What To Take Geocaching

By Austin Explorer

A well prepared geocacher should have an answer for any eventuality that he or she might encounter on the trail. A simple park and grab cache might require nothing more than a GPS receiver, but a more involved trek into the brush might call for more supplies. If you're planning an extensive outing what's the ideal set of tools to take along? I've compiled a list here broken into three separate categories - those that are essential, those that are recommended and those that are nice to have. If you want to be ready for anything then consider packing all of them into a backpack, ready for your next outing at a moment's notice.

Absolutely Essential

Mi Primer GPS / My First GPS Receiverphoto © 2007 Miguel A. Vera León | more info (via: Wylio) GPS Receiver - Well duh! Actually we have encountered a few folks who found a cache or two based merely on the cache description and a close examination of the cache location on Google Maps. Obviously this technique is less effective in less developed areas with fewer clear cut landmarks to use. GPS devices intended for use in a car may or may not be suitable for off trail excursions. If you're purchasing a new receiver I recommended a hand held unit. The outdoor targeted hand units are typically rugged and water resistant. Alternatively, you might find that your modern smart phone will do quite nicely as your GPS receiver.

Most phones these days already have GPS built in. The question is whether or not you'll be able to access the GPS receiver for caching purposes. If you have an iPhone or an Android phone then all you should have to do is download an app that will allow you to enter the cache coordinates and your phone will point the way to cache site.

Swag - You weren't going to take an item from a cache and not leave anything, were you? Of course not! Be sure to have a bag with a few choice items that you plan on leaving in the cache when you take an item. Try and match the "quality" of the taken and placed items so that the quality of items in a cache does not degrade over time. The Dollar aisle at Target has been a good source of swag items for us in the past.

Bottled Water Macros December 02, 20105photo © 2010 Steven Depolo | more info (via: Wylio) Water - Particularly when the summer heat picks up, don't take a chance with dehydration. Take along a water bottle or two to keep yourself going. If you tackle one cache per excursion from the car you might be able to just leave the water in the car. Or you might consider a CamelBak hydration pack.

A pen - Although larger caches and some micros will have a pen or pencil, many will not. Pens or pencils get taken from caches over time. Pens dry out in the elements. Many micro and all nano caches don't have room for pens or pencils, even of the stub variety. So you really should always bring your own, just to be on the safe side. The last thing you want to do is get to a cache location and not be able to log it because there's nothing with which to write. Take your own and be sure. Later in this article, you'll see why you might want to take more than just one.


Backpack - There's no better way to haul whatever you need to take along to the cache. And the more of this list that you include, the more you'll need something handy like this in which to store it all.

Cache description - Printed up from the geocaching.com website. Alternately these days you can also download the cache details into a PDA or cellphone. GeoBeagle is a popular app for Android cell phones. We've often referred to the printed up cache description and even the latest log entries when we've run into a dead end when searching for a cache. We also use the printed pages to write the date on which we found the cache and what we exchanged for recording later when we log our finds.

leatherman_wavephoto © 2005 Jonathan Aquino | more info (via: Wylio) Leatherman - A multi-purpose tool that comes in handy when you need to pry open a container or extract a curled up log page from a micro. Some cache descriptions we've come across have explicitly stated that a Leatherman was required.

A few pens - Pens disappear from caches for some reason and if you can leave one behind in a cache that has none you'll be helping out other cachers, particularly newbies, who forget to bring their own.

Trash bags - Plastic grocery bags will do. Make a habit of picking up a bit of trash every time you leave a caching area and head back to the car. You know, the cache in trash out philosophy. With one grocery bag of trash per cache you and all cachers can make a huge difference in maintaining the beauty of our natural areas. Be sure to indicate that you picked up trash in your log pages to encourage others to do the same.

Sunscreen - An extended geocaching outing can involve prolonged exposure to the Sun. Don't wait until your skin starts to darken or sting before applying. Ideally you should apply this even before your outing begins.

Nice To Have

Geocaching @ Ibirapueraphoto © 2008 Érre | more info (via: Wylio) Gloves - Sometimes you might find yourself looking for the cache in a spot that's well hidden and potentially a great spot for hiding spiders, bugs and who knows what else. If you feel a bit squeamish about that then a pair of gloves could give you peace of mind. Either that or take along a caching partner with no hangups!

Cell Phone - I recommend turning it off. You're supposed to be getting away from it all. But keep it handy, just in case. We've actually made use of MoosieGirl's geocaching hot line to help find a cache at one time or another! If you're using the cell phone's PDA capabilities you can always disable incoming calls while keeping everything else powered up.

Gunn's Campphoto © 2010 Kat Clay | more info (via: Wylio) Hiking boots - Sneakers will do for most caches, but the rougher the terrain, the more the call is for hiking boots. They provide superior sole and ankle support and have saved me from sprains more than a few times in the past.

Technu - Poison Ivy is a potential problem when venturing off trail in Central Texas and Technu can help cut down on the itching and pain from an encounter. If you are especially sensitive to poison ivy then this might move up to be an essential item.

1 fresh notebook - We've come across more than one cache in the past with a full or wet log book. Posting a note on the cache page later in the day won't help your fellow cacher who might just be a hour or two behind you. Do the community a favor, leave the fresh notebook behind and let the cache owner know that you left it.

1 Ziploc sandwich bag - The notebook and pens mentioned above should go in here if you're placing them in the cache.

1 Introductory letter - This page of information can be found on the geocaching.com website and provides a brief overview of the hobby. Leave this in any cache that doesn't have one so that any non-cachers that come across the container will have a better idea about what they found.

towel day 2007photo © 2007 Dennis J. | more info (via: Wylio) 1 Gallon Ziploc bag - If you find a cache that's gotten a bit waterlogged then dry off some of the cache items and place them in this new Ziploc bag for protection. What to use for drying off the cache items? Well, that would be a...

Towel - The most massively useful thing you can have if you need to dry off some cache contents before placing them back in the container. With Central Texas heat, you might also need it to dry yourself off as well!

What else do you consider part of an essential geocaching kit?

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