If you grew up daydreaming about being an adventurer and finding buried treasure, geocaching is a perfect summer pastime for the kid inside. You can enjoy this unique outdoor hobby on your own or with friends — either way, you’ll be part of a thousands-strong community around the globe.
What is geocaching?
Geocaching is a relatively new activity that dates back to May 3, 2000. Dave Ulmer of Oregon posted the GPS coordinates of a secret cache on a newsgroup. From these humble beginnings, geocaching grew into a phenomenon that includes some 3 million hidden containers around the world.
Geocachers can use coordinates to locate hidden caches in different places all around the world. These hidden containers can be any number of shapes or sizes — there are even nano caches that could comfortably fit in the palm of your hand. There are also non-traditional cache types, including puzzles and virtual caches.
Every cache will contain a logbook. When you discover a cache, you sign the included logbook to confirm when you found it. Because these caches are like modern treasure chests, some contain items that you can take. It’s proper geocacher etiquette to return an item to the cache in kind, preferably one of comparable or greater value.
Once you’ve made your discovery, return the cache where you found it and be sure to leave no trace. And don’t forget to thank the geocacher who supplied and hid the cache whenever you return to civilization.
How to get started with geocaching
To take part in this global treasure hunt, you’ll need a smartphone or a dedicated GPS device to find hidden caches. As importantly, you’ll need an account on geocaching.com. This is where you’ll find maps, coordinates, resources, and discussion forums for interacting with other community members. The corresponding geocaching app lets you take these resources with you on the go and find your way to your cache of choice.
Geocaching is a largely free hobby, but geocaching.com does offer a premium membership. This paid service includes perks like premium-only caches, additional map types, and access to exclusive events and opportunities. You can also buy accessories, tools, and merchandise at the geocache.com shop to aid in your adventures.
How to geocache safely
This activity is one that you can easily enjoy with friends and family. However, if you hope to do a bit of exploring on your own, be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back. When you get where you’re going, mark your starting location as a waypoint in the app so that you can find your way back when you finish.
On the hunt, be aware of the terrain and wildlife. If you’re pursuing your first geocache, be mindful of the difficulty and terrain ratings, both of which are ranked on a five-point scale. A 1/1 D/T is better for beginners, whereas a 5/5 should only be attempted by experienced geocachers.
If you want to get into geocaching this summer, use the resources at your disposal. There’s a wide community of geocachers around the world, and that likely means you can find people in your area to go out and explore with. Not only can this help you learn the ropes faster, but it can lead to lasting friendships.