What is Geocaching?
August 25th 2007
You might be asking “what is geocaching?” I know I did. I knew it had something to do with the outdoors, so that was all I needed to begin researching. Geocaching is a global high tech treasure hunt using a GPS. (Global positioning systems) All over the world “caches” are hidden and people search for them. Not that simple but it’s a start. It is widely popular with more than 200,00 caches hidden all over the world. (Four in my neighborhood alone!) People hide them in public places such as local parks, trails, state parks, and other interesting locations they want to share with the world.
A traditional cache is a waterproof, sturdy container of some sort (ammo can, Tupperware, Rubbermaid container, etc.) filled with “treasures”, such as inexpensive toys, cd’s, books, gift cards, key chains, or any other interesting trinket. Some caches follow a specific theme, one example would be pet items. The basic rule is if you take an item from the cache you must leave an item of equal or more value, and always sign the logbook inside. Some caches are called micro-caches which are very small weather proof containers containing simply a log scroll. These are quite challenging. There are also puzzle or riddle caches which in order to obtain the coordinates to the final cache a riddle or puzzle must be solved.
The caches are also rated for their difficulty, the terrain, and the size of the cache to make you aware of what type of search you will be facing.
“It’s not about what you find; it’s about getting there.”
How do you get started? Of course you will need a GPS. You can purchase a very sufficient one for fewer than 100 dollars. I bought the Magellan Explorist 200 at Target for about 120 dollars and I am very satisfied with it as well as amazed at its capabilities. If you aren’t sure about whether you will enjoy geocaching you can buy one used from someone wanting to trade up. I found quite a few on craigslist.
Second, visit www.geocaching.com and register. It is completely free. You can enter your zip code, and/or home coordinates, and a map of nearby caches will be displayed. You can also search the map for caches all over the world, or wherever you might visit. (I have already researched a few in eastern Washington and Idaho to find while on vacation). A specific cache of your choosing will have a page describing the cache, the purpose of the hide if there is one, the coordinates, a basic map, sometimes an encrypted hint, and a log of all of the geocachers who have found it (or not), and have recorded their experience. Some even upload non revealing photos of the site and of themselves.
You might be thinking “what is the fun if the GPS is taking you right to the cache?” The GPS only gets you close to the cache within 15 to 20 feet away. They are usually cleverly hidden and will take some time to find. They can be hidden in a tree stump, under rocks, in bushes, and some are quite difficult to locate. We usually bring an eager group of kids with us. The more eyes the better I think.
Also, I feel that any activity that takes you outside to appreciate the outdoors is worth trying. I love to hike with my children and this is a hobby that brings us together as a family. Sometimes kids need an added adventure to remain motivated. So many kids sit and play video games all day with no effort needed. This is a hobby that will keep them active while learning about the environment. I want my children to experience as much of the outdoors as they can now, so that when they are older they will hopefully continue to appreciate nature, and take the time to keep on experiencing it.
If you decide to try geocaching you will definitely end up places you never knew existed and you might even find some new favorite sites to enjoy. Be sure to follow the “Leave no trace” guidelines. I have the link below. Also be as prepared as you would if you were going on a day hike. Some locations are farther than you think and you may run into a situation where a scraped knee might need a band-aid, or extra water needed for thirsty hikers. I have a backpack that I carry with me with my essential items. Small first aid kit, a few small snacks, small flashlight, of course my camera, and extra batteries for my GPS and camera. If going on a longer hike in a remote area the 10 essential items are recommended. You probably already know this information, but I am going to list it anyway.
3. Flashlight/headlamp (be sure to have an extra set of batteries that fit your flashlight/headlamp)
4. Extra food (enough for one extra day)
5. Extra clothing
6. Rain gear ( jacket and pants-always carry rain gear even if the sun is out)
7. First aid supplies (be sure to include an extra day of any medication you are taking or might need in an emergency)
8. Pocket knife
9. Matches (stored in a water tight container in addition to matches or a butane lighter)
10. Fire starter (can be candles, chemical fire starter, backpack size fire logs)
There is a lot of information out there about geocaching. I am a beginner so the content I provided is very basic. Here are some links to get you started. Be sure to leave me a comment if you decide to give geocaching a try.
The official global GPS cache hunt site. (This is where you begin)
Geoacaching with kids (great site)
Leave No Trace