You’ve discovered this thing called geocaching, and you’re hooked, right? You think you’re ready to try your hand at placing your own first hide? That’s great! There is truly no such thing as too many geocaches hidden out there somewhere. I get excited every time I get a new publication notification, because that means there’s one more hide out there for me to find.
But before you hide your first geocache, there are a few important things to keep in mind to make sure it’s a good quality hide that’s in it for the duration. Please be sure that this is an activity that you plan on continuing for a long period of time and have a maintenance plan in place. Nothing is more frustrating as a seasoned geocacher than seeing new geocachers place a new geocache or two or three, only to get bored with the activity a few weeks or months later and not maintain their hides.
There are a few things to keep in mind when hiding any geocache, but if this is your first hide, you’ll need to really think things through. Once you’ve had more experience finding and hiding, you’ll learn more about what makes a good hide and what doesn’t. From finding just the right place to keeping it there, here is a list of basics to keep in mind.
The first thing to think about is where to hide your new geocache. Maybe it’s a local park, on a bike trail, or deep in the woods. Where ever it is, make sure that it’s an appropriate location.
Get permission. Make sure the location is not private property (unless if course it’s your own, in which case be sure to mention that in the listing description). Check for ‘private property’ or ‘no trespassing’ signs. If it’s at a business, talk to the owner and make sure they’re okay with people poking around with employees and potential customers nearby. You may not need permission if it’s in a public place, depending on what that is, but it’s always a good idea to double check with the authorities before placing.
What are the chances of the cache getting “muggled?” (A muggle is a non-geocacher, and when a muggle happens upon a cache and takes it, that’s referred to as being muggled.) What are the chances of it walking away on its own, whether it be by critters, wind, water, etc.? A few years ago, I was FTF (first to find) on a cache that was hidden at the base of the grate of a storm drain. A few days later, we got a heavy rain and the container ended up in the middle of the retention field nearby.
Take into consideration all seasons. If you hide it in the spring, it might be a lot more difficult to reach by August when the grasses have grown ten feet high. Or maybe that area is used by a specific group of people certain times of the year. There’s a park in my area that has had several caches hidden over the years in the exact same spot. Anytime I see a new one publish there, I know I need to go get it before baseball season starts. It’s a great hiding place – a nice little cubby in a tree stump next to a ball field in a park. Unfortunately, it’s also where the players relieve themselves during their game since there are no restrooms nearby. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the hides to go missing and eventually archived.
So give a lot of thought to where you are placing your hide and make sure it will last there.
The most important quality of an appropriate geocache container is that it is waterproof. You don’t want your log sheet and/or swag to be a soppy, gooey mess. There are lots of options out there for a good waterproof container, and of course the location will dictate what’s best to use. I would suggest for a woodsy or semi-woodsy hide, use a nice sturdy Lock & Lock container. They are relatively inexpensive and seem to hold up well over an extended period of time.
If you want something a bit smaller to hang in a tree, a soda bottle preform is great. These are 2-liter bottles before they get expanded into 2-liter bottles. They are thick sturdy plastic and, as long as the cap is replaced properly, they are waterproof as well. You can zip tie them to a pine tree, place them in the crevice of a tree or rock, or squeeze them in just about anywhere.
Another common container is an aluminum pill box, more commonly known as a bison tube. They should have a rubber o-ring between the body and the cap, and as long as that rubber piece is intact, the log will remain dry inside the container. And replacing the o-rings isn’t a big deal – they do eventually wear out over time. Most hardware stores will carry generic o-rings, so just find one that fits that size bison tube.
The only required item in a geocache is some sort of log – a spiral notebook, a piece of paper, anything that finders can write their names on. Some hiders like to place other things inside as well, such as a pencil and/or swag. Swag is the stuff inside the geocache that’s available for trade.
But is swag even really necessary? The short answer is no. But again, it really depends on the hide. If it’s a quick park and grab or a bison in a pine tree, swag isn’t expected or needed and likely won’t even fit into the container. If, however, you hide an ammo can in the woods, there should probably be some swag waiting for the finder.
What makes good swag? Use your imagination! Go to the dollar store and look around. What would you like to find in a cache? There are a few items that should definitely not be used as swag. Remember, geocaching is a family-friendly activity. Inappropriate items might include knives, lighters, ammunition, drugs or other illicit items, condoms, etc. Also keep in mind that there are critters in the wild that occasionally can find their way into a container, so don’t leave anything toxic such as bubbles or soap that they could mistake for a treat. These items could also make a giant sloppy mess if water gets into the container and ruin everything else inside. Also, never, ever leave food in a cache!
You have to understand and expect that some people will take something without trading. I know, I know, the rule says you should leave something of equal or greater value if you take something. But let’s be realistic, not everyone carries a bag of stuff around with them, especially if humping a mile or more into the woods. And you put awesome swag that everyone wants in your caches, right? It happens, and it’s just part of the game. Expect to have to restock swag occasionally. Which leads me to my last point of having a maintenance plan in place, but first let’s talk about actually submitting the cache to a listing site, such as geocaching.com.
In order for people to find your awesome newly placed cache, they have to know where it is and a little more about it.
Give it a name. It can be clever, it can be simple, or it can just be “My Geocache.”
Enter the GPS coordinates of where you placed it, and make sure they are accurate. When you place the cache, you will need to use your handheld GPS unit or a smartphone app to take coordinates of where you are. There is a margin of error, so I always double check the coordinates on Google Maps to make sure they’re correct. You can do this using satellite imaging to make sure the pin is in the correct tree or whatever host you used. You may need to tweak the numbers a little to get it in just the right spot, and you can do this by just changing the last number of either the north or west coordinate, one number at a time, and refresh until it looks like the pin is right where you left the cache.
Understand what the ratings mean and give the listing an appropriate difficulty and terrain rating, keeping in mind that the location could change drastically throughout the seasons. The default D/T rating on a new listing is 1.5/1.5, so be sure to change these accordingly.
Make sure that you have actually placed the container before submitting the listing to the reviewer! Otherwise it might go live and there’s nothing there to find! I’ve gone out for plenty of potential FTF’s only to discover that the container hadn’t even been hidden yet.
Do you have to run out and check on the container after every log you receive? Of course not. But you should check on it if you’ve had a couple of DNFs. Do you need to compare the physical log with the online logs? That’s up to you, but in my opinion that’s a waste of time that could be spent finding more geocaches! Unless it’s a challenge cache or a very difficult hide, I really don’t care if someone wants to log a cache online that they didn’t actually find (this is called armchairing). They’re only cheating themselves, and in the long run it really doesn’t matter. I try not to worry too much about what others do and concentrate on enjoying my own caching experiences.
Part of the maintenance plan includes restocking swag occasionally and replacing full or damaged logs as well. I always have extra paper with me, either in my car or in my caching bag. I also always have a variety of cache containers in my car, complete with log and swag, in case I find that perfect hiding place or need to replace one of my existing hides if it has gone missing.
This might seem like a lot of things to think about if you’re a new geocacher set out to place your first hide. Don’t worry, it will get easier the more experienced you become. Just think about one thing at a time – location, container, swag, online listing, and maintenance. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!