Mefites who also geocache February 16, 2011 10:51 PM   Subscribe

So, are any of my fellow Mefites also into geocaching?

Now that I have an iPhone and the app, I plan to start geocaching when the weather warms up. I bought a starter kit (also from so I can hide my own cache as well. I was thinking maybe some of you are more experienced and we could have a Mefi geocaching community, and maybe even a few geocoins/trackable items with Metafilter-related goals. (Such as get the geocoin to all 3 mods, etc.) Share your resources and experiences with me, please!
posted by IndigoRain to MetaFilter-Related at 10:51 PM (42 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I tried it, but I got bored of sitting in the woods waiting for someone to find me...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 3:35 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I tried it a few years back when the fad was just getting popular, but in two attempts, I never found either cache. I hope you have better luck.
posted by crunchland at 4:17 AM on February 17, 2011

We tried it out for a bit (27 finds) but have sort of tapered off this last year. We did have fun, so not against getting back into it as the snow melts.

One fun thing we did was hide a microcache (it was part of a series organized by someone in our area) in view of our house. We lived in the heart of a downtown area, so it was easy to monitor this public spot from our window. My young daughter was excited whenever she looked out the kitchen window and saw someone seeking.
posted by mikepop at 5:49 AM on February 17, 2011

I find a handful of caches a year. I enjoy hiking, and I like having something to accomplish other than just finishing the hike. I've never placed a cache, though. The rules are fairly restrictive in terms of distance-to-other-caches and permissions and such.
posted by Plutor at 5:51 AM on February 17, 2011

My profile
posted by Plutor at 5:53 AM on February 17, 2011

I tried it a bit and may do so again. It has always disappointed me what a letdown the caches themselves were. I wish people would work a little harder to make them interesting (and weatherproof). After all that effort, pawing through a Ziploc of moldy army guys and finger puppets always felt a little sorry.

Also, I like the ones that include puzzles or riddles and wish there were more of those - it's more intriguing than just following the stars. I enjoyed letterboxing maybe a bit more than geocaching because of the added challenge and the requirement of using analog stuff and a skill.

But when I get an iphone, hopefully soon, I will probably try it. If nothing else, it can be a good side diversion while traveling or on a business trip or something.
posted by Miko at 6:07 AM on February 17, 2011

I've kind of wanted to get into it. Not having a GPS unit has stymied me, though; and I don't have an iPhone. (May check out Letterboxing, if it's as low-tech as it sound from the above...)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on February 17, 2011

Arg. Miko, your "letterboxing" link actually directs to this page. Any info on Letterboxing itself? (I'm liking the "analog" angle.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on February 17, 2011

I sporadically geocache.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:57 AM on February 17, 2011

EmpressCallipygos: There are some geocachers who don't use GPS devices. They go with hard core map-usage.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:58 AM on February 17, 2011

Arg. Miko, your "letterboxing" link actually directs to this page.

Dammit. I do that all the time. I need a link-checking protocol.


There are some geocachers who don't use GPS devices. They go with hard core map-usage.

That's basically letterboxing. But intentionally created letterbox trails tend to be more interesting than geocache coordinates - step by step, and they point out interesting features along the way.
posted by Miko at 7:01 AM on February 17, 2011

Oh! I do! I geocache!

My (and my SO's) username is Not_Dan_Aykroyd and anyone from MeFi is welcome to be my friend on We have found 147 caches since Jul/2009.

I would be interested in participating in any sort of GC/MeFi community we get sorted out. I'm also happy to answer any questions from newbies, though I'm not an expert, just an enthusiastic amateur.

(Oh and if anyone in Toronto can help me find the Trinity Bellwoods Park cache I would be so grateful... it's driving us mad...)
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:23 AM on February 17, 2011

Also if anyone wants an introduction to geocaching in Toronto I will take you to some good ones to build up your self esteem.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:25 AM on February 17, 2011

I used to do it, but when I realized that laying bear traps and tiger pits all around the area of the cache to protect it was frowned upon, I decided it wasn't for me.
posted by quin at 7:30 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've done a bit, both around here and in Canada. I have a young son who gets bored easily so if we don't find the cache right away I have to listen to "Can we go now?" while I fight my way through thorn bushes, determined to find a cache that has probably long since been removed. Good times, good times.

It might be fun to leave a note in a cache pointing to a funny MeFi comment or song on music. Maybe someone (not me) should record a song about geocaching, post it, with the goal to get someone to leave a comment that they found the cache.
posted by bondcliff at 7:56 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I do a bunch of geocache finding with my kids (and sometimes my wife lets us drag her along) and it's great fun. We don't do winter seeking because we're in Minneapolis and the kids are 3, 6, and 7, but there's a good community for that here too. This year we plan to start doing some placing of caches.

My kids and I want to start a Lego-themed cache set where people could take one Lego and leave another at each cache. I'm hoping some of these will be rare or odd pieces and that will make it all the more fun.

I think a MeFi themed cache set would be great and I'm on board if it gets going.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:03 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I saw a cool cache called "Cash Cache." The owner was a coin collector and the point of the cache was to exchange foreign coins.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:14 AM on February 17, 2011

Ooh, ooh, we could call it Team MeFind! Never tried it but it's always intrigued me. Letterboxing looks neat too. I'm up for an SF Bay Area team - anybody else?
posted by Quietgal at 8:19 AM on February 17, 2011

The one time we tried this, I led us to the wrong side of a lake. We spent about two hours hacking through underbrush and hiking around a mucky swamp before we gave up. :/

I'm up for another go, though.
posted by desjardins at 9:09 AM on February 17, 2011

I do sometimes, in a half-assed way, with my young traveling companions.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:13 AM on February 17, 2011

I used to Geocache years ago when it wasn't as easy as it is today, but I still occasionally try from time to time. I'm rather bored with the simple "go here" caches and prefer the solve-the-puzzle variety.
posted by narwhal bacon at 9:19 AM on February 17, 2011

I've always wanted to but never got around to it. It sounds really fun!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:22 AM on February 17, 2011

Letterboxing is really fun - I go fairly often w/ my partner. The community is an interesting mix, with a split between the people who are primarily in it for the woods-tromping and the crafters, who will happily share a picnic table for hours while "stamping in" with each others' collections of non-hidden letterboxes with beautifully carved stamps. Sometimes you have to answer a riddle or something to get the box.

Letterboxers often have a bit of a vendetta against geocachers - some of them have the unfortunate habit of discovering the letterboxing site, tracking down a box and happily swapping out the handcarved stamps for a dollar or two. I was once at the Montreal Olympics site once looking for a highly-praised carving of one of the buildings - instead all we got was a 1in plastic Pikachu. We used his feet as a stamp.

Funniest/most exasperating is when they write in the logbook (full of other people's stamp images) something along the lines of "Thanks for the stamp, I took it!, Signed Someone Someone, 5/1/2010."

On the other hand, I get the impression the letterboxers are fairly well outnumbered, so maybe we shouldn't blame the geocachers for not knowing the deal :)
posted by heyforfour at 10:15 AM on February 17, 2011

Does it require an iPhone or GPS? I don't have either, considering a GPS.
posted by theora55 at 11:56 AM on February 17, 2011

My oldest daughter and I did it for a while but she's moved on to other things. I've been trying to get my wife interested but so far no good. I've got a couple of handheld GPS units as well as an Android phone that I use.

If you're ever in the Rochester, NY area and want to go, let me know.
posted by tommasz at 12:10 PM on February 17, 2011

I used to geocache a lot when it was relatively new and the quality/quantity ratio was better. I still I still occasionally will track down a cache or two when I'm traveling because it's a way to get to places I wouldn't have known about otherwise. I have a number of caches placed in the southern Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands area. My profile.
posted by Emanuel at 12:35 PM on February 17, 2011

I've been caching since the summer of 09, but my finds are only at 54. I don't get to go too often.
posted by Deflagro at 1:56 PM on February 17, 2011

I've only 'Geocached' once and it was accidentally.

Now, the Degree Confluence Project I'm into...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:58 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

We geocached in Iindy at our Mefi10 meetup.
posted by pjern at 5:35 PM on February 17, 2011

My boyfriend and I go geocaching together more weekends than not. We've been caching for about a year and a half now. I have reservations about some aspects of the sport (e.g. the fiction that all caches are placed with permission of the property owner), but on the whole, it's a great activity for us to do together. It gives us a series of shared goals and gets us outdoors and moving. My favorite part of it is how it spurs us to explore our region. We've discovered wonderful parks, rail trails (great for bike-and-cache outings), hikes, and local landmarks that we would never have explored otherwise.

It's also a good year-round outdoor activity. We stop biking when the weather drops below 50 degrees (yes, we are wimps), but all winter long we bundle up and go looking for geocaches. A brisk walk over hilly terrain warms you right up.
posted by Orinda at 5:56 PM on February 17, 2011

You can blame me for the geocaching at that Indianapolis meet-up. You can blame pjern for the fantastic photos of it. (My profile.) Since then, I've gotten a lot more involved, especially with the local group here in Bloomington, Indiana (which has made the area around here a fantastic place to go caching). My favorite caches to find on my own are clever urban hides (caches that sit in plain sight, looking like something else). Most of my hides are this kind, although I also started a series of caches that make up a scale (both size and distance) model of the solar system (using the dome on the Monroe County Courthouse as the sun), and I just finished a puzzle cache which might get published any hour now... But I also like going to event "caches". Hiking through the woods to pick up ammo cans is a lot more fun with a big group. The regular events are also what makes caching in Bloomington so good these days. When you talk to the people who find your caches, it inspires you to hide more caches, make your next cache better, and keep your old caches in better shape.
posted by ErWenn at 5:57 PM on February 17, 2011

It was 56 degrees today and I was telling my best friend about it and she got excited, and we saw there was one less than a mile from her house so we went and found it! It was themed around trading buttons so we brought some along. She was excited and we had fun. I think it will be a good way to get outside more and exercise. There are several hidden in the Indiana Dunes, after all. I sent friend requests to those of you who posted your profiles here. :)

theora55: "Does it require an iPhone or GPS? I don't have either, considering a GPS."

No, you can go off maps printed off the site and a compass. GPS makes it easier, so if you're up for a challenge you can try the map route. If you have a GPS you can put in the lat/long manually, but to get the GPX download files you have to be a premium member of the site, I believe ($30/year or $10/3 months.) The iPhone app is $9.99 and negates the need for the GPX files because it will load the site's cache locations itself.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:20 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, I guess you can download to Magellan, Garmin, and DeLorme devices for free. And also get .loc waypoint files, but I don't know what supports those.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:26 PM on February 17, 2011

For what it's worth, my boyfriend really likes the c:geo app for Android. I'm not sure whether it requires a paid membership on I have a dumbphone so I still use my hand-held GPS receiver for geocaching. The boyfriend always uses c:geo whenever we're in cell range (but I think it can store cache information for "offline" use) and switches to his hand-held GPS receiver when we're in the wilderness.

The "live map" feature on the smartphone is great for traveling; I'm at a disadvantage with the hand-held GPS because all cache information has to be pre-loaded at home. On the other hand, the dedicated GPS devices currently have better topo maps and they show your track, which c:geo doesn't (I'm not sure about the iPhone app).
posted by Orinda at 8:44 PM on February 17, 2011

P.s. to clarify what IndigoRain is reporting about downloading the geocache information to GPS devices: With a free membership on, you can download information for each cache one by one. (May require installing a go-between application, depending on what kind of computer you have and which brand of GPS.) With a paid membership (about $30/year if memory serves), you can run special searches called "pocket queries" which allow you to download the coordinates and cache descriptions for up to 1000 caches at a time. A pocket query lets you search a specified geographic area and get information on all the caches in that area or filter by various criteria. There is a limit on how many pocket queries you can run per day, and the queries have to be re-run in order to get updated information (for example, if you go geocaching in the same area a few weeks later).

My layperson's understanding is that the smartphone apps, when they're able to get a data connection, use the phone's GPS receiver to figure out where you are, then query the database for nearby caches.
posted by Orinda at 8:58 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another alternative to geocaching is geodashing

Every month random waypoints are generated. You never know where you might end up, but that's what makes it interesting. A succesful dash is achieved if you are able to get within 100 meters of the dashpoint. You don't have to worry about not being able to find a cache that may no longer be there.

There is a small, tight-knit and active group of participants who post excellent trip reports, often with pictures. Scout, who runs the monthly contests, is an excellent host. New players are always welcome.
posted by garypratt at 12:18 AM on February 18, 2011

theora55: You can probably find some urban caches without a GPS. My first GPS was the cheapest thing I could find on ebay and wasn't capable of getting me closer than 50 feet or so to a location, so after a while, I just stopped bothering with it (at the time I was only doing urban caches). You can get really close with the satellite imagery on Google maps. If you try that for wilderness caches, you better be prepared with detailed maps, a compass, and some serious orienteering skills.

But for those who are interested in starting caching for the first time, I really, really recommend finding someone who is already an avid cacher and going with them. Remember Sturgeon's Law. While the exact percentage of crap varies considerably depending on your location (where I am, I'd say only 20% of the caches are crap, but a few years ago in this same place, it was probably closer to 60%), the general principle is still valid. If you just pick a random cache, chances are pretty good that one of the following will be true:
(a) You will find a crappy cache (e.g. a pill bottle stuck in a bush with a soggy log).
(b) You will fail to find it because it is crappy (e.g. the coordinates are off, it looks like garbage, etc.).
(c) You will fail to find it because it is not there. This may be due to laziness on the cache owner, who should disable the cache as soon as they know it's gone, but even when the owner does the right thing, there's always a period of time after the cache disappears but before the owner finds out.
(d) You will fail to find it because you've never cached before. There are a lot of little things to pick up on: just how much precision can you expect out of your own GPSr, how much accuracy can you expect in the posted coordinates, you'll never need to dig, what a "geopile" looks like (certain piles of rock just scream geocache), where certain kinds of caches tend to get hidden, what the size, terrain, and difficulty ratings mean about where the cache is likely to be hidden (and how they sometimes vary between different hiders), how long it typically takes you to find a cache of a particular difficulty (should you give up if you haven't found a 1.5-difficulty cache in 5 minutes? 10? 30?), when you should travel as the crow flies and when you should look for an easier, more circuitous route, what kinds of materials are ferromagnetic, etc.

The best way to minimize these problems is to go with an experienced cacher. Ask them to take you to a couple good caches that they've already found before heading off to find ones that are new to them. If you don't know any, find an event cache nearby and attend that. Almost every geocacher I've met that stuck around for more than a month was introduced to caching by someone else. I've seen lots of people get started on their own and just peter out after a few disappointing attempts. It almost happened to me; there's about a 6 month gap between my first cache and my second one, but I got lucky and found a string of awesome caches after that.
posted by ErWenn at 11:12 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recently got a GPS, mostly for trail nav and geotagging my pics. I'm afraid that included with foraging for wild foods/fungi, wildlife viewing and photography, if I start geocaching I will be caught in the dark miles from the trailhead yet again. and I doubt I'd go out to the woods just to GC. Maybe a few forays in the city though, who knows.
posted by a_green_man at 4:37 PM on February 18, 2011

I tried it a few years ago - someone put caches at each of the public art installations in my city. I was able to get to within 10 feet of the one cache at the park near my house, but couldn't actually find it. I sort of gave up. May try again with the android app.

Another similar activity is Orienteering. These are organized events using map/compass to locate points along a trail. Usually they have levels for beginner/intermediate/advanced all mapped out on the same day. If the weather is nice, it's a nice outing with a goal to accomplish. Hi Todd!
posted by CathyG at 9:42 PM on February 18, 2011

ErWenn: "If you try that for wilderness caches, you better be prepared with detailed maps, a compass, and some serious orienteering skills"

Indeed. There are some serious deep woods caches not far from me, and they are supposed to be done at night because fire tacks lead the way to the cache, but I don't intend to go after those for a very long time (maybe sooner if I find an experienced outdoorsman/woman to go along.) There's also some along the Indiana Dunes where there will at least be marked trails and park rangers.

I am not in this just for the geocaching, but also to spend more time outdoors (I'm usually an indoor person) and get more exercise. I'm hoping the geocaching will make that more fun.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:35 PM on February 18, 2011

By the way, when I say you need all that stuff and serious orienteering skills for wilderness caches, I meant that you would need them to find the cache if you didn't have a GPSr. Most such caches are actually quite close to a trail somewhere, and if you feel comfortable hiking in that area, geocaching in the area isn't going to be much more strenuous than that. Of course, you should always check the terrain ratings first. 1 star should mean wheelchair accessible. 3 stars might mean that the trail is rocky and/or steep or that you'll have to go off the trail for awhile. Any cache that requires special equipment (e.g. climbing gear, helmet, boat, submarine, space vehicle*, etc.) gets rated 5 stars for terrain.

Funnily enough, a night cache with a fire-tack trail might be one of the exceptions to what I was saying about wilderness caches being tough to do without a GPSr. If you can find the start of the trail, all you really need is a flashlight to find the rest. Of course, don't go out into the woods alone at night unless you know what you're doing (and you're well-prepared, and you tell people where you're going, and you bring a cell phone).

*I am not exaggerating here.
posted by ErWenn at 11:43 AM on February 19, 2011

I know, there's one on the ISS. I don't have hope to reach that one. ;)
posted by IndigoRain at 1:58 PM on February 19, 2011

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