For those who don’t know about geocaching, there’s a side game of sorts to it.
A geocaching trackable is either a coin, travel bug (dog tag) or something along those lines. On the trackable is a code, which you can enter into the geocaching.com website to log it. You take these from geocaches and place them elsewhere, helping them move around the world freely, or to a specific goal.
The reality is geocaching trackables have lives of their own.
Along the way, these trackables rack up hundreds and thousands of miles, visiting far off places or staying close to home. It all depends on who picks it up and moves it along.
I have some trackables that have gone for more than 20,000 miles. Others have barely moved. You just never know.
If using a travel bug or something along those lines, there are often things attached to it, such as a small toy, a signature item, or something completely different. It’s a way to help define the goal of the item.
For example, I have one travel bug that is attached to a bottle opener. Its goal is to reach a geocacher in Washington. It made it as far as Idaho, but then it ended up becoming a hostage.
What’s a hostage you may ask?
Simply put, geocaching trackables disappear.
The reality is this — if you put one in the wild, you are putting in other people’s hands. Geocoins — because they are so nice — are more apt to disappear than others. But many others disappear for no reason.
I’ve found that the majority of mine that disappear because of newer cachers. They grab them, then after 10-12 finds, they stop caching and so goes the travelers.
I had one the other day with some more experienced cachers who had it for a while, somehow misplaced it, dropped it in one of their caches and then marked it missing.
Is that annoying? Absolutely. Does it happen? Yes.
The reality is, when you send these suckers out, you shouldn’t expect to see them again. It’s, unfortunately, part of the game.
So what to do when your geocaching trackable disappears?
If you have the official Groundspeak travel bug dog tags, you can send out the copy tag. But if you have other trackables, you may be out of luck.
Unless you send out a proxy.
A proxy is basically you sending something else out with the trackable number on it. It can be anything from custom dog tags, to wood coins, to laminated items. There are some companies which will create proxy coins for you. Those coins are usually thick metal and are of quality. But that costs money.
Not everyone wants to spend that sort of scratch to replace a coin or tag that will likely go missing again.
There is a persona about these proxy items, though. If a coin is listed in a geocache, people will often hope to see the actual coin. When they see a proxy, some will leave it behind and not do anything with it.
But there’s quality issues, too.
Some proxy setups are bad. I’ve picked up many a laminated proxy that has been in ruins. The lamination was bad, it’s soaked and basically mud. If it’s not attached to anything, it gets lost in the shuffle, too.
The first few times I found a proxy, I hated them. I moved them (I’m a firm believer that if a trackable is in a cache, move it along), but didn’t like them.
Then I realized why people did it.
I understand that coins are expensive. Why would you want to send those out to be stolen? Or, if you already had sent it out and it was stolen, why wouldn’t you want it to continue to move?
I have more than 100 coins in my personal collection. Only a few (ones that came with proxy coins) are out in the wilderness. I have a lot of travel bugs, too. Add in a few items such as ingots and all and I have a bunch of travelers.
Not all of them are still moving.
I recently started thinking about doing up a proxy or 12 to release. But how to do it? I didn’t want them to get lost, stuck or in bad shape. That meant I wasn’t going to put out wood coins with something written or stamped, because it could fade. Maybe some custom wood coins could be made, but even then, I’d have to put the number on there somehow.
A basic lamination always feels cheaply done to me.
So, I did what I thought was best.
I created a small tag in Photoshop. It’s two-sided, with one side showing the goal of the item and the other side showing the trackable number, where to log and the icon the number gives. I then put it in a heavier lamination sleeve (half of a luggage tag), attached it to a key ring and an item and then put it in a smaller Ziplock-style bag.
It’s my hope these will get out there and move around.
My plan is to do many of these for my geocoins, too. That way, people can move them along, discover or whatever else and get the icon of said coin. It’s also a nice way to have them moving, yet know I have the original and they won’t end up in somebody else’s collection or pocket.
So I’m now a fan of proxy travelers, as long as they are done decently well and with quality. It’s the ones that lack quality which are tough to deal with. Hopefully this is a way to make sure the life of these travelers continue and get many miles.
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