A Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching!

by Glenn Maxwell

Do you ever wish there was a way to combine your love of the outdoors with your passion for puzzles? Geocaching uses your phone’s map functionality and your sleuthing skills to get you out in nature while indulging your inner adventurer. Use this guide to become a geocacher and join a worldwide community of eco-conscious, treasure-hunting enthusiasts.

Grab the Right Gear

Before heading out on a geocaching adventure, check that you have a GPS device or phone with the Geocaching app and a full charge. Aside from these devices, pack like you would for a hike, which means grabbing sunscreen, a flashlight, insect repellent, and water. Flashlights are especially handy if you must reach into a deep tree hollow or something similar for a cache. You don’t want to grab an icky or furry surprise!

Geocachers also need specific equipment for the activity, such as a pen or pencil for signing logbooks, trekking poles to aid in exploring dark and difficult-to-reach spaces, and swag items if you take a souvenir from found caches. Because taking care of trails and the environment is a major tenet of geocaching, bring a few trash bags for litter.

Check Out Geocaching Apps

Apps like Cachly, Geocaching by Groundspeak Inc., and c:geo help you find nearby caches, and you can use a GPS unit to find local treasures, too. Take your time exploring geocaching apps, as you’ll find lots of helpful information on frequently asked questions and using the software. To access more features on apps like Geocaching by Groundspeak Inc., you may need to sign up for a paid premium membership.

The Geocaching app also lets you track caches by size. While finds come in various shapes and sizes, begin with “regular” caches before moving on to something else. Refer to the app for the cache’s dimensions by selecting the geocache’s listed size. Don’t expect to always discover a find in a box-shaped container. One of the great things about geocaching is the sheer surprise of coming across a cache hidden in a replica of a stone or birdhouse.

Learn How To Find Caches

After consulting the Geocaching app, you may discover nearby geocaches you’ve walked or driven past for years. While on the app’s map page, tap the cache you want to find first. One reason to start with 1-star geocaches is to get used to how they’re hidden. Note the hints and information on the cache page.

While the map doesn’t mark the most efficient path to a cache, it tells you how close you are to stumbling on a find. Use your environment and the map’s terrain details to judge how near you are. Once you’re close, switch to the app’s compass view, so you’re pointed in the right direction as you enter the cache’s immediate area. 

After finding a cache, sign the logbook to document your victory and let others know you discovered it. Larger geocaches usually have small knick-knacks, toys, or personal items to take. Another geocaching principle is to leave items of greater or lesser value after taking something from a geocache. Carefully return the cache where you found it when you’re done.

Make a Cache

After finding several caches, why not make one yourself? To start, you must take a quick quiz on the Geocaching site to prove you understand the mechanics of hiding caches. Try to make your cache challenging to find, and make sure you don’t tuck it away in a location where someone who’s not a geocacher might find it.

Also, get permission from the public or private landowner before hiding something on their property. Think about the likely routes geocachers may take to get to your find, so no one risks passing through delicate habitats, protected areas, and other sensitive sites.

Bring out your inner treasure hunter by becoming a geocacher. You likely don’t have to go far, and you don’t have to worry about disturbing ancient tombs.

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