Careful About Hiding That Container

Recently, I posted about some locations that cachers should be real careful about hiding caches near, and some that should be flat avoided. Now, let’s talk about how containers can affect the safety of a cache location. While not all of these containers are bad, some are bad containers to put out in certain locations.

Let’s look at one of the classic symbols of geocaching…the ammo can.  Ammo cans are a great resource for geocache containers.  In good condition, they can be amazingly waterproof, hold up well to the elements, and definitely hold up well to animals.

But ammo cans have one fatal flaw that makes them dangerous to use in urban areas…they’re ammo cans.  Ammo cans have a unique ability to conjure up negative views if someone sees you pulling this out of bushes in an urban area.  On many of the bomb scares that end up being geocaches, ammo cans end up being the culprit.  Because you can’t see the contents, and because of the mility style design, it is almost guarenteed that if the police are called in on this one, it will be treated as a bomb.  Geocaching labels are not a guarenteed way to prevent this, but they are definitely recommended, and don’t forget the contact information on the label.

Now is an urban ammo can bad?  Not necessarily, depending on the location.  Definitely keep these away from some of the buildings in the post listed above: banks, police/fire stations, federal buildings, etc.  But if the location is a random location that is away from important infrastructure, you might be okay.  Some urban locations where I’ve seen ammo cans do well include large parks and hiking trails.  I’ve seen them placed in bushes near busy roads.  That’s a bit more iffy.

Let’s move on to another container that is questionable…PVC pipes.  This is a popular method for making waterproof containers and I’ve seen some ingenious methods that imploy them.  Some of the ones that aren’t bad don’t use PVC to make the container, but as a way to hide the container.  For example, making a fake PVC structure that looks like it is part of a building.  But rotate the PVC a bit and the real cache rests inside.

Yet, I’ve also seen very bad PVC caches.  One of the worst was a cache container built entirely out of PVC pipe AND camoed.  Then it was hidden near a building.  HELLO?!?!  A camoed PVC pipe is going to conjure up images of pipe bombs.  Like ammo cans, this is another BAD container to hide near buildings, especially those that would be seen as possible terrorist attack sites.

So where would PVC and ammo can containers work well?  Just about any non-urban location would be best.  Keep them away from urban locations and the chances that they will be mistaken as a bomb drops considerablly.  Especially if in the woods.  Large parks with lots of trees or bushes that would easily conceal the cache would also be okay, provided that again, you aren’t near important buildings.  A park next to a police station…bad idea.

So what are some others to avoid?  I asked some fellow geocachers on Twitter and got some of the following responses:

  • N2froggie@tripcyclone plain baggies … no containers…. trash bags are NOT containers duh
  • darrylw4@TripCyclone Gladware containers come to mind as the worst, but there are many poor containers including anything glass and many metal.
  • _ErikaJean_@TripCyclone Plastic out here in the desert gets chewed up by packrats – metal(ammo altoids type) works out here, its dry so minimal rust.
  • flodot1Icon_lockanything near a park playground thing, nano’s and yes I own one, hate them, micros in the woods, esp if i hiked to it.
  • Let’s look at some of these.  ErickaJean mentions something important to consider.  Plastic containers are more prone to animal damage.  Metal is obviously more resistant to this.  Something else she points out is rust.  Metal is definitely prone to rust and the more humid the location, the more likely this will occur.  And while Altoid containers are popular for micros, they are very prone to rust.  I have some in my bag as well, but know that Altoid containers will likely need more maintanence than usual.

    Playgrounds are a touchy spot as Flo. mentions.  But while we now are aware of her hatred of nanos, sometimes a nano works best in a location.  But as she mentioned, nanos and micros in the woods are touchy.  Woods make great spots for large containers.  Nano’s and micros in the woods, where you might be more likely to have a less accurate signal, are just plain evil.  Yet, I’m evil enough that I have a plan for placing a nano in the woods.  Sorry Flo.

    DarrylW4 points out that Gladware doesn’t stand up well to the elements.  I’ve been lucky.  I’ve only had one tupperware container break, and only because we had an extreme cold spell come through right after I placed it.  If you are in a location that regularly sees really cold weather, I would avoid plastic.  When it cools down, the plastic is more likely to freeze and crack.

    Darry mentions another no-no…Glass.  Glass suffers from the same problem as plastic in extreme cold.  It is also prone to breaking if poorly placed.  I’ve heard stories of glass containers hidden under rocks.  In the famous words of Homer Simpson…DOH!

    And N2Froggie mentions another bad method of hiding caches…no true container.  I’ve actually seen caches hidden in nothing more than a plastic baggie.  I’ve even seen one that was a surgical glove, which was quite funny because the cache was highlighting the hospital across the highway, and was the result of a cache thief, not the cache owner.  Please make sure your cache container is a SOLID container.  Garbage bags and baggies are a guarenteed path to damaged container.  They are also more likely to be mistake as trash.

    One thing that IS recommened for any cache is some form of identification.  You can easily get fancy labels to put on the side of your caches where you can write in some information. CACHE ADVANCE is one resource for finding these labels. Click on “STICKERS” on the left hand menu. If you don’t want to spend money on labels, you can always make your own. If you don’t want to do that, get a permanent marker. Something as simple as labeling the container a Geocache is better than nothing. I commonly write “Official Geocache – Do Not Remove” on the side of my containers.

    This is also a good point to mention putting cache notes inside. Groundspeak has links for log sheets and cache notes on their “Hide and Seek a Cache” page, on the right side of the page. A simple cache note explaining what geocaching is can be helpful if a muggle comes across the cache.

    Last of all, if you are going to place urban hides and you want to place something other than a nano or micro, try your best to use a clear container that allows you to see the contents. Make sure there is a cache note AND label the geocache. A clear container will be extremely helpful if someone gets suspicious and calls it in. The police officer who responds will be able to clearly see that the container is nothing more than toy trinkets and a notebook. This will be a big factor in whether or not the bomb squad gets called.

    Any others that you feel I missed…post a comment.

    And with regards to my streak, today I hit 7 weeks straight with five more finds, putting me up to:
    Total days in a row cached: 49 days
    Total caches found during streak: 269 caches

    TripCyclone

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