“We found our 100th geocache on our way over here!” our friend’s 10-year-old daughter excitedly exclaimed to me as they walked into our house for dinner.
“Geo-wha?” I replied, at which point she downloaded her brain’s worth of geocaching knowledge into my clueless mind. I was totally intrigued, because geocaching sounded awesome. Outside + Exploring + Treasure + Family = I Am As Excited As My Kids
If you’re looking for a new way to have fun outside, this is it! Here are the highlights and how-to’s of geocaching, or as I call it, The Only Way To Get Everyone Outdoors Without Whining.
Geocaching is basically a free(ish) treasure hunt that’s waiting right under your nose. Hidden in neighborhoods and parks right outside your door and around the world, this treasure awaits along sidewalks, hiking trails and any place you can imagine.
According to Geocaching.com, geocaching is “a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”
Happily, smartphones are GPS-enabled devices, so no special equipment is required, just some good walking shoes and sharp eyes. It’s also a good idea to grab some bug spray, a pen or pencil and a few tiny trinkets you’re willing to part with. More on this later.
Let’s start with the gist of how it works:
Step 1: Download a geocaching app to your phone.
Start with a free version to determine if this activity is a good fit for your family. We use the Cachebot app, but there are more to chose from. They all generally have a similar method of getting you to a geocache. Other geocaching apps worth checking out are Geocaching® (free) and Cachly ($4.99).
Step 2: Create a user profile and log in to your app.
After doing this, you can access a screen that reveals all the geocaches near you. In Cachebot, the green dots are all treasures, or caches, near you. You will show up as a black dot. A green circle with a check mark indicates a cache you’ve already found, one with an X indicates a cache that’s been removed.
Step 3: Get going!
You can begin by car, but will eventually need to be on foot. As you get closer to the cache, you’ll see the black dot (you) moving closer toward the cache (green circle) as well. Once the black dot is on top of the green dot, you know you’re almost to your cache, so start looking for small or large containers hidden in the ground, among rocks, on a tree branch, in a false rock, in a magnetic container stuck to a road sign, etc. The possibilities are endless, which is part of the fun.
Step 4: Your geocache app will guide you to the cache with its navigation tools, but you’ll need to do some work.
In your quest to find the treasure, be prepared to get into the woods and poke around in the rocks and trees or, in our case, look like fools meticulously searching a bench at a bus stop as people give you very strange looks or ask if you lost something.
Step 5: Get hooked on geocaching when you find your first cache.
The container will include a logbook of everyone who has found the cache. Add your name to the list, ideally a team name instead of your real name. Many caches also contain small trinkets. You can take one as a souvenir, but you must replace it with your own trinket. Sign the logbook and mark the cache as ‘found’ in your geocaching app as well. Return the geocache to the same spot you found it.
Step 6: Check out the hints.
If you’re struggling to find the cache you’re after, use your app to check for additional information about the cache, including a description of the cache and obscure hints others have left to aid in your search.
Step 7: If you love it, upgrade.
As you do more caches, you can chose to upgrade to a premium, paid account, which allows you access to more details of the caches you’re hunting, as well as other bells and whistles.
Step 8: Do it everywhere.
There are over 2 million geocaches throughout the world. We use our app to find geocaches during road trips, anytime we’re near a park or when we have some time to kill in between other activities.