Basics: Winter Caching

Geocaching in Winter

Winter is upon us, and that changes things up for a cacher in the Toronto Area. Many geocachers will simply hang up the GPS until spring, coming out only for the occasional pub event cache. Then there are those cachers who will embrace the season and carry on caching, even preferring winter caching.

On the positive side for winter:

  • There are no bugs to worry about. You are quite unlikely to get West Nile or Lyme Disease while caching in a Toronto woodlot in January.
  • If another cacher (or cache owner) has been to the cache recently, you can follow the footprints in the snow right to the cache.
  • The deciduous trees have dropped their leaves, and the rest of the foliage is pretty sparse too – this can make caches (or their hiding spots) more visible to a seeker
  • Winter temperatures also tend to keep the muggles indoors
  • Snowshoe, Ski, Skate or Toboggan to a geocache for additional fun!

Of course, there are some negatives that come with the package

  • Freeze/thaw cycles can entomb a cache in ice, making it impossible to sign the log book
  • It gets dark very early
  • Icy trails can be tricky to navigate
  • Footprints in the snow can make muggles curious too
  • Cold temperatures, and winter weather require proper preparation
  • Electronics, like your GPS and camera suffer and the batteries will die quickly

There are some easy ways to make your caching experience much better if you plan ahead

  • Dress in layers. You will be able to dial up or dial down your comfort level with ease if you have a few layers.
  • Bring water, and make sure you drink it. We can be tricked into dehydrating ourselves because we’re not hot and sweaty.
  • It’s helpful to carry a collapsible shovel when hunting where the snow is deep. This will keep your hands dry if you resort to digging to a ground level cache
  • Keep your batteries on the inside of your coat, so they keep their charge better.
  • Carry a flashlight, even if you are caching in the afternoon. It gets dark earlier this time of year.
  • While it is tempting to wander across frozen lakes, make sure you know the ice can support you. When in doubt, don’t go out. Ice should be a good 2 – 3 inches thick before it will support a person or group of people on it.
  • Be very wary of wide open, flat, snow covered areas. These often are hiding water underneath.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are caching, and when you will be back.  Carry a cell phone ( inside your jacket).
  • Cache in a group if possible
  • If a cache is frozen in place, don’t try aggressively to free it.  You risk breaking the container, particularly if it is tupperware or a lock’n'lock. Most cache owners will accept an emailed photo of the cache in place of a log in the book. Be prepared to accept a DNF and come back another day if that cache owner won’t.
  • Don’t park on the side of the road during a major snowstorm, if the plow comes by you could be stranded in a snowbank.

Other local area organizations have been writing about Winter Caching as well.
Some of the ideas/concepts mentioned above  have been mentioned (sometimes first) on the these sites:

[ CacheMania ] [ SWOG ] [ GeoSwamp ]

If Tobogganing to a geocache sounds like fun, check out this upcoming event in the area:

[ GHMGC – Winter Fun Event Cache ]

Related Posts:

  • geotrailguy

    Nice article. Loved the collapsible shovel idea.

    Unfortunately, this is also the worst time of year for the kids to be out caching. Not so much due to the weather but because those little legs struggle to get through snow of any depth.

    Off topic: are you able to add a feature that allows me to subscribe (via email) to comments for those postings that I post a comment to?

    • northernpenguin

      Put the kids on your toboggan and pull them along :)

      For the off topic part, I’ll look into that – should be a WordPress plugin that lets me add that easily to the site.

  • http://www.cacheatnight.com TeamVoyagr

    I’m going to retrieve a cache tomorrow that is near the bottom of a tree. I’m thinking of taking a broom to brush away the snow. I wonder how that will work.