Before our children came along, my husband and I would often go on a long road trip at the drop of a hat. We looked forward to trying new things and loved exploring new locations. One activity we still really enjoy is Geocaching.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt game that people from all over the world take part in. The purpose of the game is to try to find treasures hidden by other players using your GPS device while exploring interesting locations. Geocaching is so popular that you don’t have to look very far for the treasures. You may be pleasantly surprised to know that you can find Geocaches in your own city and sometimes even in your own neighborhood!
Geocaching as Beginners
The first time we went Geocaching, we really didn’t know what to expect. When we found our first ‘cache’ or container (I’ve described this better below) we opened it and we both jumped after we saw something furry. We were thinking some animal crawled into the container and died! After we worked up the courage to poke at it, we realized it was actually a stuffed teddy bear. Ok so we weren’t exactly wilderness experts! Eventually as we became more experienced, we would go out on some hikes looking for caches that were considered a higher level of difficulty to find. We would often spend an entire day out looking for the treasures.
On another Geocaching adventure, we had to go deep into the forest to find a cache. We did end up finding it but we forgot which direction we had parked the car! So we were pretty much lost in the forest, ended up going through thick bushes for what felt like forever and eventually found ourselves in somebody’s backyard! Good times.
Geocaching is a Free and Fun Family Activity
I think its safe to say we have gotten better at it! Also, I’m happy to say that the kids didn’t completely kill our adventurous spirit! LOL. In fact we take them with us now and they absolutely love it. Its a fun activity and a good way to be physically active, get some fresh air, all the while having good quality family time.
Oh, and most importantly – it’s a completely free family activity! Other than the cost of gas depending on how far you want to go and some burgers if you are too lazy to pack a lunch. Um, make sure you have data on your phone to use your GPS. Ok fine, it may not be completely free but close enough!
I’ve outlined everything you need to know to get your family set up and ready to go out Geocaching.
Step 1 – Sign up!
The first thing you will need is the Geocaching app. This is a free app you can download to your Smart or Android phone.
Once you have downloaded your app, you need to create an account. Have fun with the user name! We created a unique family geocaching name, sort of like a team name. After that you can get ready to start your hunt.
Depending on the location you are heading out to you should pack accordingly. Make sure that if it is a forested area that you pack the following:
- Bug repellant
- Water bottles
- Light snack (depending on how long you plan on staying out for)
- Pen or pencil
- Wear appropriate footwear
Depending on how far away you are venturing out it’s always best to have your cell phone fully charged.
Now this next tip is probably the most crucial advice that I can give you. Make sure everyone has used the toilet before leaving the house, even if the kids say they don’t have to go!! I have learned my lesson! The first few times we went out for geocaching with my 6 and 8 year old, as soon as we get out of the car someone would say “I have to go to the washroom and can’t hold it any longer!” Ugh!! Just in case, throw a roll of toilet paper in you backpack!
Step 2 – Beginning the Search for a Geocache
Once you have created your profile, you will be able to view your Areas Map (geocache map) and see all the geocaches that are in your area. Once you are ready to go, use your GPS device on your phone or a GPS receiver to get you to the location of the treasure. If you are going out of your neighborhood, you will most likely have to drive, park your vehicle and go on foot to get to the geocache using your GPS device as your guide.
Step 3 – What Does a Geocache Look Like ?
A typical geocache is a small waterproof container hidden well so its not noticeable to anyone not playing the game. If you are beginners or have young children with you, its best to start with ‘basic level’ caches which will be indicated on the map. Sometimes the app will give you clues or riddles to help you better locate the cache. Once you find it, you will open it and it will contain a logbook and sometimes a pen or pencil (this is where your pen/pencil come in handy if there isn’t one). After signing the log, make sure that you place it back exactly where you found it.
The small caches are called ‘micros’, so those will typically just contain the logbook. However, if it is a large container that you are looking for (it’s usually wrapped in camouflage tape so that it’s not so visible) these caches are more fun for the kids because they usually contain items for trading, such as toys or trinkets. Please note that if you are going to take something as a keepsake, you must replace it with something that is equal or greater in value. Again after signing the log, make sure that you place it back exactly where you found it.
Beware of Muggles
While looking for the geocache, try to look natural as if you are just looking at some plants or digging for bugs with the kids. The key is to not draw any attention towards yourselves. You don’t want “Muggles” (people not familiar with the Geocaching game) who might be passing by you to know what you are doing!
Muggle is a word borrowed from the Harry Potter series of books which was actually rising in popularity at the same time Geocaching originally started out. This also adds to the excitement of the entire game as the kids will feel like they are on a secret mission to locate lost treasure.
My family truly loves this outdoor activity. If this is your first time, I would recommend taking baby steps and finding basic level caches and then working your way up. Also if you have younger kids, keep it simple as you can always increase the level of difficulty as your kids get older.
I truly hope that you enjoy your first Geocache adventure and remember to stay safe!
Check out this post if you are looking for more outdoor family fun ideas!