Geocaching is a fun, family-friendly exercise, great for the mind, body, and soul, like many other outdoor activities. With its international appeal, worldwide internet access, and minimal gear list, this modern day treasure hunt is designed to stick around. Here’s everything you need to know to get started on your first geocaching adventure.
Instead of a traditional map (although also very helpful to bring along with you), geocaching uses a GPS receiver, a set of coordinates, and clues so geocachers can hunt for a cache of goodies hidden in an eco-friendly site outdoors. Caches are hidden in spots all over the world by geocachers who put together small items or trinkets, a logbook, writing utensils, and oftentimes a disposable camera all stuffed into a waterproof box and hidden (above ground only).
You can visit sites such as geocaching.com to get started and gain access to nearly 2 million cache coordinates. Caches are typically rated on a 5-star system on their level of difficulty and the terrain nearby. Caches range from easy to challenging and requires puzzle solving skills using clues and navigation.
Like all games, there must be rules and regulations for fair play. Follow these general rules and you’ll be a star geocacher in no time!
- Treat other geocachers and items how you’d like to be treated.
- Do not place caches on private land without permission.
- Do not place caches in national parks or wilderness areas.
- Do not cross private property without permission to reach a geocache.
- Do not include offensive or inflammatory material in a cache.
- Maintain a Leave No Trace philosophy.
- Make caches unnoticeable to passersby.
- Caches should be accessed without harming the surrounding terrain or vegetation.
- Don’t expose the cache to others. Quickly move away from the site before looking at it.
- Sign the register and record your visit on the site so the cache owner and other geocachers know of your visit.
- Exchange trade items in the cache with those of equal or lesser value
- Travel bugs are different from trade items (also called “hitchhikers”) and are intended to travel the world. You can take them, but you must put them in another geocache.
- Once you’re done with the cache, return it exactly where you found it.
What You’ll Need
While geocaching doesn’t require much other than a GPS receiver and a few trinkets, you’ll want to consider bringing these additional items with you.
- Water Bottle or Hydration Pack
- Cell Phone
- First-Aid Kit
- Insect Repellent
- Extra Batteries (for GPS or Camera)
- Outdoor Gear or Rain Gear (depending on the weather)
- Notebook and Pens to keep a log of all your caches and record coordinates.
- Cache Treasures - You’ll want to leave a token in the cache (and take one as a souvenir). Think small, lightweight, inexpensive environmentally and culturally friendly items.
How to Play
Geocaching is simply navigating to the site of a placed cache using coordinates stored in your GPS receiver. You can input coordinates by pressing the MARK button or call up a previously stored waypoint, rename it, change its coordinates and save it to your GPS’ memory. It’s important to remember that different GPS receivers have varying ways of calling up a previously stored waypoint or changing a waypoint’s coordinates. Make sure to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
Latitude and longitude coordinates are the easiest way to enter a geocache site or waypoint into your GPS. This can be in Degrees/Minutes/Seconds (DMS) or Degree Decimal Minutes (DDM). However, as technology and geocaching have evolved a Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) developed by the military has become the easiest map-reading system by dividing the map into square grid lines that are all 1,000 meters apart. This makes it easy to see and judge distances. UTM coordinates are made up of 14 digits, 7 for “Easting” and 7 for “Northing”.
Many geocache coordinates are listed in both latitude and longitude (DDM) and UTM. If the coordinates are only listed in one form, your GPS receiver can usually convert to the other.
Pro Tip: Since this activity is highly based on electronics and technology, make sure you’re constantly staying up to date on changes and advancements.
Learn more about geocaching and join the world’s largest treasure hunt at geocaching.com!