Sunday, November 22, 2015

Travel bugs and geocoins

Travel bugs and geocoins
This is a primer on proper handling of trackable tags, coins, etc.
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

Please bear with me while I lay a little groundwork on this subject.  Surely if you have played this game very long, you know all or most everything there is to know about trackables, but following the principle that no matter how much you think you know, we don’t always do the right thing and we can always learn more.

Trackables have a unique code on them and are logged on to track their travels.  Someone bought the trackable and paid anywhere from $4 to $50 or more for it (in some cases) and having one in our possession necessitates we move it.

Let’s start at the beginning.  You’ve bought a trackable, or someone gave you an unactivated trackable and you want to activate it.  You do this by going to and under PLAY at the top of the menu, you select FIND TRACKABLES.  Looking at the page that loads, select ACTIVATE TRACKABLE and push ENTER.

A page will load with your trackable number and below it reads:  ENTER YOUR TRACKABLE CODE.  This information comes with your trackable, but if not, then click on the link below this box that reads: LOCATE YOUR ACTIVATION CODE.

A Captcha box has to be filled in and then the tracking number found on the trackable you are trying to activate.  This will give you your code and you then activate it. Now it is time to customize your trackable page, so go to VIEW MY TRACKABLE.  To the right is a line that reads: EDIT THIS TRACKABLE.  Click on it and rename your trackable.

In the box’s marked: CURRENT GOAL and ABOUT THIS ITEM, fill them in or not.  I like to give mine a goal/mission and in the bottom box I may say who gave it to me, dedicate it to another geocacher, or tell why I like it.

Now, upload a photograph and make it the default image.  It can be the travel bug with the hitchhiker (whatever you attach to it) or it can be your photo.  It’s your trackable, so you can do whatever you want.

Now.  Here is an important next step.  If you don’t care about mileage and plan to keep this trackable, move it to your COLLECTION.  No one can grab it from you, but can still discover it if they see the code.  It will not pick up mileage either.  That happens when you move the trackable to your INVENTORY.

Now, let’s talk about ethics.  This is one area that can be quite touchy, especially with veterans who know better than to hold on to someone else’s trackable and not move it in a timely matter.  In the USA there is a serious problem with trackables not being logged and moved, or simply put in someone’s collection and not logged.  Trackables do not belong to you unless you paid for them.  I teach students that unless they feel they can move a trackable in a very reasonable amount of time (or have special permission to take to Uganda or some place) to simply DISCOVER it.  You get the same amount of credit for discovering a trackable and none of the responsibility that goes with moving it. 

Smart phones have awesome cameras to record this tiny code and you can log it at work(!) when things are slow, or at home, of course!  Personally I treat trackables like hot potatoes and they bother my poke sack until I can either hand them off at an event or place them in a geocache.

I also clean-up trackables that need it; attach a new hitchhiker when it comes to me without one (usually it’s a city of Baytown key chain which looks real spiffy), and write a good log and take a photo to attach on the trackables page.  I’ve logged over 1800 and own 83 trackables and most of them are out there somewhere.  Some are missing, some are not and here is another point to ponder.

When you release a trackable into the wild, it is akin to releasing a dove.  Don’t obsess over it.  It will just give you heartache or in some cases, jade you against releasing more.  It is like worrying about Elvis.  He’s gone and it is gone the second you drop it off.  I routinely will buy travel bugs with the sole purpose of supporting the game and release them.  I do my part, even though I know I might as well be throwing them in the Houston Ship Channel.

Education is the key here and keeping a TB or geocoin longer than a couple of weeks is simply holding up the game.  Sure, we’ve all been guilty of finding one in our kit bag, or the seat of our car and when we do, we should write the owner and explain and then get that puppy moving!  One last thing; don’t forget that this is just a game and take care to have fun.

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