Introduction To Geocaching
Geocaching is by far the most popular of the scavenger hunt type hobbies. From Boy Scouts to world travelers, geocaching provides countless hours of entertainment for people of all ages. Not only does geocaching encourage the thrill of the hunt, it is an opportunity to share your experiences with others. Trinkets and insights penned in logbooks provide others with the opportunity to share in your personal geocaching experience.
Unlike geocaching`s predecessor, letterboxing, geocaching utilizes more technical methods for cache location. There are ten times as many caches worldwide than there are letterboxes. Each cache presents its own unique challenge and contents.
Anyone can begin a geocaching hobby. With a few simple pieces of equipment and a little preparation, hundreds of thousands of letterboxes will open their lids to you. Once you get the hang of geocaching, share your new hobby with others. Take your friends, kids, and family on an adventure. Share your thoughts with other cachers in logbooks. Introduce those kids you volunteer with to this challenging and exciting hobby.
History of Geocaching
Hundreds of years ago, pirates traveled the world collecting treasure. These treasures were hidden in remote locations, their location buried beneath complex clues and confusing maps. While geocaching does not require the plundering of villages or burning of ports, geocachers can`t get enough of the excitement of the hunt. Letterboxing and geocaching may not claim to have roots in piracy but hide and seek on a global scale is clearly linked to piracy.
The geocaching hobby is relatively new to the world. Even twenty years ago, the technology that now allows thousands of people to search even the most remote locations for geocaches did not exist.
Types Of Geocaches
As with geocaching`s predecessor, letterboxing, there are many different forms of geocaches. Purists will only search for certain caches while others are more concerned with logging as many finds as possible. Each cache has its own rules and behaviors. As new types become more widely recognized or popular, they are added to the list of accepted types of geocaches.
Variations of geocaches include Traditional, Multi-cache, Offset, Night Cache, Mystery/puzzle, Letterbox Hybrid, Locationless/Reverse, Moving/Traveling, Virtual, Earthcache, Webcam, Event Cache, Cache-In Trash-Out (CITO) Events, Mega Event, GPS Adventures Maze Exhibit, and Wherigo cache.
GPS Devices come in many forms. Fortunately, hand held GPS units are no longer bulky or unwieldy. Many cell phones are now equipped with GPS systems. Some brands are better than others. You can review GPS products online. There are many forums and sites that review GPS units as they relate to geocaching.
New GPS units are released each year. While these new units are exciting, your best bet is to purchase a unit others have already tried. You might find yourself in the middle of a snowstorm with your brand new, very expensive, defective GPS. Let the company work out the kinks before you put your safety in the hands of a GPS.
Some of the best GPS brands include:
When selecting a GPS device, look for these key features:
• Waterproof: Rain or shine, you need your GPS to find geocaches and return safely to your vehicle.
• Radio equipped: If you are injured and there is another radio within range, you could receive lifesaving help quickly.
• Long-lasting power (with standard batteries): Your GPS should last for 6-12 hours on standard batteries.
• Base maps: Without base maps, you will be forced to purchase expensive map add-ons that can often double the cost of your GPS.
• Computer compatible: You can manage your maps on your computer and only upload those relevant to the area you select.
A note about cell phones
There are some fantastic new phones on the market that claim to have GPS included. Not all of these phones have GPS when you are out of range of a cell phone tower. The Apple iPhone 3G is often used for geocaching and there are several geocaching apps available for downloading online. However, without a battery life extension, a traditional hand-held GOS unit will last much longer. Other features of a traditional GPS unit that are not found in a cell phone include waterproofing, durability, screen size, and simplicity.
You do not need to spend a fortune to find a great GPS. Garmin alone offers several affordable and functional GPS devices.
Other Geocaching Equipment
Your logbook serves as a journal. You can record your finds, make notes, and write about your experience. You can also list which item you left and what you picked up for future reference. Many geocachers choose to travel without a logbook. While a logbook is not completely necessary, it does give you the opportunity to record your adventures on paper rather than keeping all of your geocaching data online.
Never leave home without a writing utensil. You will need to log in to each cache and there are rarely extra pencils left in a geocache.
Many caches hold their own treasures. These treasures vary from coins to toys to postcards and anywhere in between. You don`t need to carry around hundreds of trinkets. One or two will suffice. When you find a cache, leave your item and take another to move to another cache.
Obtaining Geocache Data
Before you head out into the wilderness to find a cache, do some research. Your first task is to locate data for the geocaches you plan to find. You can access thousands of these cache files online through geocaching websites.
Determine which sort of adventure you would like to have. Do you plan to trek for days or do you prefer short, easy walks? Many geocaching sites allow you to narrow down geocaches by the type of terrain or the difficulty of the route. Once you narrow down the options, you can begin to download the GPX files.
Converting and Filtering Data
You probably can`t take your computer with you as you look for a geocache. You need to turn your geocache files into usable information. With the right technology, your computer program can communicate directly with your GPS device. Test the conversion before heading off for the first time. Make sure the file opens properly on your device or you might find yourself hiking with no map and no way to locate the geocache`s coordinates.
Plant Your Own Geocache
As you search for your first few geocaches, think about who put them there. What inspired them to choose the location? Where did you find the geocache file? The answers to these questions will guide you as you begin the process of planting your own caches.
For some, the fun of geocaching lies in the planting of caches. The process is simple and anyone who can hunt for a cache is capable of planting a cache.
Creating your cache is the easy part. The difficult part of planting your own cache is location. Not only does your cache location need to be secure and well-hidden, your cache must be placed legally. The ethics portion of this article details several examples of instances in which caches were mistaken for bombs or litter. Before you hide your box, always ask permission.
The following locations are not good places to hide a geocache:
• City, state, or federal government buildings
Places to seek permission before planting
• State and national forests
• Private property
Once you make your cache and get permission to stash your cache in the perfect spot, go ahead and hide the cache. The cache needs to be hidden well to prevent non-cachers from accidentally discovering your geocache.
While searching for a geocache in a graveyard, two ladies were approached by local law enforcement. The graveyard was maintained by local inmates. Drug dealers often hid drugs for the inmates in the woods surrounding the graveyard. The women were acting suspiciously. As the women explained what they were doing, the officer stated that in that case he probably wouldn`t arrest them.
While these ladies were not arrested and the cache was not muggled, others were not so lucky. Geocaches found in airports can trigger a full evacuation. If this happens too often, geocaching could be outlawed in many places. Geocaching ethics apply to both those planting and those searching.
General guidelines for avoiding trouble include the following:
• If an area is busy, wait to retrieve your geocache.
• Carry small cards that explain your hobby. You won`t look like you are fabricating a story.
• Don`t hide caches in areas with high security.
• Check your state and local laws for regulations regarding geocaches or other scavenger hunt related activities.
• Respect the cache area. Irritated landowners will not hesitate to throw away a cache.
Basic Leave No Trace Ethics combined with common sense and some research will result in more successful plants and finds. When you geocache, you represent the hobby. If you exhibit poor behavior, your actions will directly affect public opinion of all geocachers.
Any activity that requires the participant to head off into the woods to scramble around looking for a hidden is a safety hazard. Every year, hundreds of people in the United States alone get lost or injured in the wilderness. If you plan to geocache outdoors, do some research to ensure that you are fully prepared for anything that might come your way.
Follow these safety guidelines to make your letterboxing experience the best it can be:
1. If you plan to geocache alone, provide a list of the coordinates for every location you plan to visit. If you are lost or injured, rescue personell will find you more quickly if they have a general idea of your location.
2. Before you leave your vehicle, set the location as a waypoint in your GPS. You will be able to locate your vehicle even if you get lost or have to return to your car in the dark.
3. Pay attention to the weather and dress accordingly. Wear clothing that will keep you dry and warm in low temperatures or rain. Overdressing or underdressing can result in hypothermia or heat stroke. The proper footwear can prevent blisters, making your experience more pleasant.
4. Eat food and stay hydrated. When you exert yourself, your body needs nutrients and water to recover. If you allow yourself to become dehydrated or hungry, you could become seriously ill. Hunger and dehydration also prevent the brain from thinking clearly resulting in more lost hikers each year.
5. Bring the right equipment. If you rely on your GPS to get you from the cache to your car, bring plenty of extra batteries. A first aid kit that includes basic first aid supplies as well as Benadryl and Aspirin could save your life. Benadryl helps subdue allergic reactions and Aspirin can slow or stop a heart attack.
There are books that hold hundreds of pages of safety advice for any outdoor adventure. The five tips above are the only safety guidelines you need to take into account. You can find endless sources online that can offer excellent advice for safely enjoying your new geocaching hobby.