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An introduction to Geocaching

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an introduction to geocaching
Geocaching is an inexpensive sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It can be played by individuals, families, or groups of friends or co-workers.

The purpose of the sport is to locate "caches" anywhere in the world with a GPS or other navigational device. Caches usually consist of a logbook of visitors and trinkets to trade. The basic rule is to find one these caches and log your find.

It's fun for everyone to play, even if it amounts to using multi-million dollar satellite technology to find Tupperware in the woods. (And this is why geeks don't do sports.)

How to get started with geocaching

  1. Register for free membership at the main site.
  2. Click Hide & Seek a Cache.
  3. Enter your postal code and click Search.
  4. Choose any geocache from the list.
  5. Enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS Device.
  6. Locate the cache, sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
  7. Share your geocaching stories and photos online.

Once you have joined the site and entered your zip code, your GPS will allow you to save the coordinates to your device. The coordinates will show a map with the location and level of difficulty. You also have your own account at the site where you can record your finds and connect with other geocachers.

A brief history of geocaching

The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on 03 May 2000 by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon. It was a plastic bucket with some swag. Dave listed the coordinates on the internet. The cache was found shortly by Mike Teague, who left cigarettes, a cassette tape, and a pen.

The cache no longer exists.

Choosing your cache site

Geocaching in urban areas

Urban geocache containers can be located at the base of concrete posts, affixed to walls, placed under ledges or benches, attached magnetically to metal railings or street signs, and even on parked bicycles! Some caches are so cleverly hidden that it is impossible to find them without additional clues beyond the coordinates.

Furthermore, hiding a geocache in a town or city isn’t without problems:

  1. The first one of these is pretty obvious -- people, and lots of them. This gives rise to the possibility of geocaches being vandalized or stolen. Because of this, virtually all urban geocache containers are small, discreet, and, disguised such that they blend in with their surroundings. Clever geocaches in towns or cities could look like anything -- typically trash or dropped coins.
  2. With the increased number of people (and security cameras) around, there is the possibility of looking suspicious while trying to find a geocache. There have been reports of people having to explain the activity to police. There have also been reports of geocaches which have been destroyed by bomb squads.
  3. Likewise, many urban caches aren’t designed to contain anything more than a small log sheet. While there is still the thrill of the find, there are no additional treasures or swag to be had in many caches.

Rural geocaching

Rural geocaches provide an opportunity to get out in the open air and explore. This is after all what geocaching is all about. However, you should be aware that rural geocaches are vulnerable to weather, animals, and other destructive forces with fewer protective buildings around. You are quite limited in the ability to hide caches indoors. A sheltered location for your cache is a must-have -- a natural or human-made hollow, under a bush, tucked into tree roots.

Basic geocaching supplies

Once you have gone out geocaching a few times, you will want to put together a basic kit for not only things needed to find and record caches safely, but also in case you find a cache that needs some basic maintenance such as trash removal, new logs, or similar.

Note: If you find a severely damaged cache, the cache owner should be notified to handle repairs.

Hiking supplies and equipment

Geocaching is first and foremost a sport that involves a lot of hiking to get to caches. Be sure to outfit yourself with appropriate hiking equipment before heading out.

Safety first!

International Geocaching Day is 19 August!

Geocaching GPS devices and accessories

GPS stands for "Global Positioning System". GPS is a navigation system which uses the satellites in the Global Positioning System to track the positions of everything on earth with incredible accuracy. This is a breakthrough that revolutionized travel and navigation.

There are over 1 million active geo-caches, with 5 million geocachers worldwide!

an introduction to geocaching

Geocaching containers and logbooks

A container called a "cache" is used to store the actual geocache including the log. This is usually made of sturdy metal or plastic, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Their primary function is to store the log (or logbook -- a log of those who have visited the cache), bugs and geocoins, and any other swag. A cache may be a traditional geocache in a rural location where function is the prime concern, or the cache may be a nano size in an urban environment, something that can only be recognized only by the initiated. The secret of an enjoyable geocaching experience is in discovering creative geocache containers.

Tip: Always bring a pen or pencil along to sign the logbook.

What makes a good geocache container

Geocache containers can be see-through or opaque, but they should always blend with the environment. At the very least, they should not be so bright and bold-colored as to stand out if part of the cache might be visible to passersby. Apply camo tape to any areas that do not blend in.

If the recycled container originally held food, be sure to wash it thoroughly so animals won't smell any food residue. Clean the container with a solution of water and bleach, then run it through the dishwasher.

Many recycled containers are not that durable. You can reinforce them by wrapping them with duct tape and then paint them or use the camo tape.

Finally, all geocache containers should be as weather- and waterproof as possible, but it is still a good idea to protect the contents in a zipper baggie if your cache is in a very wet area. If you are repurposing your cache containers from around the house, keep in mind that recycled containers are not as durable as commercial cache containers. They will probably need to be replaced more often. Ammo cans are the standard for caches with good reason.

Tip: Identify the cache as a geocache by marking the container with the words "Official Geocache," along with the name of the cache and maintainer's contact information.

What not to use as a geocache container

The following do not make good containers due to being flimsy, inadequately weatherproof, or possessing a tendency to rust:

Stocking your cache

What is swag?

"Swag" in a geocaching context is any little item or treat left for a geocacher to find in the cache. This can be a keychain or pencil, a small magnet, or similar-sized item. If there is a trackable item being left, either one of the swag items will be a geocoin or have a travel bug attached to it.

What is a geocaching travel bug?

A travel bug is a trackable tag that you attach to whatever item you choose to put in a geocaching container. It is taken from place to place, and when found is recorded in such a way that you can track its progress.

What is a geocaching geocoin?

Geocoins are trackable like travel bugs, but are not attached to anything permanently.

Visit Geocaching.Com to find your first cache!


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