September 12, 2012

Gearing Up For Geocaching

I have a very unfortunate habit of falling and breaking my ankles.  Never toes or fingers or legs, just ankles.  I’ve broken each ankle at least once, and done massive damage to the tendons and ligaments (to the point of months of physical terrorism…ehm… physical therapy) numerous times.

I also have a truly klutzy tendency to bonk my head on things, scratch my arms, cut my legs.. you name it, I’ve probably figured out a way to do it.

So I’ve become a bit of a safety nut and keep a gear bag packed at all times.  My gear bag stays in the car, so if I feel a bit of emergency hiking or geocaching sneaking up on me its ready to go.  And yes, sometimes I DO feel a bit of emergency hiking or geocaching is necessary.  I’ve done some this week, in fact.

Items in my bag:

Commercial first aid kit: you can pick these up at any discount store or any drugstore usually for under 20 dollars and they have the basics; bandages, aspirin, neosporin, etc.   Having one of these, and keeping it stocked, is a good first step. I always supplement this kit with wet wipes and hand sanitizer and chapstick.

Vet wrap: this is my low cost substitute for an Ace Bandage.  Why Vet Wrap?  easy… it’s meant for holding up a 1500 pound horse with a sprained ankle, it’s a fraction of the cost of an Ace Bandage and it comes in pretty colors.  I have hot pink and neon orange in my bag right now. You can find it at any feed store, veterinary clinic… anywhere horse supplies are sold. It’s reusable and washable, and comes in LONG rolls.  Did I mention pretty colors?

Allergy medicine: I have bad hay, grass and pollen allergies, so I keep generic Allegra or Claritin in my bag at all times.  Not only does it help if the sudden and dire urge to hike through a field of blooming rag weed strikes me, but should I get bee stung, or disturb ants, or have any kind of problem where a histamine would help out, I have it.

Bug Spray and a Hat:  Lots of my geocaching happens in the summer, in high grass.  Ticks and chiggers and mosquitos are very unwelcome guests at my hiking adventures, so I keep a can of bug spray in my bag.  I also keep a baseball cap to protect my face from the sun.  I don’t know about you, but I could get a sunburn in a dark room, and with blue eyes, I’m fairly susceptible to eye strain and damage from the bright sun.  so I have a collection of baseball caps and I rotate them out.

Snake bite kit: Currently, I live in Nebraska and hike all over South Dakota, prime rattlesnake country.  Because I’m single, and my friends here are all couch potatoes, I hike and geocache alone a lot.  So I made a snake bite kit an essential part of my gear bag.

Pocket Knife: I love knives.  I have LOTS of them.  I have pocket knives that I inherited from my great grandfather through to my dad. But, I actually care about those knives, so the one I carry is a bright orange anodized “emergency” knife.  It has one blade with a partially serrated edge, it has a seat belt cutter which can be used to cut straps, or shoe laces if they get caught in something, and it has a windshield breaker, which is great for opening things :) And again, it comes in pretty colors, which are easy find at the bottom of your bag.

Flashlight: This one seems pretty common sense, but it took me getting stuck in a night cache where I SWEAR I heard banjos (or maybe it was tribal drums, since I was in what used to be the Apache reservation in Oklahoma) to realize that LEAVING the flashlight IN THE CAR was a REALLY GOOD IDEA. Even my dog was freaked out that night.  Of course, she was just a 3 pound shih tzu, but she was the bravest shih tzu I’ve ever met.  She had a habit of growling at buffalo (from behind a closed window, of course).

Bottled Water: Yes, I know the studies that say keeping bottled water in a plastic bottle in your car can cause cancer.  Yup, heard that one, even believe it. However, I decided that always having a way to wash out a wound, clean poop off my shoes, sand off my toes, take my allergy meds, or just keep myself hydrated was FAR more important than some possibility of causing myself cancer somewhere down the road.

Duct Tape: I almost forgot the Duct Tape.. what post-MacGyver first aid gear bag would be complete without duct tape?  You can tape up broken shoes, bag straps, reclose caches that have been muggled, tape wounds, splint broken bits and tie up those pesky aliens….er…maybe that’s just me, again.  Oh.. and once again, it comes in PRETTY COLORS.

I carry a few more things that are a little stranger (like keeping a maxi pad in my bag in case of a large wound.  The pad and a bit of vet wrap makes a GREAT compression bandage, ask any survivalist!) but that’s the gist of it.  I love this sport, but you end up in some pretty hairy places and things happen.  Safety first!

I promised we would talk about cache types, and we will… next time.

I’ll leave you with this thought.  Geocaching can be a lot of fun, educational, and give you great exercise.  It can help you see parts of the country you never would have or give you a reason to go places you’ve always wanted to.  But be smart and stay safe.  Mother Nature is a bit unforgiving for the unprepared.


Image Credit: Olena Simko / Shutterstock

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