1. Do your research using the 3 sites I mentioned
When you are deciding the difficulty and terrain rating for your hide, it’s a good idea to do a bit of research. Refer to the Groundspeak ratings documentation, The ClayJar Geocache Rating System and the TechBlazer Rating System to give you an idea. You can then perhaps take an average.
2. Use your noggin!
Take into consideration that the rating systems may not totally reflect the more unique hide types like underwater ones, or night caches
for example. Use common sense to adjust your ratings accordingly. If you think there is something particularly tricky about your hide that isn’t mentioned in any of the rating systems, perhaps consider nudging your rating up a bit. I think 0.5 is probably a good nudge.
3. Think about the clues
Also consider that the difficulty will differ depending on how good your cache description and hint are. If I told finders *EXACTLY* where my cache is positioned I’d probably lower the difficulty to about 2 instead of 3.5, but keep the terrain at 3.
At first a nano may seem tricky, but they are usually magnetic so you usually have a good inkling of what you’re looking for after you have found a few. I’ve never found a nano that wasn’t hidden in a magnetic location. I guess there may be a few out there (Possibly popped in little appropriate nano-sized holes?). Finders probably wouldn’t expect to find a nano there so consider that when choosing difficulty ratings. Also if you’re hiding a micro that is nailed somewhere or hanging remember that finders probably won’t expect it to be there either.
5. Changes in the environment over time
Remember that over time undergrowth can become overgrowth If you place your cache in an area in the winter, are there likely to be lots of nettles or brambles that sprout up in the summer? If so, you may consider upping your rating slightly. Also, consider upping your rating a year or so down the line if the environment has changed. Ensure that you visit your hide regularly to ensure that there are no obsticles that are making it more difficult to find. We found a 3 and a half year old cache a few weeks ago in a tree with a 1.5/1.5 rating. This was probably fine when it was first placed, however since then the tree (Which you had to climb) had sprouted many large, fresh branches and leaves. There were also nettles, thistles and long grass that blocked the path. It was pretty hard to get to and it was also a favourite spot for mosquitos! I’d put it closer to a 2.5/3 rating now. Make sure you adjust your ratings overtime to match any changes in the surroundings, or at least update the description to mention that it may be a bit overgrown. If the area becomes very dangerous to get to, consider archiving the cache and perhaps place a new one nearby in a safer location instead or put a big, obvious caution notice in the description. You don’t want to endanger anyone’s life (Well… I wouldn’t anyway!)
6. AH! IVY!
(I think most UK cachers will agree with me on this one) Remember what a pain in the arse ivy can be and adjust your ratings accordingly
7. Non-traditional caches
Consider upping the rating if it’s a multi that has many stages that you have to trek to (My record was a 9 stage multi which I’m sure took something like a 7 mile trek before we found the final!), or a multi with quite a few clues that you need to find. If you’re adding an Unknown cache consider how tricky the puzzle is and update the difficulty to reflect that.
8. Use attributes
Difficulty and Terrain ratings are really only an overview of what to expect from a cache hide. With attributes you can be far more specific, and help people get accurate results for their pocket queries.
9. Muggle Traffic
An urban cache in a tree in the middle of a town centre is going to require a higher difficulty rating than one in a tree out in the country where muggles walk their dogs (For example). Although there may be a lot of walkers, bikers, or dog walkers on the trail, that won’t be anywhere near as many muggles as would be in a town centre. Especially at lunchtime!
10. Be safe
Finally, don’t put anyone in a very dangerous situation where physical injury is likely. Think “Is this a cache that I would be comfortable finding?” Do mention any hazards in the cache description in detail so that finders are aware of them. An example is a footpath that goes through a cow field. Cows can be very touchy this time of year if they have their calves with them, especially if you have a dog. There have been a few occasions where people have been trampled by cows. There is a ‘Cattle’ attribute, but I think it may be an idea to go into a little detail in the description on any hazards.