Looking for a family friendly, outdoor sport that is good for the mind and body and doesn’t cost the earth? Then welcome to the modern day treasure hunt of Geocaching (“jee-oh-cash-ing”)
So, what is Geocaching?
Quite simply, Geocaching is an adventure sport, open to anyone and everyone, that gets you out and about in the pursuit of hidden treasure or ‘caches’ using a GPS receiver. Think of it as ‘Geeky Treasure Hunting’
Although a small amount of technical knowledge is required, if you have a smart phone or GPS device then you can be geocaching within minutes. In the United Kingdom in particular there are over 70,000 geocaches hidden so you are close to one wherever you are!
So that’s it. You have your smartphone (any phone with a GPS receiver) or your GPS handheld device and you have downloaded the cache details, now you are on your way. But, is it really that simple? Yes.
So what is a Geocache Exactly?
Generally speaking, a ‘cache’ is a small container containing a logbook (that you sign to show you found the cache) and, depending on the size, small toys or trinkets that junior cachers are encouraged to swap with something else. The containers vary in size from something as small as a thimble to a full suitcase size container! – See some examples here
What equipment do I need?
Geocaching is a relatively inexpensive hobby and if you have a smartphone or GPS unit and an internet connection, you are pretty much set. After downloading the Co-Ordinates to your device (these can be obtained with a free account on geocaching.com) and grabbing a pen or pencil (to sign the log) you are free to start hunting. You can search local caches from geocaching.com and you will be surprised just how local they will be to you. Your phone or GPS will guide you to the area you need to search and will get your to within a few feet. Sounds easy right? Not always. The geocache will sometimes be camouflaged within its surroundings. The geocache owner may provide clues but its up to you to locate the cache.
So, you have checked the website before you left and have a rough idea of where the cache is, what size it is and perhaps read the hint to get a further clue as to where it is. You can also read the logs of past finders, perhaps look at the pictures that other cachers have posted online. Armed with this information, get searching. The cache may be hidden in an urban environment and use everyday objects to mask its presence. If you find yourself in the countryside, then the cache owner many have used natural items to hide the cache from prying eyes. Always take care to leave the surrounding area undamaged and unaffected by your presence and remember to replace the cache exactly where you found it, ready for the next searcher.
What rules do I need to follow?
- A geocache should be placed in a way so it’s unnoticeable to passers-by yet can be accessed without harming terrain or vegetation.
- A geocache box or container should be camouflaged so it fits in with the surroundings and doesn’t accidentally alarm others.
- Don’t expose the hiding spot to others. When you find a geocache, quickly move it away from the site before examining it.
- It’s good form to sign the register to let the geocache owner and fellow geocachers know of your visit. Afterwards, go online to geocaching.com to record your visit there as well.
- Always exchange trinkets (also called “trade items”) with those of equal or greater value. Leave the cache better than you found it.
- Travel bugs are different than trade items. Sometimes called “hitchhikers,” these are often intended to travel the world. They are OK to take as long as you promise to put it in another geocache. Be sure to log the travel bug number online so its owner can trace its travels.
- Once you’re done with the geocache, return it exactly where you found it. Resist the temptation to find a better or more complicated spot.