth your friend

The best advice that I can give on how to find a Puzzle or Mystery geocache is to make Google Earth (GE) your friend.

Download it here.

Once you have worked out possible solutions, or partial solutions to puzzles, plug the co-ordinates into GE.  The location will give you a good indication of whether you are correct or not.  For example if the co-ordinates are in someone's backyard, or in the middle of the water or somewhere else unlikely, then you're probably not correct. Eliminating possibilities in this way will save a lot of driving.  I have solved many mystery caches in this way even when I couldn't work out the total solution.  You can often work out enough of the puzzle to get you there.

Often you only have to work out a few of the last digits to be able to solve it.

This doesn't always work, but it sure helps in a lot of cases.

Mystery Geocache Tutorial Video

Here is one of the best tutorial videos on solving Puzzle or Mystery geocaches that I have seen.  It's by Zytheran based in Adelaide, Australia who is famous (infamous?) for his puzzle caches. He gives you a lot of tips of narrowing down your focus.

Do you have any tips that you can share on how to find these types of geocaches.

25May/110

Tips on how to find a geocache

How to find a geocache

Your mission is to find that geocache

Geocaching can be an exasperating activity.  You arrive at GZ (ground zero) with your GPS reading less than 3 metres only to sometimes spend hours of frustration trying to locate what is supposed to be there.  How do you find the geocache?There are many reasons why you can't find the geocache such as:

  • It may not actually be there;
  • The co-ordinates are inaccurate
  • It may be located where it is difficult for the GPS to get a good reading;
  • It's really well hidden;
  • It's a camouflaged container;
  • You're just looking in the wrong place;
  • You may not have widened your search radius far enough.

So what are the secrets of experienced geocachers?  How do some people consistently find geocaches when others often struggle and log a lot of DNF's.

So here are the top 10  tips on how to find caches when you have arrived at GZ. We'll ignore the fact that you may have done a multi or solved a puzzle cache to get here. We'll talk about solving these in another place.

  1. Get as close to a zero reading as possible on your GPS at GZ.  This will be your starting place.  I usually put something down (e.g. the GPS) at that spot.  When you are searching around GZ this acts as a reference to show how far away you are from the initial GZ.
  2. Recognize that your GPS is accurate to a radius of 3 metres (~10ft)... AT BEST!  When you get under trees or among tall buildings the accuracy may be much less than that.  Let's say it goes out to 10m (~33 ft).  Your search area has increased almost 30 times! So you'll need to expand your search radius considerably and look in more places.  Hopefully the cache owner gives a good hint if it's difficult to get good lock on the GPS.
  3. Think about where you may have hidden the cache and look there.
  4. Often there are indications of where a cache may be hidden.  A power trail may have developed where other cachers have followed their GPS to the cache.   A pile of rocks covering the cache is often a giveaway. If it's hidden in a wall there is sometimes marks or breakages where other people have been accessing hidden items.
  5. Who has hidden the cache? If they are an experienced cacher there is a good chance that the co-ordinates are accurate.  This will give you more confidence of where to look.  However they may be more evil (!) and be made a sneakier hide.  If the cache was hidden by a newbie be suspicious of the accuracy of the co-ordinates.  Expand your search radius if you can't find it initially.
  6. Check the hint if there is one.  Check the logs of previous finders to see if they have given any hints. Read the description for clues.
  7. Check that you've entered the correct co-ordinates for the cache in your GPS. This may sound obvious but so many DNFs are related to finger trouble - especially if you are calculating numbers as part of a multi.  Always check and recheck the numbers you have  calculated and the ones you have entered in the GPS.
  8. Go with other people.  Having extra eyes looking with not only save time but you'll motivate each other.
  9. Think in 3D.  Is it above, or below or underneath?
  10. Check for camouflaged containers e.g. sprinklers in garden beds, hollow bolts, electrical boxes,  painted containers that look like their surroundings etc.  We may do a page sometime, on the various  containers that you could encounter. Geocachers can be a very creative lot!

If all else fails contact the cache owner or someone who found it recently.  It may have disappeared.

You'll find that as you gain more experience in how to find geocaches, it will become easier.

Please feel free to share any other hints that you may have.