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Geocaching = Free Outdoor Fun

Geocaching can be a fun activity to get you and your family outside to enjoy the outdoors. All you need is a smartphone and app to get started.

Geocaching is great for free family fun!

Are you tired of being stuck in the house? Are you looking for a fun way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors but you’re tired of hiking the same trails or picnicking in the same parks?

A small geocache hanging from a tree that was hard to find.

Geocaching may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Think of geocaching, pronounced gee-o-cashing, as a modern-day treasure hunt. All you need is a smartphone and the Geocaching app and you’re ready to use the provided coordinates to seek out geocaches wherever you go.

When our kids were little, we tried letterboxing. Similar to geocaching only you figure out where your stash is hidden through a series of clues instead of GPS coordinates. Sadly, I enjoyed it more than the rest of my family, so it wasn’t a hobby that stuck.

A log found in a geocache

This week, while taking a walk at a local park, my husband wondered if there were any geocaches located nearby. I installed the app and was shocked to find dozens hidden within just a few miles from our home and two were in that very park.

Our hunt and obsession began.

How does Geocaching Work?

Geocachers seek out hidden containers, or caches, using GPS coordinates which are posted online by those who have hidden a cache. Years ago, geocaching required that you purchase a handheld GPS device but these days you don’t need any fancy equipment, a simple smartphone and access to the geocaching app will do.

After you download the app and submit your zip code, your phone will access your location and show you a map with caches near you. 

In our area, there are dozens within just a few miles of my home, but depending on where you live, you may need to adjust the map a bit to locate some caches to find.

Once you locate a cache near you, click on the description for more information, and if it is one that you’d like to find click the navigate button and it will direct you to the location.

Use the driving directions to guide you to the general location and then switch to walking directions once you arrive. The app will get you within about 25 feet of the geocache and then you’ll have to look around to find it. Hints are available on some of the caches if you get stuck.

Pay special attention to the difficulty rating and the size of the cache. If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to stick with a 1-2 for difficulty, and the larger the better for size to avoid disappointment.

You can also look at the log to see if recent cachers have indeed found the cache. If you see DNF it means they did not find the cache which could be because it has been removed, lost or they simply gave up to soon. If you see a lot of people have logged DNF you’re better off skipping that particular cache and seeking out another.  Ask me how I learned this tip. 

Once you find the cache, the only rules are that you log your find and if you take anything from the cache that you leave something of equal or greater value. Sound easy? It is. And we quickly learned it’s a ton of fun. 

Before You Set Off on your Ultimate Geocaching Adventure

The contents of a geocache.

First steps, make sure you have downloaded the Geocaching app. There is a free and paid version. Since I wanted access to premium caches as well as earth caches and letterboxes, I paid $5.99 for the month but it would save money to pay the yearly fee of $29.99 and that’s what we will do since we enjoy it so much.

Make sure you have the following items:

  • A smartphone
  • A Pen or Pencil (many caches have them, but you want to be prepared)
  • A Small Flashlight
  • Hand Sanitizer (can’t be too safe these days)
  • Small Trinkets (for larger caches where you can ‘trade’ items)
  • A bottle of water if you’re hiking
  • Bug Spray or Sunscreen

In addition to the above items, it would be helpful to have a small backpack or fanny pack to store everything.  

a pill bottle hanging from a tree can be a geocache

There are caches everywhere! Not only can my husband and I find them at home and on day trips in our home state but we’re also planning to find them on our next major road trip too. 

After all, with over 100,000 caches in over 200 countries, and more hidden every day, there will be plenty for us to find. Who knows? We may even decide to hide one of our own. 

Read the Joys of Geocaching for more information on geocaching. 

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Have you tried geocaching?

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