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Geocaching: Halloween Geocoin Grab Bag

I got a Halloween-themed geocoin grab bag from the fine folks at GeoSwag.com and decided to open it on camera whilst waiting for my pizza to arrive.

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Geocaching Containers (Part 4)

This is the final installment of my Geocaching Containers series. The purpose of this series has been to introduce new cachers to the different types of containers you’re likely to find in the wild, to give you a better idea of what you should be looking for and what you can expect to find. It could also give you some ideas regarding what types of containers to use if you wish to hide your own geocache. Here are the final five containers I’ll be covering: two container types I’ve found in the wild, and three which I have not but which I know a great deal about anyway.

Nano: Pet ID Holder

These tiny containers are designed to hold information about your pet. You write your name and address on the little slip of paper, stick it inside, and attach the container to your dog’s (or cat’s, etc) collar – that way if they get lost, the finder can return your pet to you, or at least get in touch with you. They also make solid nano geocache containers, but in my opinion they are not as good as the traditional “blinkie” container for two reasons: they are not nearly as waterproof (remember that the blinkie includes a built-in rubber gasket), and they are not magnetic. Therefore, instead of just sticking these to something metallic, the hider will usually stick one of these into a hole, or use the attached keychain-like attachment to lash the container onto a plant branch – but if you’re going to do that, a Bison Tube works much better. Overall, I’d say these containers are just okay. They’re easy to obtain at any pet store.

Peanut Butter Jar

Just what it says on the label! Empty peanut butter jars are commonly used as small or regular-sized geocache containers. They make fine containers for many reasons. If you eat peanut butter anyway, they’re pretty much free! They also hold up to the elements better than you may think, and the jar lid is surprisingly waterproof. They hold a nice amount of swag, and can hold a good-sized logbook (and a writing utensil). And since they are transparent, there’s little fear of the police blowing it up thinking that it is a bomb. There are concerns, however. The main one is that peanut allergies are frighteningly common nowadays. So if you’re going to use one of these, PLEASE wash it as well as you can! It is recommended to wash the container several times, and then fill it with bleach, allowing the bleach to soak for a couple of days, and then washing it again several times. In addition to eliminating the potentially deadly peanut particles, it will also remove the odor – you don’t want to attract wild animals to your cache! Also, the containers tend to crack under severe weather conditions, eliminating the aforementioned water-fastness. I should also mention that this only refers to plastic peanut butter jars – glass is, for obvious reasons, a material out of which geocache containers should never, ever be constructed.

Ammo Box

I’m sorry it took me so long to get to this one! I’ve only found one ammo box in my geocaching career, and it actually doesn’t count (it was a tiny fake plastic one… long story). But, ammo boxes are considered “THE” geocaching container by many people. They have tons of positive aspects and almost no negative ones. They come in many sizes, hold TONS of swag, are completely waterproof, are immune to the elements, are crushproof… all of these properties make perfect sense, since they were designed to hold live ammunition. The only negative things I can think of is that you definitely wouldn’t want to hide one in an urban setting – if a non-cacher happened upon one, it would almost certainly scare them enough to call the authorities. They also tend to be too large to hide in very small areas, and they are unfortunately becoming scarce – you used to be able to find them very cheaply at military surplus stores, but now that geocaching is becoming more popular, stores are both running out of them AND charging more money for them. They’re still amazing containers though – I really hope I find one someday!

Decon Containers

Military Decontamination Kit Containers, known in the geocaching community as “decons”, are essentially small ammo boxes, in terms of what they achieve. They are crushproof, completely waterproof, immune to the elements, all that good stuff. And since they are smaller than ammo boxes, they can be hidden in areas where an ammo box would be impractical (at the cost of less room for swag, of course). There’s really only one issue I’ve found with decons… most cachers don’t seem to know how to close them! The lid must be firmly pressed down onto the container, until all four corners of the lid make a nice loud satisfying “SNAP” sound. Fail to snap even one corner, and the water-fastness completely fails. I own one geocache which uses a decon as a container, and people have praised it (it even received a favorite point from the First To Find!), but one day when doing maintenance in advance of an anticipated hurricane, I found that the lid had not been securely attached, and the insides of the container were wet! Thankfully I keep the logbook inside a zipper bag inside the decon (and it’s a waterproof log as well), so things were fine, but it was still disheartening. I’ve since updated the page to tell cachers to PLEASE make sure that they close the container tightly! I am thinking of replacing this container with a different one, though… specifically, one of the ones I am about to write about.

Pelican Cases

Ohh boy. Ohh BOY. These are the BEST. Let me get the one and only negative out of the way right now: Pelican cases are expensive! That being said, these are the best geocaching containers I have ever seen in my life. Pelican cases, named after the company which makes them,  are perfectly waterproof, to the point where they can even be hidden underwater. They are also completely crushproof, perfectly impervious to all elemental conditions, have a built-in geocache information panel on the lid which cannot be removed, and possess a transparent lid. They even have a built-in automatic internal pressure regulation valve! Despite all this, Pelican cases are EXTREMELY easy to close correctly – just snap down the ONE snap on the front, and the container is closed. I can’t say enough about these – they simply rock. I own a small and large Pelican container, and frankly I cannot WAIT to put them to use!

And, that’s it. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. You can find the other three parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Cheers!

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Geocaching Containers (Part 3)

Heh, so much for my plan of doing one of these every week. I apologize! Anyway, here’s my quick synopsis of five more types of geocaching containers I’ve found in the wild.

Bottle Preform

Hmm. Kinda looks like a test tube, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not, really. It’s known as a Bottle Preform. Before a two-liter soda bottle obtains its well-known shape, it actually looks like this! A process of heating and air expansion is used to cause the preform to expand into the bottle shape, not entirely dissimilar to the glass-blowing process. Since they contain all of the material of a two-liter soda bottle but are considerably smaller, it makes sense that these are EXTREMELY rigid and solid containers! The screw-on cap is about as waterproof as they come, and these things hold up to the elements extremely well. They generally don’t have much room for swag, but their shape means that it’s very easy to include a pen/pencil right in the container. These make ideal micro-caches, and I only wish to find more of them! They’re really inexpensive too, especially if purchased in bulk.

Cigar Tube

Literally… a cigar tube. These are more common than they should be. Basically, take the idea of a Bottle Preform, and remove EVERYTHING good about it. Cigar Tubes aren’t even remotely waterproof, don’t stand up to the elements one bit, are easily crushed, warp under intense heat, shatter under intense cold… they leak, leak, leak. These are terrible containers. Please don’t use one if you’re planning a hide!

Fake Electrical Plate

Talk about sneaky! A muggle will pass right by this and have no idea it’s a geocache. I personally have two of these out in the wild, and they’ve received many compliments. Stick one of these onto something magnetic, and it just blends in perfectly. Of course they cannot hold any swag, and another unfortunate thing is that these are becoming more popular, so many geocachers will be able to spot one on sight. But if you’re okay with that, these make great micro-caches – they’re virually muggle-proof!

Fake Rock

Often used in the non-geocaching world as a “hide-a-key”, these are one of the ultimate sneaky hides. Take your fake rock geocache, throw it into a pile of real rocks, and watch as the cachers squirm to find it. This can be both good and bad – sure, it’s a tricky hide, but ask yourself, is it a tricky hide for the right reason? Some people are not happy with these “needle in a haystack” type hides. But if you want to drive your fellow cachers crazy, you’d be hard-pressed to find an easier way to do it!

Fake Sprinkler

Again, these are often used in the non-geocaching world as a “hide-a-key”… and if I had my way, that’s where they would remain! Sure, these hides are sneaky. But there are two problems with them. First, how exactly are you going to hide the thing? Unless you happen upon an existing hole in the ground, you’re going to have to dig your own hole to stick the thing into… and that is strictly against the rules of geocaching. (If digging is required to hide a cache, or to retrieve a cache, it violates the guidelines.) Second, this type of hide encourages people to start looking in REAL sprinkler heads… taking them apart and damaging them. And, well, that’s just not cool. Please think long and hard before hiding one of these!

And that’s it for this edition. The next edition, which will be the final one, will include five more types of geocaching containers. I will be going over the last two types of containers I have found: Nano (Pet ID Holder), and Peanut Butter Jar. I will also go over three popular types of geocache containers which I have not personally found, but which I do have experience with: Ammo Boxes, Decon Containers, and Pelican Cases.

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Geocaching Containers (Part 2)

Continuing from last week, here are five more types of geocaching containers I’ve found, with descriptions of what makes them good, not so good, etc…

Match Safe

Waterproof matchstick containers can be purchased at sporting goods stores, Wal-Mart, Target… almost anywhere. They are designed to hold matches (and often come with matches already in them), and matches have a tendency to not work when they’re wet – so these things are as waterproof as it comes! They make fantastic containers for micro-caches, far better than 35mm film canisters. They are almost completely waterproof if closed correctly, and their durable exteriors will hold up to the elements. They’re also virtually crush-proof. If you replace the included cheap o-ring with a high quality rubber gasket, the water-fast seal will be pretty much as perfect as it comes. I love finding these containers – I’ve never found one which was wet on the inside.

Lock-n-Lock

The term “Lock-n-Lock” refers to a specific type of plastic container which snaps shut on all four sides. It is not a simple Tupperware-style container, and cheap knockoffs abound. A true, brand-name Lock-n-Lock is considered by many to be “the” container for anything larger than a micro. They are completely waterproof if closed correctly, and virtually crush-proof. They are also transparent, allowing their contents to be seen without the container being opened – which, believe it or not, makes the Bomb Squad less likely to blow up the container if it is found by non-geocachers! In every story I’ve read about a “suspicious” geocache being detonated, it was always the case that it either looked like a pipe bomb (sheesh), or was not transparent. If you can find the space to hide one, these things are great! They can be easily labeled as a geocache with appropriate contact information… and they can hold a lot of swag!

Virtual Cache

A virtual cache… well… isn’t. Allow me to explain. A virtual cache is one where the coordinates lead you to someplace neat/interesting/etc, but there is no physical geocache container and no logbook to sign. In most cases, you “prove” that you visited the virtual cache by taking a picture of yourself (or your GPS) at the cache location, or emailing answers to a set of questions to the cache owner (such as identifying certain words on a nearby plaque, for example). New virtual caches were banned as of 2005, but any pre-existing virtual caches are grandfathered in, and are allowed to continue to exist unless they become archived. Sadly, virtual caches tend to be a favorite target for “armchair cachers”, people who post “Found It” logs to caches they never found, since many virtual caches are maintained by people who are no longer in the game (and therefore are no longer in a position to delete bogus logs). If reviewers notice this happening on a virtual cache, it is archived swiftly – and permanently.

Fake Bolt

Hooboy, these things are devious. Talk about hiding in plain sight! A fake bolt looks just like a real bolt. The top part of the bolt is magnetized, allowing it to be attached to any ferromagnetic surface. The top unscrews, revealing that the body of the bolt is hollow, containing a rolled-up log scroll – and, hopefully, a small metal tool which helps to extract the log. (If the tool is missing, I hope you brought tweezers!) These definitely count as a nano cache, and of course they cannot hold any swag. You can find these on road signs, benches, pretty much anywhere, and non-geocachers never even notice them. They’re also extremely easy to hide – which, arguably, is both a good thing and a bad thing?

Tupperware Container

This covers two types of containers: real, honest-to-goodness Tupperware brand containers, and cheap grocery store knock-offs such as GladWare. It might go without saying that the cheap knockoffs make for poor geocaching containers – after all, they are designed to be disposable, so they wear out very quickly, and provide a poor seal. However, even genuine Tupperware is a bad choice for a geocaching container, believe it or not. While it forms a fairly airtight seal under normal usage, this goes right out the window when the elements become involved – Tupperware warps under heat and cold, and even the tiniest bit of warping will make that seal go away. Also, Tupperware isn’t exactly flimsy, but it is not crushproof by any stretch of the imagination. For a Tupperware-style container designed to withstand the elements and keep water out, a Lock-n-Lock can’t be beat.

 

And that’s it for this week’s update! Next week, I’ll look at five more geocaching container types I have found: Bottle Preform, Cigar Tube, Fake Electrical Plate, Fake Rock, and Fake Sprinkler. Until then, happy caching!

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Geocaching Containers (Part 1)

A week or so ago, I compiled a list of the different types of geocaching containers I’ve found so far, sorted by how frequently I’ve found them. As promised, I am now going to explain what these container types are, as well as giving information on their various pros and cons. I will do about five per week, starting from the top, and when those are all done I will also explain a couple of geocaching container types I somehow haven’t found yet.

Nano: Magnetic Blinker

Often called “blinkers”, “blinkies”, “Mr. Magneto”, or “okay where the HELL is it”, the traditional nano is about the size of your pinky finger from the tip to the very first knuckle. Yes, it is a legitimate geocache container, despite being almost unbelievably small. The base of the container contains a strong magnet, allowing it to be attached to almost any metallic surface. The top of the container unscrews, revealing a tiny, rolled-up logbook scroll which can hold about 30 sets of initials per side. The original nano was created by a geocacher named Joani, who designed it by modifying a small blinking LED safety light (hence the “blinkie” nickname). One of the advantages and disadvantages of nanos is that they can be hidden pretty much anywhere. While this is great for an urban situation where a larger container type could not be feasibly hidden at all, it can be quite frustrating to go for a mile-long hike in the woods only to find a nano waiting for you. Also, the tiny log scroll can be extremely difficult to remove without tweezers, but at least the container is mostly waterproof, since the screw design includes a rubber gasket. Nanos can be amazingly difficult to find, even in the cases where they are hidden in plain sight, since it’s easy to not notice them.

Magnetic Key Holder

Magnetic key holders, which are traditionally used as a “hide-a-key” to hide a spare/emergency key at a house or in a car, are ubiquitous geocache containers in urban and suburban settings. They are inexpensive, extremely easy to hide, and in some cases are even large enough to hold a very small amount of swag. It is their very ubiquity, though, which makes many cachers despise key holders – if your GPS is pointing you towards a bench or a roadside guard rail, it is extremely likely that you will find a magnetic key holder there, and you can probably find it without much searching or thought. Another issue with magnetic key holders is that even the very best ones are not even remotely waterproof – if the thing is hidden in such a way as to be exposed to the elements, the first rainstorm will leave future finders with a soggy mess of a logbook. This can be somewhat ameliorated by placing the log inside a plastic baggie (such as a dime bag) inside the container, but this is not a perfect solution. Ideally, magnetic key holders should be placed in such a way as to be at least somewhat sheltered from the elements.

35mm Film Canister

It’s quite difficult to find a geocacher who will admit to enjoying 35mm film canisters! They are pretty much “the” micro-cache container, and can be found absolutely everywhere. The most common place to find them is underneath lamp skirts. Those big square bases of lamp posts… did you know that 99% of the time, they are not bolted down and can be lifted straight up? It is extremely common to hide geocaches here – they are called LPCs, or Lamp Post Caches. People who hide and/or seek LPCs are commonly called “skirt lifters”. Anyway, 35mm film canisters are the most common containers for LPCs, but they can also be found pretty much anywhere else. Sometimes they will even be magnetized by having magnets hot-glued to them, allowing them to be hidden quite creatively in some cases. 35mm film canisters can even hold small amounts of swag, including “micro” geocoins and Pathtags. Plus, 35mm film canisters are pretty much free – it’s easy and cheap (or free!) to get your hands on massive amounts of them. However, they are not waterproof AT ALL. Well, at least the traditional black/grey ones are not – the less common clear/white ones are a bit more water-resistant, but not by much.

Bison Tube

What the rest of the world calls “those little metal tubes you put on your keychain to hold pills”, geocachers refer to as Bison Tubes. The name comes from the main company which manufactures them, Bison Designs. Bison Tubes are ideal micro-cache containers, as they are made of non-oxidizing metal (no rust!) and are pretty much 100% waterproof! They are too small to hold any swag, though. Bison Tubes have a loop at the end, allowing them to be permanently “lashed” to a place such as a fence or a tree, which can also help prevent them from getting lost. Bison Tubes are commonly hidden in bushes – sometimes way, way inside of bushes – and since they are available in green and even camo coloring, they can be extremely tricky to find. Bison Tubes are waterproof as long as their rubber gasket does not fail – which can happen, and will happen after a year or so, but the gasket is easy and cheap to replace. They are available in a wide variety of sizes, lengths, and colors, and are fairly inexpensive, especially if purchased in bulk.


Custom Container

This is sort of a catch-all category, by its very nature. Many geocachers love to make their own containers, and some of them are downright awesome. Some of them, on the other hand… not so much. I’ll give a couple of examples which cover the entire spectrum. I found a cache with my father, in the woods near my home. It took us about a half hour to find it, even though we had looked at it several times. It was a little resin turtle, on the ground, staring up at us and… smiling. It was so cute, and clever, and creative! I loved that cache. As for the one I found which was made out of a chewing gum container… yeah, that one will probably not last very long!

 

And that’s it for this week’s entry. Next week (give or take), I’ll tackle five more geocache container types: Match Safe, Lock-n-Lock, Virtual Cache, Fake Bolt, and Tupperware Container. Thanks for reading!

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Geocaching container types…

As I am coming dangerously close to 100 geocaching finds, I’ve decided to look at all of my past finds and see which types of containers I have found the most frequently. While I am not surprised that I’ve found more nanos than anything else (since I am mostly an urban cacher), I am slightly surprised at how few of some other container types I’ve found.

Container Type Finds
Nano: Magnetic Blinker 23
Magnetic Key Holder 14
35mm Film Canister 10
Bison Tube 9
Custom Container 6
Match Safe 6
Lock-n-Lock 5
Virtual Cache 4
Fake Bolt 3
Tupperware Container 2
Bottle Preform 1
Cigar Tube 1
Fake Electrical Plate 1
Fake Rock 1
Fake Sprinkler 1
Nano: Pet ID Holder 1
Peanut Butter Jar 1
TOTAL 89

Not sure what some of these terms even mean? Don’t know a Bison Tube from a Bottle Preform? Not to worry! I plan on writing a series of short blog posts over the next few days, explaining what each of these container types are, and what makes them good or bad for geocaching. Stay tuned!

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Geocaching page streamlined!

D’oh! I never realized that you don’t need an account on geocaching.com to see a user’s list of geocache finds. Therefore, I’ve decided to stop manually maintaining a list of all of my finds (it was a lot of copy-and-paste busywork!), and simply provided a link to the page on geocaching.com where you can see all of my finds, organized by date with the most recent finds first. The link is on my geocaching page, which includes links to my profile and finds, as well as a table listing all of my hides (five so far), as well as a brief description of what geocaching is. I’ve deleted the sub-pages, so some older links on this site may be broken now.

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