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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winterizing Your Geocache: The Cold Weather Is Upon Us

I opened up a rather interesting topic recently in the Geocaching.com forums. Fall has finally come to North Carolina and even though many other states are way past peak autumn colors. It is just now becoming bright and wondrous. Also with the leaf show comes the cooler temps and even though we are mostly in the low 70s right now the nights are crisp. After having to close my bedroom window the cold breeze made me start to wonder about the upcoming winter geocaching. So with the thought of all the Northern States I asked the question about how to winterize a geocache and is it necessary at all.

The responses I received were well rounded which is exactly what I was looking for and after reading the advice given I was able to come to some hopefully helpful conclusions.

To keep a level playing field here lets assume we are talking about geocaching areas where you receive extended periods of snow and below freezing temps. The states like North Carolina (not including the mountains) we normally get a day of snowfall on the ground before it melts. The small ponds MAY get a slushy layer of ice in the coldest week of our winter but that is about it.

Things to consider
If you have ever watched my GeoSnippits geocaching video: What NOT to Hide as a Geocache you will see that cold can be a definite factor when hiding a geocache. One of the key points that was brought up in the discussion is that you have to plan the worst weather conditions for your geocaching hide. In other words it might be sunny and 80 degrees out right now but does your geocaching site get 144 inches of snow in the winter? Is your hide on the ground and potentially can be trapped and/or crushed in ice? In the more spring temps can it be floating in water or washed away in flood? These are very important things to consider when placing your hide.

Cold can do strange things to plastic. I lived most of my life in Michigan so I know all about harsh cold. One of the things my brothers and I did during winter was to take plastic army men and place them in a battle scene on a make shift snow mountain. Then we would take our BB guns and shoot from a distance. In the summer you could shoot the plastic warriors a bunch of times with minimal damage. In the winter they would shatter as if made from glass. Why? The cold made the plastic hard and brittle. Now imagine what happens with your plastic geocache when somebody jabs it with their walking pole. Yep, the lid shatters as if it was shot by a bullet.

So my suggestion for people who live in the colder climates. Forget about using cheap plastic containers for one. They are not waterproof to begin with and the winters will leave you a pile of busted goo by spring time. The more heavy duty and waterproof the geocache the better. I would also suggest putting your geocaches up higher if possible. People are less likely to stick them with a walking pole or to get crushed by the ice.

Final Thoughts
Some things that you may want to consider about your geocaches during winter. Several geocachers mentioned that they change out pens during the winter months to pencils. Why? Apparently the ink can actually freeze breaking the pen. When spring comes you have a nice inky mess in your geocache when it finally melts.

If you hide your geocache during spring and summer months, remember the foliage that so nicely hid your geocache may now be completely gone leaving your hide wide open. You may want to check your geocaches around this time of the year for not only this scenario but for regular maintenance as well.

So depending on your geocaching hide conditions you may want to now consider doing a quick fly by to check on them. Making sure that they survive a winter full of geocaching goodness can save you a bunch of grief and other geocachers finding a cache full of waterlogged goo.

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