As far as adventures go, geocaching undoubtedly is rated at the top. Apart from the sense of hunting which is engrained in our DNA, you also get to share and acquire some cool stuff way beyond the usual digital data and files. We’re talking anything from fresh batteries to cheap jewelry and keychains.
But the question is, can you take the stuff you find in the geocache? The answer is yes. However, there are certain rules and etiquettes to follow when you take something out of a geocache. You need to put something in place of whatever you take of equal or greater value. If you find a trackable, make sure to complete that mission or the goal the item has.
Apart from the geocaching etiquette, you also need to know the difference between swag and trackables. While it’s easy to take swag and replace it, a trackable is an epic journey that will send you to places you never thought existed. Today, however, we’ll focus on swag and the rules of the game every geocacher should keep in mind.
Equal or Greater Value
The first rule of engagement in the game of geocaching is not to be greedy. You can take something you fancy from the box, but you have to replace it with something just as valuable or even of greater value. You like this keychain? Sure, go ahead and take it. But you need to have something in your pocket that isn’t a piece to junk to replace it with.
Of course, there’s nobody watching you. So you only have your moral compass to guide you when it comes to going through the swag in the geocache you just found. But what defines junk? Anything that is of no value to you would most certainly have no place in someone else’s life. Dead batteries belong in the trash bin not in a geocache.
To help you grasp the core concept of swag in geocaching, you can think of it as a swap. It’s not a gift, rather you’re swapping stuff. Something in return for another. The fun part is, you don’t know what you may find in a geocache. Still, you should always be prepared and never go geocaching with your hands empty. It’s all fair and share in the world of geocaching. This is the law.
What Should I Put in a Geocache?
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. If you have no use for something, that doesn’t make it automatically a good candidate for a geocache swag. It should be the other way around. Only when it has value for you and for others does it merit its place in the box. Does that mean you should leave money? Not really. Because geocaching is a game not charity.
Besides, whoever takes the money will have to put the same amount or more back in the geocache box. So what are good candidates that deserve to be placed in the geocache box? Here are some:
- Rain ponchos.
- Fish lures.
- Fresh batteries.
- Colored chalk.
- Small tools.
- Insect repellents.
- Repair kits.
- Small flags, decals, buttons.
If you notice, the common thread that most of these items have is their practical value. Apart from the decals and buttons, the rest of the swag is useful for just about anybody. Just keep in mind that you’re not dumping junk you don’t need. You’re taking something you like and putting in its place something that someone else would have use for. If it’s useless to you, then chances are, others would find it useless as well.
What Should You not Put in a Geocache?
We already touched on that in the previous sections, but it’s worth elaborating on this point. Now for some reason, some people might think that just because something is valuable for them, it should have the same value for others. But as with all generalizations, that’s mostly not true.
Here are a few examples of things you should never place in a geocache container:
- Multi-tools that include knives.
- Bubbles and crayons when it’s hot.
- Any illicit material that’s banned by the laws of that jurisdiction.
There’s a pattern here. The things that don’t belong in a geocache container are those that pose a risk to others. If you’re into guns, that doesn’t mean you should leave one in a geocache box. In addition, other items such as soap are just a bad idea. For one thing, they are scented which attracts animals who come and dig up the container.
Anything that might leak has no place in a geocache container. While crayons are good, they are only adequate if the weather is cool enough. You need to consider that the box of crayons you leave there might remain for months without being picked up. If the summer sun bears down on the box, the crayons would ruin everything there.
Placing the Cache Back and Make Sure It Lasts for Really Long Time
If you’ve at some point engaged in the exciting hobby of pickling veggies or watched someone preserve food, you’ll notice the meticulous process and the lengthy steps they go through to make sure the pickled cucumber or radish stays for long months if not years. You need to treat your geocache container with the same care.
This is why you’re always encouraged to go out and look for a dozen or more geocaches before you try to hide one. This gives you a good idea of how to arrange stuff in the container and how to make sure that the geocache doesn’t spoil, rot, or pose danger to anybody who either stumbles into it or finds it deliberately.
Always remember that geocaching is all about the experience. You’d want to create a pleasant experience for the geocacher. This means no unpleasant surprises, no offensive material, and certainly, nothing that could get them uncomfortable, triggered, or shocked.
You should also know that when you submit a geocache page to the community, it gets reviewed by a reviewer. However, the sole responsibility of your geocache and its placement lies squarely on your shoulders. Avoid placing any of the items we listed above in your geocache and always put the welfare of others front and center.
Don’t Be That Geocacher – Swag, Don’t Put Your Trash in There
There’s a lot to be said about a person who treats a geocache container as trash bin. It’s unfortunate that we have to talk about it. After all, geocaching is a beautiful recreational activity that relies on the goodwill of its participants to ensure it stays clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.
So a broken toy has no place in your geocache container. Whether you’re replacing some swag you took or building a geocache from scratch, you always need to add value to someone’s life. And piling the container with junk that belongs in the trash can is nobody’s idea of putting a smile on a geocacher’s face after all they went through to find the cache.
It also pays to think out of the box. Just because you’re into a niche hobby, doesn’t mean that everyone else is into purple unicorns dressed as ninja turtles. As you organize your geocache container, remember to try to appeal to as many people as possible. The more practical the item the more likely it will be picked up quickly. The more experience you have with geocaching the better you’ll be able to tell the difference between what’s good and what’s trash.
Don’t Be That Geocacher – Logs, Try to Minimize the Amount of Real Estate on the Papers
Logs are an integral part of the geocaching system. They are a way for you to prove that you found the cache. When you open the geocache, the first thing to do is look for the log and sign it with your code name and write the date. This information is for people who come after you.
Notice that we said you just sign with your code name and date. That’s all you need to do. You don’t have to write anything else there. Nothing about the trials and tribulations you went through to find the cache or how it rained on the way and you didn’t have your poncho and was hoping to find one in the cache and how disappointed you were not to find one waiting for you.
Such trivial details just take up space on the log page and keep others from signing their code names when it’s their turn to find the geocache later. It pays to be courteous and just as you’d like to find some blank space on the sheet to leave your mark and make a claim on the cache, others too would like to have that privilege. So keep it short and don’t hog the log.
Don’t Be That Geocacher -if You Don’t Find it, Don’t Replace It
So you went through the usual hardships trying to find that tricky geocache. It took time and effort and you’ve finally found it. You opened the cache, signed the log, and now it’s time to go through the swag and see if you can find something to your liking.
Only there’s nothing there that takes your fancy. You already have a keychain exactly like the one in the container and the box of colored chalks looks kind of crummy. The few DVDs there are about trashy movies you wouldn’t be caught dead watching. So what do you do now?
Absolutely nothing. The consolation prize of finding the cache should pay for your troubles. You just close the container and hide the cache in the same place you found it. How about adding something interesting to the cache? Not at all. You don’t owe this geocache anything. You don’t have to replace something you didn’t take.
In general, the rules of geocaching are mostly about common sense. Don’t put junk in the container, and always make sure the ones who come after you enjoy the whole experience as much as you did.