Learning how to geocache is a fun and exciting way for you to experience a modern day treasure hunt, enjoy the great outdoors, and become involved in a healthy outdoor activity. Learning how to geocache takes very little time and can be done with tools you may already have. Geocaching relies on the accurate and portable global positioning system (GPS) receivers that have become increasingly popular and affordable.
The “prize” in geocaching is called the cache. The cache itself is typically not of great value. It includes a logbook and, most often, a container with small items left behind by previous geocachers. The real fun is in the hunt. As people discover the cache, they record their names and the date into the logbook, sometimes leaving a brief message about their search. It is traditional that each newly arrived geocacher take one or more items from the cache and leave others, although it is not required.
The History of Geocaching
Geocaching is a relatively new hobby that began in May of 2000. Prior to May, satellite signals were scrambled by the United States military and were of limited use to those outside of the government. This scrambling was turned off on May 1, 2000 and geocaching was born just outside of Portland, Oregon, three days later. Almost instantly, caches, then called stashes, began appearing all over the United States and worldwide.
The first geocaching communities communicated through Usenet groups and mailing lists. Today, most geocachers find cache locations on web sites built specifically for the geocache enthusiast. Sites range from the large and popular Geocaching.com to the nation-based Opencaching.com affiliates for geocachers who reside outside the United States. The geocaching community is open and friendly, encouraging all newcomers.
Did You Know?
- Geocaching was originally called GPS Stash Hunting.
- GEO stands for geography and caching means hiding items.
- Geocaching is a variation of a treasure hunt-like game called “letterboxing” that is over a century old.
- Geocaching is evolving all of the time. For example, puzzle and mystery caches that involve finding clues and visiting several subsequent locations are extremely popular.
Getting Started With Geocaching
Most geocaching locations are in areas that require a bit of hiking and exploring. Comfortable clothing and shoes are required, as is clothing suitable to the elements. Geocache locations are typically rated according to difficulty so that people of all fitness levels can enjoy the hobby. As with any outdoor activity, let someone know where you are going in case of emergency. Take plenty of water and other items, such as insect spray and sunscreen, if necessary.
At an absolute minimum, geocaching requires access to a GPS unit. Your first trip should be with a group or an experienced geocacher. Accompanying others will help you decide if geocaching is a hobby you would like to pursue. If you plan to take up geocaching as a regular hobby, consider buying your own unit. GPS receivers vary in features. Some display maps or read text, while others only show the coordinates of the device’s current location.
GPS receivers cost anywhere from $100 and up, depending on the feature set and brand. Consider your options carefully. A pricier GPS unit with more features might serve you well. If, however, you are just learning how to geocache, spending a large amount of money on a hobby you might not pursue is probably a mistake.
In addition to the GPS receiver, you will need a pen or a pencil to make entries in the logbooks you find. Nearly every cache has a logbook, but the writing device may have been lost or stopped working. Be sure to bring one of your own, just in case.
An integral part of geocaching is the exchange of small items in the cache finds. These are generally not of great monetary worth, but are typically personal articles of interest. A music CD, a favorite book, or coins are some examples. Geocoins are popular cache items. Created for geocaching, these coins with unique tracking numbers are placed in caches and are transported from one cache to another by finders. Each finder records the cache location and the coin’s journey can be tracked online.
As you learn how to geocache, you will begin to understand its related terms. Words such as “muggles” for those who are unaware of geocaching and “POR” for “pile of rocks” are common terms. Others include:
- BYOP: Bring Your Own Pen/Pencil
- DNF: Did Not Find
- CITO: Cache In, Trash Out
Assuming you need to purchase a GPS device, geocaching can be started for as little as $100. You can also save a few bucks by finding quality, used GPS devices online.
How To Geocache
Be prepared! You may be outdoors for several hours in forests or other remote areas. Dress as you would for an extended hike or long walk. Bring food, water, and a small first aid kit. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return home.
Use a backpack to hold any items you plan to leave in the cache and to carry any items that you find back with you. Take writing instruments with you, in case none are provided.
Drive to within walking distance of your geocache location. Most caches are near parks, woodlands, or other areas that already have parking available. If the cache is located on private property, ask the property owner for permission before hiking to your destination!
Turn on your GPS and start looking. Use your GPS to keep track of your exact location. When you are near the proper coordinates, watch for man-made signs, such as piled rocks, to find the cache.
After writing in the logbook and exchanging items, return the cache to its original location. Hide it well so that the next geocacher will enjoy the hunt as much as you did.
Tips And Tricks
The following tips and tricks and help you enjoy the hobby as you’re learning how to geocache…
- Many caches are buried in containers, so be ready to dig.
- Be courteous and respect the environment. Remove trash, if necessary.
- Invite friends and family. They will help you search and you might find some new geocaching buddies. Geocaching is a great family activity and helps get kids outdoors.
- Geocaching is a family oriented activity. Use common sense when leaving items at a cache – nothing obscene, please!
Doing More With Geocaching
As you learn how to geocache and gain more experience and confidence, you may choose to try out special types of caches and become more involved in the caching community. Some ways to get even more out of your geocaching hobby include:
- Search for virtual caches. Virtual caches are interesting locations that do not have physical items to retrieve. Instead, as hunters find the location, they email proof of their find to the person who created the cache.
- Have your picture taken. Some caches have webcams or disposal cameras, allowing you to take your picture at the location. The camera is left behind for the cache creator to retrieve.
- Hide your own cache. Imagine the fun of tracking visitors to your own secret cache.
- Geocachers often have outings, where you can socialize with other hobbyists and collect geocoins or other treasures.
- Be aware of the different geocache communities. Many have their own special types of caches to keep geocachers engaged.
Check out the following online resources to help you as you learn how to geocache…
NaviCache – An online geocaching community with cache locations, equipment and hobby information, and forums.
Geocaching.com – The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site includes forums, FAQs, a Getting Started guide, and product reviews. Geocaching.com was one of the first web sites devoted to caching hunts.
Opencaching.com – OpenCaching includes cache hunts for the United States and locations throughout the world.
Buxley’s Geocaching Waypoint – Includes geocache hunt listings, FAQs, and a clickable location map.
Magellan GPS – Magellan offers a wide variety of GPS units for the geocacher.
Garmin GPS – Garmin GPS systems for home, car, and outdoor activities.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.