This month I’ve added geocaching to my short distance hikes and outdoor trips. It’s a great way to add a sense of mission or purpose to a random hike or walk. So far, I’ve got a lot out of it and I’ve had fun too – so I thought I’d share my experiences with you and try to answer some of the obvious questions.
See My YouTube Video About Geocaching
What is geocaching?
You might be wondering what the hell geocaching is. I think the best way to describe it is like a treasure hunt. You hunt down geocaches using GPS technology on your mobile phone. There are literally millions of geocaches hidden all over the world. Some are hidden in rural areas, on hiking trails, in the middle of woodland … others are hidden right in the middle of cities and towns. You probably walk past several every single day without knowing it. The map of the area around where I live is literally blotted out with geocaches when I check the app!
Why bother to do geocaching at all?
I like geocaching because it can be added to other outdoor activities or it can be carried out as an activity in its own right. If you need an excuse to get outside, try geocaching! Getting outdoors is good exercise and has the added benefit of providing distraction and escape from the stresses and depressions of daily life. I found the distraction really helped clear my head after a tough few weeks at work.
If you’re hiking a long distance trail I almost guarantee there’ll be geocaches hidden along that route. It will add a whole other dimension to your hike. Alternatively, if you just want to get outdoors for a short walk (even in town), as I do most weekends, there will be geocaches on route for you to find.
Is geocaching free?
You’ll be pleased to know geocaching is totally free unless you choose to sign up for an optional premium membership or use paid geocaching apps. This is your choice of course. The basic membership is totally free as is the free geocaching app.
I personally signed up for a premium membership because it was so cheap. But I only did this after several weeks testing out the free membership to get a feel for whether I liked it or not. I personally recommend trying the free membership to see if you like it first.
Premium membership is inexpensive at £24.99 for the full year (at the time of writing). There is also the option to test premium membership for 3 months at £7.99 to see if you like it. If you’re wondering what you get with the premium membership it basically unlocks a load of the better premium geocaches and other cool features – you can see these features here if you’re interested.
Just to reiterate: you do NOT need the premium membership or paid apps to do geocaching.
How to get started with geocaching?
To get started geocaching just head over to geocaching.com and register for a free account. Download their free geocaching app from your app store and use it to locate and navigate to geocaches right where you are. That’s it. You might also want to watch some of these YouTube videos to find out a bit more about it all. You can be up and running in 10 minutes!
What do geocaches look like?
As you can see from the pictures below, geocaches come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They range from little magnetic microcaches to large boxes and containers. The only limit is the imagination of the people who put the geocaches together.They’re very well hidden and really require a good hunt to find them in most cases. And, because they’re all so different you often have to think outside the box. One thing they all have in common though is they are containers of some description and contain a log book for you to sign, which proves you’ve found it. Some geocaches contain ‘geoswag’for you to trade or swop (see below).
I’ve found about 30 geocaches so far (still a newbie) and these have included a hollow stick, a mini-briefcase, a bird box, plastic tub, hollow rocks and several others. They really can be anything!
What is geoswag?
As well as containing a logbook for you to sign, many geocaches are full of little items you can trade. These are often little trinkets or interesting items. For example, I’ve seen little toys, keyrings or Costa Coffee cards that have a free coffee on them. If you take something, you’re expected to put something in there of your own to replace it. Most people have a few things with them to swop should the need arise. These are normally low value items but occasionally you come across something you like.
Are there different types of geocaches?
There are several different types of geocaches. I’ve described a few of the common types below but there are several others that are worth exploring also.
These are the most common ones. They’re indicated on the geocaching app’s map as a green circle with a box in it. These are straightforward geocaches that you navigate to using the app and then hunt in the geocache zone until you find it.
The majority of the geocaches I’ve found to date have been traditional caches.
These geocaches are a bit more interesting and involve one or more locations before you locate the final geocache, which will be the container with the log book and items inside it. There are several versions of this type of geocache but the app will lead you to a specific location where you will find the first of several clues that will lead you to the geocache.
Mystery or Puzzle Caches
These are awesome geocaches and often involve solving clues, riddles and puzzles to locate and open the geocache.These are really good to do and I recommend having a go at one if you decide to see what geocaching is like for yourself.These are a bit more interesting that the traditional geocaches.
Where are geocaches hidden?
Geocaches are literally hidden everywhere and anywhere. I have to say the imagination of the people putting together the geocaches for us never ceases to amaze me. The only thing you can count on is that they will be well camouflaged.
How do you know where to find them?
To find geocaches you will first need to register for your free account at geocaching.com. Once you’ve done this you can download the free geocaching app on your smartphone. This app includes a map (similar to Google maps) and using your phone’s GPS will show you all the geocaches in your area. You can also search for locations, so if you are planning a hike you can search for your hiking route and see what caches are hidden along the way.
Geocaches are indicated by little icons on the map. There are different icons for the different types of geocaches. If you click on one of the geocache icons you will see an option to navigate to it and also a compass that can be used when you are within a few hundred feet of the geocache zone.
I personally like to pick the geocache I’m intentionally going to hunt for (often several miles away), hike or cycle to the area and then use the geocaching app’s compass, clues and hints to locate the cache.
What do you do when you find a geocache?
When you find the cache you can open it up and see what’s inside. You then need to sign the logbook to prove to the cache owner you’ve found it and haven’t just clicked the ‘log’ button on the app. You also then need hit ‘LOG’ on the app and you will see the geocaches icon turn into a little yellow smiley face.
Overall, if you’ve not done geocaching before I really recommend you give it a go. Especially if you need an excuse to get outside! It’s free to test it out and there’s absolutely no obligation to pay anyone anything … so what have you got to lose?
The gear I use when I’m out geocaching
You need very little to start geocaching: just the membership and the free app. However, there are a few little items I like to take with me which often come in useful. You will probably develop your own standard items.
You will need a pen to sign the logbook when you’ve found the geocache. There’s not always a pen in the cache so you’re better off taking your own.
I recommend taking some tweezers with you too. Some of the smaller microcaches have rolled up paper as the log book and it’s sometimes hard to get them out. Tweezers are a godsend in this situation!
A set of screwdrivers might come in useful.
I sometimes take a torch too if I think the geocache might be somewhere I’ll find it hard to see. For example, it may be in a hole or tunnel. I tend to read up on the geocache before I go to see what the ‘description’ says, what the hints and comments others have left say.
You can buy geocaching kits with all the necessary stuff in it should you wish. These are pretty cool, but are totally optional. You can see some of these here.
But that’s probably about it really. It really is that easy to get started. Hopefully you’ve found that useful. If you have any questions you can always drop me a message.
If you give it a go yourself I’d be really keen to hear about your experiences so leave a message at the foot of this page and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.