T5 Geocaching

Floating on Port Phillip Bay

You’ve found your first couple of caches, you solved some puzzles, ventured through multis and enjoyed the time in nature. Everyone has a different style of geocaching because we all enjoy different things and that’s the beauty about the game. Some go after the numbers and some don’t. If you belong to the latter you might have realised that you want to make your finds count, not count your finds. You can dig your brain into twisting D5 puzzle cache or you can challenge your body with the great outdoors. Amazing hikes and big adventures are waiting for you right at your door-step. Victoria has it all.

T5 Extremely challenging terrain Requires specialized equipment (boat, 4WD, rock climbing, SCUBA, etc.) or is otherwise extremely difficult.

This is the description of the T5 terrain rating and for some it sounds appalling and others would call it very appealing. What does that exactly mean? T5 is just a code for “you need some sort of gear to get yourself to the cache location”. In the simplest version this can be a little ladder for a cache 4m up in a tree. If you can reach the cache location but need special tools – e.g. a screw-driver – it should be reflected in the D-rating. It sounds weird but bear in mind geocaching is a game which grew over decades and isn’t always consistent in guidelines and agreements.

Ok – you decided that you want to do this but the big question is always where do you start? Not everyone of us has climbed, dived or paddled before. So let’s start at the beginning: T5 can be divided into roughly four categories:

  • Kayaking / Canoeing / Boating
  • Four Wheel Driving
  • Climbing
  • Scuba Diving

Unfortunately there is a little legal issue which makes the geocaching life in Australia a bit difficult. It’s called Duty of Care and has all kinds of liability implications. Have a read through the linked page and although it is education related, it gives you a flavour. Anyway the bottom-line is that any geocacher with enough experience and skills to run a T5 beginners event, won’t do it due to liability issues. A simple waiver won’t cut it so they aren’t doing it. This page should give you an overview of the gear and therefore the financial commitment as well as where to find commercial operators or clubs which can teach you to do these things. I do know that in the age of YouTube a lot of cachers teach themselves, however unless you do want to qualify for a Darwin Award, I wouldn’t recommend this.

    • Kayaking / Canoeing / Boating
      There are limits how far you can swim and sometimes you’re not even allowed to (e.g. Albert Park Lake) which means you need a boat or something like that.
      Basic Gear: Kayak, PFD (aka life-vest), paddle
      Additional Gear: Fishing rod, lights, flare, bilge, paddle-float
      Clubs & Operators: Canoeing Victoria and many others. Just google it
      Pro-tip: Get a Polyethylene kayak. They take more hits.
    • Four Wheel Driving
      You might argue that wherever you can drive, you can also walk and you’re right! Due to some historic reasons 4WD caches can be qualified as a T5 but a simple walk-in only cache in remote location can’t. Yeah I know. It doesn’t make sense.   
      Basic Gear: Obviously a car with four-wheel drive.
      Cost: thousands of dollars
      Additional Gear: Bullbars, winch, lift-kit, spot-lights, radio, diff-locks, … the possibilities and the amount of money you can spend are endless.
      Clubs & Operators: There are some commercial operators out there  but just head to Four Wheel Drive VIC to find a local club which suits you.
      Pro-tip: Don’t get started and go for the overnight hiking gear instead.
    • Climbing
      First of all climbing doesn’t equal climbing. As soon as your movement becomes vertical, you’re are looking at a big playing field of sport, alpine, tree and other climbing activities. Whether you abseil a little rock-face or climb an 8000m peak, geocaching-wise it all falls under the term climbing. This is why I’m splitting this into three sub-categories:
      1 Rock Climbing
      This is the most common understanding of the word climbing. Most people who get into the “ropie business” start here. It gives you the basic skills covering safety as well as abseiling.
      Basic Gear: Harness, helmet, dynamic rope, screw-gate carabiners, quickdraws, belay device
      Cost: a couple of hundred dollars
      Additional Gear: Cams, nuts, slings, off-set nuts, chalk-bag
      Clubs & Operators: If you’re keen to learn rock-climbing join the VCC and ask them when they are running the next event suitable for beginners
      Pro-tip: If you want to give it a try without buying the gear, go with a friend to a climbing gym. After a short introduction you’re on the rope.

      Climbing Rack at the Cathedral Ranges

      2 Tree Climbing
      Recreational tree climbing is a fairly new thing in Australia. It has been around for a while in German speaking countries – with geocachers being by far the biggest portion of the climbing adventurers. Just in our back-yard some of the biggest trees in the world can be found. The mountain ashes in the Yarra Ranges have recorded heights of over 90m with all of the specimen still growing (if they are still alive).
      Basic Gear: Harness, helmet, static rope, screw-gate carabiners, cambium safer, quickdraws, belay device, ascenders, throw-bag, throw-line
      Cost: from $500 upwards however if you already have the rock-climbing stuff, you don’t have to buy a lot of new gear
      Additional Gear: big shot, laser distance measurer, portaledge, more ascenders, storage cubes, hose reels,
      Clubs & Operators: Our friends at the VCC also run tree climbing trips.
      Pro-tip: For smaller trees some of the non-safety gear like throw-lines and -bags can be replaced with cheap stuff from the hardware store. Plumbers-line and some heavy nuts do the trick for trees up to 15m. Also using a dynamic rope might be a bit exhausting but it still works.
      3 Mountaineering
      This is the stuff with climbers walking over glaciers and frost-bite and altitude sickness! Hooray!
      Basic Gear: Harness, helmet, dynamic rope, screw-gate carabiners, quickdraws, belay device, ascenders, crampons, ice-tool, ice-screws,
      Cost: from $500 upwards however if you already have the rock-climbing stuff, you can use some of your gear.
      Additional Gear: satellite phone, expedition tent, akja (WTF is that?!?), …
      Clubs & Operators: Due to the lack of mountains in Australia it’s almost a miracle that the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club exists.
      Pro-tip: Don’t start. Just don’t. Seriously! Don’t even think about it! This mountaineering thingymebob gets you hooked faster than crack and ice mixed together and it is way more expensive. If you do start it, make sure you’re single, have a partner who does it as well or get a divorce as a precaution.

      Expedition tent pitched before a 100 km/h snow storm


  • Scuba Diving
    In order to be honest I’ve done this twenty years ago and therefore might not be the best person to give you advise. There is an amazing dive cache out there but I’m not aware of any others where snorkelling gear doesn’t do the trick. Due to my lack of expertise I will cut this short.
    Cost: thousands of dollars
    Clubs & Operators: Plenty. Just google it



Philipp migrated to Melbourne from Germany in 2010. He can be found all over Victoria in remote locations. If you need some advice on high-T rating caches and long distance hikes, he’s your guy. Philipp’s profile on geocaching.com

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