You’ll often find posts on my blog about geocaching so I thought it might be useful if I explained a bit about what it is.
In simple terms, geocaching is an outdoor activity where participants use GPS devices to hide and seek containers (called geocaches or ‘caches’ for short). That’s why it’s so great – it gets the humans out of the house and me with them.
A cache is typically a waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs with their geocaching codename. Caches may also contain items for trading (usually small toys or other items of little worth). There are also things called trackables, which are items placed by cachers to wander from cache to cache, although usually with a set goal such as ‘to see the view from the top of the empire state building’.
Over 1 million caches have been placed in more than 100 countries across the world on all seven continents.
Geocaches vary in size, difficulty, and location. Caches may be simple, the so-called ‘cache & dash’, or complex involving lengthy searches or significant travel following a series of clues. They can be located in a variety of different environments including underwater, up mountains and even in Antarctica.
Variations of geocaches include:
- Traditional: The basic cache type, a traditional cache must include a log book of some sort. It may or may not include trade or trackable items. A traditional cache is distinguished from other cache variations in that the geocache is found at the coordinates given and involves only one stage.
- Multi-cache: This variation consists of multiple discoveries of one or more intermediate points containing the coordinates for the next stage; the final stage contains the log book and trade items.
- Offset: This cache is similar to the multi-cache except that the initial coordinates are for a location containing information that encodes the final cache coordinates. An example would be to direct the finder to a plaque where the digits of a date on the plaque correspond to coordinates of the final cache.
- Night Cache: These multi-stage caches are designed to be found at night and generally involve following a series of reflectors with a flashlight to the final cache location.
- Mystery/puzzle: This cache requires the hunter to discover information or solve a puzzle to find the cache. Some mystery caches provide a false set of coordinates with a puzzle that must be solved to determine the final cache location. In other cases, the given location is accurate, but the name of the location or other features are themselves a puzzle leading to the final cache. Alternatively, additional information is necessary to complete the find, such as a padlock combination to access the cache.
- Virtual: Caches of this nature are coordinates for a location that does not contain the traditional box, log book, or trade items. Instead, the location contains some other described object. Validation for finding a virtual cache generally requires you to email the cache hider with information such as a date or a name on a plaque, or to post a picture of yourself at the site with GPS receiver in hand.
- Earthcache: The cacher usually has to perform a task which teaches him/her an educational lesson about the earth science of the cache area.
- Webcam: Similar to a virtual cache; there is no container, log book, or trade items for this cache type. Instead, the coordinates are for a location with a public webcam. Instead of signing a log book, the finder is often required to capture their image from the webcam for verification of the find.
So what do you need to participate, well a GPS device and the location of the cache (a pen is also useful to carry round with you). The largest website listing cache locations is www.geocaching.com. The free membership is more than enough to get you started (the paid membership gives you access to some more advanced features).
What are you waiting for?