Camouflaging A Geocache
Updated February 2017
You’ve decided to hide a geocache. You’ve got the perfect container but now you have to do the camouflage. Ah, camouflage, one of the most important factors in hiding a geocache. I’ll be covering some tips & suggestions on how to doctor up your cache!
I’ve found some pretty-cool micros (okay, so I had a caching buddy point them out to me since I don’t really do micros) and I’ve found some caches with amazing camouflage. This article is how to put camouflage on an ordinary, run-of-the-mill cache.
Picking Your Container
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a ton of ammo cans laying about to be made into geocaches. So if you need to use a plastic container, here are my recommendations.
- Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid.
- The wider the mouth, the better. Even if it is clearly too small for anything but a log sheet, somebody will try to cram a trade item in it sooner or later!
- No glass containers! (I’ve seriously found a few)
- I prefer plastic to tin. Cookie tins (and the like) seem to rust very easily. And they’re very difficult to water proof.
- Make sure it is clean inside and out.
- If you’re using a recycled food jar (nuts, peanut butter, etc) make sure it is very clean or the smell can attract critters.
- I tend to stay away from the plastic coffee cans. The lids don’t hold up after repeated openings (especially in the cold!) and the containers seem brittle and flimsy.
My container of choice is actually a used Tucks container. It’s a small size (easier to hide and easy to fill with swag), pretty much free since I have my whole family saving them for me, it’s practically waterproof, and very sturdy container.
Since I have a lot of these containers, I like to spray paint them. It took me a while, but I figured out the best way to get it done.
- Container & lid to be painted (be sure you’ve removed any paper labels!)
- Dark green spray paint
- Dark brown spray paint
- Black spray paint
- Thin wire or thin string (8 inches or so)
- Garden kneeling pad
- Clothes you’re okay with (maybe) getting paint on
First, make sure the container is dry and dust free. It’s not really hard to spray paint the container but it’s a pain if the paint flakes off because the container was dusty. (Been there, done that!)
This can be kind of tricky but once you get the hang of it, it’s a really good painting technique! Take the lid off the container. Fold about two inches of wire or string over the threads of the lid so there’s an inch inside the container and the rest is on the outside of the container. Holding the wire in place, screw the lid back on.
If you’ve pinched everything correctly, then you now have a “handle” to use to hold onto the container while you paint. I use bits of old phone wire since is it VERY thin and very flexible. I’ve never tried it, but I bet embroidery floss or monofilament fishing line would work as well.
You’re ready to paint!
When working with spray paint, be sure to remember:
- Work in a well-ventilated area. Outside is even better.
- Don’t use spray paint on a windy day. It just makes a mess.
- Wear gloves (latex is good), a dust mask, and safety glasses.
- Use the paint away from cars, buildings, and vegetation.
My favorite spray painting spot is at the end of my parent’s driveway. I can’t get paint on their house or cars if I tried! I’m blocked from any breeze by a large bush and there’s a shade tree.
I like to kneel on my garden kneeling pad since I feel it gives me the best control of the paint AND the container.
Holding the container by the wire or string, give it a coat of green. You don’t need to worry if the paint is even or if it covers all writing. Let it dry. (Or mostly dry if you’re like me and impatient!)
Still holding the container by the string, paint a coat of brown. Let it dry. Repeat with the black spray paint.
Once I have all three colors on the container, I start to think about making sure I have the bottom of the container. It’s a bit hard to paint, but the part that is hanging the lowest needs to be painted. Now, just keep layering the spray paint until you’re happy with the coloring.
Wrap the wire around a tree limb and hang to dry completely.
I like to paint a bunch of containers all at once. That way I can hang them in the shade tree between coats. If you let the paint dry completely before painting it with a different color, it’s less likely to scratch off.
Okay, I know not everybody will be able to hang their caches containers in a tree to dry. Just remember that the paint WILL drip and can still rub off on other items.
Sometimes, a Tucks container is too small. The other container I like is a nut jar. However, the plastic is thinner and doesn’t survive very many cachers dropping it. The corners are especially vulnerable to becoming cracked.
- Clean, dry container with lid
- Camouflage duct tape
- Sharp scissors
What I like to do with a lighter-weight plastic container is to cover it with duct tape. You can buy duct tape in a variety of camouflage patterns and colors. Here’s a link to camouflage duct tape on Amazon.
This stuff is more expensive than plain old grey but come on! How cool is camouflage duct tape!?
Here are some things to consider with duct tape:
- The container really needs to be clean and dry.
- The bigger the pieces of tape the better. You want it to really stick to the container so water and dirt can’t get under the tape and cause it to lift.
- Remember that the tape sticks to itself! (I don’t know how many inches I’ve ruined because of that!)
- Cut it rather than tearing. You get a cleaner edge and fewer places where water and dust can get under the tape.
- Start by taping any areas that don’t lend them to large pieces of tape. (The shoulders and bottom of the jar, for example!) That way, you can cover the ends with a longer strip.
- Be sure to really PUSH on the tape so it adheres to the plastic.
Getting the tape on the container smoothly is a lot harder than it looks! It takes practice.
The lid is one of the hardest parts of the jar to tape up. I do it first, still attached to the jar. That way, I know I’m not taping it TO the jar and then it won’t come off!
Next, I do the “shoulders” and bottom of the jar. Remember to keep the pieces as large as possible, avoid creases as much as possible, and really push the tape onto the surface of the container.
Then, just finish wrapping the container in tape until it’s completely covered. This jar took three strips going from top to bottom.
So, all you experienced cachers out there:
How do you put camouflage on the cache? Do you prefer tape or paint? What’s your favorite method of getting a run-of-the-mill cache ready to be placed?
Find Your Geocache
May 25, 2010 @ 10:03 pm
[…] Camouflaging A Geocache […]
May 29, 2010 @ 11:36 am
Great suggestions! Sorry for all the hemorrhoids! Look like some great containers though!
May 29, 2010 @ 3:21 pm
I like your ideas and have used them many times. I like the blend in method. Taking an ammo can and cleaning it real good then I put my base coat on with a sort of sand colored paint. After dring I then use those plastic plant leaves that come on flower arangements and I use them as a stencil and create my pattern. The same method can be used on any type container you wish to paint. When I get around to painting some more I will post as I go pictures. I love these articals that you provide us with and you know I learn something new everyday. Thanks
May 29, 2010 @ 5:33 pm
I noticed that you used glossy paint in your demo.Rust-Oleum has a paint called Camouflage that comes in a green,brown,and cream color. Its “Ultra-Flat” and it is what I recommend for a good camo job.
May 29, 2010 @ 6:28 pm
Chinster — My grandparents had been saving these containers for YEARS since they always thought that they’d be good for something. Lucky me that I just use the container and not the contents! KIM
May 29, 2010 @ 6:29 pm
Bonsairad — VERY good to know! I’ll have to pick some up. I use the least expensive paint since I’m too impatient to wait for it to dry fully between coats.
May 29, 2010 @ 6:30 pm
Horseshoechamp — absolutely send me photos! And thanks for the lovely comment.
May 29, 2010 @ 8:49 pm
Yes, I use the same rust-olium paint called Fusion camo. Not only does it dry fast, it’s ultra matt and it’s formulated to BOND to plastics. Here in South Carolina most of the ground cover in the woods is pine straw so I like to use the tan for a base coat, mottle it with black and then use a flat red-brown.
May 29, 2010 @ 10:00 pm
Prior to painting the plastice can be sanded to create a tooth for the paint to adhere to on the container. Another thing is to clean the outside of the container with alcohol proir to painting as oil from hands will cause the paint to have poor adhesion.
When doing the lid, place the circle of tape on top of the folded over sides. this will help prevent water from getting under the tape. I use a razor blade and slit the sides down to the lid and only fold over no more than 1/2 inch of tape. Makes for a clean tight taping job. The plastic camo tape will eventually eather to a gray color.
Making a bag out of camo material with a drawstring closuer takes a little longer but holds up quite well.
May 31, 2010 @ 2:27 pm
Good article. Lots of good ideas. Some things to think about when adding camo is to think about the surroundings that the container is to be placed. Out here in Kansas, we have a veriaty of terrain from grasslands that are green in spring that turn tan in summer/fall, trees mainly along rivers and lakes, and lots of sandstone rocks everywhere.
When painting, tan and/or brown paint works great with the sandstone, desert, dry grass, etc. Sometimes an all tan can is great or a combination of tan with brown stripes. Same goes with the forrested areas: use the multi green/brown/ black paint in various patterns. Sometimes using masking tape to add various patterns in order to break-up the containers shape. Another reader posted using “leaf” stencils.
Yes, the easy way of camo tape is also good. Liked how you described taping lids. Usually take the easy way out and spray paint that.
Overall, a very good and straight-to-the-point article.
May 31, 2010 @ 3:53 pm
James — Thanks for the comments. My problem with painting the containers is always that I do it long before I know where it’s going to GO. If I had the spot picked out ahead of time, I’d be able to make the paint job match better. I’m glad you liked the way I do the lids!
June 1, 2010 @ 8:03 am
Just a comment on containers. I noticed you camoing a mixed nuts plastic jar. PLEASE consider cachers with allergies, especially children.
Make sure you write in your cache description a WARNING if the container originally contained possible allergins. NUTS is probably one of the most common childhood allergies. So jars which contained nuts, peanut butter and the like could put a child into a severe reaction. I would never trust that all the residue had been removed with washing.
A camo painted container it is hard to tell what it originally contained until you open it.
June 1, 2010 @ 12:22 pm
For plastic, I’ve found a plastic spray paint primer works very well to avoid chipping and scratching. When I use a primer I can get away using very inexpensive paint without a problem. It also increases the spray paint options from the limited colors provided by manufactures for plastic. In AZ I’ve found that textured stone color spray paint works well and would agree with others that a flat paint is preferable. If you want to make a pinecone cache try to use a freshly pulled cone or soak in water to soften before trying to drill a hole for a bison tube. Start small with the drill size and work your way up. I also suggest spraying the cone with a clear sealer to improve longevity. Part of the fun is to be creative with making caches. I’m constantly looking for inspiration from others to try myself.
June 1, 2010 @ 7:54 pm
Steve — I’m going to have to try the textured stone color paint you recommended. I’ll be painting some new caches that we’ll hide when we’re camping in the next weeks so I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the comment!
June 1, 2010 @ 7:56 pm
hollora — I honestly have never thought about that! I’ve never hidden a cache that was a nut jar but I did use this one as an example for the article. There is an active caching team around here that uses nut jars as containers a lot, but they always mention that it was a nut jar in the description. What type of container do you recommend to avoid this?
June 4, 2010 @ 11:21 pm
I LOVED your recent advice on camoflauging containers.
I have a few pointers you might find helpful.
I have found that when spraypainting caches, you can save money by not having to buy the “Made for Plastics” paints if you gently sand the container first. This will make the paint adhere and last much longer. I found out that on some of my older caches, the elements do quite a beating on paint jobs and the sanding GREATLY helps prevents this.
Also, Wal-Mart now carries a “Digital Camo” Duct tape for about 2.50 a roll and it is MUCH cheaper than standard camo-tape. I have also found that the adhesive is much stronger and almost completely water/weather proof.
Here is my tip for the day…
To improve the watertightness on any cache with a screw-top lid:
You can purchase sheets of Foam rubber at any craft store or even Dollar Tree (50 sheets-$1 Great deal!) By cutting the sheet to fit and then gluing it inside the lid, it makes a perfect seal.
Hope all this helps and I REALLY look forward to the next Newsletter!!
September 14, 2010 @ 9:00 am
Great article and excellent tips! Here’s another idea for taping lids, or ends of any round containers for that matter:
This makes the finished piece much cleaner, with no flaps or folds. Start out the same way as you describe, running an oversized piece around the rim. Then take the lid and place it on a cutting surface, rim/edge down, and use a knife to cut slits from a few milimeters away from the rim outward, spacing every half inch or more depending on the size of the lid. Then carefully separate and press each flap down onto the top of the lid, making sure to give it a good pull right toward the center. When done I finish with one large piece right in the middle of the lid to seal up those edges in the middle.
Hope this helps, and keep up the great work!
March 27, 2011 @ 11:09 pm
I have kind of been going crazy for a while on caching containers, as their possibilities are endless… Everybody has their own style, here are a few pointers that I’ve learned along the way. You can take or leave them as you wish:
As said before, always sand plastic or anything else before doing a camo job, and the cheapo flat primer is the way to go for the big parts (flat black, brown, light grey, dark grey, etc.) but you’re going to have to splurge on the olive drab, mossy oak, etc. Another great thing is the CHEAP flat clear coat. That will preserve anything and keep your tape water tight.
You can use epoxy to glue magnets to anything (including metal) and plumbers glue to basically WELD your tape onto the lid. You can also use that stuff to glue on fake leaves, sticks, moss or even sand! Plumbers glue is one of the most under rated building materials out there. You can get a can of plumbers primer and the glue for just a few bucks and it will literally WELD plastic together or embed pretty much anything that you can think of into glue. The primer softens the plastic and the glue will “melt” onto it. And, it’s designed to be waterproof… forever.
With a clear container like that one, why not leave a window? Since the 911 Anthrax scares, sometimes people freak out if they see a suspicious, unmarked container that is well hidden and all camoed up (especially in urban areas). Sometimes muggles will assume it’s something nasty like a bomb and alert the authorities. Being able to see what is inside of the container without having to open it up is always a big plus. If it’s not the kind of container that is transparent (like an altoids tin) it’s always a good idea to clearly mark it as a geocache.
A great way to seal the threads on a potentially leaky container is to use Teflon tape around the threads. Do about 3 clockwise rounds around the threads (or more until the cap is snug) and it will make it air and water tight (I used to be a plumber 😉
If you want to dabble in a spray camo job, there’s a ton of great videos on youtube. I’ve seen free demos on there for woodland, urban, jungle, tiger strip and even digital camo. I’ve also seen tons of free downloadable stencils on Google. Or — you could just take the easy route and use masking tape or just a leaf as a stencil.
Anyways, I hope I added something that someone can use. Good luck and happy caching!