by Dave (the turtle) Wilkes
In a previous article I explained how to get started Geocaching and provided some links to sites useful to new/potential cachers. In this article I will describe the process of creating your own cache.
Soon after starting to geocache, many cachers get the idea that it would be fun to have one or more of their own caches. And they would not be wrong. Creating and maintaining a cache is a little more involved than simply going out and finding the ones that others have created, but it can also be a lot of fun.
So let’s say you have been caching for a while, enjoy it, and want to start your own cache. To start you have to answer two questions: Where & What.
Where? Where are you going to hide your cache? This is an important question. You need to find a spot that is accessible and not on private land (unless you get permission from the owner). Next, is it accessible to other cachers while unlikely to be accidentally discovered by “Geomuggles” (Geomuggle – non-geocaching people)? Caches that are accidentally found are often vandalized, so this is to be avoided. Is it a safe location? It is important that you consider the cacher’s safety when determining the location of your cache. For example if you are in an area prone to things like snakes, putting the container where people need to reach blindly into a hole may not be advisable. Next, think about weather conditions. Ideally the cache will be in this location for years. Is it likely to be washed away in spring floods? Could this location be (or become) the home of some bird or animal? Next, will it be a problem for you to periodically visit this location? It is the responsibility of the cache owner to maintain the cache, replacing items (log, container, etc) as necessary, and making sure it has not been “Muggled” (see Geomuggle above).
Ok, so you found the ideal location. Now what kind of cache will it be and what container will you use? The first and foremost thing to consider is the container it will be in. In most cases it will be exposed to weather, and so needs to be able to withstand the expected (and maybe unexpected) weather conditions for at least a few years. Military ammo boxes are a very good choice, but they can be a bit hard to come by and/or pricy. Sealable food containers (e.g. Tupperware) can be good, but they are not normally made for outdoors and so can degrade quickly. The disposable food containers are not a good choice as they tend to degrade quite quickly. A popular choice is the little ‘hide a key’ containers. Making your own container is also a good option (we built a fake birdhouse out of that synthetic decking material; it should outlast the tree it is hung on). The size of the container depends on its location and the intent of the cache. Some caches are very tiny, containing nothing more than a small rolled up piece of paper as a log (these are commonly called ‘micro caches’). If you intend your cache to hold items for trading, then obviously it must be bigger. It is also important to clearly mark your cache as a Geocache. There are preprinted labels available, or you can do something custom. Labeling the cache helps people identify it as a cache and not some random piece of trash, or worse, something dangerous or illegal, so it may be less likely to be vandalized or removed.
Now that you have the ideal location, and an appropriate container…you need to put something in it. You need to start with an explanation of what it is. When found by non-cachers this will explain what it is and hopefully prevent them from removing or destroying it, and maybe even get them involved in geocaching! The next thing is some sort of log. This is where geocachers can log their find and maybe even leave little notes about their find. This can be anything from a folded or rolled up piece of paper, to a bound book. Finally, if you want to ‘prime’ your cache with things to trade it can be a good idea. Some folks even start their cache out with a bit of a prize for the first person who finds it. Something to remember is to make sure you only put appropriate items in the cache. No food, nothing perishable, nothing dangerous or illegal, and you should not use the cache as an advertisement for a business.
The next step is to register your cache on one of the geocaching web sites. The process probably varies depending on the site (I am only familiar with Geocaching.com) but at a minimum they will all need the exact location of the cache in latitude/longitude, a name for the cache, and a description. Note; it is important that you note as precise a location as possible. It can be quite frustrating to be searching for a cache, only to find out it is actually 30’ or more from where your GPS says it is. If your cache is in a location where a GPS fix is difficult (under dense trees, or in a deep narrow canyon) getting an exact lat/lon is very important. This is also true if your cache is near private property or something that could be dangerous (a cliff, abandoned well, etc). After registering your cache, it will probably need to be evaluated and verified by the folks running the site before it is officially posted.
At this point I should mention that some caches are intentionally easy to locate while some are devilishly hard. It is all part of the fun. Some folks like the challenge in finding caches that others have not and some delight in creating caches that many look for but few find. In addition to this, there are also caches that are designed to be puzzles. Some have multiple locations that you need to find in a specific order with each leading you to the next, and some require you to obtain some particular information before you will be able to locate the cache (e.g. “go to [some location] and use the red numbers on the side of the building to fill in the missing digits of the cache lat/lon”). I will not go into the specifics of these more ‘advanced’ caches in this article, but leave it up to the reader, if interested, to investigate the details regarding what is allowed and how to go about it.
Finally, after you have established your cache and folks are finding it (or at least looking), it is expected that you maintain your caches. Most cachers will assist by replacing plastic bags that get ripped and sometimes even replace damaged or full logs (I carry extra zip-loc bags and small log books just for that reason). Nevertheless, it is the owner’s responsibility to maintain the cache. If cachers report that there is something wrong with the cache or if it appears to be missing, it is expected that the owner corrects the problem or posts the cache as ‘inactive’.
Something I forgot to mention in my previous article is that Geocaching can be a very social activity. All of the Geocachers and cache owners I have met have been very friendly and personable folks. They love to meet other cachers as well as share stories about caching and caches. As such I have created a Geocaching topic in the 4AllOutdoors.org forum section where I welcome questions, comments, and stories from cachers as well as people interested in the activity.