When we tell people we went geocaching last weekend, they either say “fun!” or “what is that?” If you fall into the “what is that?” group, you are missing out on a fun way to get your whole family outdoors.
I define geocaching as an outdoor treasure hunt. Except the treasure isn’t going to get you any closer to retirement, and there isn’t a traditional treasure map.
To go geocaching, families use a global positioning system (GPS) to find hidden containers or caches in a certain location that is marked by coordinates. There are geocaches hidden all over the world, usually on public property. Geocaching is a fun family activity while traveling or maybe even in your own neighborhood. We were very surprised to discover three geocaches hidden in the campground that we have been going to for the last several years.
I know you are all wondering what’s the treasure inside the geocache? The treasure is usually small trinkets of little value. We’ve found pressed pennies, bottle caps, dice, trading cards, or whatever someone happens to have in their pocket. But in order to take one of the treasures, you have to leave a treasure for someone else. It’s only fair!
What You Need Before You Go
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Here is what you need before you go on your first geocache:
- An adult must set up a free account at geocaching.com. This is where you get the geocache coordinates.
- A handheld GPS. We have a couple of Garmin GPS’s that we use.
- If you don’t have access to a GPS, you can download an app from geocaching.com.
- Small treasures to leave in the geocache.
- A small notebook or journal to record the coordinates, the clue, and your results.
- A pen to record your find in the journal inside the geocache.
Where are the Geocaches?
To find where the geocaches are near you, visit geocaching.com. Enter the city where you want to go on your hunt, or let your mobile device find your location.
A list of geocaches within 10 miles of your search will display. You’ll see the name of the geocache, distance from your search point, and the direction from your search point.
Select a geocache and you’ll get more details. The coordinates that you need to enter into your GPS will display, and you may be given a clue to help you find the geocache’s location. The clue is a code that you have to decipher. We try to solve the clues before we leave for the hunt.
Each geocache has a log online where people can report the date and whether they found it or not. There may be clues or additional information in the log. Once you start geocaching, you can add your own comments online.
You Have the Coordinates, What’s Next?
Enter the coordinates into your GPS or app and you’ll get a read out with the direction and distance you need to go. And you’re off!
I don’t recommend that kids geocache alone…we live in bear country. Enough said.
Once your GPS says you are at the coordinates you entered, it’s time to start really looking. Most often you don’t know what kind of container you’re looking for or how big it is. Usually the clue, if any, will help you know what to look for. Our clues have referenced branches, shrubs, and stumps.
I Found It!
Yes! You found a geocache! Open it up, check out the treasures and sign the log. Don’t forget to leave something if you are taking something.
So, there you have it. Now you know what geocaching is. It’s time to round up your family and friends and get outside. There’s likely a treasure very near you!