A Beginner’s Guide to Geocatching
Geocaching is a fun outdoor, location-based hide-and-seek activity, typically played using Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Anyone, regardless of age or ability, can play, and while it can be done on hiking trails, geocaching can also be done in an urban setting. Participants, also called geocachers, navigate to a provided set of coordinates using their GPS device to locate “geocaches/caches,” usually containing a logbook and small family-friendly trinkets or “trackable” items.
The first reported cache was placed by creator Dave Ulmer in May 2000 in Beavercreek, Oregon. Once GPS devices became more widely available, more people started to play the game and add their own caches. The original geocache’s location was posted, and within a few days, it was found and logged. The location of the first cache is now marked by a plaque and continues to be a popular destination for cachers looking for not only a geocache but a bit of history, too.
- An Interview With Dave Ulmer: In this podcast, Ulmer reminisces about his geocaching history.
- The Birth of Geocaching: Learn how this GPS-based treasure hunting game got its start.
- A Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching:This PDF features great information for those just getting started with geocaching.
Geocaches can range in size from “micro” to very large. A micro cache may be as small as an eraser on a pencil, and a large one is typically in a hard plastic container. Once a cache is found, the geocachers will sign the logbook it contains and, if applicable, exchange one small item inside for another they have brought with them. Keep in mind that geocaching etiquette dictates that if you take something from a cache, you must also leave something of equal or greater value. For example, if one takes a trackable item, they should also leave one. Trackable items display a unique tracking code that can be entered into the game’s database to log and review the movement of the item from cache to cache. The “find” is then logged online to share geocaching experiences with other enthusiasts. Today, most logging takes place on a mobile device, like a cellphone, but some may choose to wait until they get to their home computer to log their visit. Geocaches are located worldwide, and geocachers are continuously placing and logging new caches in the online database.
- Geocaching Webquest: Learn and play at the same time with this webquest.
- The Boy Scouts of America: Geocaching: The Boy Scouts of America have a merit badge for geocaching, and the organization provides information for beginners.
- New York State Conservationist on Geocaching: Geocaching is also an environmentally friendly activity, especially since many geocachers work to pick up litter as they play.
- GPS Buying Guide: Before you hit the trails, hit the electronics store and make sure you have a good GPS to geocache with.
Hiding Your Geocaches
When placing your own cache, it is important to follow the Geocaching Listings Guidelines. This provides the rules of geocaching, including acceptable locations and any restrictions. Caches are to be placed only on public property unless permission from private property-holders is given. Parks and community trails are common places to find caches; urban caching is also popular but may be tricky because of passers-by, called “muggles,” a term adopted from J.K. Rowling’sHarry Potter series. For example, you might find a cache disguised and hidden at a local pickup point for charter buses; you never know until you look.
- Create Your Own Cache: This PDF helps you learn the best practices of placing a geocache.
- Selecting a Location for Your Cache: Use these tips to find the best spot in your area to be the home of your next cache.
- Make a Geocache Trail: Get started with hiding caches using these tips.
Once Your Cache is Placed
Once a cache is placed, the information should be uploaded to the official geocaching website, Geocaching.com. The cache owner, the person who placed the cache, provides the GPS coordinates, a description of the cache, and other helpful bits of information for fellow geocachers. Once the cache information and location are reviewed and approved by game administrators, the information will be published live on the website to be found and logged by players. Cache owners should be aware that each cache must be at least a tenth of a mile away from any neighboring caches. If the cache needs to be revised, a reviewer will provide information about the changes that should be made before publishing the location live to the database.
- Office Geocaching Website: Play today and use the official site to help you get started on your next adventure.
- All About GPS Application and Troubleshooting: Don’t get stuck out in the woods; use this resource to help you troubleshoot GPS issues.
- Selecting the Right GPS for Geocaching: Finding the right GPS for your geocaching adventure is also really important.
- Geocaching on Federal Land: Learn more about the rules and regulations of placing caches on federal property.
- Geocaching FAQs: Get started on your geocaching adventure today with answers to some frequently asked questions.