Spring…a good time for geocache maintenance

Perhaps, like us, you’ve taken the time to give back to the geocaching community by hiding some caches of your own. Hopefully you took the time to find a good hiding spot, maybe somewhere with a view, in a not very well-known neighbourhood park or near an interesting piece of public art. Maybe you put extra time and effort into the container, be it custom-built, custom-camoflaged or specially designed to sit “in plain sight” yet invisible to all but your fellow geocachers. Perhaps you created a fun or challenging puzzle front-end and invested considerable time in your cache write-up.

Regardless of the energy you put into the original hide, if your experience is anything like ours, you soon learned that a whole bunch more energy is needed to maintain the geocaches you’ve placed for others to enjoy. We have 65 active geocaches out there; a dozen are earthcaches, which means we have somewhere around 50 cache containers to maintain. At least once a month, we see logs that indicate it’s time for another maintenance visit, whether it’s as simple as replacing a full log sheet or as complex as making “in the field” repairs to a custom container. A few times a year we have to decide whether to replace a container that’s gone missing or whether to archive a muggled hiding spot.

Winter was especially long and cold in Calgary this year, so we deliberately put off some of our cache maintenance. But now that the snow is finally off the ground we’ve been making the rounds of our “disabled” and “needs maintenance” geocaches. Over the past few weeks we’ve visited 10 of our hides, with the following outcomes:

  • replaced log – 3
  • replaced missing cache – 2
  • cache was in good shape – 2
  • performed repairs in the field – 1
  • archived cache – 2
  • Mr. GeoK does cache maintenance in Confederation Park

    In the case of one cache we archived, it seems the original container fell victim to some park maintenance workers. In the other case, the container was damaged and part of the cache was missing, so we assumed the hide and its hiding spot had been compromised by junior muggles; we took the remains of the container and will rejuvenate it before hiding it in a new spot.

    We don’t make a maintenance visit to all of our hides every year; some of them have been found only a handful of times in the past 3 or 4 years – they require a significant hike, long bike & hike or are accessible from a remote trailhead. Our experience is that our mountain caches rarely require maintenance. It’s the urban hides, which are more frequently found, that require more frequent tune-ups.

    If geocache maintenance ever starts to seem like a burden, take a look at some of your statistics. Each of our downtown Calgary hides have been found more than 200 times; they are visited by out-of-town tourists and visitors here on business and cachers who work downtown appreciate an excuse to get out of the office at lunch time.

    If a repeat maintenance visit tempts you to archive one of your caches, re-read past logs and take a look at the favorite points that have been awarded to the cache to help you assess whether the caching community is likely to appreciate the time and energy you’ll invest to keep your hide alive.

    Finally, before you put out your next hide, give some thought to maintenance. Hiding a nano or micro cache in a high traffic area means you’ll be making repeat visits to replace the cache log, so consider how often you’ll be in the area. If you hide a cache near your home, your workplace, or anywhere else you spend time on a regular basis, then maintenance will be less of a burden. High traffic also increases the risk of discovery by muggles – or worse, of muggles thinking there’s something suspicious going on. Another thing to think about is placing two or three caches in the same general area, so that you can maintain multiple caches with one trip. Container selection is also key to minimizing maintenance: use weather-tight ammo cans, lock ‘n’ locks or properly sealed bison tubes rather than re-using baby wipe or similar containers. If you have any residual concerns about water penetration, consider using waterproof paper for your log sheet (such as “Rite in the Rain”, which is available for inkjet or laser printers). Finally, if you and a geocaching buddy place caches in the same general area, you can take turns doing the maintenance.

    Please leave a comment to share your suggestions on geocache maintenance.

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