Monday, 20 September 2010


One of the most used stages in nightcaches is and always will be the retroreflector. It's easy to buy, place and maintain. In Anglo-American influenced areas you will find a lot of caches with firetacks. Don't ask me why is that. I could only guess although I do have some kind of a theory. Here in Australia the plain firetack has some disadvantages: Most of the native trees are gumtrees and they have a very soft bark compared to oaks, beech or maple trees which can be found in the northern hemisphere.
Why is that bad? Firetacks are pinned to the bark of the tree and if that is soft, well they tend to fall off. If they don't fall off they might turn and that changes the visibility. The second thing is that some of you want to create a "day-cacher-proof" nightcache. Just have a look at the picture below:

Firetack at Glow-worms and fireflies cache
That is already a so called stealth firetack and you can still see it because of it's shape. Firetacks have an effective range of about 70m. After that you need to have a special torch which will be a topic for another post. So if a cacher want's to find your next in daylight, they just check all trees within plain sight and a 70m radius. Yes people do that!

If you actually don't care about your reflector being found in daylight or you want to cover some distance, then a cateye might be a good choice. Yes the stuff you normally put on the wheels of your bike and they come in all kinds of shapes and colors. For a kids nightcache they are fun but even better if you want to get the attention of some cachers: You can combine them and create a really large cateye which can be found from very far away. I did place a cache where you had to find the reflector from a lookout. The covered distance was about 1.2 km. In order to find that thing a Maglite 3D and a binocular was all you needed.

simple white cateye ...

... which easily can be seen

That said you'll wonder what kind of reflectors are really useful for a normal nightcache. Since I am an engineer, self-made is my answer :o) First get yourself some retroreflecting self-adhesive foil. That shouldn't be too hard since some bike-shops have it or the local commercial vehicle design shop or simply a webshop. I've tried a lot of different brands and types over the years and in the end my choice is the black 3M foil:
Helmet without light
Helmet with light

close-up of the foil
Looks pretty cool, doesn't it? Now you have to get yourself some kind of base-object to apply that foil - sticking that stuff onto tree-bark actually works but not for long. I recommend two shapes:
  • the tube - which is a small plastic tube on which you apply the foil. Just paint it black or whichever camo you like and hang it into the tree with a fishing line. Since it's round it can be seen from different angles.
  • the plaque - is a piece of sheet metal. I use that all the time because you can just punch the coordinates for the next stage right onto it. You can also screw it to any kind of object you like and if you use torx-srews it's quite muggle proof as well. 
Just keep in mind that your reflectors lives longer if it is plain and simple and doesn't draw to much muggle-attention. If you go for the plaque-style, use aluminium sheets since the don't rust. A simple permanent-marker does the trick in order to get a black plaque:
simple plaque reflector with two torx screws
 It isn't really rocket-science. I know. But it doesn't keep owners from creating "less optimal" solutions: e.g. a thumbtack with some reflecting foil on it - it's even worse than firetacks. Just imagine that one of those two-left-handed cachers slaps your reflector with his GPSr - will it survive? If yes, place it. If no, get a different reflector :o)

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