Geocaching – the high tech treasure hunt

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A few weeks ago a friend casually asked if I’d done the ‘cache’ at the end of her road. I looked at her blankly, revealing my blondest ‘I haven’t got a clue what you are talking about!’ face.  It was then that I was enlightened about the world of Geocaching, the high-tech take on a traditional treasure hunt. Geocaching brings the activity into the 21st century using GPS technology to help find the hidden treasure.

Geocaching has become a global phenomenon. There are 2,372,799 active Geocaches and over 6 million Geocachers worldwide. So it can be part of your school run, a brief detour on the way to visit granny, or a quick change of scene whilst sunning yourself on holiday! The good news is that you don’t need to carry a spade with you as the caches are merely hidden from view rather than buried. Like the traditional treasure hunt it gets the family outside in the fresh air, working together as a team and tests everyone’s mental agility.

geocashSo how does it work? It’s all down to Global Positioning System (GPS) which is used by the Owners to hide the caches. The Owners log the GPS coordinates, the difficulty rating and a brief description of where it is hidden. Occasionally there is a ‘hint’ in case you get stuck. Once you have chosen which cache you would like to find, you use GPS and the description to find it. The search can take a few moments for an easy cache, whilst others will take several minutes and some you might need to go back to, time and time again, until eventually you find it! Once found you sign the log book (always take a pen with you!) and return the geocache to its original location. Then log your find online and you can leave feedback of your experience. One golden rule: you never give away any clues to the whereabouts of the cache you have found. This is considered rude and spoiling the fun for others. This also applies to looking for and finding the cache, discretion in populated areas is essential, though easier said than done with excited kids. Recently on Brighton pier, I taught my kids the old tying the shoe lace trick to hide our taking and replacing of the cache….no one blinked an eyelid! We are officially pro’s!

Getting involved is easy, merely visit the official Geocaching website and sign up- which only takes a couple of minutes – and then you are up and running. The website provides all the information you need and you can also download an App for your phone which will sync with your account and locate the nearest caches to you wherever you are! GPS really is quite remarkable!

In terms of equipment Geocaching can be done one of two ways: obviously you’ll need GPS so you can useyour mobile phone (with inbuilt GPS or with an App) or you can buy a hand-held GPS device. We haven’t invested in a handheld one yet as we wanted to find our feet first and also because my mobile hasn’t failed us yet. However, should you opt to invest in a handheld (quite wise, my five year old wondering off with my mobile in a forest still makes me nervous!) there are reviews and a buying guide on the website. Amazon have a good selection of GPS devices especially for the Geocaching market.Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 10.38.15

The treasure or caches are given three grades to help you decide which ones you think you can manage. ‘Difficulty’ and ‘Terrain’ are graded 1 (easiest) to 5 (most challenging) and ‘Size’ is graded as follows; Nano, Micro, Small, Medium, Large and Other. I would suggest you start with an easy challenge with a small or medium cache. We did and have become more ambitious with each find and even have several Nano’s and ‘Others’ under our belt now! Although most caches don’t have treasure, there are ‘swap boxes’ which are caches left especially for children to swap ‘treasures’. The rule here is ‘if you take something, you must leave something’. The most common treasures left and found include fun rubbers, small hairclips, marbles and foreign coins.

If you love the outdoors and fancy a challenge, I highly recommend you sign up. But be warned, it can be quite addictive. On our first find we met another family looking too – turns out they were from America. They were visiting friends and decided to take a brief detour to see the sights and pick up a few caches. On the website, each Geocacher’s finds are displayed next to their profile, highest number I’ve seen so far was 8,683! So no matter how adventurous you are or where you are in the world, there is something for everyone. Just don’t forget your GPS, treasure and your pencil!

Lots of love, Zoe xx