Inside: Geocaching is the perfect hobby: it gets you outside and moving, you get to play a game and find things, and best of all: it’s frugal! Here’s how to play.
Pokemon Go seems like the latest craze that everyone’s getting into (Zach included).
I’m not a gamer, but I can get behind the idea of a game that gets people outside, exploring, and interacting with others in a community. This made me think of another activity…geocaching.
Me and Zach used to go geocaching a lot. It was our cheap date activity and satisfied my penchant for wandering around the woods, minus the whole getting lost part. It’s a great activity for kids and adults alike.
If you’ve never gone geocaching, I encourage you to try it! Here’s the basics of what you need to know.
What is geocaching?
Geocaching is a real-life treasure hunt! Random people from around the world have hidden over 3 million geocaches on every single continent. Each cache has different “treasures”—usually just small toys, souvenirs, bottle openers, etc.. Even when I lived smack dab in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, I was surrounded by an endless supply of geocaches. I guarantee that wherever you are, there are tons of geocaches to find. Heck, there’s even 51 geocaches hidden on Antarctica!
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There are no real “points” or ways to win in the game. It’s all about the process of finding the geocaches, although I have to admit, it is fun to watch your cache count increase. We recently reached 50 finds!
Best of all, geocaching can be entirely free—and even if you do have to pay for it, you probably won’t have to spend more than $30 per year for a premium membership. You can use their app and the GPS already inside smart phones to play, or you can download the geocaching coordinates for free and plug them manually into a GPS.
GPS units can be expensive, but you can usually find used ones a lot cheaper on sites like Craigslist or Ebay. They don’t need to be fancy or anything—you just need to be able to add in coordinates and see a screen that’ll guide you to the secret hidden location of the geocache.
How Do I Go Geocaching?
It’s simple. Here are the steps:
Create An Account
Basic memberships are free, or premium memberships cost $30/year. Basic memberships let you see virtually all geocaches online, although there are a handful of premium-members-only geocaches. If you want to use the app to find geocaches, you’ll also be limited to finding just the easy-level geocaches with a basic membership. It’s a great way to test geocaching out before you shell out for a premium membership.
Select A Geocache
Click “Play,” and “Find A Geocache” on the main screen. You can search by zip code or on a map. If you’re using the app, you can also find ones around you right now. If you’re using a non-cell-phone GPS unit, make sure to write down the coordinates and plug them into your GPS. Each geocache has its own dedicated page that tells you everything you need to know about the geocache—coordinates, size, difficulty, access options, a log of people who’ve found it, etc..
Find The Geocache
Most GPS units and cell phones only have an accuracy of plus or minus 15 feet, so they’ll only get you to the general area. It’s your responsibility to scout around to find it. They can get very creative—I’ve seen geocaches hooked onto tree branches, hidden under logs, or even hidden inside 35-mm magnetic film canisters underneath park benches! One of the most fun parts is just finding the dang thing.
Related: Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator (affiliate link)
Record The Find
Record your name in the log book inside of the geocache. Once you’re back online, also record that you found it (or didn’t) back on your Geocaching profile. You can also do this automatically from the app itself.
Scope Out The “Treasures”
If you decide to take anything, make sure you leave something of equal or greater value—but no food or scented items. We don’t need wildlife busting in! Some people have even hidden trackable items in geocaches. If you take these and plug in their unique code online, you can find out all about the item. Always make sure you place it back in another geocache though—each trackable usually has a goal of where it’s trying to get to, so see if you can help it get there.
Return The Geocache
Put the geocache to its original position. If it was hidden well, make sure you replace any camouflage around it so that muggles (non-geocachers) don’t find it accidently.
Especially Cool Things About Geocaching
Aside from being a cheap hobby, I like geocaching for many other reasons. It gets me out and exploring with an interactive community, just like Pokemon Go! Many geocaches have been placed in certain spots because they’re really neat locations that people would never go out to see, like this crazy giant open pipeline hidden up a hill near our old house in Alaska. It’s one of the last remnants from the goldmining heydays 100 years ago:
Aside from finding cool local spots, you can also use geocaching as an excuse to get out and see hidden areas while travelling on vacation. I love the idea of checking out all the nooks and crannies of some small French town while geocaching, and sipping coffee at the market in between finds.
Geotours are just the latest innovation in this field. Local tourism agencies have teamed up with Groundspeak, the company that runs Geocaching, to offer free lists of especially cool geocaches designed to highlight an area. There’s one right near my house, through the Rocky Mountains. Some tourism agencies even go all-out and provide you with a passport and prizes, such as the geotour around Mt. Rainier.
Geocachers themselves are also a great group of people. It’s common courtesy to practice CITO (Cache In, Trash Out) when out geocaching—bring an extra bag with you, and clean up trash as you go. It makes a better community for everyone, muggles and geocachers alike.
Recently, we also just released our first trackable. Here he is, hopefully he makes it to his goal!
Have you ever tried geocaching? Leave a comment below!
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