With over three million caches hidden in 191 countries across the world, geocaching is an activity that attracts a global audience, combining the thrill of hiding and seeking with the perks of outdoor recreation. The family-friendly digital treasure hunt is a fun way to get some physical and mental exercise and can be completed in natural as well as urban settings, making this a creative way to enjoy a walk in the forest or explore a new city when you’re travelling.
What is Geocaching?
Welcome to modern-day treasure hunting. Similar to the idea of following a paper map to where X marks the spot, geocaching requires navigating with the help of a map on the Geocaching® app to a cache in your chosen destination. A cache is an object you find in a geocache hunt, which is usually stored in a small waterproof container along with a logbook, pen or pencil and some trinkets, or treasure. These trinkets span a wide range, from coins and keychains to toy cars and lapel pins.
How To Get Started
Start by downloading the free Geocaching® app on your phone. Compatible with Android and Apple, this is the official geocaching app among the community.
The built-in GPS function will load the map wherever you open it up, and you can pick a cache closest to you by clicking on it. The app gives you a small hint to the cache’s size and physical description, and lets you know on a scale of one to five how difficult it is to find, the terrain you’ll walk on, and the size of the cache. The app guides you to the location of the cache with an accuracy of about 10 metres, where you begin your search. For about eight dollars a month, you can access additional features like premium caches.
By clicking on the magnifying glass at the top right of the screen, you can search for geocaches according to type. The traditional geocache is the most common, where you navigate to a location and search for the cache. You can also join a geocaching event to meet members of the community. Premium features allow you to look for mystery caches, where you have to solve puzzles to reveal the coordinates of the cache or take part in a multi-cache, which involves navigating to multiple locations before finding the cache. Basically, it’s a scavenger hunt for all ages. If you’re just starting out, begin with a low-difficulty, regular-sized cache to get your bearings.
Finding Your Cache
Caches are often hidden in places like beneath boulders, in bushes and inside hollow tree trunks. Most caches come in waterproof containers. Caches can also be hidden in objects like a birdhouse hanging on a tree branch or in aluminum capsules; however, caches should not be buried underground.
What To Do With Trackables
Trackable caches are distinguished by a six-digit code, and come in many forms, like a Geocoin, patch or pin and can be found in any geocache type, whether traditional or mystery. The trackable can also be an item like a stuffed toy with a Travel Bugs® tag looped around it. These trackable caches usually come with a goal set by the original owner, like “take me hiking on your favourite trails,” or something even more ambitious, like “take me across South America.” When you discover a trackable, you have the option of moving it along to the next location. The “Discover” option on the geocaching app lets the owner and other geocachers know that you’ve discovered the trackable but wish to let it remain in the current cache, in which the next geocacher can move it along. Or you can “Retrieve” the cache, which means you’re going to drop the trackable in another cache to further it on its mission. When you record on the app that you’ve relocated the trackable, it’s ready for the next geocacher to find.
On the app’s “Trackable” page, you can punch in the six-digit code, next to “Tracking History,” and select “View Map” to see where the item has traveled. You can choose to continue to track this item’s journey by checking “Watch This Trackable Item” on the app.
Some Best Practices
If other geocachers are on the trail, step aside with the cache before examining its contents to avoid spoiling the location. Always bring a pen or pencil with you to log your finds and place the cache back exactly where and how you found it so the next person can enjoy it. You don’t have to take anything from the cache, but if you do, leave something of equal or greater value. When considering items, remember that geocaching is a family-friendly activity. It’s an inclusive, exciting community to be a part of that requires some goodwill and trust in strangers.
As with being on any other outdoor adventure, avoid disturbing fragile ecosystems when hiding or seeking a cache, and always practice the Leave No Trace principles.