Have you tried Geocaching yet? Not sure what it is? All you need is a GPS device and a sense of adventure. And one more thing — the ability to pull yourself away from the computer for a few hours. Are you ready?
Put simply, Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt. Using a GPS device you search for hidden caches. They could be anywhere – in a park, in urban areas, on buildings, trees – anywhere hidden from public view.
Geocaching was started in 2000 by a few GPS enthusiasts who wanted use the technology in a fun way by creating a treasure hunt. You can read the long story here. According to the Geocaching website there are currently close to 2 million caches hidden all over the world. More than 5 million people actively participate in Geocaching.
The overall objective is to locate these hidden caches by using the coordinates on your GPS device. Each cache has its own page on Geocaching.com. Cache pages contain the coordinates, a map, the approximate size of the cache, difficulty level of the hide and terrain, and logs posted by cachers. Some caches located in historical areas might include a little history of the area on the page. Some caches contain clues on the page, and some have puzzles you have to solve ahead of time.
The cache can be any size – some of the larger ones have trinkets in them, but they all contain a log sheet. When you find a cache, write your user name and the date on the log sheet. Then when you get to a computer, log your finds on the website. That’s it! Sign up for a membership and get started.
Basic Geocaching rules
1. Stealth is required. You must be inconspicuous as you search for a cache. You don’t want non-cachers, or “muggles” to see what you’re doing, or they might get curious and take the cache. Although there is typically nothing of value in the cache, the cache owner eventually has to replace it if it is missing.
2. When you finally find the cache, sign the log sheet with your username and replace it just as you found it.
3. Some caches will be large enough to have a few trinkets inside. If you take a trinket, you must leave one in its place.
4. When you get back home, log your find on the website. If you have a mobile app, you can log your finds right on the spot. Post a nice comment for the cache owner, but don’t give away clues or spoilers to the location, as others who haven’t found it might be reading your comments.
5. Even if you couldn’t find a particular cache, it helps to note this in the comments section of the cache logs. If several people in a row haven’t found it, the cache owner will check on the cache to make sure it’s still there.
Benefits of Geocaching
Exercise. We all know that there is a serious obesity problem in our country — everyone is eating more and moving less. Geocaching usually involves a hike to the cache location. What better way to get outside in the fresh air – away from the TV and computer – and move around?
Explore new places. Whether you include caching as part of a vacation or as an after-work activity, chances are you will discover new places and points of interest. I recently discovered a small park not more than 3 miles from where I live that I never knew was there!
Family activity. Let’s face it, the smartphone revolution has isolated everyone, including your kids. We’re all too involved in our phones to actually talk to one another face-to-face. Geocaching is an activity that you can do with your kids. It will teach them to appreciate nature as well as get them moving (see Exercise benefit above).
Learn something new. You’ll usually get the added benefit of a history lesson. Many caches include a bit of history of the areas in which they’re located.
5 tips for getting the most out of Geocaching
If you plan to spend more than a few hours Geocaching, it helps to plan ahead. Here are some tips that can help you enjoy your caching experience.
Start with a plan. If you plan to go caching on a trip, map it out. You can input an address, zip code, city or state and instantly see where the caches are located. If you’re a beginner, pick those caches that have the lowest difficulty levels.
Dress for hiking. Take note of the weather and dress appropriately. If the terrain is rough, wear hiking shoes. Keep in mind you might be in the woods or out in the direct sun. Go prepared and don’t forget the water.
Bring a pen, camera, trinkets. Always carry a pen to log your find. I like to bring a camera to shoot unusual finds. Get rid of the kids’ old trinkets and leave them in the cache containers for others to enjoy.
Explore the area. Take some time to enjoy your surroundings and learn the history of the area.
Log your finds. Log your finds while they are fresh in your mind so you can leave a brief comment about the area.
Beginners, what are you waiting for? Get out there, get caching, and stop back here to let me know how you liked it.
Veteran cachers, what tips would you add to this list to help beginners? I would love to hear yours!