Characteristics of a Good Hide

The objective of a hide is to provide a favorable experience for the seeker.

There are three components to a successful hide: location, container, and maintenance.

The area in which a cache is hidden is the setting of the experience. The environment one travels to the cache as well as the immediate area that the cache is hidden in greatly determines the success of the hide. The location should positively impress the seeker. There is no way to describe positively impress in a rigid definition. One man’s positive impression is another’s ho hum. But there are some examples which should help provide shape to impressive locations. Trash at the location is undesirable. It is understood that the elements can move paper and plastic. Off-road dumps, junk piles, abandoned automobiles, lawn furniture, etc. are usually good signs that there is trash at the location. One can think of exceptions, but those exceptions are rare.

Locations which one has to contend with the general public negatively impact the experience. While again there are exceptions, caches hidden in areas which place the seeker in a position of having to explain his actions are not positively impressive. There is nothing positive about a lightpole in a parking lot with the employees of the convenience store watching a cacher’s every move. Such a location fails at being impressive.

A pine tree beside a road that a normal car can traverse to is equally unimpressive. Some folks have interpreted that wooded areas are the counter to urban settings; therefore, any cache which one can seek without prying eyes is desirable. This often leads to the roadside drive-bys. Again, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, unless there is something remarkable there, this doesn’t impress the seeker.

It is incumbent upon the hider to follow all laws and regulations when placing a cache. Obviously, laws are unique to a given area. Private property, military institutions, active railroads, bridges, dams, schools, archaeological sites, etc. should all give pause to a hider. Exceptions notwithstanding, these areas place the seeker in an awkward position. Will the seeker be positively impressed at the location you have selected?

While there may or may not be laws regulating writing on public property, securing items to a tree, digging holes for your container, etc., it is in the best interests of the caching community to avoid actions which can be perceived as destructive.

The location of the hide should be unique. In considering this, a hider needs to be familiar with the caching community. If an established cache brings one along a remarkable route, a cache along that same route is not going to be unique. Your cache will not provide anything for the seeker in terms of location that the established cache has not already provided. Not every cache is going to be at a waterfall, on a mountain peak, or at ruins which teach a history lesson.

Not every cache is going to lead a cacher along a circuitous trail teeming with notable flora and fauna. Yet, striving for such characteristics for your location is certainly desirable.

Few locations are going to be unanimously heralded. That said, the majority of the community is going to agree whether or not your location met the standard. The community is your audience. Challenge yourself to impress the community. That is, after all, for whom you are hiding this cache.

To isolate the impact of the container in the hide process, assume the community has a neutral impact upon the cache. The container then is what preserves the cache after it is placed. It is the insurance against the elements and wildlife as well as the vessel to keep the contents corralled.

The first consideration is whether or not a container is needed at all. If the cache is an ancient boundary marker, the hider will not need a container. Typically, however, caches consist of a logbook, trade items, information sheets, and other items placed by cachers. For those caches, containers will be needed.

A container needs to be waterproof. History has shown that containers not designed for the outdoors do not secure a cache well. The container corrals the items of a cache. Logbooks, cache cards, and some trade items are made of paper. Without a waterproof container, these items will not endure outdoors. Soggy contents and cracked containers do not positively impress the seeker.

What if the standard were, Why not an ammo box? It does not state that an ammo box has to be used, but if not, Why not? A plastic decon container may be the perfect container for a swamp, which may not support an ammo box. An ammo box may be invasive in certain locations. The location determines the container. But beginning with Why not an ammo box? will require a hider to re-visit the desirability of the location once again.

The location drives the container choice.

Is there anything which can be done to improve this cache? That is the standard for maintenance. A hider should ensure that each cache he places is as good as it can be. The reward of doing so is a positively impressed seeker.

Maintenance is more than checking up on a cache. Maintenance consists of everything that goes into a hide other than the location and the container. Setting the coordinates, writing the description, providing a clue, and checking up on it periodically are all part of maintenance.

Good coordinates are imperative for a cache. There are different approaches to how to secure accurate coordinates, but none entail finding the location, pushing the GoTo/Mark button on the GPSr, and then leaving. Nor are good coordinates gleaned solely from maps, the Internet, etc. Coordinates are one of the fundamental characteristics of the activity; therefore, a careful and considered approach to this aspect of maintenance is necessary.

The cache should positively impress the cacher. While trade items, information sheets, etc. are not required, if used, they should be unique. Dollar store trinkets, coupons, and McDonald’s toys do not make the grade. Attention to the contents of the cache will be noted by the seeker. Writing instruments, if placed in the container, should be in working condition.

The cache page is an oft-neglected aspect of maintenance. Some cachers embellish a tale, some provide background information about the area, others are more plain-spoken, but describe pertinent details. Some hiders, unfortunately, fail with the cache page.

The description may be so detailed that the seeker knows what he is going to encounter without ever leaving the computer. Pertinent information may be buried in the hint or the hint is no help whatsoever. The cache page is the cover of the book. If a cache is a wonderful experience for the seeker, shouldn’t it at least have a decent cache page? Hints should never be along the lines of Too easy for a hint. That is not necessary. Nor should a hint require items which would not normally be with a cacher on a hunt. Things such as, Look on for a hint or Bring a ladder are not going to be helpful once in the field. If those are clues which are required, they need to be in the description, not the encrypted hint. It is okay not to have a hint. If proper attention has been paid to posting good coordinates, the hint may be superfluous.

The hider also has a responsibility to maintain his cache page. Fraudulent finds, spoilers, and responding to issues and questions all need to be handled in a timely manner. If the cache is unavailable, that needs to be indicated immediately on the cache page. If the cache is retired, that too, needs immediate notification. Slacking on this is not serving the seeker.

Maintenance normally refers to the hider visiting his cache. During those visits, he needs to verify the integrity of the logbook, clean out any trash/weathered trade items, ensure the container is doing its job and is in the location the cache was originally placed. He may re-stock the cache, if needed. Visiting the cache is to be done when needed. How one determines when it is needed all depends on circumstances. Certainly if there is information that leads one to believe there is a problem (multiple DNFs, logs stating issues, photograph of cache in a different area, etc.), a maintenance visit is needed. But it is also good form to visit occasionally, even if it is not suspected a problem is present. Caches degrade over time and a hider should be mindful of that. Periodic visits will help counteract that problem.

A hider should regularly return to the maintenance standard, Is there anything which can be done to improve this cache? Perhaps tweaking the clue, correcting a spelling error in the description, or placing new writing instruments in the cache can be done. The hider should not rely on others to maintain his cache.

Maintenance also involves what to do at the end of a cache’s life. Sometimes it is desired to retire a particular cache (cache did not work out as planned, moving out of the area, too far to maintain, etc.). A hider has an obligation to retrieve the container and its contents from the wild. Abandoning caches is poor etiquette and ultimately causes a cache to fail. Abandoned caches are litter.

Finding someone to adopt the cache is another option. This does not happen without some work. It should be made official so that those who do not know what is going on can easily determine what has happened. Without making it official, it can look as if those caches were abandoned. That does not positively impress the seeker. Also, one should re-visit the idea of the cache one last time. Is there a reason for this cache to continue? If not, pick up the cache and let the community know it is gone. Maintenance provides longevity to the cache. Without it, positively impressed seekers will not be finding the cache.

There are three points to hiding a cache: location, container, and maintenance. The combination of these three characteristics determines how good a hide will be. The location drives the hide. The location will also determine the container which is used. Finding that remarkable location which will impress the seeker is the first step to a good hide. The hider’s maintenance ensures the longevity of the hide, all other things remaining the same. It does not take long to determine the modus operendi of a hider.

The combination of location, container, and maintenance determine the experience for the seeker. Hiding a cache is an exercise in altruism. One should be considerate of what the seeker will experience at each and every stage of the outing. If one were to take that approach, the community will have far more rewarding experiences.

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3 thoughts on “Characteristics of a Good Hide”

  1. I mostly agree.
    But… location is a characteristic of a “good hide”.
    The container and maintenance are characteristics of a “sucessful hide”.

    I try to adhere to at least one of these three conditions when placing a cache:

    Route to the cache
    Method of obtaining coordinates

  2. In order to determine a successful hide, criteria would need to be written. This piece is my take on it. Good for me equals a successful hide. Around here, however, success is usually measured in whether or not a smiley is located by one’s name. Lots of caches are successful with that criteria, but are poorly maintained.

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