Why Not Try GeoCaching?
Looking for a highly addictive, enjoyable and healthy pastime that can be enjoyed by the whole family? If you find yourself on a quiet Sunday afternoon looking for something simple, enjoyable and exciting to do with the kids that doesn’t attract a hefty price tag, then the practically free hobby of GeoCaching may be for you.
GeoCaching was established in the year 2000 as the “GPS Stash Hunt” – whereby forum user David Ulmer posted the GPS coordinates to a hidden treasure trove in an internet group, suggesting that members seek to find the stash. He kept the rules pretty simple: “Take some stuff, leave some stuff”. From this the concept of GeoCaching was born.
The etymology of the term “geocache” serves a dual purpose: it joins the prefix “geo-” (meaning “Earth”) and “cache” – which refers both to the Old French word for a temporary hiding place, and the modern computer term “cache” from which information is quickly retrieved. This together quite appropriately describes a “geocache”; a hidden storage place on earth that contains information (and sometimes even more!).
How do you say it, you might ask? The correct pronounciation according to the official page is “cash” as in currency, although continuing the ever-paralleled American/Australian use of English, most Australian participants say “cayshe”.
GeoCaching today is driven by two forces – a GPS enabled device (such as a NavMan or Smartphone) and the official geocaching website and app (available for both Android and iPhone).
The object of GeoCaching is to use the App on your phone (or coordinates from the website in a GPS device) and explore areas to find these hidden containers. They are ranked on the website by their difficulty, the intensity of the terrain of their surroundings and their actual container size. Caches range from the minuscule (“nanos” – about the size of a pen lid) to the huge (a“large” cache is about the size of a tacklebox or ammo-can).
What You’ll Need
- Sturdy shoes
- A writing implement (a key-ring pen comes in handy) to add your username to the log-book inside.
- Some trinkets to support the ethos of the GeoCaching community that “if you take something out, you put something back in”. A good suggestion for items to leave might be toy cars, animal figurines, cool shaped erasers or party-favours like balloons or blowers.
- A fully charged phone/device. Nothing is more devastating than getting within 100m of the location and seeing the dreaded “no battery” appear across your screen.
- A sense of adventure and encouragement for the young ones.
In next to no time you’ll be experiencing the pleasant rush of adrenalin you get from finding that small container hidden craftily underneath the seat of the bus stop, or pulling out a lunchbox full of the types of small tokens kids delight in. GeoCaching is enjoyed across the globe by the young, the old, Scouting and Guides groups and sporting teams. It is truly a hobby that nearly anyone can enjoy.
Another aspect of GeoCaching which amplifies the fun is that it is supposed to be done out of the plain sight of non-cachers. Non-cachers are warmly referred to as “muggles” in the caching community, thus ninja-like skills are sometimes required to nab the cache without being seen (as well as maintain your composure and excitement when opening it as to not draw attention).
You will probably be surprised to discover just how many caches are within walking distance of your home, or around your local parks and playgrounds. Caches have to be on public property (unless permission to place in a private location has been granted) and at least 100 yards apart from each other. Within a 2km radius of my home we found 12 geogaches that we’d previously been entirely oblivious to.
The only word of warning you’ll need is how addictive the hobby can become. If you’re not afraid to be that weird friend who says “I’m just ducking over here for a moment” whilst stealthily glancing at your phone during lunch in a different neighbourhood, then you’ve got nothing to lose!
The website can be found at: www.geocaching.com and the Apps available in both free (Geocaching Intro) and premium ($12.99 for 3 months if you become a die-hard enthusiast) however plenty of people GeoCache solely using the free App. To make the experience authentic, sign up for free on the website for your own username, and don’t forget to log that you’ve found the find with a pleasant: “TFTC” (Thank-you For The Cache).