Sunday, June 03, 2007

The science of Lock N' Lock

I ran out today to check on one of my older boxes, Civic Duty. I planted it almost one year ago to the day and have checked on it several times since. I was worried that it may have gone missing, but was delighted to find it still tucked neatly in its hiding place. However, I was less than thrilled to find it full of about 1/2 an inch of stagnant, stinky water. Luckily, the logbook was still in relatively good shape and the stamp was unaffected. I have pulled the box for the time being for minor repairs.

Not that sticking a piece of tupperware in the woods is an exact science, or that we can ever have the reasonable expecation that nothing will damage our little treasures, still I do wonder if some of the containers advertised as "waterproof" are truthfully so. This got me thinking and sent me back to the good ole' days of high school science experiments. I thought I'd test out a few "waterproof" containers that seem to be popular amongst local letterboxers. I tested the brand I used for Civic Duty, Snapware (purchased at Gerbes), which I have long suspected of being a little less than waterproof, the industry standard Lock N' Lock from Walmart, and a bright yellow box with a black lanyard and o-ring type device that I think is made by Aqua (I bought this one from Gerbes for $1 in the special summer display near the goggles and blow-up toys). Both the Snapware and the Lock N' Lock box were similiar sized (about 5"x3"x2") but the yellow box was quite a bit smaller.

I put each box in the sink and allowed the water to run over the top of the box for several minutes. I checked each box and found that both the Lock N' Lock and the yellow box were completely dry inside. The Snapware box had a small amount of water in the bottom. I noticed that water tended to run over the top of the Snapware box and catch in the corners between the lid and the lip of the bottom portion. Water seeped in around the corners because of that. I then submerged all three boxes and held them under for about 1 minute. Again, the Lock N' Lock and yellow box stayed dry while the Snapware box seeped water in through the corners.

So, from this highly scientific, rigorously controlled, totally unbiased, expertly designed silly little experiment, I have proven my hypothesis to be true: if a person is truly addicted to letterboxing, then she will do just about anything in pursuit of said hobby, even submerge little boxes in a sink full of water at much too late an hour for rational thinking.

Other than that, I don't know that I proved anything definitively.

Perhaps it was just this one Snapware box that had a defect and leaked, but I've noticed that several of my other boxes hidden in Snapware are usually at least damp when I've checked on them. This is the first one with standing water.

Though this isn't a product endorsement, just thought I'd do a PSA since the rainy season is upon us. Lock N' Lock seems to be just slightly more expensive than Snapware, but I think it might be worth it. Opinions? Ideas for further experimentation? Anymore mad scientists out there?


Clyde Bentley said...

My absolute best success is with double-bagged zip bags inside a box.

I bag all the elements (book, stamp, notes, etc) separately in small bags, then put the whole group in one of those super freezer bags that has two lines of zippers. Then all of that goes in a box to keep out the critters and most severe weather.

NEVER use the type with the slider, as they always leak.

I've actually considered cutting a small hole in the bottom of the box to let it drain. Anyone try that?

It also helps to place the box in shelter.


Grace to You said...

I tested the Lock 'n Lock containers the same way you did before planting a box, to be sure it didn't leak. I was very surprised to find it didn't leak in any it was great fun to my then-2-yr old. :)

Fox-fyr said...

I, too, have run my Lock-n-Lock boxes underwater (and so has Lnd-Crzr) so you're not as silly as you think, though I really think it just confirms how addicted the rest of us are, too.

Like C2B2, I double-bag everything, but I wouldn't want to cut a hole in the box (especially if someone placed it upside down when re-hiding. I also do try to choose a sheltered location.

I have not had any boxes get water inside, though I recently lost an entire, unpublished Lost-in-the-Woods series box due to flood. what I had assumed to be a nice dry area well above a creek ended up to be directly in the path of runoff water from the hillside. The log in which I had hid my box was right in the path of the runoff and helped to create a dam of leaves and sticks. I spent half an hour digging through the pile before I gave up the box as lost.

The Lock-and-locks do cost more, though sometimes you can get them in sets of three nesting boxes at Hy-vee for a fairly reasonable price (if you don't mind making some stamps smaller than the usual larger-than-everywhere-else size of stamp.)

Lnd-Crzr said...

Lock n' Locks seem to be the best option as far as price, water proofness and so on. I have had pretty good luck with Ziplocks Twist n' Lock containers, but only with the two cup size. The larger 4 cup size have to long side walls and thus don't have the structural rigidity of the shorter 2 cup side walls and are prone to cracking under the weight of a gaurdian stone. But the two cup size seem to wrk rather well, ecspecialy in conjunction, as Clyde has said, ,with a double zippered zip lock baggie inside. The Twis n' Locks are much cheaper than Lock n' Locks, but can be prone to leakage if the lid is not replaced correctly. Which was the case in the one I have had water damage to.

It seems that getting a box inside something adds a great deal of protection. If you walk through the woods and listen VERY carefuly, you can hear hollow logs and old trees stumps calling out.


ahistory said...

Lock'n'locks seem tried and true and only leak when cracked or damaged. Sadako had been completely submerged under a foot of water for a day and had not a drop inside.

As for me, I am running some live tests on those cheap pouches. Triple bagging everything because they are merely water resistant. They are surprising me in the early stages. I have had reports of them being found submerged in puddles and the contents are just fine. Only time will tell though. The pouches are made from a tarp I bought at Westlakes. I was mightily impressed by Safari Man's pouches which were made of pond liner. Some of his were over two years old and even the original bags inside were in good shape. These were in the milder weather of Oklahoma so we'll see if my versions can hold up as well. They are cheap though, costing about a quarter a bag. Easy to replace too, since you can carry spares in your pocket. You can also cram those pouches about anywhere. Safari Man often used green wire to tie them to the inside of evergreens. Great little things if your willing to prepare for wetness and not go with the secure knowledge of a lock'n'lock.


Lnd-Crzr said...

I recently ran across some of AHistroy's new 'pocket-pouches (?)' and liked them very much. As I recall you offered a workshop on making these. I'd certainly be interested after actually seeing one. Lock n' Locks are grand, but the price becomes hard to swallow after a time.

ahistory said...

I am more than happy to show anyone. Perhaps an informal craft meeting is in order. It is such a simple design, it only takes about 5 mins to assemble one so I can do a quick demonstration anytime. I had my materials at the gathering and the mini meet but completely forgot both times. You know how it is getting caught up in the stamping. Man the cooties are thick this summer.


Perdu said...

Thanks, OneMeanGreenBean, for sharing the findings of your experiments. I have a box that I know I need to change, it was my first and I was so excited about it, but it's stupid big and I think it still hints of coffee aroma to critters. So, I'll probably go with the double bagged inside lock 'n lock when I change it out.

Does anyone know about exterior bags? I've heard both double bag the outside AND don't because it traps condensation.

What say you all on that front?

Also, OMGB, can you tell drag-along that I posted the Taco Soup Recipe on the blog, I don't have her e-mail to send it directly.


Clyde Bentley said...

The major problem with exterior bagging is that the result looks very much like a discarded lunch bag to a raccoon. The critters snag them with their claws and rip them up looking for something more than coffee -- or carving material.

Perdu said...

I bag individually and then all in a single bag inside the box, too, but had heard early on to double bag the whole shoot'n match.

Thanks for the tip, C2B2, and I agree, it probably does look like discarded food stuffs to feral bandits and other woodland wildlife.

OneMeanGreenBean said...

Thanks Perdu! I'll let drag-along know...why just the other day we were discussing how tasty that soup would be and she was wondering if you had posted it in the blog. You can find her on LBNA under the 'contact the placer' link for "The Birthday Box", which I think would probably be the best way to get her e-mail if you need it since I don't actually know it. But I'll just let her know she can get it off the blog...thanks so much!