Geocaching (pron: jee-o-cashing) is a form of orienteering, but instead of using maps and a compass, or a hand-held GPS receiver, a smartphone app is used to locate secret hiding places or ‘caches’ where prizes can be found.
Caches aren’t limited to wide open spaces; many can be found in towns and cities. In fact, there’s probably a cache near you right now!
Geocaching not only enables you to get plenty of fresh air and exercise, it’s also fun! Often you have a start point (a set of co-ordinates) which, when entered into a GPS receiver or app will lead you to a location. Once there, you may have to hunt about a bit for the cache.
The cache itself can be anything from a small watertight canister to a large box. Inside is a prize, usually left by the previous explorer. You take what’s inside and replace it with something for the next explorer to discover – usually something sentimental rather than valuable. If there’s a log book and pencil hidden away then make sure you add your name, time and date!
Not much equipment is required to enjoy geocaching: a receiver, or smartphone with a geocaching app is all you need, but dress accordingly, you never know where your adventure will take you!
Geocaching apps vary in price but start for as little as nothing. It can be a solo or group activity and is a great way of getting the kids out in the fresh air (you may have to bribe them to get them out for the day though!)
There are links to online equipment shops and other info on the official geocaching website . But if you want to try before you buy, free apps are available for both iOs and Android devices.
Make your own cache
There are loads of online and high street retailers specialising in caches, from resin containers made to look like batteries, insects on leaves, toadstools, bottle tops, CCTV cameras, fallen fruit and even just grass!If you have a cache idea in mind, here are some dos and don’ts.
- Wash out any food/medicine containers thoroughly
- Put non-perishable rewards inside
- Put a good seal around the lid to stop moisture from getting in
- Weather-resistant (your cache may be subjected to rain, sun, snow, wind, hail; the list is almost endless)
- Use a permanent marker to write ‘Geocache’ on the outside. You can also use a sticker, but make it waterproof!
- Make it practical. Finders should be able to open and close the cache easily, without using power tools
- Let your cache be mistaken for anything that might cause alarm
- Make it susceptible to rust
- Use poorly constructed materials (some will warp in hot weather, others will crack in the cold)
- Make your cache out of paper or cardboard. Whilst shoe boxes, toilet roll middles and some sweetie tubes make ideal sized/shaped caches, they will not last long outdoors!
Where to stash your cache
When it comes to hiding your cache, the only limit is your imagination. But it’s worth noting that caches should be accessible to all. Things to bear in mind include:
- Do you need permission to place the cache?
- Could the cache pose a hazard to the environment?
- Will the cache’s location pose a physical threat to the finder?
- Will the cache be placed somewhere where it won’t be moved?
Once you have decided on what you wish to hide and where you need to hide it you can ‘register’ your cache with one of the many online databases so that people will know about it. All the online guides to geocaching have both a Code of Conduct and strict guidelines on placing and finding caches. Make sure you read up on them first!
Once your cache is hidden and logged on a database you will have become a Cache Owner! Many owners like to visit their caches from time-to-time just to make sure they are still intact.The most important thing though is to have fun, whether you are hiding, or finding.