Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best Selling...Puzzle Cache?

It's Christmas Eve.  Dinner's cooking, people are wrapping gifts.  It's SNOWING down here in Dallas.  I've been busy the last few weeks as first semester ended at work, but I haven't stopped looking for interesting cache ideas.  Tonight, I bring you another easy puzzle like last time.  What's different is that this is a hands-on, multi-stage, puzzle cache. 

Here's the supply list:
  • Two cache containers
  • Logsheet
  • Permanent Marker
  • Rubik's Cube
That's right.  I said Rubik's Cube.  Some of you might be able to see where this is going already.  When getting supplies, make sure one of the cache containers is large enough to fit the Rubik's Cube.  Also, when you get the Rubik's Cube, it has to be solved first (brand new ones usually come solved in the package).  Everything else can be done in the field.

The first thing you are going to need to do is figure out where you want the FINAL cache to be at.  Do this however you want and get the coordinates for the location.  Place the final and let's go find a spot for the first stage.

Once you find a spot to place the first stage, let's get out the coordinates for the final, the marker, and the solved Rubik's Cube.  Pick two sides of the cube, any two sides.  Break up the coordinates into the Latitude and Longitude (N/S & E/W).  Now write one digit from the Latitude into each square of one of the sides, going from left to right, top to bottom.  Imagine the 3x3 grid as Lines 1, 2, & 3.  Here's an example of how to write it:

Line 1: N 1 2
Line 2: 3 4 .
Line 3: 5 6 7

There are just enough spots for the full coordinates.  Put the Longitude on another side, and drop the W or E if your degrees are three digits.  Most people will realize that is longitude anyway.

Now scramble up the Rubik's Cube THOROUGHLY.  Take a few minutes to really get it random.  Then, drop it into the cache container.  You might want to add a small note explaining that the finder has to solve the cube to figure out the coordinates for the final (unless they are good at solving a Rubik's Cube, most people will solve the coordinates by solving it one side at a time).  Now hide the container.

Easy to set up, relatively easy to solve.  And it's a fun one for kids too, if you kids like these kinds of toys.

And everyone have Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Picture Perfect Puzzle

On today's edition of Creative Caches & Containers, we come back to the category of puzzle caches.  This time, we will look at a puzzle cache that not only can be made to fit ANY cache container you so desire, but can be solved by anyone. 

For this puzzle, you will need a few things:
  • A cache container
  • A logbook
  • A computer
  • A camera
Before we explain the details of this puzzle, let's look at how the puzzle works.  You go out and hide a cache.  Stand next to the cache location, facing away from the cache (preferably).  Using your camera, take some photos of the surrounding area, but no photos of the cache location itself.  Pick a nearby spot away from the cache to mark Bogus Coordinates.  Go home.  Then, at home, pick a few of the photos to post in the cache description.  Submit.

To solve the puzzle, geocachers have to use the photos to figure out where you were standing.  Then, upon determining where you were at when you took the photos, they commence the cache finding operation.  Voila, you have a puzzle cache.

Relatively simple in design, and simple in execution, there are a few things we want to look at.  First of all is location.  When finding a location for just this kind of cache, you need to make sure that there are visual landmarks nearby that can be matched up in photos.  Topography, artwork, buildings, signs, poles, and even landscaping (in doses) can make good visual landmarks.  On the other hand, placing this kind of cache out in the woods is torture.  It doesn't mean it can't be done.  You might be able to find some unique looking trees that really stand out from the surrounding trees, providing an easy landmark.  But in general, it isn't going to have geocachers walking away in a happy mood.

The next thing to consider is the photos.  You want the photos to be useful in identifying where you stood.  There are two ways to do the photos.  You can take a group of individual photos in different directions from where you stood.  A cacher would print off the photos and upon arriving on site, would use compare the relative positions of objects in the photos to triangulate the cache location.  But, you could also get more elaborate and produce a panoramic.  I know that not all of you are familiar with making a panoramic, so let's look at how that is done.  This is where the Creative Cache article turns into a Photography How-To article.

Panoramics are rather simple to make.  In the simplest sense, it only takes two overlapping photos to make a panoramic.  Ideally, you want to use a tripod to ensure horizontally level photos.  For the purposes of this puzzle cache, you can easily shoot it handheld.  You can shoot the photos two wide, three wide, or more.  You can shoot two tall, three tall, or more.  No matter how many photos make up your final image, there's just one thing you need to make sure you do.  The photos need to overlap each other by about 1/4th to 1/3rd of the photos.  I've provided an example of my own for you below.  In this example, you'll see two images side by side.  The section of the photo that is Black and White shows the section of the final image that overlaps.  These were taken handheld.

Notice the tall tree in the overlapping section. When taking photos for a panoramic, it's important that SOMETHING is visible in that section of the photo. This provides points for software to match up when combining the images.

Combining photos would seem like a hard task.  You have to individually go back and forth matching up specific points on both photos, then hoping the software can recognize those points and properly stitch together the images.  But wait, there's more.  After doing that, you will likely have to open the photo up in an image editor and fix any color differences to blend the images seamlessly.  Yeah, not exactly something to look forward to.  Thankfully, there is software out there that will drastically simplify the process.  It's called AUTOSTITCH.

Once the software is on your computer, open it up.  Before doing anything else, open the "Options" menu.  In the upper left corner is an option for image size that will have 10% as the default value.  Change that to 100%.  You can play with other options if you want, but the only other thing I usually mess with is something in the lower left that says "Sigma gain".  I usually push this to .3 instead of .1 before closing the options.  Then, just load the images and the program will do the work for you.  It isn't perfect, but most problems that I have ever run into are usually the result of a poor images and not the software.  Here is an example of the above two images after running them through Autostitch:

Once the program is done stitching the photos, just open the photo up in a basic image editing program and crop out the black borders if desired.  For posting on Groundspeak's site, you'll probably want to reduce the image size a bit.  Most image editors have an option for that.

There you go.  You have the images you need for producing this puzzle.  But, I have one more trick up my sleeve.  And for this one, I'm going to employ some help from Team Gamsci, a geocacher from De Sota, Iowa.  Team Gamsci likes to take videos, which you can view on their YouTube Channel, which displays some of their Geocaching videos.  In 2007, while thinking about videos, Team Gamsci came up with an idea very similar to the one I've described above, but with one difference.  Instead of using a picture, they made a video while standing next to the cache.  In fact, the tip about having identifiable landmarks came from Team Gamsci when I asked if he had any tips for someone interesting in using their idea.  The cache they did this with is called Frames Per Second, and it is located West of Des Moines, Iowa right off of Interstate 80.  I actually found this cache back in May of 2009 while on my way back to Kansas City from visiting the GPS Adventure Maze with WebScouter., one of my Geo-buddies.

This can be a fun puzzle for anyone of any age.  The use of pictures or videos makes this a very visual puzzle that anyone can solve too.  And everyone likes puzzles that anyone can solve.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ant Hill Cache

Here at Creative Caches & Containers, we are not impartial to creativeness from outside sources.  We encourage you to let us know about your ideas so that we may help spread that creative nature to interested geocachers.  It is in that nature that we present this next idea straight from HeadHardHat (HHH), host of the geocaching video series known as GeoSnippits and the author of the GeoCache: I'm NOT Obsessed...Right? blog.  With his permission, we provide you with this video on how to design an Ant Hill Cache:

Let's quickly look at what is needed for this design:
  • Bondo
  • Bondo Hardener
  • A small bucket or cup
  • Latex or vinyl disposable gloves
  • Something to stir with (and disposable)
  • Spray Paint (textured, and roughly the color of ant hill sand)
  • Plastic 35mm film canister
Bondo is, simply put, a putty. But it's not like the Silly Putty that most people play with as a kid.  Bondo is a two-part putty.  This is because Bondo alone is okay.  But once you add the hardener, it hardens FAST.  And the more hardener you apply, the faster it will harden.  This is why you want the gloves.  It will harden to anything and you don't want it under your fingertips when it does.  Bondo was originally designed for automotive use and is commonly used in automotive repair.  But there are many other uses. Just looking it up I came across pictures of people who have used it to design creative outsides for their Wii, making hand holds for rock climbing walls, making a ceiling fan look like helicopter blades (complete with helicopter hanging below), and even for making buttons on a Guitar Hero controller that light up when you push the buttons.  There are likely limitless ideas for its use, so it's no surprise that it can be useful for making geocaches.

The video pretty much sums up how to make it, so I'm not going to go over that.  When I first saw this, I commented to HHH that most ant hills I've seen don't look so vertically tall.  Guess the North Carolinian ants are bigger. :P  But all kidding aside, you don't want to create an ant hill that doesn't look like the ant hills commonly seen in the area you want to hide the cache.  I've seen ant hills that look like his but half the size.  I've seen ant hills that are small in height but are wide and circular.  What we are going to look at now is how to modify the design to blend this cache in with the ant hills in your area.

First, you'll want to go out and find some ant hills as examples to see how you want yours to look in the end.  Part of why his is taller is because of the position of the 35mm film canister.  That's going to be hard to position any different.  You could use something smaller, but I have another thought that will help in making a smaller ant hill while not necessarily reducing the size of the container.

If you want to make one of these that doesn't stand up as tall, then don't build it around the cache itself, but around a cache holder.  Let's first look at some additional supplies that are needed.  First, you need to know what size container you are going to use.  Avoid anything larger than a 35mm film canister.  Try to aim for something thinner. The goal is to lay the cache on it's side inside the fake ant hill to reduce the height, but still allow geocachers to open the container.  Bison tubes, Advantex film canisters (more oval shaped than the 35mm kind), nanos, and other small containers will work well for this.

Once you have the size picked out, make a thin plastic sleeve that fit snuggly around the container.  If using a nano, you can also just get a magnet the same width as a nano.  You want this sleeve to fit snuggly to help hold the container in place, but still be able to remove it from the sleeve as needed.  If need be, you can try to hunt down some moldable plastic.  It's been a while since I've seen it in stores, but there is a product out there that can be heated up in boiling water so that it is moldable.  Take it out of the water, and within a few minutes it will harden into whatever shape you position it in.  I'll try to look for in the future, but if you know what I'm talking about, send me the info.  Once you have this mold made, you then just snap the container into the sleeve and you have a cache holder. When you apply the Bondo, this will take the place of the 35mm in the video.

For added measure, we're going to design a cover to go over the cache to help ensure it doesn't fall out by accident.  To do this right, you'll need to design this part first, before you make the ant hill.  Figure out roughly what size you want the base of the ant hill to be (width wise) and about how tall you want it to be.  Get some hard plastic and cut it out to be about that width of the base.  Then get a screw that will be a bit smaller than the planned height of the ant hill.  Put the screw through one end of the plastic piece.  Have this with you when you apply the Bondo.

Before apply the Bondo, have newspaper down like in the video.  Take that plastic sleeve that you'll use to hold the cache and place it on top of the plastic piece with the screw.  Make sure it's not right up against the screw.  Then place a small piece of newspaper between both plastic pieces, covering up the bottom piece, but with the screw poking through the paper.  You are doing this because you want the Bondo applied to both the sleeve and the screw, but not the plastic piece that is attached to the screw.  Now apply the Bondo.

When finished applying the Bondo, and once it's hardened, remove the small piece of newspaper that you placed between the two plastic pieces.  If designed right, this will create a plastic cover that can be rotated open to expose the cache inside, and rotated closed to help protect the container from falling out.  This won't protect against the elements, so make sure that the inner container can be sealed.  If the shape isn't quite what you want, sand any undesirable parts away.

Now all that's left is to apply the spray paint.  As HHH mentions, use a textured spray paint.  Try to find one that closely matches the color of the ant hills in your area.  Paint it, let it dry, and there's a modified Ant Hill Cache.

Thanks to HeadHardHat for making this video.  It really shows how some creativity can produce interesting cache designs.  Keep up with his blog for some great general geocaching tips.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Attractive PVC Cache

Today, we are going to look at a cache that is similar to a design we've looked at before.  The difference is we've made it a bit larger.  You'll need some supplies for this one so let's look at the essentials.

  • A piece of PVC pipe, about four feet long
  • Post-hole Digger
  • Power drill and some drill bits (read below to figure out what sizes)
  • A bolt, two washers and two nuts (see below for details)
  • A tube shaped cache, small or micro sized
  • A magnet
  • Superglue (preferably a kind that's designed for outdoor use)
  • Logsheet
Before continuing, let's look at the post-hole digger requirement.  For this cache, it is imperative that you not only have permission for the location the cache will go in, but that whomever gives you permission understands that you will need to dig a small hole (no more than a foot deep).  DO NOT place this in a location where you don't have that permission.  Don't worry, you aren't burying the cache.  It will make sense in just a bit.

When you are ready to get supplies, the first thing to decide on is the cache container.  You will need a tubular shaped cache.  For our design, we'll use a waterproof matchstick container.  They are easy to find in any camping store or department.  The reason we need to figure out the cache container first is that the width of the container will help us pick the PVC pipe you'll need.

The cache will need to fit easily inside the PVC pipe, so after you figure out what container you are using, either measure it's width or take it to the hardware store with you.  You need a section of PVC pipe that is at least a half inch wider than the cache container.  Also, make sure it's about four feet in length.  You can bump that to five feet if you'd like.  

Next, we need a magnet.  Aim for a magnet that is between half as wide to the full width of the cache container.  Try not to get one that is wider than the magnet, or else you'll need to widen the PVC pipe to account for that.  Just make sure you have some superglue (or another adhesive) designed for outdoor use.  You may want a second one, and we'll come to why later.

Last of all, the bolt.  You need to get a bolt that is wider than the PVC pipe.  Aim for one that is about two - three inches wider.  Get washers and nuts to go with it, and make sure you have a drill bit wide enough to make a hole for the bolt.  There is one more thing.  If you can, get a bolt made from a non-magnetic metal.  There are some out there, you just have to look.  If you can't find one, then scrap the second magnet I mentioned in the above paragraph and talked about below as it will actually hinder the cache.

Now you should have all the supplies you need.  Let's start building by attaching the magnet to one end of the cache.  I would suggest attaching it to the end of the container opposite the lid.  You don't want someone to accidently remove the magnet.  Be thorough with gluing it on.

While that is drying, let's get the PVC pipe.  You'll need to place about a foot of this into the ground so measure a foot from one end of the pipe and mark that spot with a line around the pipe.  Next, measure about one inch further up the pipe and mark that spot with two dots on opposite sides from each other.  Measure another inch and repeat.  Do this two more times.  You will drill holes through each of these dots.  Two of the holes need to be drilled wide enough to fit that bolt we talked about.  The bolt should not be placed in the bottom set of holes.  Ideally, try to place it in the last set, farthest from the line.  The remaining holes are the drainage holes, hence why you want the bolt in the highest set of holes.  When you put this pipe into the ground, those holes will help make sure the pipe can drain any water that collects inside.  The bolt will help hold the cache up out of the water when the pipe fills.

By now, the glue is likely dry (unless you used Gorilla Glue).  Grab the newly drilled pipe, your post-hole diggers, the cache container, and a logsheet.  I'd recommend a small baggie for the logsheet (can be found in any crafts store or department near where they have bead supplies).  Time to go to the cache site.

At the selected cache site, you'll need to dig that hole. This is why you need permission.  Once you have the hole dug, pack some of the dirt into the end of the PVC pipe that you measured.  Try your best to keep this packed dirt under that line, as you want to keep those drainage holes clear of dirt.  If you can, use something to stick in the top of the pipe to help pack down the dirt at the bottom, be it a stick or a hiking pole.  Once this is ready, stick the pipe into the hole and fill the surrounding hole up with dirt.  If done right, the line you drew should be level with the ground.  Make sure you pack down the dirt to help secure the pipe.  If you are able to find a spot close to a fence or other structure, you can even help tie the pipe to that structure to help hold it up.

Now for the tricky part.  Make sure you place the geocache into the top of the pipe so that the magnet is facing up.  For security purposes, you can always attach a magnet at both ends of the container just in case a geocacher puts it in upside down.  But don't do this unless you can get a bolt that won't attract magnets.  If you do, and you place a container with magnets on both ends into the pipe, the bolt will grab hold of the magnet and nobody will be able to retrieve the cache.  If you are forced to use a bolt that will attract the magnet, make sure to include a line in the cache description about being careful replacing the cache (you don't have to say way, just that they need to be careful).

The cache works like my Magnetic Micro cache, but on a larger scale.  A geocacher will have to bring something that they can lower down into the pipe to "Attract" the magnet on the geocache, then pull it up to retrieve.  Now it should make sense why we placed drainage holes and why we put the bolt in there, alongside why I made a big deal about the magnetism of the bolt and using two magnets.

Oh, and you can easily modify this one a bit.  Here is a design that MrDSW took of just this kind of cache (used with permission):

Note that the pipe used is attached to a girder for stability.  Also, the unique idea of placing this lure makes it feel more like fishing, which is essentially what geocachers will be doing.  If you look carefully at the cache container, you can get an idea of how they built it using PVC parts, a hook to attach to the hole at the back of the lure, and the tongue of the lure to attach the magnets too.

There are some other variations of this design, which I'll introduce in the next post.

By the way, I mentioned designing log books in my last post.  Sorry I haven't posted since as I've been busy, but that is on my list.  I'll give you a quick preview here: LOGBOOK SNEAK PEAK


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Series - The event

Some people enjoy planning events.  For some, it's a chore.  Almost everyone loves attending them.  What you plan will make all the difference.

Okay, so a little bit of this post will be based on an event I held only two days ago, but with some encouragement from the kind words I've received about it, I felt that it wouldn't hurt to talk about creativity in event planning.  We could focus on events in general, and maybe in the future we will.  For now, lets look at some ideas for planning a Halloween event.

Hold your event at night.  This makes it a bit harder for the kids, but it makes the atmosphere ten times better for caching.  Speaking of caching...

Haunted caches.  If you can find a location with room to plant some caches, try to do haunted caches.  You can use the rat and skull caches from the previous two posts, or come up with something else.  Fake graves, ghosts in the trees, fake snakes and spider caches will provide those little EEKS escaping from geocacher's mouths.  If the area you are holding the event has some wooded trails, definitely plan on using them.  Put some Halloween related swag inside for good measure.

And speaking of wooded trails, if you're up for the task, try to build a night cache for the event.  Make it a haunted night cache to boot.  Night caches are fun in groups, even more fun in the atmosphere of Halloween.

It is Halloween so plan on people wanting to dress up.  Plan for this by holding a costume contest.  This will encourage some people to put more effort into their costumes and you'll see some interesting ones.  You may end up showing up at the event only to have a silent, heavy breathing, mad doctor staring you down as you try to guess whose inside.  And don't forget the kids.  Make it more fair and have a kids category and an adults category (don't forget prizes for both).

Mentioning kids reminded me something about caches.  If you are planning caches, it couldn't hurt to plan some kiddie caches.  Direct from the mind of redsoxfan65, who helped me with my event, plant some temporary caches for kids.  Fill them with Halloween swag that the kids can take so it feels like trick or treating.  Then, nearby, place a permanent "logger" cache.  When the kids find all of the temporary caches, the logger cache is the place where they can claim their find.

Try to plan for treat bags.  Everyone loves treats on Halloween, and the inner geocaching kid in all of your attendees will enjoy this extra step.  Plan on having more than what you expect to show up.  Chances are you will still run out.

Door prizes.  As with any event, try to have door prizes.  Especially if you hold a costume contest.  The chance to win prizes will get even more people dressed up.

If you can find something else to work into your plans, awesome.  For my event, we held the event at a park that had an observatory.  We worked with them to reserve it for the night and a member of their club came out and gave people views of Jupiter and the Moon through a HUGE telescope after the clouds rolled away.  It ended up being cool finish to the event.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, so ask for volunteers to help.  Put some effort into planning a fun haunted event and you'll have a lot of happy cachers in the end.

If you have other ideas to incorporate into a Halloween event, post some comments so others can plan for next year.

I have one last Halloween post planned and the plans can definitely be used outside of Halloween too - logbook design.  Bet you didn't think about that when planning your caches.  I sure didn't until recently.  All the artistic geocachers out there will love this one.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Series - The Skull

Yesterday, we looked at The Rat as a Halloween themed cache.  Today, we are going to look at how to build a Skull Cache.  And this one definitely has some variety to it depending on what you use for the skull.

Required supplies:
  • Logbook
  • Micro Cache Container
  • Fake Skull
Optional supplies:
  • Power drill
  • Screweye
  • Fishing line/rope
Let's start with the skull itself.  There are a variety of skull products out there.  Hard plastic, soft plastic, foam, hollow, solid, and everything in between.  This will probably be the most important decision you make with this design.  What skull you use will define how to build the cache and how to hide it.  If you use hollow, all you need to do is open it up to hide the cache.  If you use a solid skull, you will have to drill.  That's where the power drill will come in.  If you use foam, you better be prepared to buy a lot of spares as the weather will ruin it.  Better yet, just stay away from foam.

Let's look at the container.  Again, a matchstick container works best but a 35mm can be used as well, just like with the rat cache.

Now for the hide.  The skull can provide some interesting ways to get creative with the hide itself.  You can use some of the common "in the woods" methods such as covering it with brush or finding a hole in a tree.  A more creative way involves hanging from something like a tree. Attach a screweye (for those unfamiliar with that, it's the screw that has the round loop at the top) to the top of the skull and then tie a line to that.  Attach the other end of the line to whatever object you are hanging it from and you now have a hanging skull cache.

In the end, it's a rather basic setup.  The key thing to consider is what kind of skull you want to hide.  That will help define how to build the cache.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Series - The Rat

Wow, didn't realize it had been THAT long since my last article.  Well, I've been pretty busy between work and...well work.  But, I thought that as we approach Halloween in five days, I would do a series of quick articles on Halloween themed caches.  Most of these will be short articles and very similar to each other, but with slightly different props.  We'll start with a classic - THE RAT.

Building a rat cache is rather simple.  Here are the needed supplies:

  • Rubber rat
  • Micro Cache container
  • Logsheet
An optional supply would be some sort of adhesive.  That depends on the final design.  In the simplest sense, you will be attaching the container to the rat.  How you attach it will depend on the container used.  35mm film canisters work well, but waterproof matchstick container (easy to find among camping gear in stores) is better.  Mainly because the screw top and O-ring provide a more durable waterproof container (imagine that...a waterproof matchstick container being waterproof!) than a film canister, which can easily get smashed, broken, chewed on or have the lid pop off.

I've seen the attachment go several ways.  If you purchase a rat that is hollow, you can cut a hole on the belly and insert the container inside the rat.  If it isn't hollow, look to see if there is a space between the paws where you can slip the container (this might be where an adhesive would be valuable).  Unless it is a bigger rat, a micro is the best size for a container.

For hiding spots, try to find a good hole at the base of something, be it natural or manmade.  Up in a tree just seems less natural than on the ground.  Most of the time, the rats will be black or brown but I've seen white and gray ones before.  The darker ones will be easier to blend in, and if found in the dark, are more likely to startle someone.  The first time I saw a rat cache, it made me hesitate before reaching for because I was looking at night.

There you have it.  A simple halloween cache.  Next up...the skull cache.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's Locked! - Graphical TB Links

I promised to provide information on how to create Graphical Links for travel bugs as seen in my I Lost My Keys cache.  Unfortunately, this will require some knowledge of HTML programming (a common programming language for building basic websites).  However, my hope is that this article will help even the most HTML-illiterate geocacher.  We'll start by showing you one of the Graphical Links from my I Lost My Keys cache.

There are four parts to this process:
  1. Have a posted Travel Bug photo on the Travel Bug page
  2. Identify travel bug reference number & GUID
  3. Prepare the HTML code
  4. Insert into desired page (whether profile page, cache page, or elsewhere)
Before we begin, let's review a few basic HTML codes that will be used:

  • <a href="">  -  This is the opening code for making a clickable link
  • </a> - This is the ending code for making a clickable link
  • <img src=""> - This is the code for posting a picture

And some extra codes that you can use:
  • <p> - This is the opening code for a paragraph
  • </p> - This is the closing code for a paragraph (using these separates the link from the surrounding text by adding a blank line before and after the graphic)
  • <br> - This code is the HTML equivalent of hitting the ENTER key.
Okay, now let's go through each of the four parts.  We will start with the necessary photo.  For the graphical link to work, there needs to be a Travel Bug photo in place.  If there isn't, it will merely show a smiley face.  If you do not have a photo online yet, but you have a photo of the travel bug, go to the travel bug page.  On the right side of the screen, you'll see this:

Click on "Upload an Image" to bring up another screen.  From that screen, you can browse your computer to find a photo (I'll leave any editing to the photo up to you...just make sure the tracking number on the tag is not visible).  Before you click the upload button, make sure you checkmark the box above it that is labeled "Make this the default image for this Travel Bug".  This will insert the image into the travel bug page. 

If you do not have a photo, but somebody has taken a photo and posted in their log, you can also use that (make sure they are okay with you doing that first).  To do this, go to your travel bug page and on the same menu in the image above, click on "Edit this item".  On the screen that comes up, there will be a box for the "Bug Image".  Click on the arrow on the right side of this box and it will pull up a list of the images that have been posted that Travel Bug's logs.  Click one, then click on "Submit Changes".  Now you're travel bug has an image.

Step two...the reference number and GUID.  One of these is easy, the other might seem hard...but it's not.  Go to the travel bug page.  The reference number is right at the beginning, at the bottom of the basic Travel Bug information at the top of the screen.  It's even listed in bold.  Write down the "Reference Number" for later.

Now let's find that GUID.  The GUID is a 32 digit ID code.  Every cache, every travel bug, every geocoin has one.  It's really easy to find, but it seems like a lot of steps.  Follow these instructions and you'll have it in only a few minutes.  These steps should be very similar no matter what browser you are using.  The only variation will be where the option in Step 3 is located.  The instructions are for Firefox.

  1. Go to the desired Travel Bug page.
  2. Go to your browser menu and click on "View"
  3. Scroll down and click on "Page Source"  (this will open a new window with lots of programming language
  4. Hit F3 (this pulls up the search option)
  5. Type in "GUID", and hit enter or "Find" if needed.  (Firefox will go straight to it as you type)
  6. Next to the highlighted "GUID" is an equal sign.  Following that is a length of letters and numbers followed by a quotation mark. Highlight everything BETWEEN the equal sign and the quotation mark.  Don't highlight those two symbols.
  7. Hit CTRL-C when it is highlighted (or click "COPY" in your browser's "EDIT" menu).
  8. Open up Notepad, or Wordpad, or something else to paste the text too.
  9. Hit CTRL-V in whatever program you open (or click "PASTE" in your browser's "EDIT" menu).
It's rather simple, just a lot of steps.  After doing this a number of times, I can find and copy a GUID in a matter of about 30 seconds.

Now it's time to get the HTML code put together.  We'll start with what the overall code will look like to give you a reference for how to alter it.  The code will look something like this in the end, with a few differences to the parts in bold:
<a href="">
<img src=""
     alt="" /></a>

Now for the update to make this work for your item.  In the first line, delete the part that says TB2AF6Y and replace it with the "Reference Number" you wrote down.  If I wanted to switch it to my Chocolate Racer TB in the above image, I would replace it with TB2AF6T (notice how it's the bold number at the bottom of the image).

Now let's alter the second line.  As you might of guessed, this is where you will insert the GUID number you got earlier.  Just erase the part in bold above and paste in the GUID for your item.

Your code is now ready to go.  Remember the example of the final product I provided at the beginning of the is what it looks like after changing just those two things:
<a href="">
<img src="" alt="" /></a>
Which produces:

Time for the final step.  After switching out the numbers above, copy the entire section of code.  Now go to wherever page you want it displayed at.  If on the Geocaching website, you'll need to "EDIT" the item, whether it's your profile page or the cache page.  Just select on the part that says "Edit this ____".  Since we are talking about this with reference to a geocache, the instructions are tailored to that approach.

On the cache page, you have the list of options on the right side just like on the Travel Bug page.  Click on "Edit Listing" to pull up the page for altering your geocache.  Scroll down to the "Details" part, where there will be two dialog boxes.  One is labeled "Short description" and one is labeled "Long Description".  Most likely, you'll put this graphical link into the Long Description part.  Scroll through everything in this box until you find the spot in the text you want to display the graphic.  Click on that spot and paste the code you prepared in the previous step.  If you want a blank line before and after it, just add a <p> before <a href=  and a </p> after the </a>.  It should look like this:

<a href="">
<img src="" alt="" /></a></p>

One last thing.  Before you submit the update to the cache page, scroll up to the "Short Description" box.  Just above that is a checkmark box that says "The descriptions below are in HTML".  Make sure that you put a check in that box.

Now go hit submit.  Check your cache page and it should have the graphic on the page.  Congrats.  You've just included a cool link to a travel bug.  I like this for several reasons.  It's more splashy looking.  It displays the current location of the travel bug, and it displays the distance traveled.  For the Locked Ammo can design, this is a great way for people visiting the cache page to quickly get an idea of which keys are in travel bugs (the graphic displays a box), and which ones are in the hands of geocachers (displays a smiling face).



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's Locked!

Many geocachers love finding larger caches. There's room for trackables and swag. They are sometimes easier to find. You often find them near trails so it feels more wild. Oh, and it feels more like a treasure.

To go along with the idea of being more like a treasure...why not lock the ammo can?

That's right, I said lock.

I first thought of the design after a fellow geocacher mentioned the idea to me back in 2008. He worked out some details and placed a cache called Where's my Keys. Later on, I tried the idea myself by placing I Lost My Keys.  The design is rather simple, but requires some work to set up.

Required items:
  • Ammo can
  • Hasp
  • Padlock (must require a physical key)
  • Power drill
  • Drill bit for drilling metal
  • Extra keys for the lock
  • Photo keychains (preferably clear)
  • Superglue
  • Travel Bugs
These supplies are very specific so let's explain a bit.  This is especially true with the hasp/padlock part of it.  A hasp, for those who aren't hardware oriented, is a device used for fastening.  Usually consisting of two parts, they are commonly metal and hinged.  Part one contains the hinge with a hole at one end of the device. Part two is the fastener that fits in that hole.  Hasps can be found with a lock integrated into the device, or the fastener is merely a large staple through which you would insert a pin or attach a padlock.  It is possible to find hasps that are all one piece.  DO NOT USE ONE PIECE HASPS!

For our design, you can use either type of hasp.  I prefer the kind that has the lock integrated into the design.  This eliminates the need for a padlock.  If you do use the kind that would require a padlock, it is ESSENTIAL that you use a padlock that requires a seperate key and not a combination.  You'll see why later. Here is an example of both types, first with one that would require a padlock and second with one that integrates a lock:

You can find hasps at most hardware stores, and even in hardware departments of stores like Target and Wal-mart, though what they may carry will vary from store to store.  Once you've decided on what kind of hasp to use, you'll need to make sure you have a power drill and a drill bit that can drill through metal.  If you have a power drill but don't have the right drill bit, here's a suggestion for those who don't want to buy a whole set of metal drill bits.  Compare the drill bits for your drill with the size of the hole on the hasp to determine what size you need.  A single drill bit can be purchased for a few bucks or less.  Knowing the right size will save you time and money in the end.

For the photo keychains, I like a brand found at Wal-mart, but you can find these at various stores.  In the photo frame section of the store, look for photo keychains.  They carry two types.  One is black and one is clear.  Purchase the clear one.  The black ones are not clear on the back of the keychain, which will be a factor as you'll see later.  You'll need one keychain for each key you will make more sense later (I promise, I'll get to all these "you'll see later" parts).

Once you have all the parts, it's time to put everything together.  You'll need the drill, drill bit, hasp, ammo can, and preferably something to mark the ammo can with (like a sharpie).  Here's how you will attach the hasp.  The hinged part will be attached to the lid of the ammo can.  The fastener will be attached to the side of the ammo can.  Make sure you drill and attach the hinge first.  Let's repeat that:


Okay, don't say I didn't warn you when you attach the fastener, THEN drill and attach the hinge only to have alignment off and you can't properly connect the two. I learned the hard way. :)

Now for the delicate part about attaching the hinge. When you line up the portion of the hinge you will actually attach to the lid, you DO NOT want to drill the two holes closest to the edge of the lid.  If you do, they will drill through the rubber O-Ring on the inside of the lid.  Go ahead, open the lid.  See that rubber ring around the edge?  It helps to provide a watertight seal.  If you drill through that, not only do you risk a leak if you don't seal it up properly, you also will be unable to close the ammo can once the bolts are in place.  I know because I made that mistake too.  See all the learning you can gain from my mistakes.  There are also two ways to position the hinge.  Make sure the hinge is positioned outwards.  Heck, go head and line the hinge up.  are the two pieces flush against the sides of the lid?  If not, flip it it should be.

Drill the holes, line up the hinge, bolt it down.  Good.  Now for the fastener.  For this part, line up the fastener in the right spot and close the hasp.  Now, carefully open the hasp without moving the fastener.  Push the sharpie (or pencil/pen/whatever you are using) through the bolt holes to mark where to drill. Now remove the fastener and carefully, very carefully, drill the holes in the marked spots.

Once the holes are drilled, bolt the fastener down and test to make sure the hasp can be closed.  If you are using the kind with the integrated lock, make sure you can lock it shut.  If you've done everything right, it should lock into place without a problem.  With the hasp I used, the fastener has a part that twists to lock into place.  With this kind, you might have to gently push down on the hinge to twist the lock.  Here is what it should look like in the end:
There, you've now built a locked ammo can.  Now to take care of the keys.  The plans for this geocache are to release travel bugs with the keys that will unlock the ammo can.  To get the key, geocachers have to find one of the travel bugs.  Geocachers can find the ammo can all they want, but without the key, they won't be able to sign the logbook and claim a find.  For an added touch, you can list bogus coordinates on the cache page and hide the ammo can at a seperate location.  Then attach the true coordinates to the keychain.  Not only is the travel bug key needed to unlock the cache, but it's also needed to learn the final location of the hide.  Also remember that when you classify this cache, it's best to consider it under the "Mystery/Unknown" category.  This is due to the added step of having to find the travel bugs to both get the final coordinates and to open the cache.

Before you do this step, you need to know how many keys you want to release.  Considering I placed mine in Kansas City, and due to the size of Kansas City, I released five travel bugs.  I'd recommend a minimum of three, and not more than six unless you live in a large, high population area. You will also need to make sure you have a travel bug for each keychain.  This will require that you've planned ahead if you want to release this soon after placing it.  Last of all, if you going for that added touch I mentioned and hiding it in a location other than the listed coordinates, you will need to have done that and taken coordinates before building the keychain.

Here's where the part about getting the clear keychains comes into play.  You'll likely want to place a restriction on the area of movement for the travel bugs.  This is so somebody doesn't pick it up and take it halfway across the country.  You will also want to put some instructions explaining what the travel bug and key is for.  Then, if you do the "added touch", you'll need to list the true coordinates.  With all of this, having a clear keychain allows you to have text on both sides of the keychain as opposed to just the one side you'll have if you use the black keychains.

I typed up my information, but you can do whatever you would like.  Just make sure what you prepare will fit into the keychain.  Once you have the information ready, just pop out the little cover on the keychain and cut the information sheet to fit inside.  Here is the one thing I noticed.  Since it is rather easy to pop this piece out, it also means it isn't too hard for water to get in it.  If the travel bug is placed in a cache that isn't so dry, you have a problem.  To counteract this, use superglue to seal this piece in.  This does mean that if you have to get the travel bug and fix it that you will need to completely remake the keychain, but if done right you won't need to do that.  Once everything is ready, attach the travel bugs and keys.  You are now ready to go.  Here is what it will look like:

Let's look at the cache and TB page itself.  For the TB page, just repeat the instructions listed on the keychain, minus any "final coordinates" that might be listed.  I'd also provide a link to the cache page so people can check things out if they happen to go to the TB page first.  For the cache page, make sure you link to each travel bug so that anyone visiting the cache page can quickly check on where the travel bugs are at.  If you visit the version of this design I placed (GC1JZ18), you'll likely notice the graphical links to each travel bug page.  Those are a nice addition to the page because they will display the current location of the travel bug.  They aren't too complicated and only require a bit of coding to incorporate them into the page.  Even though it isn't a cache, I'll add that to the list of things to write an article about as it does help spice up a cache listing.

There, you're all done.  All you need to do is get the cache published and release the travel bugs.  When submitting the cache, make sure to add a note for the reviewer so they understand how this works.  Then, enjoy the logs.  So far, most everyone who has found mine has enjoyed the design.  It catches people's attention and forces them to pay attention to where the travel bugs are.  It's kind of fun watching for those logs that read something like "Finally was able to get this travel bug.  On to the cache."

There are different ways to design this that don't involve an ammo can.  If you have built something like this, or seen something like this, post a comment with the GC # for others to see.

Check back later this week and I'll post a short article on how to set up the graphical links.


Monday, September 28, 2009

A Magnetic Micro


They can be so much fun to play with on a rainy day. That is, until you hold one up to something that can be damaged by a good magnet.

They can also be very useful for geocaches. Today, we will be building a simple micro cache. The nice thing about this design is that it is reusable in a variety of ways, which we will look at in the future as well. Today, we will examine building the design.

Most of the supplies for this design are simple and could probably be easily found. One piece is not something you will find readily available at the nearest Wal-mart. Let's take a look:

* Superglue
* Magnets
* Logsheet
* Micro speciman container

It's the last one that is hardest to find. The ones I have actually came from a cache that was full of them for people to grab and place as a new cache. I believe it is a type of speciman container, used in science to collect and store samples. This is what it looks like:

If you look carefully at the log sheet, you can see that this container is quite small. Just barely big enough to roll up a single micro log sheet and slid it inside. Now, look at the front end of this. See the impression? Before you get a magnet, you need to make sure you know the width and depth of this impression. This way, when you acquire the magnet for this cache, you get the right size.

Getting the right magnets is important. I've mentioned it before, but we'll quickly refresh. Look for some kind of neo-dymium magnet. They are quite strong for their size and are inexpensive too. Hardware stores are your best bet, and even through them you are likely to have to order them. Grainger Industrial Supply is the store I went through, and I was able to buy 20 magnets for $10. The downside for many is that they will require you to have an account with them before selling these magnets as they are considered hazardous.

Once you have the magnets and the cache container, all you need is some superglue. Get the supplies together and let's begin.

First, decide which side you want the magnet on. The design of my container requires me to use the impression in the lid. The bottom of the container doesn't provide enough surface to attach the magnet.

Next, apply a small amount of superglue where you want to attach the magnet.

Last, attach the magnet and let it dry. It should look like this:

If you look carefully at this image, you'll notice that the magnet doesn't quite fill the width of the lid. There is a small gap. To help reinforce the magnet, I applied a tad bit more superglue into that gap. You have to be careful that you don't put too much glue. I was just barely squeezing the tube as I circled the magnet. This little bit extra glue helps secure the magnet just a bit more.

There, now you have a container that can be used in a variety of ways. Now we'll come back to this design in the future with some other ideas, but lets look at a simple way to hide that will confuse a lot of people when they first approach the cache site.

For this part of the design, you need to find a place where this is a thin, hollow tube. It is preferable if the tube is not too long. About the length of a pen is good. With regards to the thinness, it needs to be wide enough to fit the cache container, but not wide enough for someone to reach into it and grip the container. Ideally, it will be just wide enough to easily slide the container inside. This container is realitively waterproof, so if the tube is vertical, it should be okay. However, if vertical it allows water to fill up the tube and depending on how deep it is, it could float your container to the top so this should be taken into consideration. To avoid this, try to find a tube that is horizontal.

Now, here is the tricky part. You want to insert the cache container into the tube with the magnet facing out, not in. This is critical to the design. The idea is that once the geocacher figures out where the container is at, they now have to figure out how to get it out. The way to do this is to stick something metal into the tube to magnetically "grab" the cache container, and pull it back out. And not just any metal. Some metals are unresponsive to magnets. If the geocacher doesn't have the right metals with them, they won't be able to retrieve the cache.

By now, you're probably thinking "Now THAT's evil!" Yep...and a good example of how to be creative with the cache hide. I have seen this before and it had me stumped for a while. The hint helped, but until I began thinking outside the box, it had me going in a totally wrong direction. This hiding trick is something else that we might revisit in the future, but on a larger scale.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Log Caches

How about a design that works with ANY size and shape of cache container?  Well, almost any size.  It might not work so well with large ammo cans or larger.  It's a simple design, can go in a variety of places, and it will still make people think a bit at times.  Oh yeah, I should also point out that this design employs the latest in 3D technology to camo the container.  Intrigued?

The latest in 3D Technology?  What exactly do you need for THAT?

  • A cache
  • Logsheet
  • Swag (depending on size)
  • An actual wood log
  • Power saw (type will depend on style)
Optional items:

  • Something to use as a strap (hey...a strap might work :P )
  • Screws
  • Power drill
Before we look at the design process, let's look at an example of the final design.  This photo was taken by Gordon McKinlay (used with permission).

The basic design is to cut the log to fit the cache.  Hide the cache in the hole, place on the ground upside down, and you have a hidden cache.  Let's look a little more closely at the process.

First, you need to figure out what kind of cache you are going to use.  At a minimum, a micro can be used.  I'd recommend at least a pill bottle, though a 35mm film canister might work.  You can get up to ammo can size, though you will have to make sure the log you use is big enough.  A stump might work well for an ammo can.

Second, you need to figure out where to make the cut.  If it's a stump, the bottom is the obvious spot.  If you're using a log, depending on the size you might want to see how it will rest on the ground first.  You don't want to cut the hole, place the cache into the hole, then find out that it naturally rolls to the side and exposes the hidden cache.

Once you've figured out where to make the cut, you'll need to start the cutting process.  Now, if you're hiding a cache like a pill bottle, a power sander might be an option, albeit a slower one.  A jig saw might be a good all around saw to use whether the hole is round or rectangular.  Just make sure you are securing the log somehow before you do any cutting.  You don't want that thing to slip out from under the saw, and possibly risk the saw slipping and hitting you.  Remember, no cache is worth slicing off parts of your body. Also, consider how much room you want the cache to have while resting in the hole.  If you make the hole too large, the cache won't stay in place.  If it is too small, people will have a hard time getting it out and putting it back in, until it's been done enough to wear down the sides of the hole.  In the end, a measurement might be needed.  Using a sharpie, mark the outline of the cache on the log, and cut along the outside edge of that line.  That should be good.

Now that the hole is cut, put the cache together with logsheet and possible swag (if big enough) and place it in the hole.  Now, go find a spot to hide the cache and enjoy.

But what about those optional items?  Well, over time, the cache container might slowly wear down the hole, making it easier to fall out.  Or, you might have given it just a bit of extra room.  We can fix this too.  You will need something to use as a strap.  You can find straps in the Sporting Goods stores or departments with camping gear.  Rope may also work, but something flat like a strap is best.  If you can search a bit, find a strap that will be wide enough to lay across the hole with the plastic fastener in the center of the rig.

Now, fasten the two pieces of the strap together and lay the strap ACROSS the cache, with either end extending out onto the wood and the plastic fastener in the center.  On one side of the cache, about a half-inch to one inch from the cache, screw in a simple screw.  Don't use a short screw, as you don't want it working it's way out too quickly while people retrieve the cache.  Now do the same on the other side, screwing the strap securely into place.

In the end, the strap should lay out such that it holds the cache in place when latched shut.  Then, when unlatched, each side stays screwed securely into the log.  This whole extra step serves the extra purpose of holding the cache in place in case it loosens enough that it would fall out without the strap.  Plus, as opposed to a similar design where you lift the log and the cache stays on the ground, when you lift the log up, geocachers will first look at the ground and see no cache.  Unless they look at the log, they are likely to miss it, especially if the design is smaller.  Tricky huh.

Here's one more picture of a similar design but with a larger container that I took a picture of:

As mentioned, this design can work with a variety of sizes and shapes for the actual cache container.  The container in the above picture is a paintball container.  With the added "log" for hiding the cache, this also means you have a WIDE variety of locations you can hide this in the woods.  This really helps allow you to pick just the right spot for the log.  Then just work on how the surrounding brush can help blend the log in so that it doesn't stand out.

And that's how to build a "Log Cache".  Enjoy.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Placing a Night Cache

Okay, I'm going to be stealing a bit from an article I wrote on my personal blog at the beginning of 2009.  This is only because I've laid out how to build a night cache already.  However, I will add a few things here before I send you over to look at that article.

So why am I doing this?  This past weekend, while at the 6th Annual Kearney Picnic in Kearney, NE, a group of us went after a night cache.  Since it has been a week since my last post, I felt that this is a good time to update a bit of information about night caches.  Especially since I am working on building some night caches for one of my own upcoming events. Let's take a look at what supplies you need to build a night cache:

  • Cache container (try to use at least a small since you'll be in the woods)
  • Logbook
  • Flashlight
  • Reflective tacks
The most critical part of building a night cache are the reflective tacks, often called "Fire Tacks".  You can find basic sets of these at most outdoor stores, like Bass Pro or Cabela's.  I've started to see them in outdoor departments at more common stores like Target and Wal-mart.  Usually, you'll find them amongst the hunting equipment.  Why is this?  Well, this product is a common product for hunters to use to find their way to their favorite hunting spots at night.

You can also look online.  Wildtech Corporation deals in fire tacks of various designs.  It is one of there products that I finally got to see in action this last weekend.  They sell tacks in 3D (pyramid shaped), 4D (cube shaped), and they even sell "Fire tape".  Their products also come in different colors, including a Stealth color designed specifically for geocachers.  I've seen the stealth color before and boy does it blend in during the daytime.  This weekend, I saw the 4D design.  Wildtech's tacks are smaller than the round tacks you'll find in stores, but they are bright and quite visible even at a distance.

As I talked with some fellow cachers, I will update one thing about the post I'm going to send you to.  Placing the tacks at night is an effective way to verify that standing at each tack allows you to see the next one.  On the other hand, you can also effectively place the tacks during the day.  While it is harder to see the tacks at a distance, you can definitely see what you placed it on.  The only thing to remember is that if you do place the tacks during the day, MAKE SURE you go back out at night at least once before you submit the cache to so that you can make sure that others will be able to follow the path.

One last warning.  This article was written both to explain what a night cache is, but also how to both find one and build one.  The article is lengthier as a result of all of that information included.  With the number of times I've heard geocachers say they enjoy night caches, it's hopefully enough information for you to build your own.  I have three in the works myself.

Go to "What Are Night Caches?" to read the article.

Next, we'll talk about building Log Caches.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Building a 35mm Film Cache

I know what you're thinking.  "Why is he talking about building a 35mm Film Cache.  That's so simple and uncreative."  Well you are right...if you are thinking of a traditional film canister hide.  This one is a bit different, and it can be used in a VARIETY of ways and with traditionals, multi's, or puzzles. Uncreative...HA HA HA!

Let's look at the materials needed:

  • 35mm film canister
  • Micro log sheet
  • Tape
  • Scissors
Before we deal with how to build this, let's look at that first item.  A 35mm film canister.  Now you're probably thinking of the small plastic container that film comes in.  That's not what I'm talking about.  Instead, you need the metal container that the film is actually housed in.  The piece that would go into the camera itself.  For the young ones out there that don't remember film cameras, it looks like this:

Whether you regularly use film or not, chances are you aren't going to have these sitting around the house.   So how do you get your hands on some?  The best place is a film developing center, or a 1-Hour Photo Processing store.  While getting my hands on some, I went to CVS, Walgreens, and Wal-mart.  Many 1-Hour Photo stores will have some kind of system set up where they can get some money back if they send in boxes of used film canisters and those plastic film containers.  At least it used to be like that.  The CVS and Walgreens I went to seem to throw them away.  Good thing Wal-mart still recycles them.  Way to be green Wal-mart.  If you go to the photo lab and politely ask them for either item, usually they are willing to give you a handful.  If they look at you weird and ask why, you can always tell them what they are for or you can tell them something else.  As a science teacher, I can easily say that I'm using them for class and they don't have any more questions.  You can also tell them they are for an art project, or that you use the plastic containers to store things like tacks and paper clips.  A simple reason will usually suffice.  Just make sure the metal film canister (like the one pictured above) has that small piece of film still sticking out and it isn't damaged.  That's important.  From here on out, when I refer to film canister, I'm referring to the metal item in the pictures.

Now that you have the metal film canisters, let's make sure you have the other supplies.  For tape, any tape will do.  I used packaging tape only because all my scotch tape is back at work.  Lay out your supplies in front of you and grab the log sheet.  Depending on your log sheet, figure out which end is the top and which end is the bottom.  Grab the bottom end and line it up with the small tab of film sticking out of the film canister.  Now you need to tape the log sheet to the piece of film.  It can overlap a bit if you want, or you can do it end to end.  Use a small piece of tape and wrap it completely around to secure the paper to the film canister.  When you're done, it should look like this:

Once you have the log sheet securely fastened, carefully insert the film back into the canister.  You might have to work it just a bit if the tape/logsheet/film part is a bit thick, but you should be able to get it in without damaging the container.  If you look at the above picture, you might be able to see that I overlapped the paper and film, and it still went in.  Once you have the paper sticking in, find the round, notched gear on the side of the film canister (you can see it on the right in the above image).  If you are holding the film canister like you see in the above picture, rotate it counter-clockwise (backwards) until it begins to retract the log sheet.  Keep doing this until you get near the end of the sheet.  Like this:
You now have a 35mm film cache. Pull the tab out, sign the log, roll it back up.  You might want to put a small label on the film canister that points to the gear with instructions on how to roll it back up.  But what if a geocacher rolls it too far?  Well, there's a way to help protect against that too.  One thing is to put a label on the end of the log sheet that tells them when to stop rolling.  However, if the geocacher isn't paying attention, that won't help much.  So here's something else you can do. 

Get a small piece of paper, no wider than the logsheet.  You can always cut up a log sheet to about 1/3rd of it's original length. Then carefully fold up BOTH ends towards the middle, making a small thick tab.  Then, slide that over the end of the log sheet that sticks out and tape it down.  You've effectively made a brake for the log sheet.  As it is rolled up, when that hits the thin slit that the paper goes into, it will be too big to go any further, stopping a geocacher from rolling the log sheet up inside the container (which you will not easily get out unless you are familiar with working in a photo lab).  In this next picture, I've highlighted where I installed this "brake" in black:

So how would you use this idea?  Well, you can take any traditional 35mm film canister cache and put one of these inside to make it just a bit different. Those cachers expecting a baggie and a log sheet will be surprised at first.  But that's not all.  How about using it as part of a multi?  You can type up a message with the coordinates to the next stage and build one of these. Pull out the tab, get the coordinates, roll it back up and move on.  Maybe your stages involve answering questions.  This is an easy way to spice up the stages a bit.  One idea, that would seem strangely appropriate, is to use them in a multi with a "spy novel" element to them.  Sort of like finding a microfiche container that contains the secret clue to the mystery.  There are lots of ways you can incorporate this design into a variety of hides.


This container is NOT a good stand-alone cache.  The very slip in the container that allows the logsheet to come out will also let in moisture, especially with part of the paper sticking out.  That will absorb the moisture and provide it with an easy path to travel inside the container.  So any use of this design will require another container to put it into.  You can try using Rite-In-Rain paper, but moisture might still be a problem.  Now, I haven't tested this, so it's possible that it does better than I expect.  But then you also have the issue with potential rust.  Hmmm...maybe that's something I should test.  I have plenty of spares.

Any other ideas out there for how to incorporate this into a cache?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What is this?

Sometimes, having a creative geocache isn't about how well you can hide it or what the geocacher has to go through to find the geocache, but about the site itself.  You can hide an ammo can out in plain view and people will still talk about how cool it was.  It takes the right frame of mind when designing it. Slick 50 had that frame of mind when she placed her second geocache.  The geocache is called  Charlie Brown

Let's take a quick look at the supplies needed for Charlie Brown before we examine how it was built.

  • Ammo can
  • Swag
  • Logbook
  • Christmas Ornaments

That has to be wrong.

Christmas Ornaments?

Well, surprisingly enough, THAT is where the creative part came in.  But before we move on, let's hop into a Delorean and go back to 1965.

In 1965, a small Christmas special was aired and became a quick hit.  It was called "A Charlie Brown Christmas", and it quickly became a classic.  One of the main plot points of the film was a tiny, decrepit, baby tree that Charlie Brown picks to use as the tree for the school play.  The tree looks bad, and when decorated, it looks like a dinky little tree with those colorful ball ornaments.  I still remember watching this movie as a kid.  I'm sure many of you remember watching this when it aired each year.  Time to leave 1965.  Punching in time coordinates for late November, 2007.

Slick 50, a geocacher in the Dallas, TX area, was looking to place her second geocache.  With the desire to place a Christmas cache, and hearing about an idea from another Dallas geocacher by the name of Caveman2040, she began thinking of a name.  Charlie Brown.  Once the name came about, the rest of the design suddenly became clear.  She looked for the scraggiest tree she could find that was hidden from view of muggles, and went to work.  Placed in a park along Lewisville Lake in North Dallas, the cache is just a little ways off of the main trail.  When you get close, you have to bushwhack just a bit to get around some large trees, but once you do, you'll be greated by this:

Now, looking at the photo just doesn't really give the same impression.  This is partially a result of when the photo was taken.  This was taken in January, when many trees are missing their leaves.  As a result of this, much of the background blends in and makes it hard to see the tree in question.  Let's just say that as soon as I came around the nearby trees and saw this one, I just about died in laughter.  It was a great display and totally fits with the above film.  This is a perfect example of how the name of a geocache can be just as valuable as the cache itself.  I'm not sure it would have had the same impression if it had been named anything other than Charlie Brown.

Decorating this tree was nothing more than putting up the ornaments.  But Slick 50 went the extra step and attached some fake holly to the top of the ammo can, which is in plain site at the base of this tiny, three foot tall tree.  Punching in time coordinates for present day 2009.

I'm not really sure anything else needs to be said about how this was set up.  It's a pretty simple hide.  But above many of the geocaches I've found, this definitely demonstrates how the site itself can make a geocache not only creative, but memorable.  Since I found this, I've frequently referenced it when talking about memorable geocaches.  The only downside of this cache is that it doesn't get visited enough.  I'm amazed that in the almost two years since it was placed (November 2007), it has only been found 19 times.  That number should be higher.

By the way, Slick 50 has a few other holiday themed caches in the North Dallas area: Halloween, Easter, and Valentine's Day.  I guess I have a few others to go after next time I'm in Dallas.

Here's one more view of the cache:


PS: A thanks to Slick 50 for letting me write about her geocache Charlie Brown.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Puzzle Cache for Kids

Creative Caches & Containers isn't just about the containers.  It's about how the caches are done too.  This next design is more about how the cache is done instead of how the container is built.  And the best's a great design for kids.

Puzzle caches can often be the bane of many geocachers.  Some are easy, many are hard.  The difficulty is usually dependant on the geocacher.  If you like puzzles and do them regularly enough, you'll learn some tricks and can often see things others may not.  Despite how puzzle caches are defined in one category, there are different types of puzzle caches of varying degrees.  The automatic lumping of all puzzle caches into an ignore list often results in overlooking puzzles that can be both easy and fun to do.  If you really want to hear my thoughts on this one, check out my post about puzzle caches called Ahhh...the Dreaded Mystery Cache, where you can find my own list of the different types of puzzles out there.  Today's idea is a great example of what can be overlooked by ignoring puzzles.

Before explaining the idea, let's look at the materials list:
  • 1- small or regular sized cache container
  • 1- cache container of any desired size (since this is a kid friendly cache, aim for this one to hold some swag)
  • 1- ziploc baggie, or a small tupperware container (must fit into the first cache container listed above)
  • 1- 50 piece puzzle, small (preferably one small enough that the finished puzzle is smaller than the side of an ammo can).
  • 1- log sheet or log book
  • Random swag (if desired)
  • 1 sharpie
Now, it's important to point out what I wrote in parenthesis and why.  Today's design is meant to involve two stages.  Because of this, it's important that the first container in the list is at least a small container.  It's actually better if you can use an ammo can, and you'll see why soon.  The second container is whatever you want.  But if you want to aim for this to be a kid friendly cache (read on), don't use micro's or nano's.  The ziploc baggie or small tupperware mentioned is for holding the pieces of the puzzle.  For the puzzle, go to a toy story or a toy department and look for small puzzles.  For the one I have, the box is about the size of a thick deck of cards and when put together, can easily fit on the large side of an ammo can.

Now for the design.  Before you can truly make this puzzle, you need to have found where you want to place the final cache and have collected the coordinates for that location.  If designing with kids in mind, try to pick a place that parents will feel comfortable taking kids.  The side of a cliff overhanging a creek or stream is probably not a good spot.

Once you have the coordinates, now you can begin making the cache.  First, open up and put the puzzle together.  If using an ammo can for the first stage, put it together on the side of the ammo can.  This will help you visualize how geocachers will do the cache out in the field.  Once you have it put together, carefully pick it up and flip it over.  I used a small cutting board to slide it off the surface I was working on and flip it over all in one piece.  Here is an example of where you should be at this point:

Now for the part where you turn this into a puzzle.  In large letters, use the sharpie to write a message on the back of the puzzle.  You can include what the geocacher is looking for, but make sure to include the final coordinates.  Make sure to spread out your writing.  You want as many pieces as possible to including writing.  You can do this by using a single letter for each puzzle piece, or by writing across multiple pieces so that the letters are only visible when they are joined together.  The more pieces with some form of writing on them the better.  I've prepared a picture of what this might look like (disclaimer: the coordinates listed are false coordinates and do not belong to an actual geocache):
Once the writing dries (which shouldn't be more than a minute or two if using a sharpie), then go ahead and take apart the puzzle.  Now, using a ziploc baggie or a small tupperware container (if your first stage is an ammo can), package up the collection of puzzle pieces.  At this point, I would recommend typing up a small sheet to put into the container with the puzzle, containing instructions for the cache.  For example:
Puzzle Instructions:
 Welcome to _________ cache.  To solve this puzzle, you will need to put together the following puzzle.  The puzzle is small enough that you can use the ammo can as your surface.  On the back of the puzzle are the coordinates to the final cache.  Please make sure to be careful with the pieces and that all pieces get back into the puzzle so that the next geocacher can have the same experience.  There are fifty pieces.  If any pieces are missing, please notify the cache owner.  Enjoy.
As you can see, this not only helps let the cacher know how to get the final coordinates, but it is also a reminder to carefully put all puzzle pieces back.  I'd recommend putting this in an easily visible spot, such as with the puzzle pieces.
At this point, your puzzle is ready to go.  Just put the puzzle pieces' container inside whatever you are using for stage one.  Get your final stage ready to go with the log book and whatever swag you want to use.  Go out and place your final and find a nice spot somewhere else in the area for stage two.  If designed for kids, try to not make cachers walk large distances, a half mile round trip is probably the maximum you want to make this...a quarter mile round trip is great for kids.  Try to avoid making the kids go through heavy bushwhacking.  If there's a trail nearby, even better.  This might not work great for an urban environment, but parks, especially if it's a larger park that has trails and a playground is great for parents taking their kids geocaching.  Get the coordinates for stage one and you are ready to go home and submit your cache.
Whether you want to explain how the cache works on the cache page or not is your own choice.  You might want to try and at least mention that this is a kid friendly cache.  If you want to put a reminder about being careful that all elements of stage one get back into the container, go ahead.  Don't forget, this is a puzzle cache.  Make sure you submit an additional waypoint for the final location for the reviewer, just make sure you select the option to keep it hidden from the public.  Many puzzle caches will often state that the starting coordinates are bogus.  You don't have to, but putting a note at the beginning of the description that informs cachers that the starting coordinates are NOT bogus might help those cachers who are a little bit more hesitant to go after puzzle caches.  You can even add that it is an on site, kid friendly puzzle cache.  Even experienced puzzle cache ignorers are likely to say "Hmmm...let's check this out".
There you go.  You've just made a puzzle cache for kids.  While many caches can be found by kids, going that extra step to make a cache specifically designed for kids will earn you a notch among those cachers that take their kids out with them. I should also point out that this design could also fit into the category of a multi-cache.  I'd probably consider it a puzzle because you have to put together a puzzle to get the coordinates, instead of just having a piece of paper inside the first stage with the coordintes written on it.
I am currently working on using this design myself, but if any of you decide to put one of these out, let me know how it goes.  Do you have another idea for a kid friendly cache?  Scroll down to the bottom of this blog to see how you can send me your idea.