With a few more weeks left in summer, many parents are looking for fun activities that won’t eat into the school supply budget, and will get the family outside for some fresh air. If you haven’t yet tried geocaching (pronounced GEO-CASH-ING), now’s the perfect time. It’s pretty much free, it gets you outdoors, and best of all, it’s as close as you can get to real life treasure hunting.
WHAT IS GEOCACHING?
Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt using handheld GPS units (or your smartphone). The “treasures” can be just about any size container…from an old pill bottle to a big wooden box. One thing that they will all have in common is a logbook to sign. Smaller caches may contain only that — the larger ones may hide trinkets like small toys, stickers, or rubber bands. Sometimes the containers will be camouflaged to blend into their surroundings, making the hunt a bit more challenging.
If you think there may not be any caches hidden near you, think again. There are currently more than 1.6 million hidden worldwide! It’s pretty cool to imagine that no matter where you go, there are probably hidden boxes all around you. And you know who else loves that idea? The kiddos!
WHAT DO WE NEED?
Many people who Geocache as a hobby use the Geocaching app on their iPhone or Android. The app is $9.99 (one-time fee) and will make the whole thing easier, giving you coordinates, directions, and important details about the caches and the terrain around them. You can also buy a handheld GPS. If you aren’t using the app, you’ll need to go to geocaching.com and create an account to get the details on your local caches.
Don’t forget your supplies! The larger caches will likely contain goodies, and a well-known rule in the cache community is that if you take something, you should replace it with something of equal or greater value. The kids will love the idea of choosing a treat and leaving another for a future treasure-seeker. Bring a pen or pencil to sign the logbooks. Reading the names and quick notes of other geocachers is one of the coolest parts of finding treasure!
Make sure you check the details in the cache info. Some will be right off main roads or in busy downtown areas, while others will require quite a hike. You’ll want to plan your day according to how much time you have and how far the littlest legs will want to go. A “1 Star” rating will be best for beginners, and kids will most likely enjoy the larger caches more. A “micro-cache” will probably be only the logbook to sign.
Once you’ve chosen your destination, you’re off! If you’re making a day of it and going to several hunting spots, it’s a good idea to bring a cooler and add a fun picnic lunch to your plans. Most of the time, the person who hid the cache will have left parking instructions in the details for you. Your GPS or phone will usually get you to within about 20 feet of the cache. Once you’re that close…the search begins! Look everywhere. We’ve found caches under rocks, inside trees, and hanging from a branch. Some will be magnetized and hiding on metal railings.
This really is the most exciting part, but don’t give up easily! If you do need a little more help, there’s an option on the app that will give you extra clues, if the hider posted any. Once the cache has been found, it’s time to celebrate and explore. Sign the log book, and trade out treasure if you’d like. If you’re using the app, go ahead and log your find.
If the cache was nowhere to be found, note that on the app as well. Sometimes they get stolen (sad as it is to believe) or washed away by rain. You can also leave clues for future finders.
Once you start geocaching with your family, it will likely become an activity you’ll want to do all the time. If you’re hiking or camping, add a cache to the day and see where it takes you. If you’re running errands, break up the routine with a good treasure hunt. Remember that the best thing a family can do is adventure together. Good luck, and have fun!
Got any great geocaching tips or stories? Comment below and share with us!