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Feeback Needed! How to Pack for Geocaching

Here’s a draft section from the book about what to pack for a geocaching journey.  We sure would like to get some feedback on this,because we’ve undoubtedly missed a few things:

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You can spend anywhere from five minutes to five hours seeking a geocache. So-called “park and grabs”are easy to spot:they have a 1/1 difficulty/terrain ranking and are often labeled as easy finds by their owners. If you want to run up your found numbers,these are a good way to do it. Multi-stage caches may spread out over miles of terrain and require hours of searching,with each stage contributing a clue to the final destination. We’ve seen multis with as many as a dozen waypoints. If you fail to find even one of the stages,you won’t find the final.

Good planning is essential to a successful outing. Think about how much time you can devote to the hunt,how much daylight you have,your tolerance for weather conditions and your frustration threshold. There’s nothing like searching for a cache for three hours,only to come up empty-handed. A good rule of thumb is to mix one challenger in with several easy finds. That’ll make the day worthwhile,even if you don’t nab the big treasure. Geocaching Swiss Army Knife (GSAK) is a great tool for planning your outing (see chapter XX).

Toolkit

We asked dozens of geocachers for their recommendations of what to bring on their outing. Here’s what they advised us,listed in order of importance from essential for your safety to merely convenient.

Cell phone - If you’re geocaching alone,don’t leave home without it. Many woods caches are located in remote places and you don’t want to be down with a fractured leg waiting for someone to pass by. Cell phones also have rudimentary location features that rescuers can use to find you.

Whistle or horn –Again,for the solo cacher,a noisemaking device can alert others if you get into trouble.

Spare batteries –This is also essential for safety. If you’ve ever seen The Blair Witch Project you know how easy it is to get lost in the woods. The first thing you should do upon leaving your car is create a waypoint where you parked so you can find your way home. You never want your GPS to die while you’re out in the field. These devices can devour battery power quickly,so always keep spare batteries. If you want to invest in rechargeables,we recommend Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) or Lithium Ion (LI-Ion) batteries,which hold a charge longer.

Gloves –You never know what you’re going to encounter outdoors,and sharp rocks,stinging insects and unrecognizable liquids are a constant concern. Of your five senses,touch is the one you want to use the least. At the very least,bring surgical gloves to keep your hands clean.

First aid kit - It’s easy to cut yourself out of doors,but even urban caches can be hidden under sharp edges. Make sure the kit also includes snake bite medication.

Hiking boots -Believe us,sneakers don’t cut it in the woods. Your journey is likely to take you over rough terrain or through the woods,where rocks,tree roots and puddles are a constant hazard. There’s nothing like stepping in a puddle early in your search and spending the rest of the day with wet feet. Hiking boots give you better footing and some protection from moisture.

Warm/wet weather gear –These are especially important if you’re going to spend several hours outdoors. Know the local climate or consult weather.com before you head out.

Hat –It protects you from the sun and helps keep you warm on cold days.

Sun block –You can get a nasty sunburn even on a cloudy day. Block up with SPF 15 or above and reapply sun block every two hours.

Mirror –A pocket mirror can be a great help when peering over railings or under benches. The less you fish around with your hands,the less chance you have of hurting yourself. Get a plastic model that won’t shatter.

Flashlight –Even on a bright day,your search may involve looking in dark rock outcroppings or hollow tree stumps. We always carry a small LED (what type?????) flashlight and leave a large D-cell unit in the car in case we need it.

Bug repellent –If caching in warm months or in the evening,you’ll be glad you brought this.

Water - Long hikes can dangerously dehydrate you. Plus,if you are injured and need to wait for assistance,you don’t want to go thirsty.

Walking stick –useful for long hikes over unsteady ground. MoosyGirl uses an old ski pole,which is a great idea! You can also use the stick to snag caches hanging in trees or hidden in hard-to-reach places.

Snacks –Power bars and granola are nourishing and portable.

Pen - You’ll need a writing implement,since small caches rarely have them.

Camera –We’ve seen all kinds of wildlife out in the woods and some beautiful scenery on other excursions. Portable digital cameras costing less than $200 can make sure you never miss a photo op. We use a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K,but there are lots of options. Just remember that the vaunted megapixel rating is far less important than the quality of the lens.

Knife - You’ll sometimes have to cut away vines or undergrowth to reach a cache or use the knife blade to pry open a sticky lid. A Swiss Army-style knife or also gives you tweezers and a screwdriver,which may come in handy.

Trash bags - We encourage you to adhere to the geocachers’motto of “cache in,trash out.”Make it a point to pick up a few items of refuse and leave the area cleaner than when you arrived. Doing this good work benefits everyone in the caching community.

Plastic bags —Electronics don’t take kindly to the rain,and if you get stuck in a downpour you’ll want to stash your cell phone,GPS and any other delicate goodies in a plastic bag.

Garden shears –Call this a nice to have.  They can come in handy if deep bushwhacking is required.

7 comments to Feeback Needed! How to Pack for Geocaching

  • PZ Dude

    Sounds strange but when I went caching in the snow a fellow cacher had a spatula. That moved a lot of snow very easily. I almost always have one of those 5-1 things with needle nose pliers. If not needle nose you might want to make sure you have tweezers in your swiss knife for those nanos

  • Good idea. We’ll add it.

  • WetPaws

    Garden Shears? Not. Defeats the purpose of eco-friendly…besides,sometime the way in is not what you expect.

  • Hey! Don’t forget your swag!…

    Actually this is a pretty thorough list. We live in California and there was one time up in Placerville that I had to carefully step through a maze of poison oak…I was wearing shorts and stepping over ground cover and ducking under hanging leaves. It was right out of a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark…Anyhow,a bottle of Ivy-Block or Technu would have been nice that day.

  • Stephen O'Gara (Ventura Kids)

    The most important thing to pack is knowledge.
    You should know what dangers are out there in the area you plan to hike.
    This may include Poison bushes and wild animals.
    In our area we have Poison Oak,as well as stinging nettles. These plants should be left alone. Be sure you know what they look like in all seasons. Poison Oak looks shiny green in summer,yet sheds ALL it’s leaves in winter. Touching the leaves on the ground can cause as bad a reaction as the live plants.
    Rattlesnakes are common in most States,but don’t usually attack hikers. Over 80% of bites are caused by hikers trying to move them,touch them,or pick them up.
    Ticks are the most dangerous thing in our area. If they attach themselves you may contract Lime disease. Find out what type live in your area.
    Mountain Lions and Bears are rare and seem to move away when they encounter humans.
    It won’t matter if you have a backpack of stuff. Spend some time getting familiar with the local fauna and animals.
    Many parks and rec departments have classes about these things.

  • Mike and Stephen make great points about hazards. We like Ventura’s so much that we’re going to make it a bylined sidebar. We’d love to have more bylined essays in this book,so please send your ideas.

  • Pam Sheil (Whoo's Cool &Timbo)

    I have a small pack inside my geo-backpack that includes an extra logbook,ziplock baggies and pens…so I can repair caches that need those items. I use the baggies a lot! A small towel or napkins can also help dry off the items in a cache that has gotten wet.

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