CacheCrazy.Com: Swag: Redux

Friday, February 25, 2011

Swag: Redux

Swag: Redux


To me, geocaching is about the challenge and the hunt: the cache could be a nano or an ammo box, I just want to FIND IT. Inevitable, anyone who asks me about caching wants to know, "What's in the container you find???" Many cachers, particularly those with kids, love the little prizes left for the finder. In an excellent post by BLOODHOUNDED, he discusses problems with cachers claiming, "Took Nothing, Left Nothing, Signed Log." While, as noted, swag looting is undoubtedly a problem, today we'll talk about swag etiquette, types, and placement.

SWAG, Stuff We All Get, is governed by a few rules from groundspeak:
Contents are family-friendly. Explosives, fireworks, ammunition, lighters, knives (including pocket knives and multi-tools), drugs, alcohol and any illicit material should not be placed in a cache. Geocaching is a family activity and cache contents should be suitable for all ages. If someone other than you places an inappropriate item in a geocache that you own, the cache may be temporarily disabled. As the cache owner, you may be asked to remove the questionable item before it is enabled.
Contents are appropriate for outdoor life. Food items or scented items are always a bad idea. Animals have a better sense of smell than humans and have been known to chew containers open to get these items. Items that may melt in the heat, such as crayons or lip balm, or expand in the cold, such as liquids, should also be excluded from caches.
I take objection to parts of these rules. Pocket knives and multitools have saved my sorry butt many times in the field, and (at least to me growing up) are totally family friendly. Similarly, the definitions of "inappropriate" and "family friendly" vary from person to person. Ultimately, I leave the creative freedom to the CO to decide what is or is not appropriate, so if you're thinking of placing something potentially questionable, check with your CO. If the cache description says it is not kid/family friendly, leave the kids at home! Let me know what you think in the comments.

When taking swag, etiquette generally dictates to trade or "trade up": to replace what you took with something of equal or greater value. Again, discretion is left to the CO here, I've seen caches where the CO says "Take what you want!". Either way, it's generally a good idea to log what you took and/or left, and to let the CO know if things are running low. Remember, trackable items are NOT swag! No need to trade them out, but only take them if you'll move them along.

The kinds of swag you can leave are only limited by the container size and your imagination. Here is a list of a couple:

  1. The classics are McToys and dollar store trinkets for the kiddies. If you're thinking of placing an easier or a family oriented cache, I'm told these are a solid choice.
  2. Geocache related items are my favorite: unactivated coins and TBs, as well as cache containers, logbooks, CITO bags, pens and pencils, and ziplock bags. This can be a way to get your own creative containers out there, and to inspire new hides.
  3. George of keoki_eme has told me he frequents the discount sections of home improvement stores, I've seen his caches stocked with tape measures, screwdriver sets, smoke alarms, and thumb/flash drives. These, as well as hand warmers, gloves and hats, mosquito repellent, tissues or sani-naps, and any other outdoor gear, are great items anyone can enjoy, and are often appreciated out in the field.
  4. Homemade arts and crafts are great unique additions. Tricia Goss at brighthub suggests homemade glass marble magnets.
  5. Similarly, signature items are very popular. Some people create their own business cards (some even numerically ordered, "This was my ###th cache!"), while others create their own burned-wood coins. A signature item doesn't need to have your name on it, though: I've used seashells as a unique "signature" item, while ATCresci has been using wooden nickels. Any unique item can be your signature: "Hey, a bunch of seashells in this cache... that seashell guy must've been here too!"
This list is a short summary; the possibilities are limited only by the container size. My opinion is that simpler caches should have simpler swag: I save the good stuff for the harder caches. How do you place your swag? What do you place? Let me know in the comments.



BigAl said...

Thanks for an informative article. Hopefully a lot of folks will read this one. I agree with you on your comments about what SWAG can be left. I do not go ANYWHERE without my trusty Gerber multi-tool. I think they should be allowed in caches as well as small pocket knives. These are items that most poeple should have. My children were brought up with knives and they each have one. If I did not feel they could handle it I would not have given it to them. I think taking a knife out of a cache, if it is left in there, should be up to the parents of the kids who are out caching. The parent knows what's best for their kids.

Now on trading items. I also think you should leave something if you take something. I try and leave something for all ages to include small items for the geodogs that sometimes come along, but never any food items. I also try and leave something if there is nothing in the cache at all. It's sad to find a nice cache container only to find out there is nothing in it. Right now I leave a marble in each cache I visit. It's nothing big, but the kids like them. I'm still trying to work on a sig item that I can leave and also something for caches that I think are really cool. These are just my thoughts. Thanks again for this article.


Great job on this post and your ideas of SWAG match mine completely! When I was in grade school I can remember using my 32 function scout knife to eat my lunch with and slice up an apple. Many of us had them and no one ever even considered using it to harm anyone. To me, a good quality pocket knife is considered premium SWAG.

There is one other additional consideration I will suggest. When caching with families, the young ones always want something. I have seen this with my own eyes and my own kids or kids we take along for the adventure. Once I was with a family that I cached with, three kids all took something and mom placed one item back in the cache. I didn’t say anything and just added a few extras to it for good measure. Give each of the little ones their own SWAG bag with just a few items in it. Then they can decide if they want to trade or not. It has to be even up not only in quality but also in quantity. After all, it is a treasure hunt, right?
Thank you for this excellent post and referencing my previous work on the subject!
Well done Doc!

Dan the Wodsman said...

What is your opinions on leaving money in a cache? If you find money, do you take it?


Dan, that is a great question!
I always feel funny about taking money if it's USA currency BUT, if it's foreign, it's going home with me.
Maybe for an FTF prize but I usually don't take or leave cash in the cache.

Dodger said...

Ah, yes, there are few things worse than finding a poorly stocked cache. As far as we go, we probably trade for something maybe half of the time. Even if we don't take anything, we almost always leave something, probably 95% of the time.

I've found it pretty easy to collect free swag at events like county fairs and local festivals. I can almost always find neat stickers, erasers, pins, magnets, crayons, small toys, and rulers at these events. I started putting a variety of this stuff in plastic bags and calling it a "DLC Prize Pack".

We've also made a few signature coins that carry the DLC logo. We haven't been leaving them as much lately because we need to make more of them, but this is something that is a real fun thing to do. I encourage everybody to come up with a signature item to leave in caches.

As far as money goes, I've never left any, but I think it's pretty cool when you do find it in caches. Gives it an authentic treasure hunt feeling.

Finally, we had an ink stamper made at a local shop. It depicts the DLC logo, and we often use it to stamp logbooks. This also is a lot of fun and a great way to leave something unique to share with others.

BigAl said...

I usually don't leave money, but if there is unusual money left in then I may trade for it. My niece found an old penny in a special coin holder and it had a number on it like a trackable. When we looked it up it told who had left it and what cache they put it in. She took it back to Florida with her and I think she is going to put it in another cache down there.

Dan the Wodsman said...

Ah ha! So that's what I can do with those useless foreign coins...!


To me, foreign coins are quite the treasure to find!!!!

Stacy Allen said...

The Outdoor Women

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