Spring has finally arrived in northern Alberta, Canada and as usual, I have been getting our geocaching paraphernalia ready for our first geocaching trip.
In my bid to be prepared, I was thinking about all the things I generally try to take with us when we go caching and thought this would be an excellent opportunity to share some of our much beloved and required caching supplies with others.
Our main and most necessary item is our ‘geocaching bag’ that we keep in our truck so we are always ready to cache whenever the notion might take us. This geocaching bag is fantastic as it keeps us very organized and gives us more time to spend caching instead of searching around in frustration for trading items, pencils, etc at every cache we go to.
Our geocaching bag is actually a Cabela’s Catch-All Gear Bag. This bag is relatively small, so it does not take up a lot of room in the truck, but it has lots of pockets to help keep our supplies tidy and organized. The other great thing about this bag is that it is often on sale and you can sometimes pick one up for as little as $5.00 CAD.
In this bag, we use the main compartment for all of our trading items and the various pockets are used to store trackable items, ‘keeper’ items, geotags, our pencils, notepaper and bug repellent so they are easily accessed and do not get lost in our collection of trading swag.
Although these supplies seem simple enough to keep on hand, not all supplies are created equal and for that reason, we only stock our caching bag with only the most effective and reliable supplies to reduce potential malfunctions and consequently, any unnecessary return trips to our vehicle to retrieve replacement supplies.
As I am sure we can all agree, there is nothing more frustrating than fighting your way to a cache only to discover a substantial log book issue. These issues range from full or missing log books to log books that are soggy and unusable. We have found ourselves in these situations and have determined that they are one of the most irritating things to encounter while caching.
To alleviate this problem and the inevitable cursing that ensues in this situation, we now carry a few ‘Rite In The Rain’ notepads in our geocaching supplies and take a few sheets of this paper with us to each cache. As promised, this paper can actually be written on when it is wet and some of the notepads you can get are small enough that a page can easily be folded or rolled up to fit into the smallest of micro caches, making them an invaluable tool in our geocaching arsenal.
Along with log book problems, I am sure anyone that has cached has also encountered the writing utensil issue when your pencil lead breaks and you do not have a sharpener or your pen runs out of ink at the most inopportune moment. This issue is easily fixed by carrying a stamp, but stamps can be expensive, easily lost when clambering through the bushes and if stamping in the rain, be prepared for your stamp to turn into an indecipherable blob in the log book.
Since there are really no foolproof ways to deal with this issues, we began looking for the next best option and with all things considered, we determined the most reliable option would likely be a good mechanical pencil, if such a thing existed.
From experience, I can tell you that many mechanical pencils are prone to malfunction and that along with this, they generally have terrible erasers and can be expensive. Surprisingly, after much testing, we have actually found the greatest mechanical pencil for geocaching and it is Zebra’s Cadoozle.
These pencils are absolutely fantastic! After a year of use in some of the most inclement conditions, these pencils have still not malfunctioned in any way. In addition to their reliability, the erasers work marvelously and they are so light and compact, you can easily carry a number of them to each cache and never worry about running out of lead or losing some along the way.
These pencils can be purchased at most office supply stores, come in a variety of colorful patterns and are reasonably priced when purchased in bulk packages making them a brilliant addition to any geocachers’ supplies.
The next important tool in our geocaching arsenal is footwear. We cache in any terrain and in any weather, so it is important to have good footwear. My preferred footwear for caching is toe shoes, more precisely Komodo Sports from Vibram Five Fingers.
When I first saw these shoes, I really did not think they had any purpose and would inevitably turn out to be a gimmick, but after trying them on and wandering around the store, I quickly determined that these shoes must be a gift from the Gods for people that absolutely despise shoes and socks, such as myself and I inevitably fell in love with them.
These shoes are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn and they allow you to feel like your are barefoot while providing protection from sharp stones and rough terrain, which is quite amazing! They are also very lightweight, extremely breathable, can be washed in your washing machine and provide excellent grip while still being flexible enough to adapt to any terrain. I also find I have better balance in these shoes due largely in part to being able to move my toes independently from the rest of the shoe.
There are a couple of downfalls to these shoes and although minor, I will mention them anyways: 1) these shoes are not waterproof, nor are they water-repellent, so be prepared to get your feet wet in swampy or rainy conditions. They are washable and dry quickly, so even if you get them wet or muddy, it is not a big deal; and 2) these shoes can become dangerous to your health when traipsing through very long grass or crops as the grass and crops can sometimes get caught between your big toe and the next toe, subsequently tripping you. However, if you are aware of this hazard before traipsing through tall grass or crops, it can be easily avoided by taking smaller and more deliberate steps.
Another necessary item we take with us caching is bug repellent. I really do not like certain bug repellents and am quite choosy about the repellents I will or will not use due mostly to smell, feel and effectiveness or lack thereof.
There are three repellents at the top of my ‘Most Hated’ list and the first of those is OFF! repellent. This repellent is greasy, smells terrible, can actually remove paint, gets on everything you touch once you are sprayed with it and isn’t top-notch in keeping mosquitos and other pesky bugs at bay for any great length of time causing you to continuously reapply and smell even worse.
The second on my list is Skin So Soft in any variation whether from Avon or from OFF! as it is quite greasy and doesn’t seem to repel anything other than the people standing nearby. This repellent also smells like OFF! mixed with baby powder and I find it quite repulsive.
The third most hated repellent, for me, is Muskol and I despise it for the same reasons as OFF!. It does last longer than OFF! and repels more bugs as well, however it is far more greasy than any other repellent out there which is the main reason it is on this list.
To save you all the agony of finding a great repellent that doesn’t leave you greasier than a pan of bacon and smelling like Raid, I would highly recommend that you purchase Mosquito Shield. This repellent is not terribly stinky and any smell it does have quickly dissipates once it dries. It is not greasy at all, does not transfer to other surfaces from your skin, repels all kinds of bugs and mosquitos and last for hours, very rarely requiring additional applications. We generally purchase this repellent from Cabela’s, but you may be able to find it on Amazon or from any other outdoor outfitter stores.
Along with these items are some typical things you may wish to take with you, such as a well stocked first-aid kit (we always keep one in the truck), flashlights, sunscreen, sunglasses, wet wipes (you would not believe how often these come in handy), drinking water and anything else you may need while you are out caching. We also carry a variety of supplies for our geodog, but I will address those supplies in a separate article as not everyone caches with a geodog.
Some other things to consider when caching in remote or unfamiliar locations with rough or dangerous terrain, are to always make sure that you take a cell phone with you or a GPS locator beacon if you are in an area without cellular services.
If caching alone, let someone know the coördinates of the caches you plan to go to and an approximate time for your return. If caching in a group, one person should always remain behind at your starting location with the coördinates of your target cache on hand, so that if your group does not return by your prearranged time, you will have someone who can call or go for help and point rescuers to the coördinates you were heading to.
These are just some suggestions and ideas to help you safely enjoy geocaching to the fullest. We just enjoyed our first trip out over the Victoria Day long weekend and had a great time and wish you all a safe and adventurous summer of geocaching goodness!
If you have any hints, tips or suggestions, please feel free to note them in the comments. We would love to hear what favorite geocaching supplies you use and any tips you have!