Enjoy the outdoors? Hiking? Nature? A good puzzle or game of Hide-and-Seek? You might want to try your hand at Geocaching. We started in 2006 and have made it a part of our travels, both at home and abroad. Our first find was near Pt. Defiance in Tacoma, Washington and we’ve been hooked on “caching” ever since. We’re not alone. According to the Geocaching website, there are 2,187,848 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide!
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is sort of an outdoor game of hide-and-seek. The game is played using a GPS (Global Positioning System)-enabled device, such as a handheld GPS or smartphone, to point to a set of GPS coordinates. Every place on earth has coordinates (latitude and longitude), and in geocaching each hiding spot is listed according to these points. Once you are close to the coordinates you have to use your wits to discover the “hide.” In this way, geocaching is similar to the more traditional letterboxing and waymarking. The actual cache will be a container ranging from something the size of an ammo box to a “nano,” which can be as small as pencil eraser. Caches contain at least a logbook to sign and potentially some small items to trade. These items usually aren’t of much value, but often include small toys or something relevant to the site. Caches may also contain a “trackable” in the form of a Travel Bug or Geocoin, which can be moved from cache to cache.
How to Begin
- Register for free on the Geocaching website (you can even log in with Facebook).
- Go to the “Hide and Seek a Cache” section and enter in a postal code (works for many countries), address, country, or other term you’d like to search by.
- Pick out a cache that looks interesting, and enter the coordinates into your GPS. They all have descriptions, some more detailed than others. We like the ones that tell something about the area: history, geography, etc. We’ve discovered great tips and information on places we thought we knew well! Puzzle caches are fun too.
- Get out there and find the cache! It takes some practice, and some experience to get good at guessing likely spots, and interpreting hints on cache descriptions. Some can be very tricky!
- Sign the log book inside, and log the find on Geocaching.com to track your adventure. The cache owner will know people are out there enjoying the areas in which they’ve hidden items, and you will have a record of all the places you’ve been caching.
- When you take something from a cache, you should also leave something behind.
- Put the container back in exactly the same spot you found it, and hide it just as well.
- In order to avoid a cache being “muggled,” (discovered by non-cachers) be subtle in areas where there are lots of people.
Types of Caches
Caches come in all sizes: from the tiniest nano up to 5-gallon buckets and larger. There are also different levels of difficulty. Some caches are tougher because of the terrain, while others involve a puzzle or riddle. Some caches contain “trackables” that can be moved from place to place. Travel Bugs sometimes have a mission to visit a certain place or to get a picture with a certain item. One special type is called “Cache In Trash Out.” At these events, groups search for caches while picking up litter along trails, removing invasive species and generally tidying up. Some of our favorites are Earth Caches, special places that people can visit to learn about a unique geo-science feature. EarthCache descriptions include educational notes to read up on before heading out. The last one we did was in Pushkar, India. We learned about the formation of sand dunes, and had to answer a couple of questions about the ones at the coordinates in order to log the cache.
Our Spin on Geocaching
We enjoy using Geocaching to help us find hiking trails and natural areas in places we’re not familiar with. It’s also great inspiration to get out and exercise and breathe some fresh air. Having a goal, something to look forward to at the end of a hike makes it even more rewarding. Some of our favorite caches that require a good hike include one at the top of the pass between Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Victor, Idaho; “Cogburn Cabin” in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon; and one to the 80 foot Mesatchee Creek Falls near Mt. Rainier in Washington State. On our travels internationally, geocaching has often taken us off the beaten path. We’ve found a cache in nearly every country we’ve visited, from South Africa to Cambodia to Scotland. It’s amazing how many people around the world are participating in geocaching. In a future post, we’ll share some of our favorite caches from around the world. In the meantime, our friends at Peanuts or Pretzels have a great section dedicated to geocaching on their blog. Be sure to check it out!
We mainly depend on our Garmin 60 CSx, (a comparable, newer version is the 62S), but we use the iPhone when we don’t have that with us. The Geocaching app is $9.99. Caches can be downloaded directly onto some GPS models.
There are also a few low-tech items that come it handy too. In our backpack we always carry a pen or pencil to sign the cache’s logbook. A small multi-tool is quite useful in a pinch as well. Sometimes you need tweezers to extract a log sheet from a tiny cache container. Makes sure to pack some water for those long hikes too!