Geocaching – What’s It All About?
It has been described as using billions of pounds worth of hi-tech satellite technology in the pursuit of pieces of Tupperware.
The principal organising body, Groundspeak, summarise geocaching as a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.
For me it is about great walks, usually in the countryside or along the coast, with a purpose – namely tracking down “treasure” that other geocachers have hidden. Sometimes this also involves solving puzzles or doing research either on the Internet or in the area where the cache is hidden.
When you find a cache it is normal to sign a log book and also log your find on the website later. Sometimes caches contain swaps where you can add a trinket and take another from the cache – great for the kids.
If this all sounds a bit bizarre I can assure you that it is highly addictive, great fun and is a very cheap hobby. That’s why there are more than 1.6 million caches hidden around the world (one even on the Space Station) and more than 5 million geocachers across the world.
Ideally you will need a hand-held GPS which will identify your position and the position of the cache, then point you in the right direction. A top of the range GPS can set you back as much as £250 although there are many cheaper models that will suffice (and you can always buy second hand on eBay).
However, if you have a smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Android) you can download an app for under £10 which will be more than sufficient – many cachers never upgrade from the smart phone.
None, apart from the cost of transport to the area where you want to search for caches! But you’ll be surprised to see how many are right on your doorstep – just type your postcode into the home page of the website.
You can register for free at geocaching.com – there is an option to purchase Premium Membership ($30) which gives you some extra bells and whistles and access to some exclusive caches, but this is not necessary and not recommended until you get the bug!
Types of Geocache
Caches are classified in several ways and can take many forms and disguises, for instance false logs, fake snails, rocks or just plain sandwich boxes.
Groundspeak’s website will tell you whether the cache is large (shoebox size or bigger), small (a small lunch box for example), micro (like a 35mm film pod), or unclassified (which usually means it could be as small as half the filter tip on a cigarette or even smaller).
The majority of caches are “Traditional”. That is, the website gives the coordinates of the cache for you to visit. However, many are “Multi-Caches” where you are given a series of coordinates to visit to pick up clues to determine the coordinates of the final location. Finally there are “Mystery Caches” which could involve research, the cracking of a code or the solving of a puzzle to arrive at the coordinates. Beware – you can find yourself sitting up into the small hours trying to solve puzzles!
Every cache is rated on the website for difficulty and terrain. The difficulty rating could either indicate how well the cache is disguised or hidden or could relate to the difficulty of a puzzle. Terrain ratings run from 1 star (wheelchair accessible) to 5 star (get out the climbing gear – definitely not for me!).
Where are they?
In virtually every country in the world, the highest density of caches being in the UK, USA, Germany and Holland. The pictures below illustrate some of the places where we have found caches in the UK and Portugal (click to enlarge).
They will not be on private property but may be on the street, by footpaths, in woodland, in parks, on beaches – the list is endless.
Some are very cleverly hidden – I will not elaborate as it may spoil your enjoyment.
If you like solving puzzles there are many thousands of mystery caches. You can learn about codes and ciphers or attempt a huge range of puzzles from the more common, such as crosswords and Sudoku, to puzzles you will never have experienced.
Try a couple of mine (and find the caches if you are ever in NW London). The first requires some lateral thinking and a little arithmetic. The second may be entirely new to you (there is some assistance elsewhere on this site if you get stuck).
An additional feature is the use of trackables. For about £5 you can buy a trackable tag or coin which carries a serial number that you can register at the Groundspeak website. Place it in a cache and record that you have done so. The next cacher picks it up then subsequently drops it in another cache, recording both events. You can track your item around the world through the website.
What’s Stopping You?
It’s healthy, great for the kids, ideal for cyclists and dog walkers, great fun, plus you can attend regular gatherings of other geocachers to exchange ideas and experiences if you wish.