Imagine this: a worldwide treasure hunting community with treasures hidden all around you—even places you frequently visit.
Sounds awesome, right?
It is, and it totally exists! Welcome to the world of geocaching. Perhaps you’ve heard of it—but even if you haven’t, you’re going to learn all about it in this post about geocaching for beginners!
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is referred to as “the world’s largest treasure hunt” on the official website—and that headline sums it up perfectly! Geocaching is literally a treasure hunt, and it’s popularity spans the globe.
A geocache is usually a cleverly hidden weatherproof container typically located outdoors in areas accessible to the public. There are various sizes and types of containers, hiding spots and difficulty.
There are currently millions of geocaches in over 190 countries. It is almost guaranteed that there are geocaches near where you are right this second. The caches are hidden in rural and urban areas alike.
What’s in a Geocache?
Almost anything! No two Geocaches are alike. Most will contain a logbook to sign and date. Larger caches will contain “swag” – a Geocaching term for trinkets and small items for trading, and some will contain “trackables.”
For Geocache swag, the general rule is ‘take something leave something’ of equal or greater value.
Trackables are usually Geobugs and Geocoins and they travel around from cache to cache, and each one usually has a different mission. These items have a tracking number that Geocachers log online when moving the trackables from cache to cache.
Geobugs look like metal dogtags with a bug shaped barcode and a tracking number and are often attached to different trinkets called hitchikers that they travel around with.
Geocoins also have tracking numbers but are bigger and look like large coins or medallions.
You can tell if a cache you are visiting has a trackable in it when you are looking at the listing on the app. When you find a trackable, log it’s number online or click the trackable in the app to find out where it’s been and the goals the owner has set for it. Each trackable will have a different goal, and Geocachers carry them from cache to cache to help move them around countries, even country to country.
Where did Geocaching Come From?
Geocaching was started at the turn of the millennium when satellites were upgraded to allow more accuracy in GPS location services. GPS enthusiasts couldn’t wait to come up with new ideas for using their devices, and the great “GPS Stash Hunt” began.
What started with one person online posting coordinates for a hidden “GPS stash” spread rapidly around the globe, with more and more people catching onto the idea and creating their own stashes as well.
Fast forward almost 2 decades later and there is a thriving and passionate geocaching community online and out in the world, planting and hunting geocaches.
Who is Geocaching for?
Geocaching is for anyone and everyone who enjoys getting outside, finding treasure, and visiting places they’ve never been—even in their hometowns!
Every geocache has information about not only where and how to find it, but how long the walk or hike is, how difficult the terrain is and who the hunt is best suited for.
Along with the directions and recommendations, many users who have visited the cache already have left reviews about the find. Spoiler alert warning: don’t read the reviews if you don’t want the cache’s location or hiding spot to be potentially spoiled for you.
Geocaching is a great activity for families with kids, retirees, and even solo players. Some geocachers like to see how many finds they can get, some people do it as a way to travel and find new places, and some do it to check out places they might not have discovered on their own in their local areas. It is an activity you can do in almost any place you ever visit.
Geocaching is a physical activity that is fun for the whole family and it will get everyone off the couch and off their phones.
How to Get Started with Geocaching
To get started geocaching, first you need to download the free app that’s available on the App Store for iPhones and the Google Play store for Android devices. Create a free account, put in your location and take a look at all the caches around you.
Many caches will have riddles to help you find them as well as history of the location or area that they’re in. It’s a great way to learn the history of something you might not otherwise have visited.
Once you find a cache listing that you’d like to find, you can either use the Geocaching app to find it or put the GPS coordinates into your mapping app of choice. If you plan on doing really remote Geocaching, a GPS device is recommended as there may not be cell signal.
Once you find the cache, sign the logbook, check out the swag, and log your experience online. Be sure to put the Geocache back where you found it and be mindful of the environment while doing so.
Don’t put anything a child should not find in a cache and do not put any food or candy in a cache to prevent animals and insects from taking interest.
Geocaching has a thriving online community with millions of geocachers worldwide, and as such has developed it’s own lingo over the years. These are the most common geocaching terms and acronyms you may come across when you are just starting out hunting caches.
- BYOP – Bring Your Own Pen/Pencil
- CITO – Cache In, Trash Out – this is an environmental initiative supported by the worldwide geocaching community. This means taking care not to disturb the environment when looking for the cache, leaving the area better than you found it and taking out any trash you find.
- D/T – Difficulty and Terrain
- DNF – Did Not Find
- FTF – First to Find
- TNLN – Took Nothing, Left Nothing
- TFTC – Thanks for the Cache
- TFTH – Thanks for the Hide
- SWAG – Stuff We All Get
Geocaching Tips for Beginners
You don’t need much to get started Geocaching—just weather-appropriate clothes, a smartphone or GPS device, puzzle and riddle solving skills, and a pen or pencil!
Everything you need to know about any given cache is listed in the app and you’re sure to find caches suited to all skill levels and abilities.
Don’t go after any caches you aren’t physically prepared to hike to or hunt for!
Geocaching is an activity that’s considered a hobby to some, a game to others, and thoroughly enjoyed by many. If you enjoy getting outside, treasure hunting, and using your detective skills to find the most cleverly hidden caches, Geocaching is great for you!
What’s most important is getting outside, having fun and enjoying the world around you.