Looking for a low cost, fun activity that will get the family outside and in adventure mode? Try geocaching. Geocaching combines the thrill of treasure hunting with the ability to find specific locations utilizing the Global Positioning System (GPS).
GPS was made available to the public in 2000 and uses orbiting satellites to determine positions on the Earth’s surface. Participants quickly realized they could conceal caches, hidden storage places and post the coordinates for others to find them.
Originally, the expense of handheld GPS units was cost prohibitive and limited the number of participants. However, the introduction of geocaching apps for smart phones has caused the popularity of the hobby to explode.
One of the more popular apps is Geocaching. It is extremely user friendly and features a map that shows your location and the location of nearby geocaches. Scrolling the map shows other caches and you can zoom in and out to examine an area of interest more closely.
Selecting a cache will provide you with its name, distance away, difficulty rating, terrain rating and the size of the cache.
The cache’s name may provide a clue to where it is hidden or an overall theme.
The app will not pinpoint the cache for you. It will show you an aerial image of approximately where the cache is located and should get you within +/- 16 feet. Remember, it relies on an orbiting satellite so the results may vary.
The app does have a “hint” option that may provide additional clues. Previous visitors may also post information or photos that may assist in your search.
Some caches are easily found while others may be cleverly hidden. Popular hiding spots may include guard rails and signposts, under bushes, hanging from tree branches or inside dead logs or artificial stones.
Caches vary in size from Nano (approximately the size of your pinky fingertip) to Micro (a 35 mm film canister) to Small (sandwich sized plastic container) to Regular (ammo box or shoebox) to Large (bucket) or Other (which is explained in the cache description).
Once the cache has been located, what can you expect to find inside? Each cache will have a log to sign and date so remember to always bring along a pen. Depending on the size of the cache, it may contain themed items related to the cache such as trinkets, toys, stickers, erasers or geocoins. A geocoin is a token with a tracking code that allows you to trace its progression as it is passed from person to person or cache to cache.
The rules are simple. If you take an item from a cache, you are expected to leave a comparable item. The app is then used to log that you found the cache and you may leave a message or photos. Return the cache to its hiding place so that others may enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
Sometimes things go wrong and you are not able to find the cache, it has been damaged or the log is wet. You can use the app to send a message to the owner of the cache alerting them that it needs maintenance. Some people carry extra logs or zip lock bags to replace damaged ones.
For many people, the thrill of finding geocaches inspires them to create and hide their own. The app makes this easy to do. Just make sure you have the property owner’s permission before placing a cache. Specially made containers are available for purchase online or you may create your own using a film canister or Tupperware container. Pretty much anything will work if the container is durable and waterproof.
The app will also allow you to leave a description of the cache where you can provide the back story on why you hid the cache or if there is significance to the location it is hidden in. The activity button lists other people’s comments and whether they found the cache or not. Attributes can also be given with information such as: wheelchair accessibility, if it is recommended for kids, if the site is accessible 24/7, etc.
So, if you’re looking to get the family out of the house for some inexpensive fun, give geocaching a try. The thrill of the hunt can lead to lasting memories and grand adventures.