Provided By Kevin Ballantine
Geocaching (geo-cash-ing) is a scavenger hunt based game for outdoor enthusiasts, or anybody looking to find a hobby outside that is safe and fun for the entire family. Heck, you can even learn something about the environment. Geocaches (cache for short) can be a wide range of containers hidden in any spot a geocacher (someone who looks for geocaches) deems worthy. It can be fun, it can be creative, and yes, it is addicting.
What is a geocache?
Geocaches are containers that are hidden outside for anybody to find. They are not in the open, hence why this game has been around since 2000 and so little is known about it to non-geocachers. More on the history of geocaching can be found here. Why such a weird name? Geo means Earth-think geography, and a cache is a container that holds items. Geocache.
Most caches must contain a log for a person to sign it as proof of their finding it. Also, there are cool items called "swag" that cachers put inside. These can be calling cards or just something brought over from a different country. It's supposed to be something unique. For example, I live in Florida, and have found numerous trinkets brought over from Germany. One such item was a McDonald's toy taken out of a kids meal. Couldn't read a single word on the packaging, but the toy was cool. A few of the items I've also seen, but are definitely not limited to, are buttons, cards, pendants, and even a cell phone from the 90's. The best items a cacher can hope for, besides the log, are items known as a "trackable," which I will go over in a future article.
How big are they and where can they be found?
The great thing about geocaches is their uniqueness. They can be any size, any shape and can literally be hidden anywhere all over the world-it is all up to the person doing the hiding. However, they cannot be buried underground, hidden on private property (unless the cache hider got permission to do so), or interfere with any laws. I think it goes without saying that these are secured in their hiding spot so they don't wander off during bad weather. There are 5 official listings for the sizes and I'll go over each from my own experience, and I'll try to avoid spoilers:
- Micro: it can be anything from a pill bottle, a magnetized key holder, to a container the size of a bolt. Yes...a bolt that goes on the end of a screw. These cannot hold anything but the log.
- Small: these are usually small Tupperware containers, cookie containers or small keepsake boxes. They are large enough for a log and smaller items like coins, stamps, or even the McDonalds' toy I mentioned earlier.
- Regular: I've found ammo boxes, larger Tupperware containers, and even small buckets. These can handle most items and the log.
- Large: Usually larger-sized buckets or I've even found a polyester bag that held enormous amounts of swag in it and trackables-as well as the log.
- Other: The dreaded "other." This can be anything. You have to really pay attention to the cache page as well as its clues. If you're lucky you will get a hint from the hider to go along with the cache description. Usually, when it falls under this size, it is not a normal cache. By that, I mean that it could look like something that belongs to a structure right out in the open, that bystanders don't even know are there, like a power box. Geocachers can be tricky that way. One example would be a bolt screw on a stop sign, which many geocachers consider to be unlisted size six...:
- *Nano: This one doesn't technically exist and falls a lot of times under "other." A nano is smaller than a micro. A popular cache I'm seeing more and more of are bolt-like containers. The "bolts" look like the same thing that goes on the end of a screw, but doesn't necessarily have to be anywhere near a screw. It is magnetic, so it can be placed on any metal surface. It seems tough, but only if the cache hider doesn't nicely list it as "nano" in their description. If it is listed as "other," then I hope you like challenges.
How does someone even get started?
It's simple to become a geocacher:
- You need to register at geocaching.com for free or for a premium membership ($10 for three months or $30 for a year). I'll go over premium benefits in the next article. The name you select is a unique geocaching name. Much like a screen name, it protects your information. Groundspeak.com, the nice people in charge of geocaching take great care in keeping your information private; never asking anything vital or making it even close to a social media website.
- After registering, it is vital that you type in your actual address on your profile (only viewable by you), that way when you click on the map, it shows every single cache in your area.
- Click on a cache, it will take you to a cache page with its description, coordinates of its location, and any possible clues to finding the cache. This page will give you the cache size, the difficulty of the terrain, and the difficulty of finding the cache once you reach the listed coordinates. For beginners, this is vital so you don't lose interest in the game right out of the gate. You can sift through caches until you find a beginners cache with lower difficulties. An example of a cache page can be found here.
- You need a GPS to put in the coordinates, a cell phone with GPS capabilities, or buy the very helpful, time saving geocaching app ($10). You will not find the cache without at least one of these items.
- In most cases, the posted coordinates will take you within 10 feet of the cache location. There are special circumstances, which I will post further down this page, when they are not. Once you find the cache, you must sign the physical log that's found inside the cache with your geocaching name. Personal information does not need to be floating around. If there is any swag or trackables inside the container and you want it, the rule is that if you take something, you leave something. The fun of the game is leaving something unique (like a McDonald's toy from Germany, in a cache found in the U.S.).
Once you've successfully found the cache, sing-in to Geocaching.com and go to the caches page. At the bottom, sign the online log to mark a cache as being found. Once found, it's counted toward your geocache finds that is associated with your geocaching profile. Bragging rights galore! The physical log inside the cache is to prove you actually found it. If your name is not found, the cache hider will delete your find.
6.1. In this same area, if you are unable to find the cache, you are also supposed to log it as "did not find." This way, if numerous people cannot find the cache, the cache owner will know something is up and look for it to make sure it wasn't tampered with.
That's it! You've successfully learned how to geocache. In short: register online, buy a GPS or use your Smartphone, find the cache, sign the physical log, then sign the online log.