This article was written by Sean Funk.
Have you ever wanted to explore your city? Go to new places? Have fun with your kids? Geocaching is for for you.
What is geocaching??
According to geocaching.com the definition of geocaching is…
Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment
I just started caching a couple months ago, and my family loves it. What person doesn’t like hunting for treasure? My children eat it up, they love to find the cache and then argue over what they are going to trade for.
To get started with geocaching all you need is a GPS (preferably a handheld model) and a membership to geocaching.com. (It is free to join but can upgrade to a $30/year membership which has some “advanced” features that you might be interested in if/when you get addicted.) If you have a GPS enabled phone, like the iPhone, there are “apps for that.” We used a great geocaching app that can be downloaded here.
After you sign up for your account I would suggest entering your address in the “search for geocaches” section of the homepage. You would be amazed to see how many caches are within walking distance from your home.
Click on a few and read the description.
There is a difficulty and terrain levels that are something to consider, especially when caching with kids. I have never done anything harder than a difficulty 2 and a terrain 2 when caching with small children. Also take a look at the cache size which can sometimes increase the difficulty. There is sometimes a hint which can be very helpful. Reading through the recent logs section can sometimes help you along.
Ok so you have located a cache and you want to go find it. Now what do you do?
You can enter the coordinates in your GPS and off you go. With the geocaching iPhone app you can also “find nearby geocaches” or “search by GC code” which is also very handy. Once you get to the coordinates of the cache you usually have to search around. (Remember GPS can be out a few meters.) Search up, down and especially under. My kids especially like this part and I truly think they are better at it then I am. They have better “caching sense” than I do.
Don’t be disappointed if you don’t find the cache right away. Reread the description, read the hint, and read the recent logs. All of these will help you look in the right direction.
Ok I found the cache, now what???
The cache will usually be some type of plastic container of varying size and will contain at minimum a log book. First things first, sign the log book. And then, this is the fun part, you can trade for whats in the cache with something of equal or greater value.
My kids love to trade stuff. We have a cache box that we bring along that has little toys and such that we scrounged from the house. Somehow there is a lot of McDonalds toys in that box 😉
Now all the trading is done and the log book is signed, you need to put the cache back in the same spot for the next geocacher to find.
Remember to watch out for “muggles” while caching.
These are non-geocachers who may not understand why you are looking under stumps and such. The last thing anyone wants is for a cache to be stolen or destroyed by a muggle. So be secretive, the kids also like this. Our family was once searching for a cache in a playground, there happened to be another family playing there. My children weren’t so secretive as our oldest decided to scream across the playground “Did you find the cache yet?”. Kids will be kids.
When you get home you can log your find on geocaching.com if you haven’t done so already on your GPS enabled phone.
Some things to help you along.
The forums on geocaching.com are awesome and there are many fellow cachers just waiting to help.
Also if you arrive at a cache site and there is someone else staring at a GPS, say HI, we are mostly friendly. I have met lots of awesome people while caching.
I have had many unique experiences while caching. As a father it is always a quick way to get the kids out of the house and away from the TV. When ever we see or receive a small toy the children always say “hey we can put that in the cache box” . It is great to see them excited about something that everyone in the family enjoys. We once ran into a fellow caching couple and they said one of my favorite quotes “if we weren’t caching we would just be sitting in front of the TV”.
Caching also brings families together that have similar interests. Once when caching with another family we found a very interesting cache. It was a empty 3ft. long artillery shell that was wrapped in tree bark and then was leaning against a tree. It was just a couple feet from the trail but you would have never noticed it unless you were looking for it. There are many caches in the city hidden in obvious places like under bus stops in a small magnetic micro container. No bigger then your thumbnail.
No matter how young or old you are, geocaching is a awesome way to explore your city or others. On our first caching experience I discovered a huge duck pond at a park I had been to a thousand times. Remember you never know what is in you own backyard. As a parent I find that when geocaching there are many opportunities to teach my children. Whether it is about local plants or wildlife or how to deal with personal interactions with people we see on our day.
Have fun caching. See you on the trail.
Sean is a busy dad to two girls aged 7 and 6 and a very active 2 ½ year old boy. Sean’s day are spent changing the big tires for Fountain Tire while nights are spent along side his wife Sarah as a super-parenting duo, chauffeuring kids, making school lunches and conquering the bed time routine. Sean’s love for gadgets, technology and Geocaching can be followed on his twitter feed @seanfunk.
Photo by BobnRenee on Flickr