Sunday, March 18, 2012

Your First Geocaching Find

cache

Finding your first geocache can be a big deal.  You’ve found out about this amazing hobby and have discovered there are hundreds, if not thousands, of geocaches around you.  You want to go and find one, you want to try out the hobby.  But which one do you pick to do first?

There’s huge variety in geocaches.  Some are big, some are small.  Some are easy to find, some are hard.  Some you can find in a wheelchair, others need climbing rope.   And picking the wrong one to start off with can lead to massive disappointment or conviction that the geocache can’t possibly be there.

A lot of the skill involved with geocaching is to do with familiarity, about having seen similar methods or hides before.  So if you’re thinking of heading out to find your first geocache, here’s how you can make it an enjoyable and hopefully successful adventure.

Choose a Good Location

The first thing you want to do when considering your first find is to think about the location.  You’re going to feel incredibly self-conscious when you’re looking.  You’ll think people will see you and consider you a weirdo or a terrorist or worse.  As a result if you are in a location you don’t feel comfortable searching in, you’ll not look properly and come away unsuccessful before you’ve had time to give the area a thorough search.

For this reason I would suggest looking at rural locations rather than urban ones.  It’s more likely to be quiet and you’re less likely to bump into anyone while you look.  If you launch the geocaching.com website or app, you will see that after searching for local caches you can bring up a map showing them all.  Hopefully you know your local area well enough to know which locations will be best to remain undisturbed while you search.

If you’ve not been to the area before it might be a little difficult to know, but consider cell reception, especially if you intend to use the official geocaching app on your phone.  Even seasoned geocachers will tell you horror stories of travelling to find a geocache, armed with just their cell phone only to lose reception fifty feet from the location.

Keep it Simple

You should be aware that there are many different geocache types ranging from multis where you have to visit one location to get information in order to get the final co-ordinates, to puzzles where you have to solve a cryptic puzzle to gain the geocache co-ordinates.  I would suggest for your first geocache that you select what’s known as a traditional.  These geocaches are at the locations indicated on the map.  Whilst the idea of a multi or puzzle cache might sound more appealing, get the art of finding geocaches down first before advancing to the more complex types.

Geocaches also have a size listed.  If you hover over them on the geocaching website or look at the list of geocaches in the app you will see a gradient bar labelled size or cache size.  Ideally you want the second or third column in this gradient bar to be the one highlighted.  If it shows a question mark this usually indicates that it is a camouflaged container and as a result might be a more difficult find.

Geocaches have a difficulty rating and it is wise to check this before selecting your first find.  These are represented by five coloured stars on the website and five shaded blocks in the app.  The more stars or blocks that are shaded in the more difficult the cache will be.  For your first find I would suggest not going above one and a half or two.  The lowest value it can be is one although those can be quite rare in some locations.

Check the Cache Description

Make a point of looking at the hint on the geocache description page.  It’s easy to think that doing so is somehow cheating, but it’s not.  Some people will only look at it if they can’t find a geocache once at the location but to be honest, for your first find take every advantage you can.

This extends to reading the description.  Often cache owners will tell you in this what it is you are looking for.  This can help you visualise what size something is and narrow down the possible hiding locations.  Also read the logs.  If the last couple of people haven’t found the geocache it is possible that it has been muggled and is no longer there.  Logs can also give you extra hints and a better indication of the difficulty.  After all, it is an entirely subjective value and what one person considers easy, everyone else might think impossible.

Similarly, geocaches have a terrain rating.  This too has five stars or blocks that are shaded in line with how difficult the terrain is.  You will find it listed next to or close to the difficulty rating.  You will often hear geocachers refer to geocaches by two numbers (i.e. “It was a 5/5”).  This is referring to the combination of difficulty and terrain.

The location where you live will dictate what the norm is for terrain ratings.  Like the difficulty rating it is entirely subjective, but what you are looking for is as low a value as possible.  Looking at the hint and description might give you further ideas of just how much physical fitness will be needed to reach the geocache, and some users might post images of the general area in their logs, giving you visual clues as to whether the terrain is one you could geocache in.

With all this in mind, you should be able to choose a good candidate.  It’s entirely possible that you won’t be able to find one that matches your criteria for location, terrain and difficulty exactly, but at least you will set out informed.

Remember to take a pen with you when you head out (even if the geocache description says there is one in the geocache) and allow yourself plenty of time to search.  With practise, you’ll get a lot faster but go for your first find with the mindset that it is going to take a long time to find.  If you find it right away that’s a lot better than expecting it to be a quick find only to then wonder what’s wrong with you when twenty minutes later you’ve still not found the geocache.

Be Confident

There’s a tendency to panic when at a cache site.  Even though what we’re doing is perfectly legitimate, there’s a worry that people will see us and think we’re up to no good.  If challenged, explain, if not, don’t feel the need to announce your intentions to every passer-by.  If you look confident in what you are doing, muggles will probably ignore you.

The trick to making a quick find is to search each location thoroughly.  Allow your GPS to settle and then think about locations that match the hint which could hide the size of cache you are looking for.  A good tactic is to think where you would hide a geocache if it were up to you.  Be sure to give each possible candidate for the geocache a thorough search.  It’s amazing how many times even seasoned geocachers give a location just a quick search and miss the cache.

Hopefully, all this will result in a successful and enjoyable first find, but remember there’s no shame in DNFing your first search.  Just be sure to head back out and find it at a later date!

About Adrian Faulkner

Adrian Faulkner is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He is an active geocacher with over 9000 finds to his name. You can find more by Adrian at AdrianFaulkner.com and on his Google Plus page.

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