What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a form of treasure hunting. Basically, you go look for a hidden cache, based on GPS coordinates you download of the Internet.
A person who would like to place a geocache, finds a suitable container, puts a few items in it, maybe from the dollar store, and a notebook (guestbook) and pencil for logging. The container is then hidden somewhere outdoors, and the GPS coordinates, along with a cache description, are posted on the Internet, typically on geocaching.com.
If you want to find a geocache, you would log in on geocaching.com (you have to register in order to use the service, it's free). Then you would search for a geocache by your location. You download the cache location coordinates to your GPS unit. You then head out and find the cache, using the GPS navigation.
Once you find the cache, you can leave a note in the logbook, but more importantly, log the find on the geocaching.com site! That's it!
Why should I do geocaching?
It is a fun way to make hiking, and just being outdoors, more exciting! It takes you to the nature, to town, to cool places you would never know of otherwise. It challenges you to do problem solving at your comfort level. It's a fun game! It is a great family activity; kids love treasure hunting! Retired people love looking for geocaches on their drives in the country-side. Adventurers of any age love to take on the challenging caches in hard-to-reach locations. Often, geocaches are placed at interesting locations, with great views, a historical place, a beautiful park, and so on. It is a great way for out-of-town visitors to find local "hidden gem" spots, often off the beaten path. And it is free (you do need to have a GPS unit or smartphone)!
Is geocaching suitable for everybody?
Geocaching is as easy or difficult as you want it to be. The caches are rated by terrain (physical challenge) and difficulty (mental challenge).
The terrain is rated by ease of access. The easiest rated cache, you can basically drive up to, step out of the car, and find the cache behind a post. The highest rated cache typically involves difficult terrain, long hikes, steep climbs, bush-whacking, or even having to cross a body of water.
The difficulty is based on how well the cache is hidden, and steps you have to do to find it. You may have to solve a riddle, or do a multi-step approach, where one clue leads you to the next clue, and eventually to the cache.
What do I need to get started?
You have to register at geocaching.com. It is free. They also have a premium membership option for $30/year. Premium membership gives you additional benefits, but it is not needed to enjoy geocaching.
You need a GPS unit. That can be either a dedicated handheld GPS unit, or your smartphone. They both have their pros and cons.
Typical pros and cons, dedicated handheld GPS unit vs. smart phones (there are many exeptions, depending on circumstances, and type of unit/models):
Dedicated handheld GPS:
- + Rugged, water-proof
- + Better satellite reception
- + Longer battery life
- + Built-in software funtions work well with geocaching
- - No camera
- - No Internet/mobile data connection
- - More expensive
- + You most likely have one. No need for additional purchase
- + Larger screen
- + Camera
- + Internet/mobile data connection
- + Selection of available geocaching software applications
- - Not rugged/water-proof
- - Battery life
- - Satellite reception not as good as with dedicated GPS unit.
Coming up... How to use GPS units and smartphones for geocaching. Stay tuned!