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Nov 092011
 

A couple of weeks ago Ron and I were preparing some paperwork we realized that as of November 9th our store had been in operation for a year.   A lot has happened in that year!

When we opened Cache At Night we new we needed to be different.  We knew that you have many choices on where you can buy your geocaching supplies.  We started off offering a limited number of products that focused on night caching.   We continue to bring innovative products for night caching such as our series of UV flashlights and supplies.  We also bring the best quality items we can find such as theRogue 2 AA powered flashlight.  We are constantly scouring to find new and helpful items.  We aren’t just shopkeepers we are cachers first.  We field test what we sell.  We know what works and how to get the best from it.

In the last six months we’ve expanded our inventory to include many more everyday geocaching supplies.  Whether it’s weather proof pens or log books we have it in the store.

In the last year we’ve made lots of new friends via your connection with the store.  You might just be a fan on Facebook or a client.   We’d like to thank all of you for making our first year a success.  With your support we’ll be here for many more.

Sep 212011
 

Rogue 2 Flashlights

Have you ever wondered how much you can expect to spend on batteries in a year? We did too so we built a handy little calculator to help you estimate what it will cost you. The calculator assumes single use batteries. You can change the values to fit your flashlight. The calculator is pre-populated with the values for the two flashlights described below.

  • Rogue 2 with two Alkaline AA batteries and 100 Lumen output
  • Fenix TK 35 with one lithium CR123 battery and 109 Lumen output

How the formula works:
(annual hours of night caching / runtime of fresh batteries) X cost of batteries.

How much night caching do you do in a month?
Values for a flashlight using AA batteries
Cost for single AA 0.83
Values for a flashlight using AA battery
Annual operating cost for AA $ 20
Annual operating cost for CR123 $ 99

Sep 202011
 

This was the fourth annual GHAGAFAP out of ten that I have attended.  I think Ron has been to five.  We love going.   This was my first year of camping at the event.   I love the fall but man that tent gets chilly at night!

I like camping at geocachings event because you get to experience so much more.   You meet more people and see more sights, get warmed by more fire and who doesn’t like a nice campfire :-)  This year I even ate grubs instead of marshmallows, thanks Elf.

This was the first year at Guelph Lake Conservation Area and it was a good choice.  There was lots of area to spread out.  I was amazed at some of the camping set ups.  We geocachers know how to set up camp!

It was great seeing many familiar faces and meeting new ones.   I spent the day in our booth which meant cachers came to me to talk.  That was handy.  Thanks to everyone that stopped by to say hi.

We placed a night cache for the event.   I was camping so when  group of cachers decided to go for it on the Friday night I was able to tag along and see how it went.  The night cache included a projection which some people had never done before.  I was also able to guide the group to the better path with the low brush.  Others that did the cache on their own were not so lucky.   A few of the folks that did this cache learned the importance of checking the attributes before trying to find it.  Rest assured if you are looking for a night cache we placed it will include at least one twist.

There seemed to be enough caches for everyone to enjoy, some easy some not so easy.

If you stayed until the Sunday you were treated to breakfast!  That was a great surprise.  Thank you to everyone that organized and contributed to that.

The organizers did a great job on this event.  I hope that they had someone else catering the meal made the day more enjoyable for the organizers.  After 10 years Trimbles Trek is stepping away from GHAGAFAP but that doesn’t mean it will stop.  Res2100 has picked up the reigns.  I wish him a lot of luck next year.  The organizing of this event is a mammoth undertaking.

I would like to thank everyone from the organizers to the attendees for making this a great event.  If it wasn’t for all those volunteers this event wouldn’t exist.  My hat is off to anyone that donates their time to make geocaching better.

Sep 082011
 
Original Logbook

Click to image to enlarge

If you’ve found more than 20 caches you have probably come across a damp moldy logbook that needed replacing.  I received a notice last week that one of my caches needed maintenance.  The logbook was damp.  I think the cacher was being generous, wet might have been a better description.

In replacing the logbook I thought about what I could have done differently to provide future cachers with a better experience.  The first thing I should have done was use a Rite-in-the-Rain logbook.  These logbooks stand up to the environment much better than the standard dollar store logbook.   The use of a Rite-in-the-Rain logbook is a requirement if you are using a container that is not watertight.

You might think that using watertight container means you don’t need to use a water resistant log book.  This is not the case.  At some point a cacher will need to remove the logbook from it’s protective container and sometimes this is done in rain or snow.   The thing about watertight containers is they work equally well to keep water in as they do out.   A wet log book placed inside an ammo can or similar container will not dry out.  That’s why we find so many moldy logbooks.

Here are some tips for to get the longest life out of a logbook:

  1. Use a Rite-in-the-Rain logbook
  2. Use non-running inks such as those in the Rite-in-the-Rain all-weather pen
  3. Wipe off excess water before placing the log book back in the cache
  4. Open your jacket, lean forward and place the logbook in the space you’ve created to try and keep it dry
  5. Use watertight containers, in simplest terms the container MUST have some kind of RUBBER gasket or o-ring. (film canisters are not watertight, they are designed to keep humidity out not moisture).
  6. If time and location permits visit your cache and air out the logbook.
  7. Do not place pens or other pokey objects in the secondary container (baggie) that the logbook is in.  Change the secondary container annually.
  8. Give back – bring along extra baggies and log sheets when you go caching.  Change out the broken bags and add in a dry rite-in-the-rain log sheet if the log is in bad shape.

What do you do to keep your logbooks in good condition?

Jun 282011
 
Link Flashlight Comparison

Link Flashlight Comparison

In a recent poll we conducted 94% of the respondents said they have cached at night. With numbers that high it’s no wonder that a flashlight is an essential part of your geocaching kit. How do you decide what kind of flashlight to carry? I do a lot of night caching so I carry four different lights for different purposes.

When I started caching I used a handheld Energizer LED light. This light served me well in the beginning. It wasn’t long before having to maintain two sets of batteries, AAA for my flashlight and AA for my GPSr became an aggravation. I started looking for a quality flashlight that used AA batteries. This was not as easy as it seems.

There are a number of high end flashlights that cost over $100 dollars. These lights typically use a lithium CR123 which cost something around $9 each. Rechargeable versions cost about twice as much. Not only are the batteries expensive they are not universally available.

I was introduced to the Icon line of quality flashlights. My favourite of these lights is the Link flashlight. The Link uses a single AA battery and puts out 50 lumens of light on high and 6 lumens on low. At the lowest setting one AA battery will last an astounding 70 hours! I only put my lights into high power mode when I’m searching for a cache.

When caching I carry three Icon flashlights:

I also carry a UV flashlight for those times when the cache requires it.

As mentioned previously my first criterion when upgrading my flashlights was standardizing on the type of battery to use.   Every handheld GPSr I’ve ever seen uses AA batteries.  That means I’m already carrying AA batteries so that’s what I standardized on.

Once I settled on my battery I started looking for flashlights that had good lumen output.  A 100 lumen flashlight is bright enough for me to light up any area I’m searching for a cache.  If you are doing a night cache that uses FireTacks it is possible for your light to be too bright.   FireTacks are most visible when they are at the end of your flashlight’s range.  If your flashlight illuminates the area around the FireTack too much you will lose contrast making it harder for you to spot the FireTack.   The lower lumen output combined with the distance from your eye make headlamps best choice when hunting down FireTacks.

The Rogue and the Link both have aluminum housings and are waterproof to 1m.  These are important considerations if you are going to be out in the field caching.  The real world has a way of being hard on flashlights.

Link Attached to Backpack

Link Attached to Backpack

A feature I find very helpful is the carabiner like clip on the Link.  I know the light is always handy because I clip it to the outside of my backpack.  I find the light helpful during the day to look inside trees or logs.  You can clip the link just about anywhere.  On a recent camping trip I hung it from a loop at the top of my tent and had ample light when getting myself situated at night.

If you are just starting to geocache you may not yet fully appreciate the difference in various flashlights.  There will come a time after a few night time caching runs that you realize you need a better light than you find in your local hardware store.  When that time comes you’ll want to find a flashlight that means these criteria:

  • Standard battery size
  • Ample lumen output (at least 50 lumen)
  • Rugged design
  • Waterproof

You will likely be happy with your flashlight if it meets the criteria listed above.

No matter what flashlight you buy it won’t do you any good if you run out of power.  Make sure you take extra batteries into the field.  The Powerpax Battery Caddy is a great way to keep your batteries organized.

Rember to, Grab a Light and Cache at Night!

Jun 152011
 

Our primary method of shipping is via Canada Post. As of midnight last night Canada Post workers have been locked out. We will not be able to ship orders via Canada Post until the labour dispute is resolved.

We will make a once per week trip to the United States and will ship our US orders from there. Please contact us prior to placing an order to find out your cost for shipping.

We will use package courier for orders placed in Canada.

We do not expect this situation to last more than a week or two. We strive to offer the most affordable shipping. This situation is beyond our control. Your patience and cooperation during this time will be greatly appreciated.

May 282011
 

Firetacks are a great way to make a night cache.  They are low tech and low maintenance.   The following tutorial will identify some things you should consider when using FireTacks.

The first thing you should do is make sure the area you are placing the FireTacks is accessible at night.  Many municipal parks are closed at dusk.   Look for signs at the trail-head to find the information you need.

FireTack Placement

geocaching firetack placement

Place FireTacks at eye level and avoid viewing obstructions

FireTacks use a retroreflective material.  This means that the  light shown at the firetack will be reflected back to the SOURCE of the light.  For this reason headlamps are recommended.   When using a headlamp your eyes will follow the beam of light.  The FireTacks may not appear as bright to someone standing next to the person with the light.  If you are using handheld flash light hold it to your eye level.    When placing your FireTacks pay attention to the area around the tree you are using.  Are there likely to be trees or bushes that grow up in front of the fire tack you have placed?  FireTacks should be placed at about eye level to minimize the issue of new growth.

FireTack Directionality

firetack placement blind spot

FireTacks have a natural blind spot.

The retroreflective nature of FireTacks combined with the diameter of the tree they are placed on create a natural blind spot behind the FireTack.   It is important to remember this when placing FireTacks in the bush.  The searcher can follow the FireTacks in to the cache but what do they follow to be back to the trail?   It is very easy to get turned around in dense foliage when searching for a cache.   If you are using flat trail reflectors you should place one on each side of the tree.  One for the way in and one for the way out.  This safety procedure means you will need more markers if you are using flat reflectors.

firetack placement egress

FireTack Placement for egress

With FireTack reflective trail markers you can place the marker perpendicular to the direction of travel.  In this way you can see the same reflector on the way in and on the way out.   When placing a complicated cache it is always a good idea to have someone test your geocache placement before it is published.   I have had to amend several cache placements based on tester feedback.  Keep in mind there is still a blind spot behind the FireTack.  If your path to the cache turns you may have to augment your egress path with additional FireTacks.

Variation One – Counting FireTacks

firetack counting

Count the number of FireTacks

There is more than one way to lay out a FireTack trail.  The most common is just lay out the FireTacks exactly where you want to lead the cacher.   A slight variation on this type of cache is where you count the number of FireTacks you see and at a certain number you turn or do something different.   Another way to  approach this type of cache is have the cacher go until there are no more FireTacks and then count back a small number.  At that point is where the cacher turns in.

In this example the cache location is marked by a different color FireTack.  You can use colors to mean different things.

The fact that you aren’t sure where you are going or if you’ve seen all the FireTacks makes this kind of night cache fun.  There is something about feeling a little lost in the woods, at night, that heightens the excitement.

Variation Two – Pattern Change

firetacks pattern change

Pattern change signals direction change

An alternative to making geocachers count FireTacks which is not as easy as it sounds.  Night Caching in the rain or the winter tends to inhibit one’s ability to accurately take notes.   Using a pattern change is a good way to tell cachers that you expect them to do something different.

As with the previous example extending the FireTacks past the turn off point adds a little more complexity to the cache, from the searcher’s point of view.

How far apart should you place your FireTacks?  There is no easy answer for this.  FireTacks are visible from hundreds of meters when using a bright LED light.    In practice the effective distance is much lower because of obstructions.  Trees, branches and leaves all play a part in making your FireTacks harder to see.   You should place the reflectors far enough apart that the searcher has to be on the look out for them but not so far apart that a small branch will obscure the view.   In the real use you can expect to place FireTacks every 40-80 meters.  This is another example of why having someone that didn’t help you place the FireTacks should test your cache before it is published.  Feedback from the trial will allow you to add more reflectors if required.

Variation Three – Color Change

firetacks color change

Change in reflector color indicates a direction change

You can take advantage of the fact that FireTacks come in multiple colors to introduce some complexity into your reflector trail.  Different colors may mean change in direction (that might include looking behind you),

You could also create two paths using different colored FireTacks.  One path could be a red herring and the other is the target path.  Adding a color hint to the cache description would let the cacher know which path to take.

The examples provided in this tutorial are a starting point.  Expand on these ideas to create a unique cache that other geocachers will enjoy finding.

Firetacks are made of durable materials and will work for many years.  Mother Nature has a way of reclaiming her turf and some firetacks will go missing.  While FireTacks are a low maintenance way to build a night cache you should expect to replace about 10% of the FireTacks each year.

May 112011
 
Logbook in Ziploc Bag

If you use a non-watertight container it makes sense to put the logbook in a bag for added protection, as long as the bag doesn't get punctured.

For the longest time I’ve kept spare Ziploc bags in my geocaching pack. I would replace the broken ones I frequently found geocaches. The other day I found a cache with a soaking wet logbook even thought it was inside a plastic bag. It seems that it’s easier for water to get into a bag with a hole than it is for the water to get out.

So why do geocachers put logbooks in plastic bags? I’ve stopped doing that. I would much rather use a watertight container to keep the water out than to rely on a Ziploc bag. A combination of Rite in the Rain logbooks and a watertight container will ensure that future geocachers find the logbook in good shape.

Here is one tip we can all implement: don’t put the writing instrument in the bag. The bag is there to keep the logbook dry, not the writing instrument. Pointy pencils and dull pens will both easily puncture the thin plastic bag.

 Posted by at 18:09
Apr 072011
 

We wanted to know if other caches enjoy night caching as we do so we conducted a poll on Facebook. It would appear that we are not alone in our night caching escapades!

Our poll was conducted on Facebook and had 148 responses. It doesn’t surprise us that a total of 94% of the respondents said they cache at night.

It’s apparent that most cachers will at some point be caching at night. Do you have the right equipment in your caching bag? We recommend carrying a Headlamp in your pack.

Night Caching Poll Results

Mar 152011
 

 

FireTack colors

Why are FireTacks so bright? The short answer is that they are retroreflective. Retroreflective means that much of the light shown at an object will be reflected back to the source.  You most frequently see this effect on road signs. These signs are designed to be visible from distances sufficient for the sign to be helpful. Stops signs you can’t see until it’s too late are not helpful.

In every day circumstances most objects we see are either diffuse reflective of mirror reflective.

In mirror reflective materials the light is often directed away from the viewer. In this way these materials do not always appear bright to person holding the light source.  The same cannot be said for the person viewing the reflection! Shiny or mirror like objects may seem like a good choice for building a night cache but generally they are not.   There are more useful for creating effects that would make an night cache interesting but they do not work well as trail markers.

Diffuse reflection is what you get from something like snow or a white sheet of paper. The return path of the light source is spread out in many directions. In this situations the object will appear bright from a variety of angles but not much light is sent back to the viewer. We percieve these objects as being brighter than their surroundings but they aren’t necessarily very bright at all.  These kinds of materials are best suited for increasing contrast between objects during the day.  Increased contrast is helpful at night if you are trying to make it easier for the cacher to distinguish writing or shapes that make up part of your night cache.

Retroreflective materials in contrast can return as much as 58% of the light to the original source.This is why retroreflective materials are visible from great distances. There is one draw back to retroreflective materials and that is that they have a very small effective observation angle. This is the angle between the light source and your eyes. Typically for the observer to notice the retroreflected light their observation angle must be less than 1°. In most cases an observation angle over 2° renders the FireTack ineffective. FireTacks are effective when holding your flashlight slightly above your your head or no more than six inches below your eys.  Make it easier on yourself and use a headlamps when following FireTacks. The retroreflective nature of FireTacks make them the best choice for trail markers.  (Remember to use them for the trail out as well as the trail in, use different colors to distinguish the inbound and outbound trails.)

Flat trail markers are visible to the observer from head on or slightly to the side, around 60° either side of head on. By making FireTacks three dimensional there are more surfaces thus increasing the available viewing angles.  As a result the observer has a better chance of seeing the trail.

The type of material used in the reflective trail marker also influences its brightness. FireTack brand trail markers use ASTM type VI and above materials while other brands use ASTM type II materials. The material used in FireTacks has 1000 prisms or glass beads impregnated in the material per sq. inch.  The material material used in FireTacks is highly flexible, withstands impact,  severe hot and cold, is guaranteed to maintain up to 75% reflectivity for ten years or more, even when left outside for the whole ten years.

Note: FireTacks is the brand name of reflective trail markers from WildTech Corporation.