5 Mistakes I Made

fractured-ankleThe title says mistakes but that’s just because it’s easy to write.   The 5 mistakes I’m talking about are the five things I wish I started caching with instead learning as I went.   The other night I was out caching with Bakers Dozen and we were discussing head lamps.   During our conversation it dawned on me that I’ve spent more in cheap head lamp than the cost of my current, and hopefully last, head lamp.  Where do you go to learn about the right kind of gear for geocaching?   I”m going to start by creating this little list.

  1. Hiking boots!   In the spring of 2010 I fractured my ankle while reaching for a cache.  I spent the next six weeks in a cast.  I’m not sure that hiking boots would have prevented me from fracturing my ankle but I’m not taking any chances.  Today I don’t go caching unless I’m wearing my hiking boots.
  2. Water Shoes.   These are a simple and reasonably small weight penalty to carry in my large geocaching bag.   I used them to traverse creeks and rivers and sometimes just a flooded trail.   A quick change of footwear ensures you’ll spend the rest of your geocaching day with your feet dry.   (I keep a small cloth in my bag to dry my feet. )
  3. A small and a large geocaching bag.   The small bag is for quick caching trips, grab and goes and the like.   The larger pack includes additional clothing and other supplies that I might night on a longer trip.  I tried for a long time to use just one pack but I’d leave it in the car for quick trips.  By having a large and a small pack I can take the one that is most appropriate.
  4. Yak Trax.  You will not need these if you geocache in a warm climate but for where I live these are essential.   Yak Trax are a traction aid that you put on over your footwear.   I might only use them once or twice a year but on those days I use them I keep my feet under me.  That is worth it to me.
  5. Buy the best lighting equipment you can afford and maybe even spend a bit more than you can afford.   Since I started caching I’ve owned four head lamps.   I spent over $100 dollars on my first four head lamps and only $65 on my current head lamp.   The same applies to flashlights.  I currently have three flashlights that I use on a regular basis.  When I started caching I used whatever flashlight I had handy.  After doing a few night caches I spent $18 on what I thought at the time was an “expensive” light.  I’ve come to realize that $18 is an inexpensive light.   The lights I use now cost between $30-50.   Still not the most expensive lights.  I think these lights strike the right balance of price and performance.   I know one cacher that has a $1600 flashlight or “portable sun” as we like to call it.

These are the five things I wish I started with.   You might have a different list.   What would you change about this list?

Geocaching Icons

As happens from time to time Groundspeak makes a change on geocaching.com that some members of the user community do not like.  I’m not one to resist change.  Change is inevitable.   The only thing I want to say about the new icons is I like this set created by thebruce0 a lot better.  The colors all mean something:

RED – problems with a cache/negative cache availability
GREEN – related to cache availability/location
BLUE – Attention grabbing (DNF will of course be the most common, and won’t appear alongside event announcements)
YELLOW – FIND COUNT INCREASERS (Finds, Attends, Webcams)
GREY – Informational

If you like Geoff’s creation why not pop over to the forum and let others know how you feel about the geocaching icons.

Geocaching Icons created by thebruce0

Geocaching Icons created by thebruce0

Choosing a Headlamp

Headlamp BeamI’ve been answering questions on a few threads lately so I decided to write a post about choosing a headlamp.   As with most of my technical posts these days they are being posted to the blog over at Cache At Night.   The gist of my post is that there is more to selecting a headlamp that raw brightness.   The throw and spread of the light play an important role in the selection process.   I have 5 criteria that I recommend you use when selecting a headlamp.   Follow this link for the complete post on How To Choose a Headlamp.

Garmin Will Buy Munzee.com

qr code from opencaching.com

QR code from opencaching.com

If the folks at Garmin are smart they will buy munzee.com.  Why would Garmin buy a smart phone game?  To start with, the new generation of Garmin GPS receivers with built in cameras already support QR codes.   Once it’s supported in hardware telling the device what to do when it scans the code is just a firmware upgrade away.

Last month I posted some stats indicating that munzee has crushed opencaching.com based on the number of placements in Waterloo.   munzee has definitely seen aggressive growth world-wide in the last year and Opencaching has not.   There is already a greater than 90% overlap between geocachers and munzers.  If Garmin is going to continue to pump money in to Opencaching they are going to have to increase growth.

So what would it cost to buy munzee?  Only the four founders at munzee can answer that one but I have some guesses.   Aaron Benzick at munzee reported that they have 50,000 members world-wide.  If we assume 20% of them are paying the premium membership fee of $30/year.   That works out to about $360,000/year in revenue.   Add in sales of supplies and average that out at $2/placement for a total of about $340,000 in the last year.  In total that’s about $700,000 in revenue.  I suspect that’s a bit high so let’s say it’s $500,000 with a profit margin of 30% or $150,000.   These numbers are based on conjecture.   Only the founders of munzee know for sure.   With an annualized profit of $150,000 and a valuation of four times profit the value of   munzee.com today might be something like $600,000.  My guess is that this is less than what Garmin has spent developing opencaching.com.

For argument’s sake let’s assume the cost to acquire munzee is the $600k I’ve worked out above.   I have to believe that if Garmin is truly serious about making a go of Opencaching.com then a price of $600,000 to acquire 50,000 members and 172k placements.   Based on these numbers that’s a cost of acquisition of only $12/user.   These numbers sound quite reasonable to me.    The founders at munzee.com might have different ideas of valuation.

I asked Aaron Benzick to comment on this post.  He neither confirmed nor disputed the assumptions I made.   I take that to mean that at least some of those assumptions are on the high side.   According to Benzick “Despite trying new ideas, Groundspeak hasn’t been able to latch on to ‘the next big thing’ and munzee has been able to create a whole platform that disrupts the adventure hunting scene with fresh ideas …”  I take it from that comment that the folks at munzee see themselves as leaders in the space.    Forward thinking leadership would be another reason for Garmin to acquire munzee.com.

A similar argument could be made for Geocaching.com to buy munzee.com.   Both companies have smart phone applications.   Most munzers are already geocachers.   Could geocaching.com afford to buy munzee.com is the question?  Garmin certainly has deeper pockets but having cash doesn’t inherently make you smart.

What do you think will happen?



munzee.com crushes opencaching.com

munzee logo

A little over a year ago Garmin Launched opencaching.com to much fanfare. In that time Opencaching has managed to attract less than 50 geocache listings in the Waterloo Region. Compare this with the almost 2300 munzees placed in the region of Water in just over a year. With this stat alone munzee has crushed Opencaching, at least in Waterloo. There are fewer than 1000 geocaches in Waterloo region. Based on these numbers I think munzee poses a real challenge to geocaching.com.

munzee is a GPS game similar to geocaching. I don’t play the game, munzee is not supported on Blackberry platform but I have been with other players. Here are the main differences in the games as far as I can tell.

  1. munzee is all about the numbers, I’m not kidding. There is a leaderboard on munzee.com that allows players to see their standing against other players.
  2. Device dependant. Each munzee account is attached to a particular device. This means that teams of more than one person will need to share phones. I was out with a friend the other night and he had his wife’s phone so he could do captures.
  3. No pen required. Logging is accomplished by the scanning of a QR code or the reading of a chip using near field communication.

In most other respects finding a munzee is similar to finding a cache. Using the munzee app on your smart phone you go to coordinates and look for the munzee, which is usually some kind of tag/label with a QR code. The NFC mode is a recent introduction to munzee. You do not use your GPS although I have seen a GPS loaded with munzees in order to save the smart phone’s battery. Using the GPS feature on a smart phone tends to deplete the battery faster than normal.

For many years the official line at Groundspeak has been that geocaching is not about the numbers. As much as they try and down play the importance of raw numbers, milestones for finds still play a big part in the game. Unlike for munzees in geocaching there are few stats for the number of geocache hides you have placed. With munzees you are awarded points for the munzees you hide. Awarding points for hides creates an incentive to hide munzees. This is one reason the game is growing in scope if not in popularity.

munzee map

According to Aaron Benzick at munzee.com there are over 50,000 active munzee players. This is still a small number compared to the over 5 million geocachers at geocaching.com. What munzee has been able to do that opencaching.com has not is build a critical mass of hides. There are over 172,000 placed worldwide. Germany ranks as the second most active munzee area with about 68,000 munzees placed.

Geocaching has helped create a knowledgeable audience for this new game. I recently attended a munzee event. There were 30 people in attendance and 26 of them were existing geocachers. munzee is just different enough from geocaching that it is attracting players.

Benzick of munzee.com doesn’t think they are a competitor to geocaching.com, “We don’t like to look at ourselves as competitors of geocaching. I think we supplement it nicely and allow options for people as they are out and about interacting with the real world. We are big fans of getting out and doing things in your community so the groundwork that the geocaching community has laid for the outdoor adventure crowd is something we respect!”

As I mentioned previously I do not play munzee but I can see the real attraction in the game for those that care about statistics. What do you think the future holds for munzee?