Geocaching: The perfect way to get the family outdoors

Are you looking for the kind of adventure that keeps children and adults occupied outdoors without relying on fabulous weather or a millionaire’s budget? If so, and your Sunday breakfast conversation defaults to “what shall we do today?”, geocaching could be your answer (and it’s not confined to Sundays!). Many BCH Camping customers are geocaching enthusiasts and tell us how it offers a great opportunity to indulge in fun outdoor activities as a family or group. So, what is it all about?

What is a geocache?

A geocache or ‘cache’ is a small waterproof box containing treasure that is hidden outdoors, waiting to be found by people who have downloaded its location coordinates.

What is geocaching?

Geocaching is the kind of activity that even the most reluctant social-media-bound children can really enjoy. Why? Because they can use their mobile phone or other device to join in, and their parents don’t have to nag them to go and get some fresh air!
The concept is based upon the use of GPS to take part in a treasure hunt with a twist. Participants find a geocache area through the website, then go to that area to find a geocache, or “cache” that has been left by someone else.

The history of geocaching

Geocaching began in May 2000, when GPS enthusiast, Dave Ulmer, wanted to test the accuracy of recent GPS developments. He placed a black bucket in the woods and shared the waypoint online on sci.geo.satellite-nav, asking other subscribers to locate it. He tasked the finder to “take some stuff, leave some stuff”. Within three days two people had used their own GPS receivers to find the bucket and told the story of their experiences online.
This got people’s attention and the idea soon escalated. Within a month, Mike Teague who was the first person to find Dave Ulmer’s stash, began to document the online posts of coordinates around the world and created the “GPS Stash Hunt” mailing list.
Initially geocaching was confined to experienced GPS users. One participant, Jeremy Irish, saw the potential of a more generic hobby and introduced the name “geocaching”. He created to improve the experience by adding features that made it easier for new players to find listings of nearby caches. By the time the website was complete in September 2000, there were 75 known caches around the world.  
Various news agencies reported on the new GPS phenomenon, including The New York Times, but the limited number of caches discouraged new people from taking part. The growing community egged newcomers on with the slogan “if you hide it, they will come”, and they did. The rest, as they say, is history.

How does geocaching work?

To get started, you will need a GPS device or smart phone with an integrated GPS. You should then sign up to to find a cache near you. Once you have studied the website and decided on an area, you should identify a cache that you would like to find and enter its coordinates into your GPS to find it. Those with an Android smart phone or iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad can download a free app as an alternative to using the website.
Once found, you should open the container to find a log book and perhaps some treasure. Fill out the log book and return the cache to its hiding place. If you take any treasure out of the box, you should leave another piece in its place, so you should go prepared if that’s what you want to do. Finally, log your find online and decide on your next cache to find.
There’s an active, enthusiastic online community waiting for new caches and for people to find the caches they have left. There’s an opportunity to leave feedback and there are details of events going on across the country. It’s very easy to get involved.

Tips for a new geocache enthusiast have identified the following top ten tips for anyone looking for their first geocache:

·Use your eyes, hands, and geo-senses

Geocaching is not as straight forward as it sounds. Your GPS will only get you within about 30 feet of the cache location. When you’re close, you have to do some work! Use your eyes, hands, and geo-senses to locate the cache.

·Look for something that seems out of place.

No one cache container is the same. They come in all sizes, shapes and colours.               Make sure you look everywhere it could be and where you think it’s probably not! You might be surprised!
  • Geocaches are often disguised
They might look like rocks, bricks, bird houses, or other everyday objects, so expect the unexpected.

·Think like a detective

It helps to be strategic – think of where you would have put the cache if it was yours.

·Geocaches should never be buried

It’s too easy for them to be dug up by a curious dog or other animal, and besides you shouldn’t assume that the geocache you’re looking for is on the ground.
  • Look high, look low, look around
Look under benches, look high up in crevices, trees and ledges.
  • Respect your surroundings
NEVER trample on flower beds, scale walls, or damage property trying to find the cache.
  • Check the hint
Many cache pages provide hints that may help you with where to look.
  • Check the latest activity
Recent logs from other geocache enthusiasts may contain tips such as, “I had to JUMP OVER THE WALL to find this one!”.
  • Be patient!
It takes time to develop your geo-senses, but once you do, you’ll enjoy a great sense (see what we did there) of achievement.
If you decide to start geocaching, do let us know at BCH Camping of any particularly challenging finds, and if you’re in need of any outdoor clothing or backpacking equipment we’d be happy to help.