Defining geocaching is tricky. Explaining it to someone not “in the knowing” is hard. But this page makes an attempt. In 10 questions, after reading this article you will have a greater understanding of what geocaching is and why it’s so popular.
Q: What is geocaching?
A: Ah, the million dollar question! Geocaching, pronounced “geo-cashing”, is a game, sport (some hate that word – it’s not a contest) or simply hobby where anyone can head out into nature or the city to find hidden conatiners, called “geocaches” or simply “caches”, using a GPS device. Quick explanations include “treasure hunt with GPS” or “you look for tupperware in the forest”. It sounds odd, but yes, that is the main idea.
It all started in the US in the year 2000 when the first geocache was placed and the coordinates were published online. Others were invited to go find the container, sign their name on a logsheet and put the cache back. The concept has spread explosion-like and today the hides around the world are counted in millions – the number is ever increasing.
Q: Who’s silly enough to geocache?
A: Geocaching has something to offer everyone. The majority of cachers are interested in nature, technology or adventure, or a combination of all three. Others simply want a reason to go outside and get some exercise.
Examples of geocachers include young couples, families with young children, retired couples, etc. Defining the typical geocacher is, in other words, challenging if not impossible.
Many tend to think that geocaching is something for teens and the technological generation, but in fact it’s more common to see older people geocache. If there are teens invoved, it’s usually because one or both of the parents are avid cachers.
Q: Where do I start?
A: Knowing where to go first is not always easy. Odds are there’s at least one geocache near your home, school or workplace, no matter where in the civilized world you live. A good idea is to start searching for your home town on the geocaching map. Follow these instructions:
- Register for a free membership at the official website: www.geocaching.com.
- Log in and click “Hide & Seek a Cache” under “Play” in the menu bar.
- Click the textlink ”Search with Google Maps” in the middle of the page.
The map that appears will show you an icon at every spot where there’s a geocache. Search for your city or address and all geocaches in your surroundings will pop up. Look for the green icons – those are the basic caches. Clicking an icon will reveal more information. Click the title of the cache in the bubble that appears and the cache page will open in a new window. Here you’ll find a description of the cache and the place where it’s hidden, the coordinates to it, what others have previously written, hints, and much more.
Q: Is a GPS required?
A: In order to geocache for real you need a GPS device, yes. As beginners, however, many start out finding a couple of caches without a device. By reading the description, hints, previous logs, viewing images and so on, it’s possible to find the easiest caches without coordinates. In some cases the hiding spot might be obvious, in others it’s not. Look at the number of stars in the difficulty- and terrain rating of each cache. The fewer red stars, the easier the cache.
Or maybe you know someone from who you can borrow a GPS. In either case, try it out before you go buy an expensive device. Once you’re hooked, though, you’ll want one of your own very soon.
Furthermore, using a car GPS is not recommended. These work if you just want to try it out, but they are meant for useage on roads, and usually that’s not where you find geocaches. They lack the functionality needed to cache in the wild.
Q: Doesn’t a GPS make it very easy?
A: No, not necessarily. One would think it’s not too hard finding the box when you already have the exact coordinates. And that’s partly true. But the coordinates are never 100% accurate and you’ll often end up 5-10 meters from the actual hiding place.
Also, the most fun caches are hidden in clever and interesting ways, and you’ll soon learn that it’s not actually about the boxes. It’s about the locations you visit and places you see.
Q: How does the GPS technology work??
A: GPS stands for “Global Positioning System”. The system uses 24 satellites out in space in order to determine your exact location on the surface of the earth. With the help of a GPS receiver – the device you hold in your hand – it’s possible to get the longitude and latitude of the position you’re at.
To learn more about GPS, read this article on Wikipedia.
Q: What’s inside a geocache?
A: The standard content of any cache is a pen and a logsheet. When finding the cache, you write your alias and today’s date in the log.
But there can also be other things, for example plastic figures, toys, foreign coins and other cheap trade items. One of the basic rules is that if you take something out, you have to leave something else of an equal or greater value in return. Finding valuable stuff rarely happens, though. It’s not a treasure hunt in the traditional meaning of the word.
There are also special items called Travel Bugs and geocoins. These are trackable items with a unique code on them, and the main goal is to move them from cache to cache and follow their travels around the world online.
Another important thing to remember is not to leave poisonous substances, sharp objects or food in the containers. The latter may attract animals who might destroy the cache. Hey, it has happened!
Q: What do I do after I’ve found a cache?
A: Besides logging the cache on spot, trading a few items and putting the cache back where you found it, you should also log your find online when you get home.
On geocaching.com, search for the cache, go to the cache page and click “log your visit”. Choose “Found” (or “Did Not Find”, in case you didn’t) and write a short message about the experience. Try not to include any spoilers, but still don’t be too brief – the cache owners love to read stories from the field in the logs that people write!
Q: Who hides all these caches?
A: The caches are placed by regular people who love to geocache. That means you could place a cache too one day. It’s recommended, however, that you have found a few on your own first – at least ten or twenty. Only then can you know what makes a good or bad hiding spot. Hiding geocaches can be creative, fun and challenging.
Q: Where do I find more information?
A: The official website is a good start: www.geocaching.com. I also recommend you to further explore Complete Geocaching for vast information of all difficulty levels. It’s a great world to discover!