If you’ve never heard of geocaching, you’re in good company. I had never heard of it until last Sunday. Actually, we discovered it completely by accident, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
First of all, let me tell you what it is, and why we tried geocaching.
Essentially, geocaching is a treasure hunt. It’s a game that’s played worldwide, where geocachers look for small items hidden by other players. The items are called caches and usually have a little logbook inside them for you to add your name and the date you found it. Once you’ve done that, you’re supposed to hide it in the same place for other people to find. Sometimes the caches might contain a little treasure, other times you might just find a little logbook.
How do you find the caches?
All you need to start geocaching is a mobile phone. Geocaching uses GPS to give you the location of caches near you. Then all you have to do is go and find them. Make sure you have your location turned on though, or you won’t find anything.
There is an App that you can download to android or iOS phones. You can download it on geocaching.com
The app is great because it gives you details on how easy the cache is to find, what kind of ground you’ll have to walk over to find it and little clues to help you pinpoint where it is.
You can use the app for free, which will give you details of loads of caches to find, which is perfect for beginners.
You can upgrade to get details of harder to find caches, but to be honest, unless this is going to become a serious hobby, I’d stick with the free version.
Using the app
In this screenshot from a my app, you can see where all my local caches are hidden. The green bubbles indicate the caches that can be found using the free membership, and the grey ones only unlock if you upgrade. But as you can see there are more than enough free ones to be getting on with finding.
At the bottom of the screenshot, you can see the distance from where I am compared to where the geocache is, the difficulty level, how big the geocache is and a little clue to help you find it.
Before you go hunting for one, have a quick look at the cache’s activity log, to see when it was last found. If the latest entry is quite recent, there’s a good chance it is still there to be found.
If you look at this screenshot, you can see it was last found a few days ago, so it’s likely it will still be there.
Why go geocaching?
Now you know what it is, I bet you’re wondering why anybody would want to go geocaching. That’s fair enough, the idea of it didn’t exactly grab my attention either.
Surprisingly, there are a whole load of benefits to doing it.
Exploration and discovery
It’s kind of cool that there’s a whole world full of caches that people walk past, completely oblivious to what’s hiding around them. So geocaching is an excellent way of exploring what’s around you, and discovering what’s hidden there.
Health and happiness
Geocaching involves a fair amount of walking (if you want to find more than one cache that is). Doing exercise and being outdoors releases endorphins – the happy hormone. So unsurprisingly walking can help us be happy and healthy. Plus, if you try it out where there are a lot of trees, you’ll also be benefiting from forest bathing. Read more about this here : forest bathing, what is it and why do it.
Being away from all the stressors at home like laundry, housework, admin or refereeing between sibling arguments, means you get to spend quality time together. Exploring, discovering and working together as a family to work out clues is really beneficial. And being in wide open spaces means there’s less chance of a sibling war. (It doesn’t totally negate it, but does reduce it).
If you pick somewhere that’s quite a long walk, and aim to be outdoors for a good couple of hours, your children will be happily knackered and not even argue when it’s bedtime.
Sense of achievement
Achieving something no matter how small, contributes to our overall feeling of self worth and self esteem. So stepping back and letting your children find the geocache, and then congratulating them, helps them to see that they can achieve things. And they’ll love basking in the glory of finding something. Or working together to find it helps children to learn about teamwork.
How we discovered geocaching
Basically, it was a complete accident. We were out on a long and very muddy walk with the dog one Sunday afternoon. As a way of keeping it interesting I looked up somewhere new to walk and found a woodland estate not far from us.
We set off, and walked for a while, when Emily decided to climb inside some bracken. She emerged with a little old school film canister that she’d found.
I thought she’d found some kind an old film that someone had accidentally dropped. I took it off her and opened it. Inside was a load of old scraps of paper with various names and dates on it. Like an idiot I assumed this was some drug lord’s register of customers.
And I’m ashamed to say, I pocketed it to take home and look at properly in decent light as the sun was setting.
When we got back and I looked at it properly, I googled what it could be, and was immediately taken to the geocaching website. And then instantly felt like a total twat.
Of course, I couldn’t hide my twatness from the children. I can’t hide anything. My face doesn’t let me. The older ones found it absolutely hysterical that my go-to thought was something illegal rather than something people do all over the world for fun.
So yeah. That was the day I realised I’m probably a little bit too over protective, the world isn’t always dodgy, and that there is an activity we can do when we take the dog for a walk that doesn’t involve Emily rubbing mud all over her face!
We went geocaching for real
Like the boss that I am (I’m not) I expertly downloaded the geocaching app and started looking for ones near us. The girls were very excited that there seemed to be a lot along the seafront, as that tends to be where we walk the dog every afternoon.
So, off we went, armed with my phone, and a pen and went off in search of some caches.
We found the location of the first cache and set about looking for it.
We looked for it for about half an hour before the girls got completely bored and frustrated. Apparently it was an easy find, but very small. Well it must have been small because we didn’t find it.
So we decided to walk down to where the next one was hidden and start again.
To cut a long story short, we didn’t find that one either. So either we’re really crap at geocaching, or some other over protective Mum assumed the caches were secret drug hideouts and removed them!
We are going to go back to the place we found the first one by accident and replace it, and hopefully, we’ll find a few more along the way.
Or else, we’ll be giving up geocaching as quickly as we started it. No. We won’t really. We’ll just have to practice and get better at finding small things.
If I haven’t put you off by describing our usual fails whenever we try something new, here’s a few tips for you if you do want to try it.
- Make sure you have your mobile data turned on
- Make sure you have a good amount of battery on your phone
- Download the geocaching app before you go
- Take a pen for adding your details to the log
- Take a piece of paper in case the log is full
- Make sure you mark the geocache as found on the app. This helps other people know when the cache was most recently found
- Take a rucksack with water, wet wipes and small snacks if you have children
- Wear wellies, it’s likely you’ll get muddy. Or wear comfortable, sensible shoes
- Take small little bits of ‘treasure’ to leave in the caches. Lots of them have little things inside, but the rule is : take a treasure, leave a treasure
- Some geocaches are buried, so it might be useful to take a small trowel/spade with you too
- Look for something that seems out of place, it’s often were the geocache is hiding
- Look inside tree hollows, under benches, on top of a structure
- Geocaches are sometimes disguised as a wobbly brick, bird houses, rocks, anything really, so really look 👀
- Ask yourself where would you hide if you were a small cache
- Have fun. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t find one, either leave one yourself and add it to the app or go and look for the next one
How to make geocaching extra special
Smelly Socks and garden peas shared with me that she goes geocaching with her family. The treasures they leave are beautiful hand painted rocks. I absolutely love this idea for 2 reasons.
1. It’s a lovely unique little treasure to find
2. Painting the rocks before you go is a lovely rainy day activity you can easily do at home, ready for leaving as treasure when you go geocaching on a not-so-rainy day!
You can read how to do it here Craftier Rocks.
If you decide to go geocaching, let us know how you got on! Or if you have any tips yourself, share with everyone in the comments 🙂