If you live in the northern climate like I do, you know that geocaching in the winter months can be a bit challenging to say the least. Between the cold and the snow (and the wind here near the Windy City), getting out to find a few caches is either difficult or impossible. I’ve compiled a list of a few suggestions to help you get your name on that log!
1. Rubber Mallet
Every hide style has it’s time and place, and winter time seems to be a great time for those hated LPC (lamp post cache) hides. But when it’s cold and snowy and you’re trying to keep a geocaching streak alive or fill a calendar day, there’s nothing better than a quick LPC. Unless the lamp skirt is frozen shut. Rubber mallet to the rescue! I keep one in my trunk like this one year-round, just in case, but I use it most often in winter.
A few years ago, we were out caching during an ice storm. All of the lamp skirts had literally a half inch thick layer of ice covering them. This was the day we learned how important having a mallet is. We didn’t really have many helpful tools in the car, so Scott resorted to smacking the skirt with a stool! A mallet would have been much more efficient.
2. Collapsible shovel
Along the same lines of the rubber mallet is a decent quality collapsible shovel. Sometimes those skirts are covered in snow. But I also use this tool in the woods to dig out a snow-covered or iced in ammo can. The one I have is small enough when folded to throw in my pack, plus it comes with a case to keep it in. This one definitely comes in handy.
I wish we had had a shovel that same day of the ice storm. Some of the lamp skirts were completely buried in snow. The most useful tool we had in the car that day was a small ice scraper. That made for digging out the cache quite slow going.
3. Good winter boots
Whether it’s to protect your feet from a foot of snow or just to keep them warm, a good pair of winter boots is a must have. I got this pair of Columbia boots a couple of years ago, and they still keep my feet toasty warm and dry. I especially love them because they are not clunky or heavy. I can easily climb a tree in them without them getting in the way or feeling awkward.
Scott just got a pair of over the shoe boots this year like these and says he wishes he had gotten them long ago. What’s great about them is that you don’t have to remember to bring an extra pair of shoes if you want to change out of your boots after a hike through the woods. You can wear your comfy gym shoes or hiking boots and just put these on over them. Genius!
4. Snow shoes
Trudging through the woods in a foot or more of snow is exhausting. Trudging through the woods in a foot or more of snow while wearing show shoes is less exhausting. Scott and I each got a pair a few years ago, and they have definitely earned a place on this list! The pair we have is the similar to these. They’re the same brand but a tad different. Ours also have a pair of walking poles as well as a convenient carrying/storage bag. We have put many miles on our snow shoes. Here’s a photo of me walking through Busse Woods a couple of years ago.
5. Smartphone gloves
Nothing is worse than having to keep taking your gloves off and on to use your smartphone as you’re navigating to the cache or logging your find. Get yourself a pair of warm gloves with the smartphone fingertips. Not one of those $1 pair of stretchy gloves. Well, you should also have those to keep in your car or bag but also invest in a decent pair like these and make sure they’re warm. Another thing that I use a lot is a pair of wristwarmers, which are basically like sweatbands that just cover your wrist. I have a few pair that I’ve knit myself that get a lot of use. Anywhere your veins are close to the skin is an area to keep warm when out in the cold. If it’s a bit warmer, maybe in the 40’s, and I don’t really need a pair of gloves but I want just a bit of extra warmth, I’ll throw on some wristwarmers. Other times, when it’s especially cold, I will use the wristwarmers under the gloves.
6. A warm coat and/or vest
Just because a coat calls itself a winter coat does not mean that it’s warm enough. As a geocacher, you should be prepared for every temperature and weather type. I have a packable down vest that I throw on as an extra layer under my North Face coat when it’s super cold out. The vest adds just that extra warmth that I need without adding extra bulk. The best thing about this vest is that is packs up extra small into a carrying bag so that if I get too warm, I can take it off and throw it in my pack. Scott has a Carhartt coat that is so warm he only wears it when it’s below freezing out. Here we are standing on the ice in the middle of a lake a few years ago. For my fellow knitters, around my neck is a cowl I knit using Malabrigo Merino Worsted, which is a super soft and extra warm 100% merino wool.
7. Traction Cleats
One last thing I’ll mention that has been very useful for me is a pair of inexpensive Yaktrax. These are basically cleats that stretch over the bottom of your shoes for better traction when walking on ice or other slick surfaces. I’ve even used these just to walk down the driveway to the mailbox. I always throw them in my pack during the winter, because you never know when you might need them. They are such a great invention!
Of course there are many other tools that come in handy for winter geocaching, but this is my list of must haves. Don’t let the cold or snow stop you from getting out there and adding to your find count. Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices! Some of my favorite and most memorable days of geocaching have been in the bitter cold. Get out there and find a few!