Hiding a quality cache is easy if you carefully consider how and where your cache is hidden. This article provides some basic guidelines to consider.
1. Location! A quality cache needs a good location, something to see which a person might not bother to stop at or not know about otherwise. It doesn't have to be a great view from a mountain, it can just be a nice section of woods getting there, or a nice park, or something historical or bizarre. Make sure the area is not private property, and be careful hiding caches near RR tracks or federal buildings or bridges - most often caches in these locations will not be approved. If the cache has little to offer in the form of location, it should make up for it in some other manner.
Pay attention to what impact the location of the cache will make on it's surroundings. Imagine what the area will look like in different seasons and times of day - visiting muggles, vegetation growth, undesirables frequenting the area, and animal life. If the area is sensitive, make note in the description what steps the cacher should take to insure minimal damage.
2. Hide! A quality cache should be hidden well, but match it's rating. It should be hidden in a manner where a cacher could find it, but geomuggles probably would not notice it easily. Otherwise, it is doomed to be plundered. If the cache has little to offer in the form of the hide, it should make up for it in some other manner.
Pay attention to what impact the hide can play on the area. Imagine where cachers may look for the cache if they are not looking in the right place. Imagine less careful cachers removing surrounding items while looking for your cache. If the area is sensitive, make note in the description where not to look, or what not to look under or near.
3. Variety! A quality cache need not be like every other one in your neighborhood. If the area is full of 1/1's, try hiding a harder one, or vise versa. If the area is full of traditional caches, hide a multi or an unknown or puzzle cache. Incorporate your interests or hobbies into the cache, and derive coordinates for the final stage from that.
4. Properly rated! An official unofficial rating system can be found at http://clayjar.com/gcrs/ Live it! Love it! Sometimes a cache turns out to be more or less difficult than intended, so if people seem to be finding the cache easier or harder than you originally anticipated, adjust the ratings slightly on the cache page.
5. Good Coords! GPSrs are not as accurate as many think, And a cacher will most likely be testing your coords once, so it is up to the hider to be confident his/her coords are as close as possible. Many of the newer GPSrs are more accurate, but when the GPSr says itís accuracy is 10 feet, it may not be. The best way to be sure is to revisit the cache site different times on different days before submitting the cache and average any of those that the accuracy is decent. Enter the averaged coords in your GPSr manually and go back to the site as if you were a cacher and see how close it takes you. In areas of good reception a couple tries is sufficient, but you may want to revisit more often in dense tree cover. If cachers continually note that the coords may be off, check them again and edit your cache page accordingly as soon as possible.
6. Effort! Nothing is more impressive than a cache that shows some effort. Historical information to go along with the cache site, well written cache descrcriptions, and clear and concise instructions make a big difference. Make sure any cache attributes are correct. A container that is camo'd or otherwise cleverly made or hidden is an added bonus. Meeting all or most of the other criteria in this article shows effort!
7. Good Containers! Containers should be of decent construction and seal well. If it doesn't seal well, expect to have to maintain it more. I like ammo boxes - They seal real well, and there is little doubt whether it is closed tight or not. Obviously, there are places when ammo boxes will not work, so just choose your container thoughtfully, especially if it's in an area where water, ice, animals, or other dangers might be a factor.
8. Right size container for the area! Not very often is there a need for a micro in the middle of a million acre forest nor is it safe to hide a .50 cal ammo box in a city alley. With a little forethought, it's not hard to hide a larger container well.
9. Good Contents! You don't need to spend a fortune on contents, but there is no need for broken or dangerous items. Geocaching.com will not approve a cache if they know there are knives, lighters, matches, alcohol, adult material, or other dangerous materials inside. And - NO FOOD OR SCENTED items! Animals can smell soap, food, scented candles, air fresheners, and such and come after your cache. Even an ammo box might not be safe from a crafty raccoon or a bear. Plus if any dampness gets in the cache, it can make it really smell nasty. Many people have allergies to the candles and air fresheners, and after being closed up in a cache can make them quite potent when opened. If you gets logs mentioning damp or unwanted objects in your cache, check on it soon and take care of the issue.
10. Maintenance! Check your cache on a regular basis. Obviously, caches that are found more often or that are in an area where muggles could find it need to be checked more often. Containers that are of lesser quality or that do not have a tight seal will need to be checked for dampness or mold. If anyone reports a bad condition or multiple DNFs, check on it! And don't hide one where you can't check on it in a timely manner! Don't expect other cachers to maintain it for you. It's very gracious of a finder to help a cache out, but the responsibility is with the cache hider, not the finder!
11. Disable where needed! If a cache turns up missing or otherwise compromised and you intend to replace or repair it, disable it and post a note as to why it's disabled and when you plan to replace it. You can re-enable it yourself without intervention from a Groundspeak volunteer. We don't need cachers digging up the countryside if a cache isn't there.
12. Archive when needed! If a cache is missing or you have retrieved it, or are moving to a new place and will not be able to maintain a cache, and you have no plans to replace it or let someone adopt it, archive it! Event caches should be archived shortly after the event, when enough time has been given for visitors to log it (If someone is still late, they can still log an archived cache). If you archive your cache, you will need and volunteer to re-enable it if you do replace it, so do not archive if you plan to replace the cache soon.
13. Communication! Check your gc.com emails on a regular basis. Respond to emails concerning your caches. Send emails to finders if you have questions or just want to congratulate them - if your cache is their first, send an email welcoming them to the sport, and invite them to join Geocaching Maine! Be friendly and fair if there is a disagreement. If you are not willing to do this, don't place a cache!
14. Guidelines! Before placing or submitting your cache, read the geocaching.com guidelines for placing a cache! These guidelines can be found at http://www.geocaching.com/about/guidelines.aspx and if you don't read and place your cache according to these guidelines, your cache may not be approved and it will just make more work for the Groundspeak volunteers and yourself. Be sure to re-read these guidelines before placing every cache as they change as our national security and other factors change.