Not too long ago, I did a Geocaching 101 blog post for people who had asked for more information about the game.
I wanted to expand on that post with a few others about the game in hopes of giving new geocachers a place to see everything in the eyes of someone other than Groundspeak.
This edition of the 101 is about trackables, which is basically a game within the game of geocaching.
The basic definition of trackables is an item — either a travel bug, geocoin or other traveler — that has a unique number on it. That number is connected to the geocaching.com website. When a geocacher picks it up, he or she logs that they picked it up and will move it along soon. When that geocacher drops it off, they put it in a geocache and then when they log that cache as found, there’s an option to drop the traveler, too.
The traveler can be one of several things, so let’s go over each.
The Travel Bug: The most popular is probably the official Groundspeak travel bug. The travel bug is a basic dog tag, attached to a small chain. That chain and dog tag can be sent out on its own, or it can be attached to something. It can be attached to anything — toy cars, key chains, sporting things, homemade crafts — whatever. Just remember that it needs to fit in a cache. Some items might be difficult to place, unless it’s a bigger cache. So keep all that in mind when sending a travel bug out or moving one along. The bonus about travel bugs is that they come with two tags — one to send out with your item and the other as a backup, just in case your traveler goes missing.
Geocoins: Geocoins are more expensive, but more sought after. Geocoins are made by someone and resemble actual coins. They are metal and can differ in sizes. Most are designed and have a limited number made. Coins can range from $5 to more than $20, depending on the coin, its availability and if it’s even in production anymore. Because of their price, geocoins are often purchased new by collectors and never released into the wild. They are collected and the collector often lets other cachers check them out so they can be discovered instead of being moved.
Other travelers: In recent years, companies have come up with things that are basically in the middle of Travel Bugs and geocoins. They are usually the thinness of the Travel Bugs, but are more custom looking, such as in the shape of animals or something else. However, these come one to a package, so if they come up missing, you don’t have a backup. Some companies have, however, surfaced that offer a low-cost replacement for your missing trackable, should it happen.
How you can participate
First, let me give a little dose of reality when it comes to travelers — they don’t always survive. I placed one on my trip to Ireland last year and it disappeared before it ever left the cache I dropped it in. The reality is that people steal travelers (more likely coins than Travel Bugs) to add to their own personal collection. It’s sad, but true.
However, coins and travel bugs can still be found.
If you find them, don’t worry about what a cache description says (many will say to take a trackable, you need to leave one. Don’t believe it. A cache owner has no say over the travel bug. None whatsoever.) If you can help a traveler on it’s mission, take it and move it to another cache. If you can’t, feel free to discover it, which lets the owner know the trackable is still there and in the wild.
The rule of thumb is you should move it within two weeks. Alas, real life gets in the way. And with more and more micros being hidden, sometimes cache size makes it hard to move trackables. So just try and move it within a reasonable time and all should be OK.
When I grab a traveler, I love looking through the history to see where it’s been and see if anyone has added photos. A traveler can really have a history and can be fun to see what it’s done.
For example, I have one I placed in my father’s memory a few years back. It’s traveled more than 17,000 miles and has visited several states and has even been in Iraq.
A traveler page can really show a lot of things.
How to start one
My first time caching, I picked up a geocoin. I didn’t know much about it, but I did a search and learned about it. I realized I was supposed to move the coin within two weeks or so of picking it up. I found what I thought was the perfect cache and let it go back into the wild. For a while, I “watched” the coin as it moved all over. After a while, I didn’t want to watch it anymore. I wanted to set loose one of my own.
So I did.
And I’ve done it many times since.
It’s easy to set one out. Just buy a traveler (which you can do on the Geocaching.com website or buy from many, many geocaching online stores), attach it to something and place it in a cache. Then wait. Sometimes travelers will take a while before they move. Sometimes it will seem like it will never move.
Sometimes they disappear.
But don’t give up hope. There are stories of travelers that seemingly disappeared years ago and resurface.
Though not really travelers, Pathtags often get confused as travelers because of their number on the back. Pathtags, however, are signature items. People can register them on the Pathtags website. Pathtags look like small geocoins and are quite detailed. But in the end, they are normal swag one can trade for and keep. People do, however, place them back in caches for others to eventually find.
People also have signature items, which can range from wood coins, to pencils, to custom-made items to many other things. These, too, are swag items and are not travelers, unless of course they are attached to a travel bug or coin!
Travelers are a great aspect to the game of geocaching. It gives people the chance to travel through something they have set out into the world. Many of these travelers have goals — to reach a different place, to see something, to get to another geocacher or something else. Others just have the goal of traveling.
When you pick them up, do your best to move them along as soon as you can. People love seeing their travelers move often! And when you send them out, have fun with them and realize these things can — and will — disappear. It’s an unfortunate part of the game. When you release them, you’ll likely never see them again, so try not to attach anything valuable. Have fun and see a different side of the game!
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook by clicking the button on the right side of the page!