I was never an ‘outdoorsy’ child growing up; I much preferred staying inside playing nice cosy indoor games - nothing boisterous and definitely nothing that would involve my clothes getting dirty! I discovered geocaching in 2013 and swiftly found myself unleashing an inner child who absolutely loves climbing trees, splashing in streams and generally getting mucky!
For those that don’t know, geocaching is a game that involves using a GPS receiver (either a dedicated GPSr or an app on your smartphone) to navigate to specific coordinates posted online and search for a container called a geocache, which has been hidden there by another player. A typical ‘cache’ contains a logbook, a pen and some small trinkets to swap. There are millions of caches hidden all over the globe, with over 200,000 in Great Britain alone. There is almost certainly a geocache hidden within a few miles of your house - possibly even within a few hundred feet!
Geocaching is a great way to encourage people to get outside more. A treasure hunt can be a great incentive to get active and go for a walk in a park, hike hills and trails, kayak, climb a tree… it can be as tame or as adventurous as you want it to be! While the find may be your ultimate goal while playing, I have come to realise that the real treasure is the adventures I’ve had along the way and the places I’ve been, all because of geocaching.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
If you don’t have a handheld GPS receiver, the easiest way to get started is to download a geocaching app (there are lots of options, both free and paid) and create a free account at geocaching.com. There is an annual fee to become a premium member, but it’s best to decide if it’s something you’ll really be interested in longer term before paying.
Once you’ve created your account and allowed the app to use your location, you can do a search for geocaches in your proximity. Choose a ‘traditional’ cache to start, with a low difficulty and terrain rating, and read the cache description given - sometimes this will indicate what type of container you are looking for. Start navigating and off you go!
When you get to within five to ten metres of the given coordinates, it’s time to look for the cache. Taking into consideration that geocaches have to be hidden from muggles (non-geocachers), it won’t generally be sitting out in the open so a search will be necessary. It’s important not to damage anything while searching, but look for unusual piles of rocks or sticks, perhaps at the base of a tree or behind a fence pole (there are lots of videos online that will show you the many forms a geocache can take!).
Once you’ve found the cache, sign the logbook with your caching nickname. There may be things to swap in the cache (swag) and it’s important to trade even or up if something takes your fancy. Make sure to rehide the cache properly, away from muggles’ prying eyes! Then log the cache as found either directly in the app or on the website and you will earn a smiley face for your trouble!
Seeking out geocaches wherever you go - either in a new area or even in your hometown - is like having your own private tour guide with a sprinkle of adventure too, should you want it. Geocaching has brought me to some beautiful places right on my doorstep and has shown me lots of off-the-beaten-track hidden gems when I’m travelling. If you’re already enjoying the outdoors, you might just find that geocaching adds another dimension to your adventures. There is so much variation in the game that you can really make of it what you want.
Sarah Murphy | The Geocaching Junkie | @thegeojunkie | Sarah became an outdoors adventurer four years ago when she discovered a love of geocaching and getting her boots muddy. She is a cache and travel addict, and shares her tips on geocaching and travelling, both at home in Northern Ireland and further afield at her blog.