Top 10 Geocaching Safety Reminders


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Geocaching and related outdoor activities all carry an element of risk.   There are a  number of factors that come into play such as activity level, location and physical conditioning. But we feel the most important part of keeping safe is to know your limits and be prepared if something happens.  KidsRN and I like to push the limits. We've been lucky.  Early in our geocaching career, we blundered into a couple of situations that worked out OK but could have been serious.  We learned our lessons. Now when we saddle up for a long range cache, we are seriously geared up.  Of course, if you're doing drive by caching in parking lots and the like, you don't have to be as intense. But if you're headed into the boonies or even just out of sight of your car for a while, you need to be prepared. You don't want to be out there, separated from your geopartner, no communication, no water plus it's starting to rain, get dark and you're not sure how to get back. We speak from some experience on that. Keep the following 10 things in mind and apply as needed for safer and more effective caching.

#10. Be bear aware. If you're in bear country, your outlook changes because you're not at the top of the food chain anymore. Bears can't see very well but their hearing and smell are sensational and they can outrun a horse over a short distance. Talk to people about recent local bear activity. Make some noise as you walk  I like to use binoculars to check the area around us as we move.  Keep an eye down wind.  Carry bear spray.

#9. Do what the cops tell you.  Geocaching often looks suspicious, especially these days. Hanging around, looking, climbing, crawling can all get you noticed.  We've been confronted by the police four times, once by the Ski Patrol and once by a construction foreman. Be nice and tell them about geocaching. The vast majority are cool with it. One cop even helped us look. Recently, we ran into Officer Friendly of the Illinois State Police.  We were geocaching at a rest area and he threatened to arrest us for trespassing.  About that moment, KidsRN made the find and waved it.  He waited there until we had signed the log and moved on.  Be ready for just about anything when a lawman shows up.

#8. Take extra batteries.  The energizer bunny's name is Murphy. It's downright gut wrenching to have a GPSr die on you when you're out in the middle of nowhere. Same with flashlights, phones, etc. If you're depending on battery powered equipment to complete your quest, make sure you've got enough juice for the job - especially if you need to find your way back.

#7. Carry a big stick, small flashlight, leather gloves, Swiss Army knife. These items have a multitude of uses, from poking inside a dark cache to probing the trail in front of you to protection from animals (both four legged and two legged).  We find the sticks to be almost indispensable. They're effective, innocuous and legal. KidsRN and I use a five foot length of 1 1/4 inch dowel rod which you can buy at any hardware store. 

#6. Bring a first aid kit. Scratches and bug bites are part of the charm of geocaching. It can also be dirty, so take care of any open wound. The kit doesn't need to be massive.  Outdoor stores all sell small kits that will fit in a pocket. It can't hurt to throw in an ACE wrap. If you're allergic to bee stings, take your epi-pen. Keep your tetanus shot up to date for that rusty nail. Remember - if something happens out there, you're on your own, at least for a while. Plan accordingly. 

#5. Take your cell phone or walkie-talkies or both. Becoming separated from a geopartner is mildly annoying at best and can be downright dangerous. It's happened to us a couple of times. So now we use walkie-talkies in the FRS/GMRS range with cell phone backup. Check the reception before you launch. Have a reconnect plan if all comm fails. Go to a pre-arranged meeting place after a certain time period. If all that fails, call 911.

#4. Don't forget the hat and sunscreen. This is one can really sneak up on you. I've screwed up in the past.  I'm out getting multiple caches, in and out of the car and the trees and figure I don't need to worry about the sun. But it all adds up and at the end of the day, I look like a lobster.  If you're going to be out in the sun, make sure you protect yourself. Lather on the sunscreen and keep it fresh. Then top it off with a wide brimmed hat and cool UV sunglasses.

#3.Be tick aware. Ticks are a clear and present danger in the outdoors - much more so than bears and snakes. They carry Lyme disease and other assorted bugs and they are everywhere. Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts.  Douse your shoes and pant legs with DEET. Check yourself and each other thoroughly and often and keep checking.  The critters seem to come out of nowhere and are almost indestructible.  The good news is that they have to attach themselves to a human host for 24 hours to pass on the virus. If you find one latched on, pull it straight out with tweezers. Lyme disease is treatable but no fun. If you geocache, you're going to get ticks. Stay vigilant and stay healthy.

#2. Bring lots of water. This one that can sneak up on you too,  usually in the form of a "quick cache" which turns into a marathon. Next thing you know, you've been out there for two hours with nothing to drink. Unless you're doing PNGs, throw a bottle of water in your kit. For longer ventures, you can't beat a CamelBak. Fill it with ice and top it off with water.  You'll have ice water the whole day.

#1. Know when to back off. Geocachers are a pretty tenacious bunch and we're probably at the top end of that scale.  Part of this activity is recognizing limits. We've stopped literally yards away from GZ because we didn't think we could complete it and/or get back safely.  Things can go south in a real hurry out there. Don't compromise your safety for a cache. It'll be there tomorrow. Go back and re-group. Next time, you'll probably walk right to it.