For a growing number of families looking to spend time together in the great outdoors, geocaching is the activity of choice. Combining the peace, quiet, and exercise of hiking with the excitement of a treasure hunt, geocaching is a great way to grow closer together as a family. Getting started is relatively inexpensive, and caches are available for all skill levels.
To begin, you will first need a GPS device which is capable of adding and displaying waypoints based on coordinates. This means almost any outdoor GPS made in the past 10 years, although newer models do have some features worth considering.
A large color screen in combination with pre-loaded maps of your location can make finding your path along the trail much easier. Many newer units have enough memory available to store a huge number of maps, meaning you won’t have to hook up to a computer to get the right map for the trip.
You should also look for a GPS which will be durable, preferably waterproof, and that has replaceable AA or AAA batteries so you can swap them out if needed while on the trail.
Some newer GPS models have geocaching features built in, and may even have network access to cache databases. Many new smart phones with GPS capability also have applications which will allow you to search through potential caches, download maps and get on your way without having to plan ahead like with a traditional GPS. Just make sure the phone is sufficiently charged before heading out so you don’t get lost.
Once a GPS receiver has been picked out, it is time to find and select a cache. There are many online directories available, but the most popular one is geocaching.com. There you can input your zip code and have a list of potential destinations displayed, which can be sorted by difficulty, distance, and other factors. For your first time out, or for any trip out with small children, it is recommended to take an easy route. Remember also that distances can often be more than they seem, with rivers, hills, and winding trails making a one mile trip into a three hour excursion.
Before heading out on the trail, a pack should be prepared with some basic supplies such as food, water, and a bit of extra clothing or a coat in case the weather turns sour. Always be prepared to be outdoors a bit longer than expected, because there are many unpredictable elements when going on a hike.
Make sure that you set your vehicle as a waypoint so you can always find your way back, and go on your journey. Along the way, don’t forget to take in all the beautiful sights around you – geocaching is one of the best ways to enjoy nature. Because many of the trails are shorter than a traditional hike, you and your family can feel free to take your time and move at your own pace, taking breaks as needed. Talking on the trail often opens people up to telling stories and generally having a good time.
When you get close to the cache location, everyone should start looking out for potential hiding spots. Sometimes a geocache will be placed out in the open, but it will often be hidden. Common suspects include a knot in a tree, a box placed under a stump, or underneath a plant. If you take something out of the cache, be sure to replace it with something of equal or greater value, and sign your name and date in the log if there is one. Consider taking a piece of paper and pen in case there is no log currently available to start your own!
One important thing to remember about geocaching is to not hurt the environment. So if a cache is too far off the trail to reach without trampling some plants, leave it be and wait for your next expedition.
Geocaching is a great family activity that can be enjoyed any time of the year. Spending time outdoors really helps bring the family together, and geocaching is a great reason to head out into nature.