Geocaching – A Treasure Hunt for Geeks
Today I went out and found (or attempted to find) my first geocaches. Geocaching is modern day technological treasure hunt, for geeks. It’s a great way to combine the outdoors with technology, and is suited to children and adults alike.
What is a geocache?
Geocaching is where you use a GPS enabled device and clues to locate a ‘cache’. Caches are containers which can contain a geocaching information sheet, log book and other various items. Log books show how many visitors that cache has received and when it was last located. Other items inside can be small ‘swappables’, items left for future cachers to take, and replace with a swappable of their own. It may contain information on the location of the cache, a puzzle to solve, or a ‘trackable’, an item which can be taken from one geocache you visit, and moved to another. These items have unique tracking codes and when discovered should have their location logged on the Geocashing website.
How to find a geocache
Once a cache has been placed, it’s location is logged on the geocaching website, which links into the geocaching app. Whilst you could use the website alone to locate caches, having a smartphone with the app and gps is much easier. You can use the website or app to go to a particular location and find available caches. Select one to find, an you’ll be given the gps location and a handy hint to help you when you get there.
Each cache is classified in different ways;
There are many types of geocache, but here are the three most common you’re likely to come across.
Traditional Cache: The most common cache type, a container with a log book, and maybe swapables and trackables.
Multi-Cache: These caches involve following a series of puzzles which lead to different locations, with the physical container located in the final location.
Mystery Cache: These caches can involve complicated puzzles to be solved to locate the coordinates of the cache.
The difficulty and terrain rating of a cache is based on a number of factors, and rated from one to five, with half ratings also allowed.
Factors affecting difficulty range from the distance you would have to walk from the closest parking site, the type of terrain, the elevation, and how well the cache is hidden.
This questionnaire can help you decide the rating for you cache. Most caches range from a difficulty of one to two.
Cache sizes range from micro, which is less than 100ml, to large, which is 20L or larger. Most geocaches are small or micro, being under 1L, with plastic sandwiches boxes, or 35mm film canisters being popular choices.
Some of the geocaches we came across today were a part of a series, where one person had placed a number of caches with a common theme in a wider area. We also discovered a variety of cache containers, ranging from basic plastic sandwich boxes, (small, medium and large) official containers purchased here, or more extravagant home made cache containers which are designed to blend in more with their surroundings such as this one we located today which was brilliantly disguised as just another log;
If you want to go out geocaching you just need a few things;
- Basic membership on the Geocaching website
- A GPS enabled smartphone
- The official Geocaching App, we use the free version, but there is a paid version, but when starting out we don’t see any reason to upgrade as the ‘Intro’ version does what we need it to. To download the app type geocaching in the search term and look for the apps developed by Groundspeak Inc.
- Appropriate clothing. Most of the caches we have located so far have been away from roads and public places, so walking boots/wellies are advised in terms of footwear, a waterproof jacket, and gloves for foraging in the undergrowth. Additional items which may be useful are a torch and a stick for searching through the undergrowth.
Anyone can make their own Geocache, and today has inspired me to work on my own series. I haven’t yet decided on a theme, but I want to incorporate the use of NFC tags, possibly to provide the GPS co-ordinates and clue for the next cache in the series. I want to make a cache series which truly combines the art of treasure hunting with technology, but is easily accessible for anyone with a smart phone.
For more information on the basics of Geocashing, visit this website.
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