All About Geocaching

Have you heard of geocaching? It’s an activity that’s been on our family bucket list this summer, and it’s a fantastic way to get your kids outside. If you have not heard of it, it is essentially an outdoor treasure hunting game that requires a GPS-enabled device easily found on your smartphone. Simply navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) at the hidden location. Here are a few tips to get your family started:

Step One
Set up a geocaching account on the official website. This is where you’ll find new geocaches, and you’ll be able to let members know when you have found one and what you thought of it.

Safety Tip: Opt for controlled geocaching experiences. The link above is an official, reputable geocaching website.

After registering, search for a nearby geocache. Start with a beginner cache highlighted in green. After clicking a selected geocache, you’ll see a brief description like, “It is located at the edge of a wooded area behind a strip mall. There is a flat grassy area leading up to the cache area.”  This helps you know what to look for and how difficult it might be to find it.

Before heading out to find your treasure, you’ll need to bring items to replace what you find in the cache. Your best bet is to visit a dollar store and stock up on items that you or your children would find of value, like mini tools, a flashlight, a deck of playing cards, a small gift certificate, matchbox cars and foreign coins are all fun items to leave behind. Never leave drugs (even the over-the-counter stuff), food, overly scented items that could attract an animal, knives, guns, lighters or matches. All items need to be both fun and family-friendly since people of all ages love to play!

Step Two
Next, you need to load the coordinates in your GPS device (you can use your phone for this). Either connect your device to the computer or enter the coordinates in the device by hand.

Tip: Consider downloading the geocaching app on your iPhone or Android, and use it for finding geocaches. It’ll make the process even simpler and more straightforward.

Step Three
Now that you have a location, it is time to find the treasure. Geocaches can vary in size and appearance. It could be in anything: a large, clear plastic container, a fake rock with a compartment or a film canister, for example.

Once you locate the cache, there should be a logbook or sheet for you to record your find. The treasure can be made of any number of things, especially as visitors come to find and replace items. The rule is that if you take something, you leave something of equal or greater value in return. It’s also recommended that the items you leave be individually packaged in a plastic bag to protect them from the elements.

It’s also possible that you may find a “trackable,” which is a bonus to a geocache treasure. It’s basically a game piece that has been etched with a unique code that can move from cache to cache. It can come in three different varieties: a travel bug, a geocoin or another type of trackable item that displays a unique coin (like a patch or a key ring). If you find one of these, you have the option to take it with you (no need to replace it with anything in its place). Then enter its unique tracking code online. Take the trackable to your next cache, and be sure to log it. The point is to see how far the trackables travel by moving from cache to cache. You can also purchase your own trackable to leave at a location.

As you can see, geocaching is a fun and frugal family adventure worth trying! So, on the days your kids are complaining of boredom, this is a unique option to keep them busy.

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