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Tips for Newbie who is having little success

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I'm beginning to think I really suck at this. So far, I've attempted four caches and found only one - and a blind man could have found that one. Can you share some of your tips for the actual on the ground search. I know how to use a gps, I've been mapping trails for years. I get to within a few metres (plus the gps error margin) but I can't seem to find these things.


Are there guidelines for how they are hidden, marked, etc?


What are your secrets for the final short-range search?


I really appreciate your help.

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Well the gps will get real close sometimes. But then you need to start looking for a good place you would want to hide something. Maybe that log,under those rocks,in that bush,anything that looks out of place. You need to know what size cache your looking for.A micro you will have to search real good,an ammo box you might spot walking up. If it don't look right check it out.

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It depends on what you are looking for. Micros boxes etc. I mostly find ammo boxes and tupperware containers in the woods . The best way to find these is to start looking when you are within about 20-30 feet of the cache locations. I have my daughter trained to look for what does not belong. Any pile of sticks or many sticks lined up in the same direction is usually an obvious cache. Beyond that look for any other obvious places. These include rock piles. stumps, holes in trees etc. It is usually right where you think it is.



Edited by tarbal
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the advice given above is great. as somewhat of a newbie myself, i just wanted to tell you to keep your chin up. i have just 28 finds, but many of my logs say "i found it right when i was about to give up." i learn something on every find, and i feel like my geosense is getting better every time. geocaching is really just like anything else, the more you do it the better you get, so keep at it.

Edited by namiboy
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As a newbie with only 13 found I have 2 micros here in town I've been to a couple of times and they are still stashed there safely hidden from me.


What I am finding is there are times at some caches there will be disturbed areas, foot prints unusall rock piles basically things that don't fit the area.

I start out where the gps says it is a if its not obvious I start a grid search till I find it. Drives me crazy at times. But I am getting better just takes time to develop the method that works.

Edited by rambrush
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I've found that you need to read the cache description and logs carefully. It may be a Traditional Micro Cache but not directly say so in the description. If Everybody that has visited it has not traded anything, then its probably a Micro. It helps if you know what you are looking for.


Look for things like:

"The cache is getting rusty inside" = probably a metal container, maybe an ammo box.

"I had trouble snapping lid back on" = possibly a plastic container.

"Bring your own pen" combined with no trades = probably small container.

"I found it after I stepped on it" = it is on or near the ground.

You can get a lot of info from reading log entries. No one log entry will tell you everything, but all of them combined may give you a pretty good picture of what to look for.


A little detective work at home will help when you head out into the field. Be sure to take a print-out, notes or a PDA with notes on it with you when you go cache hunting. I was 30 miles from home when I learned that lesson.


I started by looking for Traditional Caches that where at least the size of a small ammo can. They are easier to find and will give you a little experience on how to locate caches.

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All great tips. Keep your head up! Everybody has trouble with the first several caches. Even after several hundred finds, occasionally you'll come up on a type of hide that you haven't seen before and it'll stump you. I actually made FOUR trips to find my first guardrail micro, no lie. My other duh moment...my first lamppost cache took 20 minutes to find. If you're not familiar with those two types of hides, you likely will be pretty quick.



There are different techniques to use for different cache sizes. However, my general procedure is:



For woodland hides of small or larger size, I try to get my GPS as close as possible to 0 feet and I drop my backpack. About 90% of the time the cache is within 20-25 feet from my backpack. I stumble right onto many caches just while zeroing out my GPS. In the cases where I don't, I stand at ground zero for a minute or so and look around in all directions. Think to yourself "If I was hiding a cache here, where would I put it?" and take mental note of the spots close to you that look like good hiding spots. Then, go check them. In cases where there are hundreds of places to hide even within 20 feet of GZ, pick out what you think is most likely and start there. You will get much better at picking spots as you get more finds under your belt.



Micros are an entirely different beast. In order to get good at micros, you really just need experience. The best advice I can give is that a majority of the ones I see are magnetic. A lot aren't though, as well. I have seen dozens of different types of micro hides and some of them are just about impossible to spot. My find count is in the high 700s and I am still seeing new, ingenious micro hides on a weekly basis.

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Some excellent advice given from all the posters.. I think my best advice, look for thing that don't belong and think like a hider. Once I get to the area that is ground zero according to the GPSr I put it away and start looking for thing that don't belong and asking, if I was going to hide a cache where would I put it. Scan the area it will jump out at you. Keep it up and those DNF's will become all finds. Also don't get caught up on not finding them because it's all part of the game. Have fun

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Thanks for all the support. Part of my frustration is that these caches are right under my nose, within a few kilometres of my home on trails that I have done over and over.


The comments are exactly what I was hoping for - simple tips for those beginning to train their eyes for the fine details as they hone in on the find from the gps coordinates.


Reading all the logs was great advice. I am just learning CacheMate and didn't realize that only one log shows at a time. I thought there was only one log for each of these caches today.


Now that I've read them all, it looks like one of the caches was muggled and moved a little. I'll try again later.

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Thanks all. I was feeling like a muggle myself. I do enloy the wander and this has given me a new reason to wander in my own town. As a guide book author, I often live for check marks. If I couldn't write about it I couldn't do it. This is something totally frivolous for me - until it becomes obsessive and needs to be relentlessly documented (OK I'm a workaholic).

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One thing that I have found that really helps me when I'm having trouble finding a cache is to approach it from a different direction.


If I approach a cache from the south and can't find it, I'll walk about 100 feet to the north and turn around and approach it from that direction. Many times I'll walk right to it after approaching from a different direction.


Another trick that sometimes works for me is to stop looking at my GPSr when I start to get close (60 feet). I like to walk about 100 - 150 feet away and then start walking fast in the direction that my GPSr is pointing. Once I hit 60 feet from my target I stop looking at my GPSr and I then take another 30 steps (hey, it works for me) in the direction that it was pointing and I will usually end up very close.


Team Quincy

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Are there guidelines for how they are hidden, marked, etc?


What are your secrets for the final short-range search?


I really appreciate your help.


I am still pretty new to this as well. I would like to see some better info on the cache page. Some caches are meant to be found and some it seems are meant to be hunted. :ph34r: After 3 DNF's in a row I have changed tactics. I redid all my pocket querries to exclude micro caches. I figure I can do them after I learn more while hunting the larger caches. I was having a hard time finding a micro that was hidden where you couldn't see that there was any room to hide. After a few searches I had to put on a rubber glove and feel around and pull the cache out. The only way to find it was to blindly feel for it. I not really ready to crawl around in the woods sticking my hand into every crack and crevice feeling for a cache. :P Also be sure to read all the past logs. There can be lots of good info in them. Good Luck

Edited by traildad
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Look for anything - just a little out of place or unusual.


Look for footprints from previous searchers. Mashed down grass, boken branches etc - look nearby.


Look for un-natural piles of sticks, leaves, grass, rocks, sand, weeds etc...


Think vertical


Look from different angles at the same place.


Think like a hider - say to yourself - "where would I hide something here"?


Stick with small and regular sized caches until you are more familar with some hide styles.


Have Fun or your not doing it right!!! Enjoy the scenery and the chance to get out. Bring a friend.

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There are different techniques to use for different cache sizes. However, my general procedure is:

For woodland hides of small or larger size, I try to get my GPS as close as possible to 0 feet and I drop my backpack. About 90% of the time the cache is within 20-25 feet from my backpack.


That's a good idea, I can't tell you how many times in the woods I've lost track of where I thought Ground Zero was. What a great reference point. Thanks for the tip.

Edited by Syndam
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:ph34r: Boy am I glad you asked this question. I am new too (21 finds). The only thing I might add is to take some gloves for moving snow and leaves and what have you, and only look as long as you aren't feeling frustrated. I have gone back a second and third time with a new attitiude and there it was. Finally finding a did not find is more pleasing than you think. Size doesn't seem to matter to me. I have found small,micros and completely missed Ammo boxes. Be carefuil how addictive this is. I am sitting here in 20 degree weather with the snow blowing and I am ready to go out, even with a severe head cold, which I got looking for these things when it was cold and raining.
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My standard search scheme. Hope this helps.


1. Use the compass screen versus the map screen. Tells you where to go and how far left to go.

2. Rather than trying to get to the 0 point on your GPSr (basically standing on top of the cache) stop about 50 feet from the expected location. Then stop looking at your GPS and start looking at your location. Look for the obvious clues to the cache location. Piles of sticks, rocks, dead hollow tree, or stump in plain view. Don't forget to look at the size of the cache you are looking for. Nothing like thinking you are hunting a regular sized cache, when it is actually a micro-cache.

3. Start out with the easiest dificulty caches (D/T). So go for the 1/1 to 2/2 caches first.

4. Have fun and enjoy the great Winter weather... :ph34r:

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Also keep in mind that it's not "all or nothing" - if you don't find a cache in 30 minutes doesn't mean you can't come back later... I've only got 60+ finds, but many of them took more than one attempt. One of my latest finds I've looked for twice (the first time was a year and a half ago). Think of it as a process of elimination. Each time you search you know where the cache isn't located. Of course there are times when the cache turns up right where you were sure it wasn't <_<

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I started to day and I was having trouble finding them also but asking myself where would I put it. And I looked how far from the cache I was at. I used the arrow from my compuss and get close and started to look around. Its not as easy as I thought but found all 4 of them. If that helps. <_<

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Excellent comments. Danuw I'm the same. I live high in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and playing in the snow is just a part of daily life here (although the first thing you learn about Canadians is that we all have summer birthdays).


Hello to the neighbors to our North. My first several were microcaches...Montana...snow...OH WHAT FUN!!.


Spyeye the lessons here are great ones. The advice even greater. Foot paths, broken branch limbs and other tell tale signs that inexperienced pathfinders leave are the best. (Semper Fi) You have one GPS and two eyes...go with the odds my friend.


Larry Foster

Great Falls, Montana-USA

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When I started I avoided micro's on the advise of other, more experienced cachers and stuck to the "Small" or larger caches. You definitely do develop an "eye" after some experience.


As others have stated: "Read the previous logs."


I use 2 basic methods if I am having trouble.


Method #1: If I don't find a cache in my 1st few minutes. I step away 30'-50'from my initial GZ and set my GPSr on a post or log or some such. I go back to my initial GZ and start working in a circle around that point until my circle is 10-15' past my GPSr. If I have come up empty I will look at the pointer (I have an electronic compass but you can do the same with a regular compass.) I shoot an imaginary line on the bearing to a point past the indicated GZ. If the terrain allows I'll move to another point 30'-50' from indicated GZ but at a 60-90 degree angle from my initial bearing line and let the GPSR settle for 2-3 minutes. As a general rule this intersection may be some distance from the original GZ and I go to that point and do my circle search once again untill I get back to my GPSr.


Method #2:


Using the coordinate page on the GPSr I will try to match as closely as possible the posted cache coordinates. (Within .003 is really close enough for starters. I set the GPSR down and do a basic circle search out to 30' or so. Returning to the GPSr I will note it has settled a bit and without moving the GPSr will note the coords and the difference between them and the actual posted coords. Using THIS CHART provided by the master himself (eraseek) I know what each .001 is in feet at my given LAT/LONG. Using the displayed coords on my GPSr I can extrapolate another GZ and do my circle search.


I have found that chasing the needle keeps my head down and limits my observation of the area. And more importantly the GPSr never settles down. In marginal reception areas I find setting the GPSr down is really key and often find myself quite a distance from my initial GZ.


Two things I have learned:



LOOK UP!!!!!!!!

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all posts have ben great, maybe one other thing: another set of eyes (or more!). we go out as a family and on many a cache, 3 of us just do NOT see it and the one other person sees it very clearly! Even our 6 y/o geokid has his share of finds! Over time you will develop your 'cache-eyes' and develop your 'cache-sense'. but as always there will be some 'challenges' but I think the more challenging the better, I really do not see as much 'adventure' with a wal-mart pole cache, vs. trailblazing through some woods and figuring things out!

Edited by mdegarmo
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Stick with regular sized, difficulty 1 caches to get started. Especially ones which a lot of people have found recently.


What is a difficulty 3 you may ask? Here are some examples.


The cache container was a birdhouse mounted on a tree!


The cache container was a LARGE plastic bottle, covered with brown tape, shoved deep inside a hollow log. Even looking at it you didn't see it!


The cache container was covered with GLUED ON dirt, leaves, moss, etc.


The cache container was an electrical box attached to a telephone pole. (Except that there were no wires going to the box.)


And, evil micros! Imagine a typical tree branch with several smaller branches off of it. Now imagine a plastic tube, about an inch long, and about 1/8 inch in diameter. Yeah, not much larger than a toothpic! Now imagine the tube slid into that hole. Now imagine a smaller twig plugged into that hole. Now imagine the whole thing suspended in the branches of a tree. Yeah!


And, these were the EASY difficulty threes! (I'm still looking for the hard ones).

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Most of the previous posts sum up what I do to.


Standing at GZ I always just take a minute just to look around for the unusual. 'Hmm.... I don't think that brick should be in that tree' or 'why is that broken branch lying at such an odd angle?'. Also if the cache is hidden in a rocky area, look out for scratches on the covering rocks, it's always a dead give-away. I remember my first cache, I thought the cache would be hidden exactly where the GPS led me to. So when I got to GZ I started to dig... after 3 attempts I finally found it. :laughing:


Hope this helps

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As a relatively new cacher myself, I found that reading the forums, gave me an advantage when I first started out. I didn't know about bison tubes, "evil" hides and special-made containers. If it wasn't for reading these forums, some of the caches I have found, would be DNF's.


If I don't find something within the first 5 minutes, I stand there and look around looking for clues that don't "fit", check my coords, read previous logs, decrypt hint, etc. Like most others said, ask myself "where would I hide it?"


Happy caching!

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Found one this week only because my 13 year old son went along. GPSr took me to the middle of a parking lot. Nothing there but 3 light poles mounted on concrete bases. The poles and bases had no holes, boxes or anything. My son fiddled with a metal fender at the base of the pole, where the pole attached to the concrete base. He discovered that the metal fender moved. He then dsicovered that the fender would "slide up," revealing an area where the micro was hidden underneath the bolts that held the pole to the concrete base. Lesson: fiddle with stuff.


Found another where there were all these manmade spaces to hid the micro. The micro was in fact hidden in an open knot on the tree branch hanging over the manmade features. Lesson: don't assume the cache is hidden in either manmade or natural features; look at all.


Be devious in your thinking!

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I'm beginning to think I really suck at this. So far, I've attempted four caches and found only one - and a blind man could have found that one. Can you share some of your tips for the actual on the ground search. I know how to use a gps, I've been mapping trails for years. I get to within a few metres (plus the gps error margin) but I can't seem to find these things.


Are there guidelines for how they are hidden, marked, etc?


What are your secrets for the final short-range search?


I really appreciate your help.


Several easy things to do. First we just stop and look around. Don't walk around, just stop and look first. If you move around quickly you can often stir up things and possibly hide it better. Take a look at your GPS, too. Take it off that arrow and go to the coords screen. Watch your numbers jump around a bit. You'll notice that while they tend to bounce a bit at first they'll start to settle down or "zero out" the longer you stand still. Often we'll just stand in place and turn around slowly to make sure we're not blocking the signal with our own bodies, too. It sounds simple, but keep in mind that being off just a few numbers can put you 15 or 20 feet further from the coords for the cache.


The next step is to look for obvious places followed by the "If I was putting a cache here, where would be a good spot?" mode of deduction. Look for things that look a little out of place like rocks stacked too nicely or fallen limbs all facing the same direction, or shuffled up leaves surrounded by leaves all matted down by the weather.


Taking a friend is great and we find that the more people we have with us the faster we find and learn how to find new cache types.


Last, but not least double-check your coords. We've found ourselves way, waaaaaay off on at least one occasion by not putting them in correctly and double-checking. :huh:

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One other thing to remember also is the cache hider's coordinates. If their coordinates are off by say 30 or 40 ft then of course your coordinates will be off as well. If they are newbies too then they won't have as much experience in hiding caches and probably won't do a good job averaging their coordinates as much as a more experienced cacher might be. Although I have seen more experienced cachers coordinates off by as much as 100 ft sometimes as well. Just use your eyes and when you get in the vacinity of the cache look for something that just doesn't look right.

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I'm beginning to think I really suck at this. So far, I've attempted four caches and found only one - and a blind man could have found that one. Can you share some of your tips for the actual on the ground search. I know how to use a gps, I've been mapping trails for years. I get to within a few metres (plus the gps error margin) but I can't seem to find these things.


Are there guidelines for how they are hidden, marked, etc?


What are your secrets for the final short-range search?


I really appreciate your help.


I would offer a few points of my own. All of my points have probably been addressed in this thread but I'll offer them anyway.


First The one hiding the cache has a "within X feet" on his GPS. You also have "within X feet" on yours. If your model and theirs doesn't match, It can throw you off even more. The GPS will take you to a spot and you often have to circle out to find it especially if you are in the woods.


Second Take a print out with you. I used to arrive at gz thinking I'm looking for an ammo can only to find out it was a micro when I got back home. You also have the clue with you which is often helpful. And...The number One reason to bring a printout with you....If confronted by security or the local constabulary, you have something in writing that can be verified pretty quickly. Not a free pass if trespassing, but it can answer a lot of questions if they need to be answered.


Third Read the posts, especially the early ones. The first few finders can give great clues though cryptic at times. That also can help you understand the hider. We have a cacher in town who just LOVES micros. When I'm looking for one of his, my first trip is just a look-see and then the cryptic hints are a little less so.


Other suggestions


Do some Event Caches. Meet and eat with like minded folk. Get to know some of the other cachers in your area. They love to talk about their experiences and encourage "newbies". Put out a cache of your own and see who comes by. The first few are going to be the die-hards, followed by the serious, followed by a lull, followed by cache run types. That's okay, thats the cycle.


I also suspect that your weather is about to become perfect. Being from Alabama, I can't imagine caching in the snow.


Take care


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I went for three and found one yesterday. Couldn't find the parking area for the first two. Drove past the trailhead for the one I found multiple times before I spotted it. Took a wrong turn on the way back and came out on the highway .6 from my car.


You can suck at this and still have a blast.

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A few things I would mention. First, peruse the forums. You will find that others may have had a similar problem, experience, question or concern. That always helped me not feel so "newb." Second, I find my GPS is much more accurate in suburban or open space areas. There is so many more issues in an urban area. Buildings, concrete with rebar, electrical line, light-rail (electrical wires) buses, TV and radio stations sending/receiving signals. Piles of some types of rocks (at least in the Colorado area) are a bit magnetic--that can really mess with your GPSr!


My main strategy is to think like the hider. Where-what looks like a good hiding place that would dispel muggles yet allow a cacher to find joy?


Take care and have fun,


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First off welcome to geocaching. It is alot of fun! You can get some great tips and hints from a podcast from a cacher called Icenrye - you can easily google him. He is from Prince George. You can watch it on his website if you don't have a video i-pod. As a transplanted Calgarian, I am a little jealous of your locale, although it is beautiful here as well. Also, check out www.GeocacherUniversity.com they have a good section on geocaching 101.

Edited by hikin' nut
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My best suggestion is to not give up on geocaching. Walk away from one you're having difficulties with, but don't walk away from the sport. I've discovered there are days that nothing goes right (not unfrequently), but there are also days where you can do no wrong (quite often, it seems).

As many have said, look for the unusual. Hollow logs, old stumps, and even rocks (or logs) in odd places. I've found quite a few caches just because there was a block of cement in the middle of the woods, or a piece of hollowed out firewood sitting on the ground.

And, look around. You surely won't see the area if your eyes are glued to the screen!


Good luck, and good hunting!

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