GEOCACHING 101

Why Choose geocaching?

  • It's fun, inexpensive and safe.
  • It can be coupled with personal advancement and team-building exercises.
  • It leads to the discovery of new places one might not visit otherwise.
  • It adds pizzazz and variety to many existing events (hikes, camps, etc.).
  • It allows participants to use their brains.
  • It allows participants to be outdoors and get away from the TV and video games!
  • It can be mixed with most programs or activities which involve the outdoors.
  • It is good for retention of youth members. When they have fun, they stay in the program.
  • It is a great way to showcase your organization to the public.

What is geocaching?

Geocaching is a relatively new recreation that has burst onto the scene within the past few years.  Basically, geocaching is a high-tech version of treasure hunting.  It combines the latest in the world of technology with one of the oldest “sports” around - treasure hunting.  Geocachers seek out hidden treasures utilizing GPS coordinates posted on the Internet by those hiding the cache. Using a GPS unit, they then trek out into the backwoods or urban jungles to find the hiding spot of the cache. To play, you'll need to know how to enter waypoints into your GPS unit (your GPS should come with instructions on how to enter a waypoint).  Watch our video on our GPS units.


Geocaching consists of small treasures or “caches” that are hidden for other members of the sport to find.  Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards.  Caches typically consist of a waterproof container discreetly placed within the local terrain. The container will include a logbook and any number of more or less valuable items such as toys, books, money, jewelry, trinkets, etc. You never know what the founder or other visitors of the cache may have left for you to enjoy. Be sure to fill out the logbook with the date and time you visit the cache and leave something in return. If the visitor takes something out of the cache, they are asked to leave something in return. For some, the biggest reward is the thrill of the search and the discovery of a place that they have never been. 


Anyone with a handheld GPS unit can hide a “cache”.  Once the geocache container has been hidden, the exact location of the treasure is recorded by using a GPS.  Many handheld GPS units are accurate to within a few meters or about 10 / 15 feet ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD!  Just imagine being able to tell where a tiny treasure is anywhere on the globe to within just a few feet!  That is really incredible!  The latitude & longitude coordinates (numerical values that give the exact location) are then loaded on the Internet where other Geocachers can find them and begin the hunt. For more information, see www.geocaching.com.

 


We have a number of GPS "how-to" articles you can review to learn how to operate your own or rented GPS. We are also available to assist you over the phone. Links to our other articles in this series follow:

Our GPS Overview page
How to Mark a Waypoint with a GPS
How to Manually Enter a Waypoint Coordinate into a GPS
How to Navigate to a Waypoint with a GPS
How and Why to Change Map Orientation on a GPS
How to Change Measurement Units and Map Format Setting on a GPS
How to Record a Track of Waypoints on a GPS
How to Use a GPS to Find Your Location on a Map
What does WAAS Mean for a GPS

Where to find caches?

Once you have a GPS unit, you will need to go online to start finding cache locations or report a cache that you have created. Several geocaching web sites and clubs have sprouted on the Internet. geocaching.com is one of the main repositories for caches on the web.  (and a source for much of the information in this article) You can go that site and enter your zip code to find a group of caches near you. 

Once you find the coordinates of the cache, you are just beginning the adventure.  Finding the location of a cache can be very entertaining. The location of a cache demonstrates the founder's skill and possibly even daring. A cache located on the side of a rocky cliff accessible only by rock climbing equipment may be hard to find. An underwater cache may only be accessed by scuba. Other caches may require long difficult hiking, orienteering, and special equipment to get to. Caches may be located in cities both above and below ground, inside and outside buildings. The skillful placement of a small logbook in an urban environment may be quite challenging to find even with the accuracy of a GPS.


Many times you will find that the Geocacher who hid the cache has left a few clues for you.  Sometimes you are asked to learn a few things along the way regarding some of the local history or about some of the landmarks that you might pass.  That is part of what makes Geocaching so appealing. After you get the coordinates online and enter them into your GPS, you're ready to get started on your adventure!

What is usually in a cache?

A cache can come in many forms but the first item should always be the logbook. The logbook contains information from the founder of the cache and notes from the cache's visitors. The logbook can contain valuable, rewarding, and entertaining information, information about nearby attractions, coordinates to other unpublished caches, and even jokes written by visitors. If you get some information from a logbook you should give some back. At the very least you can leave the date and time you visited the cache.


Larger caches may consist of a waterproof plastic bucket placed tastefully within the local terrain. The bucket will contain the logbook and any number of small items. These items turn the cache into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the founder or other visitors of the cache may have left there for you to enjoy.


Remember, if you take something, its only fair for you to leave something in return. Items in a bucket cache could be: Maps, books, software, hardware, CD's, videos, pictures, money, jewelry, tickets, antiques, tools, games, etc. It is recommended that items in a bucket cache be individually packaged in a clear zipped plastic bag to protect them.


Other types of caches.

There are various types of caches you might run into. Some examples include:


Offset Caches -
They're not found by simply going to some coordinates and finding a cache there. With the Offset Cache the published coordinates are that of an existing historical monument, plaque, or even a benchmark that you would like to have your cache hunter visit. From this site the cache hunter must look around and find offset numbers stamped/written in or on some part of the marker site, or continue based on instructions posted to geocaching.com


Multi-caches -
The first cache gives coordinates (or partial coordinates) to the next location, or multiple caches have hints to the final cache.


Virtual caches -
A cache is actually an existing landmark, such as a tombstone or statue. You have to answer a question from the landmark and let the "cache" owner know as proof that you were there.


Sound easy?

Just because your GPS unit can lead to you within a few meters of the cache does not mean that the adventure is over. 


Some caches are very hard to find.  They are hidden from the public at large to protect the sport.  You often have to look under fallen trees or behind a clump of brush or even under a rock outcropping a few feet off of a path.  When you find it, you are rewarded by the treasure that you find inside and, perhaps more, by the accomplishment of finding it.


Your GPS unit might tell you that you are 5.2 miles from the coordinates of the cache that you are seeking.  The only problem might be that there is a large mountain between you and the cache.  That is where another part of the fun comes in.  You must find a route to get where you are going. 


Geocaching rules

Geocaching is a relatively new sport, so the rules are few and still evolving.  This growing sport has a few basic, simple rules which make it easy for anyone to play. 


When Geocachers find a cache, these basic rules should be followed:

1.  Fill out the log book located in the cache.

2.  Take something out of the cache.

3.  Put something into the cache.  Many items move from cache to cache.  You can actually track them if you attach a Travel Bug.

4.  Return the geocache container back to its original "hiding" spot.  (You should also pick up any trash you find along the way, also known as CITO "cache in, trash out".)

5.  If a geocacher decides not to take an item from the cache, he/she should log their visit, along with the abbreviation TNLN (took nothing, left nothing). 


There are also some "common sense" rules which should be followed.  These rules include:

1.  Never trespass on private property when hunting for a cache.  Always ask permission from the owner before searching for the treasure.

2.  Never leave food or drink in a cache as they could attract animals that could damage the cache.

3.  Never log a cache find until you actually find it.  If a cache is missing, report to owner.

4.  Never leave any item in a cache that is not suitable for children to see.  (See Below)

5.  Always re-hide the cache the exact way you found it.  The owner may have hidden the cache to make it difficult to find and his/her intentions should be respected.


What shouldn't be in a cache?

Use your common sense in most cases. Explosives, ammo, knives, drugs, and alcohol shouldn't be placed in a cache. Respect the local laws. All ages of people hide and seek caches, so use some thought before placing an item into a cache. Food items are ALWAYS a BAD IDEA. Animals have better noses than humans, and in some cases caches have been chewed through and destroyed because of food items in a cache. Please do not put food in a cache.

Geocache Responsibly!

Please seek permission before geocaching on private or public lands. Geocaching can have an unintended impact on the earth's natural resources and result in trampled vegetation, damaged habitats and destruction of parks' historical and cultural resources. Placing a cache on lands administered by the National Park Service (NPS) is illegal without first obtaining permission. Please contact your local park to obtain a special use permit or inquire about sites designated for geocaching on park property. Help make geocaching an educational and entertaining experience while preserving our environment for future generations of Geocachers to come!

By following these simple rules and using your handheld gps unit,  the sport of Geocaching can be a fun, enjoyable experience for everyone.  Happy Geocaching!


Rent a handheld GPS Unit from lowergear.com to begin your own geocaching adventures. We rent GPS units in all 50 states. Watch our video on our GPS units.

Or, contact our rental office to receive a FREE guide for hosting a geocaching event.



 

 

 

 


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