With GPS (Technology) and our ever-improving cell phones, Geocaching is a growing trend that is a PERFECT addition to any trip – local or long distance. This 21st-century treasure hunt is great fun for everyone, from kids to grandparents. It adds a new dimension to traveling.
How would you like to find a Christmas light in a forest or an ammo box of goodies on a scenic beach hidden amongst mounds of driftwood on your next trip?
All you need is a cell phone app to add a fun break to any trip. Next time you find yourself or your passengers are getting restless, stop and find a geocache! Open the Geocaching App, and within a minute or two, you will find a geocache near you; there is bound to be one close by. You will find them in some fantastic places that may include a lesson in local history, geology, or beautiful locations.
Look at the following tips to help you find caches that fit your needs.
Start with Geocaching.com
You have homework! Start at home on your computer on the website geocaching.com.
To start, just for fun, once you are logged in, go to the menu “Play.” In the drop-down menu select “View Map.” The map should show you all the caches in your area – I am always surprised at how many there are! Did you know there are over 3 million caches hidden around the world?
You will need to download the app to your phone, to use when you head out to go find a cache. The following tips will help you narrow down caches that you will see on the map to ones you will want to go out explore and find.
Types of Caches
There are approximately nine different types of caches. The most common are Traditional. If you are just starting out you may want to stick with looking for Traditional caches. There are some locations where only Virtual will work, so depending on where you are going, take a look at the other types but keep in mind “traditional” caches may be easier to find.
The nine types of caches are Traditional, Mystery, Letterbox, Webcam, Virtual, Multi-Cache, EarthCache, Event, and Wherigo. When you have time take a look at each as one may be more exciting for you than another.
There are many filters you can use to help narrow down the caches you would like to go find. These include location, size, difficulty, terrain, type, name contains, plus a few others.
The ones I use the most are difficulty and terrain. Caches are rated from 1.0 to 5.0. I normally set both difficulty and terrain to 2.0 or 2.5. I also set the type to Standard, Mystery, and Letterbox, but the type is optional depending on what you like.
From my experience, if you use too many filters you will not get good search results. So I try to keep filters to only a couple at a time.
Once you have found a cache on the map that you want to know more about click on it. Then at the top, it will say “open cache page.” On this page, the owner, the person that placed the cache, will provide a description of the cache. Often the owner will include some history of the location or about themselves. Take the time to read these, they can be helpful and also give more meaning to finding the cache.
Optionally, if you are in a hurry you can just scroll down on the left side and select “Description and Hint,” without leaving the map page.
The owner can provide a hint. Always take a look at the hint, they can make the difference between finding the cache or not. Hints can be simple like “magnetic,” “pill container,” or “not in the rocks.” When you can’t find a cache remember to go back and double-check the hint.
Activity – Last Found
This can be important. If a cache has a DNF (Did Not Find), as a newbie there is a very good chance that you will not find it either. The cache may have also be removed, so you don’t want to look for something that is not there.
Also, look to see when the last time the cache was found. Typically if it has been several months I would recommend you pass on that one and find one that has been found within the last week or two. There are some caches that are remote and may only be rarely found, so look at the location and decide if you think you want to give it a try.
People are allowed to mark caches as a favorite, and it can be for many reasons. A few reasons can be that they really love the location, the container, the contents of the container, the story behind the reason for the cache, or…
One of my favorites is a cache at the New York City Public Library in Manhattan. You will find it in the “map” room at the library. It was tricky to find and earned a favorite from me.
If many people have marked it as favorite, this may be a good cache to go find too.
Read Activity Logs by Other Cacher’s
If you are having difficulty finding a cache you should read the log (called activity) to see if the hints from the people who found it may help you. They might say something like – found it at eye level, coordinates are off – but found it, great camouflage, loved the container… Some little hint me be the one that helps you find it too.
There may also be a picture that you can take a look at – these can be helpful or make it harder – but often helpful more than not. It may show a picture of the container, so you have a better idea of what you are looking for.
If you are cacheing locally or going on a trip making lists can be helpful.
You can have multiple lists, so use them. Lists can be cities, areas (like the beach near me), road trips (stops along the way), European trip, and so on. If you are going on a trip to several locations, create a list for each location – this will help you stay organized and ready to find the next one!
If you did your homework (Tip 1) you will have found caches that fit your needs, so don’t lose them, add them to a list to help you keep track of them.
Touch Things Even When it Doesn’t Seem Possible
Now that you have selected a cache and navigated to it, here are some things to help you locate the cache.
We have found caches that were inside of fake rocks, fake sprinklers, hanging on fishing line (fishing line is very hard to see), and a favorite for some did you know you can lift up a Lamp post metal skirt. We have found many lamp post caches over the years.
A cache needs to be hidden so no “muggles – non-cacher’s” can find them, so they often need to be camouflaged or out of site.
Remember your GPS will get you close, but it can often be off by several feet. Wander, take your time, and touch everything to help you find the cache. Did you look at the description and hint? If not stop and go back and do this.
I geocache for fun. That is one reason I select difficulty up to 2.0. If you are having difficulty you may want to try 1.0 to 1.5 when you filter caches. You want to be successful, so keep things simple when you are starting out. Once you have found several then you may want to increase the difficulty.
Muggles that I just mentioned are people that do not know what we are doing! They may see you put your hand in weird places and wonder what it is you are looking for. If there are many muggles around you may want to pass on the cache unless you can be very stealthy. You don’t want a muggle to remove the cache and keep it or throw it away.
Geocaching is a lot of fun so please be aware of who might be watching and re-place the geocache exactly where you found it. This will allow the cache to live another day for some else to find.
More to Come – Okay, so that covers some of the basics and tips on getting you started in geocaching. But wait there is more. I will be working on a future blog that will cover things like – souvenirs, hiding a cache, caching in other countries, more about creating lists, Travel bugs – Trackables, and more on using the search filters. I hope you will return and read the next blog on Geocaching!
About Us – My husband and I have geocached in dozens of US states and 10 countries. We have been members of the Geocaching community since 2011. Last year driving from New York City to Washington State to California we stopped in each state and found at least one cache. It was a great excuse to stop the car, get out, stretch our legs, and have FUN too.