Geocaching

Geocaching

Geocaching, probably best described as a high tech treasure hunt, has become a truly global phenomenon since its invention in the United States in 2000. Using a GPS device (global positioning system) to follow given coordinates, you’re involved in an outdoor game of hide and seek to find the “geocache”, a well camouflaged box containing a log book (which you date and sign to mark your find) and a stash of small, inexpensive “treasures” for trading (you’re free to take one of these treasures in exchange for leaving something of equal or higher value).

There are currently hundreds caches in the UK (all checked for safety and accessibility before being published on the website) and the number is growing all the time. Some are in remote areas of outstanding natural beauty, some in busy areas in the middle of cities, and most in popular, easily accessible parks and footpaths spread right across the country.

It’s enormous fun, relatively healthy in that it gets you out into the great outdoors, and has mass appeal, as everyone from the youngest to the oldest can get involved at their own pace and chosen level of complexity.

All you need is a handheld GPS device of one sort or another, access to the internet, and a spirit of adventure! With these in place, it’s then a 3 step adventure:

Browse Geocaching Websites

Log on to one of the geocaching websites and browse through the listings to choose the geocache(s) you want to search for. With over 1.5 million active geocaches worldwide, you’re not going to be stuck to find one wherever you are!

www.geocaching.com and www.opencaching.com are the 2 most popular sites. Both give loads of useful advice to get you started, and rate the difficulty and terrain of each cache on a scale of 1 of 5 so you know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for before you begin.

Discover

Once you’ve downloaded the necessary information about chosen your geocache, you’re ready to get out into the great outdoors and start hunting! Plotting the coordinates on your GPS device gives you a clear route to follow, then when you reach the marked spot, its down to some straightforward hide and seek. Some of the caches are extremely well camouflaged so the clues also provided on the website, often prove invaluable.

Some handy hints to help things go smoothly:

Take a pen with you – its not unknown for the pencil in the cache to have got lost.

Have spare batteries for your GPS device – there’s nothing more frustrating than it conking out half way through your hunt.

Be careful not to look suspicious when you’re hunting – you know you’re doing nothing untoward when routing round in the undergrowth, but others, unfamiliar to geocaching, may have their doubts!

Take a small trinket with you- particularly if you’re geocaching with kids – then you can swap it for something else in the cache. If you’re lucky you might find a Geo-Coin or Travel Bug which are designed to be moved from cache to cache so their journey can be logged and followed online.

Share

Once you’ve conquered your chosen cache, it’s easy to then log your find on the website to share your experiences, and join in with an online community of enthusiasts.

With a worldwide following, Geocaching is a flourishing pastime, with new caches springing up all the time. It is easy to get into, and has something for everyone – from the super fit in search of extreme adventure, to the majority of us wanting a pleasant walk out at a pace to suit. So go on, get out there and have a go!

Best Handheld GPSSuitable GPS Equipment

Geocaching requires you to follow GPS coordinates. This can be done either through the use of a handheld GPS device or via a smartphone using an app.

To use your smartphone, simply buy the geocaching.com app which enables users to view cache details through their phone. Currently iPhone, Android, WebOS and Windows Phone 7 all sell this app in their respective stores. A trial version is now available with limited functionality to give you a taster.

This is undoubtedly a convenient way to give geocaching a try. The only potential problem is that smartphone reception is generally not as reliable as that of a dedicated GPS machine, so bear in mind, you might struggle to pick up a signal in areas of dense tree cover.

A more reliable method is undoubtedly a handheld GPS device, of which there are a myriad on the market, varying from basic models at around the £50 mark which will simply point you in the direction of the inputted coordinates, to those nearer £300 that come pre-loaded with maps and in-built internet access to geocaching websites.

Choosing the right one for you is no easy task so to make life a little easier we’ve reviewed the most popular devices (the ones that consistently gain 4 or 5 stars in consumer ratings) to give you a warts and all view of each.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net