I first heard about geocaching a few years ago, but thought little of it. Aside from thinking it a silly game (mostly because I was afraid to try it), I wasn’t much interested in learning about geocaching. When I picked up my first GPS enabled smartphone, a little spark in my head ignited, and though it would smolder for a few more years, it finally ignited into a strong desire to finally see what this family friendly, high-tech treasure hunt was all about.
When I finally decided it was time to give geocaching a try, my first step was to head over to Geocaching.com and sign up for a free account. This gave me access to the rules of the game, a search function to find local caches, and a place to keep track of my finds. There’s also a ton of information on how to learn to play, as well as a geocaching forum where fellow cachers will talk about events in the geocaching world and help newbies find their first cache. Premium paid accounts give you some advanced tools as you become a bit more serious in the game.
A Little History
After putzing around on the site for a bit, I learned that Geocaching began nearly 14 years ago, when the powers that control GPS satellites flipped a switch and allowed anyone with a GPS (Global Position Service) device to get super accurate position results (before this, the general public was limited in how close they could zoom in). A computer consultant named Dave Ulmer decided to test the accuracy by hiding a stash in the woods, tagging it with GPS coordinates, and having his buddies from a GPS Internet group go find it. The basic rules were, find the stash and “take some stuff, leave some stuff.” And so, geocaching was born.
Family Friendly Outdoor Fun
One of the great things about geocaching is that it’s fun whether you go it alone or with the whole family. Either way, it’s a great excuse to get outside for some fresh air. Caches can be found nearly anywhere, and if you have a smartphone, the official Geocaching.com app will help you find waypoints near your current location. I have friends and family with children who go geocaching on the weekends and have a blast. It’s a great way for kids to learn tracking, orienteering, and all about nature. You may even pick up a thing or two, especially if you bring along a field guide or two. There’s even an environmentally friendly aspect to the game, called CITO or “Cache In, Trash Out,” where you hike in to a cache and pick up trash along the way to be disposed of later.
Caches themselves can be as large as an ammunition box, or as small as a bottle of eyedrops, and cache creators can get pretty creative with their hiding spots. Geocaching.com has a pretty sweet rating system that tells you how large or small the cache is, and how hard it’s going to be to find.
Depending on where you are and what’s going on that day, you may bump into fellow geocachers while you’re out in the field. You are supposed to keep the cache location a secret from “muggles,” or non-caching folks, but occasionally you’ll see a friendly face at a cache. One of the more interesting aspects of the sport are organized events that happen all over the world, where geocachers come together, talk shop, and create challenges within the game for each other.
You don’t need much to get started finding treasures with Geocaching. Some basic gear includes:
- GPS device (e.g., handheld, smartphone, etc)
- A pen
- Basic hiking gear
- Trash bag
- An account a Geocaching.com
Get out and Cache!
Now that you have the basics, there’s really no excuse not to get out and go geocaching. You can do it just about anywhere, at anytime, with little more than a GPS device and a sturdy pair of shoes. I know, I was hesitant at first too, but once you find your first geocache, the bug will bite, and you’ll never want to stop. Good luck, and have fun geocaching!