- Learn how to use all the features of the GPS unit properly before venturing out. Many GPS units have a “bread crumb” or “track back” feature which will allow you to retrace your footsteps if you become lost. Familiarize yourself with this feature before venturing out, as it may save your life. In fact, it is a good idea to take your GPS unit’s manual with you, just in case you get lost and need to know how to access a certain feature.
Before you leave to go geocaching, tell somebody where you’re going and when you expect to be back. It may be helpful to leave a copy of the cache details with them. In case you get lost, this individual will have specific coordinates to help in a search effort.
- Make sure to focus on your surrounding area more than your GPS unit. Only periodic checks of your instrumentation are necessary. It is far more important to stay safe and watch where you are going.
- Always carry a compass. It not only helps you find the cache by using magnetic bearings, but if your GPS ceases functioning, you will have a backup method to find your way out of the woods.
- Never leave without reading the entire cache description. It often contains specific warnings about terrain, any possible hazards or unsafe areas, and legal issues about which private land to avoid.
- Bring a flashlight regardless of the time of day you are going geocaching. If you are lost in the woods beyond daylight hours, a flashlight will make finding your way (as well as being found) a lot easier.
- It is your responsibility to obey local laws. There is more than one approach to a cache. For example, NO caching site can give you the right to trespass through private land. If you suspect that your course may lead you through somebody’s backyard, find an alternate route.
- In this era of heightened security you need to consider the environment when you plan your cache placement. For example you should not hide containers near areas or buildings that may be considered terrorist targets. If you cause an unintended bomb scare you could face fines, criminal charges, or will be required to pay restitution for public expenses.
- Once you are forced to leave an area you are familiar with and venture into the woods, create another waypoint. If worse comes to worst and you get disoriented or lost, you can always navigate back to this waypoint.
- Do not place food or potentially harmful items in caches. Broadly, these contain anything that could attract animals (i.e.: food) as well as anything that is not considered child-friendly (i.e., knives, alcohol, tobacco, weapons, pornography, drugs, etc.). If you see some of these items in a cache, you may remove it, and report it to the cache owner when you return home to log your visit.
- Don’t forget to bring along water and snacks.
- Carry basic first aid and survival kits for use in case of emergencies.
- Bring lots of extra batteries for your GPS, flashlight, and anything else you might be relying on to help you. The small cost is worth preventing getting lost. NiMH rechargeable batteries are a cost effective and environmentally friendly option.
- Check the weather forecast before you go and pay special attention to the UV index, wind speed and direction, chances of precipitation, and the forecasted low temperature. Dress appropriately and bring the clothing, sunscreen, and rain protection that you are likely to need. The most common mistakes by outdoor novices are:
Wearing jeans: Jeans are strongly discouraged as they “wick” moisture from the pant legs, take a long time to dry, and do not keep you warm.
- Many people underestimate on how muddy (or at least wet) their feet are going to get, so wear a good pair of outdoor hiking boots. A pair of extra socks doesn’t take up much space and can help immensely when your feet get wet.
- Planning for the cold and rain: Remember to protect your extremities in cold conditions (i.e., your feet by wearing wool or fleece socks, your hands by bringing a pair of good gloves or mitts, your ears and head by bringing a warm toque). Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to changing conditions.
- Planning for the sun and UV: Even if it cloudy, UV rays are damaging your skin. Geocaching is a lot of fun and you may stay out much longer than you had intended, so wear a hat and apply sunscreen.