Have you ever been geocaching?
If you haven’t, I’d like to recommend checking it out. You’ll learn a bit about orienteering and have fun seeking and finding hidden treasures that others have left to be discovered.
It’s not always easy to get your family outside and finding something that you can all do together that holds everyone’s attention can be a challenge, especially if your children are spread-out in ages. Geocaching is fun for all ages.
I’d known about caching for years; Geocaching and Opencache were the two sites I knew of, but I could never remember to check the geocaching sites for caches in the area before leaving the house.
That all changed when I got an iPhone and Groundspeak launched the Geocaching app for it. *Several more caching sites have launched in the meantime, and I list a few them below.
Since then, our family has enjoyed many trips navigating our way to hidden spots, where others have left secret caches. Sometimes, it is only a little micro-cache (top image) that has a slip of paper inside to sign. But others are larger, more elaborate and have fun little trinkets and souvenirs.
What is Geocaching?
Basically, geocaching is a free world-wide treasure hunt; “geo” = geography, “cache” = a collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden or inaccessible place. But rather than taking from it, you are a part of it, and add to it, if you choose. To play, you locate hidden containers using your GPS or navigation on your smartphone.
The caveat? If you take something from it, you replace it with something else of equal or greater value.
All that you need to go geocaching is a GPS or a caching app on your smartphone. I’ve listed several at the bottom of this post.
You will also need a pen or pencil for signing any logins, and a replacement item, if you plan on taking something from the cache box.
The main rule of geocaching has to do with replacing an item you take from the cache box. OpenCaching also has a list of a few additional etiquette reminders, that are good to keep in mind.
Also note, that if you plan on hiding your own cache, there are guidelines and rules. Be sure to review those before you do your own.
Getting started is pretty simple: check online at one of the sites (at bottom of post) or on your app for caches located in the area you are headed. Note the coordinates and plug them into your GPS, or open up the navigation section of your app.
Keep in mind, especially if you have small children, that not all caches are easy to get to. Be sure to look at the difficulty and terrain, as you choose a cache to locate.
I have never gone geocaching with a handheld GPS, other than what is built into my phone. I’ve always used the app because there is so much info provided within it.
For example, the Geocaching app shows caches nearby, as well as difficulty to find, the terrain along the way, and the size of the cache. These can be viewed via the map, or as a list. You can also sort them and save ones that you’d like to try at another time.
The OpenCaching app follows the same concept:
The fun thing about using the apps is that you can turn it on wherever you happen to be and see if there are any caches nearby. Always fun for a spontaneous caching adventure! We usually look for them on hikes, but we once found one along our regular walking route around town.
Once you navigate to the location, be prepared to search. The coordinates will get you to the spot, but it’s up to you to find where it is hidden. Sometimes there are clues in the description, and the apps have a ‘hint’ tab, just in case you get completely stumped. We’ve found them hidden in the crack of a wall, attached via magnet to the inside panel of a lampost, under a fallen tree and inside a fake rock. Look high, look low!
Not only are the kids learning orienteering and getting comfortable with their sense of direction, we’ve found that it also helps them be more aware of their surroundings, improve their problem-solving (often, the descriptions are worded in a way that employs good critical-thinking skills) and patience!
Interested in learning more, or trying it out? These are some of the apps that we have tried and tested. There are several others, but these are the ones I would suggest checking out.
Geocaching: site / app – There is an intro app that is free, but I recommend going ahead and downloading the full-version for $9.99, to get the full functionality of it. You will need to create an account on the main site in order to log your caches.
Opencaching: site / app – Completely free and community run.
Munzee: site / app – Munzee is based on the premise of geocaching, but it’s played a bit differently and implements QR codes to be scanned.
A basic overview from Geocaching.com
Have you tired Geocaching? What has been your most favorite cache find?