It sounds like a new cold virus—just what is geocaching anyway? Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt where participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) to find hidden caches of treasure. This kind of treasure hunting for the outdoors began in 2000 when the GPS system was upgraded to the point that very small containers could be located. Caches have been placed all around the world on every continent. Over one hundred countries are currently participating in this high-tech game of hide and seek.
Participants or geocachers have their adventures not only in the great outdoor world, but in the world of technology. A geocacher who places a container will upload to the Internet the coordinates and any other navigational details in a GPX file. The geocache players surfing the Internet have plenty of ways to access this information, such as GPS devices pre-loaded with thousands of geocache locations, iPhone applications, geocache data filtering software, and geocache file compatible PDAs. For all their high technology, geocachers are an environmentally aware community, who use this game to promote the preservation of the natural world.
How to Play—The Basics
There are many variations of the geocaching game, but the traditional method is for one geocacher to place a waterproof container in an outdoor location and record its exact coordinates. The container can be as small as a finger or as large as a five gallon bucket, and it contains a logbook and some kind of treasure. This treasure is usually an inexpensive toy or object, though some harder to reach caches include a higher value reward for the first-to-find (FTF) geocachers. Often the cache includes an item with a travel objective (a Travel Bug or a geocoin), which is moved from one cache to another when found, and their travels are followed online.
Once a cache is placed, the geocacher posts the coordinates and other details online. Hunting geocachers find this information on geocaching sites and download it into their GPS devices. Using the GPS to navigate, the hunting geocachers find the hidden cache of treasure. They sign the logbook and put the geocache back to its original position. Triumphant geocachers can take the treasure items as long as they leave an item of similar or greater value behind. The final step in geocaching is to post the location of the found cache online and share their outdoor experiences with the geocaching community.
Safety Tips for Geocaching
In all the excitement of going on a new adventure, it’s easy to overlook safety concerns. But it’s important to keep a few things in mind to make your geocaching experience go as smoothly as possible. One is to choose the geocache to match your outdoor likes and abilities. Make sure you don’t choose too difficult a terrain or too long a hike. Another thing to keep in mind is to pack the correct amount and kind of supplies for the location you’ve chosen. Don’t forget a map and compass, in case something happens to your GPS—remember to take your GPS device and always bring extra batteries. Input your vehicle’s location into your GPS (make your car a waypoint) to make sure that you return safely. A very important thing to remember is to always tell someone where you are going in case of emergency. And as an environmentally aware group, the motto of the geocaching community is, “Cache In Trash Out”—do your best to preserve the natural state of the trails you travel.
Fun for Everyone
One of the best things about the geocaching game is that it can be played by just about anyone who is able to get out into Nature. There is no lack of caches to find—there are currently over 830,000 caches hidden across the world. As long as you have a sense of adventure and a working knowledge of technology, you too can join the global community of geocaching outdoor treasure hunters.