We’ve been on 4 caching trips away this year and found many hundreds of caches. I’m a very organised person and I like to plan things to the last detail, and our caching trips are no exception; however I did miss out one quite crucial thing from our last trip away: I forgot to load on the TOPO maps for the area we were going. Therefore instead of a nice green background with features and paths we had white nothingness. So I thought I’d add this blog entry as a bit of a check list if for going away for a caching trip. This is just my personal check list and others may do things differently. If you have something that you’d like to add leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.
If you’re using a dedicated GPSr you’ll have an idea of how long your batteries will last in it, therefore it’s a good idea to pack as many sets of rechargable batteries as you’ll need for the amount of days you’re away and perhaps a spare set or two of non-rechargables just incase. Double check that all batteries are fully charged by popping them in your GPSr and checking the levels. If you’re caching with a smartphone ensure that you have the necessary tools to keep you juiced for the trip. Car chargers, solar chargers, replacement batteries, etc.
2. Maps on your GPSr
We’re lucky enough to have a full set of GB TOPO maps that I load onto the GPSr as needed. The area and surrounding area where we live is always loaded on, but I load additional areas on if I’m going to them when I need them. This caused problems in our last trip to Nottingham as I totally forgot to add that northern set of maps on! Although TOPO maps don’t give you all of the footpaths, they do have some and give you a basic idea of nearby paths which we do find really handy. They also show you altitude so you can get an idea if the trail you are following will require you to climb a couple of 800ft hills!!! There is also a site with Open Street Maps that you can load onto your GPSr. I haven’t checked these out yet, but will do soon to see how they compare. Unlike the TOPOs, these are free!
3. Sorting through caches in the area
Depending on your GPSr you may be limited on how many caches you can store at one time. Our limit is 2000. That may seem a lot, but it’s not really if you’re going away and not too sure which ones you will be going for. Therefore it’s quite important that you sort through and condense the list down to something realistic and useful.
I use GSAK. It’s great It’s also free so there are no excuses for not using it, however after you’re past the trial period you will get a nag screen that appears everytime that you want to do something useful (Load GPX, Filter, etc.) that appears for 60 seconds which doesn’t make it entirely unusable. Use pocket queries to generate caches in the area you are going to and load them into GSAK. Any duplicates will be deleted automatically. Once you have all of your caches in GSAK you can start to play.
Firstly I create a new database and I set a centre point. I set this to the place that I am staying. You can set this to a cache that is near where you’re staying, or maybe select the postcode for where you’re staying.
You can now use filters to reduce the number of caches that you have in your list. If you know that you’re not going to be going more than 15 miles south or south west from where you’re staying, set distance on the ‘General’ tab to Greater than or equal to 15 and on the ‘Other’ tab set bearing to South and South West. Click OK to filter the results. Now if you right click any one of the caches in the list and select ‘Delete Waypoint’ then ‘All waypoints in filter’ to clear that chunk of caches from your list.
Another thing I like to do is knock off any disabled caches (You can also do this in your PQ by ticking the ‘Is active’ box) but if you forget, a simple filter for ‘Archived’ and ‘Temporarily Unavailable’ followed by ‘Delete Waypoints’ will clear these out.
Next I like to filter through and find any caches that may be a bit difficult to find. To do this I create a filter where ‘Not Found’ (logs) is greater than or equal to 3. I then run this bit of code to update all of these caches with the name “HARD_” at the beginning. This means that if we’re out and I see one on the GPSr I can have a quick read of the logs and see why I may have some difficulty.
WHILE not ($_EOL)
$d_Name = "HARD_" + $d_Name
4. Do your research
Check out the difficulty ratings of some of the caches you may be attempting (You can sort these in GSAK) and read up on some of the logs, descriptions, take a look at the pictures, etc. to give you a bit of a helping hand for the trickier ones. I usually neglect to do this, however I always have a good read up on 5/5 caches if I may do them. There’s no way you would have got me in that tin mine without checking out a few of the existing logs or the photos so that I knew what I was letting myself in for!!!
5. Don’t go paperless
I know quite a lot of cachers like to go paperless when they’re out and about, however although all the coords and cache details are only on our GPSr, I just can’t go anywhere without having a map of the area with the caches and their names on. This can be a little tricky as the map can get bogged down with text, however if you are focusing on a few areas a close-up map with names can be quite clear, and in GSAK the myGMEv3 macro will allow you to see caches with their names on the map and you can truncate them down to about 5 characters so you at least have some idea of what the cache is. I produce a giant map of the entire area. This does take quite a bit of work (i.e. print screening, pasting into paint, and cropping) but it’s worth it and I wouldn’t leave home without it. This means that you can sit and have breakfast and decide what you’re going to do for the day by looking at your map depending on how you feel, what you did in the previous days and most importantly what the weather is doing! You can also manually mark supermarkets, restaurants, pubs, etc. on the map so you can also see what’s around those cache clusters that you may be attempting.
I’m not going to go into a long list of bits and bobs and tools that you might need to take with you as I’ve already done that in a previous blog post. However an essential component for our trips this year was waterproof gear and by ‘eck did it rain! We had waterproof jackets, leggings, and 2 pairs of waterproof walking shoes. Some days when we were out it was absolutely hammering it down and even the waterproof shoes got wet inside. There is nothing worse than thinking you’re going to have to walk in wet shoes the following day! The spare pair really did help out. Also, we used some of those “Over shoes” that you can get from swimming pools and building sites to keep our socks dry. Failing that a couple of little plastic bags tied around your feet over the socks will also do the job!
7. Check the caches on your GPSr
Check to see that the caches that you think you loaded on your GPSr are indeed on there and you haven’t cut off an important chunk. I managed to exclude a couple on the far boundaries of our search when we were doing Worthing seafront. Luckily the iPhone meant I could grab the coords quickly and punch them into the GPSr, but it certainly wasn’t as convenient.
8. Have a clear out of your caching bag
As you’re going away, now might be a good time to have a sort out of your caching bag. Delve deep and find any trackables that may have worked their way to the bottom and got forgotten about. If you’re going away somewhere now is a good time to place them in caches and add some miles to their clock!
9. Logging whilst away
If you have an android or iPhone with the Geocaching app (or similar) you can easily log caches whilst you’re away. Alternatively you can use the http://www.bcaching.com site on any phone. This will give you a minimalist website that is nice and speedy on phones and allows you to quickly log. Also check out http://wap.geocaching.com this is a cut down version of geocaching.com that allows you to log and find caches. The final alternative is to do logging when you get home. I’d recommend (And I’m sure lots of CO’s would thank you for it!) jotting down memorable caches, and memorable events that happened when you were finding certain caches, along with details of any swag or TB’s you swapped. It’s horrible to do copy and paste jobs in logs or just write ‘TFTC’. It can take a lot of time and effort to hide caches, especially if they’re good ones. It’s only fair that you put some time and effort into your logs to show your appreication. Remember the CO will automatically get an email when you submit a log. It’s nice to read about someone’s adventure! Don’t forget to note and log your DNF’s as well. There’s no shame in a DNF!!!
10. Caches on route
Finally, don’t forget caches to and from the area you are staying. It’s not about the numbers remember, there could be something really special on route. A virtual with amazing views? An earth cache with a great lesson behind it? A 5/5 that takes you on a real adventure? If you’re a premium member you can always do caching on route and have a look what might be a few miles away from your route. On our way to Devon we grabbed a load of earth caches and virtuals, and on our way up to Sherwood forest we grabbed a cache that would complete our 2.5 terrain bingo line. On the way from our lodge to the Peak District and to Lincoln we were able to grab a load of caches along the skeg-to-ness trail.
So they’re the 10 things I try to remember/do when going on a caching trip away. Let me know if there’s anything that you do too!