Basics of Geocaching: The Great Family Treasure Hunt

Whether it's hide and seek or an Easter egg hunt, kids love to seek out hidden 'treasure'. Over the past decade, the concept of a treasure hunt has evolved for the GPS age. The activity called geocaching has grown in popularity since it's introduction in 2000 and puts a new spin on hiding games.

In geocaching, someone has hidden a 'treasure' cache in the outdoors and recorded the precise latitude and longitude of it using a GPS. It's your family's mission to use a handheld GPS to find the location of the cache and see where it's hidden. The cache itself could be hidden behind an object - like a rock - or camouflaged to make things more challenging.

The cache is usually stored in a small container and has an associated log book of who found it. If you find a cache, it's customary to sign the log book and trade the contents with an item of your own. The contents of the cache is usually an fun, inexpensive trinket - it's more about the fun of finding the prize than the prize itself.

Start geocaching in Ten Easy Steps: 

  1. Register for a user ID at Geocaching.com or another popular geocaching site.
  2. Visit Geocaching.com to search for a nearby cache based on your zip code.
  3. Load the coordinates of the cache into your GPS as a a 'waypoint'.
  4. Print out the details of the cache you are interested in finding. The listing will usually have some useful information about the area and the cache.
  5. If the cache is located within a park, search OutboundFamily.com or another resource for details about the park. If a map is available, print a copy.
  6. Depending on the location of the cache, you may want to pack a small backpack like you would for a typical day hike.
  7. Drive to the parking area nearest to your desired cache and get a GPS fix on your location.
  8. Using your GPS to locate the waypoint for your desired cache. Once you're there, look around for where the cache is hidden.
  9. When your family finds the cache, trade your items with those in the cache. 
  10. Log the find in the cache logbook and on your own geocaching log sheet. Once you return home, you may also want to log your find on Geocaching.com.

Depending on what your family is interested in, you may want to seek multiple caches in a single outing. Another option is to make geocaching part of a larger outing that includes hiking and picnicking.  The most important thing is to enjoy the activity and spend quality time together outside.

Related Article:
Selecting a GPS for Geocaching

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