May 102011
 

With over 1,300,000 caches around the world, there are many places for a caching family to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Many of the caches are located along trails, in parks and conservation areas that you may not even know about in your area. We have lived in our area for 38 years and have found many new places and trails to take our kids. Places we did not even know about until we were geocaching.

When we started caching, the kids where excited to get out and find “treasure” but as time goes on (as with most kids) they started to lose interest. A few small things can help keep it fun and interesting for the kids. It’s important to get the kids involved, not just following along until you get near the cache. By letting them use the GPSr they will have more fun knowing they lead the way to ground zero.

With the abundance of rail trails being turned into hot geocaching spots, packing up the bikes and heading to one of these trails adds a new dynamic to family caching adventures.

When at the cache area, have everyone find the cache. Our family uses the ”click” system. After each person finds the cache they quietly move away and say “click”. This allows everyone to have a chance at finding the cache.

Have the kids put together a swag bag full of things they would like to trade. And remind them to trade up or trade even, this will keep the cache fun for the next finders.

Plan out you’re caching day. Try to find some fun and interesting caches by reading the cache description, logs and looking at the terrain and difficulty. A kid-friendly attribute is an option for cache descriptions. Though we find this attribute isn’t used commonly, it can be helpful while planning out your day.

If you are caching at night, it’s a good idea to have a Clip-On Marker or ZipLit that you can attached to the kids for safety. Everyone having their own flashlight helps each person walk safely along the path.

If you find a cache that you know the kids will love save it for near the end, this will top off their day and they will talk about it all the way home. Our kids have their own mini backpacks for caching. Inside is swag for trading, insect repellent, bandages, flashlights for night caching and pens. Before heading out everyone adds a few snacks to their bag and plenty of water.

Geocaching is an activity for the whole family so get out, have fun and be
safe.

May 092011
 

What do you really need for a successful night of caching?  There are five things that you must have:

  1. Permission to be in the area
  2. Headlamp
  3. Flashlight
  4. Batteries
  5. A Buddy

Not all areas are open after dusk.   Look for attribute icons when you aresearching for night caches.  Not everyone uses their allotment of 10 attributesso be sure and look for signs when you enter the area.

I think that a headlamp is required when you are walking around rural areasat night. Headlamps aren’t as important in urban areas.  That being said you might not want to cache is some urban areas at night.  My headlamp of choice, the Irix, has variable output.  I find I don’t need full power when I’m walking on open flat trails which provides the best battery life.

In addition to my headlamp I bring along a bright flashlight.  I switched to LED flashlights a few years ago and haven’t looked back.  My 100 lumen Rogue2 provides an excellent, clear, beam when searching for those hard to findgeocaches.  Again, it’s good to have a flashlight that has a low power settingin order to conserve battery power.  When caching in the dark months it’s not uncommon for us to have our flashlights on for 4-6 hours straight. Battery management is key.   (If it’s cold keep your batteries inside your coat)

Speaking of batteries you can’t have too many.   Even though I use rechargeables I like to keep a couple of alkaline batteries around just in caseI forget to charge up before going on an outing.  Just about any device you use at night will need batteries.  I keep a wind-up flashlight in the car but that’s for emergencies, including getting that caching fix!

I very rarely geocaching alone at night.   I might do it if it’s a quick drive-by but I don’t go out on trails at night by myself and it’s not becauseI’m afraid of the dark.  It is a matter of safety.   Hurting yourself at night gets complicated if you don’t have someone there to help you.

 

Mar 032011
 
Light Painting and Night Sky

by Gregory Pleau

Night Sky Only

Night Sky Only

The Image above was taken by Gregory Pleau (used with permission) on one of his evening excursions. This picture is an example of what is called “light painting”. In this case the foreground trees were illuminated with his LED flashlight. By brushing the flashlight back and forth on the foreground object he was able to bring life to a dark image. You can see a version without the light painting to the right. This is a great nightscape picture. He did have the advantage of a tripod. Any kind of a long exposure will require a tripod and some kind of shutter release mechanism. I use the IR remote control on my Nikon.

Light Painting at Waterloo Drinks

Light Painting at Waterloo Drinks

No tripod? No Camera? No problem! The image to the right was taken using my blackberry. I was out night caching with some friends. We wanted a picture of the well so we used a few headlamps on the foreground and a flashlight on the background. You can’t “paint” as much when you have relatively short exposures. You need long exposures for the best effect. It helps if you steady your camera against a tree, building or other suitably stable object.

High intensity LED flashlights are the key. I find that the combination of my 100 Lumen Rogue 2 and 50 Lumen Link allow me to capture some good pictures on location at night with my Blackberry. Longer exposures and larger lights, like those used by Gregory above, allow for even more creativity.