Want to pry your kids away from the tv and video games? Love the great outdoors but your kids don’t? Or they start off excited about that hike in the woods but within 10 minutes you hear, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do here. Can we go home now?”
Imagine the response if you answered, “Let’s go on a treasure hunt!” Geocaching can be your real life outdoor treasure hunt.
What Is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a world-wide hide and seek treasure hunt based on GPS navigation. Think of geocaching as an outdoor treasure hunting game that can be played practically anywhere in the world. Yes, the world! Someone hides a treasure cache in a public hiding place: in a tree, among rocks in a wall, behind a bush, under water, and other fun locations. The cache may contain a treasure, a pen and a log book in a waterproof container hidden from plain sight.
When you are the seeker, you try to find the treasure with the aid of a GPS-enabled device by navigating to a set of geographic coordinates. You can learn where caches are by checking a website by Groundspeak, geocaching.com, or using Groundspeak’s app: Geocaching, available for Android and the iPhone.
There are over 1.4 million caches logged into Groundspeak’s geocaching website and over 5 million “cachers” hunting these caches around the world.
Once you find a cache you want to seek, you use either your app or your hand-held GPS to guide you to the treasure. The GPS antennas of the iPhone and Android phones aren’t very precise, though, so you will definitely have some hunting to do. If you have a hand-held GPS device, such as a Garmin or Magellan, you can use it for geocaching and have an easier time homing in on the treasure.
Our family started geocaching several years ago when our youngest child was 4 years old. We loved to hike but found his attention span a little lacking to say the least. Another family suggested we try geocaching to pique his interest, and wow, did it ever!
Why geocache? Because it is just plain fun!
Sounds Great! What Do I Need to Geocache?
Well, you don’t need to look like this guy:
It costs very little to geocache. All you need is either a hand-held GPS such as one by Garmin or Magellan, or a smartphone with the Geocaching app, which is $9.99. I utilize Groundspeak’s website and their Geocaching App almost exclusively.
Both the Groundspeak website and the Geocaching app provide excellent details on the type of cache you are considering for your hunt … very important when you are caching with kids! You don’t want to discover you were hunting a micro-cache when your seven year old is expecting a larger cache filled with “treasure”!
And don’t forget to read the notes and others’ logs in the Cache Details. Sometimes a cache can go missing or be “closed for the winter.” You want to make sure you are not on wild-goose chase!
What Treasures Can I Find Geocaching?
The treasures vary from cache to cache. Some examples include:
- Traditional Caches, which are containers ranging in size from a micro container with only a logbook to a larger container filled with goodies for trade. The goodies can be toys, books, stuffed animals, computer games, audiobooks, cd’s, dvd’s and other treasures. These are the most exciting caches for kids.
- Earth-Caches, which are special places one can visit to learn more about a specific geo-science feature. Many US National Parks have Earth-caches detailing their own unique geographic features.
- Mystery/Puzzle Caches, which are caches that involve using puzzles and/or clues to help solve where the cache is hidden.
- Virtual Caches, which are about finding a destination rather than a container. These are also found in many US National Parks.
The first thing you do when you locate your treasure is add your name to the list of others who have found the cache. Then you take the treasure you want. Sometimes there is more than one treasure in a cache.
Hello, Jackpot for the kids!
But you don’t just take a treasure, you leave a treasure too. No one wants to find an empty cache!
Key words again for kids … treasure hunting! Best of all for the budget-minded family? Geocaching can be a very inexpensive way to entertain everyone, almost anywhere. With an iPhone or Android phone, the Groundspeak Geocaching app for $9.99, and a small bag of trinkets for trade (most of our trinkets are found around the house or at the Dollar Store), you can be geocaching within the hour. With over 1.4 million caches, the odds are good that you will find a cache somewhere close to your home!
Who can Geocache? Everyone!
The only requirement for geocaching is a sense of adventure! You can be old or young, it doesn’t matter. All you need is a desire to explore.
Have an older child? Me too. You may think they might be too old for this whole treasure hunt adventure? Think again! Our teenager enjoys geocaching as much as his younger brother does, though he enjoys hunting for a different kind of treasure.
How does our family geocache? We use two methods to hunt caches; a Garmin Oregon GPS preloaded with caches from www.geocaching.com, and an iPhone with the Groundspeak Geocaching App ready for instant “on-the-go” cache locating. Simultaneously! No fights between the kids of who gets to have the device!
When Can You Cache? Anytime, Anywhere!
Caches are hidden around the world.
- On vacation!
- Need to fill in that long drive to grandma’s house? Geocache along the way!
- Kids starting that summer chant, “I’m bored”? Geocache in your neighborhood!
- Visiting any great National Parks? Use Geocaching to find geological gems!
- Need to come up with a Cub/Boy/Girl Scout activity? Geocache!
Geocaching can be a main activity or a time filler, wherever, whenever!
One of our most favorite caches was in Montana, and we almost didn’t do it! The kids were tired from a long, overnight drive and were a bit cranky. I pulled out my Garmin, searched our surrounding area for where a cache might be, and off we went. By the time we found this cache, everyone was rejuvenated, the kids were excited about their trades, and best of all, the remainder of our drive was smooth sailing!
Our family will be exploring another fabulous US National Park this summer, but getting there involves a six to seven hour car ride. Using the www.geocaching.com website, I have preloaded caches of interest into both my Garmin hand-held and my iPhone app as well as marked the caches on paper maps along our drive route. Geocaching Sites
Bingo! Instant activity for that fourth hour of the ride when the chant, “how much longer, I’m bored, are we there yet?” rises from the back seat. I pull out my map of caches, locate one, pull over at the cache’s recommended start location, and my two kids are off and running to find a cache. With the two devices, it can become pretty competitive as to who will find the cache first.
So when the kids start their summer mantra, “I’m bored!” go geocaching and take them on a treasure hunt!
One final caution .. beware the muggles! And I don’t mean the “non-magical” kind from Harry Potter!
Are you looking for fun things to do with your kids this summer? Have you ever tried geocaching? Let us know in the Comments section below!
* Image by RebelBlueAngel
** Image by Martin Biskoping
*** Image by Sean Carney
**** Image by Ryo
***** Image by William Hook
****** Image by Jott!