Geocaching: A Real World GPS Treasure Hunt / by Leslie

Do you know what geocaching is? If I told you that it's a "secret" treasure hunting game with items hidden everywhere around you, would you believe me? I didn't believe it at first and I couldn't wait to learn more. It sounded so fun and intriguing. My uncles in Canada told me about it, but I quickly learned that it is a world wide thing. 

The basic idea is that you use a GPS device or your smartphone to locate a hidden "cache". Once you find it, you write your name in the log book contained in the cache and if there are items you can take one or two as long as you leave items of equal value in it's place. The most basic cache is just a log book, the biggest that I have seen are army canisters containing dozens of plastic toys and other tokens. 

To find the coordinates of the cache's you must join a website called You will create a profile and search for cache's near you using your zipcode or address. The results come up in a list or a map view. If you have a GPS device you will download the information to use while you are out in the field searching. I prefer to use my iPhone, which I can use out in the field to search for nearby caches on the fly. When you find a cache, you can also log it on the site to keep track of the ones you have found.

 When you head out you will want to bring a pen and items to leave in place of items you take. Challenges include locating caches in busy areas without people who are unaware about geocaching noticing what you are doing. These unaware people are called Muggles, like in the Harry Potter books. Other challenges are inherent in being out in the woods, we had to turn away from a cache when we heard there was a bear nearby, and you should make all the same kind of preparations that you would for a hike; sunscreen, bug spray, water, hats, good shoes, etc. 

It's a great reason to get out on the trails, providing a purpose and a goal and giving directions. Hunting for a cache in Wawayanda lead us to a trail we had never seen before. The kids love it, there is nothing more fun than finding a treasure box! GPS coordinates will get you to a general area and then you must search with your eyes and brains to find it. Often there are clues you can view if you get stuck. Caches are usually well hidden so that people just wandering by will not spot them, inside trees, under rocks or tree bark or even in a magnetic case stuck underneath a railing!

These are the basics, there are more challenging caches located up mountains or across lakes. Each cache is rated for difficulty and terrain. So far we have stuck to the easy ones, but I hope to scale up once the kids get older. There are multiple caches that string you along until you find the final one. And then there are the trackables. These are often plastic animals or coins that have a serial number on them. When you find one you can enter the code into the website and see where the trackable has been and then move it to another cache. We found one from Japan and I was thrilled when the owner sent me an email from Japan to say Hi! It was kind of thrilling. 

Once you get used to the tenants of the game, you can hide your own cache for people to find. Hardcore enthusiasts love to be the first to find (FTF) a cache, which often comes with a bonus coin or trackable. To be the first to find you must sign up for the paid version of the site to get notifications when a new cache is posted and then run out immediately, or early the next morning to beat everyone there.

Geocaching is a wonderful way to get the whole family out into nature and enjoying the thrill of the hunt. There is more to it than what I have described here, these are just the basics to get you started. There is a rich history in orienteering and letterboxing to discover along with all the different kinds of caches that you can find. From Wikipedia, "Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. After 10 years of activity there are over 1.3 million active geocaches published on various websites. There are over 5 million geocachers worldwide."

Do you geocache? Please tell me about your best find and maybe any tips or tricks you have learned since starting. Look for me on the Geocaching site: NY Mama.

(Full Disclosure: This is NOT a paid post. These are my own words and recommendations.)


More Resources Guide to the Game Books, Devices and Tokens

Wikipedia: Geocaching