So, since the cold and often miserable weather of winter is here with us, we had been wondering how we can still get out and enjoy the outdoors.
The answer for us – Geocaching!
Have you heard of it? If yes, that’s cool but have you tried it? If not read on.
If you’ve not heard of it, it a great way to get out and about so please, please read on. It is also a great way of discovering areas that you never knew existed or new camping spots!
Now, for us we have geocached in the past and it is a hobby we do from time to time that allows us to get outside, have fun, keeps us active, keeps our mind active and allows us to meet lots of interesting people. The only thing you need to get started is a phone and a sense of adventure. Great for all ages and when we take the kids, they really love it. It is the best treasure hunt ever in their eyes.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is often referred to as “using million-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods”.
Essentially you use a GPS system, normally on your phone or if you really get into it a GPS device can be used, to find “Caches” that other people have hidden. Once found you will log your find, normally in the log book contained within the cache and on the geocaching site. In some caches you may be able to swap some swag, I’ll explain more about this later.
Now this might sound a little boring or nonsensical to some, but please hang in there and keep reading as I explain it further. As this is only a very brief overview.
And, be warned that this hobby can also become very addictive to those who try it. It is a hobby that suites all ages and all levels of fitness. Caches can be found anywhere from your local park or town to the top of mountains or under the sea. It is also played all over the world so if you do get addicted you can even play while on holiday.
This for me is what makes it so good as we can often go Geocaching while camping or even plan camping trips to go and get caches. Often, we will stop off and try to find and log caches on route to and from camping trips. This allows me a break from driving, chance to stretch our legs and grab a cuppa.
Although we haven’t done much geocaching this year it has now been picked back up. This is another reason I love it so much is because you are not restricted in any way to how or when you do it and once you find a cache it is on your log for good.
Now you can do this as a free hobby, which does limit the caches you can find or do the paid version which is £7.99 per quarter or £24.99 annually. Whichever you choose it is fantastic value for money. What’s more is if you are a couple or a family you can just create a team name and this fee covers you all.
To get started you need to log onto Geocaching.com and create an account and choose if you want a free membership or free one. I would try out the free version first to make sure it is something you enjoy (which I’m sure you will), and until you get into the swing of it.
Next you can use the map on the site to see which caches are near your location and plan your first geocaching outing.
Next, since you are just starting you will be best using the GPS on your phone to find your first caches. Next you will need to download the Geocaching app. From the app store for Iphone and Play Store for android phones.
If you get into it and want to go further afield, like into the woods or up a mountain where phone signals can get quite poor to non-existent then it can be worth investing in a GPS device like a Garmin. You will learn more about these and see others with them once you start getting out and about.
Good Geocaching Etiquette
First and foremost, a little like camping it is important to leave no trace. You may have to search for caches in some weird locations but please remember locations should be left as you find it. You should never need to damage any environment to reach a cache. Any rubbish you accumulate from lunches or snacks while out should also be taken home or put in the bin. Some geocachers will carry bags and clean an area up while out caching, just doing their little bit for nature.
Now not everyone knows about geocaching, so it is important to be discreet and at times maybe even stealth like when finding a cache. This also can help add to the fun, try not to look suspicious as we have been stopped by police in a town before for looking “shifty”. We all had a good laugh when we explained what we were doing, he even pointed us in the right direction to the cache!
Please respect that other cachers take the time to hide and maintain caches for others enjoyment. This is one reason why you never tell anyone where caches are hidden and be discreet with your finds as there are many non-cachers who will just destroy them if found and ruin it for those playing the game.
If you do find that damage has been caused or that a cache needs some maintenance, please tell the owner when logging your find.
Never leave sweets as swag. Swag – trading pieces found in caches. These just attract insects and other hungry animals, they also leave caches sticky and dirty at times for others to find and have to clean.
Always swap swag. Don’t just take without leaving something in return. The kids love the swag and is what many of them look forward to finding and swapping.
ALWAYS put the cache back exactly where you found it. Never move a cache to what you may think is a better location. Again, if you think a cache has been moved or you find it somewhere other than where you thought it was going to be tell the owner when you log your find.
We have found simple caches near the roadside to more adventurous ones where I’ve been wet up to my waist! But one thing is for sure, we always have fun and get many good laughs as well as meeting new people along the way.
There are several types of caches. Most are physical caches that you will look for and find and will then sign the log book. These physical caches are also split in to various sizes. This helps keep it interesting and the size will also be a clue to possible hiding places.
Nano – these are micro caches, so are very small and many nano’s that we have found while out are also magnetic. This allows them to be stuck on metal fences or sign posts and reduces the risk of them getting lost as they are so small.
Small – as the name suggests these are small caches with just about enough room for a log book and pen/pencil.
Medium – these can be Tupperware boxes, often covered with camouflage tape that would contain a log book, pen/pencil and maybe some swag for swapping.
Large – these are larger Tupperware boxes and ammo tins much of the time. With plenty of room for log books, pens/pencils, swag and trackables.
Multis – these are normally 2 or more caches with the log book being in the final cache. Each cache will give a clue or co-ordinates to the following.
Puzzle Caches – as described these are caches that require you to solve a puzzle to get the actual cache. These can be great from solving a riddle to finding the right key to open somewhere that the cache is stored.
CITO – Cache In Trash Out. This is where a group of cachers meet up at a given time and place to clean up a particular area. Once the group meets or at the end of the clean up a log book will be available for all to sign and claim the find. I have been to a few Cito’s and they are great. As well as doing your bit for the environment you get to meet other cachers and swap stories and learn some new stuff too.
Event – like a cito this is a get-together or group event. Again, a time and place is agreed and any other relevant information will be given beforehand. These can be to mark occasions or even just to have coffee and cake and a good chat.
There are also Mega (500+ people) and Giga (5000+ people) events held which tend to be national and international events and can be full weekend get-togethers for cachers with activities and planned programmes.
Earth Cache – an earth cache is a special geological location and it is intended to educate the cacher on how our planet has formed over the years. These caches come with notes and to log these you will have to answer a question rather than sign a physical log book.
Now this isn’t a full list of caches, there are a few more, none of which I have any experience of doing and if you decide to give this a go you will learn about yourself in time. These, however, are the most popular.
The description of a cache will also contain a grading of difficulty and terrain. This helps the player in deciding which ones they would like to try and find. If geocaching with kids easy to find with easier terrains are sometimes best.
Now as with many hobbies geocaching comes with its own lingo and acronyms and there are a few basics that are worth knowing when you start. You can get a more in-depth list here.
BYOP – bring your own pen/pencil
DNF – did not find.
FTF – first to find.
LPC – Lamp Post Cache. A common hiding place for caches, particularly in the US. The cache is found by lifting up the ‘skirt’ of the lamp post. Many people think that this type of cache is over-used!
P & G – Park and Grab. A cache that’s good for quick stop off’s on route as they’re relatively easy to find and you can park nearby.
SWAG – Stuff we all get – the toys and tradable items you find in a cache.
TB – Travel Bug. An item with a trackable code on it, see http://www.geocaching.com/track/
TFTC – Thanks For The Cache. Probably the most common acronym, used to say thanks to the cache owner for the hide.
TNLN – Took Nothing. Left Nothing.
TOTT – Tool Of The Trade. This generally indicates that some type of tool or instrument may be required to retrieve or gain access to a cache. This can be a magnetic rod.
Geo-dog – A dog that is often taken on geocaching outings.
Lock N Lock – Tupperware where the lid locks on all 4 sides. These are commonly used as a cache container and will sometimes be covered in camouflage tape.
Log Book – a physical log that is signed when you find a cache. These come in all shapes and sizes and cachers will sometimes carry spares to replace full or wet log books.
Muggle – A non-geocaching person.
Travel Bug or Bug – A trackable tag that can be attached to an item and be moved from cache to cache or person to person. You can log this as a find once it is in your person. These sometimes come with a desired destination and will be moved from cache to cache until it arrives at that location, often crossing countries as it goes. These can also be Trackables or Geocoins.
As stated before this is only a very small list if you would like to learn more you can always visit https://www.geocaching.com/about/glossary.aspx
To Round Up
So, get your phone, download the app, create an account and search for caches near you. Now get out there and have some fun, you will learn lots along the way and discover areas and places near where you live that you never knew existed.
Tip – check your local parks for caches to start you off.
So great camping people I hope this may help you discover a new hobby in addition to your camping or for during the winter when camping is maybe off the cards due to the colder weather.
I’d love to hear if you have geocached or intend to try it. It is a great way to get out there and make memories and try new things.
N.B. The Geocaching Logo and The Cache In Trash Out Logo are registered trademarks of Groundspeak, Inc. and are used with permission.
All other pictures used are my own personal pictures.