Sunday, March 18, 2012

Five Ideas For Missions For Your Trackables

An assortment of geocaching trackables

An assortment of trackables

Getting a new trackable is always exciting.  First there is the allure of the physical object, art on a keychain or in the shape of a coin.  These are often stunning pieces of work and you can’t help but marvel at the design or craft that has gone into making it a physical object.  But after that initial excitement has disappeared, you’ll find yourself with a second hit, as you consider what to do with it.

It’s possible that you have purchased the trackable with a mission in mind, but if it’s a gift or something you bought for the design then you might finding yourself wondering whether to set it off on a mission or keep in your personal collection.

Whilst some designs are so good that you may ultimately decide that this trackable will only be discoverable at events you take it too, there is the thrill of sending a trackable out into the world and seeing how far it will travel.  Will it be muggled two miles down the road from where you placed it in a cache, or will it circumvent the globe multiple times?

But if you do decide to let it go, what do you make its mission?  Make it too restrictive and it’ll never move.  With that in mind, here are five ideas of missions for your trackables that will keep them moving and hopefully bring you some enjoyable logs.

1. Visit Caches Matching A Certain Theme

Ideally this wants to be something that is in keeping with the design of the trackable or its icon.  The theme also wants to be general enough that no matter where it is in the world, cachers can think of an ideal local location in which to place the trackable.  So whilst a theme of castles might cause more of a problem to cachers in America than in Europe, a mission of visiting historic sites could be easily done no matter where on the globe the trackable is.

cacheRemember, the trick is to keep the trackable moving.  If you make the mission too restrictive then cachers will either ignore it, or not move your trackable on.

So your theme could be something as generic as to visit caches near farm animals.  Pick something that cachers are likely to find on their travels (bridges and places of worship can be found the world round whereas deserts and glaciers need specific environments).

You could even have your theme be around something more abstract, such as beginning with a certain letter or contain a certain number or word

Always encourage photos, especially if there is evidence of the theme (such as photographing your farm animal themed trackable with a cow).  But remember, photos should be encouraged, not required.  Some cachers may choose to ignore your theme and that’s perfectly fine.  As long as they keep it moving.


2. Visit Types of locations

If you want something a little more specific then you could tighten your theme so that the mission is to visit types of locations.  Instead of making the theme farm animals, make the mission to visit farms.  It’s subtle difference and in reality might not result in the trackable being taken to different locations but it puts less requirement on the cacher holding the trackable to think up a suitable location.

Visiting the sea is a common goal, but may not practical.

Visiting the sea is a common goal, but may not practical.

Like the more general theme, you want to avoid choosing locations that are not found worldwide (such as castles versus more general historic locations).  We’ve all seen plenty of trackables that talk about wanting to go to the seaside, which is fine if you live in a country with miles of coastline, a little more difficult if you live in rural Kansas.

The types don’t even need to be limited to the environment around the cache.  What about the cache itself?  Having a mission where the trackable wants to visit certain cache types breaks it away from the more pedestrian missions most cachers choose.  It’s also a mission that you know will be able to be done around the world.

A word of warning though.  Some cache types get visited less frequently than others.  Whilst setting your trackable mission to visit puzzle caches may look good on paper, but you may find that the trackable sits in caches for months at a time.  If you’ll derive joy from watching the trackable move, then choosing the least restrictive mission possible is the best option.


3. Get To A Location

I’m sure most cachers have seen these missions before, where a trackable is released and has a mission to reach a location half-way round the world.  These can be trackables released whilst the owner was on holiday with a mission to reach back home, or those that have a mission to reach a certain location.

wedsacxThis could be a physical location (such as Antarctica) or maybe even a special cache type such as Geocaching HQ or the Ape Cache in Brazil.

These are pretty good ideas for a mission as for most cachers they just worry about moving the trackable on.  You will, however, find those that hold onto a trackable for months because there’s a chance that their aunties’ cousin’s friend who doesn’t cache might be visiting that country in a few months and possibly could be persuaded to move it on for you.

The trick here is to clearly state in the trackable’s mission that its focus is to keep moving and that the ultimate goal is to reach said location.

It’s advisable not to set a time limit.  In reality these things are going to take as long as they take, and a cacher is not going out of their way to move your trackable on another stage so you can meet some imaginary deadline.

Likewise, don’t get too upset when your trackable makes progress toward its ultimate location only for some cacher to pick it up and take it half a world away in the wrong direction.  These things happen, and it’s just part of the joy of watching trackables move.  Just laugh it off.


4. Distance Competition

This is a good idea if you and a group of fellow cachers all have new trackables you want to release – start a competition amongst yourselves.  Sit down and work out a points system based on information you can derive from the logs.  You could award points for miles travelled, for cache type, for difficulty and terrain.  There are so many attributes to a cache it’s fairly easy to come up with a detailed and original points system.

Travel_bug_tagThen it’s just a case of getting all the trackables together and placing them in the same cache.  They’ll probably all travel together for a while but eventually they will split and the competition will truly start.

The downside is that one trackable owner will need to be responsible for keeping a track of the points.  The more difficult you make it, the more time it will take to update.  However, I have found that out of all possible missions, the points competition is the one where cachers who pick it up are more likely to dip trackables into every cache they pass before they drop it in one of them for the next cacher to find.

If you’re not able to release all the trackables in the same location, how about releasing two trackables from two different locations with the mission being for one to meet the other?  That can be a particularly fun mission, although you will probably find that the trackables will come within a few miles of each other, before some enterprising cacher picks up one of the trackables and takes it several hundred miles home.  This is the way it goes sometimes and you should just find the humour in it when it happens.


5. Just travel

The final option is to have no mission at all.  Instead, just see where the trackable goes and follow along in the logs.  Whilst this might seem a little boring, in truth, cachers are not going to be put off by the lack of a mission.  Instead they’ll just drop it off at another cache they find, and the trackables movement will become more organic.

Like most trackables you’ll find that it will probably stay in one area for months, travelling between caches in a small area.  Then, just when you think it’s doomed to stay within a five mile radius from where it was released, some cacher will pick it up and move it half way across the country or round the world.

You can never tell when it’ll happen and the complete randomness of trackable movements is part of the joy of them.

So what are you waiting for?  Dig out that old trackable dog tag you’ve had since Xmas, and devise a suitable mission for it.  Then take it out and release it into the world.  Who knows where it will be in a year’s time?

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 and on his Google Plus page.

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