Geocaching with the Family: Getting Started

Do you like to enjoy outdoor activities with the family? Are you looking for something fun and interesting that you can do with the kids when you go camping or out hiking? You might want to try a hobby called geocaching.  Another name might be sustainable treasure hunting!

What Is Geocaching?

Do you like the idea of searching for hidden treasure? Maybe you love the movie The Goonies, or you’ve always wanted to seek out a pirate treasure. Well, geocaching is the next best thing. It is an activity that combines hiking and getting outside into nature with treasure hunting using your smart device.

Geocaching is simply an amalgam of “Geography” and “cache”. You are looking for a treasure that someone has hidden. It’s a fun game that helps to get you and your family outside and exercising rather than sitting in front of the television for yet another weekend. How excited will your kids be when you tell them you are going to head out on a treasure hunt?

How to Get Started

You can go to one of the many different geocaching websites online, such as geocaching.com, and then choose from one of the countless caches that have been hidden around the world. Download an app for your phone and then start perusing the options. Naturally, you will want to choose a cache close to where you live or where you will be traveling. Often, they are placed along hiking trails, campgrounds, parks, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Through the apps, you can get the general location of the caches, as well as some hints and clues as to how you can find them. The map view in the app will show you how close you are to the cache, and it’s generally fairly accurate plus or minus 30 feet or so.

You won’t get to the exact spot, and the app will not show you the best route you need to take to get to the cache.

Once you get into the area where the treasure is located, though, it’s time to use your detective skills to figure out where it might be hidden. Finding things in the woods or a field is a lot more difficult than you might imagine. Look for anything unusual or out of place.

The search is a big part of the fun, but the real fun comes from finally finding that treasure. It can take a little bit of time to get used to finding these fun treasures, but it helps you bring all sorts of new adventures to camping and hiking.

What Should You Bring?

When you are out and geocaching, you want to be comfortable, of course. Make sure you have comfortable hiking shoes, along with layered clothing that is appropriate for the weather. You also need to make sure that you have your GPS unit or your phone with the geocaching app.

Make sure you have some water for hydration, snacks, and maybe even a picnic lunch. Essentially, you will be carrying all of the same kind of gear with you that you would have if you were hiking. Always make sure you are fully prepared. Consider carrying a bag with you, too, for your trash as well as any other litter that you might find.

What to Do When You Find a Cache

Once you find the cache, it’s time to open it up and see what you found. It’s also important that you understand the basic etiquette of geocaching.

First, since a lot of people enjoy this hobby, you don’t want to open the geocache in the exact location where you find it. Instead, grab the box, take it a short distance away, and then examine the contents. Check out the contents in the box or bag. You can take an item as a trophy, but if you do, you should always leave an item of the same value in its place. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. It just has to be something that you and potentially others might find fun.

Once you have examined the treasure, it’s time to put it back. Hide it just the same way that you found it. You don’t want to make it harder or easier for the next person to find.

Trackable Items

Something to keep in mind with items that can be taken is that some of them may be trackable. People might want to track the items in a geocache to see just how far they move around the country. If you take this type of item out of the cache, you are obligated to move it to a new cache.

One of the types of items that does this is called the Travel Bug, which is a dog tag that you attach to an item that is going to be moved. Today, though, there are many types of trackable items.

Fun for Everyone

If geocaching sounds like a lot of fun, and you are rearing to get started, consider bringing the kids here to Stoney Creek Farm on Saturday, May 14 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., where you and your kids can experience all of the great fun that comes from geocaching. This is a self-led event that is perfect for the family. Parents can drop their older kids off, but they will have to sign a farm liability waiver. Check out more about the geocaching event here.

You can consider this a perfect “first adventure” in this hobby. You will need your own GPS device or smartphone. Keep in mind that you will also have to bring some little treasures that you can put into the caches in trade for anything that you take. This way, people who come along to the caches in the future will have things to find, too.

Geocaching is a hobby that has been around for a couple of decades now, and it is still popular. There is a large and still growing community out there who enjoy doing this on their own, and with family and friends.  An added plus: Boy Scouts can earn a Geocaching Badge!