Thursday, October 30, 2014

X Marks the Spot: Geocaching!

I mentioned yesterday that we had gone geocaching, so today I thought I would share a little bit more about that with you. 

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is like a big international treasure hunt that anyone can participate in! There are geocaches hidden in various places all over the world. Some of them can be as small as a film canister or as large as a large bucket or shoebox. Inside each cache you will typically find a log book where previous locators have signed in to indicate that they found the cache. Depending on the size you might also find small trinkets that can be traded out for another small trinket that you've brought with you.

How do you go Geocaching?

All you need is a GPS device and a set of coordinates to look for. Go online to the Geocaching website and input the area where you would like to search for a cache. You will find a list of locations as well as a difficulty rating, clues, and any other useful information you might need. If you are really adventurous, you can go Geocaching with a map and a compass, but I have a horrible sense of direction and three kids to bring along, so we use an app. You can download the app for iPhones, androids, or Windows phones. It is a free app, but there are upgrades you can pay for if you decide you want more options.

Finding a Cache

When you open the Geocaching app you will see a map of your current location.  You are indicated by a blue, pulsing dot. If there are caches nearby, they will be indicated with a green dot. You can pinch in or out to adjust how much you see on your screen, but the free version of the app will only show things within a small radius. (Grey dots indicate caches that you are too far away from to get information on.)

Choose a cache that you would like to find and tap it. It will bring up more info about the cache and tell how how close you are as well as what direction to head in.  Turn your phone until the orange line at the bottom on the compass is in the middle and start walking. When you get close, your phone will alert you, and also warn you of the limitations of GPS capabilities.

Once you have gotten close enough, it's time to start searching. Re-reading the clues and hints to figure out what you are looking for. Take note of the size, so you know how obvious it might be. Caches are hidden in order not to be found by non-cachers, so sometimes you might have to poke around to find it.
This cache box was hidden in a hollowed-out piece of landscaping timber. It took a while to find!

When you find the cache, celebrate! Open it up and see what's inside. You will likely find a log book to sign, but you might also find a collection of trinkets inside. When you go geocaching, it's a good idea to bring a set of trinkets with you so that you can trade out for something from your cache. We have a jar of small fast food type toys that the kids are willing to trade that we keep in our van.
We traded for the green-tinted sunglasses as a cache last weekend!

Some caches have a theme. There is one near our local SPCA that has an animal theme. Many of the items in the cache box were animal related, such as a tennis ball, a dog leash or a paw print eraser. If there is a theme, try to stick with it so you don't disappoint the next group that comes along.

When you are done

After you have located the cache, signed the log, and swapped a trinket; you can log your find on the app. This tells other people that the cache is still there and in good condition. If you find one that is not in good condition (wet, moldy, broken) you can also log this information to give other people, and especially the cache owner, a head's up. 
Searching for our first cache...that we never found. :(

If you have looked for a reasonable amount of time and you can't find anything, it's important to log this too. The first cache that we looked for was one we didn't find. In checking the activity log, we could see that others had not located it either. If you are deciding on a cache to hunt, it's a good idea to check the activity log to see when it was last found. Since Geocaching happens on public property, there's always a chance that someone else has stumbled across it and moved it, thrown it out, or outright stolen it. 

Make sure to hide the cache back the way you found it so that the next group that comes along will have the same fun adventure that you did!
This one had a log book and an extra creative way to get to it!

Things to keep in mind

Geocaching should always be done on public property, or private property that the owners have given permission for. When you go to look for a cache, it is important to be stealthy. You should not be seen when you are hunting, lest someone else come along and steal or disturb the cache. People who do not know about Geocaching are called "Muggles." Many caches have a note inside describing the basics of Geocaching, so if someone stumbles across one, they might be converted to the fun. On the other hand, they might find a box of toys and decide to just take it. That obviously ruins the fun for others, so try not to be followed while you're on the search.

So Geocaches are harder to find than others. You should check the difficulty rating to see if there is extensive hiking or other treacherous terrain involved. Also check the activity log to see if other people have left clues as to where a cache is. Be careful though, because some people don't understand subtlety and might state outright where the cache is hidden. That might take some of the fun out of it for you.

Geocaches are hidden outdoors and ideally, should be waterproof. We have found, however, that many are not. We have had a few disappointments when we've found a water-logged book or moldy trinkets. If this is the case with something you find, please make a note of it so the owner can came fix things. 

Geocachers use some specific jargon that may be confusing at first. There is a nice glossary of terms that you can check to define words and acronyms that might have you stumped.

Geocaching is a great way to get outdoors on your own or with your family. It's fun and exciting and something almost everyone can participate it. You should definitely give it a try!


  1. Thank you for this! I want to take the boy Geocaching!

  2. I have never gone Geocaching with my kids, now I want to. Fall is when we finally can return outdoors as it finally cools down and this is now on our list. Thanks Rabia!

  3. I really want to try this - a couple years ago when I first heard about it, I think the technology was still new and you had to physically buy a product to do it. BUT now I have a smartphone and there are apps so there should be nothing stopping me except laziness and bad winter weather! ;)

  4. We have never gone, but definitely hoping we can do this soon and you laid out some great tips here. So I thank you for that and will have to refer to when we do get to go now :)

  5. It's a blast! Both of your kids would love it!

  6. Give it a try. The app is fun and easy to use (but it will drain your battery, so turn it off when you're not using it).

  7. It's really a lot of fun!! And you can do a lot of the initial finding from your car. You only have to walk the last 200-300 feet usually!

  8. Give it a shot, Janine! The girls would love it!

  9. I'm glad you explained what you do when you're done! I've heard people explain geocaching without doing so and I always wondered how you communicate to others if you found one, or if it wasn't there, or was taken, or eaten by a bear!

  10. I know some geocachers (Is that what one would call someone who geocaches?) but we have never tried it. It would be a fun way to spend time outside. I know my boys would love it!

  11. LOL! I hope they don't get eaten by bears (the people or the caches!!)

  12. It's very simple to get started. Download the app and try it out. I'll bet there's a cache quite close to you.

  13. Thank you for explaining this - I've heard of geocaching but never really knew what it was. How fun would this be to do when you travel? I know my sister and her family has done it - I'm going to tell her about this app.

  14. Honestly, it's so much fun! You should check it out. The app is totally free!

  15. This is absolutely AWESOME! My daughter just started Girl Scouts a couple of weeks ago with troop 221 and Stacey Washington has been amazing! I was like, "What is geocaching?!" And she directed me to your blog link through hers! Outstanding explanation Rabia! I LOVE it, and cannot wait to get started with my clan! :)

  16. Thanks Laura! I'm glad the post was useful for you. Stacey is just awesome, isn't she?!


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