Geocache

Your Large is Smaller Than My Small

Many times, Geocaching is a challenging seek-and-find game. You are given GPS coordinates that are near the cache, but often don’t mark the true location.

Still being green in the sport, I often miss cleverly hidden caches because I’m looking for the wrong type of container.

In the last excursion, my family went searching high and low and found several caches, but three of them eluded us to the point that we gave up and labeled it a DNF, or “Did Not Find”.

It turns out that they were all smaller than I felt they should have been based on the descriptions.

The first was labeled “Small” instead of “Micro”. It was a compact 3″ hide-a-key size-ish container that was only large enough for the logbook.

The second was marked a “Normal” size cache but was the size of a 28oz peanut-butter jar, which I consider “Small”.

The third cache was marked as “Large” but was only a regular sized coffee can.

I’ve hunted for geocaches from the west coast to the east coast and have seen a relatively consistent trend that differs from what I experienced in the last hunt. The ones we did find in the area were more consistent with the national definitions of cache sizes.

Here’s what I’ve seen, but remember that I’m still under 100 finds, which means I’ve still got much to learn.

Nano

Currently considered as a subset of the “Micro” category.

Size:
From the size of a large pea to the size of your thumb.
Shape:
Nearly always cylindrical, though on occasion they appear flat like the magnetized outlet cover.
Markings:
They rarely have any markings that identify them as a geocache. Some containers sold by the geocaching community are an exception, with groundspeak’s “lackey” logo painted on them.
Log Type:
A sheet of paper rolled into a tight scroll.
Swag:
None. The scroll is so tight you sometimes have to pull it out with tweezers.
Trackables:
None.
Geography:
Urban areas where there’s high traffic and their miniscule nature becomes vital to existance. Think about the movies you’ve seen of New York city.
Cloak:
Some have magentic ends that stick to metal. Some have chains from which they can dangle. Magnetic ones are often stuck to the back of signs or under lamppost skirts. Dangling ones are often attached to a larger item that covers the cache-hole; occasionally they are dangled from a branch in a tree. These can be cleverly disguised in or as writing pens, cigarette butts, chewed gum wads, at the end of rebarb, under lamppost skirts or within/as magnetized nuts/bolts.

Micro

Size:
From the size of your thumb to the size of a wallet/mint tin.
Shape:
Popular cases are 35mm film canisters, match tubes, Altoids tins (round or rectangular) and magnetic hide-a-key cases.
Markings:
Because of the popularity of this size for film and candy canisters and the popular hide-a-key varieties, few Some containers sold by the geocaching community are an exception, with groundspeak’s “lackey” logo painted on them. Clear 35mm film canisters might have a geocaching logo that appears from the inside.
Log Type:
Flat types, such as the popular magnetic slide-door hide-a-key box have folded pieces of paper or small notebooks laying flat. Cylindrical types have sheets of paper rolled up.
Swag:
A few times I have seen tiny trinkets such as pathtags, rings or plastic coins but they can’t hold more than that.
Trackables:
Because of the size and shape, I’ve only seen geocoins in the larger variety of these.
Geography:
As with the Nano size, the Micro size caches are popular in moderate to high-traffic urban areas. Sometimes they’re used in rural areas to increase the challenge.
Cloak:
Micro caches are usually not magnetized, with the hide-a-key cases being an exception. The non-magnetic canisters are usually attached to trees with a wire, stashed inside another item, hidden in fenceposts, or disguised in the open, such as the hide-a-key rock. They are also often stuck under metal signs or other low metalic fixtures (like drains), in small tubes, in a tree or a bush.

Small

Size:
Small caches are around the size of a 12oz coffee mug to a 30oz jar.
Shape:
They are usually small tupperware-type containers with watertight lids. As such, they can be square, rectangular or cylindrical, with the “Jar” variety being quite popular. Of all the containers, these can get the most creative. For example, holiday decorations or toys can be hollowed out to build containers.
Markings:
Most of the time they’re covered with camouflage duck tape. Sometimes they’re painted comouflage. They can often be uncameo’d at all, just hidden away from where people usually look. About half the time I see an “Official Geocache” label stuck or painted on the container.
Log Type:
Small spirals are popular, but I’ve also seen them contain folded sheets of paper.
Swag:
Path tags, small toys, party favors. Popular swag are bracelets, rings, hot-wheels, and most toys that comes with a “happy meal”.
Trackables:
Travel bugs and geocoins.
Geography:
Brushy areas in parks near neighborhoods. Rarely in urban foot-trafic areas, but sometimes in bushes near moderately busy streets.
Cloak:
They can be cleverly hidden inside tree holes, large pipes, birdhouses or boxes that appear to be part of the landscape. They are also be hidden under piles of rocks, leaves, branches or within bushes. A popular hide is within junpier bushes. I have found a few that are in plain sight where you just need to look up or under something to find it.

Regular

Size:
Sizes range from a regular sized coffee can (about 100 ounces) to a large 50-caliber ammo can (about 235 ounces).
Shape:
Cylindrical to rectangular-box shaped with ammo cans being quite popular.
Markings:
Cans might be covered with duck tape for both protection from rust and hideability. They are sometimes camouflage painted. Ammo cans are usually already painted in a forest-green color but are sometimes repainted. You nearly always find these with an “Official Geocache” label stuck or painted on the container since the sheer size invokes fear in muggles who happen to glance by when a cacher rehides it.
Log Type:
Small to medium spiral-bound or glue-bound notebooks are popular.
Swag:
Small to reasonable sized toys are often placed in these. I’ve seen hand-dolls, action figures and larger “happy meal” toys as well as bigger selection of the smaller swag (mentioned in the “Small” type cache) stuffed in these.
Trackables:
Travel bugs and geocoins.
Geography:
These containers are out in the folliage or rocks away from civilization, though they are occaisonally found in parks or off jogging trails. Either in the rural areas or in rural spaces in suburban areas.
Cloak:
They are often found under piles of rocks or stacks of branches.

Large

Size:
Sizes range from around 1 cubic foot up to 160 cubic feet or more.
Shape:
Usually box-shaped, like the large rubbermaids.
Markings:
I haven’t seen (pictures of) any without a marking of some kind – usually painted on. Due to the size, the larger they are, the less likely they are cameo painted.
Log Type:
Medium to large notebooks.
Swag:
Only having found one of these before, I can say the swag is pretty much the same as a normal size. There are a few additions such as reading books, coloring books and larger toys, but that’s it.
Trackables:
Travel bugs and geocoins.
Geography:
These containers are out in the woods or off the beaten path, so to speak.
Cloak:
I’ve only seen or heard of them being hidden in plain sight or under large brush.