For those who enjoyed the ideas of treasure hunting, time capsules, and Easter egg hunts as a kid, geocaching is the perfect way to spend your time. As adults, we often lose the sense of wonder and excitement of finding something out in the world that another has left behind for someone to find. There's a level of joy in this that's unmatched by nearly any other pastime in the world; finding 'treasure' is something that takes us right back to our childhood innocence. It's a way to explore the world around us while putting ourselves on a mission to find a surprise of sorts, calling out the true adventurer in all of us.
This is exactly why geocaching has been around for so long. Often referred to as the world's largest treasure hunt, it's the act of following GPS coordinates and clues left behind by someone else in order to find a 'cache,' or something they've hidden. These caches can contain anything from tiny souvenirs to a congratulatory prize commending the detective on their hard work. And the best part is, there's likely a game of geocache that already exists (theoretically) right in your own backyard... but you'll never know unless you look.
What Is Geocaching, And How Do You Start?
The hobby starts when a person hides a cache, which is usually a container or tin that's eco-friendly and can be somewhat camouflaged in its hiding spot. This cache contains both a physical item as well as a cache log, which is what geocachers use to let the owner of the cache know that it's been found. The idea of hunting for treasure goes back centuries to the days when pirates would dig for the 'X' marked on the map. In a similar way, geocaching is like the treasure hunting of the future. Once a cache has been found, it's reset by those who found it and returned exactly the way it was.
A good place to start, if you're interested in geocaching, is to sign up with geocaching.com. Creating an account takes as little as five seconds and from that point, you can search your area, specifically, to see how many caches are around. At this point, there's no commitment and if you're really curious, you can read through the caches that have already been found in your area - people can leave notes about their treasure hunt on the page for the cache. This is also where you can find helpful hints and tips, and some people even create entire stories about their cache and the location in which it's hidden. It's easy to see why this is comparable to treasure hunting because, in a way, it is!
What Happens When You Start Looking For One?
In order to find a geocache, you must first download a geocaching app on your smartphone. This will help determine the coordinates that are given and will also apply a topography map to the area, which will help to further discern where the cache is hidden. The official Geocaching mobile app is free to use, and will also display the difficulty level of certain caches with one to five-star ratings. The app has both a map view and a compass view so that when geocachers are within close range of the cache, the compass can (literally) point them in the right direction.
It's helpful to use your own personal observation, as well (and also for safety reasons) rather than relying wholly on the app to guide you. While caches are well-hidden most of the time, they do require a keen eye and some detective sleuthing in order to find their hiding spots.
What Do You Do When You Find One?
Finding your first cache is an exciting feeling. There's a sense of accomplishment at finishing another person's game and a sense of anticipation prior to opening the capsule. Out of courtesy, it's recommended to move to a spot that's slightly further away to keep any other potential cachers from finding what you have. There are two things that can be done from this point:
- Either you can examine the item, which is called swag, and then replace it, signing the log before you leave
- Or you can take the item but only if you replace it with another item of swag that's of similar or equal value
In some cases, the item might be a 'trackable' which means that it's up to the geocacher to hide the item in a completely new place for someone else to track. Just be sure to place the item back exactly as you found it without altering how easy or hard it is to find. Happy and safe geocaching!