Geocaching Container Types
By Austin Explorer
When you head out on your caching adventures it pays to know what you might be looking for. Cache descriptions often contain the type of container hidden and knowing the general shape and size of that can be an aid in logging a find. Here is a list of common cache containers divided into categories based on size.
The original cache container type. These containers have enough room for a log book, pens and several items that a finder can exchange for something new. They have evolved over the years and have become more durable just about the time that small and micro caches overtook them in numbers.
Ammo Can with cache contents
The military surplus ammo can has become the container of choice for regular-sized geocaches, and for good reason. They are water-tight, tough and durable. They are usually green in color, making them immediately camouflaged. They also come in .30 and .50 caliber sizes which provide both a medium and large container that can hold a good amount of swag for exchanging.
Buying individual cans can be somewhat expensive, but you'll never have to replace the cache container due to the elements. Over the years geocachers have developed a good set of sources for the containers. Some Central Texas geocachers have even purchased entire pallets of ammo cans from military surplus auctions and broken up the quarry into individual purchases for area cachers. Many cachers also have a hoard of ammo cans for future projects and might be willing to part with one or more for a good cause.
Before Ammo Cans became more popular, early geocache containers were largely of the plastic Tupperware variety. They were readily available at grocery stores and cheap, but they had downsides. Unlike ammo cans, Tupperware tends to be in colors more easily spotted by experienced cachers unless well covered. Over time they are prone to cracking or other damage and we've encountered many a plastic cache container with soaking wet contents. You are less likely to see these types of cache containers today that you would have back from 2000-2005.
Note Plastic Jug on the right
Like Tupperware, these plastic containers make decent, if not ideal geocaching containers. One has to make sure that the lid is tightly sealed to ensure that the cache contents remain dry. Cachers will often apply camouflage tape to plastic jugs to better hide them.
Like Tupperware, these plastic containers are not as rugged as ammo cans, but if you have some jugs laying around waiting to thrown away or recycled, why not use them for some caching beforehand?
These small, but not quite micro, containers get their name from the fact that the military uses these to store decontamination kits. They are typically much more sturdy than Tupperware containers and so make for a good choice when looking to hide something larger than a micro, but not too large.
Micro caches are the most common form of cache these days for a couple of reasons. They are easy to place in many spots where a regular cache is impractical and they require less time and effort to prepare than a cache that will contain items to exchange.
35mm Film Canisters
35mm Film Canister
If you've found or placed caches using this type of container then you're showing your age! When micro caches first came into being, the most common form was the ubiquitous 35mm film canister. With film rapidly disappearing in the face of the digital camera onslaught, you are less likely to find these in the wild as you would have years ago.
There is enough space to roll up a few sheets of a log book and sometimes a stubby pencil. They're waterproof - or at least water resistant - and could easily be hidden in a variety of places, such as the forks of tree branches. The container is almost always black with a gray or black lid.
Open Altoids tin with contents.
Altoids tins are not waterproof and they aren't very well camouflaged. So why were these once a very popular micro cache container? It was probably their ubiquity. One could find a bunch of these piled up and better to be put to use geocaching instead of tossed in the trash. Log pages had to be in a Ziploc bag or something else to provide waterproofing. They have become much less common over time as the Altoids craze subsided somewhat and other container options sprouted up.
On a related note, do you recall the days when AOL filled your mailbox with CD-ROM's of the AOL client in an attempt to get you to sign up? Later during that historic barrage of junk mail they sent CD-ROM's in metal tins, wider but more shallow than the Altoids tins they were probably trying to mimic. I've actually used those to serve as multi-cache re-directors where the coordinates to the next spot were taped to the inside of the container.
These waterproof match containers are meant for campers, but they serve quite nicely as cache containers too! The photo here shows a bright orange container that may take some additional work to hide well, but many containers are green and are easier to hide. Like plastic jugs, cachers have been known to use camouflage tape here to add to the cache's difficulty rating.
Sort of like a matchbox on steroids. Bison Tubes are typically made of cast aluminum and come in a variety of sizes, so these can be found both in micro and nano cache categories.
Many of the tubes come with a key chain attachment that make them ideal for hanging from a small stub in a tree. This increases the potential hiding places for bison tubes over other micro containers.
As cachers have gotten more advanced they have pushed the limits in terms of what can be hidden and found. A recent development is the nano-container. Nano containers are so small they make micros look like boulders. I recommend refraining from finding most nano containers until you've gotten pretty good at finding micros.
Originally made from blinking LED jewelry that was taken apart (hence the name), Blinkers have a width smaller than a dime. They are often made with a magnetic backing so that they can be attached to the bottom of some metallic object, such as a mailbox or utility cabinet.
Blinkers are so small that they cannot even handle small log sheets. Instead, a long narrow strip of paper is typically rolled up and placed inside. Cachers who find the blinker write only their screen name and date in the log to preserve space while making their find official.
As stated earlier, Bison Tubes are made small enough to fall into the nano category. They maintain the same general oblong, cylindrical shape, but on a smaller scale. They're a bit larger than blinkers and so are easier to find, but can be a challenge nevertheless.
These containers defy easy classification. Though they could easily fit within a category above based on the volume of what they can hold, they represent a very different kind of beast that calls for a different mindset and search mentality. Some would just calls hides that use containers such as these evil!
Shiny Bolt - That protruding bolt near the cache location might not be for holding that metal plate in place. You might want to wiggle it slightly to see if it's really embedded or just attached with a magnet!
Utility Plate - I spent a large amount of time looking for a cache hidden with this type of container. My wife found the cache on a previous visit and found endless join as I looked around and around the electrical junction box - the only realistic target in the area.
Sprinkler Head - I've yet to find a cache using this type of container specifically, I have encountered a similar design concept in which the cache container resembled a PVC pipe access plug. You have to be careful about caches such as these because the last thing you want to do is destroy someone's real sprinkler head when you're looking for a cache. Be gentle with any object that you think is a disguised cache, because you don't always guess right the first time.
Fake rock - You won't find too many of these, at least not in this area of the country. Take a look at the photo and you'll see why. The rock doesn't really look like the more common rocks in this area. So in the end you'll have to cover it up anyway. Now, if someone comes out with a limestone version...