Monday, December 16, 2013

Geocaching 101: Winter Caching in Michigan

I belong to the Southeast Michigan Geocaching Group on Facebook, and the question was asked, “How do we cache in winter?”  I knew that the Podcacher show had a recent show called “Caching through the snow”, but they spent most of it interviewing an Alaskan cacher out in -25˚F  weather.  So, putting my thinking cap on, this is what I came up with for Michigan (or comparable) winter caching.

Note: As I don’t want this to become a “do as I say and not as I do” blog, I really won’t be discussing dressing for the weather as I’m as bad as a 7-year old.  I’ll leave that to the experts.  These are just suggestions in addition to normal winter preparations.


·        Ziploc your phone: Let’s face it… caching with your smartphone is becoming the norm.  Protect that investment.  You can buy fancy weather pouches, but Ziplocs work fine for me.  I can still type on my iPhone – it just gets tricky if I want to take pictures. Also keep a spare in your bag in case going in and out of a warm car causes condensation.
·        Batteries! Cold weather will drain your battery faster.  Be aware of battery levels in your phone because you don’t want to get so caught up in caching you let it run down and don’t have it in an emergency situation.  Also, I have heard that Lithium batteries (only batteries I use in my GPSr units) last longer in inclement weather than regular alkalines.
·        Walking Sticks or long branches: These are good to test the firmness of the terrain before you (see Locations warning) and to knock heavy snow off pine branches (nothing worse than getting snow down the back of your neck and into your thermals).
      Keep a GO bag and an emergency kit in the car: It should contain spare clothes, a bag for wet clothes & towels.
·        Toe- and hand- warmers: My sister bought me my first warmers last year.  I toted them around for several months before I finally used them at the Plymouth Ice Festival.  Oh, man!  They are awesome!  I’ve already stocked up for this year.
·        Warning – Gloves with ‘Tech Fingers’: I’m not saying all of them have this problem, but I bought several pairs last year so I could “log as I cache”.  They are typically not very thick (needed to wear fingerless loves over them), but the fingertips with the “tech pads” would get particularly cold very fast and start stinging.  I had to stop using them.
·        Pens: Gels work well in this weather (cold weather, wet logs). If using another pen, warm it in your breast pocket while on way to GZ. Or, if you are wearing snug long sleeves or thermals, tuck it up into the sleeve to warm up the ink.

Locations (besides the obvious lamp posts and guard rails):

·        Metroparks: I LOVE caching the Huron Metroparks in winter!  They are typically larger containers along well-maintained paths.  And, let’s face it.. if you are lucky, you will have an audience.  Nothing cooler than looking up from a logbook to see deer or fox quietly looking back.  I love spotting animal tracks while out in the woods.
·        For safety, use Google Earth: Use GE to spot rivers (in parks) and drains/culverts/overflow ponds (in cities).  That snow can be concealing dangers.
·        Do not walk across unfamiliar “flat fields”: That flat field could be a concealed pond.  I was with TaGeez during a night run last year.  We slid down the side of an embankment to grab a FTF at dusk.  I started to walk across the “field” in a direct line, but TaGeez directed me along the edge and higher ground.  I passed by the same spot during the spring only to discover there was a deep pond there.  The heavy snow weighted down the cattails and phragmites, hiding the danger.
·        Night Caching is awesome!  I LOVE night caching in winter!  The crunch of snow echoes in the winter quiet!  The brush is dormant so reflectors are more visible.  Muggles and mosquitoes are scarce.  LOVE IT!


·        No straight lines in nature: Ok, it’s a cliché but true.  Whether it’s on the ground or up in a tree, look for snow resting on flat or straight surfaces.
·        Use your head AND your feet: When I get close to the GZ, I start scuffing my feet along in case the cache is located at the base of a tree, under rocks or a woodpile, etc.  I’ve located the final of a very difficult puzzle/Multi that way (it was hidden in fall, snow hit, and I kicked it up). Just yesterday, I found a flat cache container hidden under a regular rock buried in 6” of snow.
·        Attibutes: Unless you are desparate for a CaD, avoid caches that aren’t “winter friendly”.  This is useful unless it’s BSW hiding a “Happy New Year” cache.
·        Snow camo: After replacing the cache, use a branch to cover your tracks or add extra footprints to camo the true trail.
·        Know your hider: Caching locally in the winter can make the difference.  If you’ve found enough of a certain hider’s caches, you will know what type of container they like, their preferred hide locations, their understanding of the difficulty/terrain rating.

This is just a quick list for now. Hope this helps.  Please supply any additional tips in the Comments below and, if we get enough, I will create a followup posting.

Happy Winter Caching!

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