A Muggle’s Guide To Geocaching

A while back I posted on something called geocaching, which is using your GPS device to go on a treasure hunt for hidden ‘caches’. It’s something I’d been interested in doing since that post. (You can go back and read that post to see what the basic concept of what geocaching is all about.)

Well, on the weekend I was able to get some hands-on experience in geocaching in Vancouver thanks to @AnthonyFloyd and @LeftCoastMama (who blog on Left Coast Floyds) and a great meet-up/ tweet-up they put on called Geocaching 101.

It was an event they took their own time to organize and introduce some ‘muggles’ like myself to geocaching (the word ‘muggle’, I learned, is used by cachers to describe people who don’t know anything about the sport). I learned a good deal so for those interested I thought I would pass some of my learning’s on:

We met up at the Pacific Spirit Park near UBC, and were given a crash course on what devices were good to use, and what kind of caches are typical.  The caches themselves range in size from tiny (think thumbnail) to large (think oil drum), but most are about the size of your average Ziploc container. The caches can be very creatively hidden, depending on how hard you want to make it for people to find them. One example was tying a micro-cache to a pinecone and placing the pinecone in a tree! Typically, however, they will be placed just off a trail in the woods in a hollow log, or otherwise hidden from a muggle’s view.

Inside the cache, if large enough, there will also be various items; usually toys that kids will like. The idea here is if you find something you want (or your kid wants) in a cache, you’re free to take it but you need to trade with something of equal or greater value. This adds additional fun to the hunt because you never know what random things you can find and your kids will be really excited to open the cache once you’ve found it. There is also usually a log book or paper where you can write your (geocaching) name to claim that you found the cache.

You may also find ‘travel bugs’ in some caches that have their own goals in life. For example, the travel bug will have a unique number, that it can then be tracked on the website www.geocaching.com, and if the note on the travel bug says it wishes to travel the world, you can watch as it jumps from country to country as different geocachers take the bug and place it somewhere on their travels, and log its new coordinates for the next person to come along and find.

Once you’ve placed a cache, you can upload the waypoint (geographic coordinates) to Geocaching.com for others to download and see if they can find it. You can provide ratings on how hard it is to find, and provide helpful hints as well. You can also see the virtual logbook and track how many people have (or maybe haven’t) been able to find your cache.

The one downside is that sometimes caches can get up and walk away.

There are different types of caches as well, and a good description of the different types is provided here.

I would recommend trying geocaching out some time. If you don’t have a GPS you can find a friend who does and borrow it, or you can even use your iPhone. Though, you’ll probably have better results with a proper handheld GPS device (I quite like my Garmin Dakota 20). I will be taking my son on our first expedition very soon. Apparently, there are over 4,000 active geocaches in the Vancouver area, so there is no shortage, even downtown!

For more information, Geocaching.com will be one of your best resources, and the BC Geocaching Association is also a great place to learn more and connect with people locally.

Also, a big thank you to Anthony Floyd for taking the time to teach me a bit about geocaching, and also for always answering my never ending ‘what type of GPS should I buy?’ questions, which I hounded him about on Twitter.

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  1. Pingback: Geomate.jr « Geocaching 101 Mar 21st, 2010
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  3. Chris Jan 26th, 2010